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Tom Werman, Peggy Sue And Me

Posted: Fri May 01, 2015 7:29 pm
by Mike McCarthy
I was the first musician act Tom Werman ever produced. Let me tell you about it ...

Tom and I met at a sleepover camp in Vermont one summer in the late 50s. As I write this neither of us is sure of the year but it could have been as early as 1957 or as late as 1959. I will bet on 59 though I will not push all my chips forward into the pot.

Assuming it was 59, by then I had been playing guitar for three years. I was already good enough to be able to reproduce every nuance of every Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley or Buddy Holly guitar lick that had gone out over the airwaves. When Tom realized that I had the "Peggy Sue" guitar solo nailed in every detail, he demanded that we sneak into the camp PA shack the next morning so I could sing and play the song to the entire camp at 6am as a kind of reveille wakeup call.

This was not a request by Tom. No, it was a direct order from the self-appointed leader of the Neat Guys, his name for a clique consisting of Tom, Jesse Kligman, Peter Rutter and me. All four of us had a common interest in AM radio music but Tom and I were especially avid fans and we became as proverbially thick as the proverbial thieves.

So Tom ordered me to perform "Peggy Sue" for the camp, over the PA system, on my nylon stringed three-quarter-size mahogany Martin acoustic. I could not say no. (I had tried but was not allowed to refuse.) Even though I had never before played for a real audience I was more or less okay with the guitar stuff -- I knew the piece cold and would not make any mistakes. But I had to actually sing it too? No way. I was scared to death of the prospect -- and rat fink Tom refused to help me out by singing along. No, I was entirely on my own. All Tom did was a) turn on the amplifier, b) turn on the microphone at precisely 6am and c) signal me to begin by pointing a finger at me. In other words, all he did was act like a producer.

But you know what? The moment I began to play the intro all my stage fright went away. It would be like that in later years, too. As a headquarters marketing guy for the world's number two computer company I did a lot of public speaking. More often than not, before going on I would throw up in the men's room but as soon as I began to speak my fear was gone and I owned the audience.

The key point here is that Tom consciously produced this performance. It didn't happen by accident -- Tom made it happen, and he overcame obstacles to make it happen. While until recently I had no idea that Tom had actually gone into the music business, and that when I was enjoying "Cat Scratch Fever" I was enjoying a Tom Werman production, in retrospect I'm not surprised at all. That summer at Job's Pond Camp when we were 15, Tom was already in charge in the studio.