Montana Public Radio

Tom Engelmann

Host and Producer

Tom Engelmann produces "Unsung Heroes, Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music." The series features biographical sketches and the music of artists who often work behind the scenes or in support of major musicians. 

Tom supports Montana Public Radio's jazz programming and occasionally hosts Freeforms. 

Tom’s “heroes” have included composer and arranger Bobby Scott, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, songwriter Hoyt Axton, harmonica player and producer Norton Buffalo, songwriter Doc Pomus, Tonight Show band arranger Tommy Newsom, saxophonist and Springsteen pal Clarence Clemons, bassist and producer Felix Pappalardi, songwriter Nick Ashford, the trumpet playing Candoli Brothers, guitarist and teacher Mickey Baker, guitarist Hugh McCracken, producer Phil Ramone, songwriter J.J. Cale, composer and arranger Clare Fischer, composer and producer Cowboy Jack Clement, composer and vocalist Laura Nyro, saxophonist Bobby Keys and trumpeter Lew Soloff.  

"Unsung Heroes" can be heard as part of Montana Public Radio’s Monday Music Special.

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If Donna Summer was the "Queen of Disco" it could very well be that the "King of Disco" was English musician, composer and arranger Rod Temperton. Starting with the disco group "Heatwave," Temperton went on to work with artists like Quincy Jones, George Benson and Michael Jackson. And yes, he also wrote for Donna Summer.

Join Tom Engelmann as he hangs the disco ball and boogies down to the songs of Rod Temperton on another edition of Unsung Heroes, Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music.

Tune in Monday, Sept. 9 at 8 p.m. on your radio or online.

Flickr user, Gary Ell. CC-BY-2.0

In many ways he was the beat of the Sixties, playing on recordings by Elvis, Sinatra, and thousands of others. He drummed for The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Mamas and the Papas and jazz great Gerry Mulligan. In the 1960s and 1970s, Hal Blaine is said to have played on over 35,000 recordings. He was hailed by recording industry insiders, but remained practically unknown to everyone else.

He started out with artists like Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, played for Ray Charles and was a major influence on composer and arranger Maria Schneider. He was originally a pianist for dance bands in the 1940s but Bob Brookmeyer was first recognized as a valve trombonist. An original member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, he went on write advanced arrangements for the Mel Lewis band and eventually for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Along the way, Bob played piano with Bill Evans and was in the house band for the Merv Griffin television show.

He was a keyboardist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. During a career spanning six decades, Clare Fischer worked with jazz artists like George Benson and pop icons like Prince and Robert Palmer and recorded in a wide variety of settings from solo piano to heading a vocal-dominated Latin group, Salsa Picante. When he had time-off he composed some memorable jazz standards like “Pensativa” and “Morning.”

Tune in at 8 p.m., Monday, March 4 to listen to the works of this amazing musician, on another edition of “Unsung Heroes, Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music.”

A 1965 publicity photo of  John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney of the Beatles with producer George Martin in the studio at Abbey Road.

He was the fifth Beatle, but you’d never know it. He was a Knight of the British Empire, but you probably didn’t know that either. He was Sir George Martin and he worked on over 400 recordings by artists from the Beatles to Celine Dion.

Join Tom Engelmann to enjoy the recordings of this under-appreciated producer and arranger on another edition of “Unsung Heroes, Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music." Tune in on your radio or online, Monday, July 30 at 8 p.m. on Montana Public Radio.

The chances are pretty good that if a country record had some distinctive guitar licks on it, anytime from the early '50s through the 1970s, they were played by Grady Martin.

Mundell Lowe in Saarbrücken 2000.
Walter Gehring (CC-BY-3)

For artists as different as the Everly Brothers and Benny Goodman, Mundell Lowe was a true unsung hero. He provided both rhythm and lead guitar for performers like Billie Holiday, Rosemary Clooney, Sarah Vaughan and even Johnny Ray.

Known as “Mundy” in the business, he was a composer, arranger and orchestral director and raconteur and contributed to the soundtracks of some prominent motion pictures and television shows including “Rawhide,” “Peter Gunn,” and even Woody Allen’s “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex.” His career lasted some astounding 80 years.

Drum set.

Joe Fields was an American producer and record executive, active mainly in jazz music He co-founded Cobblestone Records in 1972, and soon after founded Muse Records. In 1996 Fields and his son Barney co-founded High Note Records, which is still actively producing and issuing jazz recordings. Artists associated with Joe Fields over the years include Houston Person, Pat Martino, Etta Jones and Red Rodney.

Join host Tom Engelmann Monday January 22 at 8 p.m. as he presents the productions of jazz entrepreneur Joe Fields on another edition of “Unsung Heroes: Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music,”

Most music listeners don’t realize that there really was a “Mr. Tambourine Man” behind Bob Dylan’s famous song. His name was Bruce Langhorne and he was one of the most important session guitarists of the 1960s, particularly in the early years of folk-rock. He was most famous for accompanying Bob Dylan, but he also played on the recordings of Tom Rush, Richard & Mimi Fariña, Richie Havens, Gordon Lightfoot, Eric Andersen, Joan Baez, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. He even wrote scores for some successful motion pictures. Enjoy the music of this under-appreciated folk hero on another edition of “Unsung Heroes, Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music,” on MTPR Monday October 9 at 8 p.m.

Tommy LiPuma produced memorable recordings by Barbara Streisand, Dave Mason, Paul McCartney and Willie Nelson.  And he started out as a barber! 

Join Tom Engelmann Monday July 24 at 8 p.m. as he explores the colorful career of Tommy LiPuma on another edition of “Unsung Heroes, Influential but Overlooked Masters of Modern Music.”