After graduating from high school in 1949, he entered Los Angeles City college as a sociology major but left after a year to pursue a career in music. He then moved to St. Louis, Mo. to live with his father, drummer Ben Thigpen, well-known for his work with the Andy Kirk band in the1930s and ´40s. In 1951 Ed moved to New York where he joined the Cootie Williams bad at the Savoy Ballroom. He traveled throughout America with this band and many of the wellknown rhythm and blues groups of the period.
Between 1954 and `58 he worked with Dinah Washington, the Johnny Hodges band, the avant-garde group of Gil Mellé, and the trios of Bud Powell, Jutta Hipp, and Billy Taylor. During this period he began to gain recognition though his performances in concerts, nightclubs, recording studios and on the television series The Subject is Jazz, He also became a clinician for the Ludwig drum company.
In 1959 he joined the Oscar Peterson Trio and also was an instructor at The Advanced School of Conteporary Music, founded by Oscar Peterson, bassist Ray Brown and composer Phil Nimmons in Toronto, Canada. That same year Ed and Elvin Jones were tied for the New Star on Drums in the Down Beat jazz critics´ poll.
The Trio - still considered by many musicians and public to be the greatest piano-bass-drums trio in the history of jazz - traveled the world with Jazz at the Philharmonic. Ed recorded more than 5o albums with Peterson before he left the group in 1965 and toured with Ella Fitzgerald. In 1967, do settled in Los Angeles to do freelance work.
Among the artists he performed with were Johnny Mathis, Pat Boone, Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, Oliver Nelson and Gerald Wilson. In late 1968, Ed rejoined Ella Fitzgerald in a trio led by Tommy Flanagan. Ed remained with Ella until September,1972, when he settled in Denmark.
Europe: 1972 - to present:
With Copenhagen as his base, he has continued his work as both a performer and educator. Per-forming with both European and Amerika artists in Sweden with singers Sylvia Vrethammer and Alice Babs and throughout the continent with Kenny Drew, Sven Asmussen, Ernie Wilkins, Clark Terry, Milt Jackson, Monty Alexander and Thad Jones. He founded his own group, Action-Reaction, and also continued working as a teacher and clinician, giving courses on jazz percussion at the Music Högskolan in Sweden and presently gives courses at the Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen. Ed has written and published five books, including Ed Thigpen Talking Drums; a collaboration with Ray Brown called Be Our Guest; Rhythm Analysis and Basic co-ordination, and The Sound of Brushes. The most recent is a manual titled Rhythm Brought to Life. He has made two instruction videos, Ed Thigpen on Jazz Drumming and The Essence of Brushes.
Though he still has his main residence in Copenhagen, Ed in recent years has been traveling extensively in the United States and Canada, as well as europe, leading his own groups and performing as a featured artist with others. He also continues to conduct clinics and seminars throughout the world.