elvis by robert florczack

Tom Jans
A Memoir

 

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Tom Jans - A Memoir

Robert Florczak
20th June 2002

This is an e-mail received from Robert Florczack.

Geoff-Herein my memories of Tom.

You may use them as you wish:

Before my present career as a painter, I was a musician and recording artist, as you may have seen on my website. I was at a party at the Bel-Air home of my friend, songwriter Jeff Barry(Be My Baby, Da Do Ron Ron, Chapel Of Love, Do Wah Diddy, etc.). A short, handsome young man with shoulder-length blond hair came up to me and said "You've had your heart broken pretty bad in life, haven't you?" It was, to say the least, the most unusual introduction I've ever had. It was Tom Jans. "You've played a lot of basketball?", he continued (I'm 6'5"). We talked basketball, compared broken heart stories and how we'd written songs about them, and spent the day developing a fond friendship.


I was living on the John Barrymore estate in Beverly Hills at the time, and Tom had a house in Brentwood (not Santa Monica) next door to the home of Keenan Wynn. I remember being amused by the creative answering phone messages he would have, such as the sounds of a raucus party going on in the background and Tom yelling to Frank Sinatra to "keep it down!" We would double date. He actually introduced me to sushi, and over a few beers we would entertain each other with impressions of singers-he liked my John Lennon and I liked his Nat King Cole. I was a lifelong Elvis fan and I never tired of hearing him tell about the moment he first heard that the King had recorded his song "Loving Arms".

We played guitars at the house and compared new songs in the making. He told me stories of his youth in San Luis Obispo, of cars and girls-always the subject of girls with us- and used his influence at ASCAP to connect me with people who could help my career. Tom had recently worked on an album with Jeff Barry and Nino Tempo, and through him I got to know Nino, who remains a dear friend to this day.

One afternoon I received a call from Tom from the hospital. He had had a rather serious accident and would be laid up for a time. His call was just to assure me that despite what I might hear, he was fine and there was no need to visit as he would be up and around soon. He left me with several more impressions of singers instead. I should have visited; I never saw him again. I'd spoken to him several times by phone after his hospital stint, always with a loose plan to get back out on the town together, but it wasn't to be. A mutual friend called one afternoon to tell me that Tom had suddenly and unexpectedly died.

I was stunned and, frankly, angry. Angry that we wouldn't have the many years ahead of us to continue growing in friendship.

At his funeral in Santa Monica, Paul Williams (who coincidentally married Keenan Wynn's daughter!) gave a wonderful eulogy. He ended by reciting the lyrics to "Loving Arms" but broke down at the very end before he could finish. Outside the chapel, Jeff Barry said something to me humorous, yet touching. "Wow, I think I'd better start writing more sophisticated tunes. I'd hate to think that someday at my funeral the best someone will be able to eulogise me will be 'And as Jeff said so poignantly in one of his songs-Do Wa Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Do!' "

Ten years later, almost to the month, Paul Williams and I stood outside a chapel for the funeral for another of our mutual friends, Harry Nilsson, and reminisced about him and good old Tom. I'd lost the third good singer-songwriter friend in my life, the other being Jim Croce, and I mused to Paul that since we both had just weathered the big Northridge earthquake a few days earlier, we'd better be extra careful from here on.

Paul's still around, Jeff's still around, and I'm sure that they, like me, often have days when we wish Tom were still around. Even if just to hear one of his wacky phone messages again.

Robert Florczak-June 20, 2002
Brian Wilson's 60th birthday.
Some people are just plain lucky!


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picture:
elvis by robert florczack
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This page updated June 2002 by Geoff
GMGough@clara.net