North Texas Daily

No Bones About It

No Bones About It

August 15
10:29 2013

By Tyler Owens/Senior Staff

Even after almost five decades of playing music with some of the most famous artists and celebrities in the world, former first trombone in the One O’clock Lab Band Tom “Bones” Malone plays with the same passion that he did on day one.

After graduating from the university when it was known as North Texas State University with a psychology degree, Malone moved to New York City and played in the Saturday Night Live Band, became a member of the original Blues Brothers Band and has played in the CBS Orchestra on the Late Show with David Letterman for the past 20 years.

Lab band beginnings

Malone originally attended the University of Southern Mississippi before meeting Lab Band saxophonist Lou Marini, who eventually grew to be one of his lifelong best friends, at a jazz festival in Mobile, Ala., in the spring of 1967.

Marini convinced Malone to transfer to NTSU and he immediately found his spot in the One O’clock Lab Band.

To make money while in school, Malone, Marini, his roommate and Lab Band trumpeter Gary Grant and other band members would travel across Texas doing gigs and playing in big bands, only to turn around and return home the same night.

Malone said that everyone still had fun even though they took their playing very seriously while in school.

“I had a great time at North Texas though,” Malone said. “It was just sort of one big party, and somehow I ended up making good enough grades to get through.”

Playing with the greats

Malone graduated in 1969 and moved to New York in January 1970 to play with the band Ten Wheel Drive.

He moved to Los Angeles to play with legendary songwriter Frank Zappa in 1972, then joined the famous jazz-rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears with Marini the next year.

After doing studio work for a couple of years, he and Marini joined the Saturday Night Live Band, where Malone stayed for 10 years.

In 1980, Malone and Marini joined the Blues Brothers Band and appeared in the movie “The Blues Brothers,” starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

“At that point it was crazy because Belushi and Aykroyd were so popular and Saturday Night Live was so popular,” Marini said. “We were on the crest of an amazing wave. That was an amazing time to be out on the road together.”

Marini said he cherishes Malone’s friendship through their nearly 50 years of playing and touring together.

“We have a long history together,” Marini said. “It’s funny now to look back on it because when it’s happening you don’t really think of any kind of legacy. Looking back at all these years it’s truly amazing, really.”

Malone then joined musician Paul Shaffer, who he knew from his time at SNL and with the Blues Brothers, on the Late Show in 1993.

 James Riggs, Malone’s friend and former Lab Band saxophonist who taught saxophone at UNT for 38 years, said that while he and Malone played in the Fort Worth Stock Show band while in school, fellow band member Bill White began needling Malone, calling him “Broadway Tom” because of his impending move to New York.

Little did White know that Malone would live up to the nickname. Malone has been working at the Late Show, filmed in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway, for nearly two decades.

In addition to playing the trombone and other instruments in the bands, Malone has worked as the arranger for SNL, the Blues Brothers and the Late Show – writing the parts for each musician to play.

Malone also said that he has played on over 4,000 live television shows, over 1,000 records and CDs and over 3,000 radio and TV commercials, including all major airlines and automobile advertisements.

Deeper than “Bones”

Some people think that Malone’s most common nickname, “Bones,” comes from the simple fact that he plays the trombone, but that is not the case.

Malone said that while he was in high school, a friend gave him the name because of his tall, lanky stature.

However the name did not stick and it wasn’t until he joined the Blues Brothers that it reemerged.

“When we formed the Blues Brothers Band John Belushi said to us, ‘everyone has to have a middle name and if you can’t think of one yourself, we’ll think of one for you,’” Malone said. “So immediately I blurted out, ‘how about Tom ‘Bones’ Malone’ and he said that was fine.”

Malone said that he found the friend who coined his moniker at a high school reunion years later and thanked him for the nickname.

Family life

Malone was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1947. As a child, his father was a Navy pilot and Pearl Harbor survivor, so the family moved all over the country before settling down in a farm in Sumrall, Miss., when he was 11 years old.

Though he has traveled all over the world touring with various bands and musicians, Malone has stayed in New York for the majority of the past 43 years.

He lives with his wife, Sally Kravich, and has two daughters, two stepchildren and a granddaughter.

Malone has many instruments in his playing repertoire including variations of the trombone, trumpet, euphonium, saxophone and flugelhorn, among others, but he began by playing the violin when he was five years old. He gave that up after a few years and played tuba in the marching band in the seventh grade.

Lending a helping hand

Gary Grant, who played in the One O’clock Lab Band in 1968, became one of Malone’s best friends while at NTSU. Grant recalled, very fondly, the first time he ever met Malone.

“I noticed this curly haired first trombone player in front of me, tall and lanky guy,” Grant said. “And the first thing he did was shake my hand and say, ‘really nice to meet you.’ He made me feel so comfortable, so I nailed the audition. I always attributed it to Tom because he really got the jitters out of me.”

Grant has gone on to be a successful studio producer in Los Angeles, recording with famous artists like Michael Jackson and Aerosmith. He won the Latin Grammy last year for Best Tango Album for his production of Arturo Sandoval’s “Tango – Como Yo Te Siento.”

Grant said that almost everyone adores Malone for his dedication to playing and recording music.

These days, while he is not at work at the Late Show, Malone visits schools to inspire students.

“My advice always to the students is to think big because you only go around once in life,” Malone said. “Whatever it is you do, jump in there on all fours and do your best and be successful at it.”

Marini said that, like many of the musicians from that era, Malone still plays with a passion, which is why he inspires young musicians while playing every day at his dream job.

“There’s a characteristic that I and my dearest colleagues have in these later years of our lives,” Marini said. “And that is that all of the guys that I know and enjoy playing with have never lost the feeling of magic in music. Tom loves to play and he loves music.”

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