born on 4/10/1937 in East St. Louis, IL, United States
died on 8/5/1999
Amos Leon Thomas, Jr. (October 4, 1937 May 8, 1999) was an American avant-garde jazz singer from East St. Louis, Illinois.
Thomas studied music at Tennessee State University. In the 1960s he was a vocalist for Count Basie and others.
In 1969, he released his first solo album for the prestigious Flying Dutchman label. However he made an earlier album that is still unreleased even now.
He was largely forgotten until a resurgence of interest in soul jazz. Several of his tracks have been sampled in hip-hop and downtempo records.
He changed his name to Leone in 1974 because of an interest he had in numerology at the time. He did not legally change his name and he reverted to Leon shortly thereafter.
Thomas is best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song "The Creator Has a Master Plan" from Sanders' Karma album. Thomas's most distinctive device was that he often broke out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal. This style has influenced singers James Moody, Tim Buckley and Bobby McFerrin, among others. He said in an interview that he developed this style after he fell and broke his teeth before an important show.
Thomas toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana in 1973.
Thomas died of heart failure on May 8, 1999.
- Spirits Known And Unknown (Flying Dutchman, 1969)
- The Leon Thomas Album (Flying Dutchman, 1970)
- Blues and the Soulful Truth (Flying Dutchman, 1972)
- Full Circle (Flying Dutchman, 1973)
- Gold Sunrise on Magic Mountain (live) (Flying Dutchman, 1971)
- Live In Berlin with Oliver Nelson (Flying Dutchman, 1971)
- The Leon Thomas Blues Band (Portrait, 1988)
- Facets (compilation) (Flying Dutchman)
- Anthology (compilation) (Soul Brother Records)
- A Piece Of Cake (Palcoscenico Records)
- The Creator 1969-1973: The Best Of The Flying Dutchman (compilation) (Flying Dutchman, 2013)
With Pharoah Sanders
- Karma (1969)
- Jewels of Thought (1969)
- Iphizo Zam (1973)
- Shukuru (1983)
- Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong (1987)
- Welcome (1973)
- Lotus (1974)
With Archie Shepp
- Kwanza (1974)
Leon Thomas also recorded on an album called Pop Goes the Basie, Count Basie and his Orchestra. He sang Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman", track #3. Reprise, R-6153.