Thom Parrott was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 and can't remember not singing. His first instruments were piano and clarinet, but his commitment to music came with his parents' gift of a guitar in 1959. He began writing two years later, first performing in public at about the same time. In 1963-4, Thom attended Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, where he performed with the folk trio The Farlanders and with a theater company mixing songs, including some he had written alone or with Susan Foster, with stories from Spoon River Anthology.
In September, 1964, Thom moved to New York City, where he was soon discovered by the publishers of Broadside Magazine, Sis Cunningham (a member of The Almanac Singers) and Gordon Friesen. They printed several of Thom's songs in Broadside and included him in concerts at the Village Gate and, in 1967, at Carnegie Hall. It was here that Moses Asch, owner of Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways) asked Thom to record for him. In its review of the first of these recordings, Cashbox Magazine referred to Thom as "one of the new wunderkind."
In 1968, Thom was an unscheduled performer at the Newport Folk Festival, playing in both the New Folks Concert and the Blues Workshop. "The East Village Other" praised his performance, linking him with Eric Von Schmidt as the only "urban folk musicians" at the Festival that year.
A turning point in Mr. Parrott's writing came when he was invited to perform at a benefit for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in 1971. The song he wrote for the event was his first successful attempt to mix humor with a serious message and a sing-along chorus -- "Hudson's Name Was Henry, But The River Is A John." Since then, Thom has produced a number of what one critic called "his strange rag-time originals" and he has had a lot more fun on stage.
After moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Thom taught guitar, harmonica and jug band at the University of New Mexico. The jug band class, taught with Steve Wilkes, turned into The Watermelon Mountain Jug Band. Now led by Jeff Burrows, TWMJB has become a popular Albuquerque tradition.
Thom's song about a Welsh mining disaster which killed 132 children and eight of their teachers, "The Aberfan Coaltip Tragedy" was the title song for an LP by the Danish folk group Paddy Doyles. Country singer Randy Rhodes had a chart record with Mr. Parrott's "Teardrops On Tap." He won a song-writing award from The American Song Festival for his "Vasectomy Rag."
Thom studied his primary instrument, guitar, with Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Jack Baker and David Bromberg, and also plays harmonica, keyboards, mandolin and bass.
Thom is an award winning playwright and an experienced stage and TV actor. He was the producer, sound man, host and occasional talent for the public television program "Musician." He was a disc jockey on radio station KUNM. Mr. Parrott has written or co-written songs for several stage plays. He was a member of the improvisational theater company Phantasmagoria. Using the pen name "T. O. Dawes," Thom co-wrote the award winning stage play "The Murder Game" with A. A. MacGregor.
MANY WINDOWED NIGHT; Folkways #31025
Prof. Goldsmith erroneously says Tom's LPs were "vanity records" -- in fact, Moe saw Tom at Carnegie Hall, invited him to record on Folkways and paid him to do so. Mr. Parrott has communicated with Prof. Goldsmith and subsequent editions of the book will be corrected.
The Smithsonian has a brief review of this book.
SONGS INCLUDED IN THE BOOKS
The Vietnam Songbook; Barbara Dane and Irwin Silber; The Guardian, New York, 1969.
I Hear America Singing; Hazel Arnett; Prager Publishers, New York, 1975.
SONGS INCLUDED IN THE PLAYS
"The Nina, the Pinta and the Cesar Romero" by Jeff Hudson
"Arroyo Repo" by Jim Graebner
"Junkie's Christmas" by William Burroughs
ACTING EXPERIENCE INCLUDES
Juan The Puppet Master in "The Nina, the Pinta and the Cesar Romero"
The Janitor and the College Professor in "Blue Plate Special"
Over 100 performances with Phantasmagoria Improvisational Theater
A Convict in the movie "All the Pretty Horses" directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
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