Chris Thomas King

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Chris Thomas King
Chris Thomas King at the Koh Samui Music Festival, 2005
Background information
Birth nameDurwood Christopher Thomas
Born (1962-10-14) October 14, 1962 (age 58)
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States
Origin New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, actor
InstrumentsGuitar, piano
Years active1984–present
Labels Black Top Records, 21st Century Blues Records, Scotti Bros. Records

Chris Thomas King (born Durwood Christopher Thomas, [3] October 14, 1962) [4] is an American blues musician and actor based in New Orleans, Louisiana.



King was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. He is the son of blues musician Tabby Thomas. [4] His early recordings were released under the name Chris Thomas. He has won awards including "Album of the Year" for both Grammy Award and Country Music Awards. King has sold more than 10 million records in the United States. He is featured playing the part of Tommy Johnson in the Coen brothers' 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? . He is also featured in Down from the Mountain and More Music from Ray soundtracks.

In June 2021, King’s book “The Blues: The Authentic Narrative of My Music And Culture” was published by Chicago Review Press. The book is compelling, making a powerful, trenchant, well-supported case that the Blues - encompassing other genres such as jazz, RnB, New Orleans music, and other forms - derives from the urban and urbane Creole culture of New Orleans. He further argue persuasively that the received narrative of blues’ genesis in the Mississippi Delta is both incorrect and that the narrative derives from erasure of New Orleans Creole accomplishments.

Artistic career

King is known as the pioneer of rap/blues fusion. [5] He conceived the first sample-based blues concept album in the early 1990s by writing and producing the first all-rap/blues album for RCA Records titled 21st Century Blues… from da Hood.

As an entrepreneur King took control of his master recordings in the early 1990s, forming 21st Century Blues Records. He also established a publishing company, Young Blues Rebel, LLC. 21st Century Records signed the New Orleans Ninth Ward rap/blues duo the 21C-B-Boyz and the London, England-based NuBlues, to 21st Century Blues Records in 2003.

King's acting career includes prominent roles in several films, including two music-related films. In the Oscar-winning film Ray he plays band leader and blues guitar player Lowell Fulson. During production he collaborated with Ray Charles in scoring the film. [6] In O Brother Where Art Thou? , he portrays a skilled blues guitarist who claims he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his skill on guitar. The character is based on blues musicians Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson, both of whom have been linked to selling their soul to the devil at a rural Mississippi crossroads. [7] [8] King also accompanies the film's band the Soggy Bottom Boys on guitar; his rendition of Skip James's Hard Time Killing Floor Blues was recorded live during filming and included on the film's Grammy-award-winning soundtrack.

King also starred in the Wim Wenders art house film The Soul of a Man, as Blind Willie Johnson and Kill Switch as Detective Storm with Steven Seagal.


Documentary appearances


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  1. Huey, Steve (n.d.). "Chris Thomas King: Biography & History". AllMusic . Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  2. Himes, Geoffrey (May 16, 1990). "Records". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  3. Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 211. ISBN   978-0313344237.
  4. 1 2 Colin Larkin, ed. (1995). The Guinness Who's Who of Blues (Second ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 345. ISBN   0-85112-673-1.
  5. Silky Johnson (February 11, 2011). "Silky's Sunday Blues: Chris Thomas King Edition". Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
  6. Joan Turner. "Biography for Chris Thomas King". IMDB. Retrieved January 14, 2013.
  7. Orshoski, Wes (September 22, 2001). "Chris King builds on 'O Brother'". Billboard: 11.
  8. "Robert Johnson Gravesite – Greenwood". Mississippi Blues Trail. Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  9. Chris Thomas and Tabby Thomas, singing "Postures (Leave Your Body Behind)", originally recorded by the 13th Floor Elevators on their Easter Everywhere album (1967).
  10. King contributes his version of "Rock Island Line".
  11. As described by King's own record label, 21st Century Blues Records, "New Orleans musician Chris Thomas King lost both a home and a recording studio when Hurricane Katrina had landfall at the close of summer in 2005, and it's hardly startling that his album Rise takes Katrina and the devastating aftermath of the storm as a central theme." Description of Rise Archived February 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine ;