Tabby Thomas, ‘King of the Swamp Blues,’ Dies

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 Tabby Thomas was core to the Louisiana blues. As a guitarist, vocalist, composer, club owner, radio deejay, Rockin’ Tabby, the King of the Swamp Blues, put the state’s unique style of blues on the map. He sang it, he played it, he promoted it and influenced a wide range of blues players including his Grammy-winning son, Chris Thomas King and others such as Tab Benoit and Troy Turner. Thomas died on the first day of January 2014 at the age of 84.

Thomas’ life and musical experiences were far-ranging though his birthplace of Baton Rouge, Louisiana remained central to his life and music. It was there that he began singing in church, it was at McKinley High School that he first heard his most influential artist, Roy Brown, doing his jump blues hit, “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” Thomas returned to his hometown after traveling to Chicago, joining the Air Force and while residing in California beating out now-legendary vocalists Etta James and Johnny Mathis in a talent contest and soon thereafter recorded his first single, “Midnight Is Calling.”

Rockin’ Tabby Thomas opened Tabby’s Blues Box and Heritage Hall in 1979 on North Boulevard in Baton Rouge. It was the first establishment of its kind in the area. Read more here.