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Artist Profiles

Tom King & The Royal Chicagoans

By Published: March 26, 2004

Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again. Wrong! You can, if your 'home' is a heart filled with love for a person, a place, or for the sound of music. —Leona Weiss Toppel

A Tribute to Jazz “Savor the Sound”

Classical Jazz music is
a sense of well being.
It is born of a musical language
Created by hearts of positive and spirited
individuals representing their joys collectively
and triumphantly.
The reward comes from the sound
and emotion of the entire ensemble.
It is unvarnished and costs nothing to enjoy.
Genuine, valid and dependable.
That is Classical Jazz.

~ Tom King

There’s not one blue-blood among the Royal Chicagoans. So why the Royal Chicagoans? ‘Cause their combined musical talents are worth a king’s ransom. The Royals boast five red-blooded-American-as-apple pie-top-of-the- heap artists each with a résumé that would make any music-maker proud. Combined, they make sweet sounds with that big band wham, and bring back those top tunes that so many of us danced to decades ago. They’re living proof that everything old is new again – especially under the Royal Chicagoan’s banner.

Listening to the Royal Chicagoans, one would have no way of knowing that its members with all their youthful exuberance aren’t still wet behind the ears. The area behind their respective ears have been dry for a long time. Matter of fact, they’d make terrific poster boys for “as long as you’re young at heart, you can keep making beautiful music” – which is exactly what the Royals are doing.

Leader of the pack, Tom King, is the group’s accomplished drummer, and, like another member, Harry Goldson, was a high profile mover and shaker while involved in the world of Chicago business. For years Tom was president of the world-renowned Mart Center: The Merchandise Mart and the Apparel Center in Chicago and the Washington Design Center. This, in addition to his background as a pro basketball player, an officer in the Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War and numerous other involvements on corporate and philanthropic boards. Now, he’s chairman and CEO of the prestigious commercial real estate company Seay and Thomas Inc. But there’s always time for music in Tom’s life. After all these years away from the music scene what brought Tom back to the drums – big time? It wasn’t a “what”. but rather a “who”.

Harry Goldson was the catalyst; the chemistry between them was the formula for musical success. From the onset the two men knew that they had a bond forged by their professions in the world of business and finance not to mention their love of music. At the age of 14 Harry was performing with numerous swing bands including Jan Garber, Lou Breese, Claude Thornhill and other “biggies”. After serving in the Korean conflict it was time to settle into a career. Away went the clarinet and sax and out came his banker’s suit. For forty years bank notes took precedence over musical notes.

Under the leadership of Tom, The Royal Chicagoans were born and have, as of this writing, produced four delicious CDs: One More Time , One More Time Volume II , One More Time Volume III , and One More Time Volumes IV and V – each one a gem. With Tom on the drums and Harry featured on the clarinet and sax, the Royal Chicagoans are indeed fortunate in having the following musical mavens as part of the group.

Jim Cooper: From his boyhood years drumming on metal potato chip cans to his stints playing the vibes – with greats like Art Van Damme, Harry Goldson and Ira Sullivan – Jim is recognized as both an expert on this distinctive instrument and popular teacher. His talents go beyond jazz vibs; he’s also taught jazz band improve and piano at Lake Michigan College.

Arthur Davis: with a masters degree in musicology from the University of Illinois and his trumpet expertise, Art graced the Ray Charles orchestra during its world tours, as well as the tours of Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. As with the other Royals, Arthur has plenty of gigs between the group’s recording sessions. Add to his duties as a professor at Northern Illinois University and his teaching stint at the American Conservatory of Music, it’s clear that Arthur is a trumpeting treasure.

Tom Lockwood: Although Tom stated playing the clarinet in the fifth grade, he’s now the Royal’s sax man. When he was at Western Michigan University where he earned two music degrees he was a graduate assistant which led to entertaining on some of the top cruise ships which led to performances worldwide with celebes like Engelbert Humperdink.

Russ Phillip: If there’s a “trombone gene” Russ Phillip must have inherited it from his dad. Russ Phillip Sr. was successor to Jack Teagarden in Louis Armstrong’s All Stars orchestra over fifty years ago. It was while his dad was peforming with the All Stars, that four-year-old Russ absorbed those sweet sounds and later received formal training from his dad, from private instructors, from courses in college and with tutelage from Bob Lambert and Frank Crisafulli of the Chicago Symphony.

Steve Sandner: In his early teen years, Steve, the group’s pianist/vocalist, performed professionally with his father...that was in the early 60s. These days Steve in addition to the One More Time CDs, has produced several CDs with other musical luminaries. Although influenced by Oscar Peterson, Art Tohem, Nat Cole and Frank Sinatra, Steve has developed his own style which has not gone unnoticed by the music community. Another fine addition to the Royal Chicagoans.

Aside from their super sounds, what sets this group apart from many others is the fact that at a time when most men their age might be building tiny bird abodes, these tunesters are among the musical icons who are building a bridge between the generations. How does the younger generation respond to the standards, the jazz and the swing that’s out there? Look at all those swing clubs that have popped up and are jammed with young people dancing the night away – in appropriate costumes, no less. Note the ovations they give to Tony Bennet (who’s old enough to be their grandfather) and to just about any Frank Sinatra impressionist.

Each of the members of the Royal Chicagoans started his musical journey when he was young. Like any artist, each honed his craft throughout the years with obviously noteworthy success. During the years before they got their act together some put their music on hold while they made their marks in business and industry, but the music while “hibernating”, never left them – not even after decades. It was destined to rise like Phoenix – renewed and stronger than ever.

Thomas Wolfe wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again”. Wrong! You can, if your “home” is a heart filled with love for a person, a place, or for the sound of music.

Visit Tom King & The Royal Chicagoans on the web at .

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