Kelly Thomas has been playing original music in the Greater Cincinnati area since her first project, Second Sister, in 1998. Thomas performed with Second Sister from 1998-2001, releasing an independent album, “A Thousand Lives” in 1998. The release, an acoustic album with sparse instrumentation, was very well received by local media. “A Thousand Lives is a robust and full-bodied record, highlighted by the triple vocal threat of Laurie Lehrter, Scott Miller and Kelly Thomas. The three have an almost-telepathic sense of each other vocally, making difficult three-part harmonies sound like a breeze. The members also show distinct vocal personality when they step to the lead mic, giving the album a fluid, enjoyable variety. This is as good a Folk-styled acoustic release you’ll hear from anyone, local or national.” Mike Breen, City Beat.
Second Sister eventually grew from an acoustic based trio to a full band, adding the talents of Chris Perrault on bass and Red MacCormack on drums. The band played many local events and was in the process of recording an album when MacCormack died of a drug overdose. The band felt unable to continue after the loss of MacCormack. In 2005, Thomas created The Red MacCormack Recording Grant Fund. Grants in the amount of $500 are awarded annually to local artists to help offset expenses associated with recording original albums. This seemed the perfect memorial for Red, a working musician. Thomas announces the grant winner each year at The Cincinnati Entertainment Awards. To date, 12 grants have been awarded.
The Rivertown Music Club 2003-2011
After Second Sister, Thomas continued performing periodically with Second Sister guitarist Scott Miller. In July of 2003 Thomas started The Rivertown Music Club. The concept was to have a musician’s night once a month where several local acts would share the evening. Thomas’s intention was to build a stronger sense of community amongst local players and to provide opportunities for those new to the scene to play a well promoted and run show with established local artists. After the first few shows Thomas added the charitable aspect that RTMC is well known for in Greater Cincinnati. It seemed silly to try to divide proceeds from a show, typically $300-$400 amongst 25 musicians. Thomas approached those booked for upcoming shows with the idea of selecting a worthwhile organization each month and making a donation of the door. Fast forward to 2010 and RTMC hosts a few multi-stage festivals per year and has donated around $10,000 to a number of local charities from shows.
The most successful shows tend to be the One More Girl on a Stage series that celebrates the music and strength of women. All acts have at least one girl and proceeds from these shows are donated to charities that provide support to women dealing with breast cancer. This series has nurtured many young women who are just getting their feet wet in the local music scene. Thomas has taken on a role as mentor with many young musicians over the years and believes in sharing her knowledge about dealing with booking, recording and promoting oneself as an artist. Thomas wrapped up The Rivertown Music Club in January of 2011 to pursue several creative opportunities.
Thomas recieved The Katie Reider Spirit of Music Award in 2010 for her musicianship and work with RTMC. She was the first person to be honored with this award.
Thomas currently performs with her band, Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups. The Fabulous Pickups are John Bedinghaus, Jeff Boling, Greg Hansen, Sylvia Mitchell and Kevin Hogle. They have a very organic, no nonsense, fun loving approach to music.
Thomas released a solo album, “Another Mile” in 2006. It consisted of many songs she had written, but never recorded, with former band mate, Scott Miller. It was well received locally and made City Beat’s top releases of 2006. For Thomas it represented the end of the Second Sister years and a time to move forward, truly as a solo artist.
Thomas’s sense of community is also obvious in her music. She has collaborated on several music projects. She wrote an EP with her friend, Ryan Malott of 500 Miles to Memphis. They recorded at Candyland Studios winter of 2009. The album received local and national acclaim. Thomas and Malott were nominated for two CEA’s in 2009, Best Country Act and Best New Artist and were signed to Deep Elm Records.
In 2010, Thomas got together local musicians; Ma Crow, Brad Meinerding, Sylvia Mitchell, Forrest Horn, Jeremy Pittman and John Bedinghaus, to record a gospel album. Thomas’s goal was for the record to sound as if you had stumbled into a hillbilly church, perhaps after a long night of sinning. The musicians decided to dub themselves, The Hayseed Tabernacle Choir. The group got together for 3 practices and cut the album live at Audiogrotto in Newport. They got 14 songs in 7 hours and the album indeed sounds like an old church service. The record, “Gone Home” was released on June 6, 2010 in Rabbit Hash Kentucky. "Gone Home" was listed as one of the top releases of 2010 by City Beat.
In 2011 Thomas launched a new band, The Tammy WhyNots! This project emulates the old school country style. The WhyNots are released a debut CD in May 2011. Kelly Thomas & The Fabulous Pickups also released their debut album, "Fly", in October of 2011. Both bands were nominated for Cincinnati Entertainment Awards in the Best Country Act Category. The WhyNots were also nominated for Best New Artist.
Thomas works as a teacher for Jobs For Cincinnati Graduates. She is as passionate about her work with young people at Oyler High School, as a job-readiness teacher, as she is about her music. Thomas hopes to impact her student’s lives and impart her sense of community and service to others as a life-long philosophy. Her students complete many community service projects each year and play a vital role with younger students at Oyler. Oyler has a 98% rate of poverty, yet Thomas’s students completed more community service hours than any other JCG school. Showing us all, everyone has something to give.