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by Joanne Ledesma, SGVMusic.com
I can distinctly remember crying in anguish one day in the summer of 1971. I was upset because my parents forced me to wait in the car with my four other siblings while my lucky brother Danniel got to go with Dad to into the music store to get some bass strings. It just didn't seem fair! Danniel was already groovy enough to have a musical instrument; a bass. I felt that my parents should of let me walk in there with the two of them. Who cared if I didn't play an instrument, doesn't campfire tunes with the Girl Scouts count for anything?. After all, this wasn't just any music store, it was Johnny Thompson Music.
For a young girl at the age of eleven, it probably should not have mattered that much, but I felt completely deprived, devastated and dismissed. What made that day so memorable was the waiting. Dad and Danniel were in there for almost a whole twenty minutes, an eternity in my eyes. My gawd, what were they doing in there?, why couldn't I see anything through the window? Who could they be chatting with? What in the world are they experiencing that I wasn't? Ya see, at that time I was passionate and slightly paralyzed by the awesomeness of live music and gear. I knew that I loved it, but did not realize yet to what extent.
I remember during those years, hanging out side the door of my brothers make shift "rehearsal studio" in our back yard. It was called "the back shack" and it was were local musicians were allowed to hang out and play from the late 60's to the mid 80's. It was located in San Gabriel, CA, just a few miles for the famous Johnny Thompson Music store in Monterey Park. I used too sneakingly stand outside that room for hours grabbing glimpses of my brothers band practices and local jammers. I snooped in on their conversations about instruments, amps, what Richie Blackmore uses for strings, and how they were gonna save their money for the hottest gear at Johnny Thompson Music.
This was also the time when I began to teter with the idea of having a musician boyfriend in a band, wearing groovy clothes and being the envy of my friends. I had heard so many great things about the store, it was a legend in my mind that even Walt Disney could not compete with. This is where local 'underground" musicians liked to hang out, play gear they couldn't afford, look for celebrities and just be cool. Many rumors floated around about several celebrity sitings at the store. I wanted so badly to be part of the "underground musicians crowd" and it felt like the only way to acheive that was to say you been too Johnny Thompson Music many times.
The mention of Johnny Thompson was like an underground secret that only groovy cats knew of, we knew it was a music store when most thought it was a goofy teacher's name at school. A lot of the guys who hung out at my house like Bob Robles,(Thee Midnighters) Mike Tovar (Food for Feet) John Avila (Oingo Boingo) Sam Avila (Walter Trout) Sammy Sanchez (Ben Harper) Dave Vasquez (Riverboat) all talked about the store as if it was the inspiration for all music magic. Some of them loved the place so much that they started teaching there like Mike Albert ( Ruben & the Jets, El Chicano, Megadeth) and the iconic Kent Henry (Blues Image, Steppenwolf, Delaney & Bonnie). Mike Albert says "before Guitar Center and Sam Ash, Johnny Thomson music was and still is a role model for what a music store should be. The longevity speaks for itself. Johnny Thompson is one of the smartest business men I have ever met, and I'm proud to say he is my friend!" (John Paul Jones & Robert Plant)
I could probably write a book about the store with out ever having step foot in there till 1976 when I got my drivers liscense. There is a gigantic list of talent who grew up with this music store, bought their first geat there,
and who remain friends with local legend Johnny Thompson. San Gabriel Valley is musicians owe alot to Johnny Thompson and we are greatful that his store is still relavant in 2011! But to give you an idea of the historical value,
you have to do three things. (1) Take a look at the great images & classic logos which are provided (see link below); (2)Take a look at the list of clientle who shopped there (see link below); (3) Most Importantly Go to their site
link posted below) and listen to 27 incredible sound bites that Johnny recorde as store ads on reel to reel, they are a historical and amazing piece of San Gabriel Valley Music History! You can hear the youthful voice Dr. John
singing ad lib or hear the voices of Richie Blackmore, Mick Taylor, Robert Plant and more!
(L to R) Johnny himself (bg), John Paul Jones and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin here at J.T. Music in Monterey Park during their first U.S. tour