The day this blog goes live, Mr. Tommy Hunt turns 85 years young.
Tommy is a legend, pure and simple. A certified member of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame for his work with the Flamingos in the 1950s, and one of the premier figures to emerge from the Northern Soul scene in the 1970s. His voice was rich, effortless and powerful, and his stage presence electrifying. His 'Live at the Wigan Casino' album is a landmark Northern Soul statement, and stands proud in stark contrast to those who believe the 'scene' should only be about baggy trousers and collecting scratchy old 45s (and there's a conversation for another time).
Tommy has called England his home for many many years now, and is the hardest working octogenarian you will ever meet.
I have had the consummate pleasure of performing with him as guitar sideman with The Signatures many times over the last two years or so, and it's always an absolute blast.
So why does he keep the pedal down so hard at his age?
Simple. It's all about passion. He loves being on stage, and the fans here and abroad absolutely adore him.
I tell you now, If you have 45 minutes to fill, and think you might need ten songs or more; you'll be in for a pleasant and heart warming surprise.. you might get through 5 or 6 if you're lucky!
If there's one thing Tommy likes as much as singing his classic hits on stage, it's talking to his fans in between them (he might even like that bit more). You just never know which little amazing bomb of an anecdote he'll trot out next.
Despite this, he's super humble, always super grateful and vocal about it to the UK fans for giving him a home and a continuing to come and see him, and on top of that; he's funny as hell.
Like so many stars of Tommy's generation; the music business was not kind or fair to him as a young man, and others made hay from the songs he wrote. It's a tragically common story, and one we won't go into here on the man's birthday. However, the dude doesn't let it get him down, especially when he joins us on stage, perches up on his stool, and receives the wave of love that inevitably sweeps over him the moment he says hi to the crowd.
At the time of writing, we have just performed with Tommy at Retro Festival in Newark, and will be with him again in August at both Retro Festival Newbury, and Blackpool (check out the Signatures Facebook page below for details), before the big one at Skegness in September.
At Newark, he had literally just rolled in from Spain where he had performed the day before - the man is unstoppable!
On a personal note: Tommy's song Help Me Make It Through The Night is always a highlight for me. It starts with just guitar and vocals, me and Tommy; I always stroll out from behind my pedals and join him out front. It's a little moment to savour, and although perhaps his voice can't belt it out like he did on that Wigan Casino album (he is 85 after all), he sings that bad boy with all the soul, and all the passion, and with the heart of a true legend...which he is.
Happy Birthday Tommy, you may be old, but you ain't cold.