Regional musician Doug Thomas crosses ‘Autumn Road’ on album | News, Sports, Jobs
Doug Thomas has spent most of his life singing other people’s songs.
Now he also takes time for his own songs.
The 1967 Howland High School graduate sang with some of the most popular local cover bands in the late 1960s and 1970s. After a 30-year stint in Atlanta, where he performed alongside while working for the Kimberly-Clark Corp., Thomas returned to Warren in 2010 and can be heard singing with several different bands doing everything from dance favorites to songs. by Joe Cocker and Chicago.
But he also used the downtime caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to work on “Autumn road” a collection of original songs mostly co-written with Gary McCoy.
Thomas, 72, said his singing career began at a talent show at Howland Junior High, when he sang “House of the Rising Sun.”
“A few young musicians were starting a group. Roger Lewis, he recruited me to be part of his group The Jaguars, which changed its name to The Jaggs ”, Thomas said. “Then I was poached by Holes in the Road and sang with them. “
McCoy played guitar in this group.
“I knew Gary because my father was the band director at Howland and Gary played the drums” he said. “When we started to get involved in music, we developed a quick friendship that lasted for about 60 years. “
With dances for teenagers at Christ Episcopal Church and Packard Music Hall, there were plenty of places for bands to perform. The holes were played regularly two to three times a week, especially in the summer.
“It was the pinnacle of Beatlemania”, Thomas said. “Every neighborhood had a garage band and many venues saw how popular this music was. The music brought in the girls, and if the girls came, the guys wouldn’t be too far behind.
“Back then, we had a lot less choice. The children were eagerly awaiting the dances. It was the main way people mingled back then. People have said to me, ‘I met my wife at Packard Music Hall at one of the balls’ or at Christ Episcopal or one of those places where we played.
He continued to perform in bands when he was a student at Kent State University, and after leaving college, Thomas sang with The Shaddows and MF Rattlesnake, who he said were possibly his local band on most popular.
“We were really good” he said. “We had two very good guitarists, Mike Donadio and Gary McCoy. Gary Sloas was back on drums and Randy Smith was a great bass player. We were doing things that other people really weren’t trying – Allman Brothers, a lot of Rolling Stones, (David) Bowie, that sort of thing.
Thomas didn’t really start writing until he joined the jazz / blues / rock band I Don’t Care, which was signed to Kama Sutra Records and released the band’s debut album. “Ask anyone” in 1976.
“I have always been interested in poetry and there were opportunities”, he said. “I Don’t Care has been largely instrumentalized; they didn’t care about the lyrics. They didn’t really want a singer, but they knew they needed some kind of facade and I did the job.
Thomas said the group got a legitimate hit. “Ask anyone” was reviewed by Rolling Stone, the label provided support for the tour and they traveled the country playing shows with artists like Orleans, Henry Gross and jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. But the band was in debt to their record label, and a traffic accident involving their equipment truck that destroyed most of their equipment was the breaking point.
“I had to borrow money from my parents to get out of the group. “ he said.
The experience continued his interest in songwriting, and he and McCoy began writing songs together and performing in Nashville. Blues musician Guitar Shorty recorded their song “Train out of control” for his “We the people” album, which won a WC Handy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Release.
And they’ve had a lot of near misses, Thomas said. County singer Aaron Tippin had one of their songs on hold, meaning an artist has requested not to introduce it to other bands while it’s being considered for her next album. But the song was about fatherhood, and when his wife had a miscarriage, it was something he didn’t want to sing about.
Thomas and McCoy were fortunate enough to record some of their originals with The Band’s Levon Helm and Garth Hudson at Helm’s recording studio in Woodstock, NY These songs were released on an album titled “The Howlin ‘Hill Project.”
“Working with them has been a validation. “ Thomas said.
Thomas estimates that he and McCoy wrote about 100 songs together. A few of these older songs have been reworked for “Autumn road” as well as songs they wrote more recently. A track from the album, “Twilight Again” Thomas co-wrote with George Tricomi.
He recorded the album at Tune Town Studios with Mike Talanca and many past and present musical collaborators – McCoy and Robert “Rollo” Miller on guitar, Dennis Csiszer and Talanca on bass, Dominic Reto and Danny Shapira on keyboards, Jim “JR” Richley, Sloas and Talanca on percussion, Marc Paige on saxophone, Tricomi on saxophone and horns and Rozz Coleman and Bob Fiorino on backing vocals.
Thomas said he was working on making “Autumn road” available on streaming services, and it will be available during his concerts. (It can also be requested by emailing Thomas at [email protected])
He did not give up singing the songs of other artists. Thomas can currently be heard as one of the three lead vocalists of the Backtraxx dance group, singing songs by Joe Cocker and other soul, blues favorites with Memphis Soul Brew and performing the band’s music Chicago with the tribute band. Brass Metropolis. But it incorporates some of the “Autumn road” material when he plays with RTR, the trio he has with Reto and Richley.
“I never do the same thing twice with RTR” Thomas said. “Everyone is really creative in this little group. … It’s pretty close to magic. It’s really rewarding and I love playing with these two guys.