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Outlaws perform Saturday

A band with a countrified stake in Southern rock will do a benefit in New Port Richey.

By LOGAN NEILL
Published October 13, 2006


In more than 40 years of playing music, there isn't much that Hughie Thomasson hasn't seen or experienced that's going to diminish his love for it.

He can go on and on about what it's like to play before a stadium of adoring fans. He can also tell you about the dark, seamy side of rock 'n' roll and the toll its excesses can take on good musicians.

Call Hughie Thomasson the last Outlaw standing. At 53, the Brooksville resident continues to carry on the tradition of a band that rose from the nightclub and bar trenches of Tampa in the late 1960s to become a mainstay of 1970s Southern rock.

"I've stayed with it because I love the band, the music, all of it," said Thomasson, who has anchored the lead guitarist slot with the Outlaws since its beginnings in 1968. "It's nice because the fans are still out there, still enjoying our music."

Thomasson will bring the current version of the Outlaws to Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey at 8 p.m. Saturday for a benefit to establish a scholarship endowment for the school. Fans can expect to hear a lot of memories, he said.

Indeed, during the late 1960s and early '70s the Outlaws were a mainstay of the Tampa Bay music scene, and were a sought-after support act for major names like Janis Joplin and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The success of Southern rockers like the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band helped usher the Outlaws into their own niche of countrified rock.

The band's debut, The Outlaws, spent 16 weeks on the charts in 1975 and led to 11 more releases for Arista Records.

But it seemed to Thomasson that the band was constantly on the road. That, along with drug and alcohol abuse, took its toll. By the time 1980 rolled around, original members Henry Paul, Frank O'Keefe and Monte Yoho had left, leaving only guitarist Billy Jones and Thomasson.

"It took a long time for some of us to learn those lessons," Thomasson offered. "I'm thankful to have survived it."

After nearly 25 years of having kept the band together, Thomasson himself tired of the Outlaws. In 1996, he signed on to do a tour as guitarist with Lynyrd Skynyrd. He ended up staying nine years.

"It was good for me," he recalled. "I love those guys like family."

But he also missed the music he helped to create and nurture. So last year he teamed up with guitarist Chris Anderson, bassist Randy Threet and Outlaws alumni David Dix and Yoho for one more round.

In June, the band launched its first tour in more than a decade and went to work producing a new album. The familiar territory seems to suit Thomasson just fine.

"It's a thrill because we're now seeing three generations of Outlaws fans in the audience," he said. "It makes you feel like you never left."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or 352 848-1435.

[Last modified October 12, 2006, 22:09:18]


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