Catching Up With T.C.
By Blair Jackson
When we reach former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten on his cell phone in early July, he’s in an elevator heading down to a gig with the Jefferson Starship at the Wildwood Convention Center in New Jersey, “an hour and a half from where I was born.”
T.C. has been playing keyboards in the Starship since 2005, but this year’s Summer of Love extravaganza is the biggest jaunt yet with the band. “It’s a really fun show, like a psychedelic revue,” he enthuses. “They give me anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes to do a solo set. That opens the show. Then I’m part of the band of It’s a Beautiful Day, with David LaFlamme. Then we have Big Brother & the Holding Company, then Quicksilver and then the Starship. It’s a big traveling festival and fairly long tour—I’m not going to be home in Charlotte until mid-September.” The tour is mainly hitting outdoor “sheds” and a few festivals, including, appropriately enough, one taking place at the Patee Fairgrounds in Northern California, site of the original Monterey International Pop Festival 40 years ago this past June. (For a complete listing of the Starship’s forthcoming gigs, as well as the ever-changing configuration of the Summer of Love tour, go to jeffersonstarshipsf.com and click on the “Ship’s Tour Log” button.)
T.C. says he’s thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Starship’s current evolution. In addition to original Jefferson Airplane members Paul Kantner and Marty Balin (who makes most but not all appearances), the band also includes long-time Kantner associates Slick Aguilar on guitar, the wondrous Diana Mangano on vocals, late-era Starship drummer Don Baldwin (who was also the final drummer in the Jerry Garcia Band), and occasionally, bassist/keyboardist David Freiberg, who usually plays in Quicksilver Messenger Service.
The crowds have been large and enthusiastic. “First of all, I think everyone’s amazed we’re alive,” T.C. laughs. “But each of the bands has a few original members and everyone can still play. Really, it’s like the same old long, strange trip, and we’re carrying the torch on this leg. It has that same sort of magic that elevates the music.”
T.C.’s web site is tomconstanten.com
Anthem is still my favorite Dead album. I have three different mixes of it from various pressings, and I love every one of them. Keep at it, Tom!
the fact that this article was written in 2007 (Summer of Love anniversary) might give a slight hint that reality may have changed in the interim.
You make it sound like T.C. is the keyboardest for the Starship. He is not! That spot is occupied by the very talented Tim Gorman who has been playing with them for years now. T.C. is however, part of the show sometimes. He occcasionaly opens for the Starship, and may sit in for a song or two, but in no way, shape, or form is he considered a "band member". Check out the Jeffersonian's website if you don't believe me!
I wanted to share with you folks my band HotW@x performing Moonshine Superman, a song writen by Tom Constanten and recorded by Tom and my twin brother Ken Foust on their CD written released last year. The core of this band; the drums, bass, and the lead guitar, is the backup for Tom's band "The Able-Bodied Posse". I am the drummer. Some of you old timers may be able to put a face with my name. I went to many shows. Enjoy.
Thank you Tom, your work with the Dead on Anthem, and in the Dark Star explorations, took me to bliss and back.
bmet01 I loved Tom's work with the Dead in those early 69 Dark Stars those were true classics and good to see he looks great and the gig with Jefferson Starship and David La Flammes band sounds fantastic from one ex Air Force vet to another Tom is ex AF good to see you back brother.
good to see tom about and playing as he was one of my favorite keyboard players with the dead.