Thomas Alan "Tom" Waits, who was born in Pomona, California in 1949, has built up a distinctive musical resume'. He's worked as a composer for movies and musical plays and as a supporting actor in films, including Down By Law and Bram Stoker's Dracula. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his soundtrack work on One from the Heart.
Waits taught himself how to play the piano on a neighbor's instrument. He often took trips to Mexico with his father, who taught Spanish. He has said he found his love of music during these trips through a Mexican ballad that was "probably a Ranchera, you know, on the car radio with my dad."
Waits was not a fan of the 1960s music scene even though he played in an R&B/soul band called The System. Instead he gravitated towards Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Lord Buckley, Jack Kerouac, Louis Armstrong, Howlin' Wolf, Hoagy Carmichael, Marty Robbins, Raymond Chandler, and Stephen Foster, Waits began developing his own idiosyncratic musical style, combining song and monologue.
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After serving with the United States Coast Guard, he took his newly formed act to Monday nights at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, where musicians would line up all day for the opportunity to perform on stage that night.
In 1971, Waits moved to the Echo Park neighborhood of L.A. (at the time, also home to musicians Glenn Frey of the Eagles, J. D. Souther, Jackson Browne, and Frank Zappa) and signed with Herb Cohen at the age of 21. From August to December 1971, Waits made a series of demo recordings for Cohen's Bizarre/Straight label, including many songs for which he would later become known. These early tracks were eventually to be released twenty years later on The Early Years, Volume One and Volume Two.
Waits signed with Asylum Records in 1972, and after numerous abortive recording sessions, his first record — the jazzy, folk-tinged Closing Time — was released in 1973. The album, which was produced and arranged by former Lovin' Spoonful member Jerry Yester, received positive reviews, but Waits did not gain widespread attention until a number of the album's tracks were covered by more prominent artists.
Later in 1973, Tim Buckley released the album Sefronia, which contained a cover version of Waits' song "Martha" from Closing Time, the first-ever cover of a Tom Waits song by a known artist.
Waits is well-known for his distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car."
With his trademark growl, his pre-rock music styles incorporating blues, jazz, and vaudeville, and experimental tendencies verging on industrial music, Waits' songs often feature portrayals of grotesque, often seedy characters and places. However, he's also capable of producing conventional ballads.
He has a cult following and has influenced subsequent songwriters despite having little radio or music video support. His songs are best-known to the general public in the form of cover versions by more visible artists such as "Jersey Girl," by Bruce Springsteen and "Downtown Train," by Rod Stewart.
Waits' albums have met with mixed commercial success in the U.S., but have achieved gold album sales status in other countries. He has been nominated for a number of major music awards and has won Grammy Awards for two albums, Bone Machine and Mule Variations.
For more about Tom, visit his Website at -