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Charlie Thomas (April 7, 1937 – January 31, 2023)
Charlie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 along with several other former members of The Drifters.
I, Mark Sonder, want to share with you 3 stories out of so many about Charlie.
I remember fondly the first time working with The Drifters. Charlie was the lead vocalist, and Elsbeary Hobbs was the bass vocalist. Both were inducted as Drifters into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was at Ft. Adams State Park, where the famous Newport Jazz Festival performed, in Rhode Island back in 1988. It was a huge show where The Drifters opened for Dionne Warwick. By the way, they also sang backup for Dionne in her early recordings! It was then my association with The Drifters started and the relationship continues to this day!
I also remember taking The Drifters, with Charlie on lead, to National Stadium in Hamilton, Bermuda. This was an epic show for approximately 10,000 people. The band I used on this international date was the same band I used to back The Drifters last August at the Ohio State Fair! Funny story, I took them all out to the Hibachi restaurant in the hotel. When it came to ordering dessert, Charlie, who was built like a football halfback, and who, sitting at the Hibachi table, towered over our Japanese waitress, said to her, “honey, do you have any sweet potato pie?” She did not know what that was, but we all laughed, especially since Charlie was serious!
Another fond memory was another show with 10,000 people in Worchester, MA at their indoor arena. Reverend Jesse Jackson was the main speaker with Michael Vale, the "Time to make the donuts" Dunkin’ Donuts Man and others, with The Drifters closing the show. In the rehearsal, we timed all the tunes, and we were apparently, going to go into overtime, which would have cost the Promoter additional monies. Hence, as the Agent on stage, I looked over the keyboardist’s shoulder at his lead sheet, and said, let’s cut from letter C to letter H. And the entire backup band for The Drifters said, “Oh crap, he reads music!” Charlie took us into OT anyway as the audience was egging him on. After they finished the tune that brought the house into OT, the Executive Producer, looked at me and I knew it was over. I became the Voice of G-d and said good night. Charlie was livid, but he gave me one of his big bear hug goodbyes and said, Thanks Mr. BossMan.”
And now I can say as I always said to him, “Actually thank YOU, Charlie,” and send him a big bear hug posthumously!
Rest in peace, my friend. Charles Thomas (April 7, 1937 – January 31, 2023)
American Independent Business Alliance (AIBA), Front Royal/VA affiliate, founding member
Association of Entertainment Professionals (AEP), founding member
International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM)
International Entertainment Buyers Association (IEBA)
International Festivals & Events Association (IFEA)
International Institute for Sustainable Tourism (IIST)