Geoffrey James “Geoff” Nicholls (28 February 1944 – 28 January 2017) was a British musician and keyboardist, and longtime member of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, until 2004. Nicholls also played in the NWOBHM band Quartz, before joining Black Sabbath. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, Geoff played lead guitar for the Birmingham band Johnny Neal and the Starliners.
Nicholls was originally brought in as a second guitarist when Black Sabbath doubted whether they would even continue under that name. Nicholls then switched to bass when Geezer Butler left briefly, and then became the band’s keyboardist upon Butler’s return and the decision to keep the Sabbath name. Nicholls’ first appearance on a Black Sabbath album was on Heaven and Hell (1980), and he was credited as keyboardist on every Sabbath release from that time until 13 (2013), although he was not an official member until 1986. He remained an official member until 1991, then regained member status from 1993 to 1996. He was an unofficial member once again since the reunion with Ozzy Osbourne in 1997. Although his main role with Sabbath was on the keyboard, Nicholls also played some rhythm guitar on the reunion tours, e.g., during Iommi’s solo in “Snowblind” and a few tracks during the Headless Cross (1989) and Forbidden (1995) tours.
In addition to not always being credited as a full member of the band, Nicholls rarely appeared on stage proper during Sabbath shows; instead he usually played from a side-stage or backstage position. One exception to this was the tour in support of the album Seventh Star (1986), wherein he played on stage as an equal member of the band. Another is a concert in May 1988, wherein Nicholls played bass for a charity function.
Nicholls’ involvement with the band ended when Adam Wakeman (a member of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band) was chosen to play keyboards during Sabbath’s 2004 and 2005 tours as part of Ozzfest, and Scott Warren (Dio) handled keyboard duties on the 2007 Heaven & Hell tour.
Until his death, Nicholls played keyboards with former Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin, in his band Tony Martin’s Headless Cross. Nicholls had previously performed on both of Martin’s solo albums and their support tours.
Ronald Marvell Thomas (August 22, 1941 – January 23, 2017) was an American keyboardist known for his work in Memphis Soul, and son of the man dubbed “Memphis’s other King”, Rufus Thomas. His sister Carla Thomas was known as the “Memphis Queen” after her breakthrough hit “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)”. His youngest sibling, Vaneese Thomas, is also an accomplished recording artist.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Thomas’s studio career started at the age of 17. He was the first piano player to punch the clock at Stax Records. He played on the label’s earliest national hits, including “Burnt Biscuits” (by the short-lived group The Triumphs, later covered by Booker T. & the MGs), childhood friend William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, and the company’s first hit “Cause I Love You” (featuring a sixteen-year-old Booker T. Jones on saxophone), a duet by Rufus and Carla Thomas. He also played on some of Wilson Pickett sessions at Stax and at Muscle Shoals. More sessions at Muscle Shoals included Clarence Carter, Eddie Hinton, and Denise LaSalle.
Thomas worked frequently as keyboardist and arranger, appearing on albums by Johnnie Taylor, The Staple Singers, Little Milton, The Emotions, Albert King, Mavis Staples, Yvonne Elliman, and Etta James.
Thomas co-produced and played keyboards on the multi-platinum Isaac Hayes album, Hot Buttered Soul. His touring credits include concerts with The Temptations, and acting as music director for Peabo Bryson, Isaac Hayes, his father Rufus Thomas, and his sister Carla Thomas.
Thomas died after a brief illness in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 75
Watts was born in Yardley, Birmingham, on 13 May 1949, he moved as a child to Worthing, Sussex, and then to Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, where he started learning guitar while at Ross Grammar School. His real middle name, Overend – which initially he did not use – came from that of a family ancestor.
By 1965, Watts had switched to bass guitar, and became a professional musician alongside Mick Ralphs in a group, the Buddies, that played in German clubs. The group later became the Doc Thomas Group, and then Shakedown Sound, before finally changing their name to Silence and settling in London in 1969. The group then added singer Ian Hunter, became Mott the Hoople, and, taking the advice of manager Guy Stevens, Pete Watts adopted the stage name Overend Watts. Following the departure of Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs from the band, in 1974, the remaining members of Mott the Hoople recruited relative unknowns Ray Major, on guitar, and Nigel Benjamin, on vocals. The name was abbreviated to Mott and a further two albums were recorded with this line-up, before Benjamin quit.
Watts continued with Dale “Buffin” Griffin, Morgan Fisher and Ray Major in the Mott successor British Lions, recruiting former Medicine Head member John Fiddler, until their demise around 1979. He later became a record producer, producing albums for artists including Hanoi Rocks and Dumb Blondes.
Watts’s bass of choice was a white Gibson Thunderbird, one of which was later sold to Wishbone Ash bassist Martin Turner.
In January 2009 it was confirmed that Watts and the other original members of Mott the Hoople would reform for three 40th anniversary reunion concerts in October 2009. The reunion at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London, England was extended to five shows due to popular demand.
In August 2009 American rock music group Mambo Sons released their double album Heavy Days featuring a song in tribute to him entitled “Overend Watts”.
In November 2013 Mott The Hoople again reunited, with Martin Chambers once again sitting in (for an ailing Buffin) on drums, for a series of UK gigs in Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle and Manchester, before concluding at the o2 in London.
Watts died on 22 January 2017 from throat cancer at the age of 69