John Thomas, former guitarist for the Welsh hard rock band BUDGIE, passed away last night, shortly after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia. He was 63 years old.
His death was confirmed by the band's longtime drummer Steve Williams who broke the news on Facebook.
Williams wrote: "My friend and fellow BUDGIE band member John Thomas sadly passed away last night. My thoughts are with the loved ones he left behind."
Thomas, who grew up in Birmingham, joined BUDGIE in 1979 and recorded three albums with the band in the early 1980s — "Power Supply", "Nightflight" and "Deliver Us From Evil".
Thomas formed a close friendship with Randy Rhoads when BUDGIE toured with BLIZZARD OF OZZ in 1980.
"We became really good friends, from the minute we met each other," Thomas said. "We'd spend all our time together. When we finished the shows, we'd get back to the hotel and we'd get the guitars out. Every time we had a few days off, he came and stopped with me. All we did was play guitar together — it drove my wife spare. He was such a lovable guy".
Prior to BUDGIE, Thomas made two albums with U.K.-based southern rockers the GEORGE HATCHER BAND. Thomas also featured on Tom Galley's 1985 album "Phenomena", fulfilling a long-held ambition to play with Mel Galley and Glenn Hughes.
Thomas's recent recollections of his time in BUDGIE will grace the pages of a new book, "Time To Remember: Budgie's Heavy Revolution 1980-2010", due out in April. More information is available at this location.
In a 2007 interview, BUDGIE frontman Burke Shelley stated about John Thomas: "He was a great guitarist with great style and technique and he had a big sound at the time, and it was great, plus he was a good laugh. I think you probably know this, but maybe you don't, but he got ill and had a stroke, and that's why he had to leave. It became impossible for him to play the way he used to. But John is a great guitarist."
He added: "When John was in the band, we were touring with Ozzy [Osbourne], and John was big friends with [Ozzy's then-guitarist] Randy Rhoads. And Randy used to stay up at his place in Birmingham and all that, and they were mates. It's all about guitars, isn't it? [Laughs] They were guitar mad, weren't they? And they were good friends, and they even messed around and taped a few things together.
"It was great having John in the band. It was very sad the way it finished with John. But as a guitarist, he was spot on."
BUDGIE's music is often described as a cross between the progressive textures of RUSH and the heaviness of BLACK SABBATH.
Although BUDGIE remained quite obscure during its early career, many future stars of hard rock/metal have cited them as an important influence and covered their songs, including VAN HALEN, METALLICA and IRON MAIDEN.
Despite the fact that BUDGIE was never more than a cult attraction in the U.S., they always seemed to have a stronghold in Texas, which served as the site for a 2002 live album, "Life In San Antonio". John Thomas later said: "It's really quite strange that Texas really 'got' BUDGIE before anyone else, really. It's about the most un-English place you could ever be in, but for some reason the BUDGIE fans down there are totally into the band and ridiculously devoted. We play shows there and enormous numbers of people turn up just to see BUDGIE. They want to hear all the old classics and they keep asking when we're going back in the studio to do a new record. We could just keep playing in Texas forever."