From his humble upbringing through performing in Texas dance halls before ultimately becoming a bona fide music star, B.J. Thomas is among the most recognizable names in music.
Through hits such as Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love , Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head and (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song , Thomas is a four-time Grammy award winner with a string of number one hits to his credit.
B.J. Thomas performs at the Moncton Wesleyan Church Celebration Centre on Saturday evening. Show time is at 7:30 p.m.
‘As a child, I had always been interested in music,’ Thomas tells the Times & Transcript. ‘My father was big on Hank Williams and other country greats of that era.’ Thomas says that it was thanks to his brother that he landed his first gig in a musical group at 15 years old. While Thomas had some experience behind the drum set, he joined The Triumphs on lead vocals.
‘It was kind of a slow realization that I wanted to make music. I always loved music but had never set out to make a career out of it or anything like that. In fact, I didn’t realize I was a professional singer and would be an entertainer until I had my first hit in 1966.’ In some ways, that hit was a long time coming. After a number of singles released failed to make any significant impact on the charts, Thomas struck out on a solo career.
Perhaps appropriately enough, Thomas’ first single as a solo artist was a cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry which ended up hitting the number eight position on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Charts in 1966.
Thomas recalls one of the earliest tours he was a part of comprised an astounding 96 shows over the course of 100 days. He says that the tour’s promoter, the legendary Dick Clark, was a great businessman and knew exactly what he was doing with his artists.
‘That tour was a real test of endurance,’ Thomas laughs, recalling the tour. ‘We were playing virtually every night though. We would play New York City’s Madison Square Garden one night and a high school auditorium the next night. The tour was gruelling but that is the pace you kept in those days. It was routine that, until the mid-1970s, I would be on the road for 300 days a year.
‘Back then we were fortunate that writing and making music was largely a handsoff thing in terms of there being minimal interference from record labels. It really was about the music, where today you’ve got a lot of artists that receive a lot of coaching.’ These days, Thomas is keeping a tour schedule of approximately 60 to 70 shows per year. Add in travel days to and from these shows and the amount of time that he is away from home doubles if not triples in some cases.
In the two weeks leading up to his performance at the Celebration Centre, Thomas had the opportunity to perform in Hong Kong as a part of the Global Village Foundation, a non-profit organization whose focus includes sustainable community development projects which emphasize education and peace-building.
‘To do what I do, I need to go on the road and perform live. I am very fortunate that I still have a lot of faithful people that come out to see me.’ Thomas says that his next studio effort is due to be released in February 2013. The album is a collection of his hits recorded in an unplugged fashion. The record boasts an impressive list of guest artists including Vince Gill, bluesman Keb’ Mo’ in addition to pop songwriter Richard Marx.
‘We’ve given my hits an acoustic type of attitude,’ Thomas says. ‘It really opened up a whole new feel and a whole new realm of possibilities to these songs. We wanted to give the songs the impression that we were sitting around the living room just casually playing these songs. It is a very warm sounding record and was something that we took a lot of joy in making. It was very nice to get back to basics.’ Speaking of getting back to basics: Thomas shares that just a couple of weeks prior to speaking with the Times & Transcript, he had the opportunity to reunite with the group that kicked off his musical career: The Triumphs.
‘The Triumphs have stayed together after all these years. It was a lot of fun to get back on stage with them with no pressure and no expectations. We played together for the love of making music and nothing else. It was a fun evening to be a part of.’
Article published in the September 20, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript