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The Long Ryders’ Tom Stevens

Bandmate, but above all friend, SID GRIFFIN remembers

On Saturday night, 23rd January 2021 Tom Stevens died at his home in Indiana. He was discovered by his son who was sent upstairs by Tom’s wife of over 36 years, Elaine, to see why her husband did not come down to dinner when called.
Typically when Tom left us he was with his beloved family and at home researching some far flung area of the internet where he could confirm or disprove another slice of rock ’n’ roll’s lengthy history. If he had not been such a terrific family man to Elaine Marie Stevens and such a terrific father to three quite wonderful young adults, if he had not been such a great musician and songwriter, it would be easy to imagine Tom Stevens as a detective. The Federal government in Washington DC, the FBI, NASA or any top university could have had Tom trace the source of this or that folk legend and before long the public would have known whether the original point of debate Tom was investigating was either correct or incorrect. And they would have known why.

Thomas Howard Stevens was only 64 but he packed a lot into those years. Known to most Shindig! readers as the bass player of The Long Ryders since Christmas 1983 Tom also had fairly high profile gigs performing with ex-Byrd Gene Clark, Danny & Dusty (in reality Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn) and a host of LA sessions for everything from successful TV commercials to obscure indie bands who never got much further than their garage door.

With Magi, his Aerosmith-styled band of Indiana schoolmates, Tom recorded an album called Win Or Lose. (Original copies go for silly money now and it has been bootlegged twice on CD.) Tom was always very proud of being in Magi. They toured the midwest from Montana to Pennsylvania to very real success, drawing large crowds and actually turning a profit, so in ’78 the band came out to LA but found themselves way out of step with the Sunset Strip of X, The Germs, and Wall Of Voodoo. They imploded but Tom stayed in Hollywood, becoming a much respected clerk at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd. and then being headhunted for Sounds Good Distribution company by the Rhino Records gang.

Late ’83 was a game-changing time for Tom as he decided to marry his longtime girlfriend Elaine and he joined The Long Ryders. Having just lost a bass player to marriage and a growing family I told Tom at our first meeting if he was married and had kids it would be difficult, almost impossible, to see him as a Long Ryder as we were going to tour, tour, tour. Tom replied honestly and accurately he was not married and he had no children. So he became a Long Ryder. A few days later he married his soulmate Elaine and not too long after their wedding his first child, a beautiful baby girl, was born.

For the next five or six years of travelling and gigging we got to know Tom well. He was clearly one of the very most popular members of the entire Paisley Underground. Everyone liked Tom. In point of fact there was little to dislike. He was even-tempered, had time for every thing and everybody, and was always good company. His bass playing was the best bass playing in LA of any band I heard back then and I include the band you are thinking of now as you read this. The Long Ryders had the best bassist on the scene. No question. None.
We also had a fine lead singer in Tom Stevens, a crackin’ harmony singer, and a songwriter who penned killer material like Years Long Ago’, ‘Let If Fly’, and our show stopper on our recent tours, his anti-Trump classic, ‘The Bells Of August’. No less than Whisperin’ Bob Harris’ said several times Tom’s song ;A Stitch In Time’ was his favourite Long Ryders song. Whisperin’ Bob said this live on the air once while The Long Ryders were playing a BBC session for him and the look on Tom’s proud face was one I will cherish always and always.

Yet now Tom Stevens has left the building. He is gone as a person and as a Long Ryder but he will remain with everyone who knew him forever. Be it as a loving partner to Elaine for 40 years, as a proud, quite involved father to his children, as a top musician willing to help out anyone requesting a leg up, or as the one guy on the tour bus you could always talk to about obscure records, who would always debate the merits of this album or that genre, and who would always laugh about yesterday’s mistakes there was no one like Tom Stevens. He will be missed, true, but he will always be loved. And he won’t be forgotten.

15 thoughts on “The Long Ryders’ Tom Stevens

  1. Thank you Sid for a wonderful tribute to a lovely person and gifted musician. I’m glad to have gotten to know him in the last few years, he certainly knew how to fill his stitches of time. I found him to be quite an ernest man and deep thinker indeed! It was a pleasure to get to know him and see y’all play here in LA!

  2. So sorry to hear this. I was a big fan back in the day. To this lovely tribute I would just add… Tom Stevens was COOL. Great stage presence. Long Ryders at The Garage, Nottingham remains one of my favourite gigs of all time. It was hot, it was packed, the band rocked and the sweat was dripping off the ceiling. Thanks and RIP.

  3. You did his memory a great honor. He was everything everyone said and more..loved Tom he was one of a kind. RIP Tom. And thanks to you Sid for this.

  4. One of my favorite bands of ALL TIME…so sorry to hear about Tom, but a beautiful tribute. The music will live forever.

  5. Whoa, this is the first I’ve heard of this-through the Long Ryders email list. I first saw the Long Ryders in 2020 on the Outlaw Country Cruise. Returning home to New Orleans I spent the next eight months listening to the Long Ryders every single night while making dinner. I loved the whole band, and some of Tom’s songs were among my favorites. I have an image of him, stage right (though he was often stage left)-his face, his hair, his singing. Very cool dude.
    I was so hoping I’d see the band again somehow. I still hope to but it won’t be the same. Thanks, Tom, for the countless hours of pure pleasure you gave me. Very best to your family and bandmates.

  6. I would often check Tom’s youtube channel to get a fix of the Long Ryders, sometimes commenting on his content. Saw the band at their most recent Louisville gig and chatted briefly with them after show. Weird how it is when you bump into someone and then suddenly realize you will never get to see them again. I am off to Tom’s youtube channel now for yet another musical adventure. Wreck of the 809 is kicking it now-go Tom- and next, perhaps next, I Had a Dream, the song that led me to Tom’s space on YT.

    You brought joy, Tom. And that is a great epitaph. You are missed.

  7. R.I.P Tom Stevens went to see them back in 1985 at the international Manchester even got backstage to have a chat with them,still got my signed flyer from the band and then in 2016 at the academy in Manchester, top band ,he will be sadly missed, live forever the Long Ryders

  8. Tom was so great that you couldn’t actually hear him. High notes maybe in ‘Comrades in arms’ but never sub Bass guts rattlin’ just exactly what was needed. Maestro.
    Gutted me when I heard he’d gone. Whatever the Long Ryders new line up, every time they step on stage they’ll still be 33 and a third.
    RIP Tom. Boogie.

  9. Aww man, just found out after hearing Tom Tom on Spotify and looking online. I had some awesome online convos with Tom, mostly about working with Gene Clark! I was honoured not only that such a well respected musician would take the time to have such a real conversation with a mere fan but also that I got a feel for his knowledge and passion for music.

  10. I was in college with Tom at Ivy Tech in Elkhart, Indiana. We had several classes together and became friends. A great guy. So sorry to hear this.

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