Tom Townsley and the Backsliders
Tom Townsley began playing harmonica in 1980, while a graduate student at Syracuse University. Upon receiving his degree, he moved to Florida and immersed himself in the Tampa blues scene, eventually becoming a member of the band Outer Drive. He returned to Syracuse in 1984 and founded the Cold Shot Blues Band, which became a popular act throughout the rest of the decade. Cold Shot backed up legendary blues performers Pinetop Perkins and Jimmy Rogers and opened for many national acts like Johnny Winter, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells and James Cotton, to name only a few.
Cold Shot’s single, “Take Me To Chicago” won the regional Seagram’s Wine Cooler Talent Search and placed second nationally in the contest.
In the 90s, Townsley formed Tom Townsley & The Backsliders. This successful group recorded two CD’s which garnered rave reviews locally and nationally. "Moonlight Worker" (1998 Poverty Records) was the top selling blues disc in Central New York, going through two pressings, receiving worldwide airplay and being picked up by Crosscut Records in Germany. "Twice Too Much" (Poverty Records 1999) followed with accolades of its own.
International blues publications had this to say:
Blues Revue: “Townsley’s got that big fat tone, that gorgeous vibrato, that combination of sinew and subtlety.”
Living Blues: “Parts of this set jump so fine you’d think the songs were Louis Prima covers. But Tom Townsley wrote almost all of the tunes, and his tasteful harmonica playing sets the tone for the entire album.”
Blues Access: “Townsley’s an innovative harmonica player who’s done plenty of listening to the masters but isn’t afraid to try unusual styles and harp positions.”
In 2003, Townsley went solo with the recording of "Blue Roller" on Parvenu records. The disc explored the soul jazz genre, taking the harmonica into new territory. Syracuse Post Standard writer Mark Bialczak raved that “all nine tracks soar” and proclaimed "Blue Roller" the best local recording of 2003. Townsley has also contributed to the recordings of several area artists, including Los Blancos, Ron Spencer and The King Pins.
In addition to gigging, Townsley’s involvement with blues includes twenty years as host of Jazz 88’s “Sunday Night Blues” program. Every Sunday night from 6 to 10, Tom Townsley sits in and gives Central New Yorkers some down home old style blues. Considered the longest running blues show in Syracuse, for years Tom has been supplying blues fans a healthy dosage of both national and local blues talent. Tom Townsley leaves no stone unturned when it comes to bringing his audience the best blues music in town. He also acts as a contributing writer for numerous blues publications, including Blues Revue magazine and teaches harmonica workshops. He currently is vice-chairman of the Mohawk Valley Blues Society.