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Eddie Thomas

Born on November 5, 1931, Eddie Thomas was destined to succeed. In 1957, while attending a local talent show at the Washburne Trade School in Chicago, he met and was asked to manage two vocal groups, The Medallionaires and The Roosters. Moved by their unique sound, Thomas convinced members of The Roosters to change their name to The Impressions and the group's career skyrocketed with the release of their first single, "For Your Precious Love."

Thomas would also find another great talent in the person of Curtis Mayfield, with whom he enjoyed a long association. Together they formed Curtom Records and produced many hit records, including "Keep on Pushing," "Amen" and "It's All Right.” The multitalented Thomas continued to produce new artists and shepherded groups, such as The Independents, to fame. Their first release, “Leaving Me,” sold more than 1 million records.

In the mid-1970s, he created Thomas Associates, a successful record promotion business whose elite list of clients included Ray Charles, Barry White, Quincy Jones, the Stylistics and Johnny Taylor. Later, he formed A-1 Creative Productions company, which produced the video and wrote the theme song for the 1987 NFL World Champion New York Giants. In 1994, Thomas was bestowed broadcasting's highest honor, the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award, for his role in the music documentary, The Rise and Fall of Vee-Jay Records. In 2003 Thomas was twice honored, receiving an Award of Honor at the 22nd Annual Chicago Music Awards and a Black Heritage Award from the DuSable Museum.

In February 2005 and July 2006, Thomas was awarded Outstanding Achievement in Poetry from the highly prestigious International Society of Poets. Held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Thomas presented some of his poetry to critical acclaim. He is also the recent recipient of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Music Legacy Award. On August 19, 2005, Thomas received the “Portrait of Achievers” Award from the Probation Challenge, and on October 27, 2006, Thomas was inducted into Wendell Phillips Academy High School’s Hall of Fame. Thomas is featured in the 2008 edition of Who’s Who in America.

Accession Number

A2000.033

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/21/2000

Last Name

Thomas

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Frances E. Willard Elementary School

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Speakers Bureau

No

First Name

Eddie

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

THO01

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Keep on pushing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/5/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Vegetables

Short Description

Music promoter Eddie Thomas (1931 - ) began his career at the Washburne Trade School in Chicago in 1957, where he saw The Roosters. He convinced them to change their name to The Impressions and their first single was a huge hit. Thomas continued to promote music for decades, and started Curtom Records with Curtis Mayfield, who was a member of The Impressions. Thomas is also an acclaimed poet.

Employment

Chez Paree

Medallionaires

Impressions (originally The Roosters)

Curtom Records

Thomas Records, Thomas Associates, Thomas Independent Promotion Company

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eddie Thomas interview and Eddie Thomas' favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eddie Thomas lists his schools

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eddie Thomas recalls his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eddie Thomas describes his father and step-father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eddie Thomas summarizes his entree to the music industry

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eddie Thomas describes the jobs, activities, influences and aspirations of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eddie Thomas explains how he gave up a slot at West Point to stay in Chicago and care for his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eddie Thomas recounts managing The Medallionaires and The Roosters

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eddie Thomas recalls his early career managing The Medallionaires and The Roosters

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eddie Thomas explains why Jerry Butler left The Impressions for a solo career

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eddie Thomas tells the story behind the Impressions' hit 'Gypsy Woman', written by Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eddie Thomas relates why he and Curtis Mayfield started their own label, Curtom Records

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eddie Thomas recounts his trials and successes with his label, Thomas Records

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eddie Thomas recalls the Impressions' popularity and financial success and his friendship with Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eddie Thomas discusses his love for the business of record promotion

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eddie Thomas discusses Curtis Mayfield's reputation for stinginess

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eddie Thomas reflects on race relations in the music industry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eddie Thomas shares his opinion of the contemporary music industry and the lasting popularity of 'dusties'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eddie Thomas talks about his continued involvement in the music industry

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eddie Thomas explains the split with Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eddie Thomas lists the original and secondary members of The Impressions

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eddie Thomas recalls his split with Curtis Mayfield and Mayfield's later career, paralyzing accident in 1990 and death in 1999

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eddie Thomas details his successes as an independent music promoter

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eddie Thomas expresses pride in how he has helped musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eddie Thomas discusses how better record keeping has made it harder for record companies to cheat artists

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eddie Thomas lists others he admires in the music business

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eddie Thomas reflects on his career in music rather than the military

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eddie Thomas shares his hopes and concerns for African Americans in the music industry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eddie Thomas shares his love of music and his family

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eddie Thomas discusses the role of religion in his life and a brush with death

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eddie Thomas recalls Ray Charles

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Eddie Thomas discusses Barry White

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Eddie Thomas reflects on his continued friendship with The Stylistics

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Eddie Thomas remembers Donna Summer

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Eddie Thomas talks about Quincy Jones

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Eddie Thomas ponders his career and legacy and advises blacks to believe in themselves and 'do it straight'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Eddie Thomas discusses Whitney Houston

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Eddie Thomas expresses his hopes for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Eddie Thomas talks about how he wants to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with John White, George Busbee, Curtis Mayfield, and Ron Short

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with his son, Alvin, his wife, Verlene, and The Stylistics, Chicago, Illinois, August 7, 1999

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with The Indepedents, ca. 1973

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Certificate from the Deputy Sheriff Recruiting Program

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Impressions single on Eddie Thomas and Curtis Mayfield's label, Curtom Records

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Cash McCalls' single 'You Mean Everything to Me' on Eddie Thomas' label, Thomas Records

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Jesse Anderson's single 'Mighty Mighty,' on Eddie Thomas and Curtis Mayfield's label, Thomas Records

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - The George Foster Peabody Award for "The Rise and Fall of Vee-Jay," 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 20 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with Richard Roundtree, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 21 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with The Impressions, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1957

Tape: 5 Story: 22 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with Fred Cash and Henry Rush Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 23 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with Quincy Jones, Los Angeles, California, 1974

Tape: 5 Story: 24 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with Fred Cash, Dick Clark, Samuel Gooden, and Curtis Mayfield, New York, New York, ca. 1970

Tape: 5 Story: 25 - Photo - Dick Clark with The Impressions album, 'The Fabulous Impressions,' New York, New York, ca. 1970

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Photo - Eddie Thomas in an office with Fred Cash and Sam Gooden, ca. mid-1960s, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Photo - Eddie Thomas and Curtis Mayfield in an office, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Photo - Eddie Thomas talking on the phone in his office, Chicago, Illinois, 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Photo - Eddie Thomas and Curtis Mayfield holding up a 45 rpm single, Chicago, Illinois, ca. late 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Photo - Eddie Thomas and Curtis Mayfield at Curtom Records' office in Chicago, Illinois, ca. late 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Eddie Thomas, ca. late 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with office worker in Curtom Records office

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - Eddie Thomas at a hotel swimming pool, 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Eddie Thomas talking on phone, ca. 1970

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Curtis Mayfield and Eddie Thomas, ca. mid-1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Eddie Thomas and Sam Gooden in the office of Curtom Records, Chicago, Illinois, 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Eddie Thomas shooting a home movie, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Eddie Thomas in straw hat, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with a dummy

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Eddie Thomas by a statue of man with a starfish, not dated

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Eddie Thomas in the back seat of a car, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Eddie Thomas getting out of car, ca. mid-1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Eddie Thomas in a pedestrian walkway, ca. mid 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Eddie Thomas on Monorail platform, Seattle, Washington, ca. mid 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Eddie Thomas at the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington, mid-1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Eddie Thomas, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - Eddie Thomas stands beside a tree outside a building, ca. 1960s, location unknown.

Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Photo - Eddie Thomas in a swimming pool, location unknown, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 24 - Photo - Eddie Thomas sitting on the edge of a swimming pool, location unknown, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 25 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with a briefcase, standing outside a house, location unknown, 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 26 - Photo - Eddie Thomas wearing a straw hat, location unknown, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 27 - Photo - Eddie Thomas getting out of a car, location unknown, ca. mid-1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 28 - Photo - Eddie Thomas in a recording studio, location unknown, ca. 1960s

Tape: 6 Story: 29 - Photo - Newspaper article on Robert Williams, Jr., Eddie Thomas's protegé

Tape: 6 Story: 30 - Photo - Curtus Mayfield in a wheelchair, 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 31 - Photo - Eddie Thomas with Helen Curry, Chuck Jackson, and Maurice Jackson, Lake Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1970

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Eddie Thomas summarizes his entree to the music industry
Eddie Thomas tells the story behind the Impressions' hit 'Gypsy Woman', written by Curtis Mayfield
Transcript
Now you say that, that the music--you think that that may have been the start--do you think.$$Well, it, it could have been. It didn't hurt none because, after he [his stepfather, bluesman Big Maceo Merriweather] passed that summer that I was--I just graduated from high school, and I got my appointment to go to West Point Military Academy [United States Military Academy at West Point, New York], and after his passing I decided not to go because I couldn't leave my mother [Lucille Merriweather] alone. I wanted to stay and take care of her so I said, well, high school graduate, what'll I do? So I went to the post office and got a job at United States Post Office. In the nighttime I would park cars. I got a job at nighttime parking cars down at Chez Paree [nightclub, Chicago, Illinois]. That's where I met a lot of other entertainers--Sammy Davis Jr, Will Mastin Trio--coming in, a lot of big stars, and in that area, that's how I ran into a group called the Medallionaires. They came to me as I was parking cars at the Chez Paree and wanted to know how they could get on the show. They were from Cabrini-Green [Homes, Chicago, Illinois]. I told them that, you know, they were too young for that, but they kept coming back and wanted me to help 'em, you know, so I went to one of their meetings over in Cabrini-Green, and they wanted a manager, and so I decided to manage 'em. Being zero in the business, not knowing anything, I studied the books, see where I could take 'em to so I ended up taking them downtown to Mercury Records, and believe it or not, we got a contract with Mercury Records, did one record. It didn't do anything, but in that vicinity, in that location where they were living at, there was another group that, that were looking for a manager. They were looking for someone 'cause their manager that they had presently was--was--owned a record shop, and I guess they weren't satisfied with what he was doing for them. They heard that I was managing the Medallionaires, and they needed the help. They were calling themselves the Roosters at that time so they asked me to come to--they were going to be in a talent show at Washburne Trade School at [South] Wells [Street] and Orleans [Street]. Later it became the Washburnes, changed names several times, Cooley High [School], but at that time it was Washburn Trade School [now Washburne Trade School of Kennedy-King College]. I went to see them perform. I was very impressed with them, and later I went to their rehearsal 'cause we were all in the same area. They rehearsed at Cabrini-Green, and they sung for me one of their tunes. They did Sweet Was the Wine. I liked that, a couple other tunes, but the tune that I really felt was outstanding--that was a tune called For Your Precious Love, and now I gotta start walking the pavements, trying get them a recording contract. I went to King Records. At that time it was at 13th [Street] and Wabash [Avenue]. Ralph Bass was the A and R [Artists and Repertoire] man. He didn't care for the group so Record Row--next stop was Chess. I went over to Chess Records. They had Billy Stewart and a couple of guys. You know, they were doing well with the Dells so they weren't interested in another group so I said well, let me go across the street. Across the street was Vee-Jay Records, and Mister Calvin Carter was A and R man. He listened to the group. We were, we were holding back a little For Your Precious Love for some reason. We were scared a little bit of doing that 'cause we felt that was really a monster, monster tune, and we did Sweet Was the Wine. We did several other tunes for him. He--well, he heehawed little bit, and I told the guys well, go ahead. Let him--let him hear the--the blockbuster, and when we did For Your Precious Love, that was it. We were signing a contract. Within hours we were under contract, and that was the beginning.$[Eddie Thomas is explaining about why he had agreed to Jerry Butler's suggestion to come on tour with him shortly after Butler left the Impressions, the group Thomas managed.] My motive for going with Jerry [Butler]--I had to--I had--look up--I had a perspective--I would say to myself, now if I go on the road with Jerry, he's traveling on the road, I can go to radio stations and meet disc jockeys everywhere I go. Even though I would say well, Jerry says hello, and he thanks you for his record, I'll be also introducing myself to them. Every market I went into--I mean, every market I went into, I met deejays. I had their names, phone numbers, everywhere, and after a couple of years, Curtis [Mayfield, of the Impressions] and I saved our money together, and we decided to--we came back to Chicago [Illinois], to go into Universal Studios and make a demo. Curtis had written a song called Gypsy Woman. It was so far out, you know. I couldn't imagine a black kid from Cabrini-Green [Homes] writing about a gypsy woman. I mean, it was far out, but it was so great, and we had the beat and everything and the background and the music, and I said wow. I said, yeah, this is--I could, I could taste it. I said, yeah, we got a hit, and when we went to New York [New York], Jerry was appearing at the Apollo Theater, and I took the demo tape with me. Now I can get out, shop around in New York City 'cause there's nothing in Chicago. I went to RCA [Radio Corporation of America] Victor Records. Ray Ellis was the A and R [Artists and Repertoire] man at the time. He said well, but I can't imagine it's a black group singing about a gypsy woman. He couldn't conceive that so I went to another company, got thrown outta there. Then I went to 1501 Broadway, never forget it, ABC Paramount Records, and at that time they had a--they had the young man who was there. He's managing Creed Taylor at that time. He was a jazz artist. His name was Clarence Avant, and that's how I met Clarence Avant, another life, lifeline, long friend, Clarence Avant, great man, great man, and Clarence said Eddie, he's got a good record, a good record. I said well, Clarence, tell 'em to put it out. He said well, I'll tell you what. I'll get 'em to help you put it out, but they won't give you any advance money. We had spent over $4000, you know, of our money on the record, you know, and we looked to get it back off the top. He said naw, they won't do that, so I said yeah, they're gonna take the record for free and throw it up against the wall, and if it sticks, fine. If it don't, we're out of--we're out, but I had one thing going for me. I had met all those deejays--Philadelphia [Pennsylvania], Baltimore [Maryland], Washington [D.C.], New York. I knew 'em all very good, and I spent a lot of time with them so when the record came out, they released it. I went to Baltimore, WHAT, Georgia Woods, went to WDAS, all the guys there, went to, went to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and these guys, said look, I said, this is me, man. This is for me. I need to get out of this job. I wanna--you know, I wanna make this group a hit, and they said well, we'll give you a shot, man. You know we'll take care of you. You've been nice to us, you know. You're really our friend. That's the only way I could make it with a guy. You had to be a true friend because I didn't have any money to give or anything else. They played it for me religiously. I don't mean one time a week. They played it every day, and all of a sudden that record took off in Philadelphia, became bigger than bubble gum, spread to Baltimore, spread to Washington, and just went across, and they picked it up everywhere. They started picking it up, Gypsy Woman. The company was so elated over the progress of the record, they called me in. They said you know, we just signed Ray Charles [Robinson] and got B. B. King. How would you like to work for us doing promotions, and that's how I got the job, promotion man, first R & B [rhythm and blues] promotion man they ever had. They never had one before for ABC Paramount Records, and Jerry was appearing at the Apollo Theater, and I went in and told him I was leaving. I said well, I'm turning in my guns now. I says you'll be by yourself now. I'm gonna do promotion for ABC Paramount Records. I didn't realize at that time that they were gonna handicap me with no credit cards, no air travel. They told me we'll give you some gas and said that's it, but you've gotta drive everywhere you go, and at that time I was desperate to do something. I wanted to make a move. I wanted to leave 'cause I felt it was time for me to do my own thing so I drove. I'd leave New York and go to Houston [Texas], go to New Orleans [Louisiana]. I'd go down the Carolinas. I drove everywhere, and finally in Birmingham, Alabama, I met a kid named John White who wanted to be in the music business so, so I asked him do you want to work for me so he became my co-pilot. He drove with me, helped me to drive 'cause the driving was rough, you know, going in different markets so that's how I stayed.$$I wanna go back 'cause, I mean, this may sound like a (unclear) question, but for both of those songs--you know, a lot of times songs would have, you know--sometimes (unclear) developed (unclear). Are you saying Gypsy Woman, it was just, it was all done the way it was done at the beginning?$$That's correct. That's correct.$$It was all.$$Exactly.$$(unclear).$$Not, not anything altered or added. That's just the way it was done, and I gotta give credit to the arranger because I don't wanna forget Johnny Pate. Johnny Pate--this is why I've been in Las Vegas [Nevada] so much. It's one of my favorite places because he's been a resident about 20 years now. Every time I go out there, I visit him, but Johnny Pate was our arranger on a lot of our hits, a lot of our greater hits at that time. Johnny Pate--he deserves that much credit, and he arranged it, and it was just--the arranger, the arranger knocks it down for you, you're home free. What else can you do? He had the drums going. He had that sound, gypsy sound, and it was just on the money.$$So when Curtis came up with--how did he--how--I mean, what, what was the inspiration for that song?$$You know what? Let me say this to you. Curtis Mayfield is a genius. I felt it at that time. It took years before it caught up with him and caught up with the public that he was one of the greatest songwriters that ever lived, but I felt it 'cause this kid could come up with some lyrics. I couldn't imagine where--how do you do that because he's living in the projects [Cabrini-Green, Chicago, Illinois]. He's starving and struggling. How can he write about a gypsy woman? He just had a knack for songwriting. He was a natural songwriter. I mean, he was a Motown all by himself as a songwriter, just a genius. You have to take hats off to him. That's why I know that Vee-Jay missed a record when they--when they let--let him go, but they paid for it because we had so many hit records after that. When we started with ABC Paramount, we were running down the line Keep on Pushing, We're a Winner, I'm So Proud, You Must Believe Me, Amen, and I mean we were rocking and rolling in hit records.