Thomas Jefferson Read (“TJ”) grew up in Houston Texas and relocated to the Northwest after being assigned there by the military. He now resides in a suburb of Seattle.
TJ’s unique brand of blues will take you from the city to the country and back again. Some of his original compositions are not easily categorized. TJ’s recent eponymous album contains both city blues featuring a full band and TJ’s solo acoustic offerings.
Influenced heavily by Lightnin Hopkins and Robert Johnson, Read puts his own twist on their traditional material. His influences include lesser known artists such as Tampa Red and Jimmy Witherspoon.
Now obviously TJ did not grow up in a musical vacuum and is also influenced by more contemporary rock and blues artists such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He especially cites Eric Dolphy and Frank zappa as musical inspiration.
TJ has worked extensively as a sideman and bandleader but is at present gigging as a solo acoustic artist.
He has long experience at this having had a solo once a week sit down at Mama’s Cantina in Reno for a year and a half. In addition he played Fridays at Alligator Soul in Everett Washington for a year.
In the more distant past he had a regular gig at a marginally legal after hours joint near Pioneer Square in Seattle.
After the military, TJ attended music school at Portland Community College. But he opines:
“My real music education came from a B3 organ player named Benny Wilson. Benny played with a sax player and a drummer in a little bar called JB’s Paradise in the Albina section of Portland. Why he let a green kid like me sit in on a regular basis I don’t know. I was playing about three feet above my head at first; I was recording things on a little Panasonic cassette machine and learning the chords from that. I was very lucky.”
TJ tells this story of what brought him to the blues:
“When I was eleven or so my older sister Jo-Hanna Read was a folk singer. This was during the 60’s folk revival. She performed at a “hootenanny” (a folk concert) at the University of Houston. Lightnin Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb performed and I was blown out of my chair. Had to learn to do that! Several years later a friend, Mike Condray, opened a hippie restaurant in Houston, the Family Hand. He had the good taste to hire LIghtnin on a regular basis so I got to see a master’s work up close a number of times.”