Tom Rush Biography

8 February, 1941, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA. Tom Rush began performing in 1961 while a student at Harvard University. Although he appeared at clubs in New York and Philadelphia, he became a pivotal figure of the Boston/New England circuit and such haunts as the Cafe Yana and the Club 47. The self-released Live At The Unicorn, culled from two sets recorded at another of the region’s fabled coffee houses, was poorly distributed but its competent mixture of traditional songs, blues and Woody Guthrie compositions was sufficient to interest the renowned Prestige Records label. Got A Mind To Ramble and Blues Songs And Ballads, completed over three days, showcased an intuitive interpreter. Rush’s exemplary versions of ‘Barb’ry Allen’ and ‘Alabama Bound’ were enough to confirm his place alongside Dave Van Ronk and Eric Von Schmidt, the latter of whom was an important influence on the younger musician. Tom Rush, his first release on the Elektra Records label, was one of the era’s finest folk/blues sets. The artist had developed an accomplished bottleneck guitar style that was portrayed to perfection on ‘Panama Limited’, an eight-minute compendium comprising several different songs by Bukka White. Take A Little Walk With Me contained the similarly excellent ‘Galveston Flood’, but its high points were six electric selections drawn from songs by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. Arranged by Al Kooper, these performances featured musicians from Bob Dylan’s ground-breaking sessions and helped transform Rush from traditional to popular performer. This change culminated in The Circle Game, which contained material by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne, each of whom had yet to record in their own right. The recording also included the poignant ‘No Regrets’, the singer’s own composition, which has since become a pop classic through hit versions by the Walker Brothers (1976) and Midge Ure (1982).

Tom Rush, the artist’s first release for CBS Records, introduced his long-standing partnership with guitarist Trevor Veitch. Once again material by Jackson Browne and James Taylor was to the fore, but the album also contained compositions by Fred Neil and Murray McLaughlin’s beautiful song of leaving home, ‘Child’s Song’, confirming Rush as having immaculate taste in choice of material. However, two subsequent releases, Wrong End Of The Rainbow and Merrimack County, saw an increased emphasis on material Rush either wrote alone, or with Veitch. By contrast a new version of ‘No Regrets’ was the sole original on Ladies Love Outlaws, a collection which marked a pause in Rush’s recording career. It was 1982 before a new set, New Year, was released. Recorded live, it celebrated the artist’s 20th anniversary while a second live album, Late Night Radio, featured cameos from Steve Goodman and Mimi Fariña. Both were issued on Rush’s Night Light label on which he also repackaged his 1962 debut. In 1990 his New Hampshire home and recording studio were totally destroyed by fire. This cultured artist subsequently moved to Wyoming, but little was heard from him during the rest of the 90s. The owner of one of music’s most expressive voices returned to the recording studio at the end of the decade to record a new track, ‘River Song’, for a retrospective album of his career.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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