Alphonso Sonny Thompson was born in Centerville, Mississippi, in August of 1916. As a teenager Thompson moved to Chicago and decided to further his musical education at that city's Conservatory of Music. As a budding pianist he was heavily influenced by the piano players of the time, most importantly Earl Hines and Art Tatum. In his late teens he secured a job playing with Erskine Tate. For a time Thompson attended the University of Chicago, and also had gigs with Red Allen, Stuff Smith, and his own combo called The Rhythm Masters.
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