After learning of the death of Austin rockabilly frontman and bandleader Chadd Thomas of the Crazy Kings earlier this week, Rocks Off decided to reach out to a few of his friends and former bandmates to get a better idea of who, exactly, Thomas was.
"I know it sounds kind of trite, but he really did liven up the room," says Shawn Supra, a former bandmate of Thomas' who now lives in Nashville. "He was funny, and he had a lust for life, I guess you could say. He loved his band, and that was his life until his daughter came along."
Above all else, Supra remembers and admires Thomas' dedication to his music, specifically the Crazy Kings. When Supra left the Crazy Kings, he recalls Thomas being disappointed.
"I remember when I had to leave the band to go play with another band," Supra says. "I said, 'Chad, if someone asked you to front a bigger band, would you do it?' And he said, 'No.'
"And I totally believed him."
Since moving to Nashville three years ago, Supra has played with Wanda Jackson, Rosie Flores, the Tennessee Three, and is now playing and touring with Travis Mann. He continued making frequent trips to Texas, where he would see Thomas.
"The Crazy Kings were his life," Supra says, adding with a laugh, "He was a crazy king." he added with a laugh.
Like many, Supra is at a loss for words and shocked by the possibility of Thomas' death most likely came from one or more of the three violent altercations Austin homicide detectives say the singer was involved in from approximately 5 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday. However, Supra adds that Thomas was not the type to back down "from anything."
"For better or for worse, that was him," he says. "And I guess that's really admirable, you know? He was very tenacious."
Thomas is survived by his daughter, who will be eight years old this month.
"He loved her," Supra says. "I remember when he told me that he was going to have a kid, and he was so happy and proud."
Like many musicians, Supra fondly remembers Houston's heyday nearly two decades ago.
"The mid-'90s in Houston were so much fun... and Chadd was at the center of it all," Supra says. "The Crazy Kings, Los Skarnales, the Flaming Hellcats... it was just a lot of fun."
The most vivid recent memory Supra has of Thomas was when, about five years ago, the two of them met up in Austin and took a trip down memory lane. While the two talked on the phone periodically since Supra moved, his most vivid recent memory of Thomas is when, about five years ago, they met up after a show and had a few drinks while reminiscing.
"We stayed up in Austin at his apartment, drinking and looking at old pictures, laughing," Supra says. "That was the thing, man. When you were around Chadd, you were always laughing. Everybody was busting each other's balls and just having fun.
"He was a really good guy, and this is really a shame," he adds. "I learned a lot [from him] that I'm carrying on today."
"I first met Chadd from the rockabilly scene in the mid '90s," says Los Skarnales guitarist Jose Rodriguez. "He was starting to DJ at clubs, specifically Blue Iguana, and many of us would go and close the place down every Sunday."
Chadd was one of the funniest persons I've met," Rodriguez continues. "He always lit up the room and constantly had people laughing."
Much of what Rodriguez learned of rockabilly music, he credits to knowing Thomas.
"He was a rockabilly encyclopedia," Rodriguez said. "I learned more about rockabilly because of his vast knowledge than from anyone else.
"Around '97 or '98, he asked me if i wanted to play with the Crazy Kings even though i played in a completely different band [Los Skarnales]. I was so excited and honored. The Crazy Kings had not been together long, however, I knew I wanted to be part of the scene that Chadd helped keep alive.
"I got to know Chadd much better playing with the Crazy Kings," Rodriguez says. "He was fun both onstage and off."
Some of the Los Skarnales' sound stems from certain rockabilly influences that Rodriguez says they may not have ever heard had it not been for Thomas.
"The last time I saw Chadd was less than a year ago in Austin," he says. "Ironically, Los Skarnales was set to play the Flamingo Cantina, and Felipe [Skarnales front man Galvan of Los Skarnales] called Chadd to see if the Crazy Kings could play.
"I sat and reminisced with Chadd for about an hour straight," Rodriguez said. "It was incredible."
"Chadd is going to be seriously missed. My heart dropped when I heard the news, and just like many, I was hoping it was only a rumor," says Rodriguez. "I will always be proud of my stint as a Crazy King."
"He was a very good father," said Xavier Ortiz of Austin's Hotrod Hillbillies. "We're all trying to do our best to contribute money to a trust fund for his daughter. Pretty soon, people will be able to donate online."
Ortiz also added that he's sure benefit shows will be hosted all over Texas, not just in Austin and Houston.
"I think, from here on out, I'm always going to play at least one original song of his [when I perform]," says Ortiz. "To keep his spirit alive, you know?
"One of the last times I hung out with him, we were poolside at his apartment... and we were just relaxing by the pool, having a few drinks," Ortiz said. "And before that, it was Dillon (Cavaliere, the Crazy Kings' bassist)'s birthday party, and Chadd was calling up all kinds of people to play bass or play drums.
"We were just having fun, swapping instruments and playing all kinds of songs. That was the last time I got to share a stage with him."
According to Ortiz, there is a ray of hope for friends and family that the crime could soon be solved.
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"I think they're close to an arrest, because there's all kind of tips coming in," he says. "Such a shame, because he was such a likeable guy."
If you knew Chadd, and he brought any light to your life - as he did with so many others, we've learned - feel free to leave a comment regarding your own memories of him.