Michael Thompson (guitarist)

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Michael Thompson
Born (1954-02-11) February 11, 1954 (age 60)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Genres Rock, R&B, Funk, Blues, Pop, Instrumental rock, AOR
Occupation(s) Guitarist, Songwriter, Musical arranger
Instruments Guitar, Slide Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Banjo, Bouzouki
Years active 1975 - present
Labels Geffen, Frontiers Records
Website Official website

Michael Thompson (born Michael Wood Thompson, February 11, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York, United States) is an American guitarist and songwriter.

Thompson achieved enduring modest success with his 1989 melodic rock/AOR group Michael Thompson Band but is most noted for his work as a popular session guitarist on the recordings of some of the most popular musical artists of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s spanning the genres of pop, rock, R&B, Country music and Latin music. Thompson has continued to play his own compositions on solo albums and gigs, and founded the melodic rock group TRW in 2007.

Thompson and his wife Gloria, married since 1977, have four children and live in Culver City, California.

Early years[edit]

Michael Thompson grew up in Port Washington, New York and attended Berklee College of Music for two years, studying with Pat Metheny[1] before leaving to tour and record with a local R&B/funk group called The Ellis Hall Group. After four years with the group, Thompson moved to Los Angeles in the hopes of starting a career as a studio musician, almost immediately getting a touring gig with Joe Cocker. Money was tight and to support himself and his wife Gloria, Thompson supplemented gigs playing on songwriters' publishing demos and sporadic session work with a job as a cab driver until landing a year-long world tour with Cher.[1]

Following the tour, Thompson played guitar for the TV series Fame, a gig he would hold for four years, and started his own band, Slang.[2] In 1983 he was invited by Andy Fraser, formerly of Free, to be the guitarist on his album Fine Fine Line, for Island Records (1984).[3]

The Michael Thompson Band[edit]

In 1988, Thompson finally landed a record deal for an album of his own, with Geffen Records. The eponymous Michael Thompson Band (also known by its initial logo, MTB), featuring lead vocals by Moon Calhoun, released the album How Long[4] in 1989 and had a Billboard chart hit that year with the single "Can't Miss". The single hit #33 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.[5] Other musicians on the album included Toto singer Bobby Kimball and ex-Kansas singer John Elefante on background vocals and John Keane, Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa and Missing Persons) and Pat Torpey (Mr. Big) on drums.

Later work[edit]

Thompson played on the eponymous debut album by the commercial fusion act Animal Logic, the brainchild of Police drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist Stanley Clarke. Thompson shared guitar duties with Peter Haycock (Climax Blues Band) and Steve Howe (Yes, Asia, GTR). Clarke and Copeland both went on to successful careers composing film scores for which they continued to tap Thompson for guitar work, and he has also worked on film scores by Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard and Randy Edelman.

Just as Thompson's session career was hitting its stride, 1980s studio guitar staple Dann Huff left L.A. for Nashville and put out the word that producers and contractors who wanted him should instead call Michael Thompson.[1] Thanks to a studio engineer's suggestion, Thompson began what would become a decade-long hit-laden association with producer/songwriter David Foster, including a number of Celine Dion records, beginning with "The Power of Love".[1] It was during another Dion session for Foster in 1995 that R&B singer/songwriter/producer Babyface heard him through the wall of the studio and invited him to play on the project he was there for, the #1 Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album for Whitney Houston.[1] Babyface, too, would frequently use Thompson throughout the 1990s, including on the huge hit "Change the World" with Eric Clapton and Babyface's own hit single, "Every Time I Close My Eyes". Thompson was in Babyface's live band for the MTV special, album and DVD Babyface: MTV Unplugged NYC 1997.

Quincy Jones invited Thompson to be a guest on his 1995 album Q's Jook Joint. The following year Thompson released his first solo album, The World According to M.T. The album featured compositions by Thompson; a collaboration with Jeff Paris, who had guested on How Long; and a song written by another How Long collaborator, Mark Spiro. A cover of a Sam Cooke song, "A Change is Gonna Come", featuring Bobby Womack on vocals, peaked at #2 on the Billboard Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles.[6]

Thompson's abilities and sensibilities are so trusted that BT magazine noted in its 2001 "Platinum Touch" cover story on Thompson that "These days, many artists and producers just drop their tapes off at Thompson's home studio and let him add whatever he wants. It is a convenient, low-pressure way to work, but Thompson says he still loves to interact with other musicians at the big studios."[1]

In 2001 Thompson was awarded the "Distinguished Alumni" award from his alma mater Berklee College of Music to commemorate his contributions to the music industry. Berklee's program for the event noted that "he is widely regarded as being among the elite studio session players, and his amazing list of credits includes such prominent names as Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, 'N Sync, Toni Braxton, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Joe Sample, the Scorpions, Vince Neil, Christina Aguilera, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler, Madonna, Babyface, En Vogue, Gloria Estefan, Stanley Clarke, and Ricky Martin."[7]

In 2007, Thompson revisited his late-'80s melodic rock heyday with two projects. He recorded three new songs for a remastered re-release of Michael Thompson Band's How Long, released in the summer of that year. He also formed a new band, TRW, with Mark Williamson on vocals and bass and John Robinson on drums. The group released the album Rivers of Paradise (2007).

Selected discography and soundtrack filmography[edit]

Personal discography[edit]

  • Michael Thompson Band (1989) Michael Thompson Band
  • The World According to M.T. (1998) Solo
  • M.T. Speaks (2005) Solo
  • Rivers of Paradise (2007) TRW
  • Michael Thompson Band (Remastered re-release with newly recorded bonus tracks, 2007) Michael Thompson Band

Selected session discography[edit]

Selected film and TV scores[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Michael Thompson at AllMusic