The Center of Anna Maria Island is offering an eclectic music mix in its second annual Bradenton Gulf Islands Concert Series.
On Thursday, Jan. 23, the center will welcome to its stage Starship featuring Mickey Thomas in the first concert of the 2020 season.
In the late 1970s, Thomas was living and gigging in the San Francisco Bay area when he began getting some notoriety for his vocal performance on Elvin Bishop’s hit, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”
Jefferson Airplane, which later became Jefferson Starship, had formed in the Bay area a decade earlier. Word spread they were looking for a new vocalist as founding members Marty Balin and Grace Slick were departing the group.
Thomas was preparing to journey to Florida to record a solo album when he got the call that Jefferson Starship was interested in him. Apparently, a roadie had forwarded the band Thomas’ demo tape.
Thomas joined Jefferson Starship in 1979.
“I thought I’d give it a couple years. And that was 40 years ago,” he told The Islander Jan. 8 via phone from his Palm Desert home near Palm Springs, California.
Slick rejoined the band in 1982 and would share vocal duties with Thomas over the next seven years.
“Sharing the stage with Grace was great,” Thomas said. “She was very interesting, opinionated, an intellectual with a sardonic wit. With Grace, you never had small talk, always interesting conversations.”
In 1985, Starship released the album “Knee Deep in the Hoopla,” which featured two hits, “We Built this City” and “Sara.” The album went platinum.
Starship followed this up with another hit single, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which became the band’s best-selling tune.
During the heyday of MTV in the 1980s, Starship’s music videos were everywhere, infiltrating pop culture with hits still popular today.
But as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, Starship’s brand of rock began to fall out of favor and the group disbanded in 1991.
By the mid-’90s, though, Thomas began to think Starship wasn’t done and started reaching out. None of the original members were interested, so he brought in new musicians. And that was 25 years ago.
“The longevity of this band is the greatest, all the way back to Jefferson Airplane,” Thomas said.
Nowadays, Starship performs 60-65 shows a year. Thomas also does solo projects, including corporate events and charity functions.
Thomas recently paired with Corey Feldman for what he described as a punk/pop version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
“I really enjoy it now. There’s less pressure than there was in the ’80s,” he said. “I’m thankful I still have my voice. I still do all the songs in their original keys.”
However, even after all these years, performing remains challenging. “There’s an element of fear,” Thomas said. “What if tonight’s the night the notes don’t show up? It’s a lot of work to get to these notes!”
Thomas’ performance in Anna Maria will be the second date of his current tour, which was to kick off on the east coast Jan. 22 in West Palm Beach.
“We love playing Florida,” he said. “It’s a great way for us to start off the year … and the decade.”
An opening act will begin at 7 p.m. Starship will take the stage at 8 p.m. at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.
The Bradenton Gulf Islands Concert Series is sponsored by the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.
At press time, the center had sold about 250 of 500 tickets.
Center executive director Christopher Culhane said he expected the concert to be near sell out by Jan. 23. Prices range from $40-$75.