Interview with Jerry J. Thomas

 

Interview with Jerry J. Thomas

Jerry
thank you for giving that interview…. Please tell me when you first
started with music. When was that and where? What did inspire you?
You’re
welcome. I first started playing music around 12 years old. I had
grown up with music because all of my family members on my mother’s
side were musical. My Uncle Jerry and Uncle Charlie had both played
in the U.S.Army Band and had Country Music Bands while oversea’s in
Germany and Japan. So I guess the answer would be it all started in
Ironton,Ohio for me at an early age. My first paying gig was playing
guitar in a Gospel Music Band at 12 years old for $ 8.00 a show. I
started out playing drums very early and one of my good friends I
went to school with a boy named Kenny Williams (who was a cousin to
James Taylor) traded an old Guild 12 string guitar to me for my set
of drums.That old guitar once belonged to Sweet Baby James Taylor
himself I was told.Watching the Ernest Tubb Show and Buddy Starcher
Show on T.V. inspired me more than anything else
You
grew up in Jacksonville Florida home of Lynyrd Skynrd and Molly
Hatchet – Tell me a little bit about growing up around those guys.

Yes
my parents moved the family to Jacksonville,Florida when I started
3rd grade in school. I went to Ruth N.Upson Elementery in Murray Hill
on the Westside of Jacksonville.We lived right beside Murray Hill
Park at 1154 Scotten Rd. Down the street 3 or 4 house’s was some
boy’s I became friends with by the name Robyn and Runt Nix. Runt
still lives in the same house today. Anyway they had a brother Robert
Nix who was older that played in a group called The Classics IV. That
group had a huge hit out about that time called “Spooky”.
Well of course when Robert or Bob as we called him came home I was of
course introduced to him. He had written a huge hit called “Cherry
Hill Park” for Billie Jo Royal as well as had been the drummer
for Roy Orbison’s Candymen. We just gravitated toward each other
because all of the Nix boy’s and myself just had a Natural Love of
Music. Bob went on to become a founding member of The Atlanta Rhytum
Section as well as did some drum tracks with a band that came from
just across Cassat Ave in the Lake Shore Section of the Westside
which went by the name One Percent which would later become Lynyrd
Skynyrd. That was how I got to know the Van Zant Brothers and
Sisters. I was playing in a band called Kid Gloves at the Classic’s
lounge 6 nights a week. In a 5 mile square radius of the Westside of
Jacksonville,Florida we had The Classics IV,Lynyrd
Skynrd,Blackfoot,Molly Hatchett,38-Special,The Austin Nichols
Band,The Crossover Band,Billy Pickett and Livewyre,The Allman
Brothers Band,Cornillius Brothers & Sister Rose and so many other
hot bands at the time such as Kings Ransom,Phil Driscoll,etc. So I
grew up and became friends with a mighty big mixed bag of music.
Everything from soul to rock -n- roll to Country. My earliest
influence being country I naturally migrated to that music but then
most every band I named where into country music. As well as Bad
Company,Stones,Three Dog Night,etc. Ronnie Van Zant lead singer of
Skynyrd loved Merle Haggard probably more than any recording artist
of the day,had all his albums. man it was just unreal. Well all of us
being from the same neighborhood and all of us into music we just all
kind of navigated toward each other. Later on I had the chance to
work with the Van Zant’s on the road driving equitment trucks and
tour buses. I would not have changed it for the world. Lacy Van Zant
would always tell me that I should get a recording contract as well
because he liked my singing so much. But I was secure in touring with
Hatchett,38 – Special,The Johnny Van Zant Band,Blackfoot and etc. Man
I was content with the money I made. It was not until 10 or 15 years
later that I seriously considered a record deal for myself.
You’re
singing Traditional Country – Have you always been traditional or
did you also play other styles?
I
have Always loved traditional country music.There was never a time I
did not love the Real Country Music. Growing up and playing in the
lounges and barrooms I had to play all types of music or you would
not be playing very long. But my first love was always traditional
country music.
How
many professional CDs have you released? Where and how did it go?
Biggest success?
I,ve
had 2 released CD’s to date. The first was titled “My Favorite
Country” which was all songs I had done over the years by
different country music artist that influneced me such as Ray
Price,Vern Gosdin,etc. And the second Cd was titled “From
Tennessee to Texas”. I came up with that title because at the
time I was living in Amarillo,Texas and spending a lot of time
burning up interstate 40 between Amarillo and Nashville. Both were
released in 2012. Tennessee to Texas has done pretty well for me. It
has given me 2 number 1 chart records so far in Austrailia as well as
parts of Europe. My biggest success so far has been a song that I
wrote titled “That’s the way that I Love You”. So far it
has went to the # 1 spot on four different occassions in the
worldwide independent music charts for the traditional country
genre’. It has also opened the door to so many co – writing
oppertunities with so many wonderful and talented songwriters out of
Nashville.
You
co-wrote with several big names like T Graham Brown and Diane McCall.
You are personal friends of both. Tell me something about their
contribution on your next album.

Getting
the chance to write with T.Graham Brown as well as Little David
Wilkins,Diane McCall,Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. has given me such a great
chance to grow as an writer. I have admired their work for so many
years it is truely amazing. I mean what can I say about getting the
chace to create a song with some of your musical influences? And to
become close personal friends with them..Wow..It is truely a blessing
from God and I treasure their talent and friendship so much. T.Graham
and I are going to probably reach deep into the old blues well and
record a duet together for my next project. We have already written
two songs together for the project. Diane whom my wife Jaye and I
just love dearly well we are getting together soon to write a tune I
may use on the project. And she is also going to do a duet on the
project with me. As for Little David Wilkins we wrote a song together
on my last CD titled “Johnny sang a Country Song” about a
mutual friend of ours Country Music Pioneer Johnny Moore whom also
happens to be Jeannie C. Riley (Of Harper Valley P.T.A.) fames uncle.
He was also so gracious to let me record a huge hit he wrote and had
out “Whoever turns you On”..I just love him to death. And
they have all had such an impact on me musically and personally.
You
wrote a song about country music legend Johnny Moore with your
co-writing buddy Little David Wilkens. You will perform that at the
Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. How do you feel about being invited
to sing there.
Being
invited to sing “Johnny sang a Country Song” for The
Country Music Associations Hall of Fame Awards Show is such an honor
for me. I have seen so many of our great pioneers in the Country
Music Business just get passed over or swept under the rug so to
speak and never get recognized for their contributions to country
music. That is what made me and Little David write the song in the
first place. To draw attention to these artist. yes the song is about
Johnny Moore yet at the same time it is also about the Frankie
Millers,Joe Carsons,Bobby Lewis’s,etc. I hold each one dear to my
heart for what they all have done to make music a little bit easier
for myself. I kept nagging Mary Mintor down in Texas about how Johnny
kept getting overlooked and I asked her to not make the same mistake
Nashville keeps making year after year..Over looking the TRUE COUNTRY
ARTIST..
You
are performing in Ireland and the United Kingdom in January! That’s
incredible! Tell more more behind the story!
Yes
I am so thrilled about getting to perform overseas in
England,Ireland,Europe. This will be my first European Tour and I
know a lot is on the line. If I may another great country music
artist that is from Middleburg,Florida that I knew very well made a
great career just in Europe alone. His name was Slim Whitman. He used
to tell me about how the fans in Europe just love traditional country
music. How they just went crazy over it. And now to be able to go and
share just a small bit of my world with the fans of Europe man I am
beyond excited. I want to give them a great show and would love to
come back a lot. Where ever they are hungry for Jerry J. Thomas
traditional country music well what can I say? That is where I need
and want to be. And my wife Jaye is just so thrilled.I was stationed
in Germany in the U.S.Army in 1975 but this will be her first trip
abroad. We both can hardly wait.
Special
thanks and thoughts?

First
a foremost I want to thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for
blessing me beyond all imaginations. I would also want to thank the
fans and the disc jockeys that play and buy and attend the concerts
because without them none of this would happen. I want to thank my
manager T.M.Garret for keeping Jerry J.Thomas out there.His
professionalism and friendship are so magical.Jaye and I love him
dearly for everything he doe’s for us.And last but not least to
everyone one I’ve mentioned in this interview that has ever
influenced me or that I worked with or wrote with I could not have
done it without you. Jaye and I love you dearly and will forever be
thankful and endebted to you..Ireland,England,Scotland we’re coming
in January to meet new friends and to share love and music with
you.We hope to meet a lot of you.God Bless.
In
your opinion, what is the biggest difference between „traditional“
and „new“ country music?
My
opinion the biggest difference between today’s country music and
traditional country music is the sincerity and integrity of the MUSIC
itself. Today’s artist have all forgotten who brought them to the
dance so to speak. It is now just a big almighty dollar game. It is
not about the music anymore but the dollar. Today the music is more
of a rejected rock-n-roll. Artist don’t cater to the fans anymore
they seem to put themselves above the fan. I am so glad that I come
from a era that an artist and their fans were more of a big family.
That is how I was taught. The fans make you. I owe it to them to sign
autographs and take pictures and talk to them. Without them I would
not be able to do what I love doing and that is make music and
perform.
If
you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what
would it be?
I
would bring back just one thing RESPECT!! Put the great artist like
Mel Street,Cowboy Copas,Hawkshaw Hawkins,Dottie West,Slim Whitman,etc
in the Country Music Hall of Fame where they rightfully deserve to
be. Take the politics out of the music.Prove that Hank Williams Sr.
music can still be played right beside a Montgomery/Gentry record
etc.There is room for all of it..And folks if we forget where we came
from how are we going to know where we are going? Let’s quit turning
our backs on our pioneers in this business and give the their long
overdue just do.
What
do you think about today’s Country Music versus its roots and where
do you see it going in the future?
I
see a revival of traditional country music returning.There is still a
demand for it.We as traditional artist and managers,record
companies,booking agents just all have to work TOGETHER and provide a
way to get this genre’ out to the people.It can be done.And I hope
that all the folks in the business and all the fans allow me the
chance to be one of the artist to help keep this genre” alive. I
feel in my heart that is what I am meant to do and I love doing.I
thank my beautiful wife Jaye for putting up with this crazy business
of music and standing beside me through it all. I owe it to the
Streets, Tubbs, Tillmans, Moores, Millers, McCall
family,Jones,Haggard,Wilkins and the fans to preserve with honor and
respect this genre’ called traditional country music.And with God’s
help as well as all of you out there I pray you let me keep the
flames of tradition burning bright.God Bless all of you and we hope
to see you in a town nearby soon.
Christian
Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine

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