Phillip Sidney Thomas was born on February 6, 1944 in Tupelo, Mississippi to James and Ruby Thomas. His life was a wholly American triumph. From the humble beginnings of Lauderdale Courts public housing and Humes High School in Memphis, Thomas went on to excel in everything he ever attempted, always on his own terms. He proudly served as a Screaming Eagle in the 101st US Army Airborne while playing intramural football for the Army. He was starting quarterback for Oklahoma State, then Mississippi State, where he earned a degree in Education. He was recruited to training camp by the Washington Redskins, and went on to coach football at the high school level. All of this before he found his true calling.
A natural storyteller, he turned to first wife, Jan Scaife’s family trade of songwriting to learn the craft and the business, and embarked on an extraordinary career that spanned five decades and saw him sell over 35 million records.
One of his very first songs turned out to be his biggest. “Colorado Cool Aid”, recorded by Johnny Paycheck, was the B-side to the smash hit “Take This Job And Shove It”. While the album Take This Job And Shove It has been certified platinum, the single sold over five million copies.
Thomas’ songs have been recorded by some of Country amusic’s biggest names: “Me & The IRS” (Armed And Crazy) and “Billy Bardo” (Everybody’s Got A Family) Johnny Paycheck, “Drinking My Way Back Home” (Little By Little) Gene Watson, “Fireworks” (40 Hour Week) Alabama, “My Heart Cracked” (Storms of Life) and “Anything” (Always and Forever) Randy Travis, “Hard Earned Country Livin’ (Naturally Country), “Now You’re Talkin’” (Now You’re Talkin’), and “Most Of All I Remember You” (Oklahoma Wind) Mel McDaniel, “Walking Behind The Star” (Classics 2) and “The Shade” (Classics 3) John Conlee, “Blackjack Fletcher And Mississippi Sam” (Carrying On) Montgomery Gentry, and “Baby Your Baby” (Pure Country) George Strait, just to name a few.
However, even these extraordinary accomplishments don’t tell the full story of Thomas’ life. He was a character, a leader, a patriot, an individual completely comfortable in his own skin, no matter the situation, a cowboy philosopher, a playful prankster, an encourager, a fighter, an inimitable rhythm guitar picker. He was a passionate advocate for those with Downs Syndrome. He loved nature, America, and individual Liberty. He left an indelible mark on everyone who knew him. He was a rock-solid friend. And he was a devoted husband to Hunny, a loving father to Brandi and Kori, and a magical grandfather to his grandchildren, Brooks, Van and Sam.
He is survived and will be missed by his wife, Hunny Thomas of Linden; daughters, Brandi Thomas Warden (Monte) of Austin, Texas and Kori Thomas Plunkett (Michael) of Hohenwald; stepson, Tony Pruitt of Columbia; grandchildren, Van Warden, Sam Houston Warden, and Philip Brooks Warden of Austin, Texas.
At his request, a private graveside service will be held at the family’s cemetery in the Spring when the Buttercups are up.