Louis (Big Lou) Thomas
LOUIS “BIG LOU” THOMAS - BIOGRAPHY
A versatile drummer, whose diverse timekeeping has been an explosive musical force in his native South Carolina for many years, Louis “Big Lou” Thomas III has something exciting in common with Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown and Branford Marsalis. Like those legends, Thomas is an inductee in the South Carolina State University Jazz Hall of Fame for his many musical contributions to the school over the years; including triumphant performances with the school’s jazz band while he has pursued his degree in Music Education with a concentration in Percussion.
A native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, Thomas has been a regular over the years, playing with various bands at prominent local venues, such as Touch Bistro, Molly’s and The Cinema, a popular rental space for gigs and showcases. Thomas is also the first call drummer for private and community functions, as well as with many with local universities, which include SCSU and Claflin University, where he has played with the school’s jazz ensemble. He is the leader of The Groove Doctors, who perform set lists full of urban jazz, R&B, and other standards. Thomas also performs regularly with traditional jazz groups like The Roland Haynes Jazz Quartet. Jazz, along with rock, R&B, gospel, funk, heavy metal, smooth jazz, jazz fusion and blue grass are many of the genres Thomas has mastered during his expansive professional career.
Starting his career backing up the old school gospel family quartet The Sistrunk Brothers at the age of 12, he has kept the groove at his home church, New Mt. Zion Baptist Church. On Sundays since 2002, he has performed with that church’s Mass Choir as well as the Antioch Baptist Church Mass Choir. For several years, he also played in the rock band Dropping Dime, and he has also played with Gass and Company and Mudfish.
There was a point where Thomas’ worlds collided in a unique way every weekend. He played the latest hits by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Green Day and Stone Temple Pilots on Saturday night, then played the hip-hop gospel of Kirk Franklin and other contemporary performers on Sunday morning at church. Thomas’ passion has been equally with old school R&B as well as Gospel and he has performed his share of Earth, Wind & Fire and O’Jays classics during his career. He was also a producer and music director for Rell, the first male R&B singer to sign with New York City based Roc-A-Fella Records, where he recorded with Kanye West, Jay-Z, Consequence and Young Gunz.
During his childhood, Thomas recalls learning to play his mom’s clarinet before his family could afford a drum kit. He even switched middle schools at one point so he could play in both the marching and the jazz bands once he took up the drums. He was the first freshman at his high school to play “quad toms” and played in the jazz band all four years at Orangeburg Wilkinson High. As he was developing as a musician, Thomas was gaining inspiration from a variety of artists and genres, including traditional and contemporary gospel, classic R&B groups like Mint Condition and contemporary jazz great Chuck Mangione. He cites his drumming influences as David Haynes, Terry Gross, Calvin Napper, Calvin Rodgers, Peter Erskine, Lil John Roberts and Tony Royster, Jr.
While he’s long enjoyed being the proverbial big fish in a small pond, Thomas is also busy with the daily operations of his recording studio and Afro-D-Siac Barbering Studio, which are adjacent to each other. With all that’s going on with these businesses, Thomas is still eager to branch out and tour with the Groove Doctors, along with his endeavors with other R&B, Rock and Jazz artists. In his home region, “Big Lou” is the big guy at 6’ 4”, and has a big sound that finds the perfect sweet spot between the kind of intensity and ability to mix seamlessly with other musicians.
“I see myself as the ultimate, dependable pro drummer playing music the way people want it,” he says. “I always put in the maximum amount of preparation because I love what I do and those I help lay down the groove for deserve no less. I am committed to bringing the energy, excitement and passion of my instrument to all the bands I play with, and those who work with me always say I’m the guy they bring in because they want to cause a whole other reaction with the other musicians. My goal is to instigate the feeling and groove in the music and give things a kick. It’s all about being tasteful without overpowering the other musicians. I’m the ultimate drummer when it comes to creating that big sound while also knowing my role and blending in with the band.”
10" gospel splash
12" gospel splash
13" gospel hi hats
14" gospel crash
16" gospel crash
16" gospel stack
22" gospel ride
24" custom brilliant ride