Tom Morgan, drummer and percussionist with “Little Bill and the Bluenotes,” decided as a young adult to be a professional musician. At 18, he knew he wanted to pursue something in the field of arts, and worked at painting and writing. When he discovered he could earn more money playing drums, his future was determined.
Although he didn’t play in the high school band in Tacoma, he had a drum set at home. His uncle and grandfather were both drummers. In the late 50s, he played Bongo drums at coffee houses, and one night took his drum set with him. He and a piano player became a team.
After graduating from the Oscar Peterson School of Music in Toronto, in 1962 Morgan asked to “sit in” and play drums with a small band, “Little Bill & The Bluenotes,” performing at a club in Tacoma—and was hired on the spot.
That was in 1962, and Morgan has been with “Little Bill” Engelhart ever since, except for a few years when he toured with a country band and did other gigs.
Engelhart, from Tacoma, has become a Northwest legend in Rhythm and Blues music. Morgan is the only member of the current band who goes “way back” over 40 years with him. They are friends as well as fellow musicians.
Morgan has been the recipient of The Atlas Cole Bluesman Award and The Joe Johansen Memorial Award for Excellence. The band has won many awards, including the 2002 Washington Blues Society’s “Best Traditional Act.” Their CD “Naked Blues” was called Best Northwest CD by both Washington Blues Society and Real Blues Magazine in 1999.
Full-time musicians, they play in bars, schools, churches, stores and at various festivals. They are a fixture at the annual 4th of July Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Ore.
The band has traveled as far as Idaho, and various places in Washington and Oregon, but for the most part, they play around Puget Sound. The current harmonica player, who also plays keyboard, is Dick Powell. His father was a bandleader who played at the Longbranch Improvement Club and the Vaughn Civic Center.
Morgan recalls playing at The Mint, in Pike Place Market, one of his favorite venues. He enjoyed those years of being with the people gathered there, and the enthusiastic response of the crowd to their band.
During the ‘60s, Morgan often visited friends who lived on the lower peninsula, and it fed his dream of moving to a rural location where he could build his own house. When the Tacoma Dome was sited, his house and property were part of the projected location, so in 1981, he and his wife, Edie, left Tacoma and moved to Longbranch. He has done most of the work on their home himself.
Tom Morgan has found his niche as a professional musician, playing the blues music he loves.
To see photos of Tom and the band, hear a sample of their music, or learn more about them, go to their Website, www.havemusic.com/littlebill. The band took February off, but their March schedule includes playing in Silverdale, Tacoma and places farther North on the Sound.