Retirement rekindles Tholow Chan's love of music
By Don Benjamin
Published Wednesday, November 8, 2017 10:22 am
Photo by Don Benjamin Tholow Chan sings and plays bass guitar as a member of The New Christy Minstrels.
Last month Cedaredge resident Tholow Chan joined The New Christy Minstrels on-stage for two local performances. It was not his first rodeo. He has played guitar and bass guitar for folk groups including the Minstrels off and on since 1960. He is a lifelong musician with a wealth of entertainment experience in television, live performances and recordings.
He was born in Sacramento, Calif., and he grew up playing clarinet in his junior high school band and as a member of the California National Guard Army Band. During that time he traveled on two national tours with "Youth Group," Northern California's DeMolay show and band.
After high school he played in Sacramento area folk groups and he formed his own group called "Aerial Landscape." He relocated to Los Angeles where Aerial Landscape signed with RCA Victor and released two single recordings. In 1968, Chan first began working and recording with Randy Sparks, the founder and leader of The New Christy Minstrels. Chan also performed in concerts as a member of "The Back Porch Majority."
Television work came his way in 1969 when he appeared on a talk show hosted by legendary game show host Allen Ludden. He went on to perform on several TV variety shows and TV specials including an appearance on "Here's Lucy" hosted by Lucille Ball and with Belland and Somerville on the "Tim Conway Comedy Hour."
By the late 1960s and early 1970s Chan had earned a reputation in Los Angeles as one of "the" folk bassists. He became a familiar face to those who frequented the L.A. folk scene and he earned a coveted stint as house bassist at Pasadena's trendy Ice House where several performers recorded live albums including musical comedian Fats Johnson and country artist Kin Vassy.
In the mid 1970s Chan began working and recording with "We Five," a San Francisco-based folk rock group co-founded by Debbie and Jerry Burgan. For a time Chan joined the husband and wife team to form a trio that toured extensively. From 1974-89, Chan played with the Burgans and other musicians as "We Five" reunited to perform reunion and benefit shows, including concerts at Disneyland.
Over the years, Chan worked and recorded with several other artists including prolific folk singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds (she wrote "Little Boxes"), the folk-comedy team of Belland & Somerville, the folk-rock duo of Maffit & Davies, inspirational singer Dave McIntosh, legendary California folk artist Tim Morgon, The Road Dogs blues band, the '60s group Stone Country, and the popular folk group The Limeliters. Especially memorable was his performance with The Limeliters in a concert that included The Kingston Trio. And he was thrilled to share the stage at Lake Tahoe's Harrah's Casino with B.B. King and to play with Bruce Belland and David Somerville as the opening act for Johnny Mathis at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles.
In the late 1970s disco music was the rage and most live music venues changed their formats to recorded music. The disco revolution forced Chan to get a "real job," so he chose the banking industry resulting in a 35-year career in senior and executive management in California and Colorado.
It was banking that brought Chan to Colorado and he worked locally at the Paonia State Bank and the Crawford Country Bank. Chan has lived in Cedaredge on and off since 1993; he permanently relocated here in 1999. When he retired from banking he reignited his musical career. He currently tours with the New Christy Minstrels and with the duo of Burgan and Chan.