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Henry Thomas biography



Henry Thomas (1874-1960s?) was an American pre-World War II country blues singer, songster and musician. He was often billed as "Ragtime Texas". Thomas was born in Big Sandy, Texas. He began his musical career as an itinerant songster (minstrel), and recorded twenty-three sides for Vocalion Records between 1927 and 1929. Thomas accompanied himself on guitar and on quills, a folk instrument fabricated from cane reeds, and ould play both instruments and provide vocals for the same song. The instrument is similar in sound to the zampona, used by musicians in Peru and Bolivia. His springy guitar-playing, probably inspired by banjo-picking styles, implies that he was used to performing for dances. His legacy has been sustained by his songs which were later covered by musicians after the folk music revival. "Fishin' Blues" was covered by Taj Mahal and The Lovin' Spoonful. "Bull Doze Blues" was recorded by Canned Heat, retitled "Goin' Up The Country". Here Thomas's melody on quills was reproduced note for note by flautist Jim Horn. "Don't Ease Me In" was covered by the Grateful Dead on their album Go to Heaven; and "Honey Won't You Allow Me One More Chance" was covered by Bob Dylan (as "Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance") on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Thomas's vintage recording of "Don't Ease Me In" is included on the compilation album The Music Never Stopped: Roots of the Grateful Dead. In 1993 the band Deacon Blue released a song entitled "Last Night I Dreamed Of Henry Thomas" on their Whatever You Say, Say Nothing LP. In addition, his arrangement for "Cottonfield Blues" was performed by early Delta Blues musicians Garfield Akers and Mississippi Joe Callicott in 1929. The whereabouts of Thomas after 1929 have not been chronicled, although he was reportedly seen in Texas in the 1950s. The date and circumstances of his death are uncertain. His complete Vocalion recordings were compiled on a 1990 Yazoo Records CD titled Texas Worried Blues