You Say It's Your Birthday: The Moody Blues' Ray Thomas

Also Marianne Faithful's birthday.

Today is the birthday of Moody Blues flutist Ray Thomas,

born in 1941 in Stourport-on-Severn, England. The Moody Blues have survived

nearly four decades on their self-invented variety of symphony-laden

psychedelic pop. Before Thomas helped found the group in 1964, he played with

keyboardist Mike Pinder in Birmingham bands, like the rockabilly El Riot and

the R&B-influenced Krew Cats. Guitarist and vocalist Denny Laine came to the

Moody Blues after fronting his own band, while bassist Clint Warwick and

drummer Graeme Edge were playing for various outfits.

They were dubbed the

Moody Blues after Pinder's favorite song, Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," and

their earliest work was influenced by blues. They toured as an opener for

American blues legends travelling in the UK, like Little Walter Jacobs and

Sonny Boy Williamson.

In 1967 label the Moody Blues were signed to asked

them to record a rock version of Dvorak's "Symphony No. 9"; the group purchased

a Mellotron (an instrument also used by the Beatles on "Strawberry Fields

Forever) and began toying with lush-sounding orchestral accompaniments. Instead

of doing what the label had asked, the band moved in an entirely new direction,

recording Days of Future Passed (released in 1967). They began to find

popularity with singles like "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Nights in White Satin."

The latter tune not only went to #19 on the UK charts in 1967, but to #9 in

1972 and #14 in 1979, while it reached #2 on the US charts in 1972.

Between

1967 and 1972 all of the Blues' albums went gold. They took a sabbatical from

1972 to 1978; each member took on solo projects. (Thomas released From

Mighty Oaks in 1975 and Hopes Wishes and Dreams in 1976)

Although when they regrouped in 1978 the Moody Blues were regarded as obsolete,

they still managed a few hits with "Gemini Dream" and "Sitting at the Wheel."

Their newer material received little airplay through the 1980s; they had

something of a comeback with the release of 1986's The Other Side of

Life and 1988's Sur La Mer. Although subsequent albums have been

less successful, to this day the Moody Blues continued to tour, and attract a

good sized audience for their live shows. Other birthdays: Marianne Faithfull,

Robert Parissi (Wild Cherry) and Evan Seinfeld (Biohazard). -- Beth

Winegarner