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James 'Graham' Thomas – Rock & Roll Pioneer Remembered

USA – This week the industry lost a true pioneer: James Thomas of James Thomas Engineering, known to his friends and family as Graham. Graham Thomas and John Walters pioneered the Thomas Spun Aluminium parcan and Thomas pre-rigged truss, making both widely available for the entire industry globally. The name Thomas is synonymous with trussing and lighting fixtures.

John and Graham were both in other industries and began making spun aluminium parcans on the side, at a time when the steel Altman was the industry standard. Other English firms were engaged and involved in the early days, but once John and Graham began mass producing parcans, James Thomas Engineering took off. Dizzy Gosnell (then of Meteorlites) and Ronan Wilson worked with John and Graham to come up with the original Thomas pre-rigged truss, as well as the original Thomas ground support tower. Chris Cronan was the primary source of design and ideas, and James Thomas Engineering took over the world of rock & roll lighting

Shortly thereafter, Michael T. Strickland of Bandit Lites joined the team and started taking the Thomas products to the United States. Strickland brought Mike Garl on board to run the US Thomas operation, and the rest is history.

Thomas quickly made all types of fixtures, from Cyc lights to battens, to all sizes of PARs. The Thomas 8 Light became the global standard. Thomas also played a key role in the establishment of Socapex and 18 core multicable becoming a global standard, as they supplied the entire industry with both.

From Thomas sprung other firms, including Tomcat, Total Fabrication, I-Pix and several others downstream.

“The overall legacy of Graham Thomas and John Walters is one that is vast yet largely unknown,” said Strickland. “John passed away a few years back with little fanfare, and it is important we not let the passing of a man whose last name and products we know so well. The entire industry should celebrate the life of Graham Thomas and recognise his major impact on the entertainment industry. Rest in peace, Graham.”

14th April 2020

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