Copyright © {Page first created November 16, 1999. Last edited February 3, 2002.} by Thom Parrott.

Smithsonian Folkways recording artist "Tom Parrott"
Thom as in tom-cat, Parrott like the bird
singer, songwriter, musician, actor, playwrite


Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Thom Parrott has been performing folk, blues, country, rock-n-roll and pop since the 1950s. He has shared the stage with such luminaries as Pete Seeger, Bo Diddley and Janis Ian and has accompanied poet Alan Ginsberg. Thom has two albums out on the prestigious Folkways label. He has performed at Carnegie Hall, as an unscheduled act at the Newport and Philadelphia Folk Festivals, and at a vast array of coffee houses, night clubs, schools, senior centers, private parties and concert halls as well as on TV and radio. Thom has written a couple of hundred songs in a wide range of styles and also performs an eclectic mix of covers. Mr. Parrott has been written about in many publications, including The New York Times, and has never received a bad review. Since co-founding Peoples Entertainment Project (PEP) in February, 1999, Thom has performed more than 250 times at senior living and residential care facilities, for which he received a H.E.R.O.I.C.S award in September, 2001. In Autumn, 2000, Smithsonian Folkways released a 5 CD boxed set "Best of Broadside" (nominated for two Grammy awards and three Indies) on which Thom performs three of his songs.

Thom (aka "Tom") Parrott was born in Washington, D.C., in 1944 and can't remember not singing. His first instruments were piano and clarinet, but his commitment to music came with his parents gift of a guitar in 1959. He began writing two years later, in an American community overlooking the Caspian Sea, first performing in public there as well. In 1963-4, Thom attended Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, where he performed with the folk trio The Farlanders and with a theater company mixing songs, including some he had written alone or with Susan Foster, with stories from Spoon River Anthology.

In September, 1964, Thom moved to New York City, following Susan and intending to get into theater. Instead, he began performing regularly at the Postcrypt Coffeehouse, Gerdes Folk City and various other clubs and cafes, where he discovered a copy of Broadside Magazine in almost every guitar case. Mr. Parrott submitted a couple of songs to the publishers, Sis Cunningham (a member of The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie, et al) and her husband Gordon Friesen. They printed several of Thom's songs in Broadside and included him in concerts at the Village Gate and, in 1967, at Carnegie Hall. It was here that Moses Asch, owner of Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways) asked Thom to record for him. In its review of the first of these recordings, Cashbox Magazine referred to Thom as "one of the new wunderkind."

In 1968, Thom was an unscheduled performer at the Newport Folk Festival, playing in both the New Folks Concert and the Blues Workshop. The East Village Other praised his performance, linking him with Eric Von Schmidt as the only "urban folk musicians" at the Festival that year.

A turning point in Mr. Parrott's writing came when he was invited to perform at a benefit for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in 1971. The song he wrote for the event was his first successful attempt to mix humor with a serious message and a sing-along chorus -- "Hudson's Name Was Henry, But The River Is A John." Since then, Thom has produced a number of what one critic called "his strange rag-time originals" and he has had a lot more fun on stage.

After moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Thom taught guitar, harmonica and jug band at the University of New Mexico. The jug band class, taught with Steve Wilkes, turned into The Watermelon Mountain Jug Band. Jeff Burrows joined the band on banjo, guitar and vocals, eventually replacing Thom in the band. TWMJB, now led by original member Barbara Piper, has become a popular Albuquerque tradition.

Parrott has also been in several other groups. He sang and played rhythm guitar and harmonica in the "progressive country" band Gold Rush, featuring former Waylon Jennings backup singer Tomi Mitchell, eventually playing lead guitar and a little piano. Thom then had a country-rock band of his own called Borrowed Time.

In 1980, Thom and Cabin Lance put on a free concert for the homeless, in Albuquerque's Roosevelt Park (later famous as the site of a barbecue and shootout between members of MC Hammer's entourage) -- they subsequently created the outlaw rock band Illegal Aliens which went through personnel changes, morphed into Restless Natives and went into a restless retirement -- Thom and Cabin still perform together, usually completely unplugged.

After Cabin left the Restless Natives for See The Bunnies and then Los Flaming Cool Arrows, Thom formed Spotted Owlz, in which he played lead and rhythm guitar, keyboards, mandolin, slide guitar and harmonica.

Thom's song about a Welsh mining disaster which killed 144 people, mostly young children, "The Aberfan Coaltip Tragedy" was the title song for an LP by the Danish folk group Paddy Doyles. Country singer Randy Rhodes had a chart record with Mr. Parrott's "Teardrops On Tap." Thom won a song-writing award from The American Song Festival for his "Vasectomy Rag."

Thom studied his primary instrument, guitar, with Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Jack Baker and David Bromberg in New York and with Bob Brown and Dan Dowling in New Mexico. Parrott also plays harmonica, keyboards, mandolin and bass, on all of which he is largely self taught.

Thom is an award winning playwright and an experienced stage and TV actor. He was the producer, sound man, host and occasional talent for the public television program "Musician." He was a disc jockey on radio station KUNM. Mr. Parrott has written or co-written songs for several stage plays. He was a member of the improvisational theater company Phantasmagoria. Using the pen name "T. O. Dawes," Thom co-wrote the award winning stage play "The Murder Game" with A. A. MacGregor.

Smithsonian Folkways Albums by Tom Parrott:

Three songs on the Grammy and Indie nominated
Smithsonian Folkways beautifully boxed 5 CD set:

Presenting, in order of appearance:
DISC 1: The Broadside Singers, Phil Ochs, The New World Singers, Peter La Farge, Tom Paxton, Matt McGinn, The Glasgow Song Guild, Pete Seeger, Mark Spoelstra, Happy Traum, Jim Page, Malvina Reynolds
DISC 2: Bob Dylan, Bonnie Dobson, The Fugs, Eric Andersen, Gil Turner, Buffy Sainte-Marie,
Janis Ian, Will McLean, Sammy Walker, Richard Black
DISC 3: Nina Simone, The Freedom Singers, Len Chandler, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Mike Millius,
Richard Farina, Luis Valdez and Augustin Lira, El Teatro Campesino, Danny and Judy Rose-Redwood, Raimón Padilla, Matt McGinn, Sis Cunningham, The New Harmony Sisterhood Band
DISC 4: Thom Parrott, Matt Jones and Elaine Laron, Paul Kaplan, Wes Houston, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger, Jeff Ampolsk, Lucinda Williams, Charlie Brown, Ernie Marrs and the Marrs Family
DISC 5: Jimmy Collier and Rev F. D. Kirkpatrick, Wendy Smith, Sammy Walker, Arlo Guthrie, Kristin Lems, Bev Grant and the Human Condition, Chris Gaylord, Elaine White.

One song each on the Smithsonian Folkways albums:

All these recordings are available on CD from:

Making People's Music Order today: Making People's Music: Moe Asch and Folkways Records by Peter D. Goldsmith.

Prof. Goldsmith erroneously says Tom's LPs were "vanity records" -- in fact, Moe saw Tom at Carnegie Hall, invited him to record on Folkways and paid him to do so. Mr. Parrott has communicated with Prof. Goldsmith and subsequent editions of the book will be corrected.

The Smithsonian has a brief review of this book.


Broadside, Volume 2; Agnes Cunningham; Oak Publications, New York, 1968.
The Vietnam Songbook; Barbara Dane and Irwin Silber; The Guardian, New York, 1969.
I Hear America Singing; Hazel Arnett; Prager Publishers, New York, 1975.


"Kingdom Come" by Nancy Gage
"The Nina, the Pinta and the Cesar Romero" by Jeff Hudson
"Arroyo Repo" by Jim Graebner
"Junkie's Christmas" by William Burroughs


Messenger in "500 Hats"
The Prospector in "Madwoman of Chaillot"
Juan The Puppet Master in "The Nina, the Pinta and the Cesar Romero"
The Janitor and the College Professor in "Blue Plate Special"
Over 100 performances with Phantasmagoria Improvisational Theater
Convict in "All The Pretty Horses" (Matt Damon, Billy Bob Thornton director)

Buy Thom Parrott's new CD
to listen to samples of all tracks





Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Thom Parrott, email:

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Smithsonian Folkways recording artist "Tom Parrott"
Thom as in tom-cat, Parrott like the bird
singer, songwriter, musician, actor, playwrite


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