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Enright Dies

A break from politics and media to report the passing of an icon in Rhode Island music: Thom Enright, a blues guitarist who played in a number of important bands - including the Young Adults, a 70s rock outfit fronted by present-day Phoenix columnist Rudy Cheeks

Here are some Enright testimonials from local luminaries that we ran in the paper in 2008 on the occasion of a tribute concert to the ailing musician (he died Monday of brain cancer). And below, a tribute from Cheeks that you'll see later this week as part of his regular column:

A huge outpouring of love and respect this week as one of the most gifted musicians to ever come out of Rhode Island, Thom Enright, passed away at the age of 59. I had the honor of playing in three bands with Thom and any number of pickup groups and can tell you that, as a number of other local musicians have noted, every note he played was true.

This Sunday evening will be the inaugural induction ceremony for the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame at the Met in Pawtucket. Perhaps something that few people know is that Thom will be the most honored musician at that event. He was a member of the seminal Tombstone Blues Band lineup (Ken Lyon, the band's leader is being inducted) and also played in Roomful of Blues and John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, two other inductees. Thom was also one of Duke Robillard's Pleasure Kings (the other Pleasure King being the superlative drummer, Tom DeQuattro). The Pleasure Kings played all over the world and I recall a video of Thom playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival with the Pleasure Kings. In the video, he breaks a string on his bass and, while Duke and Tommy continue to play, he puts on another string and comes back in at just the right point - it seems the whole thing was planned. One has to have an incredible ear to do something like that.

Thom was also a key member of the Young Adults, first on bass and then guitar. Those were great years. I liked to ride to and from gigs with Thom because, a) he was an excellent driver and, b) I knew that we wouldn't stop for food at Chicken City when we were coming back from Newport. We both knew that this would just be inviting ptomaine poisoning.

I'm sure that Thom was a bit skeptical about playing in the Adults. After all, he was a pure musician and this was tantamount to joining the circus. Much to my surprise (and delight), he got right in the spirit of things and would don fishnet stockings on stage. This was a wise choice considering he had the best legs in the band.

When the Young Adults initially broke up (we never really broke up - we just took a decade-long breather), he encouraged me to get back into the rehearsal studio with him and write some more songs. This was the short-lived Rudy Cheeks & the Works band that featured a second guitar player that Thom knew, Chris Vachon, who is now the leader of Roomful of Blues. That was short-lived because Duke swooped down and cherrypicked Thom and Tom DeQuattro for his Pleasure Kings which, at least, provided a steady paycheck for Thom for the next few years.

Later, in the mid 90's, Thom and I put together a big band called The Jackiebeat Orchestra for which we wrote some of our best songs.

Being a working musician is a tough grind - and, for his entire life, that's all Thom did except for a few excursions into things like T-shirt making and shuttle bus driving which he did solely to keep his ass alive. But Thom was a master at keeping on keeping on. Since he knew every musician in the area and beyond, Thom could throw together a band in about two hours and go out and play wherever there was a gig to be had. When any of the regularly working bands had a bass player or guitarist who fell ill or mysteriously disappeared for a week or two (as musicians sometimes do), Thom would be the first guy to be called.

He played with virtually everybody, in any style. He would alternate on guitar with the late, great Paul "Dobbs" Murphy in James Montgomery's band and then play that New Orleans stuff with Keith Munslow and the Superchief Trio. Thom Enright was totally irreplaceable.

When Thom was first diagnosed with brain cancer (glioma) almost four  years ago, the doctors gave him six months to live. Thom would have none of it and immediately went on a severe health regimen to keep playing as long as he could. His courageous battle to keep going, to keep playing, was an incredible inspiration to everyone who knew him and especially the local musicians who were already in awe of him.

Thom Enright was a great musician and an even greater man.

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