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Bubbha Thomas (1937-2020)

Uncategorized — March 29, 2020 | Comments Off on Bubbha Thomas (1937-2020)

by Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, with additional text edited from an essay by Lance Scott Walker.

Drummer, bandleader and activist William George “Bubbha” Thomas died at his son William’s home on Saturday March 28th, 2020. He was 82 years old. His son said that the cause was heart failure; Thomas had been in failing health for some time and hadn’t played his drums in years. But his mind was sharp until the end, and he was surrounded by music. William said that Bubbha passed on while listening to “All In Love Is Fair” from the fourth album in his classic period, Country Fried Chicken (Spotify), streaming on the internet. Yesterday was a sad day for me, but that moment gave me a feeling of peace: some years prior, Bubbha had called me, deep into our friend-and mentorship and business relationship, and told me that he wasn’t getting younger, and he wanted all of his music available, for all to hear –  and fast. I had held off on that commitment for years, as I knew how daunting of a task it was going to be. But I’m glad, on that day, that I said yes. The resulting box set, which I worked with Bubbha to issue as Creative Music: The Complete Works, came out in full last year, and coincided with the wide release of his catalog, which is of the highest echelon of jazz music.

Bubbha had toured America with R&B revues, served as a session musician for Peacock and Back Beat Records, and played straight ahead jazz with legends before the political and social upheaval of the late 1960s led him to a path first charted by John Coltrane and Sun Ra. Free As You Wanna Be, his first album with his Lightmen (later Lightmen plus One) band predates the deep-set, maverick jazz issued by the likes of Tribe and Strata East and is a harbinger of best of the 1970s jazz underground, and it added to a collective voice of resistance to the musical and cultural status quo.

I’d met Bubbha in the late 1990s, after a couple Houston record collecting pals had told me about albums, including one of his masterworks, Energy Control Center, issued on his Lightin’ imprint (others were issued on the equally indie Judnell Records). It was in those earliest days, before there was any information about Bubbha on the internet, and when Dante Carfagna had no problem swapping me Bubbha’s first album for what was then a $60 funk 45, that I became enthralled not just in Bubbha’s classic releases, but everything he’d been a part of, and the type of humanity he stood for. It was obvious he was a principled, fiery person, but he was also wise – and any anger he felt at the America’s – and the world’s – injustices he met with music, intellect, activism and unity.

I remember that first package I received from him in 1999, at Vanderbilt University’s Station B postal stop, and what was in it: 45s, ranging from unheard of jazz like his original version of the now-classic Spiritual Jazz song “All Praises To Allah,” complete with flyer advertising the release of the song beneath Bubbha’s smiling, afro-adorned head shot, to a track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Strata East –  “Brougham” 45 by the Summer Jazz Workshop school students – to a record he issued for Houston high schoolers Kashmere Stage Band.

And then there were the advertisements for his 1980s releases, including a 12” called “Where’s The Beef.” There were photos of Bubbha in performance on local television, he and his band wearing what I can only describe as utility-worker meets Earth, Wind and Fire glam-garb. How would I reconcile these aspects of him, as a musician, as a bandleader, as a catalyst, as a person? It would take me the better part of 20 years to accomplish that goal. The following notes on Bubbha’s life come from writing Houston musical historian Lance Scott Walker and I collaborated on, and first appeared in notes accompanying the releases in Creative Music.

Bubbha was born in 1937 and grew up in Houston’s Fourth Ward, the first black municipality in Texas, where his father was a preacher and his mother was a musician. But she died before Bubbha reached school age, so his maternal great grandmother raised he and his two sisters. Though Bubbha grew into a basketball player before he ever laid hands on a musical instrument, his mother’s playing accounts for one of his earliest memories.

Bubbha heard music all around him in Fourth Ward. A generation of talent was coming to life in postwar Houston as the city’s black residents made a push for social, economic, and political capital. The movement was widespread. There were even blacks on the police force, opposing the department’s protection of Jim Crow laws from within. Racial shifts were happening all over the South, and black Houstonians were finding political volume in a city where they accounted for 20 percent of the population.

Of course that was going to show up in the music, and there were plenty of voices to carry the message. Lightnin’ Hopkins. Big Mama Thornton. T-Bone Walker protege Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown would set the stage for Don Robey’s Peacock Records to emerge from neighboring Fifth Ward, the same neighborhood that would birth Rap-A-Lot Records a generation later. (Bubbha would later session for Peacock, though he doesn’t remember the specifics.) In Fourth Ward, Buster Pickens played barrelhouse piano with Pinetop Burks and Robert Shaw as the Santa Fe group, and closer still to Bubbha was a family of musicians down the street called the Denmons, who would prove influential in divining the young man’s path as he entered his collegiate years. But as a teenager in the early 1950s, Bubbha’s musical inspiration came from one primary source.

“I knew how to play the drums before I actually played ’em,” he said. “On my way to school there was a professional drummer named ‘Fats.’ I walked to school every day — rain, snow, sleet, whatever. On my way back home, he would practice every day. He was one of the baddest drummers in Houston. He wasn’t playing no music, he was practicing. And it wasn’t the sound of the drums… it was the fact that this guy would practice every day and he was really good.”

At Booker T. Washington High School, basketball was Bubbha’s priority, but he was playing music, too. When the school’s orchestra needed a drummer, Bubbha got the call. “I was in the band, so they knew to ask me,” he said. “We had primary band, intermediate band, and senior band. I skipped over primary band because I was good.” He ended up in good hands. In the orchestra, Bubbha fell under the tutelage of bandleader Conrad O. Johnson, already then known as “Prof” and on his way to bringing jazz glory to Texas with the Kashmere Stage Band, the group of teenagers would win the “Best High School Stage Band In The Nation” prize in Mobile, Alabama in 1972 and who were anthologized on Now-Again as Texas Thunder Soul in 2007, a project which turned in to the 2010 documentary Thunder Soul. Before his death in 2008 at 92, Johnson influenced the lives of countless young musicians the world over, and Bubbha was among them.

It was also while in high school that Bubbha found himself in a situation that would shape the way he saw the world. It was a revelation he would have to go beyond music or basketball to address.

“I don’t call it ‘race,’” he said. “I call it ‘white privilege.’ My first experience was on the bus. They used to have these signs — on the front side of the bus they’d say WHITE and on the back side of the bus they’d say BLACK — and blacks weren’t allowed to sit above the white sign. So one day, my grandmother and I got on the bus coming from Downtown and there was only one seat that was available. Every seat on the bus was taken. I encouraged my grandmother to sit down, as she was an old lady. She sat down, but she reluctantly sat down, all the way to the side, next to the window. So some little old white girl came on the bus and she stood right over the seat that was empty but she wouldn’t sit down. And so the bus driver is driving and he’s looking in the mirror. Finally he pulled over and stopped and told my grandmother to get up. Now if you were raised like I was raised, we were raised to respect elderly people. It had nothing to do with race. It was elderly people. You have this one girl, she might have been between 18-20, whatever it was — she was a young white girl. To me it was disrespectful to make my grandmother get up and give this white girl the seat when there was a seat right there she could sit in. So I raised what you’d call holy hell on the bus, because I was upset! You don’t make my grandmother get up man. They put us off the bus. I got a whipping when I got home. Yes, for standing up for her. Not only that, I thought it was two reasons: I got a whipping ’cause she had to walk home and her point, I guess, was, ‘Go ahead on, let’s let it go and ride on, because this is the custom.’ I wasn’t thinking of the sign, man. I was thinking that my grandmother was an old lady. That was my first encounter.”

When Bubbha finished high school in 1957, he was looking to attend Wiley College in North Texas on a basketball scholarship, but they couldn’t offer him a spot until the next year. They would let him in on a musical scholarship, though, as a drummer. At the Denmons urging, he accepted, drumming himself right out of sports.

After graduating from Wiley, Bubbha’s return to Houston in 1961 found him in a much different living situation than the one he’d left. His great grandmother had died, and the Fourth Ward shotgun house he’d grown up in had been sold and absorbed into Booker T. Washington’s campus. Bubbha’s connection to the neighborhood of his youth was gone. He lived with his father in another part of town for a while that summer, but he was almost immediately drafted into the service and sent overseas. It was his first separation from the drums since he’d started playing, and he didn’t like it.

Once he was out of the service and back home in Houston for good, Bubbha formed his own band and got out on the road. He was playing his own stuff and backing luminaries such as R&B singer Chuck Jackson, homegrown legends like Lightnin’ Hopkins and peers who would become legends, like  guitarist Melvin Sparks and organist Leon Spencer. He learned every style that was thrown at him. Two mentors emerged in this era.

“Frederick Tillis — I think he’s teaching now at Amherst — is one of the baddest musicians in the world. I learned everything from him. The other guy I played with that I learned a lot from was Don Wilkerson.” Wilkerson was Houston’s first serious jazz export of the ’60s. He recorded his debut solo album, The Texas Twister, for Riverside Records in 1960, and then cut three highly regarded albums for Blue Note Records before ’64, around the time he and Bubbha were playing together. “We were supposed to make that record with him,” Bubbha said of the album that was to follow Wilkerson’s 1963 effort Shoutin’. “But the people in New York didn’t want to pay for us to go there to record. Our groove was much better than that groove. Some of the stuff he played on that Blue Note record we were playing here in Houston. He wasn’t working with no organ player here in Houston. We had a quartet with a guitar.”

The hybrid of disciplines he’d learned growing up in Fourth Ward, away at college, in the service and on the road had forged a world-class musician and teacher in Bubbha Thomas. By the mid-’60s, he had been everywhere and seen everything. “I played all of the big theaters in America,” he said. “The Regal in Chicago, the Howard in Washington DC, the Apollo in New York.” But things weren’t necessarily any better elsewhere than they were in Houston. Bubbha had played in bigger cities with bigger stages and smaller cities with bigger scenes, but the politics were the same all over. The music had always been the most important thing to him, but now he was wise to how the business end of it all worked, and he carried the burden of playing jazz in an era where other forms of music were gathering momentum and the jazz’s popularity was waning.

“Jazz was always a bastard music in America,” he said. “Don’t be fooled by that geographical thing, man. There was one or two jazz clubs in most of the cities. Especially when I was on the road travelin,’ I think it was like Detroit, a few places in New York. I mean, it wasn’t like it was mainstream.” Bubbha spent the mid-‘60s on the road with Chuck Jackson and, in Houston leading a trio with Leon Spencer, and eventually establishing his own group, the Jazz Merchants. He developed a style at once of his city and apart from it. Asked about the Jazz Crusaders, Houston’s most successful jazz export, Bubbha said: “They weren’t an influence at all. We thought they played commercial music. I never thought about pigeonholing myself. He continued: “I had played enough music with Don (Wilkerson), and Chuck (Jackson), to know I wanted to play something different. So I wasn’t paying much attention to these other people.”

By the late ’60s, the lights were on for Bubbha Thomas. Music had illuminated his world, but in an era in which black Americans like he had fought for and won their civil rights, Bubbha realized he had more to say than he could manage from behind the drums. “I wanted to change the image of the musicians,” he said. “The image of jazz musicians at that time was that we were like some low-life people who slept all day, crawled out of some hole in the evening, went and got a hamburger, drank beers all night and smoked dope. Jazz musicians in Houston were I guess… scum… Most of the people that I knew and that I hung around with, most of us had finished college, or we were workin’ towards degrees. The people that they were talkin’ about weren’t the majority. So I started joinin’ different groups that were interested in trying to get more exposure for the musicians, and I started workin’ for a newspaper.”

It took a lot of perseverance for the naïve writer, but Thomas got himself published and developed a powerful voice, first as the editor of the weekly Houston Informer and then as the editor-in-chief of the weekly Fifth Ward antipoverty, grassroots newspaper Voice of HOPE — (Human Organizational Political and Economic) Development. Voice of HOPE was more than just newsprint – the organization provided Houston’s black residents with job training, legal aid, help procuring employment and courses for children from low-income families. It’s important to point out just how significant Voice of HOPE and all of its components have become to Houston. The education program at The Black Arts Center, for instance, became the blueprint for the Houston Public School System’s “Alternative Schools.”

But in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Voice of HOPE bucked established racial trends. This was an explosive era in Houston’s history. Protests at the historically black Third Ward institution Texas Southern University in 1966 erupted into a clash with the Houston Police Department in May of the 1967 that left 24 year-old rookie officer Louis Kuba dead from a gunshot wound. Almost 500 people were arrested that night, and many were injured. Houston mayor Louie Welch and Police Chief Herman Short had been accused of stoking racial resentment in the city with their treatment of members of the black community, and tensions around the city were high. As the editor of Voice of HOPE, a paper that was openly critical of the conduct of the Houston Police Department, Bubbha felt he was a target. While with his wife, on the way to practice drums one Sunday morning, two uniformed officers pulled Bubbha over to the side of the road. It wasn’t the first time he’d been tailed or even stopped, but it was a tense encounter.

“We would be followed from my house to a certain point, and then the unmarked car would turn off and the marked car would pull us over,” he said. “This one time, we got stopped on the corner. And it’s strange to me, ’cause the dude knew my name. He said, ‘Bubbha Thomas?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You the editor of the Voice Of HOPE?’ I said, ‘Yeah. What did I do wrong?’ He said, ‘No, nothing. I just wanna talk to you.’ I had those flashbacks on how they would shoot brothers and kill brothers, man, so my thought was, ‘I’m not gonna die here, havin’ no discussion with this guy.’ So I told him, I said, ‘Look, man. If I’ve done something wrong, give me a ticket. If not, I’m leavin’.’ And at that moment I found out how powerless I was and how powerless my community was, because I could not call anybody that I knew that could help me in that situation.”

Bubbha wasn’t deterred and he realized a need to spread his message further than print would allow. He looked at the two other mediums available to him, and made it work with the same grassroots, revolutionary fervor he had taken with his newspaper. “We met with the television stations and we challenged them their license — because they were tryin’ to get a renewal of the license. I have the document that was filed with the FCC durin’ that time. Unbeknown to me at the time, I was one of the first blacks in Houston to have a television show, because one of the guys who was on the committee for the television station was a jazz fan, and he said, ‘Well, let’s see whether or not we can give you a couple of shows, and see how it turns out.’ It was all to get the music heard, so then right after that I got a radio show.”

Bubbha’s TV show, though short lived, is an incredible time capsule of this fertile period in Houston’s latter 20th century musical history, and showcases one of the only filmed performances of the Kashmere Stage Band, as well as deep and spiritual jazz performed by previously unheard of ensembles like Fifth Ward Express and of course Bubbha’s ensemble, by that point called the Lightmen Plus One, due to the addition of keyboardist Marsha Frazier.

Bubbha radio show on KYOK, an early Houston radio station that operated on 1590 AM, came about at around the same time as his debut album. Bubbha hosted a three-hour program on Sunday nights and programmed the entire thing himself. (His theme song? Ornette Coleman’s “Free Jazz.”) Bubbha’s radio show lasted about a year and half; he was let go in a controversial moment that was documented in a handbill passed out by Brooklyn’s cultural and Spiritual Jazz center The East entitled “Why Do Racists Fear Jazz?” For a while, Bubbha fought. And then, as he had done throughout his entire life, he progressed towards bigger things in The Bayou City. “Some people have commented that Houston avoided some of the violence of other cities,” collaborator Thomas Meloncon said. “I think people don’t understand. (They) think that Houston almost, if you will, missed the revolution. It’s not true. There’s always been activism here, there’s always been confrontation.”

That confrontation, revolution and violence led Bubbha towards a singular vision – he wanted to record and release music that would stand in contrast to that of his peers. The idea of revolutionary – or at least socially and community oriented – jazz had yet to filter through to local ideologues like Bubbha. Tribe Records was three years away from its first release; co-op labels like Detroit’s Strata and New York’s Strata East were a couple years off. So Bubbha commandeered a gospel-leaning label, George Nelson’s Judnell Records, and turned it into a vehicle for his newly-christened ensemble. Their first album, recorded in 1970, was titled Free As You Wanna Be.

“Music was an escape from everyday life. Life for black folk in this country has always been about survival. It’s still survival. People don’t want to believe that. People will say something different. But it’s always been survival.” Bubbha stated. “If you look at (our first) record Free As You Wanna Be – well, someone asked me a question ‘how free are black people in America?’ And I said ‘Free as you wanna be. We don’t want to be free. Cause we don’t want to pay the price for freedom.’ That’s where we are now. We paid a small price for freedom. For what we thought was freedom.”

He followed suit in his sophomore effort for Judnell Records, Fancy Pants , which contains a similar mission statement: “Sorrow Bitterness And Revolution (Now He’s Gone).” This wasn’t the single from the album – that would be the more outward-reaching “Ashie” and “Song of Praise” – but the attitude of all of the songs on Fancy Pants is the same. “We were a bunch of outlaws man,” Bubbha said. “Outlaws do what they want to do, they don’t confirm to society and society’s rules and stuff. But everyone in the band wasn’t an outlaw. You can see Ronnie Laws on there. He didn’t go no outlaw way.” Ronnie Laws, whose career started on Free As You Wanna Be, would go on to create successful late ‘70s jazz recordings for Blue Note and United Artists. Though lauded in their time, and sampled into resurgence in the ‘90s, none of Laws’ albums have found vindication in the recent years’ reappraisal of this era of jazz music.

Bubbha founded the school program Summer Jazz Workshop in 1970 but it didn’t start in earnest until about two years later. “And with the Summer Jazz Workshop, black people wasn’t givin’ any money. All the grants and stuff we were gettin’ were from white people, and I realized that they wasn’t gonna give me the money if I was out there talkin’ all that rhetoric, so I just shut it down. I started Summer Jazz Workshop because I looked at my surroundings, and I looked at how people viewed the music, how they were negative of the music, what they thought about the music. I knew if the music was going to grow, then someone had to start planting seeds. That was the first reason, the second reason was that young musicians in this town didn’t have a platform, a foundation, where they could learn the music.”

The Summer Jazz Workshop served as a chance for the stellar students in Conrad O. Johnson’s Kashmere Stage Band to hone their chops when they would normally be on break; Johnson served with Thomas, and even recorded his “Lost Love” composition as one of the Workshop’s series of uber-rare 7” singles (nearly a dozen, produced by Bubbha and the students as an exercise in record production – and only sold to parents). Bubbha influenced the Kashmere Stage Band both directly and indirectly: Johnson chose to bring the Band’s live show to its climax with Bubbha’s circa-1972 7” single “All Praises To Allah.” Though Johnson retitled the song “All Praises,” a middling move which irked Bubbha, and though Johnson turned this modal-jazz workout into a funk-driven piece, the Band’s performance of “All Praises” nevertheless impressed America’s 1972’s stage band contest judges, who awarded the Stage Band their highest prize in 1972.

If any bandleader in Houston besides Johnson knew the power of music education, it was Thomas: he drew the majority of his band from Texas Southern University’s jazz ensemble, lead then by Lanny Steele. “Those guys, the Lightmen, were a bunch of college people. You don’t find that kind of dedication out of older musicians. I used younger people cause we were writing our own music and trying to perfect that music,” he reflects. “We never did ‘call a tune…. Let’s play ‘Bye Bye Blackbird’ ’ – no, I never did do that. My thing wasn’t based off of us playing all the time. So guys like Doug (Harris), Virgil (Solomon), most of them were in college and they could rehearse.”

The Lightmen Plus One’s masterpiece Energy Control Center, sans the promoted yet only promotionally-released, “All Praises To Allah,” came out in 1972 and marks the beginning of Bubbha’s Lightin’ Records label, and the end of his band’s classic sound and mission statement. Encapsulated in a poem by Thomas Meloncon, which Bubbha printed on the back of the record’s jacket, the band asked: “please prophets, pull out your musical weapons, and start war.” This furor pushed Bubbha’s music to its creative height – a unique mixture of deep jazz, political commentary, skittish funk and riffs on then popular, black American music – and served to bookend one part of Bubbha’s musical career. “The Phantom” from Energy Control Center featured prominently on The Funky 16 Corners anthology and set the stage for the first reissues of Bubbha’s albums in the 2000s.

The next Bubbha Thomas recordings would be markedly different – and more populist. 1975’s Country Fried Chicken, named after a composition written by Horace Young, III and first recorded by the Summer Jazz Workshop, saw only two key Lightmen members – saxophonists Virgil Solomon and Doug Harris – remain on tenure, while Ronnie Laws returned on tenor saxophone and bassist Don Patterson, who had played second to Ed Rose on Energy Control Center, returned to take center stage. It was a commercial effort – the band recorded a cover song, Stevie Wonder’s “All In Love Is Fair,” for the first time, and Bubbha, who had struggled with band members like Free As 
You Wanna Be trumpeter Carl Adams as to the Lightmen’s collective voice, says that he realized that he would have to cede a certain amount of musical direction to his band.

Two singles from the album saw release, at around the time that Bubbha issued the Cold Fire (of the Kashmere Stage Band) single “Get It Together,” and at the point he wrapped his Summer Jazz Workshop program’s record-issue program. The late ’70s saw a repackaging of some of Bubbha’s music – the profound abutting the commercial – issued as the Best of Bubbha Thomas & the Lightmen, replete with a cover photo of a smiling Bubbha and a young, multi-racial assortment of women running on a Galveston beach (inspired by Duke Ellington, Bubbha says).

But as odd as that release is in Bubbha’s discography it is, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s lead to more outlying fare, from modern, Brazilian-styled (the test-press only release “Looking Back At Summer”) to funk-jazz (“Boogie Down”) and the aforementioned “Where’s the Beef” 12,” an attempt to cash in on the catch-phrase ushered in by the Wendy’s Hamburgers commercial. The mid-‘80’s release Life & Times  is only interesting to Bubbha’s faithful or boogie-enthusiasts; though but 15 years had separated the issue of his first and last LPs, the jazz world had shifted, and Bubbha’s ensemble bowed to the pressure.

The Summer Jazz Workshop continues to this day, and, until his death, its founder never gave up voicing the strong opinions about what was going on in the world around him. The same neighborhoods that Bubbha grew up and played music in were the ones that gave birth to rap music in Houston many years later, and many of the same problems are still in place, being voiced by a different generation.

“If you’re in America and you don’t understand the race problem you’re fooling yourself,” he said. “We listen to the story that ‘you’re makin’ progress,’ but when you connect the dots between Jack Johnson and Barack Obama, you see that the cartoons that they drew about Jack Johnson and the ones they drew about Barack Obama are the same. And that’s almost a hundred years apart. So what does that tell you? To me, our biggest problem is we wanna integrate America, and we are the only people who believe in integration. It’s not just a black/white issue. That’s why Barack Obama won. He won because there are a lot of people who are tired of bein’ mistreated by white folk, man. It doesn’t really matter what nationality that they are.”

A few years back, Bubbha quit playing the drums. He felt he couldn’t keep up physically with the way he wanted to play, and the way he wanted to play was for him the only way to play. I visited him at his son William’s home with Madlib around that time, and we spent some hours with him, going through his documents, and he had hundreds, all chronicling his incredible life in music, listening to his music, looking at the artwork that he created for his releases, and taking in the deep, hard-won philosophies of an incredible human being.

Bubbha and I talked often, as he was in and out of the hospital the past several years. He could often be found listening to the music that we’d dug out from his archives, and marveling at the moments he’d forgotten about. When Madlib and I were at his house, purchasing some of the last remaining albums he had held on to, I bought copy of Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain only to find out, when I returned to LA, that a test press of a previously-unheard mono mix of Free As You Wanna Be sat inside. Later, while transferring his master tapes, I was shocked to find both mono and stereo mixes of his Fancy Pants album, with the full versions of songs edited for album issue present on the mono tapes. And then there were the outtakes from his Energy Control Center era, including a long recording of “All Praises To Allah,” which was one of the biggest surprises to Bubbha. He found that, after all of those years of dismissing one of the rarest records in his catalog, that he loved his band’s version of the song. “We were smokin’, man!” I can still hear him exclaim it.

He would often comment on not just the plight of black Americans but the plight of any disenfranchised American. He riffed on the low fees Spotify paid music publishers. And while he mused on the future of black American music, he never felt the need to validate any of his statements with a resume. I knew many members of his ensemble personally so I had heard them all speak in superlatives about Bubbha, his musicality, his worldview, his entrepreneurial bent, and his spirit.

Since his passing, other, younger musicians have sung his praises. Of the Summer Jazz Workshop, his student Chris Dave told the Houston Chronicle that Bubbha would make sure any musically inclined student could attend “because a kid was too talented on whatever, guitar, marimba, to miss out. Bubbha always wanted to have those kids.”

Jason Moran was quoted as saying: “I remember joining Summer Jazz Workshop and realizing that it was intergenerational…(Bubbha) and Conrad Johnson were the ultra cool…Bubbha possessed the funk and soul of jazz and knew how to share it with everyone.”

“I tell young drummers this now, man: I’ll ask them, ‘What does a king sit on?’” Bubbha asked Lance, during the final portion of assembling the Creative Music anthology. “The throne. Drummers sit on the throne, man. You supposed to be able to handle that stuff.” And for 82 years, Bubbha did just that, and the musical world at large is in his debt.

Bubbha Thomas Discography:

The Lightmen – Free As You Wanna Be (Judnell LP-1001, 1970)
The Lightmen “Free As You Wanna Be” (Mono, Judnell LP-1001, 1970)*
Thomas Meloncon “400 Years/Waiting On Your Mind” (Judnell 7” 106, 1970)
The Lightmen “Luke/May ’67” (Judnell 7” 107, 1970)
The Lightmen Plus One – Fancy Pants (Judnell LP-1002, 1971)
The Lightmen Plus One “Ashie/Song of Praise” (Judnell 7” 108, 1971)
Thomas Meloncon “Ain’t Gonna Wait Too Long/Bullets Of A Gun” (Judnell 7” 109, LH-8321/2, 1971)
The Lightmen Plus One “Wench/Blues For Curtis” (Judnell 7” 109, LH-8764/5, 1972)
The Lightmen Plus One – Energy Control Center (Lightin’ LP-2001, 1972)
The Lightmen Plus One “All Praises To Allah Pt. 1/Pt. 2” (Lightin’ 7” 001, 1972)
The Lightmen Plus One “Survival Song Pt. 1/Pt. 2” (Lightin’ 7” 002, 1975)
Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen – Country Fried Chicken (Lightin’ LP-2002, 1975)
Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen “Country Fried Chicken/All Is Fair” (Lightin’ 7” 003, 1975)
Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen – The Best of Bubbha Thomas and The Lightmen (Lightin’ LP-2003, 1978).
Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen “Boogie Down (Vocal)/(Instrumental)” (Lightin’ 7” 004, 1980)
Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen “Looking Back At Summer (Vocal)/(Inst.)” (Lightin’ 7” 00, 1980)*
Bubbha Thomas-Life & Times (Lightin’ LP-2004, 1985)
*Test Press Only.

Houston Chronicle: Legendary Houston musician and educator Bubbha Thomas


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