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Jimmy Thomas aka Broadway

Jimmy Thomas aka Broadway started singing in school and church at the age of 7 and by age 9 he was playing piano and guitar. He was always exposed to instruments because his mom played guitar and piano. Jimmy Thomas was born in Celina, Texas, a small town about 50 miles from the Oklahoma state line. He grew up and went to school in Texas and Wichita, Kansas. In Wichita he got his first playing gigs, around Kansas and the midwest for Aunt Kat and Uncle Bob, a couple in Wichita who booked teenage bands. He and Larry Johnson, who went on to become a well-known singer and guitar player in the midwest and west coast, were in the same band.

In 1960, Jimmy left Wichita and joined the Air Force, stationed in the UK, where along with three other airmen he started a band and played at the service clubs in several bases around the country. He also sang and played at the Flamingo Club in London on the weekends with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames.

After finishing four years in the Air Force, Jimmy went back to Wichita. Before then, he had been singing and playing guitar, but when he returned to Wichita, there were so many guitar players – some from around the Muskogee, Oklahoma area, such as Berry Harris and Herbie Welch with the Wright Brothers. It was hard to get a gig playing guitar, so for about eight months, Jimmy was just singing. Then he ran into Little Don Dunn, a guitar player from Muskogee.

Jimmy bought a bass and decided to pattern his playing after Ollie Gaines, a bass player from Muskogee whom he had admired in the 1950s. He and Don started playing together and continued for the next three years until Jimmy left for Los Angeles. About three months after arriving in Los Angeles, Jimmy started playing bass with the Johnny Otis Show. This is where his nickname Broadway came from.

Johnny liked the way Jimmy sang the song Funky Broadway, and that was the only song he would let Jimmy sing. Johnny had a nickname for everyone in the band, which included Preston Love and Gene Connors who he called The Mighty Flea. Johnny's nickname for Jimmy Thomas, Broadway, stuck and people have called him Broadway ever since.

After Johnny Otis, Jimmy Thomas aka Broadway played with several artists around Los Angeles, including Johnny Watson, Etta James and all of the West Coast sax players (Big Jay McNealy, Chuck Higgins and Joe Houston), to name a few. At the beginning of 1968, Jimmy met Taj Mahal at a club in Hollywood, the Ash Grove, and two weeks later he became a member of Taj's band. That summer, Jimmy played bass on Taj's album, “Taj.” This was probably Taj's first album.

The end of that year, Jimmy left L.A. for Hawaii with The Soul Doctors, led by sax player Bobby Lester. They stayed in Hawaii for a year playing at the Swing Club where they became the band for Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Back in Los Angeles at the end of 1969, Jimmy started playing with the Pete Foxx Trio and continued with them until 1972 when he decided to use his GI bill to go to school. He attenderd UCLA and graduated with a B.A. degree in music composition. Chuck Higgins, who Jimmy had played with in the 1960s, was running the UCLA recording department and after Jimmy graduated, he and Chuck produced two albums together. Jimmy also produced two CDs, one in 1998, Thomas & Tucker Stranded, and another in 2003, Philip Walker Live in Paris.

In the early 1980s, Jimmy started traveling with Phillip Walker and toured in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Japan. He also traveled with Smokey Wilson and Sonny Rhodes, but he played off and on with Phillip Walker from 1967 until Phillip passed away in 2010. Jimmy presently lives in Los Angeles, where he plays local gigs and sometimes gigs the “Dusk Till Dawn Festival” in Oklahoma.

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