Tag Archives: Tom Tom

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”.

Advertisements

Betty Everett: there’ll come a time

It was last summer. I was privileged enough to hear the iconic (and prolific) arranger Tom Tom Washington play a few chords of  the tune “There’ll Come a Time” on a piano stationed at a Recording Studio on 80th and Stony Island, where in the vacant lot next door they grew cabbage.

It was electric, especially because Betty Everett’s “There’ll Come a Time” (released in 1969 on Uni Records) was one of the first Chicago Soul albums I ever owned. It was also exciting because Tom Tom Washington arranged some of my favorite cuts on the album (we both agreed on our favorite: “1900 Yesterday” (below), sort of an off-kilter swinging 60s dance cut).

On the album, Betty’s sassy-yet-classy salty mezzo-soprano voice was perfectly augmented by swirling strings, staccato horns, shuffling doo-wop background vocals, and rollicking piano. Featuring compositions by Eugene Record (of the Chi-Lites), Curtis Mayfield, and Eddie Sullivan (of the Classic Sullivans), the album serves as a snapshot of Chicago Soul at the time.

Above, listen to Betty Everett’s classic “There’ll Come  Time”. You can hear the cut “1900 Yesterday”, by clicking the “continue reading” icon below… Jive on!

Continue reading