Musicians paying tribute to Thomas

ALBANY, Ga. -- The idea hit Lane Rosen like a ton of bricks. Woke him from his sleep at 1 in the morning, and he couldn't go back to sleep until he'd crawled out of bed and jotted down his idea on his Facebook page.

The next morning, a bleary-eyed Rosen was shocked to see that more than 200 people had already responded to his idea.

That idea, to do a "21-band salute" to recently departed local singing legend Dave Thomas -- who died suddenly Jan. 25 from still-undetermined causes -- took on a life of its own. Now, Rosen, Thomas' best friend and former bandmate Chris Hayes and Shannon Mock, Thomas' significant other for the past decade-plus, are fine-tuning the details for a "21 Bandmate Salute," planned for April 21 at the State Theatre.

"Everyone wanted to be involved; everyone volunteered to do something," Rosen said of the response to his idea. "The people whose lives Dave touched wanted to get together and celebrate his life."

Hayes was one of the first people Rosen contacted about his idea, and the bassist, who'd played with Thomas in Discount Superstar and Swill, was quick to jump on board. Together they refined the idea to include all the bands Thomas had been in. Ironically, the number of former bandmates turned out to be 21.

"When Lane called me, I immediately became the liaison to contact all the band members," Hayes said. "Everyone wanted to help out.

"We talked about the idea of having 21 bands -- to go along with the '21-gun salute' concept -- and thought that would be too much. I think the idea of getting all the bands together that Dave played with was a perfect idea."

Those bands include The Sure Thing (from 1983-1990), The Stiffs (1990-1996), Discount Superstar (1996-present), Swill (2003), Queen Kong (2005-present) and Swamp Donkey (2008-present). A second incarnation of Discount Superstar, which includes a slightly different lineup, is also scheduled to play.

Mock, who received a call from Thomas that she initially thought was a dropped call but turned out to be the last act of the late singer's life, said the tribute show is the perfect memorial for Thomas.

"He would love this," she said. "All those people who were at every show he played year after year are the ones who are volunteering. They all want to be involved."

Tim Smith, who served as sound engineer for most of the bands Thomas played in, has put together a video tribute, and Dax Hoxsie has signed on as master of ceremonies for the salute. He will summarize the history of the bands before each set, while DJ Billy Ocean will provide between-set music.

Danny Reeves from Party Plus are donating balloons (to be released during "99 Red Balloons"); Charlene Maldonado is designing commemorative T-shirts; Richard Adams created a unique flyer advertising the event, and staff members at Charley B's are sponsoring commemorative bracelets that will be given to all who pay the $5 donation that will get them into the all-ages show.

All funding will be used to offset Thomas' funeral expenses and to provide assistance to his 13-year-old twin daughters.

"Dave was like this region's Elvis," Hayes said of his friend. "He influenced so many musicians in this area. If you look at all the big bands here since 1984, they've had one thing in common: They've had Dave at the front. We all followed him."

Rosen said Thomas' influence extended beyond the local musical community.

"I never got to be the close friend that all the guys who played in the bands were with Dave, but I was influenced by his music," the State Theatre owner said. "I put those guys on a pedestal, and so there was a direct line between Dave's music and me getting involved in reopening the State.

"I'm just proud that things came full-circle and I can do something to honor his memory."

The Saturday show kicks off at 6 p.m. with Sure Thing taking the stage and will last "at least until midnight."

"Some of the bands haven't played together in quite a while, so the show might start off a little raw," Hayes said. "But I think all of the musicians are looking forward to celebrating the life of a man who was one of Albany's most beloved musicians for more than 25 years."