EARL THOMAS & THE GOSPEL AMBASSADORS FEATURING SISTER LEOLA
"With his dynamic 5pc band and 3 stunning backing vocalists, Earl Thomas brings a
tent revival! A high spirit, roof raising, foot stomping, hand clapping, get up and dance
in the aisles gospel show that cannot be ignored." San Diego Reader
His latest project, after three year hiatus, is all vintage gospel or, what the singer says is
"The music I was always meant to do." His mother always said that he was a gospel
singer and now he is finally performing songs that have been, for decades, the
soundtrack of African American culture and history. "These songs stand for our
struggle, our pain, our strength, our hope, our perseverance, our triumph, and our joy."
As a self professed griot, Earl Thomas maintains the African tradition of oral history
through music. As a singer songwriter, his music - deeply rooted in the blues and
gospel - is infused with contemporary sensibilities of rock, soul, and rhythm & blues.
And, as a purveyor of African American tradition and culture, his is a potent mix of the
traditional and contemporary, expressed in an impressive music catalogue and a
vibrant 30 year career in music. With all that he has accomplished, it's ironic that Earl
Thomas stumbled into the music industry by accident.
He was born into a musical family in rural Tennessee and grew up in a house brimming
with music; his father was a bluesman and his mother was a gospel singer so music is in
his veins. But his ambitions led elsewhere, as Thomas considered music to be selfexpression,
something he did with the family or church. "I could carry a tune and loved
singing along with the radio but I never considered music a career path." It seems
instead that music found him.
For a college practical exam, Earl Thomas and his friend, Philip Wootton, made an LP,
following the instructions in a book called 'How To Make And Sell Your Own
Recording.' Complying with the step-by-step process, Thomas and Wootton wrote
songs, hired musicians, booked a studio and produced an album for their exam. The
result was a record called 'I Sing The Blues,' and the only dream Thomas and Wootton
had for the LP were to receive a good grade. And that they did.
But instead of stopping at Chapter 8 in the book, the duo followed the instruction in
Chapter 9 and mailed copies of the album to radio stations, magazines, and
newspapers. One landed on the desk of pop music writer Buddy Seagal at the San
Diego Union Tribube and, impressed by what he heard, Buddy sent a copy to Herb
Cohen, the president of Bizarre-Straight Records.
Within a month, Earl Thomas had been offered a two-album deal with the record label.
World's away from college projects, Earl Thomas was now living a whirl-wind career,
with the LP being repackaged as a CD to be renamed 'Blue...Not Blues,' and
distributed worldwide. Meanwhile, Earl Thomas was booked to perform in Switzerland
at Montreux Jazz Festival, while music legend Etta James recorded the title track of 'I
Sing The blues.' Solomon Burke and Screaming Jay Hawkins followed suit, recording
other tracks from the album, and Thomas extensively began his first-ever international
tour. Just like that, he had become a professional musician and overnight sensation.
For the next 30 years, Earl Thomas would tour the world, from North, Central, and
South America to Scandinavia, United Kingdom, and Europe and Asia. He had even
done a show at the North Pole. Within this time, he has released an astonishing 20
albums, several having received critical acclaim. He has two Grammy nominations, and
four San Diego Music Awards, his songs have also been covered by Sir Tom Jones,
Will Wilde, and Shemekia Copeland. His music has been featured in feature films such
as '40 Shades of Blue' and â€˜In The Mix' and television shows like ER and the Netflix
For Earl Thomas, his highlights have included performing on stage with BB King and
Gladys Knight at Montreux Jazz Festival, performing at London's legendary Ronnie
Scott's, opening shows for BB King, Etta James, Aretha Franklin and his musical idol
Ike Turner. Performing over 200 shows a year he still holds down a 10-year residency
at San Francisco's Biscuit & Blues. "A great musician once told me, 'You gotta hustle
your gigs man.'"
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Noble
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