Ray Thomas

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This article is about the former member of the rock band The Moody Blues. For other people named Ray Thomas, see Ray Thomas (disambiguation).
Ray Thomas
Birth name Raymond Thomas
Born (1941-12-29) 29 December 1941 (age 72)
Origin Stourport-on-Severn, England
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, flautist
Instruments Flute, harmonica, oboe, saxophone, tambourine, vocals, piano
Years active 1960–2002
Labels Decca, Deram, Threshold, Polydor, Universal
Associated acts The Moody Blues, El Riot and the Rebels, Krew Cats

Raymond "Ray" Thomas (born 29 December 1941) is an English musician, best known as a flautist, singer and composer in the rock band, The Moody Blues.

Some of his compositions 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). He also co-wrote "Watching and Waiting" with Justin Hayward for To Our Children's Children's Children in 1969 and "The Dreamer" c. 1971 which he also sang, and which has been added to the remastered CD versions of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.

Career[edit]

Early years[edit]

In the 1960s Thomas joined the Birmingham Youth Choir then began singing with various Birmingham blues and soul groups including The Saints and Sinners and The Ramblers. Taking up the harmonica he started a band, El Riot and the Rebels, with bass guitarist John Lodge. After a couple of years their friend Mike Pinder joined as keyboardist. El Riot and the Rebels had once opened for The Beatles in Tenbury Wells;[1] Thomas and Pinder were later in a band called Krew Cats, formed in 1963, who played in Hamburg and other places in Northern Germany.

The Moody Blues[edit]

Thomas and Pinder then recruited guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bassist Clint Warwick to form a new, blues-based band, The Moody Blues. Signed to Decca Records, their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, yielded a #1 UK hit (#10 in the US) with "Go Now." Thomas sang lead vocals on George and Ira Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" from the musical Porgy and Bess.

When Warwick left the band (followed by Laine a few months later), he was briefly replaced by Rod Clark, then Thomas suggested his and Pinder's old bandmate John Lodge as a replacement and also recruited Justin Hayward to replace Denny Laine. With this lineup, the band released 7 successful albums between 1967 and 1972 and became known for a pioneering orchestral sound.

Although they initially tried to continued singing the R&B covers and novelty tunes, they were confronted by an audience member and with their finances going downhill, so they made a conscious decision to focus only on their own original material.

Following the league of Pinder, Hayward and Lodge, Thomas also started writing songs and the first songs he contributed to the group's repertoire were "Another Morning" and "Twilight Time" on "Days of Future Passed". His flute had featured on threesongs on the debut album "Something You Got", "I've Got a Dream" and "Let Me Go" as well as the single "From the Bottom of My Heart", but it would become an integral part of the band's music and Pinder also started to make use of the mellotron keyboard.

Thomas and Pinder both acted as the band's onstage emcees, as heard on "Caught Live + 5" and seen in the "Live at the Isle of Wight Festival" DVD. Thomas started to become a more prolific writer for the group, penning songs such as "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume" and "Legend of a Mind", an ode to LSD guru Timothy Leary and a popular live favourite, for In Search of the Lost Chord, "Dear Diary" and "Lazy Day" on "On The Threshold of a Dream" as well as co-writing "Are You Sitting Comfortably?" with Hayward.

The Moody Blues formed their own record label Threshold Records, distributed by Decca in the UK and London in the US, and their first album on the Threshold imprint was To Our Children's Children's Children, a concept album about space travel. Thomas wrote and sang "Floating" and "Eternity Road".

When the band began to realize that their method of heavy overdubbing in the studio made most of the songs difficult to reproduce in concert, they decided to go for a more stripped down sound on their next album "A Question of Balance", in order to play as many songs live as possible, and it was their second UK No. 1 album, and Thomas wrote and sang "And the Tide Rushes In", written after reportedly having a fight with his wife, and was credited with co-writing the album's final track "The Balance" with Edge, while Pinder recited the story.

The Moodies went back to their symphonic sound and heavy overdubbing with Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, their third UK No. 1 album, and Thomas wrote and sang "Our Guessing Game" and "Nice to Be Here", sang a co-lead vocal with Pinder, Hayward and Lodge on Edge's "After You Came" and all five members wrote "Procession".

The final album of the core seven was Seventh Sojourn, their first album to hit No. 1 in the USA. By this time, Pinder had replaced his Mellotron with the Chamberlin, which produced orchestral sounds more realistically and easily than the mellotron. Thomas wrote and sang "For My Lady".

Band hiatus[edit]

Thomas released the albums, From Mighty Oaks (1975) and Hopes Wishes and Dreams (1976) after the band temporarily broke up in 1974 as a break-up). During this period he earned his nickname, 'The Flute'. Within the band he was also known as 'Tomo' (pronounced tOm-O).

Band reformation[edit]

The band reformed in 1978 for 'Octave', Thomas providing the songs "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 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 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Instruments[edit]

Although he most commonly plays flute, Thomas is actually a multi-instrumentalist. He has also played piccolo, oboe, harmonica and, on the album In Search of the Lost Chord, the French horn. He frequently played tambourine and also shook maracas during the group's R&B phase. The 1972 video for "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" features Thomas playing the baritone saxophone, although Mike Pinder says on his website that this was just for effect in the video and that Thomas was not the sax player on the actual recording.[2] Although typically singing in the lower tenor register, Thomas was also responsible for a distinctive falsetto on many of the group's earlier recordings.[citation needed] He also provided a co-lead vocal with Hayward & Lodge on their song 'Sooner or Later (Walking On Air)' on 'Strange Times'.

Recent years and prostate cancer diagnosis[edit]

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.[3][4]

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.

In October 2014, Ray Thomas posted this statement on his website: [5]"After the tragic death of Alvin Stardust and the brave response to Prostate Awareness by his widow, Julie, in following up on what Alvin had intended to say about the disease, I have decided to help in some small way. I was diagnosed in September 2013 with prostate cancer. My cancer was in-operable but I have a fantastic doctor who immediately started me on a new treatment that has had 90% success rate. The cancer is being held in remission but I'll be receiving this treatment for the rest of my life. I have four close friends who have all endured some kind of surgery or treatment for this cancer and all are doing well. While I don't like to talk publicly about my health problems, after Alvin's death, I decided it was time I spoke out. A cancer diagnosis can shake your world and your family's but if caught in time it can be cured or held in remission. I urge all males to get tested NOW. Don't put it off by thinking it won't happen to me. It needs to be caught early. It's only a blood test - a few minutes out your day to save yourself from this disease. Love and God Bless, Ray"

Compositions[edit]

The Moody Blues[edit]

Solo[edit]

  • 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

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ Pinder, as stated on his website
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ http://www.raythomas.me/index.php

External links[edit]