Guitarist Tommy Malone smiled as he took center stage at the 2002 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He had reason to smile: things have been going his way lately. The former founder of the Subdudes took awhile to get his musical sea legs back after the popularSubdudes parted company in 1996.
Born in the Big Easy, Malone absorbed the music of his hometown, and began playing in high school with his band, Elroy. It was here that he and Steve Amadee forged a lifelong musical friendship. Malone also played in Dust Woofie and Kurt Kasson's jug band, featuring the Wheeler Sisters. But it was the formation of the Subdudes at Tipitina's that catapulted Tommy Malone to fame and fortune.
The band members, Steve Amadee, John Magnie Willie Williams, Johnny Allen Burns, and Malone knew their city's music well. Drawing on its rich cultural heritage, the Subdudes segued from funk to gospel to the blues in a roots rock reverie, long before it was a popular art form. Their good times music was backed by the unique tambourine/percussion sound made by Amadee. Between 1987 and 1996, the band produced five CD's and performed all over the world. Then, the Subdudes decided to dismantle and set out for new horizons.
Malone continued to shuttle between the Subdudes' power axis of Colorado and New Orleans. He formed a band called Tiny Town, with Pat McLaughlin, Johnny Ray Allen, and Kenneth Blevins, which released an eponymous CD in 1998.
But Tiny Town seemed to be missing that certain something that gave the Subdudes their special shine. It disbanded so that the talented musicians could continue their search for appropriate self-expression.
Malone returned to New Orleans, the city that inspired so much of the style and content of the Subdudes, working with artists from Johnny Vidacovich to Anders Osborne. In 2001, Malone realized a dream by releasing a solo album, Soul Heavy.
He is joined by Jack Jacobsen on organ; Ray Ganucheau on bass, guitar, and vocals; and Doug Harman on cello. Malone multitasks as writer, producer and vocalist, also playing guitar and piano. The CD has memorable tunes, such as the soulful title cut, and the merry Fat Tuesday, with hard driving music and lyrics reminiscent of the heyday of America's great rock bands.
The Tommy Malone Band won a gig at the 2002 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where they tore it up.
Even before then, things were on the upward spiral. Malone took his new band to his old stomping grounds in Denver for a show in 2001. He was joined on stage by his former Subdude, John Magnie. Magic happened. Malone and Magnie formed a new group called the Dudes. Joining them are Steve Amadee, along with Tim Cook,Jimmy Messa, and Sammy Neal. While retaining some of the Subdudes formula, the sound is new and different, featuring an enhanced rhythm section and more bass guitars. The group was a hit at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, as well as at their triumphant show at the House of Blues. No wonder Tommy Malone is smiling. ~ Rose of Sharon Witmer