On April 10, 2017, Banner Thomas succumbed to a heart attack having fought during several months against a pneumonia. He was sixty-three.
He participated in Molly Hatchet’s adventure from 1973. Without being the most charismatic member of the combo, he played on the four first albums, contributing widely to the development of this mythical group, first, asking Dave Hlubek to accompany him to the bookshop of their district to get back the book which Banner had ordered (to drag Dave in this kind of place was a matter of the tour de force). By going through a magazine, both friends fell on drawings of Frazetta and the famous rider marked their imagination. They had found the ideal sleeve for their first record. Then, by participating actively in the repertoire of the band. He wrote the lyrics of «Gator country », one of the songs of anthology of Molly Hatchet and of the « Southern rock » in general.

He was involved in the composition of « I’ll be running », « Boogie no more », « Flirtin’ with disaster », « Good rockin’ », « Beatin’ the odds », « Bloody reunion », « Loss of control » and « Don’t mess around ». He wrote alone the magnificent « Sailor » and « All mine ». He also composed with the assistance of Jimmy Farrar the sulphurous « Dead and gone ». We shall note in passing that all these titles are most « hard » of the band.
Yes, Banner Thomas had a pronounced taste for the hard rock and it could be heard in his way of playing. His style of bass unmistakably contributed to the so distinctive sound of Molly Hatchet. Ah, the bass of Banner! Adjectives are not missing to describe it.
Fast and heady on "Bounty Hunter", it steps into the breach with the guitars at the end of the chorus and drops a solitary phrase just after the break. Galloping on « Gator country », it accompanies perfectly the hypnotic drums part of « The creeper ». Bewitching on « Dreams I’ll never see », it purrs noisily from the intro of « Whiskey man ». Simple but essential on « One man’s pleasure », it follows closely the vertiginous tempo of « Boogie no more ».
Threatening on « Flirtin’ with disaster », it supports the infernal rhythm of « Beatin’ the odds ». Striking on « Penthouse pauper », it drives with the pedal to the metal on « Double talker ». Very rock on « Sailor » and « Bloody reunion », it becomes almost hard on« Respect me in the morning », « Loss of control », « Don’t mess around » and « Dead giveaway ». As for Banner’s sound in concert, you only have to listen to « The harp jam » (on the excellent 1979 “Live at the Agora Ballroom”) to take advantage of a great solo of bass to the limit of the saturation.

Discreet and effective, Banner Thomas made spit his bass within Molly Hatchet until a major yelling with Dave Hlubek makes him leave suddenly the band in full promotional tour of « Take no prisonners ». Many years later, he participated in the concert of support for Danny Joe Brown. We again heard about him with "Big Engine" (a band of Southern hard rock) in the early 2000s. Lately, Banner continued apparently to occur more or less regularly in the Trade Winds Lounge with a group of friends. Unfortunately, the disease took him. One gone again, one more. From the original old Molly Hatchet, it does not stay more than Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland. We can also add Jimmy Farrar, he deserves it well.
Us, we have a bitter taste in the mouth and the nostalgic reflections about the time which passes.
Banner Thomas went to see if his old youth buddies remembered old songs of their debuts.
In the muddy swamps of Florida, alligators cry his name.

Olivier Aubry (June 2017)

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