Thom sang his first full-length song at the age of two and one half years. It was "that lucky old sun" as sung by his father. He still sings this song. Thom's first real instrument after the piano was the ukulele. He went to great lengths to find songs that could be played with two or three chords. Not anymore.
Next he picked up the clarinet so that he could play in marching band. At the age of fourteen, Thom's Uncle Hoke loaned him a guitar. Six months later, Hoke sold the guitar to Thom for all the money he had - two dollars. Thom insists that to this day that was the best two dollars - or ten thousand - that he ever spent.
At age fourteen and one half, Thom gave his first guitar lesson to a friend. He immediately earned back the two dollars in less than one half an hour. He's been teaching music to those thirsty for knowledge ever since that day.
At age fifteen, Thom played his first honky tonk. And his first banjo. At age sixteen, he began to direct his church's youth choir, and played in his school's jazz band. And played his first acoustic bass.
He began to appear regularly on the Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys weekly TV. show as a "folk singer".
His senior year, as a madrigal (a capella) singer, he also directed his own school's sophomore chorus, culminating with a superior in West Florida choral festival and to his chagrin and Excellent in the state competition. Directing the chorus every day for a year under the tutelage of Joseph Martin gave Thom extensive training in conducting - and directing the band as substitute conductor was also an aid to his experience.
At seventeen, Thom got his first full time job at a New Orleans Bourbon Street folk music club that paid a living wage. Then his father found him and made him come back and finish high school.
Thom continued to play - for mental hospitals, prisons, churches, bars, roadside cafes, coffeehouses, parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, funerals, and - did I mention The Atlanta International Pop Festival in front of 400,000 people? With the Allman Brothers? Jerry Garcia? Jerry Jeff Walker? John Denver? Weird Al Yankovic? Etc, etc, Etc?
Anyway, Thom took his vocal trio to New York City, the big town in those days, and the Kindred Spirit, including Thom, Phil Rolleston, and Debra McColl, left a progenital mark in contemporary vocal music that will never be forgotten or ever heard again. They did an abortive recording stint with an ex-Turtle producer (not teenage mutant ninja) that didn't work (too much messy background music was added). Touring up and down Eastern college campuses, living off the Coffee House Tours expense accounts, the Kindred Spirit finally split up when one of the members had to go see his ex-girlfriend in California.
So Thom and Robin Conant formed a band called Handle. Handle recorded in Nashville. Nashville canned Handle's music. However, Thom sold one song to Bobby Goldsboro (now retired) - Throwback (T. Tollerson, BMI 3:28) on Bobby's Come Back Home Album. The song, far ahead of its time, still receives extensive airplay on obscure radio stations in fictional towns in Montana. Phil Rolleston and Kim Parmelee singing, Rick Bear on drums and percussion, and Shell Hall on bass and vocals, along with a host of other musicians, formed the core group of Handle. Handle broke up after the manager spent all their (his) money and confiscated their (his) equipment.
Thom then spent the next two years playing with Tom "Conga King" Meyer and Rick Price (later of the Brains, Georgia Satellites and the Hellhounds) in his living room, which became a kind of nightly amphitheater for errant guests to plop themselves down in and listen to free music. It was here that David, Thom's younger brother, provided his inspiration on an almost daily basis.
After studying with John Sutherland, a protégée' of Andres Segovia, Thom felt a need to practice and moved to California where he fathered two of his three children. Heather, the oldest go-getter, by a former marriage, and then Jenna with present wife Rebecca. There, he studied jazz guitar under Bob Dorr and continued his studies of the classical and improvisational disciplines. He also played and lived the blues with his own Blues Brother, Butch Trivette, now playing piano with his own blues band in the Big Easy.
Thom was fortunate to pen the lead sheets that Steve Perry took to his auditions for his gig with Journey, which Steve enjoyed for almost 20 years. Steve's vocal range was most impressive and Thom transcribed just the songs that Steve had written... with Steve's exceptional vocal control and the imbellishments of blues stylings that he used then, the transcriptions were a welcome challenge.
In California, after a few stints as a cable TV musician, Thom was commissioned to compose music for a play of George Orwell's Animal Farm, for which he received wild opprobrium. Later, he formed a band called the Stragglers with his present wife, Becky. The stragglers made money in shopping malls and coffeehouses and parties from Ventura to Westlake Village. They actually were a pretty awesome band.
Also during this time Thom was privileged to rehearse and play a concert at San Yasidro with the enigmatic Weird Al Yankovic as substitute guitarist / vocalist for Jim West. An awesome learning experience, playing with Weird became a pivotal point in Thom's ability to actually play funny songs and a lightning strike sea change enlightenment experience.
Thom also worked as a choir director for the Conejo Valley Baptist Church during the last few months in California.
Oh, yeah, he played the Troubadour (that famous music room out there in L.A.) a few times too.
Returning to Atlanta after an eleven year absence, Thom began teaching again - and playing as well, he even played a gig with that really great improvisational guitarist, John Fahey, and at a lot of boring, tepid bars you wouldn't recommend to your daughter, eventually landing a job teaching guitar at Emory University's continuing education program, which was a blast. After a seven year stint there, Thom accepted a position as Choir director for Winder First Presbyterian Church for a short time, then resigned to devote more time to his work re-writing his original course, Fourteen Lessons in Guitar, which he had honed to a razor edge while teaching adults (grownups) at Emory. Thom now resides in Winder with Becky and singer/songwriter/actor Sarah, his youngest daughter, working as a World Wide Web Page Designer and Internet service Provider, still teaching guitar and voice, still playing, still crazy, after all these years.
-Only the beginning of later on-
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