Frank & Ann Thomas
1993 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Born and raised in Clay County, Frank Thomas is a native Floridian whose ancestors came to Florida to farm in the late eighteenth-century. Members of his family fought in the Second Seminole War and in the Civil War; they also continued farming until the 1950s. This direct connection with the land and heritage of English-speaking Florida inspired for much of his music. Thomas relates that his entire family played music and that he “learned guitar so young that he doesn’t remember learning.” Before the age of 10, he began singing with his family’s gospel group. Later he began to attend square dances, where he learned the fiddle from a traditional fiddler named Allie Murray. He also received inspiration from his mother who wrote songs about Florida.
Thomas went on to play rhythm guitar with some nationally known bluegrass gospel groups. He later returned to Florida and performed extensively with his wife, Ann (1946-2004), whom he taught to play bass. A professional librarian, Ann was raised in Lakeland and met Frank in 1978 at Carl Allen’s Restaurant in Lake Wales. Together they wrote over 100 songs about Florida on subjects ranging from the condition of the environment to local history. They also produced a weekly singer-songwriter radio show for WMNF-FM in the Tampa area. The Thomases made several recordings, including Florida Stories, Cracker Nights, Bingo!, andSpanish Gold. They traveled the state, sometimes with son Michael, performing their music at schools, festivals, folk clubs, and concert stages. Frank continues to perform, though Ann passed away in 2004.