Bertram Henry Frederick (Fred, Freddy) THOMAS
28.8.1930 – 7.8.2012
Obituary by Geoffery Orr
IT’S with sadness that I pass on the news of the death of Australian trumpet ace Fred Thomas.
A third generation highly decorated brass band trumpet virtuoso, Freddy’s earliest jazz trumpet recordings date from the War years in 1942. Both Fred and his younger brother John, who plays tenor saxophone, worked at times on a regular basis with Denis Farrington’s Society Orchestra in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Serving in the Australian Army with distinction, our young trumpet man joined Bob Gibson’s Music For Moderns and played on 3UZ radio in Melbourne with the likes of Pam Corrigan, vocalist supreme and her husband to be, Bob Storey, well known saxophonist.
[Click on the song title to hear the Gibson band playing “Swingtime Up in Harlem” with Freddy on trumpet and Pam Corrigan doing vocals. This track is from the Lyric 2 CD set mentioned below.]
Fred’s highly respected All Star Orchestra wowed audiences during the early 1950’s and his vocalist was June Carey, co-star to the ace jazz crooner, Edwin Duff who also recently left us.
[Geoffery Orr has produced under his Lyric label a two CD set of rare recordings from the ABC Radio series “Thursday Night Swing Club” which ran from 1949 to 1959, and then with a name change to “ABC Jazz Club” until 1965. Freddy Thomas and his various groups were frequent performers on this show. Click on the CD cover to listen to “St Louis Blues” performed by Freddy Thomas and his Allstar Orchesta from this wonderful set. Recorded at the Melbourne Town Hall in 1952. ]
Freddy was part of the trumpet trio comprising Ronnie Webb, husband of singer Dorothy Baker, and Englishman, Max Goldberg. He of the Ambrose Orchestra and Ray Noble’s London New Mayfair Orchestra.
After the GTV9 Orchestra was disbanded in the 1970’s, Freddy worked everywhere including Smacka Fitzgibbon’s Firing Squad, where Fred played piano, as the trumpet was getting to be a chore. But he did regular stints with Denis Farrington’s Big Band playing trumpet and Denis’ smaller group with singer Patti Lewis. Fred was also on hand at the Box Hill Brass Band to join in and assist young players and to teach.
He was the greatest and most unassuming genius of the trumpet who could have held his own on a stage anywhere in the world. Bix Beiderbecke, Bobby Hackett, Raphael Mendez: Fred Thomas was all these rolled into one. A supreme diplomat as a musician and the nicest man you could meet.
I worked with Freddy Thomas in the John Wanner JW Swing Orchestra in the 1990’s and we are lucky that John has recorded Fred with the Orchestra in 2003 in several trumpet showcases for this special CD.
I’ll never forget this wonderful man, as the likes of such gentlemen comes along once in a lifetime, and you are lucky to share some time with them. I’m sure there are many others including record producer Bill Armstrong, who could tell many more stories of Fred Thomas, the greatest of the best this country has produced.
Ironically, I learn that Hollywood composer Marvin Hamlisch also died in the last few hours. He wrote “The Way We Were” for Barbara Streisand, he composed and adapted Scott Joplin’s music for the film “The Sting” and a host of other Hollywood films and Broadway shows. He was 68. Freddy Thomas would have been 92 on August 28. Freddy Thomas has had a full and satisfying lifetime in music. More than seventy five years of it.
For more information about the wonderful 2CD Lyric set of recordings from the Thursday Night Swing Club, contact Geoffery Orr by email.