1952 - 2010Posted on June 30, 2010 – 8:13 PM | by OldManFoster
By Dennis Yudt photo courtesy Holly Horn
“Imagination is stronger than knowledge — myth is more potent than history — dreams are more powerful than facts — hope always triumphs over experience — laughter is the cure for grief — love is stronger than death.”
- Robert Fulghum
It is hard to imagine the Sacramento music scene without one of its most ardent supporters, Tommy VanWormer, who passed away on June 13th at the age of 57. This sentiment is being echoed from all corners as the news spread throughout our community and beyond. As this writer was interviewing a variety of people who knew him over the years, there was a common thread that ran though their recollections, thoughts and stories: everyone loved Tommy, and that he was taken from us way too early. It was through these conversations that the Tommy VanWormer story unfolded and revealed what an integral role he has played in the Sacramento music community, laying down the foundation and building upon it through his tireless and selfless efforts.
Tommy moved out to California in 1973 from his birthplace of Lake Ronkonkoma, on Long Island, New York, with his brother Bill, armed with his love of Roxy Music, Bowie, the Velvet Underground and the more esoteric sounds of the day. He soon fell in with the local underground art and music scene and it was here he thrived, befitting someone who actually knew who the Ramones were back in the day when punk was still in its gestation period. It wasn’t long after that he found a kindred spirit in Bill Fuller from the great Sacto proto-punk band, Ozzie, that they hosted a show together called Crib Death on the seminal radio station, KZAP, from 1975-76 and was the first in town to play what would eventually be known as “punk rock.” From there, Tommy, a self-taught drummer, found himself holding down the beat for early punk bands such as 1-2-X-U, Private Toy, Sans Figures and most famously, Hunting Game, whose EP Rules was and is still a profound influence on Sacramento musicians.
After Hunting Game, Tommy put the sticks away and put his energies into DJing – he was the house DJ at Club Can’t Tell and he also spun at Galatica 2000 and Old Ironsides, he was the Cattle Club’s first DJ and most recently he was seen behind the tables at his friend Ross Hammond’s ‘Nebraska Monday’s’ held at Luna’s. He was also heard on-air on KDVS and KYDS for several years. Tommy came to find himself as a scene archivist, taking photographs of any and every band that came into town and many of these pictures can be found on Tommy’s Facebook page that has been left up for friends to leave their recollections on and to get a small peek at the full and incredible life that he’d led.
Ask any musician in town and they will tell you that Tommy was an inspiration, whether he was seeing his old buddies playing somewhere or checking out the newest and hottest – he was always there, ready to take a snapshot or to offer some words of encouragement. Always positive, always ready to talk knowledgeably about any subject under the sun, Tommy had friends in every corner of this town (and many others).
But, as much as he loved music, he had one greater love – his sons, Adam and Ian and his wife Caryn. He was so proud of his boys and this writer’s last memory of Tommy will be him introducing me to his son, Adam, and seeing the genuinely deep and profound love that they shared for each other.
Adam and Ian, it is important that you know that your father was a truly incredible person who touched so many lives in so many positive ways. Because of your father’s love, not just of music and art, but more importantly, of people and especially the both of you, there will be thousands of us making sure that he is never forgotten and to be there when you need to know how much your father loved the both of you and your mother. Just ask and we will tell you. Always.