Basic Folk Podcast: Tom Rush

Tom Rush‘s career is a wonder. After stepping away from record labels and major tours in the 70s, he’s managed to cultivate a dedicated audience that has loyally shown up for decades. His relationship to music had a rocky start with a dozen years of unenjoyable piano lessons as a kid. Tom talks about his cousin, Beau Beals, who taught him ukulele and how to find joy and fun in music. Rush started college at Harvard as a marine biology major, but switched to English lit and kept his love of music and writing strong throughout school. In fact, he did struggle with focusing on studying due to his very frequent trips to The Club 47, a folk club right around the corner from from Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, MA. Tom actually was able to start playing around town and soon recorded an album, which was a novelty at the time. He became known as “the guy with the record.”

His sound started off very traditional, recording versions of Lowland Scots and Appalachian folk songs. After a few albums in, he started looking for new material to record and came across a few unknown songwriters for his 1968 album, The Circle Game. Tom Rush was the first person to record songs by unknowns Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne. After a few albums into the 70’s, Rush was burnt out, his label dropped him, and he needed a well deserved break. In the 80’s, Tom reinvented his career and laid the foundation for what it could look like for an independent musician to thrive. He established The Club 47 Concerts at Boston Symphony Hall, an upscale event that allowed his fans to enjoy folk rock in style. He became a champion of up and coming musicians like Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin. That nimbleness has followed him throughout the years and has proven most useful during the pandemic. Tom quickly created Rockport Sundays, his weekly video series where fans can support him via Patreon.


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