Tommy Z

Tommy Z is a contemporary blues/rock artist and radio host from Buffalo, NY who has been described as a "blues treasure" (Jim Santella, Buffalo News), and "one of WNY's best kept secrets" (Sarah French, Blues Matters Magazine). He is a guitar-driven, electric blues-based stylist onstage, but in the studio composes a variety of music. Experienced and versed in traditional blues, jazz, funk and rock styles, he is an artist who puts that soulful blues feeling into all the different music he performs or creates. His work and talent has been recognized with numerous awards over the years, including being voted Top Blues Vocalist in Western New York 2003/2004/2006, Top Blues Guitarist 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 2004, 2005, 2006 and his band has won the Top Blues/Crossover Blues Band categories 1994, 2005, 2006, and was honored with the Muddy Waters Award for "Artist of the Year" by the Blues Society of WNY in 2004 and 2024. In 2007 Tommy was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, recognizing him alongside some of the best talent come out of WNY (including Rick James, The Goo Goo Dolls, Billy Sheehan, etc.). He has had the opportunity to perform, write, record and/or co-bill with some of the world's top artists in the blues/rock genre including: B.B. King (and daughter Shirley), Buddy Guy (2023 Farewell Tour guest), Tom Hambridge, Johnny Winter, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Cray, Jeff Healey, Colin James, Tinsley Ellis, Roomful of Blues, Blues Traveler, Derek Trucks, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph, Peter Frampton, Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Carey Bell, John Mayall, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tommy Castro, Duke Robillard, Elvin Bishop, Eric Gales and many more. His first initiation to national touring was backing up Grammy-winning blues pianist Pinetop Perkins (Muddy Waters Band), who is credited as indirectly influencing rock-n-roll itself via Ike Turner (Rocket 88). Tommy has come a long way from playing the top bars and music venues in Buffalo to being an international and US festival headliner.

The son of a Vietnam-era veteran, he brought a taste of home to US troops overseas starting im 2003 with blues-based concert tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Djibouti, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Turkey, Guam, Alaska and other distant locales on behalf of USO/AFE. Rolling Stone Magazine called some of these locations "The most dangerous gigs on Earth." Tommy contributed guitar tracks to Deep Purple vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ian Gillan's album "Gillan's Inn" on the track "When A Blind Man Cries." This also featured blues-rock legend Jeff Healey and Deep Purple's Jon Lord. 

In 2004 an album entitled "Universal Love" was recorded with Canadian engineer/producer Nick Blagona (BeeGees, Chicago, Police). It was described as "soul-rockin' blues" by Bob Putignano, NYC Blues Society President and Sounds of Blue DJ (WFDU), "awesome" by Bob Silvestri (Best of WNY) and "should feature high on your list of 'new' acts to investigate" (Mick Rainsford, Blues in Britain Magazine). He's been featured/mentioned in industry magazines such as Fender's Frontline, Mix Magazine, Blues Matters, Blues Blast, Blues Music Magazine (Germany), Blues-E-News, Jazz/Blues Florida and Guitar Edge Magazine, etc.

In addition to his performance schedule, Tommy is a Canisius College graduate (BA Communication), guitar teacher, and between albums as an artist he has spent much of his creative time as composer/producer for Film, TV, Sports, etc. His film/TV credits include writing the victory song for the St. Louis Blues (NHL), Red Hot Chili Peppers Biography, Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure (iTunes #1 indie film), Last Comic Standing (NBC), TLC's Stager Invasion, Animal Planet's Swamp Wars (main title), Bravo's Chef Roble and Co., Discovery Channel's Biker Live, America's Top Model, Insane Pools/Off the Deep End, Bad Chad Customs, Wheeler Dealers, Four Wheeler, Nickelodeon's Casagrandes, Outdaughtered the award-winning film “Everyone is Welcome” and others.

Following that film/TV based work, in 2013 Tommy focused on making his own music as an artist again and released the album "Sometimes" which built upon and garnered considerably more national and international attention than "Universal Love." It made both the Roots Music Report Top 50 Blues Airplay charts, overseas blues charts in France, Australia, etc. and was accepted for the first round of voting for Best Blues Album at the Grammy's for that year (Blizzard of Blues was also subsequently accepted). It received glowing reviews in such publications as American Blues Scene, Blues Rock Review, and many more. Then in 2015 (and again in 2019, 2023) the band was invited to be the international headliner for the Cali Blues and Folk Festival in Colombia, South America for nearly two weeks of concerts and master classes which were extremely well received. The band's contributions to the Cali festival via helped earn it a prestigious Blues Music Award from the Blues Foundation in Memphis, TN in 2019. Also in 2015 Tommy was hired as a blues radio host/DJ by the NPR/WNED affiliated station WBFO 88.7 FM. He now has his own 24/7 blues radio station called WBLZ, Blizzard of Blues Radio

The follow-up album, "Blizzard of Blues," was released in the Winter of 2016. Two weeks before the official release date it debuted as the #1 Blues Rock Album (Roots Music Report) where it spent eight straight months on the RMR airplay charts. On the day of release it shot up onto iTunes Top 10 Blues Chart while being a featured iTunes album and then it debuted on the Billboard Blues Top 10 Album Chart at #8 alongside such greats as Billy Gibbons, Gary Clark Jr., Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Tedeschi/Trucks, etc. It was the only release by an unsigned independent artist on the chart. The reviews and accolades and chart positions continued to pile up for "BoB" including a debut on the Feb. 2016 Living Blues Radio Chart (#14).
In the Summer of 2018, Beth Hart had a short term medical issue which forced her to cancel an appearance in Buffalo opening for Kenny Wayne Shepherd. When names were being tossed around the KWS tour bus for a replacement, it was Chris "Whipper" Layton, legendary drummer for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, who spoke up and said,"I know him (Tommy Z), call those guys." It turned out to be one of the most epic Canalside concerts ever. 2018 (and 2019) concluded with the Tommy Z Band as the headliner of the Buffalo Ball Drop.  It is the 2nd largest ball drop in the country with upwards of 40,000 in attendance and widespread TV coverage.  They were scheduled to perform a third time, but it was cancelled over the virus scare. 
With a festival headliner in Denmark, the 2nd tour of Colombia and adds as support to dates for Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan, 2019 showed no signs of slowing down until the pandemic hit. Fortunately Tommy went down to Nashville just prior to it in Jan. of 2020 to work on tracks with 4 time Grammy-winning producer/writer/drummer Tom Hambridge. They worked through the lockdowns via the internet to finish recording, mix and master the follow up to "BoB" called, "Plug In and Play." In under two weeks from its release date it had already racked up #1 Blues/Rock album for airplay, #1 Hot New Release Seller on Amazon for Electric Blues, #5 on the Billboard Blues Chart (heatseeker award that week) and #5 on iTunes US Blues chart (the song "Sticky Lips" went as high as #3 and the album #4 on Australia's iTunes Blues Chart). Subsequently it was featured on XM Sirius BB King's Bluesville's Rack of Blues countdown for three consecutive weeks.  The song "Tommy Guns" co-written with Hambridge/Fleming was also named an honorable mention winner in the blues category of the International Songwriting Competition.  Between all of TZ's albums, he's been added to over 3,300 Spotify playlists alone. 

Photo by Michael Beck

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