On late October day in 1930 in Hampton, Arkansas, Gerald D. Tomlinson arrived on the scene.
The Tomlinson family decided to move to Minden, Louisiana in 1941. Later on, Gerald's
brother, Bill, joined the U. S. Navy to serve his country in World War II.
Bill left behind his guitar, hoping his brother would learn to play it and help keep
him out of 'trouble'. Gerald had a family friend show him a few chords. He must
have learned it pretty quickly for he had his first band while he was in high school.
But before he could really get going, he also was called by his country for military
service. Gerald joined the Marine Corp on February of 1951. It was during this military
stint that his fellow servicemen gave him the nickname of Tommy, sort of a play on
his last name. By this time, he was already a member of the musicians union and had
played personal dates with the legendary Hank Williams.
Tommy saw action in the Korean War while in the military. He was wounded in both legs
during his stint. But it did not deter him from serving his country; he served for
three years and was honorably discharged in February of 1954. Apparently his talents
were quite established already for he immediately found work on the KWKH Louisiana
Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, backing various artists on the show.
Tommy also began to record with artists on the Hayride at the time. One of these
was Werly Fairburn. In 1954, he met up with Johnny Horton and became a bit of a fixture
on Johnny's sessions, including such hits as "The Battle of New Orleans" and "North to Alaska".
Tommy began touring with Johnny and was actually in the auto wreck that took Johnny's life
on the way home from a personal appearance at the Skyline Club on November 5, 1960.
Eighteen months after that accident, Tommy lost his left leg despite numerous hospital
stays and procedures.
A fellow by the name of Johnny Cash put on a benefit concert to help the Tomlinson
family with its medical expenses.
Later, Tommy recorded fourt instrumental records with Jerry Kennedy. One
was "tom and Jerry's Guitars", another was Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and 2; Tom and Jerry lay the Sound of Ray Charles";
and, "Surfin' Hootenanny."
The demand for his guitar expertise on recordings kept growing. He worked with such
stars of that era as Jim Reeves, Claude King, marty Robbins, David Houston and David Soul.
Tommy never stopped entertaining audiences with his talents. In fact, he performed with
his band, the Country Connection the night before he passed away on April 8, 1982.
On the personal side, Tommy was married. He and his wife had five children - Del Marie; Jackie' Donna; Doug;
and, Thomas Tillman.
Tommy showed talents beyond his guitar playing; he wrote songs for Johnny Horton (I Am Your Baby);
for Dolly Parton and Norma Jean (Heaven's Just A Prayer Away").
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to express its appreciate to Tommy T. Tomlinson,
the son of Tommy Tomlinson for the biographical notes provided and several pictures.