The name Joe Thomas might be a good one to drop at St. Peter's gate, provided the almighty security force can be convinced that one of several gospel performers with this name is being mentioned and not one of the heathens who wrote rock & roll songs. One Joe Thomas could be mistaken for another without having to leave the world of sacred music; this artist could even be mixed up with his father without departing the ranks of one particular group, the noted Gospel Hummingbirds.
It was Joe Thomas, Sr. who started this excellent vocal group in the early '60s. His configuration of harmonizing broke up before achieving anything close to a national following. In the next decade, however, prodigal son Joe Arden Thomas, Jr. and partner Roy Tyler put forth a new Gospel Hummingbirds proposition. The second generation Thomas -- not to be mistaken for R&B crooner Joe (real name Joe Thomas, whose own background includes gospel -- proved to be a different kind of bandleader. He came up with a significant series of original gospel songs and helped in the delivery of instrumental style with steady playing on both guitar and bass.
During the early '80s Thomas helped with an effort to release a pair of albums on a local imprint, W and E. Barnstorming through the Southern church circuit, the new version of the group eventually became one of the top attractions on the international gospel combo scene. The genre itself became a much more mainstream American attraction during this period, bolstered in part by classic rock's fervid embrace. The junior Thomas tenor shows up here and there in rocking music, even some Southern rock, but the group tends to credited as an entity rather than individually.