So sad to learn from Wes Chappell and Randy Marchany that Bob Thomas, the bass player for No Strings Attached (NSA) since 1984, died unexpectedly on Saturday, December 3 from complications following a heart attack. That's a screenshot of him on the right playing "Lady Be Good" with Randy. Wes, too, but he's off-frame. Bob took being a bassist seriously, playing not only acoustic bass, but bass clarinet, and bass saxophone, saying he had the goal of "owning a bass instrument from every instrument family."
Here's a photo of him playing that bass clarinet with NSA in 2000 taken by the late Don Shorock:
Bob was a sweet guy and a terrific musician (and showman) and his death leaves a gaping hole in our hearts and the New River Valley music community. There are many photos on this NSA fb page. UPDATE: According to the December 11 Roanoke Times Bob was 66 and
The date of a planned memorial celebration will be announced at a later time. Those who wish to make a contribution in his memory could donate to the New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund, the Humane Society of Montgomery County, or the charity of your choice.Also,
Bob was the son of the late Barkley and Margaret Ford Thomas. He graduated from Shelby (North Carolina) High School and attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.John Jones II posted a telling anecdote December 13 in the guestbook for Bob there. Since I'm not sure it will remain up, I'll reprint it here:
Among Bob's survivors are his longtime companion, Patricia Polentz; his daughter, Maggie England and husband, Huiet; and grandsons, Mac and Jake England, of Cramerton, N.C.; sister, Susan Thomas, of Underhill, Vt.; niece, Johanna Hulick and family, of Seattle, Wash.; nephew, Jeremy Hulick, of Bethesda, Md.; aunt, Eleanor DeLashmutt, of Atlanta, Ga.; and several cousins.
I didn't know Bob personally, more like an aquaintance. I did borrow a contra-bass clarinet from him for a while. He had little information about me as we had never interacted but he loaned me the instrument with no questions asked and the simple request to take care of it.
The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc. is a grass roots certified 501c(3) founded by and for displaced musicians, which is still sending grants to displaced New Orleans musicians thanks to donations from around the world.You can also donate your time, your talent and/or your gear. One way is to help publicize the organization. More on that at the bottom of this post. First, back to some pictures and music by Bob.
Rusty May, who himself play bass with NSA from 1980-4, described Bob in a note to the New River Old Time listserve, as
the very talented and hardest working bassist in the New River Valley.... adept at bluegrass, bebop, old-time, swing and everything in between.The picture is a screen shot from a video of the band playing with guests Guy George, Karen Mueller, and Butch Ross at the 2008 Winterfest in Irving, TX.
Here's Bob, Wes and Randy with Pete Hastings playing Carl Perkins (I think) All God's Children Want to Rock at the Dulcimer Festival Showcase concert in Shepherdstown, West Virginia on Sept. 13, 2008
In a more Celtic vein (although typically NSA eclectic) at the same concert:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuEkVXANkjc (the sound seems to start at about 0:33)
And as the soundtrack for a flick on the 2008 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta:
There are plenty of audio clips at No String Attached's website. Probably the funniest Bob got was on "I'm a Hog for you, Baby." (H/T to Jeff W. for reminding me. Wish there were a video, or a complete version to share with you...but I'm guessing this addition photo by Shorock may be capturing one of the performances of that number:
BTW, with Pete exiting NSA in 2009, Jim Crawford joined the band.
In addition to NSA, Bob played with a number of other groups including serving as the upright bassists and bass saxophonist for Front Porch Swing with Scott Perry (r. reso-phonic guitar, ukulele & vocals), backed and Tom Ohmsen (l. on mandolin.)
That group describes itself as a
hillbilly act Homer and Jethero jamming with be-bopper Charles Mingus, while Blind Lemon Jefferson and Ukulele Ike take turns sitting in
Bob also was part of the smooth jazz group, Mood Swing, which also included Harry Doss on guitar, Karl Sanzenbach on guitar and wind instruments and Kathy Stell on vocals.
He also played in the Triple B Trio with Bill Adams and Brian Mueller. (Thanks, Rusty, for pointing that out...)
Back in 1989, he played Dixieland jazz with Doss, as well as Ed Schwartz, , John Gregg, Carter Edmondson, Bill Bondurant, Sally Walker, Norman Olmstead, and Kathy Duncan in the the Riverboat Ramblers. I think that's the bass saxophone, right?
And his friend, Nancy Grover Mason, a bass player who lives in NC, tells me that when she was in Blacksburg (Bob taught her how to play) she was in a trio with Bob from about 1991-5 named 2 Hot Sodas: Sandy on alto sax, Edwin Lacy on clawhammer banjo, Bob Thomas on tuba.
At the end we had a euphonium player Kevin Wilkes join us, and Bob took over either clarinet or rhythm section. He had a big "bag of tricks" he'd carry, with sticks and percussion instruments, toys, etc.Here's a picture from the original lineup from a gig at a Blacksburg church. (She's not sure which one, but says that it hosted folk concerts during the 90s.)
New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund