In addition to serving as the longtime vocalist with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, Jimmy Thomas also recorded a series of solo singles lionized in today's Northern soul circles. Born January 20, 1939 in Osceola, AR, Thomas grew up steeped in the region's blues music -- guitarist Albert King was even a family friend. Thomas formed his first R&B group, the Trays, while still in high school; on King's recommendation, in 1958 he traveled to St. Louis to meet Turner, whose hugely popular Kings of Rhythm were looking for a new vocalist in the wake of singer Clayton Love's exit. Making his recorded debut during the group's now-famous Cobra label sessions in Chicago, Thomas remained with Turner for eight years, often doubling as the guitarist's songwriting partner on singles including "You Can Go," "Jack Rabbit," "The Darkest Hour," and "Just Trying to Please You."
Thomas remained with the group when Tina Turner signed on and Ike rechristened the combo the Ike & Tina Turner Revue -- while touring the U.K., Thomas befriended producers Denny Cordell and Tony Visconti, who invited him to learn production under their auspices, and in 1969 he settled in London. Thomas soon began producing his own solo records, most notably the future Northern soul classics "The Beautiful Night" and "Where There's a Will (There's a Way)." For the Contempo label, he also wrote and produced the 1973 solo LP Abyss, and in 1979 formed his own label, Osceola.