Tom King, Cleveland Rock Pioneer, Dies

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One of Cleveland’s key rock and roll pioneers, Tom King, died Saturday at the age of 68 in Wickliffe.

Tom King & the Starfires were one of a number of primarily instrumental combos that formed in the area in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and dominated the local club scene with their superlative chops. But they became better known as the Outsiders after signing a deal with Capitol Records in 1965 and changing their name to sound more contemporary in the post-British Invasion music scene. The Outsiders had a top 5 hit with “Time Won’t Let Me” in early 1966, a song co-written by King, and went on to release four albums for Capitol in less than three years.

Although the band broke up in 1968, both King and vocalist Sonny Geraci attempted to keep the Outsiders momentum going, and Geraci had a post-Outsiders hit with “Precious and Few” in 1971/1972. But the King-led Starfires/Outsiders were the most prominent Cleveland band to weather a decade’s worth of rapid-fire rock-music changes, bridging R&B-influenced ’50s rock, Beatlesque power pop, and even the psychedelic era. The band’s lineup over the years included more than two dozen top area musicians including James Gang founder Jimmy Fox and songwriter Walt Nims who penned “Precious and Few,” but King served as its anchor for a decade. — Anastasia Pantsios

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