Like most other musicians who adore him Rod and I first crossed paths with Tommy Saunders because of the music. He along with his sidekick and best friend “nearly Normal” Warren were co-hosts of the Folk-it! Show that aired on this wonderful independent internet radio station, A3radio. They were like Abbott and Costello, without all the fighting – charming and funny. Folk it! Also hosted a live in studio performance from everyone to us up and coming local artists to Arlo Guthrie!!
All the shows started the same way… with Nearly introducing Tom.
“From high atop the Hutzel Building in beautiful downtown Ann Arbor, it’s Folk It! It’s a cold night in Ann Arbor, we’ve been drinking heavily and we’re all cuddled up with Annie Capps. And it’s time for Folk It. Here’s A3Radio’s own, little Tommy Saunders.”
Tom was so generous with us needy musicians. He played every local artists’ music who put a CD in his hands. He soaked it up and loved it and gave it his full attention making each one of us feel like we were special. Musicians loved to be around him because he was so encouraging and made us all feel uniquely special. He could do that without ever putting anyone else down.
Tom and Nearly loved the music AND the musicians and became fixtures at the Noreast’r Music festival in Mio and Hollerfest in Brooklyn, broadcasting the entire thing live. The joy was palpable even when the rain was coming down on their little canopy!
Tom was wonderful about attending local shows and epitomizes community in the way he supports every single one of us.
As one of the founding members of what is now Songwriters Anonymous which meets once a month at Trinity House Theatre he hardly ever missed a meeting. Though he was very capable of getting up a stage and singing a song, he preferred to just sit and listen to everyone else’s songs and was the natural choice to emcee our annual showcase. I could go on and on…
When I decided to start a concert series in Chelsea, he and Nearly jumped at the chance to support it and became a fixtures at every show. When we lost Nearly a couple years back, Tommy carried the torch but I could feel part of his soul would never be the same.
I imagine the two of them sitting side-by-side with microphones in front of them, providing funny commentary and broadcasting all that heavenly music .
Tommy wasn’t just a colleague to those who worked with him. He was a friend. A dear friend to all of us and as many have said already, he was someone you could count on to be there for you with a joke, a smile, a hug, an encouraging word, and other than the occasional political figure he never said a bad word about anyone.
Tommy was a DJ, a book publisher, a musician, a father, a husband and a friend to so many.
While I worked on several book covers with him, he wasn’t an email guy. He’d prefer to meet in person and that was fine with me. There were always several things. He was always full of ideas.
IN closing I just want to say that when he and I would meet to discuss one of the many books he was getting ready to publish, he would hire me to design the covers, he would usually run down the list of big ideas he had. Always the entrepreneur, and always thinking of ways to shine a light on someone else’s talent.
One of the most recent ideas he had was to publish a book of song lyrics as poems from a bunch of us local artists. As far as he was concerned, if Leoneard Cohen and Bob Dylan could sell such books, we could too.
He had recently taken over A3Radio which was sitting dormant and we had just been discussing the possibilities.
Who knows what will come of those ideas. Maybe someone else will have to pick up that ball and run with it. In the meantime, Tom’s memory will live on through the many many lives he touched.
I imagine that he and Nearly are sitting side-by-side once again, spinning tunes and yukking it up on some heavenly radio station in the great beyond!
Godspeed dear friend.