West’s career as a performing artist began in 1958 when he co-founded the doo-wop group The Criterions with Tim Hauser, a classmate of his at St. Rose High School in Belmar, New Jersey. In 1959, the group hit the pop charts with “I Remain Truly Yours”.
West is a 1963 graduate of Villanova University. While attending Villanova, he became student conductor of the school’s glee club, The Villanova Singers. West formed a sub-group of the Singers called The Villanova Spires, a 12-man group who performed folk songs with guitar accompaniment. Tim Hauser, also now a student at Villanova, joined the group. In 1961, West auditioned fellow student Jim Croce for The Spires and an enduring friendship was formed.
After graduating in 1963, West became a radio announcer and music director of WRLB(FM) in Long Branch, New Jersey. In 1966, he left the station and began work for ABC Records in New York, where he met Terry Cashman and Gene Pistilli, songwriters at the company. This trio, Cashman, Pistilli and West, began a writing and performing collaboration. In 1967, they recorded an album titled Bound To Happen.
West became a session singer and sang back-up vocals on albums by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Sammy Davis, Jr., Connie Francis, and Mitch Ryder. He was a jingle singer for radio and television commercials.
Success with Jim Croce
In 1971, Cashman and West signed as artists with ABC-Dunhill and produced the first of three Jim Croce albums, You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. Recorded in the fall of 1971 and released in April 1972, this album produced three hit singles. Simultaneously, Cashman and West were on the charts with their first single, their tribute to New York City, the “American City Suite”.
In 1973, Cashman and West produced Croce’s Life and Times and I Got A Name albums. They received five gold records for their work on Jim Croce’s hits – No. 1 singles “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Time in a Bottle”, and three albums (You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, Life and Times, and I Got A Name), and all three now have reached platinum status. Croce and Muehleisen perished in a small plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana on September 20, 1973.
Cashman and West went on to record two more albums for ABC-Dunhill, Moondog Serenade and Lifesong.
Tommy West recorded the solo single “I Know” which reached No. 114 in Record World and No. 30 in Billboard’s “Easy Listening” Top 50, early 1977. The song was a remake of a 1960 tune by the Spaniels.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
6: Comagan, 48, Indian singer, composer and actor, COVID-19; Prem Dhoj Pradhan, 82, Nepalese musician.
5: Ray Teret, 79, English disc jockey and convicted rapist.
4: Rodolfo García, 75, Argentine rock drummer (Almendra, Aquelarre), stroke; Nick Kamen, 59, English model, singer (“Each Time You Break My Heart”) and songwriter (“I Promised Myself”); Henrik Ohlin, Swedish bassist (Black Ingvars); Sarena Li, 31, Hong Kong singer, adenoid cystic carcinoma.
3: Phil Naro, 63, American rock vocalist (Talas), tongue cancer.
2: Fedja Rupel, 84, Slovenian flutist and university teacher; Marcel Stellman, 96, Belgian record producer and lyricist, creator of Countdown; Tommy West, 78, American music producer (Life and Times, I Got a Name) and singer-songwriter, complications from Parkinson’s disease.
1: Constantin Arvinte, 94, Romanian composer; Debu Chaudhuri, 85, Indian sitarist and writer, complications from COVID-19; Mikhail Plotkin, 77, Russian music producer and administrator (Vesyolye Rebyata, Samotsvety, Leysya, Pesnya), complications from COVID-19.
30: Rafail Bakirov, 74, Russian composer; Eskendir Hasangaliev, 80, Kazakh composer-songwriter and singer; John Dee Holeman, 92, American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer and songwriter; Anthony Payne, 84, English composer (Symphony No. 3); Ray Reyes, 51, Puerto Rican singer (Menudo, El Reencuentro), heart attack.
29: Martin Bookspan, 94, American music broadcaster (Live from Lincoln Center) and author; Pierce Fulton, 28, American disc jockey and record producer, suicide; John Hinch, 73, British drummer (Judas Priest, Bakerloo); Kazimierz Kord, 90, Polish conductor; Tony Markellis, 68, American bassist (Trey Anastasio Band); Will Mecum, 48, American rock guitarist and songwriter (Karma to Burn, Year Long Disaster), fall.