Upstairs at Charlie's
The youngest of seven kids in a tight-knit family in Columbus, Ohio, Corbett was only 11 years old when he commandeered an old Vega banjo-mandolin his dad picked up at a garage sale, and he's never been the same since. He began picking on old-time standards and absorbing the sounds of newgrass mando gods. The Holy Trinity of bluegrass may be Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, but in the Church of Mandolin According to Corbett, it's more like Monroe, Sam Bush and David Grisman. Those seminal influences can still be heard in his thoughtful, inventive playing. After auditing a few college music theory classes and studying mandolin with Rob Griffin in Columbus, Corbett moved to Sebastopol in Northern California, playing in his brother Jim's swing band and taking lessons from Mike Marshall (a former Grisman sideman), Tiny Moore (who apprenticed with Bob Wills and Merle Haggard) and Frank Wakefield. Moving to the Los Angeles area, he did the obligatory stint in Disneyland's bluegrass band and also played at Sea World with Billy Ray Lathum (Kentucky Colonels, Laurel Canyon Ramblers). Corbett gained considerable attention in West Coast music circles during his three-year residency with the acclaimed Acousticats, whose smooth blend of folk, bluegrass and acoustic swing was a hit on the festival circuit. He contributed three songs to their 1994 album The Cat's Meow. Renowned multi-instrumentalist and former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band mainstay, John McEuen subsequently invited Corbett to play in his backup band, the String Wizards. That high-profile work led to other stints accompanying artists like singer Jennifer Warnes. Corbett continues to be active on L.A.'s acoustic music scene, playing mandolin and guitar with numerous acts onstage and in the studio; He also recorded several tracks on Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness's rootsy solo album Cheating at Solitaire. As Mike Marshall remarked upon hearing Upstairs at Charlie's, 'Nice work, Tom. Always beautifully tasteful mandolin playing - but man, I didn't know you could sing that purdy too!'