Mickey Thomas has found his way back in many ways.
The singer who returns to his former hometown Stateline, Lake Tahoe for a Saturday night performance said he went back to the style of his music from the beginning of his career to produce the first Starship studio album since 1989. And he’s “Fooled Around” with Elvin Bishop again.
“Loveless Fasination” by Starship featuring Mickey Thomas was released Sept. 17 by Loud and Proud Records.
“It’s almost like a combination of retro ‘70s with a lot of modern elements thrown in as well,” Thomas told Tahoe Onstage. “Everybody that hears the album is surprised by it. People are expecting more of a mid-80s type of sound and … we wanted to destroy that myth and make a real rock ‘n’ roll record. So I think it has set people on their ear a little bit.”
News that Thomas and Bishop have collaborated in the studio again will set more people on their ear.
Before Thomas was busting out hit songs with Jefferson Starship, he sang with Bishop during the longtime bluesman’s southern rock era in the 1970s. Thomas’ falsetto is featured on Bishop’s greatest hit, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which reached No. 3 on Billboard’s pop charts in 1976.
Bishop and Thomas have reunited on two Blues Cruises and a couple of festivals and last month were together at a familiar location, Bishop’s home studio.
“Just before Christmas I went up to San Francisco and sang in a couple of songs for Elvin’s new album that’s probably coming out in spring,” Thomas said. “We did one duet together and I sang on a song that’s almost like the long, 35-year follow up to ‘Fooled Around and Fell in Love,’ ‘Let Your Woman Have Her Way.’
Thomas has played Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in January or February for the past several years. Now a resident of Palm Springs, he detailed difficulties in finding his way back to Tahoe this week. On Wednesday his 15-year-old grandson had an hourlong ambulance ride en route to surgery for a broken arm. On Thursday Thomas had delayed flights and missed connections before finally landing in Reno. He said he looks forward to being back in Tahoe onstage for the first Starship concert in more than two months. He said three or four of the songs from the new album will be included in the South Shore Room performance.
Here’s more from the Tahoe Onstage interview:
— On the new album, “Loveless Fasination,” and producer Jeff Pilson, also known for playing with Dokken and Foreigner.
“We talked about it for long enough, we figured we might as well go do it. Obviously, I kind of stopped and started it along the way. Sometimes it’s a question of trying to get the right team together. … Finally all of the elements came together when I hooked up with Jeff Pilson, who produced and wrote a lot of the album. We discovered we had the right natural chemistry right from the get-go. We had the same vision for this album. It was tough because based on the most recent successes of Starship, you know, ‘We Built This City’ and ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us’ and songs of that nature, I felt trapped to recreate that era of Starship. Finally when Jeff and I hooked up we thought let’s just go back to the beginning to the kind of music I was making in the ’70s and early ’80s. More like the ‘Jane’s’ and ‘Find Your Way Back’ and that kind of music.”
— Thomas described the unique sound of the hit song “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
“It’s almost a synthesis of ‘60s R&B that was coming out of Muscle Shoals with some country elements. So to me it was Muscle Shoals meets Nashville with the signature guitar licks that Johnny “V” Vernazza played on it.”
— On Elvin Bishop, whose regular touring band will play on the upcoming record along with Charlie Musselwhite.
“He should be in the Blues Hall of Fame and all of those things. He’s the real deal. Elvin is a true bluesman. He’s just playing great. He just turned 70 and he shows no signs of slowing down. We did that up at Elvin’s studio at his house in Lagunitas, California in Marin Country. It was the same house he was living in when I joined his band in 1975.”
— On the news the Allman Brothers likely will call it quits after 2014. Like the Allman Brothers, Thomas is from Georgia. Starship tours next month in New Zealand with fellow southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“They meant so much to the Southern music scene and the people who lived in the South because it was like they were ours and we were so proud of that and that whole southern rock genre that they more than anyone else helped to create. I was 19, 20 years old when they first broke on the scene … we all felt like we were a part of it in a small way, part of that scene that they were helping to create nationwide and worldwide and the recognition they were brining to the South. And Capricorn Records was a big part of it too with Phil Walden and the studios he built there in Macon and luring a lot of other artists to come from other parts of the country to come down to Macon and make records there. Then, of course, he signed Elvin and we went down there and made a couple of records and that’s how we got roped into the whole southern rock genre, the Elvin Bishop band. But we were roped in there with the Marshall Tuckers and Lynyrd Skynyrds and Wet Willies of the world, which is not a bad place to be. … We used to tour a lot with Lynyrd Skynyrd back in the ’70s.”
Starship featuring Mickey Thomas
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe