Who was/is Tommy Blake ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more


 On Christmas Eve 1985, Tommy Blake came home drunk. Home was a trailer park across the river from Shreveport, Louisiana. His wife, Samantha, had prepared the Christmas tree, and spread the presents around it, but she said that Blake was in a vile mood. The underlying reason was always the same: he'd crossed paths with the rich and famous for thirty years, but seemed unable to join their rarified ranks. He started kicking at the tree, ripping up the presents. Finally, he turned on his wife. They started punching and kicking each other, and then suddenly Blake produced a .38 pistol with a hair trigger. He pushed Samantha onto the floor. She got up, lunged at him, the gun went flying, and she reached for it. "I never meant to pull the trigger," she said later. "I just wanted to get it away from him. He died in my arms. My last words to him were, 'You know I love you.' I'll never forget the gurgling in his throat when he died. I closed his eyes, and laid him down on the carpet." That, at least, was Samantha's story. She spent Christmas 1985 in jail, but was subsequently released.

Tommy Blake was one of the guys who never really made it, but got close enough to know what making it was all about. Close enough to know that he wanted it badly. Some guys can give it a shot, accept that the public doesn't want to buy what they have, then move on happy that they at least tried. Not Tommy Blake. He looked like a star, even if his vocal abilities fell somewhere short of stellar. After his performing career was over, he tried to experience success vicariously by becoming a songwriter. Once again, he came close, even wrote a few hits, but never quite had the industry beating down his door.

Tommy Blake was born Thomas Levan Givens in Dallas on September 14, 1931. He never knew his father, and couldn't do right in his mother's eyes. Samantha said that he was jailed for statutory rape in his teens, although this is unconfirmed. He entered Marine training camp in 1951, and told people he lost an eye in Korea, but actually lost it before he even left boot camp in North Carolina. Discharged, he went to Louisiana, working on KTBS in Shreveport and KRUS in Ruston as a performer and deejay. In 1954, he married his first wife, Betty Jones, in Carthage, Texas. They had six children. Shortly after one of them was born, Blake went to the store to buy cigarettes, saw Faron Young's tour bus, jumped on board, and disappeared for six weeks. It was the critical choice of his life: success—even if experienced tangentially or vicariously—was preferable to absolutely anything else. Yukkin' it up with guys backstage, or finishing a song in a pill-induced frenzy beat sitting on the couch watching television with the wife and kids 

In Ruston, Blake met three musicians who would become his sidekicks over the next few tumultuous years. Thanks to the research of Shane Hughes, we know that Carl Bailey Adams was born in Rayville, Louisiana on November 7, 1935, the last of ten children, four of whom died at birth. On October 11, 1941, Carl's brother Clyde and his sister's husband, Alton, were planning a hunting trip and asked Carl and Clyde's father for his shotgun. They left the gun on the dining room table where Carl began fooling with it, sticking his fingers into the barrels. Carl's sister screamed and Carl dropped the gun. It discharged, blowing off two fingers and killing his sister's young son. Carl held himself responsible for his nephew's death and became a troubled soul. His hand was surgically repaired, and he learned to play the guitar left-handed with picks taped to his thumb and remaining fingers. Hughes draws a parallel to the Belgian jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who had two fingers of his fretting hand destroyed in a fire, but Reinhardt was already a skilled musician at the time of his accident whereas Adams learned to play after the tragedy. Later, Carl Adams attended the Louisiana Technical College, where he met Ed Dettenheim.

From the booklet BCD16797 - Tommy Blake Koolit - The Sun Years, Plus
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