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R.I.P., Tone Summer (1957-2024) Courtesy Neptune Society

Danny Ross and Tone Sommer’s friendship dates to the early 1980s, when the two backed Fort Worth blues legend Robert Ealey. The keyboardist and scorching guitarist then served as the house band at Ross’ Keys Lounge, followed by stints at Lola’s and, most recently, Panther City BBQ. Ross and Sommer kept on jamming through the decades, most recently as part of Playtown, the blues-rocking outfit of frontpeople Rachel Patman and Royal Sons’ Black Parish. Ross has been devastated since Sommer’s May 25 suicide.

“It’s really been a shock to the whole music community,” Ross said, adding that Sommer was “truly a great guitarist, anything from blues to Zeppelin, country, jazz.”

Since the 66-year-old’s passing, the outpouring of grief has been steady and copious, and a lot of cats who knew him well and shared stages with him over the years will gather 2-7pm Sun, July 7, at Magnolia Motor Lounge (3803 Southwest Blvd, 817-332-3344) for the Tone Sommer Memorial show. Ross, Patman, and Parish will be joined by James Hinkle, Ginny Mac, Buddy Whittington, Tommy Katona, Big Mike Richardson, Gunzy Trevino, and many more.

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“A lot are coming,” Ross said, and “I know a lot would like to come.”

Sommer may be best known for his time in Ealey’s band until the elder bluesman’s death in 2001. Along with playing to sold-out houses in Europe and jazz festivals across the country, Sommer also appears on the Ealey albums If You Need Me (1995), Turn Out the Lights (1996), and I Like Music When I Party (1997). While backing Ealey and while on his own plying the North Texas circuit, Sommer toured with U.P. Wilson and Johnny Reno and gigged and/or recorded with national acts like Doyle Bramhall, Stephen Bruton, Joe Ely, Alvin Lee, CoCo Montoya, and Pantera, among others, including Guthrie Kennard. The folk singer-songwriter who’ll also perform Sunday was also a member of Robert Ealey’s band. Sommer, Kennard said, was “always a gentleman, even way back when, and he loved playing music, and he was brilliant at guitar.”

Sommer also occasionally backed Kennard.

“You didn’t have to tell [Sommer] anything,” Kennard remembers. “He just felt it. That meant a lot to me, because a lot of people really don’t get what I do, but [Sommer] got it, and he took it seriously. He was just an all-around good guy.”

Sommer, Ross recalls, was “always in a good mood,” but some recent health issues seemed to have sapped his verve. “Suicide, we will never understand. It’s insidious. I think the devil preys on those in pain and weak. I still have a hard time with it. It’s just so devastating. They leave us and all the family to try and understand and deal with everything. I was totally sad for two weeks, then I felt guilty but now have gotten mad, but, most of all, we miss them so much.”

Sommer is survived by his children, grandchildren, and a large extended family. In lieu of flowers, Sommer’s family would prefer contributions to the Texas Suicide Prevention Collaborative (TexasSuicidePrevention.org). The memorial show is free, but donations will be accepted.

 

Tone Sommer Memorial Show
2-7pm Sun w/James Hinkle, Ginny Mac, Buddy Whittington, Tommy Katona, Big Mike Richardson, Rachel Patman, Blake Parish, and more at Magnolia Motor Lounge, 3803 Southwest Blvd, FW. Free but donations accepted. 817-332-3344.

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