When I remember Holly Thomas, I recall his soothing bass voice on the radio on a Sunday morning, asking, "Who loves you, baby?" Also, I remember him admonishing those in the kitchen preparing Sunday lunch, reminding all that callaloo required swizzling and must not be pureed in a blender.
Like some of his colleagues in the era of the 80s, including Rennie Bishop, Billy Reece, Jim Sutherland and Phill Simmons, Thomas had a distinctive voice and manner of broadcasting that endeared listeners to him and his programmes.
Having made a name for himself in the New York tri-state area, initially with Ken Webb on New York's WBLS frequency, and subsequently on WLIB, Thomas returned home and hitched his wagon to Trinidad Broadcasting Company's Studio 730 in 1982. He worked for 15 years in the United States and, after a stint on Radio 730 transferred to Radio Nine Five in 1988, making his Magnificent 7 programme, specialising in "soft jazz," a must-listen-to feature.
Simmons, fondly remembered as "the Thrill" on the TBC network, left Radio 610 to join Radio 730. He said: "Holly and I worked together when I returned to Radio Trinidad 730. He was one of the last of the 'real breed of radio people'. What we have today is actually a cheap copy of what we used to have. Holly stood for quality and professionalism, from way back in the callaloo days on a Sunday morning on Magnificent 7. In fact, Mavis John's hit single, Jazz in the Callaloo, was inspired by Holly.
"Holly and I did the first radio station J'Ouvert band, Mas on the Radio. It was a successful venture. All our masqueraders used to get a taste of whatever the bandleader had in his pouch, making us even more popular.
"Life is a funny thing. The last time Holly and I spent any time together was at Frankie Dixon's funeral earlier this year and he was fine, as he was when I saw him during this year's Carnival."
Current TBC personality Chris Boynes, who also worked with Thomas, said: "Beside being a colleague, Holly was a brother, adviser and mentor to me. Although he met me here at TBC, I still regarded him my senior, as he was a full-time broadcaster when I was just a DJ.
"Holly was from the old-school camp of radio and was a true professional and perfectionist.
"He helped me to understand some of the key elements in radio and the musical clock, the concept which helps with your daily programming, and not just from a DJ's point of view."
TBC senior producer/broadcaster Eddison Carr is one of the people who has history with Thomas. He said: "One of the best voices on radio has gone. We worked together at Radio 730 but also did Magnificent 7 on Sundays for about five years on Radio 95. I remember his consummate radio persona. Not everyone has that.
"Holly had that radio personality that touched everybody in terms of his voice and style. He always reminded me of Barry White as both had that same kind of arresting, gravelly, warm voice that drew you to listen to Holly religiously."
Adrian Don Mora is one of today's top radio personalities who learned at the feet of Thomas. The assistant programme director, morning show host and sports editor at Ebony 104.1FM said: "I heard the news of Holly's passing this morning (Wednesday) while I was on the air and was really taken aback. I remember as an aspiring radio announcer Holly Thomas stood out so much because his voice was like no other on radio in T&T; deep and rich. And, he knew how to use it to full effect. When I eventually got my foot into the door at Radio Trinidad I marvelled at the ease with which he operated.
"His shows like the Magnificent 7 and Candlelight & Wine will always remain the standard for radio shows in my mind, especially
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as they were in the vein of what I wanted to do. Holly's inclusion of jazz in his programming was always a breath of fresh air. As a newbie he was always helpful and encouraging to me. He was the real deal."
Former Woodbrook councillor Cleveland Garcia, who was Thomas' friend for the past 15 years, said on Wednesday: "I remember Holly as a fun person. He was an ardent bird lover, who devoted much time to his birds. He also had a green thumb and grew a beautiful kitchen garden, giving most of his produce to friends."
Garcia remembers that Thomas found joy in making others happy. He said: "The last dream Holly realised was The Wardrobe, his clothing establishments in Shops of Arima and Picton Street, which catered to plus sized people. He opened them last November and used to be happy making big people happy with his line of clothing.
"Though being a Piscean, born in March, Holly preferred to celebrate his birthday in May, with guys like Robert Greenidge and (Carl) Beaver Henderson."
A friend of Thomas for decades, Henderson said with a chuckle: "Holly and I go back to since the days Tyrannosaurus rex roamed the earth. We have been friends since the days of Semp recording studio, even before Fire Flight was formed. Holly's golden voice is lost and will be missed. Seems that the great ones are going."
Masqueraders in Peter Minshall's carnival bands would remember Thomas as being the voice emanating from the Charlie's Roots music truck, keeping the band in order by intsructing, "get in your section." Taking time off from cooking lunch on Wednesday, Minshall said: "What a good human that man was. The spirit of being in the mas has taken wings and flown elsewhere. Better that he took wing and flew than being part of this poultry farm that we are now in."
One of Thomas' students who had great admiration for him is Denise Zephrine of Caribbean Airlines. Expressing shock over Thomas' passing she said: "I was one of his students many years ago and he was one of the influences that got me into journalism in the first place. Holly recognised my potential and, using his contacts, organised a week-long course for me in DJ announcing and speech at WBLS in Manhattan.
"After that, when he was on 105.1FM he introduced me to Winston Maynard's six-week journalism programme at TBC on Maraval Road. So, Holly was my prime mentor in journalism. Holly recognised the ability in young people and moulded young aspiring radio announcers. I will always remember him as 'the voice'.
"One thing which stood out with him and impressed me is how easily Holly attracted people to him."