Oh, For the Love of Music



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One of Savannah’s most gifted and versatile musicians gets ready to unload on the modern world with his latest album, “The Age of Propaganda.” Before he heads out on tour in support of his latest, we catch up with the musical Renaissance man.

Fruitcake. That’s the word that comes to most folks’ minds when the name Claxton is mentioned. Especially here in the South. Every year for over a century, the eponymous bakery bearing the name of the small Georgia town where it’s located has cranked out tens of thousands of iconic, dense, heavy fruit and nut filled pound cakes that are shipped worldwide and cherished by legions of fans.

However, if one Savannah-based singing guitarist has his way, before long “fruitcake” will face some serious competition as the go-to definition of his surname.

For well over a decade, Thomas Claxton has steadily made a name for himself in the Southeast as an impressive bar and nightclub act, offering up studied and theatrical solo, acoustic interpretations of popular rock, pop and soul hits by an unusually wide variety of artists — and occasionally playing full-band, electric shows with his impressive backing group The Myth, made up of some of the most versatile veteran musicians on the Savannah scene.

Through steely-eyed determination and a diligent work ethic, this ambitious performer has parlayed his initial local acclaim into a full-time career that finds him playing road gigs everywhere from Atlantic City to San Francisco, and helping to plan charity fundraisers at major music industry conventions like the annual Summer NAMM show in Nashville.

He’s also performed at nearly 80 percent of all the Hard Rock Café locations in the USA and won numerous peer-reviewed awards for his past DIY albums.

On the eve of the release of his latest indie CD of original material (his last album sold several thousand copies in the Savannah area alone), I spoke with Thomas at length about his humble beginnings and his aspirational goals. Continued on the next page are highlights from our conversation, edited lightly for space and clarity.

SQ&A

How did you come to learn to sing and play music? Was it a hobby that became a career, or was it always your goal to do this for a living?

I first picked up the guitar when I was 16 years old. I was on a vacation in North Georgia with my dad and met a really cool musician, who it turns out actually plays and sings around Savannah under the name Samuel Adams. I told him I’d been wanting to learn, so he taught me the basics. He even helped me book my first gig. As soon as someone showed me what was possible on guitar, I knew then that I wanted to become a full-time performer and turn it in to my career. Everybody has a calling and I knew ever since I was a kid that music was mine.

Tell me a bit about your new album, “Age of Propaganda.”

The more people I meet, especially when I’m touring and experiencing different walks of life, I realize that depending on who you ask, we are either living in the best times any of us have ever seen or the worst. But I’ve found that for the most part, people have the best intentions — regardless of their views. Most people do agree the world seems to be going through an overload of propaganda — from all different directions. Due to the internet and modern TV, many people don’t know what to believe. Most of the songs on my new album reflect that theme.

This record was produced and engineered here in town by Eric Winbush, and it features an unusual assortment of musicians.

Eric has become my mentor in many respects and without a doubt, one of my best friends. This is the first album we have done together and we certainly took the time to make sure it was done right. I wanted to have a mix of guest performers alongside members of my band, “The Myth,” including: drummer Paul Cooper, guitarist Craig Johansen, and bassist Rodney Smith — plus, my best friend and former bandmate, drummer Mark Vaquer from Savannah’s own “Shut Up & Drive.” They all worked countless hours with me, but the album also features Grammy Award winner Mario Cipollina, who’s a founding member of Huey Lewis & The News. He plays bass on about 70 percent of the tracks and recorded his parts in California. Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former member of Parliament-Funkadelic, Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton worked with us in Los Angeles as well. Touring members of Blood, Sweat & Tears, Mother’s Finest and the B-52’s appear on the album too, as does British guitarist Phil Hilborne, from the London Queen musical “We Will Rock You.”

Approximately how many live solo shows do you perform a month? How many band gigs? 

On average, I perform a minimum of 25 solo gigs a month. In 2017, I performed 317 dates. My band plays on average once a month and now only does ticketed performances and festivals. Of the 317 performances, 195 of them were here in Savannah and the rest were out of town.

I’m told you have big plans to promote this new album. How will your touring in 2019 differ from in years’ past?

I regularly perform in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Orlando and other major markets. I have also done two tours in Alaska as well as shows in cities ranging from Philadelphia to Vancouver, British Columbia, and generally perform in rooms that hold between 500 and 2,000 people. Next year is definitely shaping up to be exciting, though. My goal is to focus much more on my original material and book bigger shows. I am currently working on multiple promotional tours across the U.S. and a cross-Canadian tour is being discussed for the Spring. I am organizing different bands to back me up in different parts of the country, and am entering this album — and individual songs — into a variety of different competitions, including the Grammy Awards.

What is your favorite place to play in away from Savannah, and why?

I have to go with Los Angeles and New York City. There truly is something electric about the vibes those areas offer. The crowds are passionate and love performers from out of town. One of the main reasons I first went to New York City years ago, and continue to make frequent trips there, is to stay humble and grounded. You may think you’re amazing, until you’re face-to-face with some of the performers in the major markets. Many of those players are world-class. They have to be! If they’re not, they’ll get replaced before you can snap a finger. It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond, but when you throw yourself in to the ocean and you see the size of some of the truly big fish, you really haven’t experienced as much as you think you have. •

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Greatest Kids 2019

Nominate your kid this year and tell us why he or she has to be the winner of our South's Greatest Kids contest. Don't be shy — this could be your year!

Greatest Chefs 2019

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Events Calendar

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  • Friday Concert Series

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    7:00 PM - 12:00 AM @ Historic Courthouse, Downtown Blairsville on the S

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  • Eastman Gun Show

    Aug 24, 2019
    9:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Savann Civic Center

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    Jun 29, 2019
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Scenes of the South

Leopold's Ice Cream's 100 Year Birthday Block Party

Leopold’s celebrated its 100th anniversary on Saturday, August 17, throwing a birthday block party to commemorate the event.

Savannah Downtown Business Association Luncheon

The Savannah Downtown Business Association held its monthly luncheon on Aug. 14

Brews for a Cause in July at Churchill's

This Thursday, Churchill's was packed as we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause ! We joined Southern Eagle and The Ronald McDonald House of The Coastal Empire. Southern Eagle provided great craft beer and the silent auction was a huge success. All the proceeds from the silent auction benefited The Ronald McDonald House of The Coastal Empire.

Bohemian Hotel 10th Anniversary

The Bohemian Hotel celebrated their 10th year in business with an incredible night of cocktails and appetizers. Guests ventured up to the stunning rooftop deck overlooking the Savannah River to celebrate the hotel's decennial anniversary — reveling in the scenery with a glass of champagne.

Stonewall50 - A Legendary Block Party

The Stonewall 50 block party, held on June 28th outside the LGBTQ Center on Bull Street, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Protest — one of the most important moments in LGBTQ history and the catalyst for the gay rights movement.

Pelindaba Lavender Savannah Grand Opening

Pelindaba Lavender Grand Opening was this past Thursday, June 28th! This fun night included ribbon cutting, product sampling, lavender refreshments and special prizes! During this festive evening 10% of sales benefitted the good work of Coastal Pet Rescue. Stop by the store at 112 E Broughton St, Savannah, Ga to see the many products they offer!

Sonja Griffin Evans Gullah Art Exhibit

The Sonja Griffin Evans Gullah Art Event in Hilton Head displayed several paintings featuring the culture and heritage of the African-American Lowcountry. Sonja Griffin Evans paints with bright vibrant colors — while also incorporating materials such as tin and wood — to emphasize the traditional Gullah style, evoking an emotional response by bringing to life historical and cultural events.

JCB MudRun 2019

Participants hit the ground running at this year's JCB Mud Fest, climbing through tough obstacles in either the 5k or the 5 mile run. At the end of the race was a long slide where, upon finishing, contestants found themselves in the Party Pit. Winners from various age groups were presented with trophies, and all the proceeds from the JCB Mud Fest benefited the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development.

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum's 200th Anniversary!

This past Wednesday, May 22, we celebrated with Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum for for the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's historic trans-Atlantic crossing — the WORLD'S FIRST oceanic voyage under steam! On this year's Maritime Day, Ships of the Sea celebrated the Savannah's 200th anniversary with a commemorative ceremony provided by the PROPELLER CLUB, where Robert Morris unveiled two eight-foot paintings. The evening also included an amazing performance by the Parris Island MARINE BAND, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and celebratory beverages!

Brews For A Cause at Top Deck

This past Tuesday, May 21 we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Top Deck Bar! We joined up with Southern Eagle and a great group of like minded people to benefit Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire in their efforts to provide financial assistance to the surviving families of local law enforcement officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty. It was another memorable night in the South filled with great people and even greater crafted beer! This month's Featured Craft Beer: Island Coastal Lager Sponsors: Island Coastal Lager, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Southern Eagle, South Magazine