I guess I’m starting to repeat myself in my old age, since I wrote a similar piece to this one in Kicks magazine #3 back around 1981, but since that was a whole generation ago I might as well. If you are unfamiliar with today’s subject– Louis Thomas Watts aka Kid Thomas you have been leading an incomplete life and are in for a real treat. Besides, it’s a great story.
“At that time, I was doing some light work for a minister, and he had a ’49 Buick. I didn’t have a car, so I waited until he was asleep and I told my guitarist to ease the car out,’cause if he woke up, he’d recognize me. So he starts up the car and bangs it into the car behind him, and the one in front. But he finally got it out, and we made it to Wichita. When I got back (to Chicago), the minister asked me what happened to his car. I told him I hadn’t any idea. He told me,’Thats funny,’cause it disappeared the same night you did.”
The band broke up in Wichita but he returned there a month later, this time driving a 1947 DeSoto with his name misspelled on the side– it read Kid Thumass. Our by now be-conked hero had struck up a partnership with Hound Dog Taylor (see January posting for a picture of his six fingered left hand) and together they proved a good draw in Wichita.
By 1956 rock’n’roll had taken the world by storm and Kid Thomas fell under the spell of Little Richard and soon revamped his sound to showcase the influence of Little Richard and other men who wore their hair up high and screamed a lot. This new musical direction didn’t exactly knock ’em dead in the South Side blues clubs in Chicago to which he had returned, so he packed up and headed west, first to Denver and finally landing in Los Angeles in 1958.
In L.A., Kid came to the attention of George Mottola, then head of A&R at the Modern/RPM/Flair family of labels where he recorded such greats as Richard Berry, Jesse Belvin, and the Teen Queens. Mottola had started his own label– Transcontinental and soon Kid Thomas was back in the studio. Boy, was he. His next release, issued in 1959 on the aforementioned Transcontinental– Rockin’ This Joint Tonight (issued with two different b-sides, the blue label first pressings had You Heard What I Said on the flip, the black, red and white second pressing had You Are An Angel, if you want to hear the former, and you do, you’re gonna have to buy the Norton Records 4-song EP). Rockin’ This Joint Tonight is one of the wildest rock’n’roll discs of all time with Kid Thomas blowing his harmonica and shouting out the lyrics in a frantic frenzy. Just listening to it leaves me breathless. He wouldn’t record again for five years, that’s probably how long it took for him to catch his breath.
Kid took a regular gig in L.A.’s South Central neighborhood at a joint called the Cozy Lounge, working under the name of Tommy Louis and the Rythm (sic) Rockers and sometimes as Tommy Louis and the Versatiles. The local Muriel label issued two singles in 1965– The Hurt Is On b/w I Love You So, which got some airplay around the south despite the lack of promotion, and later the same year Wail Baby Wail b/w Lookie There, perhaps his finest achievement in wax. Wail Baby Wail is another full on Little Richard inspired rocker in the same vein as Rockin’ This Joint Tonight, only this one features guitarist Marshall Hooks’ insane soloing which sounds like Ike Turner undergoing electro shock therapy. Sadly, there was little market for such sounds in 1965 and the disc sunk without a trace.
As Tommy Lewis, he made one last record, issued on Cenco in 1969 he would recut (You Are An) Angel b/w Willowbrook, not a bad record, but nothing to wet your shorts over.
Here comes the sad part. Although he kept on gigging (including playing a party at Dean Martin’s house), Kid Thomas was making rent by mowing lawns. In 1970, after finishing a job in Beverly Hills, a young child ran out into the street from between two parked cars and Thomas accidentally ran over the kid, killing him.
Manslaughter charges were filed, then dropped for lack of evidence. A few months later, after appearing in court on a separate charge (driving with a revoked licence), the kid’s father ambushed Kid Thomas in the court house parking lot, killing him with one bullet to the head.
As a tragic postscript to an already sad story, in 1994, at a live Hangover Hop WFMU radio broadcast, I went to take a piss and some jerk decided he might as well take a look through my box of 45’s. When I returned from the head and asked the cretin to put my records down, he dropped the box and my copy of Wolf Pack on Federal landed on the concrete floor at Brownie’s at just the right angle to crack it in two places. I’ve since manged to track down an original 78, but the 45 is rather hard (and expensive) to come by, and now my copy is held together with scotch tape. And people ask why I don’t do the radio show or dj live anymore. So there’s our story, three great records, two dead bodies, and one cracked disc. Life’s funny like that.