Tom Shipley Bio


Pete Sefcik

  THOMAS SHIPLEY was born on April 1st, 1941 in Mineral Ridge, Ohio.  He grew up listening to early rock ‘n’ roll and played trumpet in high school.  He gave up his trumpet for guitar after hearing Pete Seeger and falling in love with folk music.  While in college Tom played "open mic" nights at various beatnik coffee houses.  After college he hit the road and played the American folk circuit including venues in Canada.

Tom first met his future musical partner Michael Brewer at the Blind Owl Coffee House in Kent, Ohio in 1964.   Over the next three years Tom and Michael occasionally crossed paths on the folk circuit.  When Tom drifted into L.A. in 1967 to check out the emerging west coast music scene, he looked up Michael and ended up renting a house around the corner from Michael's.  Tom's next door neighbor was Jimmy Messina.  Tom first recorded a single with Ruthann Friedman under the group name of The Garden Club, although the single failed to attract much attention.  Tom was splitting time writing songs with Friedman in David Crosby’s basement and also working on songs with Michael Brewer.

Michael already had a gig as a songwriter for Good Sam Music, a publishing offshoot of A&M records, and soon Tom was also hired as a staff writer for Good Sam.  As staff songwriters, Brewer & Shipley wrote songs that were recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Glenn Yarbrough, The Poor, H.P. Lovecraft,  Noel Harrison, and Bobby Rydell.  Their demo tapes for the publishing company exhibited such a sound and style of their own, that A&M suggested they record their songs themselves.  Their debut album Brewer & Shipley Down In L.A. was released in 1968 on A&M Records.  Jimmy Messina and Leon Russell were musicians on their first album.

Even with a debut album and  friends making it big in groups like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Association, Tom & Michael were fed up with life on the coast, so they left L.A. even before their album was released.  They made Kansas City, Missouri their new home, and with friends, formed a company named Good Karma Productions.  Brewer & Shipley were signed to a new recording contract with Buddha Records in New York City. They recorded four albums for that label Weeds,

photo: Pete Sefcik

  Tarkio, Shake Off The Demon, and Rural SpaceTarkio was a breakout album for Brewer & Shipley and contained the now classic rock anthem "One Toke Over The Line".  Eventually, they moved to Capitol Records and recorded two more albums ST11261 and Welcome To Riddle Bridge

In 1980, after more than a decade of writing, recording, traveling, and performing as a duo, Brewer and Shipley amicably parted company to pursue separate personal interests.  Tom became a television producer/director, eventually forming his own production company Tarkio Communications, which has done projects for industry, commercial television, and PBS. He later founded the Oral History of The Ozarks Project, a not-for-profit organization producing documentaries about life in the Missouri Ozarks.  He has produced several award winning documentaries. 

  In 1987, at the request of a Kansas City radio station, Brewer & Shipley reunited for a concert to celebrate the station's first birthday.  Unsure of what to expect after being out of the public eye for so long, the duo was overwhelmed as they walked on stage to over 10,000 cheering fans welcoming their return.  Having come full circle from their days as staff song writers for A&M Records, Brewer & Shipley began writing together again. Their first project was the soundtrack for Tom's award winning documentary "Treehouse - An Ozark Story".  They have since released two albums of new Brewer & Shipley material (Shanghai and Heartland) on their own One Toke Productions label

Tom has recently retired as the Manager of Video Production for Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Mo.  He is keeping busy doing freelance video work for the university and others. His documentary style promotional videos for the University have resulted in a number of awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), going back to his “Treehouse…an Ozark Story.”  Most recently Tom received CASE Grand Gold Awards, in 2006, 2008, and 2010.  In 2011 his film “Tacachia” which he shot for Engineers Without


Borders (EWB) in Bolivia, was the recipient of “Best Short Form Film Award" in the EWB-USA International film competition.

Some of Tom's videos are available on Google Video or on Tom's YouTube site.

Tom is still active as a singer/songwriter/musician doing regular Brewer & Shipley shows.  He
resides in the Ozark mountains in southern Missouri.