Thursday, December 19, 2013
Kid Thomas -- Why He Sings the Blues
Kid Thomas, the poor man's Little Richard, was operating a moderately successful lawn care service in Beverly Hills when what was left of his life forever changed. On September 3, 1969, Lou T. Watts (Kid Thomas), 35, was driving his van in the 300 block of South Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills, whe he accidentally struck a child riding a bicycle. Ethan Friedman, 10, died of his injuries later that afternoon. The boy's father, Eugene K. Friedman, pressed police and requested the district attorney to file manslaughter charges. Although Thomas possessed five driver's licenses (four obtained by fraudulent means), police were only able to revoke his license. In the absence of witnesses to the accident, the district attorney refused to prosecute citing insufficient evidence. Friedman hired a private investigator to tail the bluesman. On March 2, 1970, police (acting on an "anonymous" tip) arrested Thomas for driving on a revoked license. Friedman was present in court when Thomas came up on charges, but the case was postponed until April 13. That day, Eugene Friedman waited in the parking lot of the public library across the street from City Hall for the arrival of the man he blamed for the death of his only child. Immediately upon his arrival, Kid Thomas was confronted by the distraught father. The men spoke briefly and then Friedman pulled a 9mm automatic pistol from a briefcase and fired point-blank into the bluesman. Thomas ran across the street toward the rear entrance of the police station with Friedman in pursuit still squeezing off rounds. Thomas fell to the curb, but a stray shot struck Beverly Hills Police Sgt. John Carden in the leg as he was standing at the rear door of the station. Friedman dropped his gun and was arrested without incident.
Lou T. Watts, nominally well-known in certain musical circles as Kid Thomas, was pronounced dead at 9:20 A.M. at UCLA Medical Center. At his first-degree murder trial in August 1970, Friedman faced the death penalty and a charge of assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting of Officer Carden. The grieving father testified that he believed his son was standing next to him when he confronted Thomas to plead with him to stop driving. When Thomas assumed what Friedman interpreted as a menacing position the father shot him to protect his son. Following two days of deliberation, a jury found Friedman guilty of the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter, but acquitted him on the assault with a deadly weapon charge. Superior Court Judge Adolph Alexander subsequently placed Friedman on three years probation and ordered him to obtain psychiatric treatment, get a job, and not to use weapons or drugs. "I do not condone violence in any form," added the judge, "but if it was in my power to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor I would do it."
Koda, Cub. "Kid Thomas." www.allmusic.com
Simmonds, Jeremy. The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Rev. ed. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review, 2008.