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News:
Sun Messengers drummer Terry "Thunder" Hughley dies at 61
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Detroit musician Terry "Thunder" Hughley was a man of great stature, both physically and in terms of his talent.

The list of musicians and groups he played with could fill a telephone book, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any of them to say a bad word about the drummer and vocalist. A ubiquitous presence around the Detroit music community, Best known for his work with Detroit's Sun Messengers, Hughley was revered for his versatility, dependability and perfectionism, as well as the showmanship that came from a gregarious personality that lit up any room or stage he visited.

Hughley died Friday, June 26, after suffering a severe asthma attack at his home in Detroit. He was 61.

"He was just the sweetest guy," said Grammy and Emmy Award-winning producer Don Was, who used Hughley in the band for his Concert of Colors showcase each year. "And he was a great player, just all about the groove and always in the pocket."

Sun Messengers co-founder Rick Steiger, who brought Hughley into the Sun Messengers during the fall of 1990 and eventually made the drummer the group's music director, remembered him as "a multi-talented individual. Not only was he a fine drummer but also a very fine singer with a really good ear and was very strong on arrangements. And he was a true entertainer; he understand that, as artists we all have to appeal to people and make our art accessible to people. That was something he understood very clearly."

Born in Detroit and raised on the city's northwest side and in Highland Park, Hughley began playing drums at the age of 16 after receiving a kit from his mother. He studied at Detroit's Metro Jazz Workshop." Steiger recalled that unlike the majority of the musicians there, Hughley tried to play like R&B drummers such as Clyde Subblefield and John "Jabo" Sparks from James Brown's band.

"Terry was a pocket man," said RJ Spangler, a fellow drummer and Sun Messengers co-founder. "He played for the singer. Everything he did was in service to the singer and the song. He himself had marvelous range" as a singer."

One of Hughley's first jobs was playing for former Temptations singer David Ruffin. He went on to work over the years with Mitch Ryder, the Dramatics, the Floaters & Enchantment, the Coasters, Kim Weston, Sir Mack Rice and Black Merda and even backing boxing champion Larry Holmes during his attempt at a singing career. Hughley was also part of recording sessions for commercials for Toyota, car dealerships, Betty Crocker and Mr. Allen's Shoes. and he led his own group, the Terry Thunder Express.

Drummer Todd Glass added that Hughley "was Detroit heart, soul and groove. Terry taught me in one night more than years of listening and practice about groove. But more than that he gave me confidence when I was young and so unsure of my abilities, and in doing so he taught me about character. I can't breathe thinking about this world without him."

Academy Award-winning musician and songwriter Luis Resto said that, "It's tough to imagine not seeing (Hughley) in the drum chair, feeling his huge feel, hearing his comforting, soulful voice singing and his big, beautiful smile. Most of all, I'll miss the kindness and positivity he brought to any gig he was involved in."

Hughley is survived by his wife Deborah and his mother Marie Hughley, both of Detroit, his sister Besty Alford of Seattle, stepdaughters Angel Washington and Crea Scrutchions and their five children. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be handled by O.H. Pye III Funeral Home in Detroit.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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