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Ramblin' Thomas

The rediscovery of bluesman Jesse "Babyface" Thomas in the '70s was the equivalent of a blues archivist's two-for-one sale. It turned out that the mysterious and up-til-then totally obscure '20s recording artist known as Rambling Thomas was the brother of Jesse Thomas, and the latter man was able to spill the beans on just who the rambling man with the fascinating guitar style really was. The Thomas clan, which also included the guitar picking older brother Joe L. Thomas, were sons of an old-time fiddler and were raised in Louisiana close to the Texas border. The boys got into playing guitar after looking with admiration at various models in a Sears catalog. Jesse Thomas has recalled that the mail-order guitar purchased by his brother, Willard "Rambling" Thomas, came equipped with a metal bar for playing slide; indicating the tremendous popularity of country blues at the time or the possibility that someone at Sears knew the guitar was headed into the arms of a Southern bluesman.

Thomas rambled, indeed he did. He was discovered by recording scouts playing in Dallas, but prior to that had performed in San Antonio and Oklahoma. His style also seemed influenced by the double threat of blues guitarist and pianist Lonnie Johnson, suggesting a possible St. Louis sojourn as well. Thomas played quite a bit in the key of E, making him harmonically quite a typical Delta bluesman. His picking style is curious, however, and even more interesting is his timing. His rhythmic variations suggest that his nickname might have been handed out by a musician attempting to accompany him, and not just relate to his geographical roaming. On some of his recordings for Paramount and Victor, such as "Ground Hog Blues," he plays it a little straighter, going for an imitation of then current hitmaker Tampa Red. The Document label is among several blues record companies that have released collections of Thomas' material, usually in the form of either a compilation or a collection of several artists; since Thomas was apparently too busy rambling to record a full album's worth of material. Thomas reportedly died of tuberculosis in Memphis, circa 1945. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Lifting The Veil: The First Bluesmen Rev. Gary Davis & Peers

4. Lost John

7. Leaving Blues

8. Slow Blues In E

9. Starvation Blues

10. Black Biting Bee Blues

11. Mountain Jack

12. I Didn't Want To Join The Band

13. Rag

14. Raggin' The Blues

15. Old Country Rock

18. Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues

19. Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues

20. Mississippi Jail House Groan

21. Ham Hound Crave

22. Seven Sisters Blues

23. Hard Dallas Blues

x

Track List: Anthology Of American Folk Music

Disc 1

1. Henry Lee

2. Fatal Flower Garden

3. The House Carpenter

4. Drunkard's Special

5. Old Lady And The Devil

6. The Butcher's Boy

7. The Wagoner's Lad

8. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O

9. Old Shoes And Leggins

10. Willie Moore

11. A Lazy Farmer Boy

12. Peg And Awl

13. Ommie Wise

14. My Name Is John Johanna

Disc 2

1. Bandit Cole Younger

2. Charles Giteau

3. John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man

4. Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand

5. Stackalee

6. White House Blues

7. Frankie

8. When That Great Ship Went Down

9. Engine 143

10. Kassie Jones

11. Down On Penny's Farm

12. Mississippi Boweavil Blues

13. Got The Farm Land Blues

Disc 3

1. Sail Away Lady

2. The Wild Wagoner

3. Wake Up Jacob

4. La Danseuse

5. Georgia Stomp

6. Brilliancy Medley

7. Indian War Whoop

8. Old Country Stomp

9. Old Dog Blue

10. Saut Crapaud

11. Acadian One-Step

12. Home Sweet Home

13. Newport Blues

Disc 4

1. Must Be Born Again

2. Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting

3. Rocky Road

4. Present Joys

5. This Song Of Love

6. Judgement

7. He Got Better Things For You

8. Since I Laid My Burden Down

9. John The Baptist

10. Dry Bones

11. John The Revelator

12. Little Moses

13. Shine On Me

14. Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room

Disc 5

1. The Coo Coo Bird

2. East Virginia

3. Minglewood Blues

5. James Alley Blues

7. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground

8. Mountaineer's Courtship

9. The Spanish Merchant's Daughter

10. Bob Lee Junior Blues

11. Single Girl, Married Girl

12. La Vieux Soulard Et Sa Femme

13. Rabbit Foot Blues

14. Expressman Blues

Disc 6

1. Poor Boy Blues

2. Feather Bed

3. Country Blues

4. 99 Year Blues

5. Prison Cell Blues

6. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

8. Way Down The Old Plank Road

9. Buddy Won't You Roll Down The Line

10. Spike Driver Blues

11. K.C. Moan

12. Train On The Island

13. The Lone Star Trail

14. Fishing Blues

x

Track List: Rough Guide To Unsung Heroes Of Country Blues, Vol. 2

1. Bothering That Thing

2. She's A Fool Gal

3. Niagra Fall Blues

4. The Cat's Got The Measles

5. Lonesome Man Blues

6. This Will Bring You Back

7. Mississippi Bottom Blues

8. Snatch It And Grab It

9. Guitar Rag

10. Lonesome Atlanta Blues

11. Ragtime Millionaire

12. Man Trouble Blues

13. Grand Daddy Blues

14. Religion Is Something Within You

15. Rag Baby

16. Hey Mama - It's Nice Like That, Pt. 2

17. Poor Boy Blues

18. Shake Me Like A Dog

19. Down The Big Road Blues

20. Woman Woman Blues

21. Dupree Blues

22. Mama Don't Rush Me

23. Alabama Blues, Pt. 1

24. Bye Bye Baby Blues

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