Hersal Thomas

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn about a piano player who fit a lifetime of jazz into only sixteen years.

On July 3, 1926, Hersal Thomas died of food poisoning. Born in Houston in 1910, he learned piano from his brother George, a pioneer of the popular boogie-woogie style. Hersal Thomas first performed on the streets of Houston, accompanying his sister, Sippie Wallace, one of the most influential blues singers ever to come from Texas. By 1923, Hersal Thomas had moved to Chicago and was touring with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong. In 1925, at the age of only fifteen, he recorded several songs, including “Suitcase Blues.”

Hersal Thomas’s death at the age of sixteen brought a tragic end to his brief but prolific career. However, his legacy lives on through countless other piano players who have borrowed from Thomas’s innovative style.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a creature that terrorized Fort Worth but inspired many local garage rockers.

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