was born on December 12, 1945 in Bloomington, Illinois, the son of a 3rd generation farmer.
Raised in Stanford, Illinois, Tom started playing piano as soon as he could climb onto his mom’s creaky piano bench, beginning real lessons at the age of 5.
Fast forward through the years of training and practice to the 18 year old version, when Tom left the farm to become a full time musician.
Tom’s first foray into the world of musical groups ended in 2 short weeks. However, he then joined the 6-piece combo, The Shattertones! The lead guitarist’s father had a trailer built for the band and drove them to the frequent gigs, 3 or 4 per week.
In 1965 – Tom landed in Macon and quickly got a job working at Macon Recording Studio. Macon was a pivotal place in Tom’s life where he first encountered true “soul” music. Lugging his Hammond B3, along with the 80 pound Leslie speaker, up a tight flight of stairs to play for just a few dollars was well worth it when he met with such enthusiastic response from the audience. He found a warm welcome there and played as often as possible for the crowds.
After a few months,
and gathering some musical momentum as a go-to guy for keys, Tom got the call from the wild and energetic Wayne Cochran to join the C.C. Riders, who were touring the nation as a big, brassy rhythm and blues band.
Tom toured as a “Rider” for 2 years with a Fender sponsorship, always placing the Fender Rhodes on top of the B3 as they played at venerable places such as The Apollo, The Royal and The Regal theaters. Some TV appearances on The Jackie Gleason Show and Mike Douglas brought the band even more fame and more gigs throughout the nation.
It was during this exciting and extended 2 year road-trip that Tom’s interest in Jazz was formed and he returned to Illinois to further his studies in music. For 6 years, he was a college student majoring in piano performance. Of course, the lure of the road was strong and Tom took a quick “intermission,” joining the wild band Granny’s Bathwater, backing the great Martha Reeves during 3 months of mostly one-nighters. When they weren’t touring with Martha, they were playing at the famed Ivanhoe on Bourbon Street in The Big Easy.
After that quick trip on the road, Tom returned to school in 1972 and formed his first Jazz Trio in Springfield, Missouri. He also had a real “ragtime” gig during this time where he played a 4 hour set of memorized ragtime classics.
With little time for anything other than music, and having played for 13 years professionally, Tom met the love of his life, Sue. After a life dedicated to music, all the study, all the practice – he faced the reality of making less than 20 thousand a year teaching entitled and mostly disinterested kids in college, and made a serious decision: if they were going to have a successful marriage and raise a family, it would be best to return to the farm.
Farming is hard work, but it’s not all day every day.
Tom continued to take piano gigs as much as possible, leading his local Jazz Trio, playing at such places as the Peoria Jazz Festival and the Governor’s Mansion and peppering those performances with lots of solo gigs, piano/vocalist gigs, quartet gigs, and more; to the point where he was playing 8 steady gigs a week from 1998 to 2000 in Springfield, Illinois… as well as farming!
Tom and Sue, having raised their family, moved part-time to Florida in 2008 where Tom began close friendships with Kenny Drew, Jr., Richard Drexler, John Jenkins and Joe Porter, along with many other great jazz musicians. One of his great contributions to the world of jazz was not only writing and recording his own songs, but recording many, many hours of the great Kenny Drew, Jr. before he passed away in 2014. Tom produced several complete albums of Kenny’s music, both as a soloist and leader of a piano trio.
Today, Tom is once again home in Illinois with his wife, Sue, and still playing Jazz piano with the same soulful stylings he learned in Macon those years ago.