“The Tommy Thomas Percussion Library”
Author: Michael Welch
Michael Welch Publications, $30.00
For more info: michaelwelchpublications.com
Tommy Thomas is a classic example of “the most famous drummer you probably never heard of”. Thanks to Michael Welch and Bret Nichols, custodian of Tommy Thomas’s papers and pictures, this amazing legacy has been brought to light and preserved for future generations. I became aware of Tommy Thomas somewhat by chance. There were some pictures posted on Facebook showing a circa late 1920s – early 1930’s Ludwig engraved Black Beauty and Super-sensitive in a display at Steve Grier’s drum shop. I investigated further and found that these drums belonged to Tommy Thomas (1901-1995) who apparently was a drummer, teacher, composer and inventor. It was then that my education about Tommy Thomas began, thanks to the feedback from Steve Grier, Michael Welch, Elda Nichols and Bret Nichols. During this time, I found out that Michael was writing a book on Tommy Thomas; a combination biography and set of lessons from Tommy’s archives. A short preamble to the book was published in June, 2016: https://www.notsomoderndrummer.com/not-so-modern-drummer/2016/5/31/the-legend-of-tommy-thomas-1901-1995.
I don’t wish to spoil the story but encourage you to check out this wonderful 8.5 X 11” softcover book about Tommy Thomas. It is over 300 pages worth of insightful pictures, newspaper clippings and copies of Tommy’s writing and lessons. I found it a wonderful read, exploring Tommy’s drumming career spanning 1920-1965. Tommy played with many notable musicians of the era: Bix Biderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer, Earl Hoffman, Eddie Cantor, Burns & Allen, and many more. He is mentioned and/or pictured in catalogs and advertisements from Ludwig, Gretsch, Slingerland and Zildjian. Tommy influenced many drummers throughout the years, including Louis Bellson, who became a close friend. There are so many great stories and “mini-lessons” in this book. It’s an easy read with a lot of interesting historical tidbits, much new to me.
The forward by Ron Hefner describes the book quite well: “It’s a reminder that music is a serious pursuit: do your homework, know your musical history, learn all the nuances of your instrument, and don’t sit back and coast, but continue to evolve musically and technically. Tommy Thomas taught us all these things.”
If you truly wish to explore your music heritage and be a well-read drummer, this book is a must have.