b. 18 December 1946, Oakland, California, USA. Thomas heard music from an early age, travelling with his mother who sang with the Gateway Singers, a folk group. (His mother’s name appears to have been Elmerlee, which might account for some references suggesting that Thomas also sang with this group.) Through the 70s, he played guitar with various groups, playing blues, R&B, funk and fusions of these forms. In 1978 he retired from the professional stage and worked in the airline industry, meanwhile continuing to play privately. During the early 80s he gradually shifted towards acoustic playing and by mid-decade, when he decided to return to the music business, he had become an accomplished player of the acoustic guitar and was especially adept with steel guitar. In 1991 he formed the Elmer Lee Thomas Blues Revue with guitarist London Phillips and bass player Ken Webb. This was in the Bay Area of Northern California where the group became very popular.
The group’s second album led to Thomas becoming known to Brownie McGhee with whom he formed a personal friendship as well as benefiting from the veteran bluesman’s deep knowledge of the blues. McGhee began working with the group and in May 1995 they completed McGhee?s final recording session, later issued on The Last Great Blues Hero.