1874, Big Sandy, Texas, USA, d. c.1930. One of the oldest black folk artists to record during the 20s, Thomas highly individual repertoire of rags, breakdowns, church songs and ballads is of considerable importance to musicologists seeking to document the milieu from which the blues developed. Born to ex-slaves on a sharecropping farm in east Texas, Thomas was more than 50 when he first recorded in Chicago in July 1927. Thus, the songs from that and two other 1927 sessions, and single sessions in 1928 and 1929, were already some decades out of date. Although seven of his 23 issued sides were labelled blues, very few conformed to any of the established metrical patterns. His nickname of Ragtime Texas defined more nearly the nature of his music than it did his penchant for constant travelling. He sometimes supplemented his loud voice with Pan-pipes, though his technique was far more rudimentary than that of men such as Sid Hemphill, who...
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