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Founding Molly Hatchet Bassist Banner Thomas Dies

Michael Putland, Getty Images
Michael Putland, Getty Images

Bassist Banner Thomas, a member of Molly Hatchet‘s lineup during the band’s earliest and most commercially successful years as a recording act, has died at the age of 63.

News of Thomas’ death has been confirmed by the band via social media with a post noting his death occurred the morning of April 10, and offering “prayers and condolences” to his family and friends. According to the Florida Times-Union, Thomas had been “battling pneumonia in recent weeks.”

While Thomas’ tenure with Molly Hatchet lasted through a relatively small portion of the veteran group’s lengthy timeline, he was an important component of their early success, locking in with drummer Bruce Crump to form the rhythm section that powered the band’s first four LPs. Thomas also co-wrote a number of Molly Hatchet songs — including the group’s signature hit, the title track to 1979’s Flirtin’ With Disaster LP.

After peaking inside the U.S. Top 20 with that album and racking up more than two million copies sold, the group started to see its popularity fade as trends moved away from Southern rock toward the end of the decade. Although 1980’s Beatin’ the Odds and 1981’s Take No Prisoners both made the Top 40, neither could build on Disaster‘s momentum, and by 1983, both Thomas and Crump were out of the lineup.

“We all started thinking we were stars, and that drove wedges into the cracks that started forming. I was as guilty as anybody else,” Thomas reflected in 2002. “I’m sorry I quit the way I did, when I did, but it looks like I picked a good time to get out. Not long after, under pressure from management and the record company to produce more hit singles, the band started to lose its identity and started to look like Loverboy. I’m glad I wasn’t there for that.”

After leaving Molly Hatchet, Thomas remained in the Jacksonville area, where he went on to co-found the group Big Engine, moving in and out of that band’s lineup at various points over the years. More recently, he was a part of the local act Those Guys, who responded to the news of his passing by telling fans he was “loved by many and will be greatly missed.” A Thomas tribute show was aired by local station 104.9 WXKW on April 12; Those Guys have also announced plans for a benefit to help defray his medical and funeral bills.

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