The world of Southern Rock lost another champion on September 9, 2007 with the passing of Hughie Thomasson. The founding father of the “Florida guitar army” The Outlaws and a long time member of Lynyrd Skynyrd left us way too soon.
GRITZ asked a few of Hughie’s friends for their thoughts on the guitar slinger. Here are the responses, along with a poem from a fan, some recent photos of Hughie, and a memorial by GRITZ writer J.C. Juanis.
We hope you enjoy our tribute to a true Southern Rock pioneer.
“Hughie and I started out together and we always found a way to stay in music as a life's work. He was a total original with an abundance of talent as a player, singer, and songwriter. We went through so many tough years gettin' where we were goin' and those memories are the one's that stand out in my mind.
There was a moment in in 1975 in the front lounge of our old GMC 4104 tour bus at about 4 in the morning between San Fransisco and Portland when Hughie in tears told me he wanted to go home. I gave him a hug and told him that we just couldn't go home. Sunday night the show was over and he finally got to go home. I'll always love Flame and I'm going to miss him.”
- Henry Paul, The Outlaws/Blackhawk
“I'll sure miss Hughie a lot.Besides being a very unique guitar player, singer and songwriter, and he was a very close friend. We met many years before I became an Outlaw through Alan Walden who was publisher for both of us at the time.I remember him coming to rehearsal in Macon when i was in a band called Capudine..
Hughie and I got to be friends in Muscle Shoals Alabama - Sheffield actually - on many songwriting trips to Broadway Sound sponsorsed by Alan who encourged us both to write as much as we could. HTwould record during the day Loose Change (me) at night or vise versa.Through many years of these trips,where I played on his demos and he played on mine, we got to be buddies.
After Billy Yates (another mutual friend of Alan and mine joined The Outlaws), HT was lookiin to add a 3rd guitar/vocalist to the band.Well that was yours truly and we became very close over the next 17 or so years.
His presence will be missed in the rock n roll world and by me personally.Im glad to have had known him and will remember many good times we spent very fondly in my heart.Ride in peace my friend and may your tides forever be high!!
- Chris Hicks (The Marshall Tucker Band, former member of The Outlaws)
“I knew Hughie back in the day, over 30 years ago when he was with The Outlaws, opening shows for the CDB when some of them rode in the back of their equipment truck to get from gig to gig. When I saw that kind of dedication I felt “these guys are going somewhere.”
Hughie was a hot guitar player who only got hotter over the years, and the world has yet to hear some of the very best work he’s ever done in the form of an unreleased album Hughie finished shortly before his death. I’ve heard it and it’s hot.
Hughie and his Outlaws, along with The Marshall Tucker Band were a part of our 2007 Volunteer Jam Tour and if a tour ever resembled a family reunion it had to be this one, as friends got together and jammed at the end of the show and the backstage was as warm and friendly as Sunday dinner.
To say that he will be missed is an understatement, There will be a Hughie Thomasson sized hole in amongst us Southern boys, one that can never be filled by anyone else.
Rest in peace old friend, you know that I loved you.”
- Charlie Daniels
PS: “I want to send my heartfelt condolences to Mary and the family and pray that our merciful God will comfort you in this time of grief.”
“I feel Hughie was rounding third and preparing to get another home run. I am deeply sadden by his departure.”
- Doug Gray, The Marshall Tucker Band
"With our deepest sympathy we have lost another one of our brothers to the rock and roll heaven. We had many a good time writing and playing with Hughie and spent many miles on the road together. God bless his family and all the fans that love Hughie for his playing and singing. Out hearts and prayers go out to his family. He will be truly missed. Fly on Free Bird."
- Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Hughie gave his entire life to making music that made people happy and on a personal level... everyone around him he touched in so many ways that he will be always remembered for his kindness, understanding and wisdom. His talent will live on through his life long works and he really is a true legend in the music world. God Bless Hughie and all that he embraced in his life".
- Bobby Ingram / Molly Hatchet
“I am so saddened to hear of Hughie’s passing. I had been talking with him for over a year, and most recently about “plugging and playing” with Deep South. Hughie was very excited about it. He was even going to keep a set of his road rigs in Nashville to put on the bus when we were going to play. I’ll never forget some of the gigs we played to gether in the late 1970’s, The Atlanta Rhythm Section and The Outlaws. After I left the road with ARS I focused on producing and writing. I got a call from Charlie Brusco to come to Orlando and check out The Outlaws and their opening act Austin Nichols (with Johnny Van Zant) to produce them. Hughie Thomasson blew me away with his singing, guitar playing and songwriting. I regret that we never got to make records together, and with Deep South. Losing Hughie on the heels of George McCorkle is devastating. All I can say is is if any Southern rockers are planning any new music projects, don’t put them off! Life is becoming very fragile. Hughie, “Green grass and high tides forever! "
- Robert Nix/ Roy Orbison’s Candymen/Atlanta Rhythm Section/
Deep South/Alison Heafner)
"I have been a huge fan of Hughie's for years, and have worn out multiple copies of my vinyl Outlaws records. I had seen many of his appearances with The Outlaws, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the good ol' days when he and Toy Caldwell used to jam together. I was lucky enough to finally meet Hughie face to face for the first time earlier in the year when Volunteer Jam kicked off its tour here in Greenville, SC. Chris Hicks introduced me to Thomasson, whom I had only communicated with via e-mail in the past. He was the coolest. A great guy and one of the finest guitar players in Southern Rock. Losing Hughie was hard, especially on the heels of losing our friend George McCorkle. Hughie's music will live on, and hopefully the newly completed Outlaws CD, which Charlie Daniels and Chris Hicks both agree is some of Hughie's best work, will be released, and only add to his legacy. We'll miss you brother."
-Michael Buffalo Smith
"A Rare Breed of Outlaw"
Hughie was a rare breed of Outlaw
He filled us all with joy
Now he's playing in Heaven
With Ronnie, Duane and Toy
As the curtain slowly opens
And the crowd is on their feet
Our Lord is truly happy
His Heavenly Band is now complete
A master on the guitar
He played with so much pride
You could feel his magic fill the room
During Green Grass and High Tides
Thank you for your music
We'll listen to it everyday
I know when I get to Heaven
I'll be able to see you play
Your show on Earth is over
All your gear is packed away
May eternal life be good to you
Each and every day
Written by: Tom Cellini
The Ghost Rider of The Outlaws
by J.C. Juanis
I remember the first time that I heard Hughie Thomasson. WLIR-FM - out on Long Island, NY where I spent my formative years - broke The Outlaws “Green Grass and High Tides” on the radio in 1975. Initially I was a bit put off by the obvious reference to the title being taken from the Rolling Stones’ album of the same name, but the relentless three guitar wailing that went down at the end, sounded more Lynryd Skynryd - like than Rolling Stones. I went to see them out on a high school athletic field in Bay Shore for a show that was broadcast live on WLIR later that month. I was amazed at not only the stellar guitar work, but the heavenly three part vocal harmonies by Hughie, Henry Paul and Billy Jones. That was the sound that hooked me. The Outlaws’ first five LP’s were chock full of those guitars and harmonies and still sound as fresh as the first time that I heard them back in the 1970’s. I saw them live many times during this period and have fond memories of The Outlaws jamming with the Charlie Daniels Band at the Rockland Community College Field House and having Dickey Betts sit in with them at the Palladium in New York City.
I hadn’t seen Hughie in ages when my wife and I saw him playing with Lynryd Skynryd who was opening for ZZ Top at the Oakland Arena a good ten years ago. I marveled at Hughie’s guitar chops as well as those of Rickey Medlocke from Blackfoot. I remarked how disappointed that I was for Skynryd not incorporating the music of those two guitar legends into their storied songbook.
A couple of months back my wife and I went to the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam at the Shoreline Amphitheater out here near San Francisco where we live much in part because Charlie had the Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws on the bill with him. Seeing Hughie after all these years with The Outlaws was thrilling to say the least as he hadn’t lost a step from what I remembered hearing from the glory days. After his set he sat and greeted fans at the merchandise booth. It was wonderful watching him take the time to meet with old and young guitar fans alike with a firm handshake and some kind and encouraging words. Afterwards, during the Marshall Tucker Band’s set my wife and I went backstage to meet with Charlie Daniels who also takes the time to have a one on one with his fans. Thank you Buffalo for the passes! It was obvious that like Charlie, Hughie lived to be with the fans.
A couple of days after that Volunteer Jam we received word that Marshall Tucker Band member George McCorkle passed away. While not with MTB for some time it was a sobering thought to learn that another of these great musicians had passed over into heaven.
Now in my mid fifties, I’ve come to realize not only my own mortality but that of my musical heroes. So as I tip my cowboy hat and say a prayer for Hughie Thomasson, I pray also for all the greats that have left this earth way too early.
And I’ll play “Ghost Riders in The Sky” again tonight, real loud.
Photos by Rev. Karl Duetzmann and Kathy Lawrence
The July 8th show in Terryville, CT
Rev. Karl Duetzmann (third from left) poses with The Outlaws.
Final of the Volunteer Jam Tour 2007 in Wallingford, CT at the Chevrolet Theatre.
Henry Paul and Hughie with GRITZ. (Kenny Mullins Photo)
Hughie with The MTB, 1976.
Rest in Peace, Hughie.