Blue Thumb seemed determined to cover every market just this side of the mainstream.
Looking back, Blue Thumb Records appears far too idealistic and stylistically disparate to have ever existed in the first place. Listening to the label compilation All Day Thumbsucker Revisited is akin to tapping into an era-specific playlist, encompassing nearly every conceivable popular style, which reflects upon a label that hosted a who’s who of an era of unrelenting creativity driving the music industry in the late-1960s. With a roster of artists ranging from Dave Mason to the Crusaders to Tyrannosaurus Rex (later T. Rex) to Captain Beefheart to Ike and Tina Turner to W.C. Fields(!), Blue Thumb seemed determined to cover every market just this side of the mainstream, FM’s free-form format approach and the burgeoning underground apparently serving as the label’s guiding principle.
Founded in 1968 by former King and Buddah/Kama Sutra Records promotional man Bob Krasnow along with former A&M execs Tommy LiPuma and Don Graham, Blue Thumb copped its name from Captain Beefheart. Blue Thumb was originally to be the band’s name, however Krasnow didn’t think it fit the group and instead claimed it for the label he started based solely on the record deal struck with Captain Beefheart himself, Don Van Vliet. And what an impressive label it quickly proved to be. Within its first few years, Blue Thumb quickly established itself as an artist-centric label, affording unbridled creativity. Where else would you find albums like Space Is the Place and Leon Russell existing within the same catalog?
Indeed, Blue Thumb is about the only place you would see a tracklist that runs the gamut from T. Rex to Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks to Love to João Donato to Captain Beefheart to Gábor Szabó to John Mayall to Sun Ra. We typically don’t see labels put together such diverse rosters today, or with their focus more on the art and artists than the commodification of their music. It’s a bold, albeit somewhat unsustainable, business plan that ultimately proved to be too good to be true, with the label folding in 1978 after having traded hands several times, limping to the finish line as the primary purveyor of Pointer Sisters albums.
But in the decade before that, Blue Thumb put out some truly remarkable albums and singles from artists who rightfully earned their place within the pantheon of 20th century popular music. Those looking to get a cursory overview of what the label had to offer will find much to like in All Day Thumbsucker Revisited, as the bulk of the label’s biggest names are accounted for here. Yet somewhat puzzlingly, the sequencing seems to lack any rhyme or reason, progressing neither chronologically nor based on chart success. Opening with Dave Mason’s 1970 single “Only You and I Know,” it then moves on to Mark-Almond’s 1971 single “The City,” the Crusader’s 1972 single “Put It Where You Want It” and then back to 1970 with Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.”
Regardless, it’s ultimately not about the nuts and bolts of who did what when, but instead the focus is placed squarely on the music itself. Open-minded listeners will find themselves marveling at the broad range of artists and styles available here. Those less adventurous souls will be more likely to cherry-pick, going straight to long-time favorites at the expense of lesser-known gems like the funky strut of Phillip Upchurch’s “Darkness Darkness” or Luis Gasca’s searing trumpet leads on “Little Mama.”
With both Krasnow and LiPuma having passed away within the past year, All Day Thumbsucker Revisited has been once again made available, the original 1995 edition long since gone out of print. Released on both CD and digital formats, modern listeners can check out the revolutionary label that offered an equal artistic platform for everyone from Sun Ra to the Pointer Sisters to Ken Nordine and nearly all points in between.