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Sat, 06.19.1909

Joe Thomas, Musician born

Joe Thomas album

Joe Thomas, a Black musician, was born on this date in 1909.

Born in Uniontown, PA, he began his professional career in 1930 playing the alto saxophone with Horace Henderson. After a year, he changed to the tenor saxophone, the instrument with which he became famous after joining Stuff Smith in 1932. Jimmie Lunceford heard him play in Buffalo, N.Y. and asked Thomas to join his group.  Thomas settled into the Lunceford band until Lunceford died in 1947.

Thomas’s energy as both a singer and saxophone soloist played a major role in establishing the success of the Lunceford band.  After their leader's death, Thomas led the Lunceford band with Eddie Wilcox but left after one year to form his group.  In the early 1950s, Thomas settled in Kansas City, Missouri, to run the Bruce R. Watkins Funeral Home and lead the St. Stephen's Baptist Church choir.

Thomas did appear at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1970 and recorded as a leader with the Jimmie Rowles quartet in 1979 but otherwise retired from jazz when he moved to Kansas City.

His huge and melodious tone is said to have influenced an entire generation of saxophonists in the 1940s. Joe Thomas died in 1986.

To Become a Musician or Singer




ASCAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980
ISBN 0-8351-1283-1

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