We’re so sorry to hear the news that Thom Bresh has passed away.
Among the many hats he wore, Thom (The biological son of legendary guitarist/entertainer Merle Travis) was one of the world’s great fingerstyle guitarists, a wonderful humorist and storyteller, an incredible photographer and a man who lived life to the fullest and left you knowing you’d just spent time with someone special.
So, if he was the biological son of Merle Travis, then why the last name Bresh? Because he was raised by Bud Bresh who ran an outdoor movie lot in California.
We’d both been fans of “The Breshman” for a long time and saw him onstage, in 2003, as part of Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night tribute to Les Paul, at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. However, since most of our time on that day was spent backstage with Les, we didn’t have the chance to meet Thom.
One of my favorite Thom Bresh memories is the night, a few years ago, after Johnnie and I had spent an evening at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society convention, in Nashville. Johnnie was still inside the hotel and I went out for some fresh air and came upon Thom sitting at a round table just outside the main entrance hanging with some fans and fellow guitarists, playing guitar. I stayed off to the side and just watched this incredible talent playing, singing and telling stories for this small, informal, but completely enthralled audience. At one point, he reached back into his mental jukebox and pulled out some favorites from the 30s and 40s. I’ve seen enough live performances to know when an artist is really into the moment … and Thom really was. And, from the smiles all around that table, everyone else was, too.
There had been a number headline worthy performers and performances on the schedule at the convention that day, but none more special than what was happening as things wrapped up and the sun went down on this little informal gathering outside the building, around that table.
I didn’t want to interrupt what was going on, but I couldn’t help feeling like a kid in a candy store when Johnnie walked up with our dear friend Doyle Dykes. Doyle was a long time friend of Thom’s and made the introductions.
After that night we stayed in touch and, after having been on our “wish list” for some time, finally, in 2019 Thom accompanied Muriel Anderson and joined us on WGN Radio for some wonderful conversation and live performances on a show we’ll never forget.
As he frequently did, a few days later, Thom posted a video documenting his Thanksgiving trip to Chicago with Muriel and Bryan Allen, including our show.
As much as we and anyone else who was fortunate enough to come into his orbit, even for a short period of time, are feeling the loss, we do know that there are some great stories and jokes being told in Heaven right now … accompanied by some incredible guitar playing.
R.I.P. Thom Bresh.
Thank you Steve and Johnnie for introducing me to wonderful people. That is your best talent and it has enhanced my life many times. Your post makes me happy that Thom was alive. Thank you.
Nice write up. I saw the exact scene you described at CASS, the round tables, Bresh holding court, playing tunes, though it may have been a different year. That was also a memorable day in the studio with you, Johnnie, Muriel, and Bresh. He was quite the character and had an interesting life, worthy of a book. He was working on an autobiography at one point I know. The two of us went out for breakfast several times or, because photography was our common bond, would go on a photo safari around town. The stories he told…. I will miss him.
Thom was one of my first friends in Nashville. We shared countless fajita dinners, laughs, tunes and stories. Nashville won’t be quite the same without him.
Thank you Steve and Johnnie for your thoughtful words about our friend.