QUESTIONS ... ALWAYS QUESTIONS ......
The following are some of the questions Tom gets asked, both online and at concerts, about performing, tunings, equipment, etc. If you have a question that isn't answered here, drop us a note at email@example.com, and we'll try to corral Tom for an answer.
What are Tom's newest CDs?
Newly released in July, 2013, theTom Rush 50th Anniversary DVD/CD 2-disc set was recorded live at Symphony Hall Boston in December 2012, with numerous guest artists. The DVD video and accompanying audio track are positively stunning.
We have also recently released Tom Rush at the Unicorn, original recordings from 1962, on CD. What I Know, my first studio album in over 30 years, was released in 2009 to great reviews. My previous album, Trolling for Owls, released in 2003, contains stories and songs
from live performances. Most albums, CDs and downloads, are available online on this site from Nimbit. See the complete DISCOGRAPHY for
complete details on every album.
Does Tom have a songbook available?
Sadly, the eonomics of songbook publishing have made them impossible. The Tom Rush: Wrong End of the Rainbow songbook, from the 1970s, is no longer in print, but we hear stories of people finding it in used bookstores, and even for
sale on eBay.
How can we get Tom to play at our school/club/venue?
Contact Andrea Sabata at Skyline Music 866.531.2172 ext. 106. Andrea and Skyline handle
How do I get permission to record one of Tom's tunes?
The proper way to get permission is to contact Bug
Music in LA (they administer my publishing) and get them to issue a license.
I hear Tom is available to do voice-over work for advertisers.
I'm available. On the east coast, contact Stephen Arcieri at Arcieri Talent in NY (212) 286-1700, Steven@ArcieriTalent.com; on the west coast call Jeff Danis, DPN Talent in LA (310) 550-4304, firstname.lastname@example.org
Will any of Tom's old recordings be re-released?
Most albums have been re-released on CD except Late Night Radio. All available CDs can be found at the store except
for a couple of double-album imports from England, which can be bought from
I'm a guitar player. Is there tablature available for Tom's songs?
There is nothing officially available at the moment. There
is an instructional DVD on the Homespun label, available at the web
store. It is occasionally
possible to find earlier Tom Rush songbooks for sale on e-Bay auction
site. In addition there is a website, Cowboy Lyrics, specializing in tablature, and a number of Tom's songs have been
included. We have not checked them for accuracy. We also found a TAB of "Moles
Moan" at http://www.fretplay.com/tabs/r/rush_tom/moles_moan-tab.shtml
What level of guitar competence do you need to have to make good use of Tom's "How To" DVD?
Hard to say. It’s probably not going to be that helpful for real beginners – it assumes you know how to play a bit. But I tried to gear it to a variety of skill levels. The key, as with learning anything like this, is repetition and I break the songs down into bite-sized segments and urge the student to do each one over and over until they feel good, then string the segments together. The more comfortable you are with the instrument, the quicker this process will be. But it is not meant to show you how to play the guitar, just how to play these songs.
Hope that helps!
Do you know if Classic Rush is available anywhere?
Classic Rush is a compilation drawn from the three albums that were made for Elektra Records: Tom Rush, Take a Little Walk, Circle Game. It is prettyt much out-of-print though can occasionally be found at Amazon.com.
I remember watching one of Tom's performances from Symphony Hall on PBS in the early 1980's. Were any of those performances saved on videotape? If so, is there a DVD or VHS tape available anywhere?
There are tapes existing of that show at WGBH in Boston. It hasn't been released for home use because of complex issues with the performing rights to that material. We do keep asking them.
Where is Tom performing during the next few months?
As soon as we confirm performance dates, they are put on the website. It is the best source available for the schedule. If you subscribe to our e-mail list, or our Facebook page, you'll be among the first to know.
|Photo: Bruce W. Bedford |
It looks like you're playing an Epiphone Texan guitar, though I figured that you'd probably playing some new, designer guitar
made by a pony-tailed craftsman out of yak wood, imported from the Maldive Islands (craftsman completes one every eight years, inlaid with father and mother of pearl). What other guitars have you played?
Yes, it's a Texan, two of them,
actually. My old favorite, an Epiphone FT 79N that I bought
new in Cambridge, MA for $179 (called "The Naked Lady" because of the inlay on
the neck), burned up in my fire in NH many years ago, and since then two
people have come forward to give me replacements (although nothing can ever
replace the Lady). I like the guitars. Both mine have been worked on by
the Music Emporium in Lexington, MA, which might be why they sound better
than production run Texans.
The other guitar I use on stage is a handmade instrument
by Don Musser, which is very similar to a Martin D-28, but has a few modifications.
I lost a Guild 212 12-string in the fire. Just found one on eBay after
looking for 16 years, and am having a wonderful time with it. My first real guitar was a Martin 00-18 that my dad
bought me. The other guitar I use on stage is a handmade instrument
by Don Musser, which is very similar to a Martin D-28, but has a few modifications.
You had an iPad on stage, was that for tuning?
Yes, I was using the iPad for tuning. I also have Guitar Toolkit on my iPhone.
I noticed the pickups on your guitars were all white. What kind do you use?
They’re all Baggs "Anthems." The new Naked Lady comes with the Anthem, so I had the other guitars converted over from the Fishman "Blender" that I had been using so they'd all be the same. I'm still using the Fishman Blender box as a DI, but only because it has a mute switch on it, so I can mute the line when changing instruments.
I noticed the guitars were plugged into a box before going to the house system. I'm guessing that was a guitar modeling pre-amp or mixer, right? It worked quite well. What was that?
it’s a Fishman “Pocket Blender,” basically an active direct box with some phase and tone controls, ground lift and mute switch. I recently had all the instruments converted over from the Fishman system to Baggs’ Anthems, but am still using the Blender box because it has that mute switch that allows me to change instruments without a lot of pops and crackles.
Though you don't say it
specifically, it sounds like the most of what you have recorded has been with the Epiphone Texan including the Prestige, Elektra, and Columbia material. Is that right?
The original Epiphone was a 'Frontier" model, the FT-79, and was made, I believe in the last year before they changed the headstock, 1962 maybe? I bought it as a guitar to take to beach parties and such, because it was so cheap as to be almost disposable. I then got very fond of it and had it dressed up with the inlay of the naked lady with a snake (a biblical theme), and she became known as "The Naked Lady." It was fun to hear the roadie yell to the stage hand, 'Take the Naked Lady to Tom's dressing room." Heads would turn.
I did indeed do much of the early recording with that guitar. Part of the tone came from the fact that I initially tuned her down a full tone, then a few years later bumped it up to a half-tone down, finally getting up to A440 in the late '60s. So that huge sound had partly to do with the strings flapping at such a leisurely pace.
What equipment did you use to get such a good laptop recording of "What I Know"?
It's ProTools with an "Mbox" both by DigiDesign.
I'm guessing you've had a few guitars long enough for the frets to wear out. What do you do at that point? Is it possible to replace just the frets? If so how? Do you have to replace the whole neck? Or do you just hang it up on a wall and admire it? Inquiring minds want to know!
Frets can be replaced, but you'll need a grownup to do this. Luthiers replace frets all the time. They have a weird looking pair of pliers that they use to wiggle the old ones out, and then they have an assortment of new fret wire that they match up to your particular situation.
The wire has a "T" shaped cross section with the top of the T being the fret you see, and the bottom going down into the slot in the fingerboard. Typically, they only replace the ones that need it, down at the bottom third of the neck. There can be problems if the neck has extensive inlay (as my old customized Epiphone, the ""Naked Lady," did), since removing the old fret can pull up chips of the inlay material.
Hope this helps!
What guitar are you playing in the "Remember Song"" video?
It's my #1 guitar, handmade by Don Musser. Now luthier to the stars, he was just starting out when I bought it at McCabe''s in Santa Monica for about $750 in 1977. I know it was one of his first ones – they told me he’d come in the year before and bought “How to Build a Steel String Guitar” by David Russell Young.
Enjoying learning how to play some of Toms songs on the Homespun DVD
after listening to them for 30 years. Can someone tell me what brand of
thumb pick you use? All of the ones I've tried have been too stiff to
play in your style?
What kind of strings do you use with your six string instruments?
I use medium gauge bronze (not phosphor-bronze), a bit heavier than most players. I play pretty hard on stage, and the light gauge strings tend to buzz and break on me.
If you could play "Rockport Sunday" on any new guitar, which one would you choose?
I don't know how to answer the question. I don't know that much about guitars - my MO has always been to try to find one who's sound and feel I like (and that I can afford). I'm not brand-loyal, and have found that there's enough variation between individual instruments that, even though I might love on particular Martin D-35, for instance, I wouldn't love all of them. On top of that, I've found that my playing style evolves to fit the instrument, so that when I get a new guitar (which hardly ever happens - I'm happy with the ones I've got) I have to adapt to it, and the old familiar material comes out a little differently.
I know that doesn't answer your question, but it's the best I can do"
I wonder what strap system you use? I like the way you could just switch guitars without messing with the strap itself, and you seemed very confident that it would hold.
The strap is one I made myself many years ago, just a strip of leather with holes punched at either end, with a short slit cut coming out of the hole toward the center of the strap. I recall I did have to fiddle with it a bit, enlarging the holes and the slits little by little until it would come on and off easily and yet be secure.
I hadn’t thought about it, but now that you mention it, I have had trouble with other straps when I’ve used them, mainly in terms of the easy-on/easy-off feature.
Any chance of getting the tuning Tom uses for "The Dreamer?
It's a standard tuning with the bottom (bass) E string dropped to D.
Any hints on playing "Mighty Storm?"
"Mighty Storm" couldn’t be simpler. It’s in an open tuning (formerly C tuning, now G tuning capo’d on the 2nd fret). It has 2 chords: the One (all open strings or at the 12th fret, an octave higher) and the Four (fifth fret). I use the handle of a table knife for a slide, but anything will do.
Any special tuning for your very fine version of "Turn Your Money Green"? I'm trying to play it in standard tuning, with a capo on the third fret, but I can't quite get your deep, sweet sound.
Thanks for the note and the kind words. I did TYMG in an open G tuning (D,G,D,G,B,D, starting at the bass string). I just checked and apparently I was in those days tuning my guitar a half tone down, so the recording is actually in F#. Hope this helps.
I saw Tom years ago do "Drivin' Wheel" in
solo concert. My favorite song, on slide acoustic guitar. What tuning did he use?
I think there’s some confusion here. I very seldom do Driving Wheel solo because I don’t feel I can make it “Big” enough without some accompaniment — though I occasionally have a lapse in judgment and try anyway. But I have never done it with a slide (though David Bromberg is playing a key part on a Dobro in the Columbia recording). I think the song you’re conflating with Driving Wheel is Panama Limited, a long train song/story. That one I do in a D tuning, with the capo on the second fret, so it comes out in E. (I used to do it in E tuning but broke a lot of strings — it took me decades to realize I could tune down, capo up and end up in the same place with a lot less string tension.)
I have the lyrics to "What I Know" as I copied them from the CD but would love to have the chords. It would sound wonderful on the ukulele.
There is no proper sheet music. I play it in D shapes but capo’d at the 3rd fret, so it comes out in F. I've worked it up into a downloadable PDF file.
What's the open guitar tuning Tom uses on "River Song"?
It's a D, capo at the third fret to yield an F.
What's your tuning on "Urge for Going"?
It’s in a conventional tuning, capo on the 3rd fret, played in A shapes so it comes out in C. There’s an instructional video on Homespun (available at the store at TomRush.com as chance would have it) that will give you a blow by blow, chord by chord, nuance by nuance lesson if you’d like, but you probably can figure it out all by yourself.
I am looking for the TAB and tuning of Tom Rush's "Rye Whiskey".
Sorry, no tab. But the tuning is an open D (starting with the bass string, D,A,D,F#,A,D). I used to tune my guitar down a half, or even a full step, so the recording might be lower than D. Then I put the guitar face-up on my lap and use the handle of a table knife as a slide, holding it by the blade. Do not use a sharp knife."
What do you use for "The Remember Song"?
I play the "Remember Song" (a/k/a Remember?) in a regular tuning, D shapes with the capo on the 3rd fret, so it comes out in F.
When I last saw Tom, I saw him use a guitar technique I've never seen with any other artist, consisting of moving his fingering hand from under the neck to a position over the neck and fingering notes and chords from there.
Back in ‘66 or ‘67 I showed Joni open tunings. (Now, David Crosby claims that HE taught Joni open tunings, but no matter – I taught HIM open tunings in Coconut Grove in ‘62 or thereabouts.) She took what I showed her and blasted off the planet with it. She used the over-the-neck trick for Circle Game, and I’ve also found it useful for Drift Away. It’s basically a simple way of making a bar chord while leaving the top 2 strings open. The “proper” way of accomplishing this involves bending the finger in ways that are anatomically improbable and downright uncomfortable.
I don’t know what you’re talking about when you say “C shape” tuning.
By “C shapes” I was referring to capo-ing up a guitar in standard tuning. The Child’s Song, for instance, is in a standard tuning. I put the capo on the 4th fret and then play “in C shapes,” in other words I play the chord that, if there were no capo and I was 4 frets down the neck, would be the C chord. But since it’s capo’d up 2 full tones it comes out in E.
Another way of saying it: with no capo, play a plain old C chord. Now hold that shape and move up the neck 4 frets (and put a capo on the 4th fret). Now you’re playing a “C shape,” but a tuner will tell you you’re playing an E chord.
Can you give me an idea how you play "Rye Whiskey?"
Rye Whiskey’s in an open D tuning (D,A,D,F#,A,D, starting with the bass string), no capo as I recall, though you could capo up to a better key if you like. It’s a style called “knife guitar,” wherein the handle of a table knife is used as a slide. (It wants to be a handle with a slight concave curve to it, to match the convex curve of the guitar neck.) The only chords are the one (and the octave at the 12th fret), the four and the five – D, G and A, if you’re in the key of D.
Hope that helps. If not, take a shot or two of Jack Daniels and try again.
What's the tuning on "Drift Away"?
D tuning, capo 3rd fret (so it comes out in F)
NEW You say that you use a D Tuning on Drift Away (your cover is by far the BEST Ever!) but I am confused...is that Double Drop D...or 3 D's....of the whole guitar dropped to the key of D?
I’m confused most of the time myself, so I can relate. The tuning in question is the full D chord; starting from the bass string it goes D, A, D, F#, A, D. I’m capo-ing on the 3rd fret, so it comes out in F.
Hope that helps!
What's the tuning on "Rockport Sunday"
It's a C tuning: Starting with the bass string it goes C,G,C,G,C,E with
the first three being tuned down from "regular" tuning, the G and high E
strings being left alone, and the B string being tuned up to C. It's a nice
Hello Tom... any chance you would offer a few tips on playing your cover of Black Magic Gun? Open D?... can you throw a few chords or other suggestions at me?
I drop both the E strings to D and play it in D (with the high string open most of the time). That’s about as helpful as I can get, since I don’t have tabs on it – but that should get you moving in the right direction!
How about "Joshua Gone Barbados?"
I’ve usually done Joshua in open G tuning, and that’s the way it’s been recorded. Lately I’ve taken to doing it in open D, capo’d on the 3rd fret, so it comes out in F.
Can you give me an idea of the slide technique you use on "Galveston Flood?"
I used to play it in a C tuning (C,G,C,G,C,E - starting with the bass string), but have recently switched to the key of A (a G tuning capo'd at the 2nd fret). All the recordings are (I think) in C.
I'm sliding a kitchen knife - held by the blade, using the handle as the slide - up and down the strings. 5th fret and 12th fret are the only stops on the route.
I have a couple questions about the knife (ever cut yourself holding the blade?).
I have read your posts, about stops along the way on 5 and 12.
1) Do you rest the steel on the strings like you were playing harmonic notes;
2) Or do you do so like a bar chord and press all the way down?
No, no cuts so far, but it’s a plain old table knife, wouldn’t cut much more than butter.
I hold the handle right over the fret, don’t push down any harder than needed to make good contact with the strings – firmer than one would do for harmonics, but not “all the way down.”
The string will be vibrating on both sides of the contact point which gives it all sorts of odd overtones. (This is as opposed to the Dobro style of playing where you use your hand to mute the strings behind the slide.)
One other thing: I use a knife that has a bit of a concave curve to the edge of the handle, the better to approximately match the convex curve of the neck. A flat handle will only make good contact with a couple of strings at any one time and the rest will buzz like crazy.
Hopes this helps!
Mobile-Texas Line Tuning?
It’s been a long time, but I recall that it’s in a G tuning (D/G/D/G/B/D).
What's the tuning on "San Francisco Bay Blues"?
It’s in a regular tuning, though back in the old days I used to tune my guitar a full tone low, then a half tone low for a while, then I finally got up to pitch in the late ‘60s.
It’s in C shapes, and includes F and G (of course) and also A and D and E7. I’m sure there’s some helpful website that will give you the chord chart – it was written by Jesse Fuller.
What's the tuning on 'Galveston Flood'?
The tuning is C and, starting with the bass string, it goes C,G,C,G,C,E. So
you tune the E, A and D strings down, leave the G and high E alone, and tune
the B string up half a tone.
What is your tuning for "Old Man's Song?"
It was written by Murray McLauchlan (of Child’s Song fame). It’s been decades since I’ve done the song, but I believe it was in a regular tuning.
What tuning do you use on 'Barbry Allen'?
It's an open D: starting with the bass string - D,A,D,F#,A,D. Back when I recorded it I seemed to be tuning my guitars down either a half or sometimes a whole step from A=440, so the recording may be pitched lower than D.
And what's the tuning on "Circle Game"?
'Circle Game' is in G tuning capo'd on the 4th fret, though I used to tune down a half (sometimes a full) tone so I'm not sure what key the recording was in.
What's the tuning on "No Regrets"
Again, it's a C tuning, (starting with the bass string) C,G,C,G,C,E. The B string is tuned up to C, the rest are tuned down (except for the G and high E, which stay the same)
I've been trying to play 'Panama Limited', but I can't seem to come up with the right tuning. Would you be able to tell me what key I should tune to?
Originally I used an "E" tuning, where the strings are tuned exactly as they
would be if you played an E chord (E,B,E,G#,B,E) but I found I was breaking
strings a lot, especially the G string. I quit doing the song for years
until it finally occurred to me that I could tune a full tone lower and capo
on the second fret to achieve the same effect with less string tension. So I
now use a "D" tuning: D,A,D,F#,A,D. Go to it!
Would you please tell me what key you recorded "Lonely" in? Are you capoed? What is the chord progression?
I think it's in E. D tuning capo'd on the 2nd fret. Chords are the 5, the relative minor and the 1. Relative minor is a wrap-around with the thumb covering the 5th and 6th strings on the 2nd fret, ring finger covering 3 through 1 strings on the 2nd fret, and the 2nd finger covering the 4th string on the 1st fret. I think. Something like that.
Who wrote "Hobo's Mandolin" and what key is it played in?
Mike Smith, from Chicago, wrote "Hobo's Mandolin"; it's in C-sharp
with the capo on the 3rd fret, so it comes out in E-flat (I think - I haven't
played it in a while.).
I've always wondered about the song "Poor Man" - it sounds almost like it’s in DADGAD, although I don’t think that tuning was well known in the 60’s. What tuning did you use on that song? Do you remember where you first heard it? It sounds like a blueprint for Dylan’s Hollis Brown.
As I recall I just dropped the 2 E strings to D for this one to get a “modal” sound. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but Dylan has said that it was indeed the “seed” for his “Ballad of Hollis Brown.
Do you remember your first gig?
In 1961, a flamenco guitarist friend, Johnny Pankin, had a regular gig at the Salamander Coffee House in Boston. He decided he was going to go to Spain and live with the Gypsies and study guitar with them (when he got there, of course, the gypsies would have nothing to do with him). He asked me if I’d like to take over his night at the club and I agreed, all excited. My first paid gig! $10, if memory serves, and all the coffee I could drink.
I recall it was a tough one, propped up on a stool in the corner trying to musically get people’s attention while they chatted over coffee. Apparently I was too successful, though it didn’t feel that way at the time. After the first night Paul very kindly told me there would not be a second night because his customers weren’t buying enough coffee and they were listening to me instead of drinking - one of the stranger compliments I’ve received. I decided to focus my efforts on coffee houses where the emphasis was more on music than coffee, and it’s been downhill ever since.
I just saw the movie Festival Express. Just a great movie with some
fine performances. I was wondering if that's Mr. Rush seen in a
couple of scenes in the movie.
Yes, that was me. And Trevor. Best party I've ever been to.
And that's saying something, even if it does end with a preposition. (The DVD is, unfortunately, out-of-print)
How did" Rockport Sunday" come about? Is it about Rockport, MA?
I wrote the piece as a sound impression of a generic small
seaport town, was going to call it Newport Sunday but decided that Newport
carried too much
baggage, switched to Rockport. I did have Rockport, MA in mind, but almost
any Rockport would do, as long as it has ocean.
Does a recorded rendition of Duncan and Brady 'extended version' exist anywhere and can I
'Duncan & Brady' was recorded for the CD Trolling for Owls, which is available at shows and online.
When was the last time you sang "Kids These Days" at a performance?
It’s been a while since I performed “Kids These Days.” I mainly work solo these days, and at least half of that song is introducing the band. The last and only time I did it solo I didn’t realize my dilemma until I was well into the piece — I spent the last half introducing the potted plants around the stage (“All the way from Asia, give it up for FICUS!!”). The audience sat and stared. Lesson learned.
I heard you play your version of Casey Jones at the Cellar Door in DC in 1968. I am thrilled now to have it on your new CD (What I Know).
Can you tell me where you learned this version? The music, the lyrics, and the performance are simply fantastic.
Finally, am I correct in thinking that you originally played it in open G?
One of the cool things about traditional music it that the songs exist in innumerable variants and one can pick and choose which versions of verses to use. I believe that I assembled this version from pieces that are not guilty of character assassination. (Even though some of those verses are pretty good: “Mr. Casey said just before he died/’There’s one more drink I wish I’d tried.’/The fireman asked him ‘What can they be?’/ A glass of water and a cup of tea.”)
The music is my attempt to emulate my friends Todd and Malcolm McKinney’s version, but I fall short.
I was turned onto the "Tom Rush" record back in the 70's. "Driving Wheel" had always stuck in my brain.
Could you please tell me who wrote it and how it came about?
it was written by a Canadian friend named David Wiffen. When I was making that first album for Columbia (“Tom Rush,” a/k/a “the purple album”) Trevor Veitch, my lead guitar player, also a Canadian, pitched the song to me and I didn’t want to do it — something I can’t recall now about some of the lyrics being awkward. He persisted, we cut it with David Bromberg adding the hook part on Dobro and it became one of my all-time favorites. I don’t often do it in my solo shows because I feel it needs to be bigger than I can make it with just one acoustic guitar, but whenever I have even one more player on stage with me I’ll take it out for a spin. Thank you Trevor!
"What I Know." was voted "Album of the Year" by the International Folk Alliance. You recorded it in Nashville, featuring performances with Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith and Bonnie Bramlett. So much recording today is done in bits and pieces, often people just send in their tracks. Did you record "What I Know" together live in the studio?
The core band was live in the studio with me, but Emmy, Nanci and Bonnie overdubbed their contributions in that same studio while we all stood around in awe. Other parts, however, were recorded in White Plains, NY and Studio City, CA. The players I worked with in Nashville were absolutely fabulous – it was like getting a magic carpet ride!
I'm trying to find out some information as to whether John Sebastian played harmonica on the album Take A Little Walk With Me.
Yup, he does.
On the album "Take A Little Walk With Me," who exactly was the piano player, identified as "Roosevelt Gook"
Rumor has it that Roosevelt Gook was Bob Dylan, and I perhaps have not done enough to dispel that. It was, in fact, Al Kooper, who was also on the sessions as himself. Union rules were the reason for the pseudonym.
Players got paid for a 3-hour session, or any part thereof. BUT, if you played more than one instrument on the session you were supposed to get paid twice. Since this would have been a budget-breaker on many projects, and since most session players were glad of the work, they would use a second name for the second instrument. All players were supposed to be in the union, but as I recall you were allowed one session as a freebie, which is why Roosevelt has never appeared on any more recordings.
Also, “Daddy Bones” on that album was the late John Herald, for the same reasons.
I was wondering: where
can I get the lyrics for the song "Panama Limited"? I'm aware
that the song is a compilation of parts of some of Bukka White's
music. Could you possibly elaborate on that?
As far as I know nobody has ever transcribed the lyrics to my version of Panama Limited - maybe you could be the first!
Booker T. White ("call me Bukka"") was a Memphis bluesman who is now buried there in an unmarked grave in the Potter's Field section of the municipal graveyard there. He had a few train songs, and my "Panama Limited" is a commingling of his version along with some stuff from "Special Streamline." (I have been busted by a train buff who pointed out that the Panama Limited actually ran to Panama City, Florida, hence the name, not New Orleans - that would have been the Special Streamline.)
In those days the train steam-whistle was like a giant one-note harmonica, and the engineer could "bend" that note by letting more or less steam pressure through the valve, and play with cadence. Most long-run engineers had a signature whistle blast, so you really could "tell by the way that the whistle moan, the man at the throttle was Casey Jones," for instance.
What happened to Buskin and Batteau?
Buskin & Batteau are currently playing a very active schedule of shows. More can be found on their website at http://www.buskinandbatteau.com/
How about Trevor Veitch? Is he still playing?
Trevor is indeed still playing, although he mainly works as a producer these
days. He's living with his wife and son in CA, and I see him
almost every time I go through the area, and we e-mail each other
jokes on a regular basis.
What's that song about 50/50? Is it on an album?
"All a Man Can Do" is on my studio album What I Know. I think
that's the tune you mean, featuring the line, "Take your chances, take your
shot / fifty-fifty's all you got.
Could you help me locate the sheet music or
tablature for Starlight? I think this is one of Tom's best songs,
yet he never sings it at concerts
I don't have any tabs for 'Starlight,' but I think it was part of a song book keyed to the Wrong End of the Rainbow album. You might find it on eBay.
I always wondered what the "rainbow circle" meant in my favorite song, "Merrimack County"
There is sometimes a faint rainbow circle around the moon, and the mariners of old used to say this was a predictor of bad weather. They were right. The phenomenon is caused by ice crystals in the troposphere (you can calculate the altitude by the diameter of the circle) and represents the leading edge of a low pressure system.
When I was writing the song there was a verse about the weather on the day I was born. That verse was dropped, but the rainbow circle survived.
Did Tom write the lyrics to Galveston Flood or is it traditional?
I learned the song from Eric von Schmidt (who wrote Joshua Gone Barbados), who learned it from a Library of Congress recording of a man with the great name of the Reverend “Sin Killer” Griffin. He was recorded on Easter Sunday of 1942 at the Darlington State Penitentiary in Texas. If anyone was entitled to a copyright it would be Sin Killer, though I expect it would be in the Public Domain by now. What I copyrighted in my name and Eric’s was the arrangement. This is simply a device that gets “mechanical” royalties paid to the artist when they are recording PD material.
What's the name of the song about the old guy?
Could be Murray McLauchlan's "Old Man's Song," "Desperados
Waiting for a Train" by Guy Clark, or if you've heard it recently or seen it on YouTube, you may be referring to "The Remember Song," by Steve Walters. There are probably others. There are a lot of old guys out there.
What's the name of the song about losing your memory?
"The Remember Song", is about a guy who
can't. Steve Walters wrote it. I recorded it on my album Trolling for Owls, and a concert version is on the Judy Collins Wildflower Festival CD (not the DVD). And it's had almost 5 million hits on YouTube.
Who played bass on "Urge for Going" on the Circle Game album in 1968
Did Carly Simon ever sing backup for you?
in 1974, Carly Simon provided backup vocals on the album Ladies Love Outlaws and co-sang on "No Regrets" and as backup on "Claim On Me".
Who Wrote "Jazzman"?
Ed Holstein wrote the song. GOOGLE® him for more information.
I bought your Tom Rush album in Brussels in '66...
I always wondered where the shot at the river and the trains was taken.
It is, I think, my favourite album cover of all times.
In that shot I'm standing in New Jersey, the river is the mighty Hudson, and the city on the far side is New York, New York. I like the shot, though, because you can't really tell it's New York - none of the signature skyline is visible - it's kind of a generic train yard, generic river, generic city.
Who is the girl with you on the cover of Circle Game?
There are rumors that that woman was Linda Eastman (who later married Paul McCartney), but Linda was the photographer on that shoot. The woman in the picture was my then-girlfriend, Jill Lumpkin.
What's the name of the song Tom sings about coyotes? Is it on an album?
The Coyote Song is properly called 'A Cowboy's Paean on a Coyote.' It's been recorded on Trolling for Owls, a live performance CD which is available at shows and online.
Who played piano on "On the Road Again," Live at Symphony Hall? It was one of the greatest performances I have ever seen.
That probably would have been Irwin Fisch – I don’t think Buskin played keyboard on that one.
Tom Rush had an guitar piece that was played every Sunday night as the theme
song for a folk music show on Boston radio in the 60"s. Can you tell me the
name of the piece and what album I can get that will have it?
Most likely it's 'Mole's Moan,' by Geoff Muldaur.
Jefferson Kaye used it, I think, on his WBZ show. It's on the Fantasy CD Blues,
Songs and Ballads, available
on this website.
I remember a video by Tom on MTV in its first couple years. It was a sparse, gentle version of Lousiana Eyes. The video portion was set on a bare sound stage---no audience, just Tom and the other performers. I can't find a single reference to it anywhere online. Is it available anywhere? Was it another performer? Am I losing my mind?
I'm happy to tell you that your mind is not lost, just wandering a bit. I think the footage you're referring to was on a PBS special from Symphony Hall in Boston in, I believe, 1982. I don't recall ever having done anything for MTV, but that doesn't mean I didn't"
I have an album “Mind Rambling” not “Got a Mind to Ramble”. Me thinks I smell
No, it's semi-legit. With the psychedelic craze sweeping the nation,
Prestige decided to re-package "Got A Mind To Ramble," neglecting to consult
me and forgetting that contractually I had approval of all artwork. I made
them take it off the market (though I imagine they sold off whatever stock
they had) and go back to the original art. So it's "highly collectable."
I once heard you sing "Making the Best of a Bad Situation." Who wrote it? Has it been recorded?
"Making the Best of a Bad Situation" was written by Dick Feller. It was recorded by Ray Stevens. Tom includes it in his show once in a while and has recorded it on his Trolling for Owls CD, available at shows and online.
Would you consider your music "pop" or "country"?
There are so many categories, that labeling has become a pointless exercise. For example: On the Ladies Love Outlaws album I made the strategic mistake of putting both a saxophone and a pedal steel on the same song (can’t recall which one – maybe the title track). It got no airplay because pop radio wouldn’t play anything with a pedal steel (“too country”) and country radio wouldn’t play anything with a sax (“too pop”). I don’t know if the same mindset still obtains, but the point is that there seems to be a very subjective, personal and ever-changing list of qualifying and disqualifying features for the genre. I suspect that if George Jones did a rap number backed by a polka band (a scary thought) it would be deemed “Country” because anything by George has to be Country. On the other hand if Elton John put on a big hat and laid on the fiddles, banjos, mandolins and had the Sons of the Pioneers doing background vocals, it still wouldn’t be considered Country.
I've just downloaded "Kids These Days," a song I've always loved, from iTunes. Who was "Pebble Beach of no fixed address"?
That would be Trevor Veitch, whose name was always being misspelled in the papers. 'Pebble Beach" was one of the more egregious errors and I decided to perpetuate it. He now has a fixed address.
We go back a long way. Club 47 in the 60¹s. I¹ve been listening to Blues, Songs and Ballad¹s recently and consider this
one of your best recordings. Very focused guitar playing and great vocals.
Could you talk a little about this album - where was it recorded, how long did
it take, did you write any of the songs (bravo for your arrangements) and who
was on the washtub? I remember one night when the tub players fingers were
wrapped in bandages but the blood was still seeping through. Funny, I remember
that but can¹t remember how old I¹m going to be when my birthday rolls around.
Turns out this year I¹m a year younger than I thought I was. Made for a good
day. We¹ll see what happens next year.
The BS&B CD is actually a compilation of my first ("Got A Mind To Ramble")
and second ("Blues, Songs & Ballads") LPs for Prestige.
The first was cut at Steve Fasset's studio on Beacon Hill in Boston. Fritz
Richmond on washtub, no other accompaniment. The music room was Steve's
living room and the "control room" was the kitchen downstairs. One mic in
the middle of the room -- if you wanted more washtub you moved Fritz closer
to the mic. No EQ -- if you wanted a brighter sound, Steve would come
upstairs and roll the rug back a bit. The one wire from the mic ran down
the stairs and was plugged directly into the single input of the Ampex 601
monaural recorder. I had one knob: "Volume." Steve sat there with
headphones and watched the single VU meter intensely.
I "wrote" Julie's Blues" for that one, though it's actually just a mashup of
a bunch of previously-existing blues verses (but then so were most of the
blues songs out there).
The "Blues, Songs & Ballads" LP was cut somewhere in New York, again with
Fritz on the tub. Paul Rothchild had brought me to Prestige, but then he'd
been wooed away to Elektra. I wanted to follow him, but had a multi-album
deal with Prestige. Bluffing, I told Bob Weinstock, the boss, that I wanted
out and I had a Harvard diploma and would simply quit show biz if he didn't
release me. He insisted on one more album, I said OK, as long as Rothschild
produced it. Well, he hated Paul for having walked out on him, but he said
OK, confident that Jac Holzman at Elektra would never allow it.
I then went to Holzman and said if he wanted me at his label this was how it
had to go down. Apparently he did, because he gave Paul permission. We
then went in the studio and cut Blues, Songs and Ballads, turned around and
went back in a better studio the next week and made my first, eponymous
album for Elektra with a crack crew of sidemen (John Sebastian, Bill Lee,
Felix Pappalardi, John Herald under the name "Daddy Bones," and Fritz.)
Having written this up for you, I then went on line to see if I had the
sidemen right, and found this: http://www.richieunterberger.com/rush.html
It's a sad day when a musician has to look himself up on the net to see if
things were as he remembers them!
I want to ask if you have any advice that you would be willing to share with a young musician.
The landscape is vastly different now than it was in the ‘60s when I started out down this path. The conventional record companies are largely irrelevant now, except to the chosen few willing to sell their futures for a shot at the Big Time, which is much less Big than it used to be and is getting smaller by the year. But the internet has made it possible for just about anybody to get their wares out in front of an audience, so it’s all good.
Of course, your music is a part of you, and you are different from me or anyone else, so it’s hard to give specific advice. Of course you have to work hard to be the best you can, make the best music you can and as much of it as you can. That’s where it starts.
My generic advice would be to,
1) play in front of a live audience as much as possible — you will learn more in 30 minutes of live performance than you will in a month of rehearsing in the garage. The great thing about this art-form is that the feedback is instantaneous. And,
2) do your best to form a personal bond with your audience. Try to engage them from the stage (tell them stories, make them laugh, make them care about you), talk to them after the show, build an email list and send them updates on things coming up. Answer their emails. If you can build a core audience of 1000 loyal fans willing to spend $100 a year on you, you can make a living.
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