TOMMY McLAIN (By Phil Davies)
Born Thomas McLain, 15 March 1940, Jonesville, Louisiana
Moved to Pinesville near Ferriday (Killerville) when 6 months old. Tommy started singing in family house parties. Played in a high school band, there he met with Gene Dunlap and his brothers, Dunlap went on to join Faron Young's band. The Dunlap brothers played country music on the Louisiana Hayride. Tommy's band the Crystals got on a tv talent show and played on local tv regularly afterwards. After playing hillbilly, Tommy became heavily influenced by the New Orleans sound of the day, Domino, Richard and Larry Williams in particular.On club dates he met Bob Wills, Ray Price and played piano with Al Ferrier & his Boppin' Billies (earning a cool $24 per gig).
Apparently he recorded with Al in Crowley. He then joined the Starliners and eventually hooked up with Clint West after touring US military bases with Jack Arnold & the Flames. Tommy played bass with the Rollercoasters who had a small hit with an instro called Rimshot. Aound 1963 he played bass with Clint West & The Boogie Kings on Jin. Tommy and Clint duetted on Try To Find Another man. They recorded great songs like Another Saturday Night (Clint vocal) and Tommy's song Who Needs You So Bad.
Tommy persuded label owner Floyd Soileau, to let him record a version of Don Gibson's classic Sweet Dreams. He recorded it with a basic trio and the session cost $90. Floyd delayed the release until he found out it was a favourite with the staff at the local whore house (beats Pop Idol & Fame Academy any day!). He licensed the record out on MSL and Tommy signed a deal with Huey Meaux. It became a huge national hit, number 15 in the summer of 1966, swamp pop ruled once again. He appeared on Where The Action Is ( a Dick Clark tv show) and toured with the Yardbirds. Tommy reckons the song has sold 3 million plus, unfortunately pills and managerial problems spoilt the broth.
A great shame that the stunning follow up, Robert Guidry's classic lament Before I Grow Too Old (original by Fats) failed to click. He also turned down Meaux's offer to record Before The Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender did and has been laughing all the way to the bank since. Freddy did record the original flip of Sweet Dreams, I Need You So, written by Tommy, and the ensuing royalties have eased the pain.
Tommy went back home and remains a star there to this day. Charlie Gillett helped raise his international profile with the various artist Louisiana album Another Saturday Night in the mid 70s, like Johnnie Allan he became a great favourite abroad. Ace records have championed swamp pop/cajun well and Tommy has a fine cd in their catalogue and appears on compilations too. He played on the now legendary Another Louisana Saturday Night Show at The Grand In London in 1993. The show was recorded, but alas, never came out.
Shane Bernard's fine piece in NDT, Sept 93 issue 126
Tommy McLain - Sweet Dreams - Ace cd
Another Saturday Night - various artists - Ace cd
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