May 042020

I just learned that a longtime Philadelphia music scene legend, Tom Sheehy, who actually was known around town as “The Colonel” (as in Elvis Presley’s Colonel), has passed. I didn’t know The Colonel well, but he was a fixture at almost any national or local show of note from the start of my club-going days, in the early 1980s, through whenever it was in the last 5 or 10 years, when I first noticed I didn’t see his gaunt face and gray, thinning shag-pompadour in the crowd. His standing as a local scene legend far preceded the time I first got to know him. I’m sure Townsman geo, who goes back further and played in one of Kenn Kweder‘s lineups, which The Colonel managed and/or did publicity for, can fill us in on details.

I was never sure exactly what The Colonel did, how he paid his bills, how he was tied to all local music-related media (ie, clubs, radio stations, record stores), etc, but as I mentioned him being at “almost any…show of note,” he seemed to help define what constituted “of note.” When we’d see him in the crowd at one of my band’s shows, for instance, my bandmates and I would note his presence and get a little jolt of pride at the “scene blessing” we’d been given. Who knew why this felt good? Tom seemed like a nice enough guy, in the few, brief words we exchanged, but why the hell did we care that he was in the crowd?


  7 Responses to “Your Scene’s Local Legend(s)”

  1. I never met the Colonel in person but back the Dummytown listserv was up and running, I remember him being particularly against festivals and outdoor shows. “No roof, no rock” I’m not quite as dogmatic but I definitely understand that position.

  2. Oh no! Not the Colonel!

  3. diskojoe

    Willie “Loco” Alexander now lives in Gloucester, in the North Shore of MA, near where I live. I’ve seen him @ a local record store there several times. He was in a recent documentary about the 70s Boston scene where he was filmed in his apartment, which is filled with memorabilia of those times.

    I would have to put my friend Barrence Whitfield in this catagory. He’s been living in the North Shore himself for nearly 30 yrs. He has done a lot of things like appear on Jools Holland’s show & a rock and roll game show in Australia, but he still works in my hometown record store (or worked before this crap started) in between gigs, which seem mainly in Europe/ UK despite doing some gigs in the Eastern US.

    Another person that I was thinking of was a guy named Preacher Jack, who was this homeless guy w/long white hair & beard, who played a mean boogie woo give piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. He actually had a couple of albums out on Rounder Records in the early 80s. I haven’t seen him in a while, so I’m not sure that he’s still around.

  4. The Northampton MA version is a guy named Ray Mason. A local legend who has put out a twenty plus albums on his own, with The Ray Mason Band, and as a co-leader in a band called The Lonesome Brothers (who just celebrated their 35th anniversary). Ray has been playing out for over 50 years, starting in garage bands as a teenager. Has great stories to tell from way back when like seeing the Yardbirds play a gig in a high school auditorium.

    Plays a way cool battered old 1965 Silvertone guitar, has a true rock & roll heart, and is the nicest guy your could ever meet.

  5. Sad news for sure. In his later years, Tom went back to Univ of Penn and I think took a Masters in history. That always blows my mind; when someone has that strong an interest during their “golden” years and just immerses themselves into a brand new pursuit. He had levels. The chicken lady would end up talking to him about history more often than music as they were both friends with the same professor at Penn. He did p.r. work for the Rolling Hayseeds for that first record. Very nice guy, and super advocate for the Philly scene.

  6. I forgot you had overlap with him in the Rolling Hayseeds, chickenfrank. I’ve also just been learning about him going back and getting his Masters at an advanced age. Very cool!

    diskojoe and al, thanks for representing your local legends. Thanks to each of you, I have some familiarity with them. By the way, al, I’ve got that same model and color Silvertone sitting right beside me as I work from home these days!

    Here’s hoping to hear more about legends from other localities represented here.

  7. It’s no picnic being a local legend. I’ll walk into a crowded bar,and despite there being all these people who know me, NO ONE will ever talk to me. I guess it’s just too intimidating for them.

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