Soon after Tom Staley joined NRBQ he was first exposed to the music of Thelonius Monk and Sun Ra. Jazz drumming was already on Tom's radar, but he had never been exposed to the Avant-garde. Tom had begun taking lessons when he was ten, while also playing in the Fort Lauderdale Drum and Bugle Corps, and his junior high, and high school bands. Tom' s main drumming influence was the legendary jazz drummer Joe Morello. He attended numerous ‘Dave Brubeck Quartet’ performances, and also Morello’s drum clinics. This provided Tom with the strong foundation needed for NRBQ's eclectic - jazz improvisational approach to playing music.
"The first day Tom was to play with us was on a Sunday in the park. He showed up with a black suit jacket, sticks in hand, looking like Joe Morello. I knew that he was a professional and was right for us on sight. He could play anything. He's serious about the instrument and is constantly improving himself."
-- Terry AdamsNRBQ
Keyboardist Terry Adams started NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quintet) in Louisville, Kentucky in 1966 with guitarist Steve Ferguson. At the time Terry and Steve were working together in a local group called ‘Mercy-Beats U.S.A’. It was Terry and Steve, Jimmy Orton on bass and an unknown drummer who decided on moving to Miami, Florida after high school graduation to try their luck as full-time musicians.
During that trip, Terry and Steve sat in with a New York City group called The Seven Of Us who were appearing at a local lounge featuring Joey Spampinato on bass, and lead singer Frank Gadler…They soon became fast friends and the four of them started working together. This early version of NRBQ only lasted a few months, so they returned to Louisville, KY. It wasn't very long however before Terry Adams was asked to join ‘The Seven Of Us’, so Terry headed off to New York City.
They liked playing at a Miami FL club called ‘The World’ which is where Tom met the boys when his band shared the bill. Skip forward a year and NRBQ had re-formed again and this time Joey Spampinato, Frank Gadler, and Steve Ferguson were in the band playing at a Miami Beach club called ‘The Image’. They were using different drummers (famed percussionist Joe Lala was filling in) until they found the right drummer. Tom Staley who had just returned to Fort Lauderdale from playing with his band in Kansas City heard about the auditions and got the gig. After developing lots of local excitement and a loyal following, the band at the recommendation of their new manager moved to NYC to begin recording their first album.
After playing a week long engagement at ‘Steve Paul’s "The Scene" on West 46th Street, they generated so much intense buzz - that Jimi Hendrix was there night after night because he was wowed by Steve Ferguson’s guitar playing. The legendary Clive Davis then came down and personally signed them to a Columbia Records contract.
In 1973 - with the birth of his son, Tom Staley and his wife chose to focus more on family. With the challenges of the road, and a heavy touring schedule…Tom decided to leave NRBQ, and head home to Fort Lauderdale to form another band with Steve Ferguson, Frankie Gadler and Rick Harper which only lasted a few short months… Culminating in cutting some demos for the Capricorn Records label.
Tom and Steve would later reunite and relocate back to the New England area, putting together a short-lived band called ‘The Soul Drivers’ in 1977. While living in Fort Lauderdale circa 1974 –1993, he supported his family playing drums in local lounge acts, and also did a three month tour with Jonathan Edwards.
In 1980 he brought original NRBQ guitarist Steve Ferguson and Rick Harper on bass down from Louisville to play with a high energy country rock cover band that lasted for 3 years. The rigors of playing six nights a week from 10:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. began to take its toll and the band dissolved.
“I had the pleasure of playing with Tom Staley from 2008 to 2011 in the long-running Tampa Bay “power lounge” band the ‘Vodkanauts’. My only regret is that I didn’t start playing with Tom sooner. Over the Vodkanauts’ thus-far 15 years of existence, I’d occasionally find myself seeking out a replacement for some departing player, describing my ideal band as one with “the sonic audacity of NRBQ.” Hey, a feller can dream! At one point during one of these searches, I came across a Musician Available ad from THE ORIGINAL DRUMMER FROM NRBQ who’d recently moved to town and was looking to play. I was too chicken-shit scared to answer his ad because this is THE ORIGINAL DRUMMER FROM NRBQ and like Wayne and Garth, I was not worthy.
Fast forward a few years and through a wacky weird happenstance, my band ended up with THE ORIGINAL DRUMMER FROM NRBQ in its lineup and I say without hyperbole that those four years were the most singularly enriching period of my musical life. Moral of the story: always respond to the ad because time’s a-wasting and a hero could become a new friend”.
“Tom Staley possesses a breathtaking grasp of all the technical aspects of drumming and like the top tier of players, he only uses that knowledge in selfless service of the music as a whole. “Supple” is a term that comes to mind as an overall descriptor for the Staley approach as the man can effortlessly zig-zag through myriad changes in tempo and dynamics while making the zaniest transitions in genre and style seem completely rational. As a welcome bonus, he’s an incredibly smart guy with a kind and gentle nature who’s company is a pleasure to enjoy offstage.”
-- Mark Warren
By the end of the 1980’s with not much work in sight, Tom and his family relocated to a beautiful mountain home in Suches, Georgia. He began doing a lot of gigs in Atlanta with a group called ‘Felix and the Cats’. Tom also played with ‘Sandra Hall and the Excellos’ until 1998 when he once again moved his family…This time to St. Petersburg FL. There he ended up playing with blues guitarist, Rick Hart in "Honeyboy" He also started his own blues band ‘Sack O’ Woe’. Tom also recorded four of his own CDs during this time period. From 2006 – 2010, Tom worked steadily with local favorites "The Vodkanauts" In 2010 Tom moved his family back to Georgia to be near grandchildren This time to Flowery Branch which is 45 minutes north of Atlanta, where he has been performing with the ‘Alligator Hat Band and subbing for the last five years.
“I played with Tom Staley for about four years in my band ‘Honeyboy’. I was thrilled when I found out that the original drummer from one of my favorite bands, NRBQ, was living in the Tampa area, and so I chased him down to see if he would play in my band.
I've played with many drummers over my forty-year music career. Tom was my favorite. Not necessarily because he was a great drummer (he was) but because he was a great musician. I believe it takes more than knowing how to play drums to be a great drummer. The drummer has to know how to play the song. That means understanding song structure, dynamics, and a sense of what the song needs and, more importantly, what the song doesn't need.
What makes Tom a great musician? I think the fact that Tom can play other instruments and can sing and write songs, and produce a song in the studio, gives him the "big picture" of what a song needs. Once you approach a song from a producer's point of view, you begin to see that the drummer is only one piece of the puzzle. You begin to appreciate the other instrument's roles in the song, and how the drums must fit into that puzzle and has a specific role if the song is going to be great. That's the difference between a good and a great drummer. Tom is definitely one of the great ones”.
-- Rick Hart
Tom Staley played on the first four NRBQ albums, which are now considered to be classics.
NRBQ – 1969 - Columbia Records
Boppin’ The Blues with Carl Perkins – 1970 - Columbia Records
Scraps – 1972 - Kama Sutra
Workshop – 1973 – Kama Sutra
Tom Staley: Major Influences: The Beatles, Sun Ra, John Coltrane, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Carl Perkins, NRBQ, The Lovin' Spoonful, Carla Bley, Thelonious Monk, Captain Beefheart, John Cage, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel,The Rock n' Roll Trio, Eddie Cochran, Jaco Pastorious, Link Wray ,Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, Buck Owens, DJ Fontana, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Peter Erskine,Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Mike Clark, Ginger Baker, Earl Palmer, Al Jackson Jr.
NRBQ is that rare group that's eclectic, stylistically innovative, and creatively ambitious while also sounding thoroughly unpretentious and accessible. At its best, NRBQ’s music casually mixes up barrelhouse R&B, British Invasion pop, fourth-gear rockabilly, exploratory free jazz, and dozens of other flavors while giving it all a stomp-down rhythm that makes fans want to dance and expressing a sense of joy and easy good humor that comes straight from the heart. Over the course of a career that's lasted more than 40 years, the band has barely flirted with mainstream success, but has still earned a sizable, passionate cult of fans that includes Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Ira Kaplan, John Sebastian, and Dave Edmunds.
-- Mark Deming
“Tom Staley is one of the hands down finest, rooted and brilliant roots rock drummers and a brilliant songwriter for how he expresses the wonderment of the now by draws from his influences such as NRBQ but Jack DeJohnette and so many others. Staley is an historically important drummer as is NRBQ, the most joyous group around”.
-- W. Roberts
NRBQ / High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective - Five CD box set - Omnivore Recordings
106 songs featuring previously unreleased tracks
"Top 10 Boxed Sets of 2016 - NRBQ, High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective. #1." — Goldmine
" This music grows on you faster than a ‘Chia Pet On Steroids’. My pick for favorite box set of 2016." — Power Popaholic
"The reason NRBQ is at home anywhere is its versatility and skill ... The music, whether a waltz, stomper, polka or ballad, is assured. NRBQ is that rare band that keeps you on the edge of your seat by way of its confidence. ‘High Noon’ is a box set to cherish, visit and revisit." — Downbeat
"It sounds like hyperbole to say NRBQ is one of the great bands of the rock-and-roll era and a national treasure. But this set proves it, providing more than six hours of brilliance." — Vintage Guitar
"After five decades, NRBQ might still be one of the most misunderstood great bands in rock history ... an essential purchase even if you still won't quite be able to explain their awesomeness to your friends." — yahoo.com
Dave Boyd And The Shade Tree Smugglers w/ Tom Staley (NRBQ) on drums
Twitchin 'N The Kitchen 2000 – Tom Staley 2000
Thenceforward – HiVariety2006