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Tommy Cathey - Bio

It was back in the Sixties, the Beatles were all the rage, and Dyersburg Tennessee native Tommy Cathey was playing guitar and singing during a junior high chapel performance at the old Central Grammar School when Ted Lannom approached him about joining a band. And the rest, as they say, is history...

"Ted was really talented himself, and he got me started in my first band," Cathey recalled. "I started out playing guitar, but we lost our bass player, Warren Carmichael, who left us to join the Henchmen with Larry Mack Boals. So Ted asked me if I would give the bass guitar a try," Cathey said. "The first moment I picked it up, I knew right then that bass was my instrument. I've been playing one ever since that day."

So we have Ted Lannom and Larry Mack to thank for what has become a stellar career as a working professional musician over the last 40 years or so; a career that culminated in January 2011 when Tommy Cathey was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame for his groundbreaking work with the DeGarmo & Key Band.

"After high school, I left Dyersburg and moved to Memphis to take a job with a band called Butterscotch Caboose. After a stint in that band, I was in a band called Alamo, with Larry Raspberry, and from there I joined Omaha, which is when I met Jimi Jamison," Cathey said. "Through mutual friends we hooked up with guitar player Buddy Davis and the three of us formed a band called Target."

With guitarist Paul Cannon and drummer David Spain rounding out the lineup, Target quickly became the premier rock band in Memphis at the time, and went on to release two albums on A&M records - the self-titled Target in 1976 and Target Captured in 1977.

"I was really proud that we got a second album out on a major label," Cathey said. "That was not an easy thing to do in those days. And we worked hard to promote those records, too. We toured a lot back then."

Those tours included sharing the stage with everyone from Peter Frampton to Boston, Styx, Bob Seger, Journey and Black Sabbath, among others.

When Target disbanded in 1982, Jimi Jamison went on to join Survivor as lead singer, and the other guys went their separate ways, but have always remained close friends.

I was working at the Strings & Things Guitar Workshop in Memphis in 1982 when two guys named Eddie DeGarmo and Dana Key walked in and asked if they could talk to me," Cathey recalled. "They asked if I was interested in playing in their 'Christian rock' band. I wasn't playing in a band at the time so I told them I would be interested, but I wasn't quite sure what they meant by this Christian rock music. Nobody had ever done anything like that before. Those guys really were pioneers of that music. They blazed the trail."

And blaze it they did. DeGarmo and Key reeled off eight studio albums, each one nominated for a Grammy Award.

"We never won a Grammy," Cathey said, "but I did get to go to all those Grammy awards shows, which was pretty cool. And I got to co-produce an album by a Christian rap artist named DC Talk, which became a gold record and won a Dove Award."

Tommy plays regularly with a Memphis-based group called Almost Famous, which also includes drummer Bill Marshall, himself a veteran of over 20 years on the road with Hank Williams Jr., and winner of a fistful of awards for his outstanding percussion work.

These days Tommy is likely either playing music or playing golf, a passion almost as important to him as his music. As he gets closer to the "golden years" when most guys his age would be thinking of slowing down, Tommy Cathey shows no signs of giving up his first love, the bass guitar.

"When I first picked up a bass, I had no idea I would have a real career in music," he said. "But I've had a great time along the way, and worked on a lot of sessions for other great musicians."

Included among those sessions were dates with Todd Rundgren, Glenn Frey, Jackson Browne, John Prine, Albert King and Jerry Lee Lewis, to name a few.

 

But his award-winning work with DeGarmo and Key is a special part of Tommy Cathey's storied musical career.

"The night we were inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame, a fellow named Johnny Cash was also inducted,"Cathey said with a smile. "That's pretty good company right there."

(Written by Allen Hester)