Born on February 8, 1941, as the son of a teacher, Tom Rush became a student at Harvard University where he first began to perform music at various coffeehouses. The English literature major also recorded versions of Appalachian and Lowland Scots folk songs near the beginning of his career as a musician. The 1968 composition, “No Regrets,” became a standard in the music industry not long after Tom Rush released it as a single. He performed two very different versions of this song that each served as inspiration for additional musical artists to cover the tune themselves.
Two artists, namely The Walker Brothers and Midge Ure, turned the song into a top ten hit on the UK Singles Chart when they recorded and released it as a single. For Rush, the first version of “No Regrets” came from his 1968 album, The Circle Game. It was also one of the first music videos produced for a recording artist by Elektra, which was used as a means to promote what became his signature song.
In 1974, Tom Rush released Ladies Love Outlaws, which was a country rock-themed album that featured an amped-up version of “No Regrets.” The album itself featured the background vocals of several recording artists such as James Taylor, Carly Hall, and Carly Simon.
As a performer, Tom Rush used a number of guitars on stage. In 2012, he presented a custom-designed cedar-top Dreadnought that had its inlay featuring a snake wrapped around a nude woman. One of his famous recordings, “Naked Lady,” was the source of inspiration behind the guitar’s design. The distinction of his guitar style was perfectly matched with his expressive vocal talent.
Tom Rush Discography
Tom Rush at the Unicorn was the recording artist’s first studio album, which was released in 1962. It was followed by 1964’s Got a Mind to Ramble and 1965’s Blues, Songs & Ballads. The quality of these recordings earned the attention of Elektra. Through their label, Rush recorded and released three additional studio albums. The same year Blues, Songs & Ballads was released also saw Tom Rush become available as an album. In 1966, it was Take a Little Walk with Me before 1968’s The Circle Game would not only serve as his final album through Elektra but the highest charted as it peaked as high as number sixty-eight on the US Billboard 200.
In 1970, Rush began recording albums for the Columbia Records label. The first was another eponymous-titled album but the track list was entirely different than the one that was released in 1965. The 1970 recording featured Rush covering songs from Jackson Browne, Murray McLauchlan, James Taylor, and David Wiffen. That album spent sixteen weeks on the US Billboard 200 after it was released and peaked as high as number seventy-six on its albums chart.
Additional albums produced through Columbia were another 1970 release, Wrong End of the Rainbow, as well as 1972’s Merrimack County, and 1974’s Ladies Love Outlaws. After these releases, Rush’s contract with Columbia came to an end. It wouldn’t be until 1982 that Tom Rush would return to the studio as a recording artist. New Year was released that year and was followed by 1984’s Late Night Radio. After these two recordings, Rush took a break from the studio again.
2001’s Live at Symphony Hall, Boston marked the fortieth anniversary of Tom Rush’s career as a musician. After it was 2006’s Trolling for Owls before Rush signed with Appleseed to release three more albums. 2009’s What I Know was the first of the three.
On December 28, 2012, after enjoying five decades as a world-class musician, Tom Rush celebrated the event at the Boston Symphony Hall. In 2013, Celebrates 50 Years of Music, was an album release that featured the music that was played at the event. It was the seventeenth full-length album that came from Rush. In 2018, Voices became his latest album release at number eighteen. However, this was his first album to feature mostly original material that came straight from Rush himself. As bonus tracks, there were two traditional tunes, “Corina, Corina” and “Elder Green.” To this day, Rush has continued to perform, making it clear he’s not ready for full retirement just yet.
Tom Rush was a pioneering force behind Americana music as the fans and his peers know it. In addition to his talent with the guitar, the ability to turn each of his shows into a humorous and warm mix of entertainment was what made him a legend in the music industry. His impact as a musician played a key role in the folk music revival in the 1960s. It also catered to the renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s. Scores of recording artists, regardless of genre, credit Rush as an influential icon that sparked their own desire to become musicians themselves.
Top 10 Tom Rush Songs
#10 – Ladies Love Outlaws
“Ladies Love Outlaws” was the title track of Tom Rush’s album, which was released in 1974. The blend of country rock and folk music laid out the song’s style that would have made the wild west proud. During an era when country music outlaws such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams Jr. were making names for themselves, Tom Rush was musically stating the obvious to an audience that still gets it today.
# 9 – Take a Little Walk with Me
The earliest run of Tom Rush’s recording career had him producing previously recorded material he’d cover his own versions of. “Take a Little Walk with Me” was a 1966 recording that had Rush personally share his life journey with the listener. It was the first time he produced a Tom Rush original and it was an original gem at that. Take a Little Walk with Me was the name of the album that treated the audience to a better glimpse of who Tom Rush was as an artist and as a man.
#8 – Who Do You Love
As a song, “Who Do You Love” has been covered by so many artists since it was first released by Bo Diddley in 1956 that fans will likely get into an argument about whose version is best. As for Tom Rush’s 1966 version that was featured on his album, Take a Little Walk with Me, he was a noteworthy approach. Rush made a name for himself as a vocal talent that could cover just about any song and turn his version into a fan favorite. His rendition of “Who Do You Love” was no exception.
#7 – Child’s Song
“Child’s Song” was a 1970 tribute to the boys and girls who grew up to become men and women, leaving their childhood homes behind as they do so. This was a touching tune that first earned Canadian musician Murray McLauchlan a significant fan base after he released it as a folk song for the first time. Tom Rush was one of the main influencers for McLauchlan while the Scottish-born, Canadian-raised singer-songwriter spent time in New York City in the 1960s.
When he returned to Canada in 1970, he performed Tom Rush’s “Child’s Song” on his debut album, Song from the Street. What made “Child’s Song” so special aside from the beauty of the tune itself was how selfless Rush seemed to be as an artist. His coverage of this song helped boost McLauchlan’s music career. This was one of many occasions he’d cover a tune with the intent to draw more attention to the original recording artist behind the music.
# 6 – The Panama Limited
“The Panama Limited” came from the 1970 album, Tom Rush. This musical gem featured Tom Rush’s talent with the guitar as if it was an extension of his own body. This is what made him so appealing to the fans, as well as inspiring an impressive list of recording artists who credit him as one of the main influences for them to start their own careers. As a song, “The Panama Limited” was about a train that had a route between Washington D.C. to New Orleans, Louisiana. In the song, Rush mentioned how fast the train traveled. As the guitar played out to the tune, this was just as instrumental to the story as the wording that was used.
#5 – Driving Wheel
Tom Rush was a fan of Canadian singer-songwriter, David Wiffen, long before the rest of the world heard about him. For Rush, the romantic ballad, “Driving Wheel,” was his cover version to bring more listeners in the United States to hear Wiffen’s brand of music for the folksy gem it is. Rush’s plan to draw a wider audience worked as Wiffen’s “Driving Wheel” found more than just an eagerly listening fan base.
Since then, versions of this song have been covered by a number of musicians such as Cowboy Junkies and David Bromberg. This song has also been referred to as “Lost My Drivin’ Wheel” as it was recorded as such by Roger McGuinn in 1973. The reference to the car breaking down as the narrator was determined to return home became one of those awesome tunes that knew how to trigger emotion.
#4 – Urge for Going
From the album, The Circle Game, 1968’s “Urge for Going” was a song that toyed with the emotion of the listener with its beautifully written material. Tom Rush proved he could do more than just lyrically perform a good tune. He knew how to write a good song that would win over an audience. The beauty of this song was how haunting it felt to just take it in and learn to appreciate what’s before us while we can still do it.
#3 – Drop Down Mama
At first, “Drop Down Mama” gave the impression this would be a bluesy number that was performed by a rocker with folksy roots. Instead, Tom Rush turned it into an easy-listening gem. While he may not have stood out as an outstanding vocalist, he did make a name for himself as an outstanding musician. Rush knew how to deliver the kind of listening material the audience he catered to was looking for and seemed to do so effortlessly.
This Chicago blues number originally came from Sleepy John Estes when it was first recorded in 1935. Since then, “Drop Down Mama” has been recorded by a collection of musical artists such as Tommy McClennan, Fred McDowell, and as recently Sunjay Brayne’s 2014 version. As for Tom Rush, his 1965 and 1970 recordings of “Drop Down Mama” became notable favorites as tracks from his albums, 1965’s Blues, Songs & Ballads, and 1970’s Tom Rush.
#2 – The Remember Song
“The Remember Song” was a Steven Walters original that was uploaded to YouTube as a video on March 1, 2007. The live performance by Tom Rush has since received over seven million views and was regarded as one of the best cover versions so far. For Steven Walters, it was Remember? (The Remember Song) when it was first recorded on his album, Just This Moment, in 2000. This humorous tune about how our memories have a habit of playing tricks on us was wonderfully entertaining and worth remembering.
#1 – No Regrets
1968’s “No Regrets” was Tom Rush’s signature song that would become a standard in the music industry, regardless of genre. There were two different versions of this song that were vastly different from each other, both of them performed by Tom Rush himself. In addition to his own recordings, several artists covered their own versions of this cult classic. The album, The Circle Game featured the first version, which was released in the UK in January and in the US in April.
In 1974, an orchestrated pop version featuring Carly Simon singing in the background was released for the album, Ladies Love Outlaws. The screaming electric guitar served as the highlight of a tune that became a source of inspiration for The Walker Brothers to record their own version in 1975. This was their big comeback single as it peaked as high as number seven on the UK Singles Chart for them. Midge Ure was able to do the same in 1982, turning “No Regrets” into a number nine hit on the same chart.
Feature Photo: Leepaxton at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Tom Rush Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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