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Ray Thomas at 65: Legend of a Man
by Melanie Rose White
2006-12-30 10:48:03
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Picture a six-foot robust guy, with a booming baritone voice that commands your attention, and the word “sparkly” probably doesn’t come to mind. Yet for the crowds of Moody Blues fans, founding band member Ray Thomas does sparkle. Ray turns 65 on December 29 and, though retired, this twinkling-eyed musician remains a fan favorite.

rthomas4_400 Throughout his career with the band, Ray’s contributions are a study in contrasts. Compare the whimsy of his song “Nice to Be Here,” (from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour) with no fewer than nine playful critters to the sobering introspection of “Veteran Cosmic Rocker.” Ray’s airy, lighthearted flute in “Legend of a Mind” (one of the most popular Moodies stage songs) contrasts sharply with his melancholy “Eternity Road.”

Four decades ago though, there was nothing whimsical or playful about the Moody Blues. Just the opposite. This one-time support band of the Beatles was practically broke, Ray was in debt, and no one would have blamed Ray, Mike Pinder, or Graeme Edge had they folded. Luckily, it wasn’t long before Ray contacted John Lodge and Justin Hayward to express interest in them teaming up with the remaining trio, and a new incarnation of the band was created. Fans owe Ray a great deal of thanks for his efforts in the early days—for choosing to continue the Moody Blues and for agreeing to give Justin and John a shot.

Ray’s collaboration with his fellow bandmates in songwriting and performing was spectacular. In the video, Legend of a Band, Ray speaks affectionately of the Moodies, “I think we’re like brothers. I think we’re closer than just friends. It’s more like family.” Some of the band’s most effective concert performances were co-written with Ray. His collaborations with Justin including, “Are You Sitting Comfortably,” and “Watching and Waiting,” are crowd-pleasers, and “The Balance” with Graeme, is well received, too.

As far as we know, Ray and John have never written a song together, which is surprising considering that they met asrthomas5_400 teens, years before becoming members of the Moodies.

In addition to his vocal performances and songwriting, Ray is legendary in the music world for being the first rock ‘n’ roll performer to play the flute in concert. Though there have since been quite a few other flautists in the rock business—think Ian Anderson and Tull, Walter Parazaider and Chicago, and Peter Gabriel and Genesis—in the 60s using a flute in a rock band was unusual. “California Dreamin’” is another early example of using orchestral instruments in pop music. Ray’s adept playing has inspired more than a few Moodies fans to learn to play the flute. In addition to the flute, Ray is also an accomplished harmonica and sax player.

In his later years of performing with the Moodies, Ray most often appeared on stage elegantly attired in a crisp dress shirt and trousers. Contrast this with his early days in El Riot and the Rebels—a rhythm and blues group that included Mike and John—when Ray would spring onto stage with a knee-splitting landing, dressed in skin-clinging costumes. From El Riot, Ray prowled with the Krew Kats, another Birmingham, England, R&B group, where he performed with Mike. Before long, Ray and Mike teamed up with Graeme, Clint Warwick, and Denny Laine to form the initial Moody Blues—frequently called the Mark I grouping.

Although Ray is best known for his work with the Moodies, he did create two solo albums during the band’s hiatus in the 1970s. From Mighty Oaks, (1975) was co-produced with Derek Varnals, whom Ray had known through Derek’s work with the Moody Blues. FMO contains several tracks backed by an orchestra and themes that echo Moody songs. In 1976, he recorded Hopes Wishes & Dreams, prior to the Moodies return to the studio and the making of Octave.

rthomas1_400 Throughout his musical career, Ray’s love of fishing has been well publicized. Maybe it’s just a “fish tale,” but during one of the band’s tours in the Pacific Northwest, reportedly Ray decided to take advantage of his hotel’s upper-story window’s proximity to a stream nearby and cast his rod into the fish-filled waters far below. As he reeled in his catch, another band member asked him what he was planning on doing with the fish, adding that Ray couldn’t very well throw them back in from such a distance in the hotel room. His solution? Fill the bathtub with water and toss his catch in there. One can only imagine the hotel maid’s surprise upon entering the bathroom!

It’s stories like these that underscore the impishness and almost childlike spirit of Ray, which delight so many Moodies fans. One of his last contributions to a Moody Blues album was “My Little Lovely” on Strange Times. Although fans loved the song, (written as a tribute to Ray’s grandchild), some fans bemoaned the song’s brevity at 01:45. Ray once said “I like writing simple tunes, because if it’s a simple tune, you don’t clutter it up. You start off with a set of lyrics and you can go two ways—turn it into a great epic or a nice, simple ditty. I always think that [too much] electronics are a bit fierce.”

In contrast to an overly synthesized world, Ray talks about the magic of Moodies music in the Legend video as “a little bit of fairy dust.” It’s that bit of gleam that has touched so many of Ray’s songs and has characterized his music.

In his retirement, Ray enjoys spending time with his family and fishing. Happy #65, Ray. Sparkle on!

“Fairy tales sometimes come true
Use fairy dust and pixie glue
Then all the love will stick to you
My little lovely.”

—From “My Little Lovely” by Ray Thomas

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john cain, niagara falls2006-12-29 16:58:13
Thank you for making my day! What a wonderful, inciteful and heartfelt article about one of my favorite artists. As a Moodies fan since 1968, I was saddened when Ray retired, but happy that he could now enjoy the fruits of his long and distiguished career. My favorite memories of Ray? Shaking hands with him offstage while he was having a quick smoke before starting their oncore at the old Ontario Place Forum in Toronto. Every single time he did Legend of A Mind in concert. Each one was a mastepiece. The very last time I saw him in concert, at Shea's Theatre in Buffalo, before his retirement. His rendition of For My Lady was absolutely stunning! The pitch of his voice was like a fine musicle instrument, rising and lowering in timbre with each phrase. Ray hit it out of the park that night! Thanks again for Melanie for tha rare gem of an article. I have printed it off and will save it forever!

Ken Barnhart2006-12-29 17:06:51
Nice article, Melanie. Ray's gift to the world has touched millions. Happy retirement and happy 65th, Ray!

patrick hudson2006-12-30 00:49:36
i hope ray is injoying his retirement.because during his time with the band he has given so much to so many,myself included.i will never forget him and never stop missing him.every time i hear the band or listen to one of his songs a true joy is felt by me.in return i hope ray will always have such joy in his life.

Doug2006-12-30 01:04:52
Liked the article, but wish that Ray's retirement didn't mean cutting himself off completely from his very loyal fans. Still waiting for the Moodies -- Ray, Mike, Justin, John and Graeme -- to put together a one-time DVD reunion concert. What a gift that would be!

Clint2006-12-30 15:12:00
The river of life flows swiftly into the sea of time,
Our lives were made for living my joy is in your smile
Great Lyrics, Great Man, Great Son!

Tuire2006-12-30 21:20:29
Thank you for this wonderful article! Haven't heard about the fish in a bathtube before !LOL! Ray was a great songwriter, and IMO had the best voice in the band. All his songs belong into my top favorites. Unfortunately I didn't have opportunity to see him in a concert.

Justin D. Moore2006-12-31 00:03:35
Dear Dr. Livington, I presume to recall that "fish" incident was in Seattle @ the Edgewater Hotel on a pier ON the saltwater of Puget Sound where the Moodies stayed again for the LDV Tour. The Beatles also stayed there during their tour dates.
Ray's mellow voice will always be masterfully remembered in "For My Lady" from Seventh Sojourn and heard at my wedding for MY lady, Debbie.
Thank you, Ray! Happy 65!

cindi rudes2006-12-31 02:44:04
Great article Melanie!! I'm so glad the Moodies put out so many albums over the years so we'll always have the BEAUTIFUL VOICE in the world.
I hope Ray had a great birthday!

Jan, Sweden2006-12-31 21:13:38
I hope you had a great birthday Ray! Nice article, very sympathetic. I first met the Moodies in '73 when they played Stockholm, since then I've seen them for appr. 20 times. But I miss Ray and his flute and voice. I agree with Doug, please a one-off with the originals. I would love to hear Eternity Road and Lost in a Lost World with the origianl setting. Happy New Year!

Grateful Ted, Salem Massa2006-12-31 21:28:26
I'm proud to have met Ray several times while with the Moodies! He always took some time to auotograph whatever peice of material I gave him! He always was fasinated at the stuff I brought him to sign for they were unique! I have a picture of him & me from Portland, Maine at the triple oaks hotel they stayed at. And I'm glad to say that I was at the very last concert he performed in at Mohegan Sun Arena . Though all the fans do miss him very much we all understand that there is a time when you've got to say it's been fun but no thanks, it's time to relax with what time we have left. I'm sure we all hope the best for Ray and hope he lives to be One hundred years old!!

Svend, Denmark2007-01-01 12:46:06
Very nice article for Ray.
We surly miss him very much!
Happy birthday Ray :-)

Gary/Prescott, AZ.2007-01-02 06:06:12
Wonderful article! I'll never forget seeing the Moodies in Las Vegas a couple of years before he retired. Even though Ray looked tired, he did a stunning "Legend Of A Mind." After that long flute solo he looked at the crowd with an expression on his face that said...thought you didn't think I could still do it....a classic expression that I will always remember. I never met him, but would haveloved to. A pure class act.

armando a cortez2007-01-02 08:45:35
Ray I was saddened to hear that you retired, but hey I, or rather We cant be all that greedy. Things do come to an end, I only hope that you will forever enjoy your time and life with your family. You have brought me great pleasure and deep thought with your introspective lyrics and music . I will miss you.

Charlotte2007-01-08 01:41:27
I am one of those many moodies fans who learned the flute after Ray. I always loved hearing him play and he is such a great musician. Thanks Ray for inspiring me to learn the flute and happy 65th!

John, French Vocalist and2007-01-09 22:35:39
Ray...Where are you now...In the nights of white satin ?
On a Gemini Dream or are you just a singer in a rock and roll band ? No, you are Ray, our dear and old friend, and i miss you so much...Rain and tears are rolling down my face, you go to the other side of your wonderful life, and we're are so sad....
God bless you, Ray, and happy new year ....

Mother2007-01-10 22:21:42
I'll have a scotch and coke please, Mother.

Dana Grubb, Bethlehem2007-01-11 01:41:36
Thank you for your tribute honoring Ray Thomas on his 65th birthday.
I miss him, like many other fans do as well. His voice, that twinkle in his eye, and his persona as an original Moody Blue bring wonderful memories of much music and many concerts.
He's a legend in my mind!

Gail Keller (Canton, Ohio2007-01-12 03:15:22
A wonderful tribute for a wonderful musican and singer. Happy Birthday to you Ray. Wish you'd do a come back tour. We miss you with all our hearts. Enjoy the fishing. Melanie thanks so much for this lovely article.

Michelle, Youngstown, OH2007-01-12 03:32:44
Melanie: Got a note from Ken B. about your article and was happy to see it! Thanks for taking the time to write such a nice tribute. I haven't seen the Moodies in concert since Ray retired. It just wouldn't be the same without him. Ray, if you are reading this, belated happy birthday! Hope you are enjoying your retirement. Take care of yourself! We miss you!

Fred Kellogg (La Jolla, C2007-01-12 23:00:14
Ray Thomas was truly the veteran cosmic rocker. He is missed.

Kenneth Bahlinger, Baton2007-01-13 05:49:47
I always remember the great shows with Ray, his voice and flute, especially when listening to the Moodies. The best memory of Ray is one that occurred during the drum toss. As Ray was playing the tamborine, someone missed a couple of drumsticks and they flew out on the stage in front of Ray. He put the tamborine over his head, crotched down and looked back at Graeme. Happy Birthday Ray.

Linda P Canton,OH2007-01-13 22:21:15
Thanks for the great article about Ray. Been wondering how he is doing. Miss him in concert. Love what he always added to the shows!Happy 65th Ray! : )

Michael2007-01-23 16:42:32
Ray was a great and is still a great musician. It's unfortunate that after the Moodies reunion he didn't participate very much in the singing/songwriting. His voice is superb and can be recognized anywhere. His 2 solo albums were fantastic but unfortunately, Hopes, Wishes, and Dreams can't be found in the CD format which many fans crave to have. Maybe Ray would consider re-releasing both of his solo works. Ray is very much missed with the Moodies. Happy retirement Ray.

Asa2007-01-24 09:26:28
Hey Michael,

Thanks for the comments on our magazine and Melanie's great article.

I bought my Dad Ray's second album on CD at Christmas from here:


Linda Brown (WVa.)2007-01-26 06:15:59
Great article, Melanie! I still miss Ray's contributions to the band TERRIBLY! Much Love and happiness, Ray!

Cathy M. (WVa)2007-01-27 03:56:33
I enjoyed the article Melanie. "My Little Lovely" is one of my favorites.
"Not all angels can grow wings,
They seem to soar by other means,
You'll fly too although it seems,
A little slowly."
It always reminds me of Tiffany. Thanks Ray. We miss you.

Luis Guadalupe2007-01-31 21:03:33
Thanks Melanie for a terrific article! I am from Peru, in South America, and I am huge fan of Moody Blues. I love their music, but in my opinion, their best music they created was from the 60's. And in those years, Ray's flute was a very important part of Moody's music. Thanks Ray for all you gave us with your flute to our ears! Your flute in "Nights In White Satin" still makes me thrill. All Moodys fans miss you, but because ALL you gave to us, you deserve a happy retirement. God bless you Ray, now and always!!


Lucy, Cal.2007-02-04 09:55:53
Very nice article! It made me smile! Impish was a prfect descriptor!

Lily2007-02-04 11:28:23
Two thumbs up! Thank you for remembering our favorite flautist.

Fiona Burnley2007-02-05 00:49:57
Lovely tribute to Ray. Much missed both on record and on stage.

juan manuel2007-02-14 17:40:44
dear friends,thanks a lot for this great tribute to ray...we really miss him. he,s a great artist and a great person

Lynn2007-02-22 15:56:06
It was great to see Ray. Happy Birthday to him. I miss you Ray!!!!

guido2007-02-26 00:29:30
i had the opportunity to see the moody blues in pittsburgh, pa about 3 years ago...i must say that it wasn't quite the same without ray (with his incredible high tones)...it was good, but nonetheless, it was lacking...how i long for the 'old days', when they were all 'the band' to be listened to. i still recall listening to them for the very first time (even though under the influence)...they nwere, and still are, the most incredible band i have ever heard...everything they talk about it for real, another way of looking at life...just absolutely blows me away...by the way, just got done watching 'live at red rocks'...takes me back...all the best to you, my man...you can consider yourself to be a premier artist, in my opinion...have a fine time in your retirement...you deserve it...thank you for all the memories...

Gordon2007-03-04 00:50:59
I met Ray Thomas twice. He seemed depressed. I just wish that I had the balls to tell him that For My Lady aws one of the most beautiful songs ever written..it used to make my girlfriend cry....

James Jones2007-03-11 20:30:27
I liked all the Moody Blues. It was a shame that Ray Thomas was not featured that much especially after "The Present." He was one of the most under rated musicians in rock. I loved his voice, his flute and his songs. I never did know or understand why there was so little of Ray Thomas after 1983 in the Moody Blues. Happy retirement Ray.

Artie W.2007-04-08 04:20:00

Great tribute to Ray- wish the 5 of them could do one more album with the famous words on the bottom, i.e. "All instruments played by The Moody Blues". Just one more time, please...

Jeff, Streamwood, Il2007-04-08 19:38:04
The boys still sound great in concert. I nearly always go when they pass through the Chicago area. But, there's an obvious vacancy of that tenored sound. God bless ya Ray. Happy BD! Enjoy that retirement as you should.

kenneth leckenby2007-10-16 16:18:46
how do i get a copy of (hopes wishes&dreams)

Tim Wilson2007-12-10 01:00:29
Ray Thomas is a great guy! The Moody Blues wasn't complete without him and he was a natural part of one of the world's greatest bands. There will always be Ray Thomas & Moody Blues fans and I am grateful to be one myself...MOODIES FOR EVER!!

Ron Fowler2008-08-22 00:02:38
Ive been a moody fan since day 1 ,never ever thought id get to meet this really great man, but purley by chance this year i did ,and he has become a really great friendwho i pop in and see every couple of weeks or so , he is a great fisherman ,who spends his time with hes great lady ,LEE, who makes me just the best coffee in the world, so this true gent who i used to go and see with the other great band members , inow have the great honour, to call my friend

Toni Henderson2009-03-16 08:46:02
What a great article i miss that voice so much. To Ron Fowler. When you talk to Ray again. Tell him I and all his fans would love a solo album of him singing songs such as Maria, west side story
Songs from Broadway shows, Danny Boy etc. I miss his voice so much...Ray please leave us a legacy for generations to play for ever.

Mark Stafford, Colorado S2009-07-04 10:04:15
We were fortunate to meet Ray briefly at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. His legacy as haunting flautist. mystic songwriter and extraordinary vocalist will live on as Justin, John and Graeme carry on the legend of the Moody Blues. Thanks for all the wonderful music!!

moodybluegirl@yahoo.com2009-08-27 18:24:07
we love and miss you Ray!

nick2010-07-30 22:36:15
god bless ray hope 2 see you at threshold records on sept 21st

nick2010-07-30 22:37:13
thankyou for all your wonderful songs

rob from cornwall2010-08-14 10:27:31
Lovely to read this
The great news is......Rays solo albums remastered an a new song. SEPT 2010.

Patricia2011-01-24 14:22:20
THIS LADY thanks you for your part in the decades of music you thrilled us with, enjoy your retirement Ray...we love you always and forever

Stephen Aubery2011-10-09 07:24:12
Ray, I loved you for many decades in the Moodies. I now applaud you for taking your life into your own hands and doing what makes you you happy. Yes, I miss you, but I
applaud you for doing what you want to do with your family. I still love listening to your solo albums "From Might Oaks" and "Hopes, Wishes and Dreams." I wish you all the best in your family life. After all, that's what it's all about.

Bless you, my friend.

Stephen Aubery

john2011-10-22 04:02:44
Ray, if you can do one more concert with Moodies even though you are 70+. I suspect the voice is still there for one night and all your fans would love to hear you sing For My Lady once more

dawn heald2013-03-13 18:12:17
when my husband, brad n I met, 33 years ago, only 2 things in common, sex,(awesome), and moody blues, 2 totally awesome our favorite band, n Ray Thomas, favrte member:).. seen them on cple of r anniveraries, sd, ca, n chrlltte, nc...hey Ray-there u go man, keep as cool as u can, face piles of trials with smiles, it riles them to believe, that u percieve, the web the weave, n keep on thinking free:) Abba bless u n yours in Christ.(i'm a Jesus Freak, Brad, NOT! lol, but believes, Compassion for your fellow man, most important thing,(or said that 33 years ago, to get in my pants, me, hook, line, sinker, catch a few me:) enjoy bro, loves the only reason why:)

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