is shaping up to be a pretty incredible year for Tom Sadge.
be returning to some theater stages where he has in previous years
entertained sold out audiences…
be a part of shows with Legends in Concert and travelling
with his own band…
he’s begun the celebrations of his 16th anniversary performing
his tribute to Neil Diamond… with a voice so pure and authentic
that Neil Diamond once offered: “This guy sounds just like me.”
2012 is shaping up to be quite a successful, thrilling, fun, travel-filled
year for Tom.
should be congratulated for that. He has worked very hard and
made many sacrifices to earn that success and to enjoy the rewards
that go along with it.
funny thing is… in trying to organize my thoughts while assembling
this piece, two words kept coming back to me, and neither one
seemed to involve being on a stage.
and I met in December of 2010, during a run of shows with Legends
in Concert. Our paths would cross every so often over the course
of the month, and we discussed the possibility of working on a
few projects. Ultimately those discussions developed here at In
My Backpack into this interview and a photo gallery. (And I hope
that they may develop into even more endeavors in the future.)
those days, I began hearing about a routine he was following where
he would finish a show on Sunday afternoon and then head home
to enjoy some of that evening and the day off with his family
before returning on Tuesday.
this man delivers an incredible tribute performance as Neil Diamond.
From the first lyrics he sings, he will capture an audience and
hold them spellbound and dazzled. His voice is amazing, and his
talents run deep.
thing is… I can’t shake the feeling that if you asked Tom what
he is most proud of, his professional career wouldn’t be an immediate
answer. Instead, I’m convinced you’d hear him talk about being
a husband, a father and a grandfather. Heck… quick side story,
and this is 100% accurate…
was raised in Pennsylvania. He literally went around the world,
part of that proudly serving in the United States Navy, before
returning to Pennsylvania. And it was after leaving his small
town origins, going around the world, and then returning to his
home state that he met his wife. Marion also comes from a small
Pennsylvania town. She is an important part of his life, and a
significant contributor to his professional career as well.
home. That’s a major part of understanding Tom.
since we met, Tom has stayed in contact with me. We speak perhaps
once a month or so. Not necessarily long calls… at times just
to say hello, catch up on a few recent events, and promise to
speak again soon. In a very real way, enough to know that someone
is thinking of you and wanted to see how you were doing.
that combination of words that I think defines Tom quite well.
He’s thoughtful, considerate and personable. He cares. He places
a high value on his family and friends, and through little gestures
he lets you know he remembers you and appreciates your part in
was my sincere pleasure to get to know Tom, and I am proud to
consider him a friend. I hope through this effort I can share
a bit of what makes him so special… and perhaps encourage you
to get out and see him perform should you ever have the chance
to do so.
note – This interview is a result of several conversations and
e-mails. Portions were conducted in December of 2010. Tom has
since performed with several productions as a part of Legends
in Concert casts. Over the years, he has been a member of notable
production efforts throughout North America. And he often also
performs his tribute efforts internationally and on cruise ships.)
~ ~ ~
story of Tom Sadge performing his tribute shows actually begins
long before his work as a tribute artist. We need to go back about
three decades professionally, and even a bit before that to get
a glimpse of his entertainment origins…
hails from a town all of us have heard of before… Avoca. That
would be Avoca, Pennsylvania. (For those looking to find Avoca,
you need to use reference points such as Pittston, Scranton, and
perhaps even the New York state line.) It was there that growing
up he would sing in the glee club at school, while also receiving
encouragement from his mother – a very talented singer in her
serving in the U.S. military and traveling a bit along the east
coast, Tom returned to his home state and began to carve out a
place for himself in the entertainment world. He worked as a DJ
and performed in local bars and clubs. Over time, he developed
a steady and loyal following.
singing voice allowed him to cover a great deal of ground during
shows. He was known for singing songs made famous by Frank Sinatra,
Tony Bennet, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. The reaction to his
performances was more than delight and applause, as audiences
also were stunned by the range of his voice and his ability to
sing the songs virtually note for note exactly like the original
particular, his looks matched up nicely with Englebert Humperdinck
and Neil Diamond. And when he would deliver renditions of songs
by either of these performers, he would leave on-lookers amazed.
gift for singing and abilities to do incredible vocal impressions
worked well with his efforts as a DJ. He became known as a singing
DJ, and he even plays an interesting game modeled around his talents.
The game is based on a stump-the-caller idea, where a contestant
will be asked whether the music played is Tom Sadge singing or
a clip of Neil Diamond. It has almost always been Tom singing…
and the contestant almost always loses when they guess it’s Neil.
has at times performed a tribute act as Engelbert Humperdinck
that has been endorsed by Engelbert. He has even opened concerts
for Engelbert, as well as Kool and the Gang and many others. And
to this day, he continues to offer The Tom Sadge Show as a live
Tom himself says: “It always came back to Neil though.” And for
our story, we have arrived at the time frame of 1995 to 1996.
wife, Marion, had learned about a production show called Legends
in Concert that featured tribute performances for well-known
celebrities. Tom’s parents had also returned from Las Vegas, where
they personally saw several tribute acts. Those around him were
providing evidence and encouragement that the looks didn’t need
to be perfect… the voice, the mannerisms, and in essence the full
package was to be considered. And of the package, it was the voice
that mattered the most. For Tom, his speaking and singing voices
are dead-on Neil Diamond.
and Tom decided to craft a full tribute show based on Neil Diamond.
They took a year to make costumes, watch performances, rehearse
Tom’s mannerisms, and overall perfect Tom’s approach. While perhaps
only slightly more than vaguely similar in facial features, the
entire combination of his voice, stage presence, and visual appearance
is remarkable. In 1997, Tom brought the “Tom Sadge As Neil Diamond”
to a concert at the University of Western Ontario. He’s been busy
quickly caught on with a touring group called Legends Alive!
Tom was the only American member of this primarily Canadian cast
and crew. Since then, he has been a part of production shows while
also successfully delivering full sets with his own band. He frequently
performs at large venues throughout America and Canada, and has
several times performed in Europe.
credits the Neil Diamond performances for providing some of the
most exciting moments of his career. And, he is thrilled about
how much of his work involves Marion. Often while he travels,
she is making arrangements for the next shows, answering requests,
phone calls and e-mails, and generally handling the off-stage
end of their business.
Tom, everything begins and ends at home. And the successes of
his efforts are that much sweeter because they involve his family.
~ ~ ~
you going to be bringing “Sweet Caroline” to our stage?
I have to around here, don’t I?
it will be great performing it. I’ve sung that song in New England
before, in fact not too far from here in New London for a baseball
game. And then there was a game up in Portland where I came out
and sang it. It’s got a great connection with the audience and
is a lot of fun. I’m also going to do “I’m a Believer,” which
most of the kids know from the Shrek movies.
that kind of recognition for the material really helps, since
every element of the show combines to create that Legends
atmosphere. Do I look exactly like Neil Diamond? No. I don’t.
But when an audience is familiar with the material, it helps me
make that connection because I’ve done my homework and practice
on the moves, and I have a good voice.
long have you been with Legends?
is my first run with Legends in Concert, and I’m very
proud to be working with them. They are a group of true professionals,
and everything is really good. I hope it’s the beginning of a
is the biggest draw for you to the stage and entertainment as
biggest draw to the stage is that I like to please people. My
talent makes that possible.
is in my blood. My mother sang as a young woman and had aspirations
– and offers – to make singing her career but ended up opting
for family life.
me a bit about music in your family. I know your mother influenced
you… has that love of music and performing been passed down to
of our children are musically inclined. Fred, my 27 year old son,
plays both the guitar and keyboards in addition to being a very
good vocalist. He likes to sing like Johnny Cash, not Neil Diamond.
Fred’s been in working bands for most of the past 13 years.
Our daughter, Therese, is talented, as well. She plays the guitar,
ukulele and is now taking on the piano/keyboards. She has a very
amazing voice – quite unlike any other popular singer.
of the kids inherited an athletic ability from my wife's side,
kind of background brought you into working as a tribute artist?
had been disc jockey for about twenty years. As part of that,
I developed a lot of characters and impersonations. (At this point,
Tom stopped his answer and offered a dead-on rendition of Rodney
Dangerfield: “Well I tell ya, I get no respect.”)
Sinatra and Englebert Humperdinck were other impersonations I
did, and I’ve even performed with Englebert before as well.
always came back to Neil though. When I spoke and when I sang,
I kept getting told I sounded just like him.
stunned by all of it. Sometimes I feel like I do need to pinch
myself to make sure it’s real. And one of the great things for
me is being able to work so closely with my wife on it. She does
the web site for us, and every day is just great.
me through a bit of your work as a singer. When did it begin in
general for you? And, how did your work performing specifically
as a tribute artist develop?
professional singing career began during my late teens when I
left home and went to New England with a band. I just continued
on from there eventually performing as a Singing DJ during the
eighties and nineties.
that time I was much in demand as a mobile DJ who sang the voices
of not only Neil Diamond but Sinatra, Elvis, Engelbert and a few
the mid-nineties my wife suggested I focus more on the Neil Diamond
voice and look. Around that same time, my parents had gone out
to Las Vegas and they came back with all sorts of information
about celebrity tributes they had seen. It was really encouraging
for me because I thought you had to be a perfect look-alike to
perform like this. The reality is the look-alikes don’t always
perform. They go to meetings and shake hands. To be successful
on stage it’s the entire package, from stage presence to the vocal
abilities to connecting with the people watching you. And when
it works, it’s an amazing thing.
worked very hard on putting the package together before I debuted
the “Tom Sadge As Neil Diamond” act in late 1997. I’ve never looked
are some of the challenges you’ve faced that you weren’t expecting?
Were there other elements that surprised you along the way? Any
crazy or funny stories you might be willing to share?
there are always challenges and unexpected things that happen.
One time I actually stepped off the stage at the Sands. The proper
marks were not on the stage and I was blinded by the spotlights.
It was a bit scary to feel nothing under my feet but, amazingly,
I landed in between the stage and front seats.
you find that you have a knack for picking up voices of other
people? I know Neil Diamond is the one you keep coming back to…
but it seems like you have a very diverse group of people and
your impersonations of them all are incredible.
voices has always come easily to me. I’ve always mimicked others
and loved entertaining people with this talent.
first time my wife and I met was during the period where I was
singing as others and DJing. That first night she listened to
me perform Engelbert Humperdinck, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond,
Frank Sinatra and a few others. She later confessed that during
the first few weeks of dating she was determined to learn how
the “trick microphone” worked because she didn’t believe that
any one singer could sound “so much like all those great singers.”
We still laugh about that trick microphone.
Diamond, in my opinion, has a different kind of material than
many singers and songwriters. Not sure if I can explain it, but
if you look at his work in the movie The Jazz Singer…
or consider such great songs as “I Am… I Said” or “Forever In
Blue Jeans”… it feels not only as if autobiographical for him,
but almost biographical in so many ways for all of us. He really
seems to connect with the feelings all of us share. The good,
the bad, the everyday, and so on. And his lyrics are incredible
(“Love on the Rocks” being a terrific example of this). Just a
great songwriter. What is it about his material that appeals to
also believe that most of Neil’s compositions are autobiographical.
He’s gone on record saying as much, and has called “Brooklyn Roads”
the most personal of all his autobiographical material.
if you research, you’ll find that just about all of his songs
have a very personal inspiration. For example “Beautiful Noise”
was inspired by a phrase his then very young daughter used to
describe the sound of Manhattan traffic far below the Sherry-Netherland’s
hotel room where the Diamond family stayed on a regular basis.
think I enjoy performing Neil’s music because each song does tell
a story about a particular time and situation in life which we
all seem to experience at some point.
are some of the most memorable moments you’ve had in performing?
And, what are some of the things people have said to you after
a show that have been special or memorable for you?
just one memorable moment isn’t possible for me because there
have been so many during my performances.
say the most memorable thing anyone has ever said to me came from
Neil Diamond himself during a performance at State College in
2002. I was in the front row and had been performing as him for
about 5 years already. I knew he knew who I was and of my work
because his band members had seen me perform on at least one occasion,
and I’d heard they’d carried the word back to him. Well, during
the State College show Neil spotted me, bent over, held the microphone
down and allowed me to sing a few bars of “Forever in Blue Jeans,”
and then shouted to the audience, “This guy sounds just like me.”
I’ll never forget the thrill of hearing his approval in front
of 20,000 people from my home state.
actually had a chance to meet Neil on three different occasions
since then, and he’s a very nice guy.
you find when speaking to people after a show that they have a
certain connection to specific songs or your performance?
dedicated Neil fans have a favorite song or two. Often it’s a
song that reminds them of a landmark event in their life – falling
in love, for example. Sometimes people tell me a Neil song helped
them weather a rough patch in their life.
are some of your favorite songs to perform?
Caroline” is a favorite of mine to perform because there is always
audience recognition from the first notes and, more importantly,
people – even young people – love to sing along with the song
and also fill in with the “so good, so good, so good” after I
sing those words. It’s a lot of fun.
also love “America” because it touches the lives of most audience
members as well. It makes a great finale song.
there a certain period of Neil’s career that you feel more closely
enjoy the music from The Jazz Singer and beyond era.
Is it possible to swing into a version of “Mr. Bojangles”
(a Jerry Jeff Walker classic that Neil has recorded)? Obviously
between the writing he’s done for himself and others, there’s
plenty of material to select a set list from. I’m just wondering
if there are some favorites of yours that an audience might not
be expecting, will be happy to hear, and you can weave them in
and out of rotation to change things up every so often.
normally stick to the Neil classics. That’s what the audience
kinds of things do you do to keep your performance fresh and exciting
don’t really need to do much to keep it fresh. Every audience
is a new one and that makes it an exciting and new experience
every time I perform.
kinds of differences do you find in audiences? In one respect,
I’m wondering about when you may be part of a show and one of
five or so tribute artists performing. Also though, you’ve experienced
a tremendous range of performing venues, including being on cruise
ships and also traveling internationally.
tribute show with other impersonators usually comes with an audience
that is easy to please. After all, there are up to five other
impersonators so you don’t carry the whole responsibility of a
good show entirely on your shoulders.
most challenging audiences tend to be an audience made up of mostly
of the very young – people in their teens and twenties. Mainly
I find that this age is not familiar with the majority of Neil’s
hits from 1966 thru the early 80s, and mostly want to hear only
the mega-hits such as “Sweet Caroline” and “America.”
someone asked you for advice in pursuing a musical career, what
are some of the things you feel would be important for them to
know or do?
for those contemplating a career? Make sure you really want this
because there is a lot more hard work behind the scenes, a lot
of time on the road, and a lot of rejection before you finally
get your career in gear.
I’d say remember who you are and where you came from. All the
applause will end someday, so make sure you nurture those in your
personal life as well as building a following of fans.
how many shows do you perform each year? And what can we expect
to see from you in the next year or so (and how can people keep
track of where you’re performing)?
schedule can be different from year to year. Sometimes I will
be heavily booked for private shows (birthday parties, conventions,
etc.) to which the general public is not invited. Other times
I may be busy performing for weeks at a time in a production show,
and those usually involve about 6 shows per week. So the number
of shows I perform each year varies.
instance, if I have a year where I perform regularly in a production
show – which I have done in the past – those six shows each week
can be for an average of two weeks out of every month, or roughly
about 156 performances during a busy year. And that’s without
doing some of my own shows or private dates.
the private shows are almost always not advertised, it’s not possible
to tell people exactly where they can catch my show. The best
thing to do is to visit my site, www.TomSadge.com,
because Marion keeps a blog and frequently mentions upcoming public
~ ~ ~
to express my gratitude to Tom (and Marion) for all of their help
with this project is just next to impossible. We had been taking
our time in developing it, when all of a sudden I spotted a potential
deadline I hoped to make. Their response? To provide anything
and everything I needed to make certain I made my deadline.
are a terrific couple, and terrific people. I hope you’ll take
the time to seek Tom out and catch one of his shows. If you can
with a group like Legends in Concert, fantastic. See
if you can find a full show from Tom though… I guarantee you will
happy you did.
official web site of Tom Sadge
Tom Sadge photo gallery at In My Backpack