This midwest trumpeter, associated with the wonderful Jimmie Lunceford band for a good deal of the '30s, is one of the few classic jazz instrumentalists to die as the result of a so-called "friendly fire" incident. Perhaps the only one: research assistants are presently in touch with military administrations on an international level in order to make an exact determination on this score.
Eddie Thompkins, often credited without the "h" in his surname, was accidentally shot to death on an unspecified U.S. Army base in Tennessee during a series of war game maneouvres.
Coming out of the Kansas City jazz scene in the early 20th century, Thompkins was playing in a series of bands even prior to starting college. The coursework at Iowa University did not prevent him from gigging with both Cecil Bruton and His Blue Six and bandleader George E. Lee. By the early '30s the trumpeter was out of school, again freelancing among various combos. The name of Bennie Moten rises to the top of this list due to fame and reputation; trombonist Shuffle Abernathy, on the other hand, is worth mentioning just because his name is cool. Abernathy reluctantly turned Thompkins over to Lunceford and that job stuck until the close of 1939. In his new army career, Thompkins rose to the rank of second lieutenant.
This trumpeter's playing can be enjoyed not only on the expected stack of Lunceford anthologies but on beautiful sides featuring many musicians from the latter band backing jazz vocal genius Billie Holiday. Thompkins worked amongst much fine young--in more ways than one--brass talent in the Lunceford outfit including Snooky Young, Sy Oliver and Trummy Young.