Wilno drummer heading down under for chance of a lifetime
WILNO – When Tom Martel took up drumming when he was 16 years old, he never thought his love for music would take him around the globe.
But after years of countless performances at local venues, festivals and events, his passion for music is finally paying off.
Martel, a resident of Wilno, is a self-employed carpenter by day and drummer by night. He can usually be seen jamming at the Wilno Tavern, where he helps spearhead the weekly country-themed evenings.
A few years ago, a friend hooked him up with Michael Bate, pro
ducer of the live show Grievous Angel: The Legend of Gram Parsons. Eventually, Martel was offered the position of drummer for the theatrical concert, based on the life of alternative-country musician Gram Parsons.
While Parsons did not have any chart-topping albums during his life, he is said to have defined the alternative-country music and Americana scenes in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at number 87 on their list of 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time.
The famous musician had a tragic upbringing. His father committed suicide when he was 12, his mother drank herself to death five years later and his younger sister Avis was committed to a mental institution, but was later killed in a boat crash.
Parsons was drawn to music at a young age and released two albums, GP and Grievous Angel, along with several CD’s with bands such as the Flying Burrito Brothers and The Byrds. Tragically, on September 19, 1973, Parsons life came to an end after he passed away from a drug overdose. He was 26 years old.
Since then, he has been the subject of five biographies, four tribute albums and a documentary film called Fallen Angel.
The live show, Grievous Angel, was inspired by an interview between Bate and Parsons in March 1973. The performance is written by Bate and David MacDonald.
After he joined the show, the performances took Martel and the band to several small venues in Ontario, including a stop at the local Wilno Tavern. Last year, the show hit the road and the band played many locations in northern California.
“The first time that I have been on a flight in my life was to go to California,” Martel admitted.
For three weeks, the band toured the state. Martel said the 18 shows were some of the most worry-free and trouble-free times of his life.
“Everything was just there,” he said. “You didn’t have to worry about nothing. It was really fabulous.”
Once the show wrapped up in 2011, Martel assumed his international touring days were over.
But a few weeks ago, almost one year later, he received a call informing him that the show was travelling to Australia.
“The people from Australia just wanted rights to the show,” Martel explained. “They heard about it through the California tour and they contacted Michael Bate who is the writer and producer. He didn’t want to give up the show like that.”
With the exception of the male and female leads (Anders Drerup and Kelly Prescott - who were busy with prior engagements), the original band was asked to go to Australia for a one-week long show, including Martel.
Despite his shock and disbelief, he readily agreed. He had never been to the land down under, and this was the perfect opportunity to travel.
“This is way over the top,” Martel said. “I had no interest in going anywhere. I love Canada. If I was to go somewhere on vacation, I would vacation somewhere in Canada. I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t expecting it, and it was just handed to me.”
Story continues in the July 18 issue of The Valley Gazette.