Famed Southern Rock guitarist, songwriter, and Capricorn session player Tommy Talton passed away Dec. 28th after a hard-fought battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.
A beloved and brilliant guitar picker, Talton is best known for co-founding the Capricorn Records group Cowboy along with Scott Boyer. From 1971-1977, the group recorded four albums under the legendary label banner: Reach For The Sky (1970), 5’ll Getcha Ten (1971), Boyer and Talton: Cowboy (1974), and Cowboy (1977).
Talton’s other musical contributions to the Southern Rock canon are immeasurable. During his time in Macon, Georgia throughout the 1970s, he also appeared as a highly sought-after session player on works from Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Billy Joe Shaver, Bonnie Bramlett, Clarence Carter, Johnny Rivers, and a host of other notable artists.
“Rest in peace, Tommy: friends, brothers, and guitar slingers since we first met in 1979.” – Jack Pearson
He toured extensively throughout the U.S. with his band Cowboy and on Gregg Allman’s Laid Back Tour and even as one of Allman’s special guests from Carnegie Hall to the Fillmore West and everywhere in between. Talton was the guitarist on Gregg Allman’s monumental certified-Gold solo album Laid Back.
“I just heard my dear friend and musical partner Tommy Talton has passed. He was truly one of the bravest and most compassionate people I’ve ever known. His struggle with cancer was epic, but he never lost his positive attitude or his sense of humor. The world is a better place with the gifts of his music and spirit . . . I’ll miss you always, Tommy T. Play on.” – Randall Bramblett
Talton began his musical career in Central Florida in 1966 as a founding member of a group called “We The People.” Recording with RCA Victor Records, the group had several top ten hits throughout Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky. They garnered much critical acclaim and are still considered to be one of the most beloved and respected “garage band” genre groups of the era.
Talton’s turn of phrase and unparalleled work ethic in crafting songs earned him the deepest respect of his peers and critics alike over the years. Hittin’ the Note magazine co-founder Joe Bell called Talton, “the greatest songwriter I’ve ever known, both in quality and in quantity. His songs today are absolutely just as good as in his early days – in fact better, really,” he said in a chat with Mercer University last year as Talton and his pals Chuck Leavell, Randall Bramblett, Charlie Hayward, Bill Stewart, and Rick Hirsch gathered back at Capricorn Studios to record Talton’s epic anthology of songs.
“He’s got a perspective of wisdom in all this, and the things that he writes about are intimately connected to his personal life,” Bell noted.
Talton’s personal life was as robust as his professional world. He was a proud and doting husband, father, and friend with a kind spirit that touched everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him.
His is a prolific and powerful legacy that will never be forgotten. Even in his living years, Talton was able to feel the full measure of his musical impact on others. Talton shared a story with Mercer in that same chat, where he recalled meeting a fan after Cowboy’s first album, Reach For The Sky, had just debuted on Capricorn Records.
“A young kid came up to me. I was only 22, and this kid must have been about 18, 19. And he was all shaking, nervous to talk to me, which was surprising to me right off the bat, but he said, ‘I wanted you to know that I have your album, and when I put that piece of plastic on my turntable, it means more to me than anything now because your lyrics have shown me a new way of looking at the world, and you have changed my life for the better,’” Talton said. “So, that’s pretty cool to be able to hear that you’ve done that for somebody. And that has happened many, many, many, many times throughout my life.”
Talton continued to tour and delight audiences until the very end. His music will live on forever and his memory will continue shining like a beacon of guidance for Southern Rock enthusiasts and future generations the world over.