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Tom May 
A Life in Song

For nearly 50 years, Tom May has “lived the dream” of being a full time, working, self-supporting folk musician. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, he has performed in every region and state of the U.S. and also across Canada and in Europe.

In the 70’s he had the great good fortune of being able to open a number of concerts for Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot, while Tom resided in Toronto. Those years gave him his earliest training in stagecraft, as he would alternate opportunities like those occasional concerts in halls or folk venues with hundreds of nights in smoky bars, in remote towns and villages, doing 6 night a week gigs, 5 sets a night- valuable experience simply not available to young musicians now.

From Toronto, Tom would move back to St. Louis and ply his trade for a few years- then relocate to Boston to see what the East Coast folk music scene was all about. Each move would expand his repertoire, spur more original songs, and facilitate what Tom defines as “the wealth to be had in this crazy business- the sights you get to see, the music you get to hear and play, and the friends and fascinating characters you meet along the way”.

In the 80’s he would move with his young family back to Nebraska, where he quickly deduced he would have to extensively tour to both coasts to make this profession work. And tour he did, from venues like Passim in Boston, to the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, to the Seattle Folklore Society- and to Portland, which became a 2nd home to him, due to the friendship of Don Younger, who owned Portland’s iconic Horse Brass Pub. Tom would bunk with him, and other pals in Portland, while he traveled the Pacific Seaboard and performed at colleges, folk societies, coffee houses, and venues of all kinds.


In 1988 Tom was flown to Portland to perform for a fan’s 40th birthday at the Horse Brass- an event that grew to be Portland’s largest annual folk event of the year, “Winterfolk”. ( sadly postponed in this Covid year, but back in 2022) Utah Phillips, Peter Yarrow, Tom Paxton, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Anne Hills, and so many other nationally known acoustic artists have joined Tom and regional favorites Kate Power and Steve Einhorn, Mary Flower, and dozens of others to raise money for the less fortunate. More than $350,000 has been raised over the past 32 years.

Along the way, Tom has released 14 albums of original material, on his own and various folk record labels. He also began another legacy project in 1985, “River City Folk”, which became a weekly nationally syndicated radio program. At one time carried by as many as 200 radio stations, today it still survives-profiling the work of other musicians working to get their music heard. In Portland, it can be heard on twice each Saturday, at 4 and 10PM.

In March of 2020, Tom’s memoir “I Wouldn’t Count on It” was published. It is an extensive account of life in this alternative profession, full of humor, stunning geography, and philosophical musings on this alternative art. It is available from the usual sources - Powell's, Amazon,

HOWEVER,if ordered from Tom through his website, it comes with a 20 song compilation CD, with unreleased tracks and other surprises. 


Please visit Tom’s website, for lots more information, song samples from each album, radio programs you can listen to, and much more.

Tom at Winterfolk '32

February 2020

Performing with the Omaha Symphony in 1994

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