Focus on Low Profile: JT and John

JT and John, brothers from another mother

Staples: JT Tompkins
By Marjorie Olds
Oct 17, 2018

Many readers have been out of town, even out of the country when they need emergency tech assistance: They’ve washed their iPhone in with their clothes. They spill coffee on their keyboard.They forgot their charging cable. So, they make their way to a Staples store and feel comforted that everything seems familiar.

While chatting with JT Tompkins, manager of the Staples store in Ithaca someone comes in with their computer for a free intake analysis: How is the computer running? It takes no persuasion for the owner to spring for the $10 PC Tune Up. Tompkins: “It’s like an oil change, available 363 days a year […] Customers come in with a dropped phone, a cracked screen, to purchase additional memory or software, to have a new computer battery installed, or to arrange work done on a hard drive…Customers love the fact that they can follow up with their equipment wherever they take it, since Staples is available pretty much everywhere.”

Tompkins grew up listening to Ithaca musician Johnny Dowd’s music in Buffalo; and for some reason living in Ithaca was a mythological goal for him. When a company he joined after college invited the then-single Tompkins to move to Ithaca, he packed his car and made the drive. When the opportunity arose, Tompkins moved over to Staples and has spent the past seven years in the Ithaca store.

“I always wanted to ‘Get to Ithaca’ and once here, I fell in love with Ithaca,” he said.

“Doing business in retail in Ithaca has its challenges,” Tompkins said, but the ebb and flow of population, following the curve of the academic year, has not daunted him. Helping staff when scheduling, transportation, family or health issues arise has kept his personal skills fresh. “I get to spend time with all the associates and I like that, since I’m a networker. When their needs are met, we can all be invested in the game.”

Many of the staff have been with Tompkins for some time, and quite a few who have moved from Ithaca transfer to one of the other 1300 Staples stores across the country, even overseas.

“As manager, when things are humming along, I also get a chance to talk to customers, and before I know it, they are coming back,” Tompkins said. “I’m invested in the customers’ experience and I love the interactions.”

(He admits that his store gets lots of good Customer Reviews; and to celebrate he fills the refrigerator in the staff Break Room with fruits and vegetables and snacks.  (Frozen snickers bars are a staff favorite.) Customer surveys count!

Staff note Tompkins’s enthusiasm for Ithaca influences their decision to succeed at work and to savor the chance to live here too. When not working, Tompkins is known in the community as a Festival Guy.

He and a core group of friends put on a concert series in Newfield, NY each summer. One of his sidekicks, Vanessa Greenlee, raises the funding through local grants. This year Tompkins’s hero, Johnny Dowd, played the final concert, while the Fall Creek Brass Band, Notorious Stringbusters, Road Man and Anna Coogan wowed the audiences in the Pavilion on Main Street. (“A scene right out of Norman Rockwell.”). Everyone has a good time.

Tompkins mentions the Grayhaven Motel as another cool, albeit unusual, site for shows: “Gina Keicher did a poetry show there via Low Profile. Great people bought the Grayhaven, updated the site, while preserving the kitschy charm of the place. Everyone loves this locale and all our friends loved the show.” (Tompkins confides: “I’m working on a gourmet chocolate tasting event there soon. Chimes of Bayonets will be doing a Low Profile Show at the Bowl-a-drome soon. So, stay tuned.”)

He explains that he and his buddies are not in it for the money: “None of the shows make money, but it’s one way to give back to a great community; and the shows are attended by a big, sweet group of friends. It’s very DIY. We think of something we want to share, and we say, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Piled on his desk are t-shirts for the upcoming Cancer Resource Center Walkathon, which Tompkins and friends from work and out in the community are supporting. He heaps praise on the CRC staff and knows first-hand how much it means to families facing down cancer to have the community’s support. Tompkins, his wife and son will be joined by friends and co-workers walking together.

Frequent flyers at Staples on Meadow Street note that his larger than life personality has made the Ithaca Staples unique.  He modestly agrees: “Even though we’re a big box store, I really try to run the store like a mom and pop.  Everyone has accepted me into this great community, and my goal is to add to it and give back where I’m able.”

 – Original article

(Ed.-for further insights, here’s an interview with local promoter JT Tompkins on WRFI.)

 

 

Fantastic chocolate tasting and Bowl-o-Drome shows mentioned above have already happened, but  never fear-there’s another bowling/show event on March 30. Meantime, DO NOT miss the Johnny Dowd official CD release and bonus Family Art opening March 1 at the Grayhaven. You’ll get to see a new side to John’s wack sensibility, and a peek at his genetic co-conspirators talents as well. To top it all off, profit from the art sales goes to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. (That right, it’s yet another Dowd bringing that great cause to the table).

Thanks to Low Profile for making it happen…

                                                                     

 

 

The Making of Family Picnic

 

Mark your calendars-John’s official CD release and bonus Family Art show opening is March 1 at the Grayhaven in Ithaca, a venue making a really interesting cultural addition to the Ithaca scene . You’ll get to see a new expression of John’s wack sensibility, and a peek at his genetic co-conspirators talents as well. To top it all off, profit from the art sales goes to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. (That right, it’s yet another Dowd bringing that great cause to the table).

Thanks to Low Profile for making it happen…

                                                                                 – Ed.

 

UPDATE FROM JOHNNY’S SITE:
Michael Edmondson and I are gearing up to cross the Atlantic with a whole passel of new tunes, along with some oldies and a couple of great covers. I’ll be bringing my buddy Park Doing to open for some of the shows. He’s wackier than I am, if you can believe that. The new record, “Family Picnic,” will be available March 1— at all the usual digital outlets and on CD at my site and on tour. Buy it!

Photo by Kat Dalton
Tour schedule: www.johnnydowd.com/tour/

Image may contain: John Dowd, standing and sunglasses

 

A Retrospective look at the making of FAMILY PICNIC

Johnny Dowd: new album in the Spring

photo: Kat Dalton

The new Johnny Dowd record is still a work in progress, but so far everything is going as planned and it should be available next Spring:

Headed into the studio yesterday to put the icing on the cake — that would be Kim Sherwood-Caso’s vocals. She totally nailed it. I’m really pleased with how the record is turning out. Roots rock, if you can believe that. Lots of guitar, courtesy of Mike Edmondson. Will release the CD in the spring.

 

Fan Collections Continued

First the news:
See you in TONIGHT outdoors at the Newfield Music Series at Mill Park! John and Mike and picnickers on blankets? What next?!?! (Love you,J.T.)
CANCELLED DUE TO RAIN

Now to the blog post:
Our favorite artists inspire and intrigue us, and what we feel when listening to music or viewing art belongs to us, the audience. One of JDF’s favorite pastimes is exploring how we bring that into our lives, by sharing fan, friend and music connoisseur reviews, collections, art and musings. (Check out this, and this, 
and OMG this.)

Recently we received this collection from Johanna aka RadioGirl Bodde, and we have been challenged:

“Enjoy (trying to figure out what it says…)!! ;-)”

Translate any part of this for us, or date and source an article, and we will send you a Present. By Mail. Who doesn’t love that?

Johanna says “my guess: between 1998 and 2004) Dutch magazines & papers”

I am also including now a few old concert tickets, that I found in my collages (I was bored…). That one in number 5 with the picture, from 013 Tilburg, looks really cool.

 

“Twelve songs from the Dutch radio, 1998 and 2001. Among which Johnny’s first ever appearance in The Netherlands. Recorded on a portable radio / cassette player and converted to MP3s on a laptop with floppy drive. Those were the days! 😉 Before you start to frown: the sound quality is surprisingly good. If you want them: …everything is properly name tagged for copyrights.”

 

“What’s the fun of collecting stuff, if you don’t share it, right? ;-)”

 

We couldn’t agree more, Johanna!

Jim White’s New T-Shirt

Jim White Plays Guitars & Talks Jesus At Dingwalls & St Mary’s Guildford

“He then told us about how he hooked up with Johnny Dowd for the album they did together as Hellwood and also just how quickly Johnny re-wrote Jim’s lyrics for A Man Loves His Wife a super dark and twisted tale that sounds like it was being played on a back porch in the middle of nowhere rather than in good old Dingwalls the venue he played the first time he played here.”

 – Posted by  | 29/11/17 |

 – Full Article

Drjohnrock reflects on Fandom

 

HOW DO WE INCREASE THE FAN BASE?

By Drjohnrock

Hey Johnny Dowd fans!

Yes, you! Particularly you American fans. There are some things I want to say about the amazingly creative musician, Johnny Dowd. I want to hear from you as well. But first, I get to sound off. As Johnny says in one of his songs: “so shut up and pay me some attention.”

I don’t have to tell you how great Johnny’s music is. He is one of those artists that truly comes along once in a blue moon. Very few musicians can incorporate a wide range of music and moods and give them his own unique stamp like he does. You know that. I know that. So why doesn’t he have a bigger following?

Fellow fans and I have often speculated about why more people haven’t gotten with the Dowd program. Is it his voice? Maybe. But Dolly Parton and (especially) Iris DeMent make Johnny sound like a New Yorker by comparison. So that theory doesn’t hold a lot of water. Is it the dark subject matter of a lot of his songs? Well, that certainly is overemphasized by a lot of music writers who don’t get the complete picture. Johnny’s music isn’t burning with optimism’s flames. But the writers often overlook the humor and yes, the humanity (hope that doesn’t make Johnny gag!) in his music. Even though he doesn’t share the world view of Casper The Friendly Ghost, Johnny’s music isn’t depressing. Like good blues musicians, Johnny cures depression by singing about the rough patches we all hit, making them a shared experience and letting the listener know he or she isn’t the only one going through hard situatons. Besides, Nick Cave’s music isn’t a barrel of laughs and he seem to be doing just fine. Could Johnny’s age be working against him gaining new fans? That’s possible in America’s youth-obsessed culture. But Johnny Cash didn’t seem to have any trouble attacting younger listeners during his late career revival. So that’s not the entire answer either.

Well, talk is cheap and speculation is even cheaper. Whatever the reason(s), the fact remains that Johnny Dowd doesn’t have the larger audience he deserves. Which leads to the ultimate question: what can we do about it?

Some of you might say the lack of a bigger following is Johnny’s problem to deal with, that no one put a gun to his head and forced him to pursue a second career in music. Fair point. But if you’re a fan of JD, then you are probably passionate about music, like I am–listening to recorded music and going to concerts aren’t minor diversions or occasional treats, they are an integral part of your life, especially the music of rare talents like Mr. Dowd. Don’t you think Johnny deserves more success? Wouldn’t you like to see him tour regularly in his own country, instead of just Europe? These are rhetorical questions for you folks. Not everyone has to love Johnny’s music. But there’s certainly enough appeal in his music to attract a larger audience.

I’m not suggesting anyone leave their jobs and become cult followers of Dowd. But if we all chip in some of our spare time, then maybe we can help Johnny.

Drawing by John Behm

Some of the traditional ways of spreading the word are still valid, even in the Age Of The Internet. Things like telling friends about Johnny, and buying them his CDs as gifts if you exchange presents with them can help. If you’re lucky enough to have a good community/noncommercial or college radio station near you, request his tunes on shows that play good alternative music. If you have the time and inclination, try to get your own show on a community radio station; they frequently look for new programmers. If you know a club owner or promoter, suggest they book Johnny. If you know (or are) a touring musician with a sizable following, see about getting Johnny on tour as an opening act, like Pere Ubu recently did.

I’m pretty much a Neanderthal when it comes to the internet, so I’ll start the discussion and ask others to share their suggestions. If you have a music blog or want to start one, that’s a great way to promote Johnny’s music. It doesn’t have to be exclusively devoted to JD like this fine blog I’m writing this for. Posting about Johnny on music discussion boards is another good idea–I’ve done this a lot myself. Even what seem like little things like posting images of Johnny on your avatar (my avatar on thefall.org is the cover of That’s Your Wife On The Back Of My Horse) or quoting Johnny’s lyrics on signature lines are helpful.

Other ways of using the internet for JD are beyond my personal ability but maybe not yours. The a capella group Straight No Chaser gained a lot of attention–and subsequently a career–from a single YouTube video that went viral. If you are skilled in that area, put together a clever, attention getting video (with Johnny’s consent) for posting on YouTube, Vimeo, at al. Using bots to promote Johnny, instead of stealing an election, is something to consider as well.

That’s my spiel. Please reply with your ideas for helping Johnny out. Let’s have a conversation. But let’s follow it up with action. Johnny is sixty-nine years old and like all of us, isn’t immortal. While I hope he is able and willing to tour into his eighties like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, time isn’t on his side. Let’s figure out things we can do to increase Dowd awareness and do them. Johnny Dowd’s time is NOW!