George W. Thomas

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For other people named George Thomas, see George Thomas (disambiguation).

George Washington Thomas Jr. (born 1885, Plum Bayou, Arkansas - died, according to differing sources, in March, 1930, Chicago, Illinois or 1936 Washington, D.C.) was a American blues and jazz pianist and songwriter.

Born to George W. Thomas, Sr. and Fannie Bradley just outside the Delta town of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, George Thomas, Jr. and his family moved to Houston, TX by the time he was 15 years old. The combination of the Delta blues, jazz, and gospel sounds from Arkansas made a lasting impression on him even as his proclivity for the piano began to develop early. Over the years, the east Texas barrelhouse style of blues/jazz further influenced him and his music.

Thomas was the pianist head of an important Texas blues clan which included his daughter Hociel Thomas, his siblings Beulah ‘Sippie’ Wallace and Hersal Thomas, plus Bernice Edwards, not a blood relative, but raised with the family. Thomas was an important composer (of New Orleans Hop Scop Blues and Muscle Shoals Blues among other tunes), and a publisher, for a time in partnership with Clarence Williams.

Williams attributed the origin of the boogie woogie piano style to Thomas. Thomas was certainly among its earliest important exponents. "New Orleans Hop Scop Blues", published in 1916, is claimed to be the first twelve-bar blues to be written with a boogie-woogie bass line.[1] With brother Hersal, he also copyrighted "The Fives" in 1921, a classic later performed by many pianists.

On disc records, he made "The Rocks" in 1923 (credited as Clay Custer), a solo which contains the earliest recording of a walking bass, accompanied Sippie's friend Tiny Franklin, and made one record under his own name, and a few with his jazz group, the Muscle Shoals Devils.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter J. Silvester, A Left Hand Like God : a history of boogie-woogie piano (1989), page 47.