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A Talent is a Gift on Loan and Should be Developed to Share

"I truly believe my talent was a gift and given to me on loan. It was my responsibility to develop it, " Gary seriously reflected. "I know so many people who were given such gifts either for music or art and haven't developed that talent. That's such a waste."

Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas, born in Richmond California was raised in Santa Cruz County since the third grade. His dad was a truck driver for as long as Gary can remember and worked long hours. His mom was a homemaker. "She was a great mom," Gary quickly adds, "still is." "She is an active, young 80 years and lives in Watsonville."

Gary was introduced to music very young in life. He's been told so many times about his first singing performance that he can visualize it himself. His Uncle, the "black sheep" in the family decided to launch Gary's singing career by sitting a young 3 year old Gary on the counter of The Chittenden Pass Inn bar where Gary sang for his Coca Cola. Needless to say Grandma and Grandpa were upset with their son, Gary's Uncle, but the good thing that came from it was Gary's love of performing that has carried throughout his whole life. His mom was very active in her church choir and sang the harmony parts, so Gary listened and learned. When his school offered musical instrument instructions, he chose the clarinet and saxophone his mom brought home a piano but Gary told her he wasn't interested in playing it. He was taken to a number of music teachers and learned what he could from them, but just couldn't master the discipline to learn how to read music. But Gary had a special ear for music. He could listen to it and then after a while he could mimic what he heard on his clarinet and sax. By this time he started fooling around with the piano, figuring out chords and playing songs he heard on the radio on the piano. His first love was still singing. He remembers his fourth grade teacher making him sing for his lunch one time. "She wasn't trying to embarrass me," smiled Gary, "she just liked the fact that she had a kid in her class that loved to sing." By the time Gary was in 7th and 8th grade he and his friend, Art Carson were performing for assemblies. Gary on piano, Art on guitar singing their version of the Everly Brothers tunes.

In High School, Gary formed a band called the Modestics. He was lead singer and played the electric piano. Even with his great love of music, Gary admits his first love was baseball. He played all through high school and in his mind was going for the major leagues after high school. "I probably did better than I might have because I had that confidence, since I really didn't have a chance at all for playing in the majors," admitted Gary. "I was what is called a 'crafty' pitcher."

After graduating high school in 1964, he wasn't sure what direction he wanted to go. It was a time of transition for Gary as well as the world. The 60's generation was exploring their philosophies; Vietnam was in the picture and there was civil and racial unrest. Gary joined the National Guard and got "gigs" playing in night clubs. It was during this time, at nineteen Gary got married. But the Santa Cruz music scene, long hours, playing in night clubs after he was 21, and the music lifestyle finally brought his marriage to an end. Gary says of this time, "it was fun, but dangerous." There were times he quit, then came back. He met Carol when she was working at his Eye Doctor's office as a receptionist. He was playing music full time again when he and Carol got married. The same problems were happening with his crazy music lifestyle, but "Carol was different," Gary said, "She decided she was going to make this relationship work - I give her all the credit for keeping me together." During this time their first son, Josh was born. Gary was getting disillusioned and burned out. He was still playing 4 nights a week, then reduced to 2 nights a week. One day Carol suggested he get a "real job," and this time Gary agreed. It was time to make music fun again. It no longer was fun as long as it was work, so Gary got a job with Cal Trans in 1980. Eleven years after Josh was born, his second son, Matt was born. Gary said of Josh and Matt, they are as different as night and day, but they have a special dynamic together. Gary's face lights up when he speaks of Josh and Matt. Gary is very excited that Josh is using his gift for singing since for a while, Josh wasn't sure he was going to pursue a music career. Even though Gary knows the pitfalls and difficult life of a musician, he wouldn't change anything and would encourage young people to pursue musical careers." Now that music is fun again for Gary, last year he and a fellow band member were given the opportunity to sit in with David LaFlamme of It's a Beautiful Day (famous for song "White Bird" in the 1960's) for performances in The Pokenose in New York, Woodstock and Alexandria Virginia. "I've always admired David LaFlamme's music and playing with him and his group was a great thrill," Gary admitted. "I truly believe my talent was a gift and given to me on loan. It was my responsibility to develop it, " Gary seriously reflected. "I know so many people who were given such gifts either for music or art and haven't developed that talent. That's such a waste." Gary hopes that his son Matt does something with music also, but admits that it is more likely that he will do the behind the scenes computerized special effects, video and sound. Josh, at first, was determined not to like the same music as Gary, but as fate would have it, he and Gary are now playing in the same band together, called "Highway Buddha," featuring Josh as lead singer. END

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