Bluesman Tom McFarland in Spokane, Washington, June 2000, Foto by Jan Celt

Foto: Jan Celt

Tom McFarland

January 30th, 1945 - September 3rd, 2004

Tom McFarland was one of the leading lights of the Northwest blues scene after moving to Portland from the Bay Area in the 1980s. He founded the "Portland Underground Blues Festival" back in the days when it was literally underground, in a basement nightclub called the Last Hurrah. This little festival eventually developed into the Waterfront Blues Festival, which is now held every year around the 4th of July weekend and draws the most prominent blues acts from around the country and boasts audiences numbering in the vicinity of a hundred thousand. Tom played the very first Waterfront Blues Festival, and I had the pleasure of playing rhythm guitar in his band.

He gave us two great albums on Flying Heart, and these are still in demand.

Tom McFarland passed away on the morning of September 3rd, 2004 at his home near Salt Lake City. He was 59 years old. He is survived by his wife, Sue; daughter, Naomi; and son, Riley Thomas McFarland.

Tom McFarland played the blues ever since he fell in love with the sound in the sixties. You can hear years of nightclub dates in that voice and the way he fingerpicked the guitar. Although he did record an excellent album called "Travelling With the Blues" on Arhoolie in 1977, his very best work was saved for the two albums he recorded on the Flying Heart label: "Just Got In From Portland" and "Voodoo Garden." (Take a look at the Flying Heart Catalogue .) He certainly had what one might call a distinctive and personal style. His CDs may be mail ordered from the Flying Heart Label, and are available on and CD Baby.

Tom had a nomadic lifestyle in his last decade, residing in Vancouver, Portland, Tacoma, Auburn, Jackson, Terre Haute, Spokane and Salt Lake City. He had several of his songs covered by other artists. His song Voodoo Garden is on Charlie Musselwhite's Grammy-nominated Virgin Records CD, Continental Drifter. Tom's beautiful ballad, Blue Reverie, was recorded on Biograph Records by Kathy Hart, and also by the Island Jazz Quintet (out of Vashon Island, near Seattle) on their 2006 CD, WHo Knows . Another version of "Blue Reverie" was recorded by Tony Petrillo on his CD "Transition Point," released in 2015. And Margo Tufo recorded a cover of Just Got in from Portland on her "Live at the Candlelight" CD.

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updated April 11th, 2016 by Jan Chciuk-Celt