BJ Thomas

B.J. Thomas

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1968. Martin, then Bobby. Which ultimately led to Chicago. But it was also the year of “Hair”…which dominated turntables and radio.

Although “Hair” covers and ubiquity slipped into 1969, just like “Hooked on a Feeling” itself.

1969. The moon landing, Woodstock. Nothing gets that kind of ubiquity today, other than politics. One can argue nothing important really happens, but the truth is if it does, there’s so much in the channel, and it all goes by so fast, that events just don’t get the traction they used to. Even mass shootings have become de rigueur. Yup, you hear someone insane with a chip on their shoulder shot up a bunch of people and by the next day it’s not even on the front page.

Where’s the glue?

There is none.

But in ’68, ’69, it was the radio.

Television was a vast wasteland. As for movies…they were just coming into their own, the musicals and the men who greenlit them were fading and the youngsters were coming up. It started with “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Graduate” in ’67, and by ’69 we had “Midnight Cowboy” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Not that “Butch Cassidy” had a deeper cultural meaning, in an era when those were prevalent in cinema, and not that it was an intentional antidote, but it was a film that everybody saw, needed to see, it played in theatres for months and months and it had no mechanical shark or special effects. I can’t say I’ve ever met someone who hasn’t seen “Butch Cassidy.” Maybe if I polled youngsters…but quizzing youngsters about the films they’ve seen is no longer a thing, they want to talk about social media stars and oldsters are all about defending their turf and counting their money. It’s not only Republicans who want little change, it’s the same deal with the wealthy Democrats. Sure, I’ll pay a few million more in taxes, just don’t make me change my lifestyle, don’t make me give up any power.

But the sixties were completely different. No one was that rich, there was a strong middle class, and although we were fighting for truth and justice our culture was really dominated by the arts. You knew who all the stars were, they were famous for actually doing something. And those on the big screen were truly larger than life.


Paul Newman? Legendary, cool not only as Luke.

Robert Redford… Newman boosted him into the stratosphere, everyone knew him and he was not just a two-dimensional good-looking guy.

And then there was Katharine Ross.

It’s hard to overstate the power of screen icons on maturing males back then. The generation before had Marilyn Monroe, but for those coming of age in the late sixties and early seventies…our screen dreams were earthier, more real, and what could be better than a beautiful woman who could hold her own with the boys?

And one of the key scenes was when Ross was on front of the bicycle and B.J. Thomas was singing in the background…

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was one of the biggest hits of 1969, overplayed, known by heart, but rarely quoted, unlike the legendary line from the movie…”The fall’ll probably kill ya!” And it was performed by B.J. Thomas, but it was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David…yes, “Raindrops” was movie music, far from the rock and roll that was permeating the airwaves, dominating and changing the culture.

And by the fall of 1969, most Americans, at least those who cared, were now aware of FM rock, after all, “Led Zeppelin II” was released in October, but AM radio still ruled.

Almost no one had an FM radio in their car. And those that existed…they weren’t that good, if the station was more than ten or fifteen miles away, the signal would drop out. You could buy an amazing home tuner, but auto audio was positively retro.

So we knew the AM hits.


As a matter of fact, forgetting the progenitors, there was essentially no free-form underground FM radio until ’68. So, everybody tuned in in ’64 to hear the Beatles and stayed with the band, music was everything, and we knew the cool songs and the dreck, the British Invasion and the last gasps of the crooners.

But every once in a while there was a song by someone who you didn’t know, that rang your bell.

Some of them verged on bubble gum, like “Build Me Up Buttercup”…then again, no one could deny its power.

And others were just so right that they reached you immediately, you relished hearing them on the radio, you never forgot them.

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“I can’t stop this feelin’
Deep inside in me”

The music of yore used to set you free.

The music of today is just grease for the fire, cartoons, the blatherings of nincompoops trying to make bucks or those who believe they’ve got talent when at best they’re B performers. To be a rock star in the old days was to be one of the most powerful people on earth, not only were you rich, you could do whatever you wanted. with no governor, no limit…you truly had your freedom. And believe me, they all would have lined up for vaccination against Covid-19, after all they were the first generation after polio, assuming they squeaked by that tragedy.

But it’s when music pressed that release button, untethered you from the planet, triggered your hopes and dreams, that was when it really resonated, when it was powerful, when it spread.


And as you’re growing old, you’re thinking of opportunity…and the opposite sex. Well, maybe the same sex too, but back then coming out of the closet was dicey.

“Girl you just don’t realize
What you do to me”

The power of love. Huey Lewis sang about it, but this is different. This is a cocoon, just you and them, you’re not blasting it to everybody, you’re just feeling it yourself, reveling in it, savoring it, not wanting to share it with anybody else for fear of it evaporating.

“When you hold me in your arms so tight
You let me know everything’s all right”

You didn’t always hear all of “Hooked on a Feeling”‘s intro, in the AM world fifteen seconds was interminable, oftentimes they went straight to the vocal, but we heard it enough to know it, and it was magical. This was back in the days of experimentation, when the studio was a band member and new sounds were being integrated into records on a regular basis. In this case, it was the electric sitar, played by one Reggie Young. This was not the George Harrison sound of “Within You Without You,” but a bridge between the electric guitar and the Ravi Shankar sound, and it felt so good, and nice!

And B.J. Thomas sang with power, with a rich voice, like the best person in the glee club, and unlike on today’s television competition shows, he was not showing off, he was not demonstrating melisma, this was twenty-odd years before Mariah Carey, when the song became more important than the singer. And by holding back just a touch, yet singing with power, Thomas’s rich voice resonated.

And the above words are not so magical, but it’s the way the track changed after the initial verse. Too often acts will literally repeat the same verse twice, figuring since old bluesmeisters did it they can get away with it, but “Hooked on a Feeling” is more of a theme park ride, not one where you’re scared, but one where you’re smiling and laughing.

“I
I’m hooked on a feelin’
High on believin’
That you’re in love with me”

Probably the best feeling in the world. No, definitely. You feel glad all over, you tingle.

And then a string flourish.

Strings were getting a bad name, rockers railed against them. But they hung over in the old world, like with B.J., a singer singing someone else’s composition, in this case, Thomas’s friend, Mark James.

“Lips are sweet as candy
The taste stays on my mind
Girl you keep me thirsty
For another cup of wine”

At this point, B.J. could be singing the phone book, it’s his voice, the musical bed, the sitar/guitar…you’re high on the sound of the record.

“I’ve got it bad for you girl
But I don’t need a cure
I’ll just stay addicted
And hope I can endure”

TWO VERSES! At the advent there was only one, now this is a double-dip, like at Baskin-Robbins, with the strings whisking you along.

“All the good love when we’re all alone
Keep it up girl, yeah you turn me on”

There’s that pre-chorus again, one of the track’s main hooks.

And then we get the brief Reggie Young sitar/guitar solo and…
When B.J. comes back in the track is running on all cylinders. Thomas is just riding the crest of the production, he’s the cherry on top, but without the cherry there’s no hit. At least no monster, legendary hit.

And the song ends just like the intro, with that remarkable sitar/guitar and now strings and another guitar walking over the hill into the distance and…

You were just lying on the couch, listening, now you jump up, you want to follow this sound, and chances are you lifted the needle to hear it again, because that was the game back then, to create a track so enticing, so life-affirming, so unique that you had to buy it to hear it over and over and over again.

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B.J. Thomas went on to have country hits, back before all the country players had long hair and Stratocasters with Marshall amps, when country and rock were opposites, when country touched your soul and rock was dangerous, before they melded together in commerce and lost their essence. You could go years without knowing the country number one, but you knew the rock number one by heart, and you’d heard the AM pop one too. Musically, it was like the politics of today, the south listened to completely different music. C&W. Country and western. The western has been excised from country today, never mind the country itself.

But sometimes one song is enough to make a career. And B.J. Thomas had two. Kind of like Don McLean.

But McLean’s hits were in the seventies, they were a bridge between hip and straight, whereas Thomas was unconcerned with those descriptors back in ’68, he and his team just wanted to make a hit, they felt if they had a strong enough song they were on their way.

And if you have a strong enough song…the years go by and it’s covered and becomes a hit once again.

Jonathan King rearranged the song in 1971, when he was still best known for “Everybody’s Gone to the Moon,” before 10cc, before he went to jail.

And then a Swedish band, entitled Blue Swede, glommed on to King’s remake and pushed up the faders, amplified and multiplied the nonsense phrase “ooga-chaka-ooga-ooga” and had a monster worldwide hit in 1974. Despite the act disappearing from the hit parade thereafter.

And the funny thing is the Blue Swede take is now the standard-bearer, the most famous version of “Hooked on a Feeling,” it’s got 397 million plays on Spotify and B.J. isn’t even close, which is testimony to the song more than the production, which was so in-your-face as to lose almost all meaning…it could be employed in an animated movie, it was all about the groove as opposed to…

The original, which was a slice of heaven, elixir of the gods.

So B.J. Thomas just died. We knew he was sick, but in the tsunami of information we forgot that he was, and then he passed away.

And the truth is this generation, born during the war and just thereafter, is going, fast. If you want to see one of the legendary acts, go…now!

But as soon as I read B.J. passed, I started singing “Hooked on a Feeling” in my head. I thought back to those days, I thought back to Butch and Sundance, I felt once again that I’d lived through the heyday of music. Hell, name a track as magical from the nineties, never mind today.

So B.J. Thomas left his mark.

And that’s what it’s all about in music. Capturing lightning in a bottle. Sometime in the process you realize you’re doing it, and then you try not to be self-conscious, you do your best to follow through, to get it down before you screw it up. And the truth is this is a rare occurrence. No one can write and record an 11 every month, every year…you’re lucky if you do it once in a career! Do that and you’re a star for all time, irrelevant of your bank account.

And B.J. Thomas did.

He got me hooked on a feeling.


Responses from Bob’s readers. These comments are unedited and presented as received. They do not necessarily represent the views of CelebrityAccess or its staff.

When my wife and visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch in Johnson City, TX, in the early 2000s, the tour of the compound ended with a ride back to the Visitor Center while “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” played in the tour bus. The guide said this was Johnson’s favorite song and he played it in his yellow Cadillac when he was driving around his spread.

Robert Vellani,
Burlington, NC

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As a singer, BJ Thomas’s voice has always been an inspiration to me. I was hired to sing on a session at the old Cherokee Studios on Fairfax, sometime in the late 80s, I think. BJ Thomas was there working in another one of the studio rooms, and came into ours to listen. Since he was hanging out there in the control room, I started chatting with him, and let him know how much his work had meant to me. The discussion got into talking about what he’d been up to lately, and I casually mentioned that I’d seen that he had recently gone through a period of being a gospel artist.

He looked straight ahead and said, “Well, I learned one thing: The only thing more corrupt and full of greed than the record business is the gospel record business.”

Gary Stockdale

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Maybe BJ actually had THREE careers?? He went through a public conversion and started making Christian records for Word Inc. out of Waco, TX around 1977. He had a string of nearly ten Contemporary Christian records over the next 6 or 7 years. He toured with Andrae Crouch and others. The story goes that Christians in his audience would boo when he sang his pop hits. And then others would boo when he’d talk about Jesus and sing his CCM hits. I got to him in once in the late ‘90’s in the halls at Warner Bros. Nashville. I was beside myself trying to even speak a word. What a legend. What a loss.

Chris Hauser

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BJ: “Raindrops….”, “Hooked…” and “Another Done Somebody Wrong Song”. Great Southern Company(me, Ira Sokoloff, Phil Walden, and others) did his merchandise in late ’70’s/early ’80’s. He was just starting to do religious songs mostly by then. A nice, gentle man.

Willie Perkins

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Thanks Bob,I worked in a club where every night the DJ would end the night by playing Hooked On a Feeling.I heard it every night.And I never got tired of it.It’s a great song,and BJ Thomas nails it.I’ve been listening to it all weekend in my mind.Stay well Bob.Thanks,Ted Keane

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Good one Bob. I liked his songs and immediately went to Spotify to listen.

Kenneth Williams

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Katherine Ross ….  made me wanna be that bicycle….

Andrew Loog Oldham

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B.J.’s nephew is a good friend of mine so I got a chance to meet him a couple times in the past few years. More than just a great performer, he was a genuinely nice human being. He made me feel welcome and apparently asked about me every time he talked to Bobby after that. Condolences to his lovely wife Gloria and their whole family.

Tim Fricke

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Nice job, Bob.
I was in a band that was fortunate to open up for B. J. once back in the lat 70’s. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy. He came in to our dressing room after we were done and told us we’d done a great job, and chatted with us for a little bit.
A very nice guy indeed.
Bill Scherer

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Reservoir Dogs.!

Both of his iconic songs are eternally etched into our existence via the power of film.

Paul Koidis

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Hey Bob, what a great read and reminded of BJ Thomas and his music.    I had such a flash back after reading your post, I guess growing up in Seattle I heard a bunch of BJ on Seattle radio KING Am and KJR both played him a lot. I just wanted to add his version of BeachBoys “Don’t worry Baby “ and ( Hey Won’t you play ) another somebody done somebody wrong song.  Were huge records… and they will always put that period in a capsule for me and many.????

Frank Higginbotham

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He was a good man. We had Instagram communication. He was humble, kind and funny. He deserved a lot more than he received.

Lgjg94

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Got to meet BJ Thomas when he was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame years ago. He personified what would become blue-eye soul pop music after the Righteous Brothers.
He told a story of how he was supposed to sing the song “In the Ghetto” which would have made him an even bigger star with its far reaching civil rights message.
But at the last minute the song was pitched to Elvis who needed a career boost badly and the rest is history. RIP BJ
Kenny Lee Lewis

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Bob…check out B.J.’s follow-up to “Feeling,” “The Eyes Of A New York Woman”…it’s got the “guitar sitar” on it and it’s one of the great NYC songs…love it to this day…

Matthew Auerbach

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Actually, the artist briefly known as ‘Blue Swede’ never disappeared but, rather, stepped seamlessly back into his career as himself, Björn Skifs, in Sweden, where he remains an icon to this day. His version of ‘Hooked On A Feeling’ was a bit of a joke which, as things did and continue to occasionally do, went inexplicably ‘viral’. His Wiki page is only in Swedish, if you’re curious here it is, Google Translate works just fine.

https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B6rn_Skifs

Eric Bazilian

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More important than so many others. Forever hooked on a feeling

Randy Lauderdale

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Thank you for this tribute to BJ Thomas.

Some of the things you said really resonate with me and take me back to 1969.

Your observation about polling and quizzing youngsters about movies today, made me think of an experience I had a few weeks back.

I play a ZOOM open mic each week where a ‘challenge’ gets set for the upcoming week. The challenge was to play a song from a movie.  I decided to play ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ –  thinking my audience will be familiar with the song. Age-wise, they range from late 20’s up to late 60’s. To my surprise, there were people who didn’t know the song and didn’t know the movie it came from. But they all agreed it was a great song.

I came away happy to know that the song was recognized for its strengths (it transcended the performer!!) but sad that a movie, a scene, a song that I accept as such an emotionally resonant and iconic part of our culture, can mean nothing to people whom I otherwise share a bond with through the weekly playing of live music on ZOOM.

andy jones

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Hey Bobby, yeh i heard the news about B.J.    i was on Facebook yesterday and saw a great pic of him… obviously a young foto..forgot how good looking he was..hahah…it’s funny how you say we all were so young at the time when all that great music was being recorded…where do you even start right?  i was trying to get downtown yesterday and a guy came up behind me on a bike and said  randy!….RANDY!…i’m like holy fuck who is it now… he says B.J. Thomas just died… i’m like ya i just heard..don’t have a clue who this guy was cause we’re all wearing masks up here but he knew who i was.. it’s funny how you just don’t know sometimes who remembers anything but i guess us oldtimers remembered him.. he had a real good string of hits… and he will be remembered …All the Best baby… thanks for the tribute to Mister Thomas

Randy Dawson

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I am a bit of a cover act, I do well over 100 songs.
All genres pop, rock, folk, country.

I play ‘Rain Drops’, and almost aways announce it
as the happiest song ever.

The horn section piece at the end is my favourite
piece of music of all time.

I cover it with vocal da da da das.

I like music from folk to death metal, but that little
song, and that little horn piece just moves me.

At least he went fast.

OK, now I need to figure out Hooked in a key
I can sing.

Cheers

Mitch Nixon

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listen to rock and roll lullabye and mighty clouds of joy—two BJ also-ran songs that are simply glorious

such a voice

a wile ago he also release an album done in the bossa nova style—pretty cool stuff

frank

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Thank you. I remember the high school party I was at when I heard “hooked on a feeling“ for the first time.  Fan ever since  We lost a good one

John Huie

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I’ve been reading you for years and never commented.

You nailed it with the BJ Thomas piece.

I recall the Scepter 45’s

Thanks

Rick Gelok

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Man you got me right back in memory lane His music stuck with you like glue. I even remover walking my family’s Dog called Snoopy Another sign of those times  I’d also sneak a cigarette if it was after Sundown  Man you felt like you had it really going on

Thanks for reawakening those memories Bob

Cheers The Sutterman

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I’d just like to note that BJ Thomas’ first hit, his version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” is also one of his best and really shows how well he could sing.  Also his “I Can’t’ Help Believing” was his fourth Top Ten single. Not two.

Toby Mamis

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As you wrote in your love letter to 1971, I too was born at the perfect time, albeit several years before you. Hooked on a Feeling was pure dynamite with so much character and punch that it almost jumped out of the tinny transistor that I had.  Raindrops was pure dreck in comparison, although the Bacharach/David team created that incredible and indelible string of masterpieces otherwise.

As far as earthy, well Katherine Ross and Ali McGraw did it for me as I was transitioning from teen-boy to teen-man.  Election night in NY and one of the Independent stations (PIX or WOR) played The Graduate year in and year out for a while – for me!, and if I see it another 10 times it won’t be enough.  Both that and Goodbye Columbus struck a chord deep within me and I’m not sure that I’ve ever gotten over how they affected me.  And I’ll surely never forget how both Ross and McGraw in those roles did that to me as well.

And now, you reminded me to pull up Hooked on a Feeling – the original of course and let it reign o’er me.

Alan

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Great tribute to BJ Thomas . . . he could flat-out sing, and had a surprising number of hit singles. The kind of performer who you go to see and find yourself saying “I forgot he did that one” . . .
– Raindrops (of course),
– Hooked On A Feeling (as you nailed spot on), but also
– Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song
– No Love At All
– Rock & Roll Lullaby
– I Just Can’t Help Believing
– Everyone Is Out Of Town
– Most Of All
. . . I think he even did the theme to a TV show back in the 80’s, and he had quite a run in Contemporary Christian music after dealing with some challenges. Great songs delivered by a terrific singer. It’s sobering when the guys who created our lives’ soundtracks move on.

Be well Bob and keep up the great work . . . I’ve been enjoying your musical insights for years now, ever since the late, great, Bud Prager turned me onto your newsletter.

God bless & GOGETEM!

Pat O’Connor

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Hey Bob,

great write up about B.J. Thomas .Let me tell you about what a class act he was.

I was blessed to  cross paths with him on numerous occasions in various circumstances over the years and he was always professional, humble , kind , and always made time for everyone.  It’s a dream come true when one of your musical hero’s turns out to be a wonderful human.  Years ago when I first met him , I told him the story  of how in ’68 or  69 as a child , my Mom took me to see him in concert at the Univ. of Alabama.  It was my first real concert and my little 5 year mind was blown and  I knew right then what I wanted to do in life. Play music on stage.  I told B.J. of how it was such an inspiration to me and his reply in a serious , straight man face – “ I’m so  very sorry you ended up in the music business” Then he busted out laughing loudly and gave me a big hug!  I melted.. I have a framed photo of that moment and the both of us are cracking up.

Fast forward , years later in August of  2019  my band Sixwire ( who I’m the drummer for )  is the house band for Elvis Week at Graceland , and B.J. was the main guest star performer singing songs that were recorded at American Sound studios ( where “Hooked on a Feeling” and tons of other hits were recorded)  He was amazing!  All songs were in the original song keys and he sang his ass off, and he could not have  been nicer to all of the musicians on stage.  A joy to work with.

Sorry for the length , but here’s  the pay off.  My Mom ( and all my fam) was at this show.  She is a lifelong , huge fan of B.J.’s and insisted that she come back stage after ward and meet her life long crush and musical hero.  I made it happen.  Back story, she’s 80 years old, has some obvious major health issues going on.  B. J.  comes over to me and asks “who’s this young lady?”  and she just lit UP, all goofy and smiling and acting like a total fan girl.  He looks at me and just smiles and winks and gave her all the time she wanted and took pics of the 3 of us… and just like that , my Mom thought she was 25 years old and she floated out of the room , and just for a moment , I saw my Mom became the healthy lady she used to be. I could have cried.

So I go visit my parents  for Xmas a few months later and she has a framed photo of her and B. J. on her mantle , with ME cropped OUT of the photo!!  I knew you loved B.J. Mom, but what the hell?! ( Oldest son, kicked to the curb ….). We still laugh about it, and she was deeply saddened to hear of his passing yesterday..That photo of her and B.J. is one of her prized possessions.  B.J. went out of his way to make her feel special, and boy did he do that.  He would’ve laughed his ass off about my Mom’s photo cropping skills too,  I assure you.

I just wanted to share this with you as  I know you’ll be flooded with
tons of stories of how wonderful B. J. was.    Take care and  stay healthy  Bob .

Chuck D. Tilley
Nashville

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I was thrilled to read your tribute to BJ, and to include Reggie Young as well was really special.
Two of the nicest and most talented people I ever knew.

I first met BJ ,on a Dick Clark American Bandstand tour, many years ago.
Son of a preacher man, a true gentleman, humble, always smiling and caring.
A voice from above.

Met Reggie when I moved to Nashville, another fantastic human being.
Giant of the guitar, and as a man.
Thank you for letting people know of the tremendous contributions that they made to the music we have been listening to all these years.

Best to you and your family,

Felix Cavaliere

 

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I was quite friendly with BJ and his brother Jerry those years he lived in Memphis. We both made records with Chips Moman at American studios. We were together a  lot.BJ was a sweetheart of a guy. We had more fun than the law allowed and in fact, they wouldn’t have allowed it. I have many BJ stories. Nothing but good memories.

 

Elvis rented the club, The Thunderbird Lounge, where we were the house band for 2 New Years Eves in a row. The third year he rented TJs where Ronnie Milsap (before he became a country artist) played and hired us to play late after our New Years Eve at the Thunderbird.

 

That first year, BJ wasn’t booked and  came down and we backed him. I assume Elvis liked us well enough as he hired us 3 years in a row. But who he REALLY liked was BJ. It was obvious. It was one REAL singer showing his like and respect for another REAL singer.

 

Rest easy BJ

 

David Fleischman

 

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Hooked on a feeling gave me a crush on every pretty girl in junior high.

 

jeffsackstennis

 

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Bob, BJ crushed it during his Elvis Week 2019 performance with an “earthshaking acapella “Peace in the Valley” in the words of Jon Warehouse.

 

todaymedia

 

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Bob, check out BJs cut “Mama” not as well known as the hits but a great sentimental take on the subject

 

Peter Miller

 

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Just wanted to mention Billy & Sue, one of his earliest songs & a tale of a soldier’s anguish when he receives a Dear John letter from Sue. I was 12 years old & didn’t know what a Dear John letter was & thought she’d sent it to the wrong soldier! Still my favorite BJT track. Best, Jeff Hayward/Maine.

 

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Bob…everything you said about “Hooked on a feeling” was spot on, but you missed one thing. The song was brought into current culture by “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  Probably a movie that wouldn’t appeal to you..

 

My sixth grade granddaughter know the song (Blue Swede cover) by heart. When she overnights she belts it out in the shower. Not bad for a song I danced to in high school.

 

Gary Merker

 

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B.J. Thomas and The Triumphs.

 

Killer band back in the day!

 

Peyton Prince

 

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I was on a trip into Bowling Green , Kentucky and got snowed in..had to stay at a hotel…and B.J. Thomas was performing…I went in for the show…not really expecting much…Damn…B.J Thomas and his band blew my socks off….I was blown away..!!!!

 

Timo Standing Buffalo Cano

 

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I was invited to a recording session at Electric Lady as I represented some of the principals, so I speak from a combination of memory and overheard–but not necessarily accurate–comments about the production of B. J. Thomas’ Rock & Roll Lullaby.  The record was produced by Steve Tyrell, at the time a genuine “go-to” producer (and now a successful second-career nightclub performer).  He apparently wanted to hire the Beach Boys to sing the background vocal chorus on the record, but they declined.  So Dave Summerville and friends did it for them (and sounded awfully close to their trademark sound).  He wanted a Duane Eddy-type low twangy guitar sound on the recording as well, so he hired—–Duane Eddy!  Al Gorgoni’s electric guitar closed the circle of extraordinary talent and performances.  (Oh, and then of course there was B.J. and the remarkable music and lyrics.)  As I understand it, this 1972’s “single” cost more than $10,000 to produce- -perhaps the most expensive (by far) ’45 recorded to that date, resulting in some considerable anguish by Scepter Records (and presumably by Steve as well).  Talk about over-budget!  But it was and is a masterpiece.  All lasting and memorable creations require great vision and talent.  This recording had them in abundance.  That the record only reached “top 15” surprised me because it will always be among my top 3 for sheer brilliance.   Handing off to Steve for how he recalls what went down with this recording almost 50 years ago.

 

Best

 

Peter M. Thall

 

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if this isn’t too late for the next “Re”, I just wanted to mention that the flip side to BJ’s  “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” is a great song, penned by Ashford & Simpson and singer Jo Armstead – label credit to “Simspon – Ashford – Armstead”).  You can hear the gospel voices, and I want to imagine that those background vocals are by Ashford & Simpson and/or Jo Armstead, themselves, but I can’t find the data anywhere to validate that fantasy.  -but it’s a great pop-friendly song for the time, and back when we listened to our b-sides just as much as our a-sides, it was an enjoyable b-side, and now listening back, has all the [blue-eyed?] soul one would crave in such a track.  Not sure if it is on one of his albums…however, I’ve seen it as a Ronnie Milsap a-side, also on Scepter.  I almost posted about it on Instagram the very day we lost BJ, without even knowing about his condition.  He’s someone I would have liked to have met and seen in concert.  Looking back at his discography, we again lost someone that had a part of shaping the sound of that time.

 

Sam Scozzari

 

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Thanks for highlighting the career of BJ Thomas. It’s a rare thing to know who’s singing as soon as you hear the first few notes, and BJ was one of those artists.

 

He did a great interview with NSAI’s Bart Herbison in the local “Tennessean” which ran just this past March. In it, BJ tells how he got to sing “Raindrops” after Ray Stevens turned it down, and how he sang the final “me-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee” somewhat extemporaneously, and why Burt Bacharach went along with it because BJ sang the rest of the song better than anyone else, and how the studio heads and radio programmers hated the song until the public loved it, of course.

https://bjthomas.com/story-behind-the-song-b-j-thomas-raindrops-keep-fallin-on-my-head/

 

Larry Butler

Nashville

 

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Thanks for your lovely words about BJ. I’ve enjoyed reading the remembrances of his music and place in popular music.

 

BJ had a profound impact on my life. When I was 4, my family and I went to his concert in Illinois. I’d spent countless hours listening to his music, and when he saw me singing along in the audience, he invited me on stage to sing with him. He was larger than life and sounding as fantastic as ever. BJ welcomed me and made me believe that a life in music was not only possible but absolutely natural.

 

He’ll be missed.

 

https://www.nydailynews.com/snyde/ny-sara-niemietz-bj-thomas-20210530-y2lkcdzddfdazop6vztmbhxhy4-story.html

 

Sara Niemietz

 

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One of B.J. Thomas’ last albums was “The Living Room Sessions” which is a stripped down “unplugged” re-recording of his classic hits.  In addition to solo performances, it includes some duets with well known stars such as Vince Gill, Keb Mo and Lyle Lovett, as well as up-and-coming singers.

 

The problem is you can’t find it anywhere! … not on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music….Amazon only had 4 copies of the physical disc at ridiculous prices.

 

Was able to find a few videos of songs from the album on YouTube and I think these versions of his songs are fantastic.  In particular, the duet with Vince Gill on “I Just Can’t Help Believing” is sublime.  Check them out:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAiidjv3TEU

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V35b9ZohXyY

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXifrNP6alc

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWxknAnBx7w

 

 

This album deserves to be heard!

 

Best Regards,

 

Phil Stanley

Phuket, Thailand

 

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My recently passed client of 40+ years, Mac Davis, wrote “In the Ghetto”.  Of course Elvis made us all lots of $, but Mac mentioned a few times he would have loved to hear B.J. sing it.   Two Texas guys who remained humble…..in Mac’s repertoire “It’s Hard to be Humble” was his laugh at success.  B.J. loved that song too!

 

Jim Morey

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