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Thomas Owens

[Thomas Joseph ]

(b Milwaukee, May 20, 1931). American accordionist and musical equipment manufacturer. He began accordion lessons in Milwaukee at the age of 11 and from 1944 to 1949 studied the instrument in Chicago. Harry James heard him in a club in Milwaukee in 1951 and in January 1952 engaged him as a (non-jazz) soloist on his television show in Los Angeles. In 1955 Gumina left James to work independently, first as a soloist and later with his own group. From 1960 to 1965 he led a quartet with Buddy DeFranco which made several recordings; he also recorded with Willie Smith in 1965. During the 1960s he began using an electronically modified instrument capable of producing organ-like effects. He played at Donte’s, North Hollywood, with Art Pepper in 1974, but thereafter performed only intermittently, concentrating instead on running Polytone Musical Instruments (also in North Hollywood), a company he founded in ...