Thompson, “Lucky” Eli (1924-2005)

Born in Columbia, SC; jazz saxophonist; early in his career (before age 21), he played with Erskine Hawkins’ Alabama State Collegians, and played tenor saxophone with Billy Eckstine (including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey) and Count Basie; he later played with Lionel Hampton, Slam Stewart, Dinah Washington, Milt Jackson, Eddie Barclay, Stan Kenton, Charles Mingus, Buddy Collette and Miles Davis among others, and can be heard on hundreds of jazz recordings; he led his own band at the Savoy Ballroom and performed at the Nice Jazz Festival; considered a great jazz saxophonist, he abruptly quit in the early 1970’s giving his instruments to a dentist to pay a bill; he dropped out of public view and the Los Angeles Times reported that it was widely believed he was homeless; he spoke out against what he considered the unfair control of the jazz business by record companies, music publishers and booking agents and was blacklisted — partly for these reasons, he left the United States to live in Paris (1957-1962) and Lausanne, Switzerland (1968-1970); he frequented New York occasionally, taught music at Dartmouth (1973-1974), lived on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, in Savannah, and settled in Seattle in the late 1980s; he died at Seattle’s Columbia City Assisted Living Center.

Image Gallery

Selected Albums


HOME | ABOUT | MUSICIANS | COLLECTION | EVENTS | NEWS | PROJECTS | SHOP | CONTACT        all images © CJI /CofC unless noted

Charleston Jazz Initiative
c/o Arts Management Program
School of the Arts, College of Charleston
66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424
843-953-5474 (phone)
843-953-7068 (fax)
email »