The Moody Blues boarded their fourth cruise last Tuesday in Miami knowing that their fans would be excited to congratulate them on their upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Sadly on Sunday morning, as the ship pulled back into Miami, word spread that founding member, flute player and singer Ray Thomas passed away on Thursday at the age of 76.
The band, unaware that their former bandmate and friend was gone, were informed Sunday morning (by Premiere's Sal Cirrincione, who emceed the cruise).
Late Sunday, Justin Hayward told us, "My heartfelt condolences to Ray's family. All my thoughts are with them, and I send them my love. Ray was a kind, generous and 'giving' musician and friend through all those magical years for the group, and I treasure all the music we made together."
"I really hit it off with Ray when I got in the band because he would write excellent kind of tongue-in-cheek songs. But he didn't know any of the chords or anything like that. But he had some great melodies and some great lyric ideas. And he was very happy for us, or for me in many occasions, to be able to put the chords to it and to sort of form it into something and give it a melody and everything. It was very enjoyable."
During two Storyteller events on the cruise, Hayward, along with John Lodge and Graeme Edge -- unaware Ray died -- recounted a few moments with him on the road.
They remembered the time Ray would toss his tambourines into the audience, until one struck and cut a fan, resulting in a lawsuit.
There was also the time that Ray fell off the stage in Philadelphia, breaking his flute in half. With no back-up, keyboardist Mike Pinder jokingly asked if anyone had a flute. And, to their surprise, someone did. In a strange coincidence, on John's solo tour this past fall, he took an Uber from Philly to New York and the driver was at that show and was with the guy who had the flute.
The Moody Blues start a run of 14 dates Wednesday in Hollywood, Florida and they are working on a tribute to Thomas.