Classic jazz trombonist John Thomas was associated with the Chicago jazz scene up until the time of his death in the early '70s, especially a wonderful repertory band led by Franz Jackson with which Thomas performed and recorded through the first half of the '60s. The '50s, on the other hand, may have simply depressed the trombonist with its onslaught of rock & roll, because he simply stopped playing completely -- representing the first major halt in musical action for this performer since his professional activities began in the Roaring Twenties.
Thomas was born in Kentucky but relocated to Chicago as a child, receiving his formal education in the Windy City and sliding into on-stage trombone performances with the Clarence Miller Orchestra circa 1923. Between 1927 and 1928 he worked with Erskine Tate, allowing an entry into Louis Armstrong's legendary Hot Seven. The trombonist continued working with a wide range of classic jazz bandleaders, including trumpeter Freddie Keppard. Thomas tended to trickle in and out of groups such as that of the aforementioned Tate and Reuben Reeves, in one lineup and then out of the next.
He was briefly with McKinney's Cotton Pickers for jobs in the Northeast in the '30s; in 1937 he was part of a touring revue fronted by pianist and singer Nat King Cole. Thomas was once again with Tate as well as drummer Floyd Campbell's outfit prior to switching his trombone case for the tool kit of a defense plant worker during the second World War. That hiatus from playing took place prior to dropping out completely during the '50s, as he did gig once again in a group led by guitarist Walter Dysett in 1944. He should not be confused with many other performers with this name, including a younger trombonist who recorded with Oliver Nelson.