Jerry thank you for giving that interview…. Please tell me when you first started with music. When was that and where? What did inspire you?
You're welcome. I first started playing music around 12 years old. I had grown up with music because all of my family members on my mother's side were musical. My Uncle Jerry and Uncle Charlie had both played in the U.S.Army Band and had Country Music Bands while oversea's in Germany and Japan. So I guess the answer would be it all started in Ironton,Ohio for me at an early age. My first paying gig was playing guitar in a Gospel Music Band at 12 years old for $ 8.00 a show. I started out playing drums very early and one of my good friends I went to school with a boy named Kenny Williams (who was a cousin to James Taylor) traded an old Guild 12 string guitar to me for my set of drums.That old guitar once belonged to Sweet Baby James Taylor himself I was told.Watching the Ernest Tubb Show and Buddy Starcher Show on T.V. inspired me more than anything else
You grew up in Jacksonville Florida home of Lynyrd Skynrd and Molly Hatchet – Tell me a little bit about growing up around those guys.
Yes my parents moved the family to Jacksonville,Florida when I started 3rd grade in school. I went to Ruth N.Upson Elementery in Murray Hill on the Westside of Jacksonville.We lived right beside Murray Hill Park at 1154 Scotten Rd. Down the street 3 or 4 house's was some boy's I became friends with by the name Robyn and Runt Nix. Runt still lives in the same house today. Anyway they had a brother Robert Nix who was older that played in a group called The Classics IV. That group had a huge hit out about that time called "Spooky". Well of course when Robert or Bob as we called him came home I was of course introduced to him. He had written a huge hit called "Cherry Hill Park" for Billie Jo Royal as well as had been the drummer for Roy Orbison's Candymen. We just gravitated toward each other because all of the Nix boy's and myself just had a Natural Love of Music. Bob went on to become a founding member of The Atlanta Rhytum Section as well as did some drum tracks with a band that came from just across Cassat Ave in the Lake Shore Section of the Westside which went by the name One Percent which would later become Lynyrd Skynyrd. That was how I got to know the Van Zant Brothers and Sisters. I was playing in a band called Kid Gloves at the Classic's lounge 6 nights a week. In a 5 mile square radius of the Westside of Jacksonville,Florida we had The Classics IV,Lynyrd Skynrd,Blackfoot,Molly Hatchett,38-Special,The Austin Nichols Band,The Crossover Band,Billy Pickett and Livewyre,The Allman Brothers Band,Cornillius Brothers & Sister Rose and so many other hot bands at the time such as Kings Ransom,Phil Driscoll,etc. So I grew up and became friends with a mighty big mixed bag of music. Everything from soul to rock -n- roll to Country. My earliest influence being country I naturally migrated to that music but then most every band I named where into country music. As well as Bad Company,Stones,Three Dog Night,etc. Ronnie Van Zant lead singer of Skynyrd loved Merle Haggard probably more than any recording artist of the day,had all his albums. man it was just unreal. Well all of us being from the same neighborhood and all of us into music we just all kind of navigated toward each other. Later on I had the chance to work with the Van Zant's on the road driving equitment trucks and tour buses. I would not have changed it for the world. Lacy Van Zant would always tell me that I should get a recording contract as well because he liked my singing so much. But I was secure in touring with Hatchett,38 - Special,The Johnny Van Zant Band,Blackfoot and etc. Man I was content with the money I made. It was not until 10 or 15 years later that I seriously considered a record deal for myself.
You’re singing Traditional Country – Have you always been traditional or did you also play other styles?
I have Always loved traditional country music.There was never a time I did not love the Real Country Music. Growing up and playing in the lounges and barrooms I had to play all types of music or you would not be playing very long. But my first love was always traditional country music.
How many professional CDs have you released? Where and how did it go? Biggest success?
I,ve had 2 released CD's to date. The first was titled "My Favorite Country" which was all songs I had done over the years by different country music artist that influneced me such as Ray Price,Vern Gosdin,etc. And the second Cd was titled "From Tennessee to Texas". I came up with that title because at the time I was living in Amarillo,Texas and spending a lot of time burning up interstate 40 between Amarillo and Nashville. Both were released in 2012. Tennessee to Texas has done pretty well for me. It has given me 2 number 1 chart records so far in Austrailia as well as parts of Europe. My biggest success so far has been a song that I wrote titled "That's the way that I Love You". So far it has went to the # 1 spot on four different occassions in the worldwide independent music charts for the traditional country genre'. It has also opened the door to so many co - writing oppertunities with so many wonderful and talented songwriters out of Nashville.
You co-wrote with several big names like T Graham Brown and Diane McCall. You are personal friends of both. Tell me something about their contribution on your next album.
Getting the chance to write with T.Graham Brown as well as Little David Wilkins,Diane McCall,Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. has given me such a great chance to grow as an writer. I have admired their work for so many years it is truely amazing. I mean what can I say about getting the chace to create a song with some of your musical influences? And to become close personal friends with them..Wow..It is truely a blessing from God and I treasure their talent and friendship so much. T.Graham and I are going to probably reach deep into the old blues well and record a duet together for my next project. We have already written two songs together for the project. Diane whom my wife Jaye and I just love dearly well we are getting together soon to write a tune I may use on the project. And she is also going to do a duet on the project with me. As for Little David Wilkins we wrote a song together on my last CD titled "Johnny sang a Country Song" about a mutual friend of ours Country Music Pioneer Johnny Moore whom also happens to be Jeannie C. Riley (Of Harper Valley P.T.A.) fames uncle. He was also so gracious to let me record a huge hit he wrote and had out "Whoever turns you On"..I just love him to death. And they have all had such an impact on me musically and personally.
You wrote a song about country music legend Johnny Moore with your co-writing buddy Little David Wilkens. You will perform that at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. How do you feel about being invited to sing there.
Being invited to sing "Johnny sang a Country Song" for The Country Music Associations Hall of Fame Awards Show is such an honor for me. I have seen so many of our great pioneers in the Country Music Business just get passed over or swept under the rug so to speak and never get recognized for their contributions to country music. That is what made me and Little David write the song in the first place. To draw attention to these artist. yes the song is about Johnny Moore yet at the same time it is also about the Frankie Millers,Joe Carsons,Bobby Lewis's,etc. I hold each one dear to my heart for what they all have done to make music a little bit easier for myself. I kept nagging Mary Mintor down in Texas about how Johnny kept getting overlooked and I asked her to not make the same mistake Nashville keeps making year after year..Over looking the TRUE COUNTRY ARTIST..
You are performing in Ireland and the United Kingdom in January! That’s incredible! Tell more more behind the story!
Yes I am so thrilled about getting to perform overseas in England,Ireland,Europe. This will be my first European Tour and I know a lot is on the line. If I may another great country music artist that is from Middleburg,Florida that I knew very well made a great career just in Europe alone. His name was Slim Whitman. He used to tell me about how the fans in Europe just love traditional country music. How they just went crazy over it. And now to be able to go and share just a small bit of my world with the fans of Europe man I am beyond excited. I want to give them a great show and would love to come back a lot. Where ever they are hungry for Jerry J. Thomas traditional country music well what can I say? That is where I need and want to be. And my wife Jaye is just so thrilled.I was stationed in Germany in the U.S.Army in 1975 but this will be her first trip abroad. We both can hardly wait.
Special thanks and thoughts?
First a foremost I want to thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for blessing me beyond all imaginations. I would also want to thank the fans and the disc jockeys that play and buy and attend the concerts because without them none of this would happen. I want to thank my manager T.M.Garret for keeping Jerry J.Thomas out there.His professionalism and friendship are so magical.Jaye and I love him dearly for everything he doe's for us.And last but not least to everyone one I've mentioned in this interview that has ever influenced me or that I worked with or wrote with I could not have done it without you. Jaye and I love you dearly and will forever be thankful and endebted to you..Ireland,England,Scotland we're coming in January to meet new friends and to share love and music with you.We hope to meet a lot of you.God Bless.
In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between „traditional“ and „new“ country music?
My opinion the biggest difference between today's country music and traditional country music is the sincerity and integrity of the MUSIC itself. Today's artist have all forgotten who brought them to the dance so to speak. It is now just a big almighty dollar game. It is not about the music anymore but the dollar. Today the music is more of a rejected rock-n-roll. Artist don't cater to the fans anymore they seem to put themselves above the fan. I am so glad that I come from a era that an artist and their fans were more of a big family. That is how I was taught. The fans make you. I owe it to them to sign autographs and take pictures and talk to them. Without them I would not be able to do what I love doing and that is make music and perform.
If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
I would bring back just one thing RESPECT!! Put the great artist like Mel Street,Cowboy Copas,Hawkshaw Hawkins,Dottie West,Slim Whitman,etc in the Country Music Hall of Fame where they rightfully deserve to be. Take the politics out of the music.Prove that Hank Williams Sr. music can still be played right beside a Montgomery/Gentry record etc.There is room for all of it..And folks if we forget where we came from how are we going to know where we are going? Let's quit turning our backs on our pioneers in this business and give the their long overdue just do.
What do you think about today's Country Music versus its roots and where do you see it going in the future?
I see a revival of traditional country music returning.There is still a demand for it.We as traditional artist and managers,record companies,booking agents just all have to work TOGETHER and provide a way to get this genre' out to the people.It can be done.And I hope that all the folks in the business and all the fans allow me the chance to be one of the artist to help keep this genre" alive. I feel in my heart that is what I am meant to do and I love doing.I thank my beautiful wife Jaye for putting up with this crazy business of music and standing beside me through it all. I owe it to the Streets, Tubbs, Tillmans, Moores, Millers, McCall family,Jones,Haggard,Wilkins and the fans to preserve with honor and respect this genre' called traditional country music.And with God's help as well as all of you out there I pray you let me keep the flames of tradition burning bright.God Bless all of you and we hope to see you in a town nearby soon.
Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine