Tom Tom 84 goes Hollywood.

Tom Tom Washington (pictured at left) is basically my hero. He’s also a very humble and cool individual to be around.

As a Chicagoan and a music lover, his distinctive Horn and String Arrangements are like home to me.

Tom Tom came up in Chicago’s Ida B. Wells Projects and studied music under the tutelage of James Mack (an awe-inspiring arranger in his own right). He wound up arranging dozens of records for Chicago Music Heavyweights such as Earth, Wind, & Fire, The Emotions, Tyrone Davis, Deniece Williams (who is from Gary, IN), The Staple Singers, Ramsey Lewis, Leroy Hutson, The Chi-Lites, Otis Leavill, Betty Everett, Jerry Butler, Loleatta Holloway, and many, many, more.

In my cratedigging, I actually look for his name on a record as a mark of excellence.  I call it looking for a “Tom Tom”. I have at least a couple of hundred cuts he’s had a hand in (under the names Tom Tom, Tom Tom 74, Tom Tom 75, Tom Tom 84, Tom Tom Washington, and a few other aliases).

Tom Tom Washington also branched out and worked with artists from all over the world, including Phil Collins and The Whispers. The Whispers are a Los Angeles-based group, and in 1978, he did arrangements for an album called “Headlights”. I know this because I recently found a 45rpm single taken from the album. I’m not usually a fan of the Whispers, but it’s a beast, featuring the top cut, called “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out)” (which is about exactly what you think it’s about), and the B-Side called “Try and Make it Better”,  which is bangin’. The tunes’ arrangements capture the distinctive sound that Tom Tom made classic on hits by Earth, Wind, & Fire and The Emotions. It’s amazing. But why wouldn’t it be? It’s a “Tom Tom”.

About ayanacontreras

i love the transportive powers of sound. i am a radio host/producer, DJ, Sound designer, 45rpm collector, and art lover living in the city of wind. View all posts by ayanacontreras

9 responses to “Tom Tom 84 goes Hollywood.


    Yes! Fantastic. I didn’t know that Mr. Washington was behind my favorite music. Well done.

    • ayanacontreras

      Hi CHISOULOVa! Yes, dozens upon dozens of cuts from “Oh Girl” by the Chi-lites to “Heartbreak Hotel” by the Jacksons, “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” by The Emotions, and “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth Wind & Fire were arranged by Mr. Washington. Amazing. For his discography, and a pretty good idea of all the tracks he arranged click here.

  • Bernie Hayes

    This is awesome. as is Tom Tom and Gene.
    Tom Tom is more than a genius for his music speaks for itself. Daddy ‘G’ is naturally one of a kind.
    Bernie Hayes

  • Ivory Brock

    Tom is an inspiration to professionals and students. During my tenure as Band Director and founder of first instrumental program at Whitney Young Magnet HS, I can’t tell u how many countless hours Tom would spend helping me with my students. Many are professional musicians today. I appreciate the insights you gave me as a young teacher.
    Ivory Brock

  • mike jones

    i had the pleasure of being in a tom tom 84 recording session at p.s recording studios around `1978 . pure magic to see him come in and make a ordinary song wake up with flavor.the way he spoke to the musicians and got tne best out of them.i will never forget that nite

  • L

    Hey AyanaContreras~

    I know this post goes back a bit, but just wanted to share an unknown/ unheard recording that Tom Tom ”2020” arranged AND played Fender Rhodes e.Piano on back in the late 70’s (Tom is a potent kybd player)!

    It’s called “Positive Forces”, and was recorded by Leroy Hutson at Curtom Recs with ‘SuperFly’ session players “Lucky” Scott on bass/Master Henry Gibson on Percussion, Gospel Artist Calvin Bridges on Piano, & Marvin Gaye’s drummer Doni Hagan, as well as stellar guitarist Ross Traut.

    Here is the link to the YouTube video:


    The vocal group Tavares also recorded and released a version of the same song, but Tom & the Crew’s version is just way bangin’!

    • ayanacontreras

      Thank you for this, L! Not sure if you are actually Leroy Hutson; but in case you are, I love your work.
      I have seen Tom Tom at the keys, and yes, he is great.
      That song by Reality, is Rikki Linton from the group The Lintons?

      • L

        Hi again~

        *Actually no i’m not Leroy Hutson, lol, i’m a session kybd player who’s
        worked with Warner Bros/CBS/Elektra artists as well as some of Leroy
        Hutson’s recordings toward the end of the Curtom era.

        *Yes, that is THE great Rikki Linton from the Lintons family group. You reminded me that i was allowed to sit in as an ‘interim’ producer on a United Airlines jingle his sister Pat did a lead vocal on for Burrell/JoyArt.

        I wrote the music to Positive Forces” & my bro Joe D. wrote the lyrics. I only use the first letter of my name at the moment, until ‘all is revealed’, lol

        And i will definitely relay your msg to ‘Hut r.e. his work… he’ll be ecstatic!

  • Daryl Cameron

    Tom Tom!!
    One of the most talented arrangers ever!
    And even more than that…ONE COOL BROTHER!😎
    Daryl Captain Sky Cameron

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