2004 "Carolinas Beach Music Association" Hall of Fame Inductee
Tommie James, or "TJ" as he is known to his friends, grew up in Sumter, SC and learned to play the piano before age 6. He took formal piano lessons for 3 years, and became involved in school music programs beginning in 4th grade, but had more fun playing by ear.
In Nov., 1960, at age 16 while at Edmunds High School in Sumter, he joined his first R&B band called "The Marquis". In the summer of 1961, he and lead vocalist Hank Martin joined another Sumter group, "The Nomads".
By early 1962 the name was changed to "The Duprees", and they played throughout SC, including several 3-night stands at The Pavilion (later to be called the Magic Attic) in Myrtle Beach in the summer of 1962.
The musical experience and high standards of professionalism gained, and relationships formed with members of these Sumter, SC groups resulted in a passion for playing a variety of musical styles, especially R&B, that would remain with "TJ" for the rest of his life.
He enrolled in college in 1962 and quickly helped form a new band which he named "The Footnotes". In 1964, TJ accepted an offer to join another well-established band on campus called "The Caravelles". For the next several years, they traveled extensively throughout the Southeast, and specialized in opening-for, and/or backing-up national R&B artists on college campuses and in other venues such as Park Center in Charlotte, NC. "The Caravelles" also gave TJ his first opportunity to manage a band, where he became familiar with all aspects of contracts, clients, agents, and finances.
After graduation from college, TJ returned to Sumter for a year and passed "The Footnotes" name to new group formed there in 1968. He mentored and played with them frequently during their first months together.
From 1967-70, TJ performed 3.5 years with R&B group "The Persians" from Columbia, SC, and then helped form a band which included several members of the original (Sumter) Nomads/Duprees. Someone mentioned that it had been 10 years since they had performed together and it was like “Second Nature” for them to be playing in a band again - and the group’s new name was born.
Second Nature began performing in Jan. 1971 and rapidly found success in the private event market. In addition, they recorded extensively during the 1970's. They released several singles including a cover of "Sixty Minute Man", and in 1975 released an album called "Second Nature, Vol. I", recorded in Atlanta, GA while they were under contract with Bang Records - the label that originally launched Neil Diamond. No national hits resulted from this endeavor, but the band remained a regional favorite, especially in South Carolina.
By the end of the 1970's, three of the original members were pursuing solo careers in Nashville, TN where they became successful music publishers and songwriters, including Archie Jordan, who has penned mega-hits for Ronnie Milsap and many others.
TJ elected to stay in Camden, SC where he has lived since 1968, and kept the band going with new personnel, including the addition of 2 horns in 1981. This added much versatility, and many new (and old) R&B songs that were now being called "beach music" were added to the repertoire.
In 1982, he collaborated with Warren Moise and General Johnson to record the first-ever Christmas song to be written, arranged, and recorded as a seasonal, shag-danceable, "beach music" song. The result was a hit called "Christmas, The Best Time of the Year", on Surfside Records. It has been re-released and is now available on a CD called “Southern Soul Christmas, Vol. 2" from 120 Inc. Records & KHP Music.
In 1985 the group had another beach music hit called "Who's That Guy", which was released as a single and on a CD called “Grand Strand Gold” from Ripete Records.
Eventually TJ and Archie Jordan would reunite for another project which resulted in the CD "Second Nature, MusicallyYours", featuring 10 original songs written and produced by Archie. The song "Only You Will Do" from this CD was a consensus top-10 song for the year 2002 on all the region's beach music charts. This song and CD were nominated in a record 7 categories at the 2002 CBMA awards show.
He has been married since 1967 to his high school sweetheart, Barbara. They have 2 beautiful daughters, and, so far, 2 grandchildren. As he approaches the half-century mark of continuously performing, recording, managing, promoting, preserving & enhancing the popularity of Beach Music, TJ’s musical passion is as strong as ever, and he has a remarkable record of having never missed a gig. He is looking forward to many more years of performing with, and managing his favorite band - the latest exciting edition of "Second Nature".