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TENOR GUITAR HALL OF FAME

JERRY THOMASON
Jerry Thomason may be one of American traditional music's best kept secrets. Son of the legendary fiddler Benny Thomasson, Jerry established himself as the preeminent Texas Style tenor guitarist through his signature style of accompaniment for Old Time fiddle music. Texas Style Old Time Fiddling originated in regions throughout Texas and Oklahoma dating back in to the 20-30's with players like Eck Robertson, Major Franklin, Herman Johnson, and Jerry's father Benny. What began as Old Time fiddling, evolved into a style that incorporated aspects of jazz, swing, and ragtime. Those players took very simple traditional tunes and embellished and modernized them through their complex and groovy improvisations. As the music's melody lines evolved and grew in complexity, the chord lines of the accompaniment began to get noter and increasingly sophisticated in it's rhythmic structure. 

The story has it that a couple of Texas Swing players were visiting Benny Thomasson in Texas when Jerry was a child in the 50's. They had a tenor with them, and Jerry simply fell in love with it. His approach was similar to the Dixieland players in terms of basic chord shapes, function, and right hand groove. Jerry's chord movement, voicings, voice-leading, and melodic motion are absolutely beautiful. Couple that with his "in the pocket" right hand rhythm and well placed syncopations, and you have something remarkable.

Never upstaging the fiddle, Jerry Thomason's tenor guitar playing is always gently intertwined with its melody and rhythm. In this style, the 6 string accompaniment typically marches out a driving quarter note rhythm. Jerry's playing employs lots of 8th notes and fills a special place in the music that perfectly compliments the fiddler's melodies, floats beautifully above the chords of other accompaniment, and drives the overall rhythmic groove of the tune in a really special way.

 

Jerry Thomason backing up his father, the great Benny Thomasson at the Grand Master Fiddle Championships in 1976.
Photo courtesy of the Grand Master Fiddle Championships archive

 

For examples of Jerry's playing here are a few recordings that really showcase his musicianship, give you a sense of his unique rhythmic ability:
  • Texas Jam Session Featuring Four World Champion Fiddlers with Benny Thomasson, Texas Shorty, Terry Morris, and Mark O'Connor and Benny and Jerry Thomason - The Weiser Reunion
  • Recording of Jerry backing up Matthew Hartz on a Texas Style version of the Civil War tune Soldier's Joy
  • Rare footage of Jerry backing up legendary fiddlers Texas Shorty and Mark O’Connor:

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