Session Great Tom Roady Passes

Noted Nashville percussionist Tom Roady died on Sunday, Nov. 27 at age 62.

He had been battling cancer, and passed away in his sleep from heart failure. At the time, he was traveling to a show date on the “Skaggs Family Christmas Tour,” headlined by Ricky Skaggs and The Whites.

Noted for his inventive use of many kinds of drums and percussion instruments, as well as his upbeat personality, Tom Roady can be heard on albums by Emmylou Harris, Kenny Chesney, the Dixie Chicks, Tom T. Hall, Joan Baez, Art Garfunkel, Bob Seger and many others.

A native of the St. Louis area, he toured with Phil Driscoll in 1972-73. He moved to Muscle Shoals and began his recording-session career there. In 1978, he moved to Los Angeles and performed with Paul Anka and The Fifth Dimension. Tom Roady has also toured with John Denver and James Taylor.

He joined the Nashville musicians union in 1983. His recording-session credits since then include jazz, bluegrass, r&b, folk and rock, as well as country records. He estimated that he had performed on more than 1,000 albums.

Tom Roady recorded soul sessions for Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, James Brown, Bobby Womack, Etta James and Mavis Staples. His pop credits include discs by Michael McDonald, Pure Prairie League, The Sanford Townsend Band, Delbert McClinton, Tom Jones, Donovan, Roy Orbison, Dr. Hook, Tony Orlando and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Tom Roady in June 1983. Photo: Alan Mayor

Bluegrass stars The Grascals, New Grass Revival, Larry Cordle, Ronnie Bowman, Sam Bush and Rhonda Vincent have had him on their sessions. Leading folk artists such as Maura O’Connell, Darrell Scott and Robert Lee Castleman also featured him on their records.

In the contemporary Christian field, Tom Roady worked with Russ Taff, The Isaacs, Mark Lowry and others. He has also backed Bela Fleck, Billy Joe Walker Jr. and others from the world of jazz.

He is on records by a who’s-who of country stars: Vince Gill, Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, K.T. Oslin, Hank Williams Jr., Lee Ann Womack, Crystal Gayle, Clay Walker, Steve Wariner, Lonestar, Tanya Tucker, Alabama, Wynonna, Brooks & Dunn, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Ronnie Milsap, Tammy Wynette, Sara Evans, Jamey Johnson and Dan Seals among them.

Tom Roady recorded a solo CD titled Zendrum: One Tribe. His music has been heard on the Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel, Animal Planet, Oxygen, Playboy and many other cable TV outlets. He joined We the People Folk Group in 2010. Tom Roady also taught numerous percussion clinics and master classes.

He is survived by his wife Melanie. Funeral services will be held on Sun., Dec. 4, at 3:00 p.m. at Highland Park Church. Visitation will precede the funeral from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.



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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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