Longtime Frank Zappa and Ray Charles Bandmate Tom Fowler Dies at 73

by Patria
Tom Fowler

Tom Fowler, a longtime bandmate of Frank Zappa and Ray Charles, passed away earlier this month at the age of 73 due to complications from an aneurysm. The news of his passing was shared by friends and colleagues on social media.

Arthur Barrow, a former Zappa bass player, expressed his sorrow on Facebook: “So sad to report another big loss in the Zappa community. Tom Fowler left us yesterday, July 2, 2024. He was a hero to me. The first time I heard ‘Echidna’s Arf’ I almost fell over when he played the big 5/16 lick on the bass! I had no idea that a clumsy bass could do such a thing! He was an inspiration for me to buy a bass and start practicing. I have known him since about 1976. RIP old friend – missing you very much.”

Music producer and engineer Tom Fowler shared his own tribute: “Tom Fowler. One of the most creative, intelligent, and wackiest people I’ve ever met. Tom played bass on a half dozen Frank Zappa albums, and as well over the last 10 years with Ray Charles. I met Tom and his brother Walt when I was 20 years old. He and I remained friends forever, touring the world and making lots of incredible music. Tom passed away yesterday from complications of an aneurysm he suffered last week. He will be truly missed. Condolences to his wife Kai and the rest of his family.”

In a birthday tribute to Tom back in June, the Zappa First Facebook group shared: “Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Tom was one of five talented sons of famous music educator Dr. William Fowler and English teacher/writer Beatrice Fowler. Tom first started playing the violin at six, picked up the stand-up bass at 12, and after hearing Hendrix’s and Zappa’s music, started playing electric bass at 16. When he was 17, he ran away and joined the group ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’ in 1971 and performed on two albums, staying until 1973.”

Tom Fowler’s musical journey included performing with several bands in New York before moving to San Francisco, where he played with jazz bands, often on the violin more than the bass. His brother Bruce eventually called him, leading to his audition with Frank Zappa. “Bruce called me up and I auditioned for Frank, and somehow I got the gig. I hadn’t even been playing bass, but I guess he got sick of looking for a bass player,” Fowler once recounted.

Fowler’s contributions to the music world, especially his work with Frank Zappa and Ray Charles, left a lasting impact. He will be remembered for his creativity, intelligence, and unique musical talent. Condolences go out to his wife, Kai, and his family during this difficult time.

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