Legendary Lead Singer Male – Billboard 1950’s to 1970’s
Bobby Thomas bio
Bobby Thomas will always be remembered as an influential pioneer of R&B vocal harmony in the Jersey Shore are. His Vibranaires were the first ever R&B group from Asbury Park, a city that would soon after become known for it’s Rock & Roll music.
When the Orioles changed the face of American music in the summer of 1948 with the unique sounding Deborah Chessler-penned tune, “It’s Too Soon To Know,” thirteen year old Bobby Thomas was listening. Bobby Thomas was born in Point Pleasant, NJ, and moved with his family to Asbury Park’s West Side when he was two. Inspired by the Orioles, Bobby Thomas formed Asbury Park’s first R&B vocal group which would eventually record as the Vibranaires.
The Vibranaires sang locally for a couple years, attracting a lot of attention. In 1953, they ventured into New York City and auditioned for Esther Navarro. Navarro had aspirations to further her career in the music business and signed the group to a short contract. She changed the group’s name to the Cadillacs and recorded the group but when things weren’t happening fast enough, Bobby’s group left Navarro to return singing as the Vibranaires. Navarro was forced to go out and find a new group to call the Cadillacs – the group that would later record “Gloria”.
Meanwhile, Bobby Thomas and his Vibranaires continued working around Asbury Park and nearby shore towns. When bigger named groups played the Asbury Park Amory, the Vibranaires would often open up for them. At various times, they opened for the Vocaleers, DuDroppers, Five Keys and Solitaires. While singing at a club in Somerville, NJ, the Vibranaires were approached by disc jockey Joel Turnero who gave them a song called “Doll Face”. The Vibranaires recorded “Doll Face” for the After Hours label, along with a beautiful ballad called “Stop Torturing Me” that Bobby Thomas wrote while in his bathtub. “Doll Face” became a regional hit. By the time the next Vibranaires record was released, the group’s name was shortened to the Vibes. “Stop Torturing Me” was released on the Chariot label, a subsidiary of After Hours. Both records are now highly prized by record collectors.
By the mid-1950’s Bobby Thomas’ Vibes group contained a young Asbury Park singer who would go on to greater fame – Lenny Welch. After a stint in the service, Bobby Thomas returned to Asbury Park where he joined the V-Eights of “Poppa’s Yellow Tie” fame. The V-Eights recorded three records for the Vibro label. In 1966, Bobby Thomas was invited to join Sonny Til’s Orioles. For Bobby, this was a dream come true, singing with his idol, Sonny Til. Bobby went on to sing in Sonny Til’s Orioles for 9 years. Bobby Thomas can be heard singing on the Orioes’ RCA recordings of the early 1970’s. When Sonny Til died, Bobby formed his own Orioles group that at one time contained original Orioles bass singer, Johnny Reed. Bobby Thomas’ Orioles made numerous appearances at UGHA and other East Coast events. Bobby Thomas passed away in 2012 after 63 years of singing.