Tommy Gillespie, who performs as Tommy G, is from Reidsville and originally came to Greenville in the early 1970s to study at ECU. He wound up at the core of the burgeoning popular music movement that in the late 1970s and 1980s flourished in Greenville, centered around the Treehouse for local music and the Attic for regional and national attractions.
Gillespie fronted several incarnations of bands–Tommy G and Company, the Tommy G Experience, the Gillespie-Hamer Band–that mostly performed his material, usually with arrangements by Grant “Wizard” Spry. “They were always my favorite band in town,” said Lightnin’ Wells, who moved to Greenville in 1976, also to study at ECU, and soon began performing solo shows at the Treehouse.
“There was this great music scene when I got to town,” said Wells. “The Treehouse was the place to meet. You had live music seven nights a week in a place where you could have decent food and catch up with all of your friends.”
Other regulars in the Tommy G bands included Amy Hazzard on saxophone and flute, Louis Cherry on guitar, and Vinnie Brooks on drums. “Mike [Hamer] started writing songs,” said Wells, “and that’s when it became the Gillespie-Hamer Band.”
Gillespie, however, made a clean break from playing music and left the area, and Hamer, in 1982, formed the Lemon Sisters and Rutabaga Brothers, which became one of the most popular dance bands in the region.
Gillespie, who re-located to Carrboro, began performing again in 2006, with both an acoustic show and an electric band, and his return to music performance and songwriting was greeted enthusiastically at performances in the Triangle. He played RAF for the first time on October 6, 2007, as part of singer-songwriter showcase.
Mike Hamer said of his former performing partner: “Tommy G is the best singer-songwriter in the state.”