Suddenly, Tammy! was an alternative pop band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The three-piece used the same basic formula that Ben Folds Five would later use with much more success. Piano, bass, drums. No guitar.
Suddenly, Tammy! was formed in 1991 by siblings Beth (vocals, piano) and Jay (drums) Sorrentino and their high school friend Ken Heitmueller (bass). The Sorrentinos were raised in a musical household: their father was a jazz drummer and their mother was a singer. They had a recording studio in the family’s basement, and they used it to self-release a couple of EPs. They got a lot of airplay on college radio, and they ended up signing to the small label SpinART Records. Their self-titled debut was on that label, and they subsequently moved up to the big leagues and signed a multi-record deal with Warner Brothers Records. Unfortunately, it was wrong place and wrong time for them.
Although the band’s second record We Get There When We Do was well received by the press, Warner Brothers was going through a time of turmoil that had already been brewing for a couple of years.
Here’s a bit of a digression, but I promise that it’s germane to the post and it’s an important part of the history of major labels.
Some guy named Robert Morgado, who had no experience at all in the recording industry, had curried favor with some Warner executives and was appointed to a very high-ranking position in about 1990. This ruffled the feathers of longtime record producer and president of Warner Brothers Mo Ostin, who suddenly had to answer to a guy who knew a lot about politics but nothing about the business end of music. Ostin, by the way, is in the rock and roll hall of fame, and he signed a bunch of rock and roll giants like Jimi Hendrix, Prince, The Beach Boys, Van Halen, and Neil Young. He is still known as the most artist-friendly executive in the business. Naturally, Ostin didn’t take kindly to the johnny-come-lately, so he packed his bags and left as soon as his contract expired in January of 1995. It was a huge deal, especially since he took Lenny Waronker with him. Waronker was another well-respected artist-friendly executive with decades of experience. He was the son of Simon Waronker, who was also a record company executive and the inspiration for Simon the Chipmunk.
Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker went on to found DreamWorks Records.
Waronker, it should be pointed out, is also the father of Anna Waronker, who is the frontwoman of That Dog.
When Ostin and Waronker left Warner, a lot of their bands jumped ship, correctly fearing that Morgado would start buying out artist contracts and running the label into the ground. It was an ugly scene. Morgado, who became increasingly under fire for his mismanagement of the label, abruptly resigned in the spring of 1995. Under Ostin’s guidance, Warner was the most important label in the world, and some 18 years later, it still hasn’t fully recovered from the Morgado fiasco.
Suddenly, Tammy! was one of the casualties of the Morgado mistake. They had a third album —Comet— recorded and ready for a 1996 release It didn’t happen. The album was shelved by Warner and under Morgado’s guidance, the band was released from its contract. Soon after, they disbanded. That album did get an independent digital-only release in 2010, but I’ve never heard it. We’ll never know what would have happened to them if Morgado had never come along.
It had been a few years since I’ve really listened to Suddenly, Tammy!, but I woke up with today’s song in my head the other day.
This is that song:
“Supersonic” by Suddenly, Tammy
While there are other Suddenly, Tammy! songs that rock a little more and some on which Beth plays a more “classical” style of piano, I always really liked this one because of her heavy-handed jazz trio style of play. I don’t care much for bigger, brassy jazz, but I really appreciate jazz piano. Beth’s style was sometimes compared to the legendary pianist Vince Guaraldi of “Linus and Lucy”(Peanuts) fame, and that’s just fine with me.
I also love that this song has got some of that quiet/loud/quiet stuff. Everybody knows that I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.
And of course I like that it’s essentially about not being in a hurry.
We get there when we do
Since the band disbanded, Beth has stayed active. She taught music in NYC for a while. She’s also released three solo records including a new one this year.
You can buy We Get There When We Do from the Amazon store here.