Tommy Dean
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Tommy Dean

Seattle, WA | Established. Jan 01, 2006 | SELF

Seattle, WA | SELF
Established on Jan, 2006
Solo Americana Folk




"First-class local lineup pays homage to Phil Ochs"

On what would have been Phil Ochs’ 75th birthday, local musicians — including Baby Gramps, Amy Denio and Eric Apoe — play a tribute concert at Columbia City Theatre.

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By Paul de Barros
Seattle Times music critic
Seattle singer-songwriter Eric Apoe has organized a concert celebrating what would have been the 75th birthday of the late, great Phil Ochs, who tragically committed suicide in 1976. The show is one of dozens being mounted around the country to honor a figure from the 1960s whose witty, sarcastic protest songs were on a par with Bob Dylan’s. At the show, you’re likely to hear “Draft Dodger Rag,” “Too Many Martyrs,” “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” which resounded at hootenannies back in the day, as well as the humble prayer, “There But For Fortune,” famously covered by Joan Baez.

Apoe has assembled a first-class lineup, including the Seattle nostrum of hokum Baby Gramps, plus Reggie Garrett, Amy Denio, Kitty Heldwoman, Allison Shirk, Gary Kanter, Tommy Dean, Dionvox, Caleb Walter and, naturally, Apoe himself. The concert is a benefit for MusiCares, the musicians’ assistance wing of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), which hands out the Grammy awards. - The Seattle Times

"Concert Review: Tribute to Songwriter Ron Davies Fills Hale’s Palladium With Joy of Music"

Ron Davies has a special place in the hearts of Pacific Northwest musicians and songwriters, as was duly evidenced by the spectacular tribute to him at Hale’s Palladium Sunday night. The concert was a release party for “The Mystery of Ron Davies,” a CD of Davies-penned material performed by three generations of performers with Northwest ties. Davies himself was born in Louisiana, raised in Bremerton, made a name for himself in Los Angeles, and passed away, on October 30th, 2003, in Nashville, where he had spent the last phase of his career writing country songs. Of his many hundreds of songs, a good two dozen are of enduring quality, the rest being the products of a journeyman songwriter through all the phases and stages of a life spent chasing the muse and the buck.

One thing that became obvious during Sunday’s concert was the idea that a songwriter is more often the one who gives gifts to other performers than the one who receives the acclaim for the products of his labors. The songs selected for “The Mystery of Ron Davies” were by no means his best work, but each was a perfect fit for the performer. By the end of the night, I was thinking less about Davies’ songs and more about the fantastic array of talent that has passed through these parts. His ability to write material for such a diverse group of performers is one of the elements that enabled him to get so much of his material cut by artists ranging from Joan Baez to David Bowie.

Producer Eric Apoe explains the title of the CD as a questioning of why Davies is, considering the quality of his work, not better known. For me, the bigger mystery is why so many of the artists performing his material here have languished for so long in relative obscurity. Davies had a pretty good run for the money during his career, while some of Sunday’s performers have had a bit of trouble getting out of the gate. The concert was a spectacular testament to the historical arc of Seattle music history, beginning with members of the Sonics and The Wailers, two bands who established the Northwest sound in the early sixties, continuing with psychedelic heroes The Daily Flash, into the seventies with Gary Minkler, Ron Bailey, and Annie Rose de Armas, the eighties and nineties with Carla Torgerson from The Walkabouts, and the emerging talents of Tommy Dean. And let’s not forget Baby Gramps and Alice Stuart, two of the finest talents anywhere, who have brightened the local scene for decades. Among the artists who appeared on the CD that didn’t make the concert were Max Paul Schwennsen, who passed away last year. Among many other things, Schwennsen led the band Slidin’ Jake, which backed Davies during in a period in the seventies when he was living in Seattle, and the recently deceased Kent Morrill, from the Fabulous Wailers, which recorded Davies’ first songs.

The concert followed the sequencing of the CD, with absent performers, including Lisa Marshall, who now resides in Austin, represented by recorded cuts. This worked to some degree, especially with Kent Morrill’s fabulous recording of “Higher Ground,” but the energy drop of an empty stage more often led to some distraction in the audience. It might have been more effective to begin the concert with the recordings rather than intersperse them with the live performances.

There wasn’t a weak performance in the two-hour concert. Highlights included a triumphant version of “It’s You Alone” by The Daily Flash that was a flashback to both the glory days of AM Radio and the culturally restorative spirit of Eagles Auditorium. Gary Minkler’s scary inhabitation of the character singing “Somebody’s Watchin” proved there are still more faces to be seen from the force behind the legendary “Red Dress,” who is currently working on a new, acoustic-based act. Ron Bailey sang the exquisite “Old Front Porch” in a sweet voice reminiscent of Willie Nelson, and Baby Gramps took the opposite approach by imbuing “It Ain’t Easy” with a Tuvanesque growl. One of the most exciting moments came from seeing and hearing members of both The Sonics and The Daily Flash playing together behind Reggie Garrett as he sang “All Night Café” with an aplomb that suggested what Richie Havens might have sounded like after taking two Josh White pills.

With the exceptions of “It’s You Alone,” “No Regrets,” and “Carolyn,” the songs on “The Mystery of Ron Davies” do not represent the songwriter’s best work. As such, they do not provide a very substantial introduction to his legacy, which includes such gems as “Gold and Silver,” “Long Hard Climb.” “Lay Down Your Burden,” “No More Crazy Tears,” and “Innocent Eyes.” They are, however, a welcome addition to the canon of his better-known songs. For more information on Davies and his legacy, check out his official site: - Seattle Post Globe

"Can't overlook Pike Place Market's festival of street music"

Row after row of colorful flowers. Mouthwatering fresh produce. Fish being tossed about. There are so many distractions at the Pike Place Market, I can understand how some buskers may feel overlooked. "We don't get much recognition We are the bottom of the barrel here," said Joe "Fiddling" Fulton, 34, a folk singer I met at the Joe Desimone Bridge.

But at least once a year, the street performers get to be the stars-- and bring the amplifiers -- with their Pike Place Market Buskers Festival coming up Sept. 18. "The market is ours for a day," said Fulton, who started busking here in 1995.

In Post Alley I sketched André Lovett, 27, a recent transplant from Florida. It will be his first time performing at the festival and he's looking forward to it. "Seattle is such a great music town people are really receptive," he told me after reaching his one-hour limit at one of the 13 marked spots where buskers are allowed to play. The number inside the musical notes painted on the pavement indicates the maximum number of performers for each location.

Tommy Dean, of Tacoma, arrived a few minutes before Lovett finished up with two songs that I happen to like a lot: Jason Mraz "I'm Yours," and The Fray's "How to save a life." Dean wore his busker permit clipped to his shirt and got to work right away, performing traditional Irish folk songs.

The free festival will feature 35 buskers on three stages along Pike Place, which will be closed to traffic. For more information, visit the Pike Market Buskers Guild site.

Check out these blog posts with drawings of other Seattle buskers:
Farmers markets crop up (Sketch of Pickled Okra)
Pike Place's saxophonist having the time of his life

What draws your attention? I invite you to send me your suggestions of interesting places to sketch via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter. Have a great weekend! - Seattle Post Intelligence

"Tommy Dean and Baby Gramps"

I went to the Seattle Folklife Festival today. I really wanted to hate it-- hippies hula hooping and middle-aged white liberals with no rhythm or inhibitions dancing to Samba. You know, the usual.

However, the fact is, I really liked it. More specifically, I really liked the following two musicians:

Tommy Dean, who seems like he might be the kind of crazy genius that I so frequently find myself enamored with. He sang this absolutely brilliant song called, I think, "Look Up", which I can't find on the internet. (As far as I know he really just spends his time playing at the Pike Place Market, but I'd guess that he's going to get some underground country publicity.) Here's something different from him:

He played with Baby Gramps, who was also brilliant. Apparently people know about him already.

Posted 25th May 2008 by Timothy Mathis

1 View comments

TylerJune 11, 2008 at 7:45 PM
Tommy Dean's my hero - A Little Runny

"One of the best musicians in Seattle"

xanalandsiteOne of the best musicians in Seattle who is also a street musician. Video next!
themarkcraig1981Looks a bit like a young Tim Buckley circa 1967.
music_n_film_dudeTommy Dean! He is the greatest! - Xanaland

"The Mystery of the Northwest's Lost Songwriter Ron Davies"

Ron Davies was a songwriter’s songwriter. The kind of artist who wasn’t as well known to the public as he was to his fellow artists. His songs were covered by others like Nanci Griffith, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Maria Muldaur, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and many more. But he’s best known for his song, “It Ain’t Easy”, an edgy blues number that was famously recorded by David Bowie on his Ziggy Stardust album. In fact, “It Ain’t Easy”, was one of the better cuts on this seminal album. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to Davies’ songwriting, or Bowie’s taste, or a bit of both. Soul singer Bettye Lavette also cut a powerful cover of “It Ain’t Easy” on her debut album. In the 1970s, Davies was signed to A&M Records, so his music got pretty broad exposure at the time. In the 1980s, Davies moved to Nashville to work as a songwriter. In 2003, he passed away from a heart attack. It seems that his solo career never reached the same heights that his songs did. And its through the songs that most people remember Davies. That’s nowhere more evident than on the lovely new album, The Mystery of Ron Davies: A Pacific Northwest Tribute.

The Raconteurs cover It Ain't Easy at Lollapalooza

David Bowie's original cover of It Ain't Easy

Though he was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Davies grew up and worked in the Pacific Northwest before moving to Nashville, so it’s fitting that most of the artists on this tribute album are drawn from the ranks of Northwest songwriters. Compiled by longtime NW veteran Eric Apoe, a wide range of singers and artists is presented, each interpreting a different song from Davies canon. Honestly, I didn’t know Davies music at all before hearing about this tribute album, but the performers were kind enough to sit back and let his songs shine through throughout. So you could say that this tribute album has made a believer out of me!


A few highlights from the album:

-Iconoclastic genius Baby Gramps ROCKS a cover of “It Ain’t Easy”. Definitely the highlight of the album.

Baby Gramps: It Ain’t Easy

Album compiler Eric Apoe, a personal friend of Ron Davies for many years, contributes a softly-understated, beautiful cover of Davies’ song “Carolyn”. It’s a song that really shows off Davies abilities as a storytelling songwriter, and Apoe does it quiet justice.

Eric Apoe With Saar Liven: Carolyn

-Pike Place busker savant Tommy Dean brings in a cover of the politically tinged “Please Prez”. Dean’s a mad genius of street performing, but doesn’t record much, so this is a real treat. Also, it’s kind of depressing how easily this song, clearly written in the 70s, translates to today’s politics.

Tommy Dean: Please Prez

I recommend this album for anyone interested in the art of songwriting. Hearing these beautiful songs through so many filters actually brings your attention to the songs themselves, and really shows what a great songwriter can do.

Learn more about Eric Apoe and Ron Davies in this excellent podcast from KUOW

Ron Davies' original version of "It Ain't Easy"

Ron Davies' last Seattle performance (trad. song The Blind Fiddler)

Other tags Jack WhiteBaby GrampsTommy DeanThe RaconteursBettye Lavette
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Tommy was born In Reno Nevada and raised in Napavine, Tacoma and Seattle Washington. At the age of just 5 years old when on a trip to Memphis, TN with his parents, Tommy began singing old Hank Williams songs acapella on the street when none other than Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash came strolling by and stopped in awe. Johnny cited Tommy as his inspiration for his next auto-biography, which came out later that year. "This book is dedicated to the young Tom Grady" (Grady is Tommy's last name. He goes by his middle name Dean for performing).

Tommy began playing guitar after his father bought one for him at the Midway Swap meet in 1992 in Federal Way Washington for 20 dollars, he taught himself piano after west coast bluesman '' Rick Horn'' personally delivered one to his childhood home as a gift at age 9. It didn’t take long before Tommy began performing live music.  At just 12 years old he played at both The Bethany United Methodist Church and Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Tacoma Washington. In 1999 he took 1st place at the talent show at The Supermall and appeared on PAX television network. He performed live on the World Famous Louisville Star riverboat on the Ohio River in 1999.

Tommy began performing in Downtown Seattle full time in 2005 working his way from a virtually unknown troubadour into local celebrity status and subsequently has traveled the west coast extensively. First touring and performing with his high-school Rock-A-Billy band ''The Dropouts'', then solo acoustic all up and down the west coast and the southern United States. He has had documentaries made about him and song placement in two films.

He has toured nationally with Baby Gramps and has opened for P.F. Sloan and Bobby Bare, both at their personal invitation. He also shared the stage with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and ''Red Kelley (Frank Sinatra's Bassist). Tommy has done extensive radio show interviews and live on-air sets on independent radio stations up and down the west coast including, KAOS, Olympia, KEXP, Seattle and K-Boo, Portland, OR, to name just a few.

He has had the honor of performing at The Washington State History Museum's official grand opening art exposition, The Northwest Film Forum, The Puyallup Blues Festival, The Orting Old Soldiers Home, The Sumner Police Department as well as on opening night of the Woody Guthrie Art Exposition, The SAM (Seattle Art Museum).  One performance that particularly touched his heart was played on November 2, 2012 at The African American Heritage Museum in Louisville Kentucky.

He has graced the stages of the The Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, CA, The Puyallup fairgrounds, The Daffodil Parade, The Blue Moon Tavern, The U-District Multi Cultural Center, as well as the annual U-District Street Fair, The Jewelbox Theatre, The Rendezvous, Café Racer, Tim's Tavern, The Sunset Tavern, The Grand Sierra Hotel in Reno, NV and countless farmer’s markets, dusty coffeehouses, roadhouses and open fields along the way.

Tommy has recorded at Seattle's legendary studio, Bad Animals. It was there that he recorded a  Ron Davies cover song “Please Prez” as a contribution to a CD project in which all proceeds went to support the MusicCares Foundation. While at Bad Animals, Tommy also recorded an EP titled “Introducing Tommy Dean”. Tommy continues to regularly play MusicCares benefit shows, as well as other charitable foundation events, such as the Woody Guthrie Foundation.

Tommy has also been featured and promoted largely in various newspapers and publications such as The Seattle Times, No Depression magazine, The Seattle P.I and The Tacoma News Tribune and has made Television appearances on Channel 4 ABC News and KING 5 NBC News, as well as on KIRO 7 CBS news.


He is now a Western Washington Regional Name with an official Album Release Coming out summer 2016.

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