Tom Kammer

Tom Kammer has the distinction of playing in 11 bands that are featured on HubCityMusic.  His drumming and singing were featured in the legendary Oelwein country bands Johnny Clendenen (when he was only 10 years old) and Milt Campbell and the Country Buddies. He later played with The Plainsmen, and The New Beginning.  He then moved to the rock style and played with the popular bands Blue Horizon and Shatter. Other rock bands included The Blitz Brothers, The Basics, and The Bruce Berringer Band.  He also played with the lounge act The Keith Thompson Trio and the big band called Tuxedo Junction.  In addition to his professional career, he won awards for his drum skills while playing with the Oelwein High School Jazz Band and also was a member of the OCHS marching band and Swing Choir.

He personifies what HubCityMusic is all about by being a professional drummer that could play any style of music. He was without a doubt the most sought after and “go to” drummer in Oelwein for over 30 years. There is an old saying among musicians, “the band is only as good as its drummer.” Every band that Tom Kammer played with was better because of him.

Editor’s note:

Tom Kammer was recently diagnosed with a very serious medical condition. Please explore the following links to learn about his condition and take the opportunity to assist him in his recovery:

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Brenda and Tom Kammer

Message from Tom’s wife Brenda Kammer: On Wednesday October 14, 2015,  Tom received news none of us ever wants to hear. Pancreatic Cancer. Our hearts are heavy but we are trying to stay positive as he begins treatment. We have received many calls and messages of support and prayers and appreciate this more than we can say. As word gets out, we know there will be a lot of people who want to stay updated as things progress. We felt the best way to do this is to start a caring bridge page where I will do my best to keep current info and where people can leave messages. I have put what information we know on there. Cancer sucks. Just sayin’


 

caringBridgeThe CaringBridge website allows people to easily get updates and offer support and encouragement. Since 1997, more than half a million CaringBridge websites have been created. One in nine people in the U.S. have used CaringBridge to rally support for a loved one during a health journey, and their reach extends to 236 countries and territories around the world. Sign in to Tom Kammer’s CaringBridge page to keep updated on his condition.


 

gofundme

GoFundMe:  It’s so much easier to give help then to ask for help. That’s why the “Sandbar Gang” have come together to set up this site for Tom and Brenda. Two of the best friends a guy or gal could be lucky enough to have.  We love you two. Hang in there. We’re with you all the way. Many, many prayers coming your way.

On October 14, 2015, after not feeling well for a couple of months, weight loss of 25+ pounds, and out of control blood sugars, Tom had an ultrasound done on his pancreas. The doctor called later that day with a preliminary diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He was seen at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN the next day by 2 GI doctors and surgeon who confirmed the diagnosis.
tom2The good news is that it appears that Tom is in the lucky 10% who have a fighting chance!
But fighting isn’t going to come cheap. Tom will be going through chemo and a rough surgery. There will be medical expenses, hotel expenses, gas, missed days of work, getting family here and there, and more that will come up.
Tom adds so much to each of our lives with his “little witticisms”, his hospitality, his music, his (mostly) fine cooking and his friendship. We’d like to offer each of you the opportunity to give back to him.
If you are like us, you are probably wondering what you can do and how you can help Tom and Brenda. This seems the simplest way for us all to pull together for them. Then Tom & Brenda will be able to use your kind gifts however they need to in Tom’s fight against the stupid cancer.
Your gifts of $10 or $20 (or more!) will add up, relieve the stress of financial worries and will be so very, very much appreciated.
Visit Tom Kammer’s GoFundMe page to contribute to his medical expenses.


 

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Tom at KAMMERSTOCK 2015

Benefit Concert:  Tom Miller and Mark Nicolay known in some circles as The Patchy Fog music duo, organized a benefit concert for Tom and Brenda at the Oelwein KCs on December 12, 2015. 

Musicians who have played with Tom Kammer in one of his many bands traveled in to perform at KAMMERSTOCK. Huge thanks go to the musicians who traveled to Oelwein from Georgia, Oregon, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Arizona, Texas, Washington DC, and from all across Iowa.

For complete information about KAMMERSTOCK including pictures and information about each band, visit: The KAMMERSTOCK Page.  To see pictures and videos taken at KAMMERSTOCK, go to the Kammerstock Retrospective.

 


Tom performed with the following Oelwein bands:

Johnny Clendenen

MEMBERS: Johnny Clendenen, Sherry Clendenen, Jim Mazziotti, Rick Clendenen, Jim Ponder, and Tom Kammer.
Johnny’s band was the “House Band” at Berger’s Tap in Downtown Oelwein for many years.

Johnny’s band played all over Iowa in addition to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The band recorded two songs, “Bull Dog”, and “Blues Stay Away From Me”
Johnny Clendenen was “Rockabilly” before the term was invented and he enjoyed how many of his fans thought he looked and acted like Elvis.


The Plainsmen

Tommy KammerMEMBERS: Steve Bachman, Linda Bachman, Ed Kammer, Tom Kammer, Chuck Baker, Larry Donaldson


The New Begining

MEMBERS:  Tom Kammer, Ed Kammer, Steve Bachman, and Linda Marie. 

The Plainsmen soon morphed into “The New Begining” after Baker quit and they added Steve’s wife Linda on vocals. They traveled all around Iowa while being booked by GMA – The Good Music Agency out of Minneapolis


Milt Campbell and the Country Buddies

MEMBERS: Milt Campbell, Jim Campbell, Judy Campbell, Danny Campbell, Janet Campbell, Ronnie Fitz, Jodeen Fitz, Tom Kammer

Milt Campbell was one of the top country bands in Eastern Iowa at the time. They also made money recording and playing on jingles for local merchants that were broadcast on local AM radio station KOEL. Milt was a member of the Oelwein music base that included Bobby Hankins, Leo Greco (hit song “Little Red Wagon”), Pee Wee Cherrier, Andy Doll, Alex Ricchio, and others. A lot of those guys would stop at Milt’s studio frequently. Milt played steel guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Milt was a “cool” guy that came from a completely different generation and musical background and yet was friends with many of the young musicians in Oelwein.


Keith Thompson Trio

MEMBERS: Keith Thompson, Tom Kammer, Janene Thompson

Keith Thompson made a name for himself by performing with the Bobby Hankins Show for years.


Blue Horizon

MEMBERS: Mike Vargason, Tom Kammer, Terry Wheeler, Rob Tatro, Kelly Murphy
From 1974 to 1978 Blue Horizon performed nearly every Friday and Saturday night at hundreds of dances, showcases and concerts in ballrooms, county fairs, and high schools throughout the Midwest.
The band featured strong vocal harmonies, two lead guitar players, and an electric violin that allowed them to play both original music and all the current hits of the day. Blue Horizon also distinguished themselves by performing deep album tracks by Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Little Feat, Elvin Bishop, Steely Dan, The Beatles, Charlie Daniels Band, George Benson and Stevie Wonder. Blue Horizon appeared in concert with multiple Midwest bands including the Minnesota band Judd and future IRRHOF bands Headstone and Dahcotah.


Bruce Bearinger Band

Bruce Bearinger Band- Left to right: Clay Hallberg, Tom Kammer, Bruce Bearinger

MEMBERS INCLUDE: Bruce Bearinger, Clay Hallberg and Charlie Hallberg, Tom Kammer
Bruce Bearinger Band and the Broken Step Recording Studio are two current music projects based in Oelwein.


The Blitz Brothers  

MEMBERS INCLUDE:  Brad Hughes, Bill O’Brien, Robbie Casey, Dan Falck, Tom Kammer, Mike Fereday and Kent Moore.
“The Blitz Brothers” started in about 1983. This band started out with Brad Hughes, Tom Kammer, Robbie Casey, and Dan Falk.
Another member of the Blitz Brothers Band was UNI Theatre major, Bill O’Brien(lower right hand corner  in the band picture) from Cascade, Iowa who played keyboards and sang. O’Brien went on to a national musical and acting career, playing Buddy Holly in a touring company that traveled across the country and appearing on NBC’s West Wing during each of it’s seven seasons as the character, Kenny Thurman, doing signing for deaf actress Marlee Matlin


Tuxedo Junction

TuxedoJunction2

Members: George Foy, Burr Ekstrand, Les Jack, Mark Reckhemmer, Rick Connor, Fred Steele, Bill Ramsey, Mike Blair, Steve Reints, Jack and Clay Passick, Rick Conner, Curt Schuchman, Tom Kammer, Tim Jack, Terry James


The Basics

MEMBERS: Tom Kammer, Kent Moore, Dan Sullivan
Tom Kammer and Kent Moore found Dan Sullivan to play bass and spent 13 years playing NE Iowa bars as “The Basics“, doing basic 70’s and 80’s, in a 3 piece rock band.  THE BASICS were a popular northeast Iowa band originally formed in 1988. In 1990, Kent Moore re-formed the band with Dan Sullivan & Tom Kammer. They performed all over Iowa, Minnesota & Wisconsin. They opened shows for Rare Earth, Johnny Preston, Cub Koda (Brownsville Station) & Highway 101 among others. THE BASICS stopped performing in 2003 after 13 years together without a change in personnel.


Shatter  

MEMBERS: Jim Hines, Tom Miller, Mike Fereday, Clay Hallberg, Charlie HallbergMark Nicolay, Tom KammerRob Tatro, Danny Gordish, and Tom Lippold.
A five piece rock band featuring the lead singer and guitar player from the group “The Pages”. Shatter’s music ranged from heavy music to current hits, plus many original tunes. Their set list featured tunes by Little Feat, Lynryd Skynyrd, B.T.O., R.E.O. Speedwagon, Bad Company, Wishbone Ash, Z.Z. Top, and some old rock and roll.


Tom Kammer started his musical career by playing drums with Johnny Clendennen and the Impalas when he was was 10 years old. He played at Berger’s Tap every Friday and Saturday night for 2 years straight! Never tore the equipment down!

Tom Kammer (ten years old) with Johnny Clendenen and the Impalas.


After Johnny Clendenon, Kammer joined “The Plainsmen” with his brother Ed on bass, Steve Bachman on guitar, and Chuck Baker on Vocals.

plainsmen SMALL

The Plainsmen

The Plainsmen soon morphed into “The New Begining” after Baker quit and they added Steve’s wife Linda on vocals. They considered themselves to be a “club” band, which seemed cool, and they traveled all around Iowa for a while being booked by GMA – The Good Music Agency out of Minneapolis

newbeginning

The New Begining


When that band broke up, Kammer went with the six piece band “Milt Campbell and the Country Buddies“.  Very corny name, but probably one of the top country bands in Eastern Iowa at the time.  They had a van with their name on it and Milt had a recording studio in Oelwein at that time. They cut two 45’s there while Kammer was with them. They also made money recording and playing on jingles for local merchants that were broadcast on local AM radio station KOEL. Milt was a member of the Oelwein music base that included Bobby HankinsLeo Greco (hit song “Little Red Wagon”), Pee Wee Cherrier, Andy Doll, Alex Ricchio, and others. A lot of those guys would stop at the studio frequently and Kammer was in awe. They were great musicians for all coming out of little old Oelwein. Milt played steel guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Milt was the guy who gave Mike Vargason fiddle lessons. Milt was a “cool” guy that came from a completely different generation and musical background and yet was friends with many of the young musicians in Oelwein. 


Kammer then got connected with Blue Horizon which put kept him busy throughout high school.

Blue Horizon: Left to right Kelly Murphy, Mike Vargason, Terry Wheeler, Tom Kammer, Rob Tatro

 


After Blue Horizon decided to split up, Kammer teamed up with Blue Horizon bass player, Rob Tatro, and played with Shatter (featuring Jim Hines formally from The Pages, Mark Nicolay, and Mike Fereday) for 3 years and then got out of the business for about 3-4 years. He occasionally did fill in gigs with local bands.

 

Shatter: Left to right Mark Nicolay, Rob Tatro, Tom Kammer, Mike Fereday, Jim Hines


He ended up with the “The Blitz Brothers” in about 1983. This band started out with Brad Hughes, Tom Kammer,  Robbie Casey, and Dan Falk.

Bill O’Brien as Kenny Thurman in West Wing

Another member of the Blitz Brothers Band was UNI Theatre major, Bill O’Brien (lower right hand corner in the two band shots) from Cascade, Iowa who played keyboards and sang. O’Brien went on to a national musical and acting career, playing Buddy Holly in a touring company that traveled across the country and appearing on NBC’s West Wing during each of it’s seven seasons as the character, Kenny Thurman, doing signing for deaf actress Marlee Matlin.

O’Brien also appeared in the television shows Law and OrderGideon’s Crossing and Providence. O’Brien previously was the Director of Theatre and Musical Theatre for the National Endowment for the Arts.  He is now the Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington DC.  Kammer remembers the first night O’Brien sang in front of an audience and how scared he was! Kammer still keeps in touch with him.

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The Blitz Brothers

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Tom with The Blitz Brothers


The Blitz Brothers: Let to right-Mike Fereday, Tom Kammer, Bill O’Brien, Brad Hughes, Kent Moore


Kammer then spent 3-4 years with The Keith Thompson Trio, a 3 piece piano, bass, drums lounge/club act. Keith was the piano player for Bobby Hankins for many years and Kammer remembers seeing them several times by sneaking in the back door of the Coliseum when he was about 12.

keithThompsonTrio


After that, Kammer and Kent Moore found Dan Sullivan to play bass and spent 13 years playing NE Iowa bars as The Basics“, doing basic 70’s and 80’s, in a 3 piece rock band.

The Basics

Kammer left The Basics in 2001 and played occasionally with Bruce Bearinger and Clay Hallberg from Oelwein. He also did some recording sessions with Mark Nicolay at Clay Hallberg’s studio in Oelwein. You can hear him on www.mixposure.com/ballheadcapon.


Tom spent the last years of his life in Mankato, Minnesota with his wife Brenda and has three grown children and a couple of grandkids.  He passed away on September 22, 2016. He will not be forgotten.

tom and brenda

 

Kammer kidsVER2

Above are Tom and Brenda’s children:
Michael, TJ, and Kelli

Michael (35) has lived in Krakow, Poland since 2005. He works for an international company doing translating, copy-writing, and customer service.

TJ (32) lives in Saint Paul, MN with his wife Laura. He is a Respiratory Therapist at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

Kelli (29) lives in Mankato, MN. She works at Navitor in customer service and has 2 boys, 10 year old Guy and 8 year old Landon.

15 comments on “Tom Kammer
  1. Kelli (Kammer) Milbrath says:

    Us kids grew up with my dad playing every weekend. It was the best memories I have as a child. I drank more kiddie cocktails by the time I was 5 than most do in a lifetime and my dad always played “I Knew The Bride” for me. Thank you all for the comments and stories. I love reading them. :)

  2. Michael Kammer says:

    I’ve gotten plenty of advice from my dad over the years, most of it unsolicited, all of it useful. But if there’s anything that really stuck with me, it’s this: “When you’re a musician, everything you listen to shows up in what you play.” That’s why when he picks up the sticks you can hear the snap and precision of Charlie Watts, the offbeat accents of Richie Hayward, and the rolling thunder of Buddy Rich, depending on what he’s playing and who he’s playing it with. He can borrow bits and pieces from any drummer when he needs to, lay the foundation for any style of music, and still sound so much like himself that I always know when it’s him on the drums, even when I listen to tapes recorded before I was born. Watching the film of the Kammerstock event and seeing the photos of all the great musicians that have played with him over the years reminded me of this one more time.

    • As a musician all my life, I have performed with many great drummers. BJ Killberg, Charle Hallberg, TJ Kammer, and Jason Kayser to name a few. But, performing with Tom Kammer was a unique experience. Tom was described as “The Foot” when he drummed. To me, “the foot” described his innate ability to know the beat of a song and keep that beat with his kick drum. This may seem like a basic and simple concept, but it is not always the case with other drummers. There were evenings when I was excited and busy trying to call off songs, find the song in my book and set my pedals for the song. Then when I started the song, I was either too fast or too slow (usually too fast). Tom knew how the slow us all down and get to the correct beat without being noticed by the crowd. When performing with Tom, I could always count on the fact that he would “Play the Song” rather than “Play the Drums”, which meant he listened to all musicians and found a way to be the glue for every song. When performing with Tom, I was always relaxed and felt a great deal of freedom with my vocals and guitar leads. I don’t think I will ever know a better drummer or a person than Tom Kammer, the man I called “St. Thomas of Thump.”

      • Michael Kammer says:

        He was so good at counting odd time signatures, and because he spent all that time in Jamaica when he was a teenager, reggae and ska music (which most rock drummers struggle mightily with) was second nature to him. He really internalized that music and those grooves – it was a part of him, which is a totally different thing than studying music under a microscope. Great lesson for me.

  3. steve bachman says:

    Tommy hang in there brother! Wish I could come home for that, would love to jam with with the old bunch.

  4. George Foy says:

    I was terribly saddened to hear of your diagnosis Tom! That’s a serious blow that few survive but if anyone can you can. I concur with all the comments that you were and are one of the best drummers around. In my 23 years at Oelwein you were far and away the best! We’ll be praying for you.

  5. I am sure I must have played with Tom a time or two as he was one of “the” drummers in Oelwein, and he was in high demand. If Tom was your drummer you knew there was a tight pocket. Always. Pulling for you Tom and sending out good thoughts and wishes to you and your family.

  6. Karen Tharaldson says:

    I was in the audience many times and knew very little about music but I did love to hear Tom sing and play. I know he got tired of me requesting, “Okie from Muskogee,” but I loved hearing him sing that song. I also loved eating at The Sportsman when Tom was playing with the Thompson Trio. Such good music! Time goes by so quickly. My family and I send our good wishes to both Tom and Brenda and pray for a speedy and complete recovery!

  7. So seriously, Tom has played in 11 different bands? Good Lord, is it that he can’t hold a job? Actually, it’s more like everyone wanted Tom to be their drummer. He is one of the best to ever come from the Hub City. That’ a fact. As it happens, I’ve never had the pleasure to play in a band with Tom…as we are both drummers…but I too played in and with a number of the musicians and bands Tom also worked with…and I know all had and have the same respect for Tom, not only as a fine drummer, but as a great guy, as I do. The Mazziotti’s in Bend,Oregon send our best to Tom for a speedy recovery.

  8. Barb Ricchio says:

    Tom, I think you are the best drummer my dad (Alex Ricchio) ever had. Hope everything works out for you and your family. You are in our prayers.

  9. Kent Moore says:

    I have a story I’d like to share about Tom’s dedication to entertaining people. One night with The Basics, we were scheduled to play at a bar in McGregor. Dan & I were all set up & about 7:30, Tom was still not there. Due to some miscommunication (probably on my part), Tom was unaware we were scheduled to play. We called him, he & Brenda were out to dinner with friends. Most people would have probably cancelled at that point, but Tom hauled ass from Cresco to McGregor & was still set up in time to play at 9:00 & with a smile on his face. I believe this was on a Friday night, after he had probably worked all day at his day job. We played together for 13 years, pretty close to 100 shows per year.

    • Tom Kammer says:

      Thanks Kent, it was probably me who screwed up the schedule! Always enjoyed playing with you and the Basics, no egos, just good times!

  10. indianakelly says:

    Tom and I played in the Jazz band at Oelwein High School. During the years we played, George Foy often took the band to several high school jazz festivals throughout the state. A lot of the festivals featured a professional musician that would hold clinics and later perform with some of the bands. At one of the festivals, the professional (I think he was a trombone player) had a private session with the Oelwein band and offered comments and suggestions. I have never forgotten one of the things he said.

    He posed a question to the band: “If you were starting a band from scratch and you could only have one professional musician in the band, who would that player be?” Our band had several suggestions such as the trumpet player, the lead saxophone, the conductor, etc. He said the most important player in a band is the drummer. He said the drummer controls tempo, dynamics, the “feel” of the rhythm and generally holds the band together. He then pointed to Tom and asked him if he played in any other bands other than this Jazz band. Tom said, “Yes. I am presently playing in a rock band and before that I played in several country bands. The professional said, “Yes, I thought so. I could tell that by the way you play.”

    A personal note: I have played with dozens of drummers throughout my career. Throughout all of my bands, I always wanted to use the best drummer available because of what I learned from the story I told above. Although I did not know it at the time it was happening, Tom Kammer was and still is the best drummer I have ever worked with. Hang in there Tom. You have a lot of friends who are pulling for you.

    • Tom Kammer says:

      Thanks Kelly, I was very lucky to get the chance to play with a lot of great musicians, including you. You were the one who encouraged me to join BH and that was a huge boost in my musical life. You were a great leader and role model for all of us. Thank you!

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