||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2009)|
|Birth name||Raymond Thomas|
|Born||29 December 1941|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, flautist|
|Instruments||Flute, harmonica, oboe, saxophone, tambourine, vocals, piano|
|Labels||Decca, Deram, Threshold, Polydor, Universal|
|Associated acts||The Moody Blues, El Riot and the Rebels, Krew Cats|
In the 1960s, Thomas joined the Birmingham Youth Choir. He began singing with various Birmingham blues and soul groups, including the Saints and Sinners as well as the Ramblers. Taking up the harmonica, he then started a band with bass guitarist and future Moody Blues bandmate John Lodge. The two performed together in El Riot and the Rebels. After a couple of years, keyboardist and friend Mike Pinder, another future Moody, joined as well. Thomas and Pinder (without Lodge) were later in a band called Krew Cats. El Riot and the Rebels had once opened for The Beatles in Tenbury Wells; the Krew Cats formed in 1963 and played in Hamburg and other places in Northern Germany, possibly at some of the same venues which the Beatles had played although this is unconfirmed.
Thomas and Pinder then recruited guitarist Denny Laine along with drummer Graeme Edge and bassist Clint Warwick to form a new, blues-based band. The name of the band, chosen by Pinder, was "The Moody Blues", chosen from initials which were part of a hoped-for sponsorship from the M&B Brewery (which failed to materialise) and also as a subtle reference to Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo."
Their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, yielded a #1 UK hit (#10 in the US) with "Go Now." The album also featured Thomas singing lead vocals on a cover of George and Ira Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So", which was originally from the musical Porgy and Bess.
Following this album, Warwick left the band, followed by Laine a few months later. Thomas suggested an old bandmate, bassist John Lodge, as a replacement for Warwick (in between there had been another bass guitarist, Rodney Clark) and also recruited Justin Hayward to replace Denny Laine. With its new lineup, the band released 7 successful albums between 1967 and 1972, and became known for a pioneering orchestral sound. Some of Thomas' compositions on these albums are "Another Morning" and "Twilight Time" (from Days of Future Passed), "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume" and "Legend of a Mind" (from In Search of the Lost Chord), "Dear Diary" and "Lazy Day" (from On the Threshold of a Dream), "Eternity Road",and "Floating" (from To Our Children's Children's Children), "And the Tide Rushes In" (from A Question of Balance), "Our Guessing Game" and "Nice to Be Here" (from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour) and "For My Lady" (from Seventh Sojourn).
Thomas also co-wrote "Watching and Waiting" with Justin Hayward for 'To Our Children's Children's Children' in 1969. In addition Thomas also co-wrote with Hayward and sang "The Dreamer" c. 1971 which has been now added to the latest remastered CD version of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.
In 1974, the band took a hiatus (reported at the time as a break-up), during which the members all did solo projects. Thomas released the albums, From Mighty Oaks (1975) and Hopes Wishes and Dreams (1976). It was during this period that he earned his nickname, 'The Flute'. Within the band he was also known as 'Tomo' (pronounced tOm-O).
The band then reformed in 1978 for 'Octave' (largely minus Mike Pinder who was only with them for this first album after the reformation), Thomas providing 'Under Moonshine' and 'I'm Your Man' and the group continued to release albums throughout the 1980s, with Thomas' "Veteran Cosmic Rocker" plus 'Painted Smile' being prominently featured on the album Long Distance Voyager. The former song has often been regarded as a theme song for the band itself as a whole and for Thomas in particular, and it again features his use of the harmonica. After contributing 'Sorry' and 'I Am' (both on 'The Present' album of 1983) during the mid-1980s, Thomas temporarily stopped writing new songs for the band. His last three songwriting contributions for the Moodies include "Celtic Sonant" and "Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain" (co-written with Justin Hayward) on the album Keys of the Kingdom, and the brief "My Little Lovely" on Strange Times Thomas also provided a rare co-lead vocal with Hayward & Lodge on their song 'Sooner or Later (Walking On Air)' on 'Strange Times'.
Thomas took featured lead vocal on Graeme Edge's songs '22,000 Days' (on 'Long Distance Voyager') and 'Going Nowhere' (on 'The Present' 1983), however while he contributed backing vocals to 'The Other Side of Life' album in 1986, he took no lead vocal role, and appears to be totally absent from the 1988 album 'Sur La Mer' although he is included in the childhood photos depicted on the album's inner sleeve and is given an overall 'group credit', but significantly is then not given an actual performing band credit at all unlike the others.
Diminishing role and declining health
During the group's synthpop era, Thomas's role in the recording studio began to increasingly diminish, partially due to the band's synthpop music being unsuitable for his flute and partially because he was also unwell during this period, meaning that his involvement in recording sessions was further limited. Despite contributing backing vocals on 'The Other Side of Life' and 'Sur la Mer', it is unclear how much, if any, instrumentation he recorded for these two albums, but in any case, none of his instrumentation or vocals ended up on 'Sur la Mer'. It is possible that during the sessions for 'The Other Side of Life', he contributed tambourine, harmonica or saxophone, but it's not known for sure of how much, if any, instrumental contributions of his ended up on the released version of the album and at this point, he was largely relegated to the role of a backup singer.
Resilience and final years in the band
On The Moody Blues' 1991 release Keys of the Kingdom, Thomas played a substantial role in the studio for the first time since 1983, writing 'Celtic Sonnant' and co-writing 'Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain' with Justin Hayward. He contributed his first ambient flute piece in eight years and he was in sparkling form once again. However, his health declined and his last album with the group was Strange Times to which he contributed his final compositions for the group 'My Little Lovely'. Thomas retired at the end of 2002. In a 2014 interview with Pollstar.com, drummer Graeme Edge stated that Thomas had retired due to illness. The Moody Blues – now consisting only of Hayward, Lodge and Edge (Edge being the only original member) plus four long-serving touring band members, including Norda Mullen who has taken over Thomas' flute parts – have released one studio album, December, since his departure from the band.
Although he most commonly plays tambourine and flute, Thomas is actually a multi-instrumentalist, playing various other woodwind instruments, such as Harmonica and the oboe on the album, In Search of the Lost Chord, French horn and piccolo. He also shook maracas during the group's R&B phase while Denny Laine was in the group. The 1972 video for "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" features Thomas playing the baritone saxophone, although Pinder has stated on his website that this was just for effect in the video, and that Thomas was not the sax player on the actual recording. Although typically comfortable singing in the lower tenor register, Thomas was also responsible for the distinctive falsetto voice on many of the group's earlier recordings, before the arrival of Hayward and Lodge.
In July 2009 it became known that Thomas had written at least two of his songs – "Adam and I" and "My Little Lovely" – for his son and grandson Robert, respectively. Also that he had married again, to his longtime girlfriend Lee Lightle, in a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Cross Mwnt, Wales on 9 July 2009.
Ray has released his two solo albums, remastered, in a boxset on 24 September 2010. The set includes, with the two albums, a remastered quad version of "From Mighty Oaks", a new song "The Trouble With Memories", a previously unseen promo video of "High Above My Head" and an interview conducted by fellow Moody Blues founder, Mike Pinder. The boxset was released through Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records.
The Moody Blues
- 1967: "Another Morning" from Days of Future Passed
- 1967: "Twilight Time" from Days of Future Passed
- 1968: "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume" from In Search of the Lost Chord
- 1968: "Legend of a Mind" from In Search of the Lost Chord
- 1968: "Visions of Paradise" (with Justin Hayward) from In Search of the Lost Chord
- 1969: "Dear Diary" from On the Threshold of a Dream
- 1969: "Lazy Day" from On the Threshold of a Dream
- 1969: "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" (with Justin Hayward) from On the Threshold of a Dream
- 1969: "Floating" from To Our Children's Children's Children
- 1969: "Eternity Road" from To Our Children's Children's Children
- 1969: "Watching and Waiting" (with Justin Hayward) from To Our Children's Children's Children
- 1970: "And the Tide Rushes In" from A Question of Balance
- 1970: "The Balance" (with Graeme Edge) from A Question of Balance
- 1971: "Procession" (with Justin Hayward, John Lodge, Mike Pinder, and Graeme Edge) from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
- 1971: "Our Guessing Game" from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
- 1971: "Nice to Be Here" from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour
- 1971: "The Dreamer" (with Justin Hayward) out take now added to Every Good Boy Deserves Favour CD.
- 1972: "For My Lady" from Seventh Sojourn
- 1978: "Under Moonshine" from Octave
- 1978: "I'm Your Man" from Octave
- 1981: "Painted Smile" from Long Distance Voyager
- 1981: "Reflective Smile" from Long Distance Voyager
- 1981: "Veteran Cosmic Rocker" from Long Distance Voyager
- 1983: "I Am" from The Present
- 1983: "Sorry" from The Present
- 1991: "Celtic Sonant" from Keys of the Kingdom
- 1991: "Never Blame the Rainbows for the Rain" (with Justin Hayward) from Keys of the Kingdom
- 1999: "My Little Lovely" from Strange Times
- 1975: "From Mighty Oaks" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "Hey Mama Life" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "Play It Again" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "Rock A Bye Baby Blues" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "High Above My Head" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "Love Is The Key" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "You Make Me Feel Alright" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "Adam And I" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1975: "I Wish We Could Fly" from From Mighty Oaks
- 1976: "In Your Song" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "Friends" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "We Need Love" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "Within Your Eyes" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "One Night Stand" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "Keep On Searching" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "Didn't I" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "Migration" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "Carousel" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 1976: "The Last Dream" from Hopes, Wishes and Dreams
- 2010: "The Trouble With Memories" from From Mighty Oaks/Hopes, Wishes and Dreams box set
- Brian Viner, Tales Of The Country: When Beatlemania hit Tenbury Wells at the Wayback Machine (archived January 1, 2009). Independent.co.uk. 2 May 2003