TUM KEPRI
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TUM KEPRI

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Travels with Tum Kepri
Issue 1
As written by Matt Speidel


Tum Kepri. Now there’s a name you don’t forget. Why are you asking me about Tum? I’m a writer, not a musician. But sure, I know him. Known him on and off for nearly twenty years now. Fascinating guy. Most people never understand Tum Kepri, because he’s too straightforward. All he wants out of life is to make people happy, as far as I can tell. That’s all. Like I said, too simple for most people to get their heads around.

You want to hear a story about him, eh? All right. I’ll tell you about the first time I met him. Like I said, it was round about twenty years ago, at a Blues bar in Memphis. I was backstage visiting with another musician friend of mine when I heard yelling in the office. My friend and I, nosy guys that we are, put our ears to the wall. Somebody’s road agent was arguing with the bar owner about payment. Pretty typical stuff, really, happens all the time. Sometimes the owner is trying to short the agent. Sometimes the agent is trying to swindle the owner. Sometimes both. Human nature, what can I say?

Anyway, about the only thing that caught my ear in this argument was the name “Tum Kepri.” I’d never heard it before, and it was strange enough to catch my interest. My friend told me that Tum was a pretty well-known Blues musician, but that he didn’t know him personally. I figured I’d see the man soon enough.

So anyway, about ten minutes later a guy comes in through the stage door. Suit, tie, pork-pie hat, and a guitar case slung over his shoulder. I waved hello in that lazy way you wave to some random stranger. To my surprise, the guy comes over with a big smile and holds out his hand. “Hiya, I’m Tum Kepri. Nice to meet ya.” My friend and I introduced ourselves and we got talking a bit. He and my pal talked Blues a bit. I love listening to Blues, but the shop-talk is way over my head.

Then my friend got his stage call and went out to play. That left me talking to this cat. I think he could tell that I didn’t understand the music talk, since he glided off the subject pretty quickly. We wound up talking about animals, of all things. All this time we could hear Tum’s—I presumed it was his—road manager arguing with the owner. My new friend didn’t seem to notice. He just leaned against the wall with his hat sitting on the end of his case, chatting about ferrets. When my friend’s set ended, I could hardly believe it had been half an hour. Tum Kepri is very fun to talk to, although he’ll talk both your ears off if you let him.

So my friend came back, and Tum’s manager comes storming out of the office with the owner hard on his heels. They both start talking to Tum at once, but more arguing with each other than anything else. The owner is talking about them having a contract and the show having to go on. The manager is going on about fair pay for fair work and how they won’t take a cent less than Tum was worth.

What was funny was that Tum Kepri said precisely nothing to either of them. He just stood there with this neutral little smile, listening. That lasted a minute or so, until the stage director guy stuck his head back to give Tum his stage call. I’m not sure whether the arguers even noticed him, but Tum did.

Tum Kepri took his guitar out of its case, set his hat just so upon his head, and went on stage. I, naturally, went out to watch—and to get away from the argument, which was still going strong. Tum was (and is) probably the best Blues man I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. The audience absolutely loved him. They kept him out for three encore songs.

When he was finally done, I made my way backstage again to tell Tum how much I liked it. I found Tum’s manager confronting him. Apparently they were getting less for the evening than he had counted on or some such. Tum let the man run down, then put an hand on his shoulder and steered him over to look out at the bar. “You see that couple over there? You see what they’re doing? They’re smiling. You see that guy at the back? He’s smiling.” In fact, I think everyone in the whole place was smiling. Tum didn’t say it right out, but his meaning was obvious—the smiles were more important than the money.

“C’mon,” Tum concluded, including his manager, the owner, and me in a big smile of his own, “let’s hang out for a bit.”

By the end of the evening, all four of us were fast friends. And we were all smiling.

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Bio

TUM KEPRI

Hard working and respectful of tradition. Due to a traumatic auto accident Tum Kepri had to take a temporary respite.

Born in San Francisco though has spent considerable time of his life in Camden, Arkansas.

Tum Kepri’s main focus is re-directing energy and style to place today’s sound into the blues.

Tum Kepri’s music has led him down many paths that led him to the Monterey Blues Festival in 1998 with Qwen Mejia.

Tum Kepri has been hooked into the blues ever since. Since then has played with:

Qwen Mejia (Summer Records)
Phillippe' Wynn (Former Lead vocalist for the “Spinners”
The Rose Brothers
Al King
Phat
Barbara Manning Wilson
Surface
AJ Phillingaines and more….

also one may view more information at www.myspace.com/tumkepri
and on youtube.