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MCFARLAND, THOMAS JAMES [TINY]

MCFARLAND, T. J. [TINY] (1946–2005). Drummer, producer, talent scout, and booking agent Thomas James McFarland was born on November 15, 1946, in Littlefield, Texas, to Thomas J. and Gwen (Foster) McFarland. Nicknamed “Tiny” and “The Gentle Giant,” because of his large size and friendly demeanor, McFarland was involved in a number of aspects of the Austin music scene for well over thirty years.

McFarland grew up in Lubbock and at an early age began singing in the choir and learning to play the drums. He enjoyed listening to older blues musicians, especially Jimmy Reed, and therefore tried to mimic that style in his own playing. In the eighth grade, when he was about the age of fourteen, McFarland formed a band called the Twilights with friend and fellow musician, Joe Ely. The group practiced in McFarland’s living room, and they were only allowed to perform at local venues if Mrs. McFarland went along as a chaperone.

For a short time, McFarland moved to San Marcos to attend military school. However, he later returned to West Texas and graduated from Lubbock High School before going on to enroll at Texas Tech University. In the mid-1960s McFarland quit Texas Tech and moved to Austin, where he joined a band named the Hub City Movers. In 1970 the Hub City Movers were the first group to play at the Armadillo World Headquarters, a club that soon became not only a Mecca for a diverse array of local and national musicians but also the centerpiece of Austin’s burgeoning live music scene. By the mid-1970s McFarland was performing with Jesse Ashlock and Kent Finlay in Finlay’s San Marcos-based band, High Cotton Express. McFarland also played drums with Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys and later worked as Alvin Crow’s booking agent.

Before long, McFarland began branching out into other areas of the music business, including record production, booking, and working as a talent scout. He became a friend, mentor, manager, and band mate to such popular Austin musicians as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Alvin Crow, Ray Benson, Don Walser, Kimmie Rhodes, Jesse Taylor, Butch Hancock, Brent Wilson, and many others. McFarland also acted in several movies and commercials, including Blind Fury (1989), Where the Heart Is (2000), and The Life of David Gale (2003). McFarland eventually opened his own recording company, Austex Music.

In 1980, when the Armadillo World Headquarters closed its doors, Ray Benson, leader of the popular western swing band Asleep at the Wheel, invited McFarland up onstage to perform on the final song of the evening. This made McFarland the first and last drummer to play at the legendary venue.

By the late 1990s McFarland had contracted hepatitis C from a tattoo he received years earlier in California. As complications from the disease worsened, McFarland spent the final five years of his life waiting for a liver transplant donation that never arrived. He died on September 1, 2005, at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House and was buried at Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Memorial Park in Austin. He was a Catholic. McFarland was survived by his mother, his partner Charlotte Herzele, his sister, two stepsons, and many other relatives and friends. In 2011 he was inducted into the Austin Music Memorial.
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

 Austin American–Statesman, September 2, 2005. Kent Finlay, Email Interview by Erinn Park, March 27, 2008. Peter McCrae, “T.J. McFarland: 1948–2005,” RootsWeb: World-Obits (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/WORLD-OBITS/2005-11/1131999003), accessed March 5 2008. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Erinn Park

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Erinn Park, "McFarland, Thomas James [Tiny] ," accessed October 17, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmche.

Uploaded on June 1, 2015. Modified on July 16, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.