Unbelievable to be typing this… RIP Tommy Keene

by Sally on November 24, 2017

I met Tommy Keene around 1997, but it wasn’t until we re-met by chance 11 years later that I really got to know him.  You can hear Tommy’s side of the story here, but in short, the conversation turned to us talking about struggling to find a bass player to do our upcoming UK tour (opening for The Wedding Present), to which Tommy straight away said, “I’ll do it!”

We were at a bar, but it wasn’t just bar talk – he meant it.

We took him on that tour in December 2008, and he went on to become our on-going touring bass player (with killer backing vocals, naturally) for the next few years. As you can see/hear in the video below, he kicked as much ass on four strings as he did on six.  He said he really enjoyed the excuse to switch to bass, (especially when I offered up my 1975 Rickenbacker for his use, which he ran through a fuzz pedal for extra cojones).

In this TK-fueled power trio format, we did a couple of mid-west ‘headlining’ runs in 2009 and then opened for Ted Leo & The Pharmacists on their West coast tour in 2010. We also toured as opener for Tommy’s band a couple of times, including the Three Ring Power Pop Circus that was the Tommy Keene / Doug Gillard Electric / Sally Crewe tour of 2011.

Much like Doug, Tommy was always incredibly supportive of my music. He took every opportunity he got to introduce people to it, be it via guest posts for magazines, playing my songs on the radio and in clubs, or when asked in interviews to recommend artists people might not have heard.  Despite the vast weight of his talents and legacy, he never made me feel anything less than a peer.   Although he would tell me off for not changing my guitar strings regularly enough… (he has a point).

In whatever capacity, he was always a blast to travel with, and always had some hilarious story on hand. He was also one of the sweetest and funniest people I’ve had the pleasure to know, and George and mine’s daily language has been littered with Tommy-isms for years now, with no sign of stopping.

We (thankfully) went to see him open for Matthew Sweet in Austin this past July. We bar-hopped a bit with him after the show and then brought him and his suitcase back home with us, for an overnight respite from road life. We sat outside in our back garden until the early hours, talking, drinking, laughing, and entertaining Stanley (our dog).  Tommy lay down on the grass, looked up at the stars, and smoked a few cigarettes. I think we packed it in around 3am.

We let him sleep late the next day (a luxury on tour), I made him two cups of tea, and we exchanged hugs and I love yous before George drove him back to the Holiday Inn to slot back into tour life.

Anyone who knows what introverts we both are will know how much it means when I say that Tommy was always a very welcome house guest and even a welcome late-night phone caller, the last of which we received on 10/10, when he called to apologize that he wouldn’t be able to make it to our wedding after all. We told him not to worry and said we’d go visit him to LA in the Spring and have a do-over, a West Coast Edition wedding, to which he replied “Yeah, baby!!!”

As we hung up, something made me tell him “We love you, Tommy!”

I’m so glad I did.

Tommy, we love you and we’ll miss you a ton. Thanks for everything. And yes, I’ll change my guitar strings before every show from now on, I promise.



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