Mickey Thomas may have been one of the best kept secrets of the 1976 radio rock. That was the year that guitarist Elvin Bishop had a massive radio hit with the song “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” which went to No. 3 on the charts.
Today, the song has been used in movies such as “The Devil’s Rejects,” “Boogie Nights” and “Guardians of The Galaxy Volume One.” And while Bishop does have a guitar solo section on the song, it’s the lead vocals that keep the song around. And it’s not Bishop who’s the lead vocalist on the song but Thomas. There’s your rock trivia answer: Mickey Thomas.
Thomas was a backup singer for the Elvin Bishop Group when the song was recorded, a gig that would lead him to replacing Marty Balin and Grace Slick in Jefferson Starship, where he would once again rule the charts with hard rockers such as “Jane” and “Find Your Way Back.”
In 1985, with Slick back in tow, the band started using the moniker Starship and released the album “Knee Deep in The Hoopla.” Thomas would go on to have major success with Starship with hits including “We Built This City,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us” and “Sara.”
Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas hits the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $19 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.
Q: Tell me about growing up in Cairo, Georgia. What was it that you heard or saw that made fueled your passion for music?
A: It was The Beatles. Like so many people of my generation, it was The Beatles that got me interested in music and rock and roll. They were a life-changing experience for so many people and I was one of them. I was lucky enough to see them perform when I was 15 years old. I saw them in Atlanta. Me and some of my friends went to the show and after it was over, we decided that we had to start a band. We didn’t know what in the hell we were doing. One of my friend’s was a drummer in the high school band, so we knew he was going to be the drummer. One of my other friend’s was left handed so we decided he need to play bass because Paul was left handed. We just took it from there and started learning how to play our guitars. It was just something we did to get girls to notice us — you either better be an athlete or you start a band if you wanted to get any attention.
I never thought this would be my career and this is what I would be doing for the rest of my life, but one thing led to another. I guess it was in the stars because I got really lucky.
A: You paid tribute to The Beatles on “Marauder,” which you released a few years ago. You covered The Beatles and McCartney and even Oasis and Muse.
Q: I love Oasis. I think Oasis was the closest thing to a Beatles-type band since The Beatles. It’s too bad that the brothers kind of hate each other because they would have created more great music than they did. I love Oasis. My idea on that album was to do ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. There’s some Beatles and Stones and (Bob) Seeger but there’s more Beatles than anyone else. I tried to find songs that I could interpret my own way in a way with being true to the original. I had a great studio band on that record.
Q: One of the first songs that I heard that truly blew me away was “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” when I was 5. Are you surprised by that song’s longevity and its place in pop culture?
A: That song was the song that opened a lot of doors for me. It was the first song that featured my voice on the radio. The record just said the Elvin Bishop Group, so a lot of people didn’t know that I sang on it. People had no idea. It’s cool because it became a story in the industry — “who is this mystery voice that sings on that Elvin Bishop song?” People eventually found out who I was and it opened so many doors for me. To this day, when I perform it with Starship, I look out there and see people going, “Man, I didn’t know he sang this song.”
Q: Kenny Loggins once told me that “Danger Zone” had originally been given to Starship and the band passed on it. Is that true?
A: Yeah. It was presented to us first and right away, man, I wish I had that song in my set because it would fit in real nice with Starship. Grace (Slick) had some objections to it because she felt that the movie glorified war and war machines too much. At the time, we all respected her feelings and we passed on it. Like I said, I wish I had it in my set list.
Q: You were synonymous with the hard rock of Jefferson Starship in the early ’80s, but “Knee Deep in The Hoopla” was a juggernaut of success, especially on pop radio. What was that transition like for you?
A: When it came time for the “Knee Deep in The Hoopla” album, we had been through some changes. Paul Kantner had just left the band and we could see how music was changing at the time. Computers were coming into play a lot more, and we were in to that. We hooked up with producer Peter Wolf and he was really on the cutting edge of using samples and sequences and computers. It was on the edge the transition from analog to the digital age. We made a conscious effort to wipe the board clean and reinvent Starship. We dropped the Jefferson, which showed we were making a big change. We rolled the dice and took a big gamble and I think it payed off for us. But it was a double-edged sword, because all of the critics came at us and said we sold out and were making “corporate rock,” which a little bit ironic because if you listen to “We Built This City,” we’re singing against that practice.
If you go
Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas
Beau Rivage Resort & Casino at 875 Beach Blvd. in Biloxi
8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26
Tickets start at $19 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.