BROOKSVILLE - Florida's famed 'Guitar Army' has lost a soldier.
Hughie Thomasson, a founding member of The Outlaws, the world-touring, Tampa-based Southern rock band, died of an apparent heart attack at his Brooksville home late Sunday.
An architect of the guitar-laden sound that produced anthems such as 'There Goes Another Love Song' and 'Green Grass and High Tides,' Thomasson, 55, had recently produced The Outlaws' latest CD, 'Once An Outlaw.'
Thomasson's daughter, Constance Golder of Tampa, said he died in his sleep.
'He had no idea he was who he was,' she said. 'He was the nicest man, the most generous man in the whole world.'
Other survivors include Mary Thomasson, his wife of more than 20 years, an adult son and granddaughter. Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday.
David Dix, a drummer with The Outlaws who had known Thomasson since they were teenagers in Tampa, said the band was devastated by his friend's unexpected death.
'There's never a good time for something like this to happen, but things were so much on the upswing,' he said. 'It looked like we were going to have a shot at recapturing the past glory.'
The band had recently toured the United States with The Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band, and also had played a festival in Amsterdam with Aerosmith, Scorpions and Tesla.
Dix and Thomasson were teenagers when they joined a Tampa bar band called The Outlaws in the late 1960s. Dix said the band was led by local musician named Frank Guidry.
After a breakup and a couple of lineup changes, Thomasson reformed the group in the early 1970s. The band was signed by Arista Records a few years later.
'Around the time of the third album they called and wanted me to rejoin them,' Dix said. 'They wanted two drummers, which was kind of a big thing back then.'
From 1975 to 1980, the band recorded gold albums, 'The Outlaws (1975), 'Bring It Back Alive (1977) and 'Ghost Riders in the Sky' (1980).
'I used to think of us as a hard-rock version of The Eagles,' Thomasson told The Tampa Tribune in 1988.
Drummer Monte Yoho, who has been with the group off and on since the early 1970s, referred to Thomasson's production work on the new CD as his 'master achievement.'
'This record could not have captured The Outlaws better than it did,' he said. 'It was the right time in everybody's career. People will hear it, but there might be some healing time before we even sit down and think about distribution. We'll get to it when the time is right.'
During a roughly 10-year hiatus from The Outlaws, Thomasson also toured and recorded with a revamped Lynyrd Skynyrd. On Monday, friends and family remembered his happy-go-lucky personality and willingness to play to crowds of any size.
In October 2006, the group performed a benefit concert at the Performing Arts Center at Pasco-Hernando Community College that established a scholarship endowment for PHCC students in The Outlaws' name.
'We've played all over Tampa and this state - Gainesville, Lowry Park, the USF soccer field and cafeteria. Anywhere they'd have us, we played,' Thomasson said at the time.
With a laugh, he added, 'It's kind of that way still.'
Despite all that experience, Golder said Monday that performing still made her father nervous.
'But, any time he could help someone, he did,' she said. 'He did a free show in Ohio for the troops this year and he was so excited. Then there was another one in Tampa for a charity for mentally handicapped children.
'He just wanted to be a part of something to help someone else.'