Joe Thomas (producer)

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Joe Thomas
Born1956/1957 (age 62–63)
Other namesBuddy Love
OccupationProducer, director, businessman, musician, songwriter, wrestler
Years active1984–present

Joe Thomas (born 1956/1957)[1] is an American producer, director, businessman, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter based in Illinois.[2] He is known for musical collaborations and subsequent lawsuits pertaining to musician-songwriter Brian Wilson, co-founder of the Beach Boys. Thomas also acted as producer and director for Chicago's Soundstage program.[3] Additionally, he was a wrestler formerly known under the name Buddy Love.[1][4][5]

The Beach Boys[edit]

Stars and Stripes and Imagination[edit]

In the mid 1990s, Thomas was enlisted to co-produce the Beach Boys' album Stars and Stripes Vol. 1, an album composed of country music stars covering Beach Boys songs.[4] Beach Boy Mike Love says it was Thomas who suggested the idea of a country album,[6] and it was released on River North Records, the label he had been running.[7] Wilson then commenced recording a new solo album with Thomas.[8] Biographer Peter Ames Carlin writes that the "slick sound of Joe's work — and the entree it might allow Brian into the adult contemporary market — was a large part of his appeal."[4] The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan believed: "I don't think Brian really wanted to work with him — but he had no choice, he was being pulled in that direction."[9] In 1998, the magazine Uncut wrote: "Brian was being coerced away from [collaborator] Andy Paley (by wife Melinda, according to observers), toward Joe Thomas."[9]

For many listeners ... Imagination bore many distressing signs. ... Or maybe that was just more of Joe's sonic airbrushing. ... [fans complained that] the real Brian Wilson would never homogenize his music to sound exactly like every other song on the radio.

—Peter Ames Carlin[10]

Imagination was released on Thomas' Giant Records in June 1998. He also served as musical director, co-producer and promoter of Wilson's first world tour.[citation needed] Wilson stated: "We call it a Brian Wilson album, but it's really a Joe Thomas/Brian Wilson album."[8] Thomas purposely took it upon himself to ensure that the new work would sound as close to adult contemporary radio as possible. Carlin wrote, "Most [arrangements] were dominated by tinkling keyboards, with plenty of melodic interjections from a gently plucked nylon-string guitar. If Brian tried to use an instrument or an arrangement that might not fit into the soothing blend, Joe would shake his head and slice it out of the picture. And if this bothered Brian, he didn't show it."[8]

In June 1998, Rolling Stone's Jason Fine reported: "Melinda says he's obligated to do another record with Thomas. ... As is often the case with Brian's career, Brian doesn't seem to be the one calling the shots. 'I'd like to stay here in L.A., but we built the studio, so I guess I have to go,' he says simply."[5] Wilson soon filed a suit against Thomas, seeking damages and a declaration which freed him to work on his next album without involvement from Thomas.[11] The suit was made after Thomas allegedly began to raise his industry profile and wrongfully enrich himself through his association with Wilson. Thomas reciprocated with a suit citing that Ledbetter "schemed against and manipulated" him and Brian. The case was settled out of court.[12] Thomas' AllMusic profile states: "The live DVD productions that were eventually released after the partnership of Wilson and Thomas went south are apparently studied in some recording classes as examples of how performers can be edited out of a production, specifically Thomas and his frequent collaborator Steve Dahl."[3]

Radio and No Pier Pressure[edit]

The reunited Beach Boys performing in May 2012.

According to Thomas, Wilson circa 2008 or 2010 inquired to him about demo tapes recorded during the sessions for Imagination: "He called up and said I've got some ideas for some new Beach Boys songs, and I said, That’s great, and I pointed out to him that when we worked together several years ago he had the genesis of some other Beach Boy songs that he had never really wanted to put on any of his solo records." The two proceeded to meet with Mike Love in Palm Springs, who then agreed to a collaboration.[13] The end product, titled That's Why God Made the Radio (2012), received generally favorable reviews.[14]

In 2012, Thomas returned to co-produce the Beach Boys' Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour, which was widely criticized for its auto-tuned vocals.[15][16] According to Love, during the performances, it was Melinda who had attempted to install five auto-tune units on each of the band members' microphones.[17] Thomas again co-produced Wilson's solo album No Pier Pressure (2015). The album garnered mixed reviews that widely referenced its adult contemporary arrangements and extensive use of auto-tune. Thomas was again responsible for the album's particular sound, according to biographer Christian Matijas-Mecca, with one of his signatures being the way woodwinds complement the end of a vocal line.[18]


Albums produced


  1. ^ a b Himmelsbach, Erik (July 12, 1998). "The Last Brother". The Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ Farinella, David John (April 1, 2007). "PBS' Soundstage Steps Into the Digital Age". Mix Online.
  3. ^ a b Chadbourne, Eugene. "Joe Thomas". AllMusic.
  4. ^ a b c Carlin 2006, p. 291.
  5. ^ a b Fine, Jason (July 8, 1999). "Brian Wilson's Summer Plans". Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ Love 2016, p. 384.
  7. ^ Giles, Jeff (August 15, 2013). "Mike Love Wasn't Happy With the Beach Boys Reunion".
  8. ^ a b c Carlin 2006, p. 292.
  9. ^ a b Lester, Paul (June 1998). "The High Llamas: Hump Up the Volume". Uncut.
  10. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 293.
  11. ^ "Bad Vibrations: Brian Wilson Sues Collaborator". Rolling Stone. August 24, 1999.
  12. ^ "Brian Wilson Settles Suit With Former Partner". Rolling Stone. July 18, 2000.
  13. ^ Romano, Andrew (May 2012). "The Joe Thomas Interview: On Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys Reunion, and That's Why God Made the Radio". Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  14. ^ That's Why God Made The Radio at Metacritic. Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  15. ^ Sherwin, Adam (July 15, 2013). "Picking up better vibrations? Beach Boys succumb to Auto-Tune for new album". The Independent.
  16. ^ Uncut (August 19, 2013). "The Beach Boys Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour". Uncut.
  17. ^ Love 2016, p. 399.
  18. ^ Matijas-Mecca 2017, p. 164.