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Eric "Ricky" McKinnie

Music arranger, drummer, and vocalist Eric “Ricky” McKinnie was born on July 12, 1952, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Sarah Frances McKinnie Shivers and Ed Lee McKinnie. He attended Crogman Elementary School and graduated from Murphy High School in 1970. McKinnie and his brother were compared to Sam and Dave. Drawn to music, McKinnie joined Troy Ramey and the Soul Searchers in 1970. As a member of the Gospel Keynotes in 1972, McKinnie made a gold record, Jesus, You Been Good To Me. Losing his eyesight to glaucoma in 1975, McKinnie continued to perform, often serving as road manager. He formed the Ricky McKinnie Singers with his mother and brother in 1978. They went on to produce two radio programs that are still broadcast on Atlanta’s WYZE 1480 AM.

In 1989, McKinnie was invited by Clarence Fountain of the world-renowned Blind Boys of Alabama to join the group as a drummer, vocalist and tour manager. McKinnie’s success with the Blind Boys of Alabama includes four Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Gospel Album; the Alabama’s Governor’s Achievement Award; the 2000 induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame; the Gospel Quartet Hall of Fame in Birmingham, Alabama, and the 2002 Dove Award. McKinnie has been recognized by Atlanta’s Mayor Shirley Franklin for his contribution to Atlanta’s new anthem and has received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Atlanta’s Carver Bible College. McKinnie, a talented music arranger, is known as the only known blind gospel drummer and has received endorsements from Sabien Cymbol and Taye Drum Companies.

As a member of the Blind Boys of Alabama, he is a spokesperson for the Feed The Hungry Campaign, and supports the Glaucoma Foundation and the Diabetes Foundation. McKinnie and his family founded the Family and Friends Organization of Atlanta.

Accession Number

A2006.112

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/11/2006

Last Name

McKinnie

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Murphy High School

Crogman Elementary School

Campbell School

First Name

Ricky

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

MCK10

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Australia

Favorite Quote

I'm Not Blind. I Just Can't See.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

7/12/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Drummer and singer Eric "Ricky" McKinnie (1952 - ) joined the world-renowned Blind Boys of Alabama as a drummer, vocalist and tour manager in 1989. He won four Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Gospel Album.

Employment

Troy Ramey and the Soul Searchers

The Gospel Keynotes

The Blind Boys of Alabama

The Ricky McKinnie Singers

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
349,0:14280,320:17396,389:30637,535:32380,558:45180,746:53228,849:53988,863:54976,910:59232,967:72820,1197:74580,1236:74900,1241:97205,1541:101880,1546:102366,1553:102852,1561:103176,1566:113220,1786:122470,1870:125056,1887:125609,1904:126004,1910:126636,1921:126952,1936:131929,2070:143850,2215:144260,2233:151814,2309:153158,2343:156341,2401:167540,2543:180466,2703:183132,2806:183734,2815:185712,2841:193440,2913:194070,2920:195582,2936:196338,2943:202255,2991:205126,3057:207040,3097:211514,3130:212538,3143:215610,3217:228180,3302:229090,3318:229720,3329:235070,3354:235880,3365:236600,3397:237410,3412:250840,3636:266828,3771:267774,3792:269408,3844:272542,3872:275123,3939:275924,4017:282154,4095:284824,4134:288880,4142$0,0:10249,240:32015,556:32753,591:50812,888:51144,893:59278,1037:74732,1254:93474,1587:99080,1672:101540,1737:102114,1745:104738,1788:105558,1801:106624,1923:113426,2110:146650,2461:162400,2631:167890,2695:174110,2991:184794,3204:210184,3480:212576,3500:230994,3637:231642,3694:236826,3765:241929,3851:245898,3922:258365,4103:261815,4159:263915,4194:264890,4218:270815,4346:274330,4359:275160,4374:275492,4406:280804,4536:284560,4564
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eric "Ricky" McKinnie's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his mother's childhood in McDonough, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his siblings and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his mother's singing career

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls his early interest in the drums

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls losing his eyesight at twenty-three years old

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his favorite subjects in school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his foster sister

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls attending church and singing in the choir

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls forming a band in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls performing with Troy Ramey and the Soul Searchers

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls his glaucoma surgery and pursuing a music career

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie recalls Willie Neal Johnson and The Gospel Keynotes

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his phantom sight

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie talks about society's perception of people who are blind

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his independent personality

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his radio show with the Ricky McKinnie Singers

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie compares gospel music and blues music

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie lists The Ricky McKinney Singers' albums

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie details the history of The Blind Boys of Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eric McKinnie recalls joining The Blind Boys of Alabama and becoming their road manager

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his responsibilities as road manager

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie talks about The Blind Boys of Alabama's Grammy Awards

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his favorite songs by The Ricky McKinnie Singers and The Blind Boys of Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie reflects upon his career

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie lists the awards he won with The Blind Boys of Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his drum equipment

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie talks about money management in African American churches

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes the screen reader software he uses

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his community involvement and honorary degree

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eric "Ricky" McKinnie talks about the genre of gospel music

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Eric "Ricky" McKinnie describes his phantom sight
Eric "Ricky" McKinnie details the history of The Blind Boys of Alabama
Transcript
Were you with The Gospel Keynotes [Willie Neal Johnson and The Gospel Keynotes] when you lost your eyesight (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Right. I was, I was with The Gospel Keynotes when I lost my sight, and, and I stayed with them for another probably about a year and half after.$$Was that a--had to be a difficult transition, how were you able to, you know, make that transition and still perform and--?$$Well, you know, God has a way of using a person and I never really thought about it. I, I didn't take time out to just sit down and say, wow, you know, I can't see, I can't do, I can't go. I've always been the kind a person that I've always gone and sometimes you gotta learn to do things in a different way. I never really thought about the fact that I couldn't see. Somebody say how, how can that be? Well, you know, a lot a times when you have seen as long as I have, you have a tendency to have what they call phantom sight. So some days I would wake up and I could see different things, or least I thought I did anyway, for a long time. But the doctors was telling me like "No, now, Ricky [HistoryMaker Eric "Ricky" McKinnie], you lost--you, you can't see." I say, well, I don't know about you but when I got up this morning I saw my hand, and I was in there and I was washing my--and I could see the sink and I could see my drumsticks or, if I'm was working on a--at a mixing board, I could see the knobs on the board. But, actually, I wasn't seeing them, I was seeing it in my head so by me being able to do that, that really made me feel like within myself that I, I really hadn't lost my sight. It was just a matter a time so I didn't have time to sit back and wait on it. I had to do what I had to do.$$Okay. So is that where your favorite saying comes from?$$My favorite saying came from my aunt. I guess I was doing so much going and doing, and never stop, stopped to think about, you know, the fact that I couldn't see. So, one day she was talking to me, she say, you know, she was writing a--she wrote the first lines to go on the first records that we did, you know, the, the--I guess you would call it the bio for the record, and she told me, she say, "You know, Ricky, one thing I found out about you, you not blind you just can't see." 'Cause see, I found out that when you blind you don't have any direction, and I'm well-directed, well-grounded, and I've always been on my way up.$$Okay, okay. So, so you were able--I'd never heard of phantom vision before but I can imagine, yeah, I guess maybe like seeing something in a dream or something in a way. You can see--you know where things are and you know what they look like even though you're not able to really see 'em.$$Yeah, it's interesting. It can be good and it can be bad, it just depends on, on the person. When I say that is that a person that's, that's totally blind that doesn't have what I have, they have a tendency to, to depend more on their ears than I do. And, and they're more aware of a lot a things, and certain things don't take their attention because they, they never seen things so it doesn't--they don't react in the same way.$$Okay. So you have--you can see light?$$No.$$You can't? Okay.$$What I see is when I'm paying attention, like now. I can see it's like colors, it's like orange and yellow and brown and, yeah, orange, yellow and brown. Like light--it's like a light constant light that's on, right? But it disappears. But whenever it does disappear, I don't realize that, that it's gone. Its, it just disappears. But when I'm just sitting around sometimes that's, that's what I see. I see this, this light that's happening and then, and I can see different things, it depends on, on my mind and, and what I'm, you know, what it's about. I mean, like that camera, if I think about it enough if I go and pick it up, I can visualize that camera in my mind. That's why I can, I can do a lot a things that a lot of people can't do. That's why I understand a lot of things that, that a lot of people don't understand. That's why I tell people that anybody that underestimates me is making a big mistake.$Now how did you get involved with The Blind Boys of Alabama?$$I had an opportunity to meet Clarence [Clarence Fountain] at an early age. When he met me, I was about four years old. My mother [Sarah Sharp Shivers] was singing with another group like I said, and we met at the city auditorium [Atlanta Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta, Georgia] and, and I thought he was real cool 'cause he had a lot of energy and he was sort of like--I'm sort of like he is to a degree. He knew what he wanted, and he knew how to get, how to get to where he wanted to be.$$This is Clarence Fountain, right?$$Clarence Fountain, right.$$Okay.$$And so, when I met Clarence I was on the road in the '70s [1970s] playing with The Gospel Keynotes [Willie Neal Johnson and The Gospel Keynotes] and, and ran across Clarence again and he was doing a solo career, and had an opportunity to play with him during his solo career. And the Blind Boys from Alabama were still traveling, and Johnny Fields and George Scott and Olice Thomas, they were The Blind Boys of Alabama, Billy Bowers and I had an opportunity to play with the original Blind Boys of Alabama so during that time, yeah.$$So, the original Blind Boys, now, they--correct my history if it's wrong but I think they--it started the '40s [1940s] and at the Alabama Institute for the Blind [Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind; Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, Talladega, Alabama], they were students there and they were able to start a group and--?$$Right. The Blind Boys of Alabama started in 1939 at the Talladega Institute for the Blind. Nineteen forty-four [1944] they were on the road as The Blind Boys of Alabama--well, when they first went on the road they were called the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. And it was a promoter in, in New Jersey had a program, it was a group out a Mississippi [Five Blind Boys of Mississippi], a blind group out a Mississippi and the blind group out a Alabama, so he say, I'm a have a program and we gonna have the blind boys out of Alabama against the blind boys out of Mississippi. And the name stuck, the blind boys out of Mississippi won but the blind boys kept the name Blind Boys of Alabama and that's when it all started.$$And they made the most money, right (laughter)?$$No, no really (laughter).$$Really, I mean, most people seem to know about them and they don't know about?$$You mean in the long run?$$Yeah, right.$$Well, in the '60s [1960s], see, the Blind Boys of Mississippi went to Europe in the '60s [1960s]. They had a lead singer by the name of Archie Brownlee, he passed away in the '60s [1960s]. He and Clarence were the two original lead singers for the Blind Boys but what happened was, when the lead singer for the Blind Boys of Mississippi passed away, they never got another blind lead singer and they always had sighted guys for the lead singers, and put the blind guys in the background. That's what I said while ago (laughter). But, anyway, so, so they never got to be where they was suppose to be because if it's the, if it's the Blind Boys from Mississippi you need a blind lead singer. So--but the sighted cats always wanted to be the lead singers so they'd put the blind guys in the back and, and they stood up front and the group never really moved to the position where they were. Not to say they didn't have a good group 'cause they always had a good group, but The Blind Boys of Alabama have always had a blind singer except for a couple of times and at that time when they didn't have a blind lead singer, they, they weren't doing as well as they doing now.$$Okay, okay, so how many people have been a part of that group over the years you think?$$We've had a lot of people to come in and out of the Blind Boys. I don't know exactly how many but I know at this point Billy Bowers who was the lead singer for the Blind Boys back in the '60s [1960s] when Clarence was doing his solo career, he's back with The Blind Boys of Alabama. Clarence Fountain, the original lead singer, he's there with the Blind Boys. Jimmy Carter, he originally started out with the blind boys from Mississippi but he was in school with The Blind Boys of Alabama. He went to the Talladega Institute for the Blind also and his mother wouldn't allow him to go on the road when The Blind Boys of Alabama first left school, so he had to stay in school for a while but he's back with the Blind Boys. He's with The Blind Boys of Alabama and myself, Ricky McKinnie [HistoryMaker Eric "Ricky" McKinnie], we are the four blind guys in The Blind Boys of Alabama today.

Geraldine Moore

Drummer Geraldine "Gerry" Moore has spent her lifetime entertaining as a drummer. Born on October 29, 1929 in Chicago, Illinois to Guy and Violet Moore, she grew up attending public schools in Chicago and New Orleans, Louisiana, after her mother died while she was a young girl.

Moore set her sights on making music. Her aunt wanted her to take piano lessons in order to play music in church, but Moore wanted to play popular, secular music.

Once in high school, Moore played the valve trombone, which her aunt also disapproved of because of the way it disjointed her jaw. She eventually began to play the drums instead with the concert and marching band at Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans.

Since high school, Moore has played with various bands, ensembles and groups. She has done shows throughout the United States with traveling groups, such as: the Birdy (Lady Bird) Davis All Star Girl Band, the Phill Cheatum Quintet, the Teddy King Rhythem & Blues Band, the Alvin Cash Band, the Lady Bird Organ All-Girl Trio and the Lady Bird - Two Plus Two quartet with two girls and two men. She also performed with the legendary comic Moms Mabley.

In 1999, the storyline of Moore's musical career was featured in Regina Taylor's play, "Oo-Bla-Dee: Ladies in Jazz." Since 1974, Moore has played with The Organization Ensemble of Dave Anderson and Mars Catchum and, since 2001, with the KCR Lady's Jazz Ensemble.

Accession Number

A2002.175

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/9/2002

Last Name

Moore

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

James R. Doolittle, Jr. Elementary School

Benjamin W. Raymond Elementary School

McDonogh Elementary School

Langford Academy

Thomy Lafon School

Booker T. Washington High School

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

First Name

Geraldine

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MOO02

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/29/1929

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp, Pasta

Short Description

Drummer Geraldine Moore (1929 - ) was the leader of all female band that backed comedian Jackie "Moms" Mabley.

Employment

Birdie Davis All Star Girl Band

Phill Cheatum Quintet

Teddy King Rhythm & Blues Band

Alvin Cash Band

Lady Bird Organ All-Girl Trio

Lady Bird – Two Plus Two Quartet

Organization Ensemble

KCR Ladies Jazz Ensemble

Favorite Color

Light Blue, Brown, Burgundy

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of the Geraldine Moore interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Geraldine Moore recalls her family background

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Geraldine Moore's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gerladine Moore remembers her family life

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Geraldine Moore details her education in New Orleans and Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Geraldine Moore shares childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Geraldine Moore recounts her music education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Geraldine Moore recalls her transition from high school student to professional musician

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Geraldine Moore mentions her daughter

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Geraldine Moore discusses the function of the musician's union

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Geraldine Moore recalls the challenges she faced as a female musician on the road

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Geraldine Moore recounts her experiences on the road

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Geraldine Moore remembers her work with fellow musicians in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Geraldine Moore discusses her work outside the music industry

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Geraldine Moore recounts overcoming her hand injury

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Geraldine Moore discusses Regina Taylor's play, Oo-Bla-Dee

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Geraldine Moore reflects on her self-image as a musician

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Geraldine Moore relates her experience with sexual harassment

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Geraldine Moore remembers the period of her mother's illness and death

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Geraldine Moore discusses her daughter and grandchildren's musical interests

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Geraldine Moore discusses her Social Security benefits

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Geraldine Moore remembers the International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Geraldine Moore considers her legacy

Marshall Thompson

Marshall Thompson grew up on Chicago’s South Side. As a child, he played his snare drum on the corner of 47th Street and St. Lawrence Avenue, thus beginning a lifelong love of music.

Growing up, Thompson would try to sneak into the Regal Theater only to be thrown out. He persisted, landing a job in 1960 as the house drummer for the Regal Theater and even performing as backup for Gladys Knight in 1967. In 1960, he and other musicians formed the Chi-Lites. Initially, the group's name was the Hi-Lites. They soon achieved notoriety with half a dozen singles issued on the local Dakar and Ja-Wes labels. Because their name conflicted with that of another local group, they changed their name, aligning themselves with Chicago.

For more than thirty years, the Chi-Lites have been one of the main purveyors of the Windy City sound. Their first hit, "Let Me Be The Man My Daddy Was," made the national charts. But it was songs "Have You Seen Her'" and "Oh, Girl" that catapulted the Chi-Lites to fame. In February of 2004, the Chi-Lites received a Grammy Award for their work on Beyoncé Knowles' song "Crazy in Love," which won the Best R&B Song award. In 2006, the Chi-Lites released an album called, Christmas Time At Momma’s House. The album also features radio disc jockey, Herb Kent.

Accession Number

A2000.038

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

7/6/2000

Last Name

Thompson

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Marshall

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

THO03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/23/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream (Chocolate), Fish, Grits, Turkey Bacon, Wheat Toast

Short Description

Drummer and singer Marshall Thompson (1940 - ) began playing the drums as a child on the corner of 47th Street and St. Lawrence Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, later becoming a member of the musical group, The Chi-Lites in the 1960s.

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
0,0:5559,92:12535,208:13407,218:28520,405:31042,1375:64840,1705:68202,1810:72384,2160:77770,2309:137632,2753:167043,2863$0,0:7274,155:9060,193:11880,246:12538,258:25168,500:25578,506:26070,518:27628,549:28038,555:28612,582:33086,607:34429,697:39564,824:41776,894:55052,1134:55772,1147:56348,1157:56924,1171:57356,1178:57860,1187:66789,1312:67287,1319:71022,1384:89109,1675:89741,1681:90294,1689:90926,1699:93533,1750:94165,1761:96219,1789:101670,1909:108466,1944:121734,2264:122358,2279:122670,2284:125478,2345:136756,2511:147426,2658:157022,2778
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Photo - Marshall Thompson appears on 'The Flip Wilson Show' with the other members of the Chi-Lites

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Photo - Marshall Thompson and the other members of the Chi-Lites pose for the 'A Letter to Myself' album

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Photo - Marshall Thompson poses with the other Chi-Lites group members in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Photo - Marshall Thompson presents the Chi-Lites's gold record for their song 'Have You Seen Her'

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Photo - Marshall Thompson presents the Chi-Lites's platinum record for 'Oh Girl'

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Slating of Marshall Thompson interview: name of interviewee

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Slating of Marshall Thompson interview: date of interview

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marshall Thompson's favorites: Part I

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marshall Thompson's favorites: Part II

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marshall Thompson recalls his early experiences as a drummer

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Marshall Thompson details his parents' musical backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Marshall Thompson describes his father as a talented musician

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Marshall Thompson discusses his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Marshall Thompson names his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Marshall Thompson decodes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Marshall Thompson details his childhood on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Marshall Thompson shares his early interest in performing

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Marshall Thompson describes his first big break

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marshall Thompson discusses his early interest in doo-wop music

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marshall Thompson recalls his first singing groups

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marshall Thompson recalls his participation in the Chanteurs singing group

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marshall Thompson describes the successes of the Chi-Lites

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marshall Thompson considers the forces driving his career

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marshall Thompson differentiates pop music from R & B music

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marshall Thompson describes his wife's role in his career

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marshall Thompson remembers his bass singer, Creadel 'Red' Jones

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marshall Thompson tells stories about touring with the Chi-Lites

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Marshall Thompson explains why Eugene Record left the Chi-Lites

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Marshall Thompson discusses Chi-Lites member Robert 'Squirrel' Lester

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Marshall Thompson discusses possible future endeavors for himself and the Chi-Lites

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Marshall Thompson looks forward to the Chi-Lites's induction into a rhythm & blues hall of fame: Part I

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marshall Thompson looks forward to the Chi-Lites's induction into a rhythm & blues hall of fame: Part II

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marshall Thompson explains the process of forming the Marshall and the Hi-Lites

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marshall Thompson describes Marshall and the Hi-Lites's first time in the studio

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marshall Thompson constructs the Chi-Lites's image

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marshall Thompson describes the responsibilities of individual Chi-Lites group members

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marshall Thompson explains how the Chi-Lites got their first record deal

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marshall Thompson discusses The Chi-Lites's initial success on the theater circuit

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marshall Thompson describes life on the theater circuit

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marshall Thompson explains how each city's music has a distinct sound

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marshall Thompson describes how he helped the Jackson Five

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Marshall Thompson talks about his favorite Chi-Lites song

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Marshall Thompson recalls his surprise about the Chi-Lites's unexpected hit song

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Marshall Thompson explains why the Chi-Lites were successful

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Marshall Thompson believes the Chi-Lites's music will continue to be popular

Tape: 3 Story: 15 - Marshall Thompson talks about some of his favorite artists

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marshall Thompson describes his wife's role in the Chi-Lites's success

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marshall Thompson illustrates the Chi-Lites's monetary success

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marshall Thompson reflects on the importance of believing in one's talents

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marshall Thompson considers the contributions black people have made to music

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marshall Thompson discusses how the discipline of children has changed

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marshall Thompson voices his concerns about young African Americans

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marshall Thompson wants to be remembered as a revered entertainer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marshall Thompson gives final advice on the nature of show business

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Marshall Thompson presents a photograph of his wife and manager

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

18$9

DATitle
Marshall Thompson describes his first big break
Marshall Thompson tells stories about touring with the Chi-Lites
Transcript
Actually, I had been rehearsing Gladys Knight's [soul singer] new hit at home. And I had a chance to play. So what happened is, I went down to the Regal Theatre [Chicago, Illinois], and they threw me out a couple of times, the first policeman in there say, "Hey, you don't belong in here." And so he made me get out. I had my snare drum with me, so what I did, on lunchtime when they had their break, when they took their break--lunchtime, on lunchtime, I went down to 'Jew Town' [Maxwell Street, Chicago, Illinois] and bought me some patent leather shoes, white shirt and a cross tie, went over to Walgreen's [pharmacy and convenience store] across the street on 47th Street [Chicago], sit in there with the rest of the band. And all musicians think they know everybody, you know, and they'll never say, "No, I don't know you." All you have to do is say, "Hey, yeah, I remember you in New York." I had never left 47th Street (laughs). He said, "I know your name. What's your name?" "Marshall." "Yeah, that's right. Your name's Marshall." I said, "What's your name. I remember you at the Apollo Theater [Harlem, New York]." "Oh, my name is Hickembottom or somebody like that." "Oh, okay. Now I know you" (laughs). So after, after they had their lunch, we went backstage again, through the alley, right there on 47th Street, and they had a new security guard then. But I was dressed just like the house band. So I just walked on in there with everybody else, sit in the audience. And Red Saunders's [drummer] band was playing at the time up there, playing--trying to play Gladys's music. And the drummer, of course, he--he didn't have the feel. So I raised my hand in the audience--I said, I say--"I know--could I try it," you know? It was about four hours before showtime, so she had to have that music right. So I went up there, got on the drums, played rehearsal perfect, no problems, no flaws, no nothing. Went up there and played a great set of drums and got the show. She said, "You be back here at six o'clock [pm] to get ready for--for the concert." Got back there at six o'clock, went up there, told all my friends around the house, "I'm-a be at the Regal. I'm-a be at the Regal playing drums." The curtains opened up. I couldn't move (laughs). I froze. I couldn't play nothing. My foot froze, hand froze, everything. And Gladys was looking back there, said, "Play, play." And I was--(pantomimes playing drums). I was scared to death. I was doing just like that. And then as we got going, a little further, you know, I, I got into it. Then I started playing a little more and more and more and more. And I got into it. The second show (claps hands), all the fear went away. I came out there smoking. But that was my first stage appearance in a big house like that in my life.$$Now, that's a really wonderful story.$Marshall, is it not true that when you're a member of a group, you grow closer together than family?$$Oh, yeah.$$An incredible closeness. Can you explain that?$$Well, it's like a family. You know, you--you go on the road, you--you know, I mean back in the time we [Thompson's musical group, the Chi-Lites] went on the road, you couldn't hardly get a hotel room. You'd go in there and, and it wasn't no rooms for you. We had to sleep in the cars and to get to the gigs, we went to--I remember the first time out in California, when the Chi-Lites first went out there, we was out there searching for work from door to door on Sunset Boulevard [Los Angeles, California]. We went all up and down Sunset Boulevard, and the O'Jays [rhythm and blues musical group] was there. The Valentinos [R & B music group] were singing, that was back in the time of Sam Cooke [R & B singer] 'cause he was a Valentino back in those days. And everybody, we just went in and, and sung for free. We just went in and tried to get a gig. I had my [hair] dryer. I used to do everybody's processes [black hairstyle]. And I took my dryer out there in California. About two blocks up the street from Sam Cooke's death, we were staying in--on Santa Barbara [California] up there, in the hotel there, two blocks from him, where he passed away. We couldn't hardly keep a room. Reggie Thomas ran out of money. We had to go pawn my dryer. We pawned my dryer and got the money off the dryer and paid for another night's room. Went to--Etta James [R & B singer] was singing with us, Ritchie Valens [rock 'n roll singer] was there, Etta James, Valentinos, O'Jays and the Chi-Lites. They gave us about fifteen dollars a night for singing. And we had to--we went over to Cooper's. That was our favorite donut shop 'cause that's all we had to eat (laughs), and ate, and went back home just hoping that somebody'd really take this group under their wing. So Eugene Record [Chi-Lites's vocalist] sent back--one time, we put--the dryer was already in the pawn shop. So we didn't have no place to go, we didn't have--we couldn't pawn the--'cause the dryer was already there. So Eugene Record said--called his father, and he sent us, Western Union-ed [money transfer/message service] us money, and got some money out there to us to take care of our rooms while we was there. But it was something else. I couldn't wait to get back to Chicago [Illinois]. Broke down in Lynchville, Illinois [downstate Illinois] (laughs), never forget that. We slept in the car two nights, freezing outside, snow. Our toes was frozen on top of each other in the car, didn't have no, no money to go anywhere. We were stuck right there. We had threw a rod in the, in the wagon. Aw well, the Chi-Lites been through it.