Legendary BR blues musician Tabby Thomas dies

Published: Jan. 1, 2014 at 4:24 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2014 at 9:58 AM CST
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Tabby Thomas
Tabby Thomas

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Legendary blues musician Tabby Thomas passed away at his home in Baton Rouge early New Year's Day morning, his family confirmed.

Joylyn Thomas Wright said her father passed away "peacefully and of natural causes." Thomas would have turned 85 years old on Jan. 5.

"My father's favorite saying was, 'Blues is my life. I'm not saying it's right, I'm not saying it's wrong…c'est la vie,'" Wright said.

Tabby Thomas is best known for his Louisiana-style blues. He once opened a music club in downtown Baton Rouge on North Boulevard called Tabby's Blues Box. It was considered a mecca for blues talent from around the area. The club closed in November 2004.

"It's a very sad day. The legendary Baton Rouge bluesman, husband, father, and friend Tabby Thomas passed away this morning," Rueben Williams, his former manager, posted on Facebook. "He was an inspiration to so many and the reason for a lot of people's start including Tab Benoit, Troy Turner, his son Chris's and many others. He left us with great Louisiana music and unbelievable stories."

Four of Thomas's daughters were at his home Wednesday morning. Michelle Rogers said her father's night club was something area artists cherished.

"Tuesday or Wednesday night, they had the jam session," Rogers said. "So, anybody can come in, whether you could play or not. They had musicians there that were playing who had never played a guitar and they were able to learn how to play there."

When the night club got ready to relocate, Joylyn Wright said people had to take some of the old location with them.

"People were coming in and they were just crying and feeling on the walls, because it was the atmosphere. It wasn't about the building. It was about the atmosphere and how he made people feel," Wright added. 

It's a feeling that hundreds have felt, not just through his music, but through his spirit. Tabby's son, Chris Thomas King, grew up in the Blues Box and is a successful blues artist.

Thomas was married to Jocelyn Johnson Thomas for over 50 years. She passed away on Dec. 2, 2005. The couple had eight children and 20 grandchildren. His son, Chris Thomas King, is also an influential musician known for his fusion of rap and blues. King also works as an actor and was featured in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Funeral arrangements have not yet been set.

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