(AKA Thomas Y. Drake, T.Y. Drake and Steven Yates)
b. June 28, 1936 / Vancouver, B. C. Canada
Singer / Songwriter / Screenwriter / Director
In the spring of 1958, when Tom Drake and his wife Sally decided to spend a romantic weekend in San Francisco, they had no idea the trip would change their lives. Tom was finishing his Masters degree in English Literature at UCLA. He'd moved to Los Angeles with his family from Vancouver, British Columbia when he was 12. In Canada he'd been a child radio actor on the CBC. In L.A. he began singing professionally with the choir from St. Paul's Cathedral. The highlight was as a soloist at the famed Hollywood Bowl.
When the Drakes got to San Francisco they decided that on Saturday night, they'd catch Mort Sahl's act at the hungry i. Opening for Sahl was a new singing group, The Kingston Trio. Though they'd never heard of the Trio, they loved their performance, The guys were the same age as Tom and Sally, sang great songs and had terrific stage patter. Plus, as Sally says, "They were all really handsome."
At intermission the Drakes found the trio in the lobby selling autographed copies of their album and trading quips with the crowd. It turned out Nick was from Coronado, California. Kids from Coronado were "cross town rivals" with Sally's hometown, La Jolla. The couple and the Trio developed such an instant rapport that Nick and Bobby invited the Drakes to a big party on Nob Hill after the show. It was a fabulous night and the couple stayed until dawn singing, playing bongos and having a ball. As they were leaving, Bobby invited them to a barbecue that afternoon on a houseboat in Sausalito. The houseboat belonged to a couple of struggling young musicians named Tom and Dick Smothers. There were lots of other musicians there including a duo named Bud and Travis and another folk group Just starting out named The Limeliters. The barbecue was great fun and when it was time for the couple to head back to L.A., Bob Shane gave Tom his phone number and said "keep in touch." Meeting the Trio and hanging out with Nick and Bobby had turned their weekend into a real adventure. Both Tom and Sally were amazed when a few months later Tom Dooley became a huge hit and suddenly The Kingston Trio was famous.
That winter the couple learned they were expecting their first baby. They decided to leave the smog behind and move to San Francisco. In January, 1959, they found a cute apartment across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito and Tom took a job writing a newsletter for a big company. When they were settled, Tom gave Bobby a call. It turned out Bobby had just married a terrific young woman from Atlanta named Louise. The four got together, and, in Sally's words, "we just clicked and became instant friends."
Bobby and The Kingston Trio were on top of the world as the hottest stars in the music business. Tom and Sally were struggling to find their way in a new town with a baby on the way. Bobby and Louise were terrific. They included the Drakes in all the social aspects of their huge celebrity in San Francisco, And when Bobby was on the road Louise and Tom and Sally spent wonderful evenings on the town or enjoying the beauty of the Shane's lovely home in. Tiburon.
On a hot day in late August, Sally went into labor. She called Tom and then she called Louise. Louise said she and Bobby would meet them at the hospital. The Shanes stayed up all night until the Drake's first son Steven made his debut early the next morning. In those days only family could be in the labor room, so Louise became Sally's instant "sister," and Sally still feels that bond with Louise 40 years later.
That fall, the Trio was looking for material for their next album. Bobby knew Tom had a musical background, so he called him from New York and asked him to look for songs for them. Tom was happy to help. He spent a few days in the library and sent the Trio a tape of songs, including "The Escape of Old John Webb." The guys liked the song and asked Tom to rewrite it so the lyric made more sense. Tom adapted it and the Trio included it on their next album, String Along, That success turned into a writing partnership with Bobby that spanned several years. In 1959 and 1960 they wrote "White Snows of Winter," "Mary Mild" and "Who's Gonna Hold Her Hand."
In the spring of 1960 Bobby and Louise became Steven's Godparents and Steven did most of his teething by chewing on Bobby's gold records! When Sally discovered she was pregnant again, she and Louise thought the name Adam was perfect if it was a boy. Tom and Bobby agreed that it was okay to call him Adam, but his first name should definitely be Robert. In December, 1960 Robert Adam Drake was born. Though he's always been called Adam by his family, the times he's seen Bobby over the years, Bobby always calls Adam "Bob" and Adam feels honored that he is Bobby's namesake.
Shortly before Adam was born, Tom took a position as an English teacher in San Diego. Though he hated leaving Sausalito, he packed up the family and made the move. Bobby and Tom had one more writing session together, early in 1961, when Bobby got time off and stayed with the Drakes in San Diego. They wrote "Blue Eyed Gal" and "Blow The Candle Out." By then Tom had formed a folk duo of his own, called The Other Singers, to supplement his teaching income. In short order he began making more money as a folk singer than he did as a school teacher.
Soon after the birth of their third son, Jono, in March, 1962, Tom moved his family back to Los Angeles to try to make it in the music business. His partner, Michael Storm (who would later become a successful soap opera star on One Life To Live,) was living there and Sally was willing to chance it. With three kids under 3, they took off for L.A.
The move proved successful. The Other Singers worked non-stop all over Southern California and made an album on the Horizon (WP/SWP-1622 - The Other Singers Sing Other Songs for Other People -  Daddy Roll 'Em / Freeway Song / The Rock Island Line / Abilene / Swing Low Sweet Chariot / Peace Corps Marching Song / Greenland Whale Fisheries / Ballad Of Norman Rockwell / Special Midnight Special / Hey Boys Can't You Line 'Em / The Rising Of The Moon/Hard Times) Records label. Rod McKuen was also on the label and he and Tom became friends. Rod and Tom, using the pen name Steven Yates, wrote "Ally Ally Oxen Free," submitted it to the trio, who recorded it for their album Time To Think.
CLICK on the image
(right) to view the album liner notes for
The Other Singers played the Monday night Hootenanny at the famed Troubadour nightclub as often as they could. It was at one such performance that Andy Williams' manager was in the audience scouting talent. Tom was asked to put together a group to replace The New Christy Minstrels, who were leaving Andy's weekly variety show on NBC. Tom assembled a group, named it The Goodtime Singers and within 10 days was starring on National television. The Goodtime Singers recorded two albums for Capitol Records and when the show was on hiatus, toured nonstop across the U.S. and Canada.
At this time Voyle Gilmore, Producer of The Kingston Trio's record albums for Capitol, conceived the idea of an instrumental album of Kingston Trio songs ("Sing a Song with the Kingston Trio.") The package would include a songbook and music charts, Gilmore assembled a group of session musicians, but when he heard the first few takes he was ready to cancel because the session guys didn't sound like the Trio and Voyle wanted the Trio "sound." It turned out that none of the session players could play like Nick. Since Tom was also on Capitol and Voyle knew he'd written for the Trio, Tom was asked if he could duplicate Nick's parts. He'd watched Nick play his 4-string tenor many times and knew how Nick played. He agreed to try to play Nick's parts but Tom admits he was basically a 3 chord and capo kind of guitarist and was amazed to find himself in the famed Studio B, at Capitol, with Such heavyweights as Glen Campbell, Tommy Tedesco, Frank Hamilton and Jimmy Bond on bass. It was a planned double session with overtime. They never did more than two takes and recorded at least 40 songs. One of the two guitars was supposed to play Bobby's part and the other was supposed to one-note the vocal line. They switched back and forth a lot, because Glen kept wanting to augment the chords or try to play the voice hooks and Tedesco was a basic chart guy. Voyle was happy and thought the tracks sounded "Just like the albums," Tom helped the guy who scored the album figure out Nick's capo positions. Tom says, "You know . . . Bar the fourth fret and pretend your in E . . . etc." He was paid as a session player and didn't realize until 1999 that Bobby didn't know he'd played on the album.
Tom's career in folk music lasted until November 1965. The Beatles were huge, the British had invaded and most of the folkies had gone into various versions of Rock and Roll. Though this option was open to Tom, he was weary of the road. "I missed Sally and realized my kids were growing up without me. I decided to quit performing and spent a brief time managing bands, including Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder and The Rising Suns." He soon felt his talents as a manager were nil. Sally jokingly adds "it was the blind leading the blind, Tom's a creative guy, not a money man."
Tom had wanted to write TV and film scripts for quite awhile, so when Sally said, "go for it," Tom turned his attention to learning the craft. Within 6 months he got his first script optioned. In 1967 the Drakes moved from Hollywood to the small artists community of Topanga Canyon. Topanga was a magical place at that time, full of musicians, actors, painters and writers. Everyone encouraged and supported everyone else. Tom began getting lots of work. Within a short time he'd written scripts for every major studio in Hollywood.
In 1971 the Drakes decided to return to Canada so their 3 sons could live part of their lives in the country where their father had been born. The Drakes had always dreamed of raising their boys on a real working farm. Sally found a beautiful 70 acre farm in a small valley in the Canadian Rockies and once again the Drakes moved, They built a beautiful house, several cabins and created a wonderful life for their children.
Though the move required Tom to commute to Hollywood and Vancouver for writing assignments, they felt the family benefited greatly by spending the boy's teenage years in a lush valley surrounded by soaring snow covered mountains. The boys helped milk the cows, learned to cut their own firewood, plow the garden by horse and the Drakes feel they were provided with a wonderful place to grow up.
Though Tom's involvement with the music business was long past, the Drake sons Steven and Adam went on to successful, award winning careers and gold and platinum records as Canadian musicians. Son Jono found himself working non-stop in the production end of the thriving film and TV industry in Vancouver.
By 1984 Tom and Sally were writing together full time. They decided to move permanently to Vancouver to be near their kids. All the Drakes are enjoying successful careers and remain a very closely knit family. They also love living in Vancouver. The city reminds them of San Francisco when they were young kids, just starting out.
Tom and Sally both agree that it they hadn't decided to take that romantic trip so long ago which resulted in their friendship with The Kingston Trio and especially Bob Shane, their lives probably would have taken a very different path. Tom says "I also feel that my two son's successful music careers were greatly influenced by my work with Bobby. Plus the exposure they got as little kids to the Trio performing, recording and just hanging out was something most musicians would love to have experienced." Steven remarked recently that "every good guitar player I know learned to play by listening to their folk's Kingston Trio albums." High praise, indeed.
The Drakes just spent a holiday in Phoenix with Bobby and his fiancÚ Bobbie Childress. They all had a great time and Tom and Bobby immediately began fooling around with song ideas.
Meanwhile, the compositions and adaptations Shane and Drake did so many years ago have stood the test of time. And so has the friendship.
Links to other Tom Drake points of interest:
Some recolections of Michael Storm and The Goodtime Singers.
|Songs Credited to
|1.||Ally Ally Oxen Free (Steven Yates (aka) and Rod McKuen)|
|2.||Ballad Of Norman Rockwell (with Mike Storm)|
|3.||Blow The Candle Out (with Bob Shane)|
|4.||Blue Eyed Gal (with Bob Shane & Miram Stafford )|
|5.||Eloise (with Mike Storm & Michael Gleason)|
|6.||Escape Of Old John Webb|
|7.||Goin' Away From Here (with Mike Storm)|
|8.||John Peel And The Fox (with Mike Storm)|
|9.||Mary Mild (with Bob Shane & Miram Stafford )|
|10.||One Step More (with Mike Storm)|
|11.||Rock Island Line|
|12.||White Snows Of Winter (with Bob Shane)|
|13.||Who's Gonna Hold Her Hand (with Bob Shane)|
Other LINER NOTES links related to Michael Storm:
- Liner notes to The Other Singers album "The Other Singers Sing Other Songs for Other People"
- A letter to the LINER NOTES from Michael Storm (the MICHAEL STORM page)
- Liner notes to The Good Time Singers first album "The Good Time Singers"
- Liner notes to The Good Time Singers second album "One Step More"