Sad news concerning Moody Blues founding member Ray Thomas who passed away at age 76 on January 4, 2018. Ray was known as a songwriter, group vocalist and flute player by which he added a distinctive sound to this much-loved Birmingham-formed band during their decades of international success.
Ray wrote or co-wrote dozens of songs for the Moody Blues including the classic 'Legend Of A Mind' inspired by controversial LSD pioneer Timothy Leary. It was Ray and keyboardist Mike Pinder who formed the group early in 1964 at Erdington's Carlton Ballroom along with guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bass guitarist Clint Warwick.
Ray Thomas was born in Stourport on December 29, 1942 and grew up in Pype Hayes, Birmingham where he began his long music career during the "skiffle group" era of the late 1950s. His first band formed with school friends was called "Saints and Sinners" but he soon turned professional fronting "El Riot and The Rebels" who were well-known rock and roll performers throughout the West Midlands during the early 1960s. The line-up included future Moody Blues members John Lodge and Mike Pinder.
Following a stint in "The Krew Kats" with whom Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder performed in Germany, they returned flat-broke to Birmingham where they persuaded Denny Laine to join them in forming a new blues-based group.
The line-up was initially called "The M&B Five" in a failed attempt to get sponsorship from the local Michells and Butlers brewing company. A year later, they were at the top of the record charts with a smash hit titled 'Go Now' and a new name "The Moody Blues". The rest as they say, is history (for the full story click here).
Though the band faltered following their initial success, the addition of new group members John Lodge and Justin Hayward resulted in the recording of a ground-breaking album in 1967 titled 'Days Of Future Passed' that began a decade of million selling records and world tours. Denny Laine went on to success when he joined Paul McCartney's new band "Wings".
Ray Thomas recorded a couple of well-received solo albums in the 1970s but never strayed far from The Moody Blues. If Mike Pinder represented the band's spiritual consciousness, then Ray Thomas was its sense of humour.
Never one to take himself too seriously, Ray composed the song 'Veteran Cosmic Rocker' - a popular track that poked-fun at ageing rock stars on the Moodies acclaimed 1981 come-back album "Long Distance Voyager". He recently recorded with life-long friend John Lodge for a track on his latest CD.
Ray Thomas toured the world with The Moody Blues for more than thirty years until his retirement from the group in 2003 due to health concerns. He recently spoke of his battle with prostate cancer saying; "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."
Although Ray was known to have struggled with some serious health issues during the last several years, the original Moody Blues group members were looking forward to a reunion at their long-awaited "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" induction in America this year.
My condolences go out to the family and friends of Ray Thomas. He will be missed.
The official web site for Ray Thomas can be accessed at www.raythomas.me
This feature was originally published on BrumBeat in 2014.
I'm happy to report that retired Moody Blues founding member Ray Thomas now has his own web site and it's well worth the visit!
Fans of The Moody Blues will be well aware of Ray Thomas' former role in the group as flute-player, vocalist, and composer of such group classics as 'The Morning', 'Legend Of A Mind', and 'Dear Diary'. Ray left the group in 2003 due to health concerns.
In conjunction with the re-mastering and re-release of Ray's two 1970s solo albums, this new web site is packed with information and rare photos that illustrate all the stages of Ray's music career and up to the present day. Of particular interest to this reader are Ray's early bands from the pre-Brumbeat "skiffle" era; 'Saints and Sinners' from 1958 and 'El Riot and The Rebels' formed in 1959 (whose line-up also included future Moody Blues members Mike Pinder and John Lodge).
The web site for Ray Thomas can be accessed at www.raythomas.me