B.J. Thomas bringing half-century of hits to The Palace
Singer B.J. Thomas has seen (and sang) everything from “Raindrops” to “Mighty Clouds of Joy” in a career spanning more than a half-century and producing hits in the pop, country and Christian music genres.
Though his first million-seller was a 1966 cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” recorded with The Triumphs, he’s probably best known for his second million-seller, “Hooked on a Feeling.”
More gold records followed, including the Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” — which has the distinction of having the longest title ever of a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100.
Thomas will dig deep into his catalog for a concert at 7 p.m. July 27 at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg.
Lots of pop rock
The 1½-hour show will feature “all of the hits — a little gospel, some country and a lot of pop rock,” he says. “People want to hear the old stuff maybe even more now than they did back when it came out.”
At 76, Thomas says he goes on the road for “a day or two at a time” for about 65 shows per year.
“We’re older now, but we still love to play,” he says of the band that will back him up in Greensburg: guitarist and bandleader Tom Wild, drummer Mel Watts, keyboardist Tony Crow and bass guitarist John Sterling Francis, who’s been with him for 43 years. The ensemble also will include three horn players.
“In any profession, you’ve got to have a burning desire to keep doing what you do,” he says. “I’ve loved music since I was a kid. I’m not completely at peace when I’m not doing it.”
The Arlington, Texas-based singer thinks it’s the same way for his audience.
“There’s something in the music that inspired them, made them feel better,” he says. “There are memories tied to the music and all those memories come back when you hear those songs again.”
After “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong” climbed both pop and country charts in 1975, Thomas turned his focus from easy listening to country for a period of about 10 years, producing hits like “Whatever Happened To Old-Fashioned Love” and “New Looks From An Old Lover.”
Also in the mid-70s, Thomas recovered from drug addiction and, at his wife Gloria’s urging, began recording gospel music. In 1976, his “Home Where I Belong” became the first platinum-selling gospel record and also brought Thomas his first Grammy Award.
Thomas scored another somewhat unlikely hit with the theme song to the sitcom, “Growing Pains,” once described as “the ‘Father Knows Best’ of the 1980s.” Over the show’s run, the theme was played as a Thomas duet with both Jennifer Warnes and Dusty Springfield, and with Thomas singing solo.
His recording of “Raindrops” was selected in 2014 for the Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which the Grammys say recognize “recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old.”
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career to be able to sing some great songs,” he says. “I’ve had a great life that I’ve been able to enjoy and I’ve been very blessed.”
Joining Thomas on The Palace stage will be Donna Groom, lead female vocalist for Jimmy Beaumont & The Skyliners.
The Pittsburgh-based performer and Duquesne University music graduate is also a professional studio musician and singer. She has worked on several PBS “My Music” series programs and has written and recorded local and regional television and radio jingles.
Groom has worked with musical acts such as Martina McBride, The Temptations, pianist Roger Williams, Air Supply and Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .