Moody Blues Co-Founder Ray Thomas Dies

Ray Thomas
Patti Ouderkirk / WireImage
– Ray Thomas
performing with The Moody Blues at Jones Beach in 1991

Ray Thomas, flautist and vocalist for British classic rock band The Moody Blues, passed away on Jan. 4 at his home in Surrey, England, at the age of 74.

His music label announced the news: “It is with profound sorrow and sadness that Cherry Red Records and Esoteric Recordings regret to announce that Ray Thomas, founder member, flautist and vocalist of the Moody Blues, passed away suddenly at his home in Surrey on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018.

“We are deeply shocked by his passing and will miss his warmth, humour and kindness. It was a privilege to have known and worked with him and our thoughts are with his family and his wife Lee at this sad time.”

Thomas was born in Stourport-on-Severn, close to Birmingham, England, Dec. 29, 1941. After playing in various blues and soul groups in from Birmingham in the early 1960s, he formed The Moody Blues together with Mike Pinder, Denny Laine, Graeme Edge and Clint Warwick. They enjoyed worldwide recognition with their cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now” in Jan. 1965.

The group’s lineup changed in 1966, when Justin Hayward and John Lodge replaced the departing Denny Laine and Clint Warwick. The group’s musical style changed too, and the incorporation of the Mellotron and Thomas’s flute playing were the reason why, today, Moody Blues is being credited as one of the first progressive rock bands. 

Ray Thomas
– Ray Thomas

Their first album released under the new lineup, Days of Future Passed, reached No. 1 one in the U.S. and spawned the hit-single “Nights in White Satin.” The band continued to release successful albums well into the late 1980s.

Thomas also released two solo albums in the mid-1970s: “From Mighty Oaks” (1975) and “Hopes Wishes and Dreams” (1976). He retired from The Moody Blues in 2002 due to health issues.

The Moody Blues, including Ray Thomas, are among the inductees of the 2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Band members Justin Hayward and John Lodge remembered their old friend.

Justin Hayward said: “My heartfelt condolences to Ray’s family. All my thoughts are with them, and I send them my love. Ray was a kind, generous and ‘giving’ musician and friend through all those magical years for the group, and I treasure all the music we made together.”

John Lodge said: “Ray and I have been on this magical journey through life together since we were 14…two young kids from Birmingham who reached for the stars…and we made it together. El Riot you will always be by my side.”