Rockapaedia Obituaries

Ray Thomas

Band: The Moody Blues

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Ray Thomas died aged seventy-six on 4th January 2018 from prostate cancer at his home in Surrey, U.K..

Fellow Moody Blues member Lodge said that Ray was his best pal and that he had met Ray when he was was fourteen. He continued that they were two young kids from Birmingham who were reaching for the stars and he thought they had got there. He added that he was really pleased that Ray was around to know they'd be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame".

Ray Thomas was born at an emergency maternity unit set up during World War II in Lickhill Manor, Stourport-on-Severn, U.K. At the age of 9, his father taught him to play harmonica and this sparked his interest in music. He joined the school choir a year later but quit school at the age of 14, and briefly left music to work as a tool maker trainee. By the age of sixteen he had embarked on a search for a music band and within two years had left his trade to pursue a career in music.

In the early nineteen sixties, Ray joined the Birmingham Youth Choir then began singing with various Birmingham blues and soul groups including The Saints and Sinners and The Ramblers. He was then inspired to learn the flute from a grandfather who played the instrument. Taking up the harmonica he started a band, El Riot and the Rebels, with bassist John Lodge. After a couple of years their friend Mike Pinder joined as keyboardist. On Easter Monday 1963 the band opened for The Beatles at the Bridge Hotel, Tenbury Wells. Thomas and Pinder were later in a band called Krew Cats, formed in 1963, who played in Hamburg and at other music venues in northern Germany.

Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder then recruited guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge, and bassist Clint Warwick to form a new, blues-based band, The Moody Blues. Signed to Decca Records, their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, yielded a Number One UK hit (No. 10 in the US) with "Go Now".

When Warwick left the band , followed by Laine a few months later, he was briefly replaced by Rod Clark. Ray then suggested his and Pinder's old bandmate John Lodge as a permanent replacement and also recruited Justin Hayward to replace Laine. With this line-up the band released seven successful albums between 1967 and 1972 and became known for their pioneering orchestral sound.

Following the lead of Pinder, Hayward, and Lodge, Ray Thomas also started writing songs. The first he contributed to the group's repertoire were "Another Morning" and "Twilight Time" on the 1967 Days of Future Passed. The album is regarded a prog rock landmark, and Ray Thomas’s flute solo on the single "Nights in White Satin" one of its defining moments. His flute would become an integral part of the band's music, even as Pinder started to use the Mellotron keyboard. Ray Thomas has stated that a number of his compositions on the band's earlier albums were made in a studio broom closet, with Ray writing songs on a glockenspiel.

Ray Thomas permanently retired at the end of 2002. In a 2014 interview with, drummer Graeme Edge stated that Ray had retired due to illness. He had been suffering from cerebellar ataxia, which affected his balance and made performing impossible. The Moody Blues – consisting only of Hayward, Lodge and Edge (Edge being the only remaining original member) plus four long-serving touring band members, including Gordon Marshall on percussion and Norda Mullen who took over Thomas' flute parts – have released one studio album, December, since his departure from the band.

In July 2009 it became known that Ray had written at least two of his songs– "Adam and I" and "My Little Lovely"– for his son and his grandson Robert, respectively. It was also revealed that he had married again, to his longtime girlfriend Lee Lightle, in a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Cross in Mwnt, Wales, on 9th July 2009.

Ray Thomas released his two solo albums, remastered, in a boxset on 24 September 2010. The set includes, with the two albums, a remastered quad version of "From Mighty Oaks", a new song "The Trouble With Memories", a previously unseen promo video of "High Above My Head" and an interview image of Ray Thomasconducted by fellow Moody Blues founder Mike Pinder. The boxset was released through Esoteric Recordings/Cherry Red Records.

In recent years Ray Thomas resumed flute playing with other musicians, one instance of which was for the song "L´urlo nelle ossa", on the 2016 album Eros & Thanatos by Italian band Syndone. He also played flute on the track "Simply Magic" on John Lodge's 2015 album 10,000 Light Years Ago and recorded with Moody Bluegrass.

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song: 'The Actor' by Moody Blues