Lucky Thompson Day

June 16, 1924 – July 30, 2005

“Strike Up The Band”

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Eli “Lucky” Thompson was born on June 16, 1924 in Columbia, South Carolina and grew up in Detroit.

Thompson raised his siblings after his mother died and taught himself saxophone fingerings on a broom handle before he was able to get his first instrument.

Upon graduating from high school in Detroit, Michigan in 1942 Eli “Lucky” Thompson joined Erskine Hawkins’ band.

The tenor saxophonist played in the swing orchestras of Lionel Hampton, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker before making the transition to R&B and bebop.

One of few bop musicians to remain resistant to the stylistic influence of Charlie Parker with whom he appeared on two Los Angles sessions for Dial Records.

Lucky would go on to work in hard bop with Milt Jackson, Kenny Clarke, and Miles Davis.

Becoming disillusioned with the music industry, Thompson often referred to record labels and promoters as vultures and parasites.

After relocating to Paris from the mid-50s until 1962 where he began doubling on soprano sax, Lucky Thompson returned to New York.

During the late ’60s he left bound for Europe once again to spend two years in Switzerland and briefly held a teaching position at Dartmouth College before leaving the music industry.

The “Lucky Thompson Quintet” perform in Paris in 1960.


Lucky Thompson, tenor sax
Alice Coltrane, piano
Jimmy Gourley, guitar
Pierre Michelot, bass
Kenny Clarke, drums