When live music all but disappeared during the pandemic, drummer Tim Carman ’11 and his band GA-20 retreated to a Boston studio to binge on recording. GA-20 (named after an old Gibson amplifier) became its own pod, getting tested, playing, and stockpiling enough material for several albums, which will be released over the next year or more.
In August, the trio put out GA-20 Does Hound Dog Taylor: Try It…You Might Like It! on Alligator/Karma Chief records. The band decided to do the album during quarantine and recorded it during lockdown. It’s an homage to bluesman Taylor, and critics like it. So do fans: The record hit number one on Billboard's blues charts.
Now that venues have reopened, the band is touring the country and expects to do so for two or three months, pandemic permitting. Carman considers himself a sideman in GA-20, but leads two bands of his own. The Tim Carman Trio, which plays jazz, released their first single in September on Color Red Music. The other is a funk band, Tim Carman & The Street 45s.
From his days at The Rivers School in Weston, Mass., Carman knew he wanted – somehow – to make music his career. Rivers was a good prelude: it had a music conservatory, and even though Carman wasn't a conservatory student, he played in its jazz big band and jazz combo — and in his brother’s punk band.
As determined as he was to pursue music, Carman wasn’t interested in a music school for college. He figured that a liberal arts education would give him a foundation for a fallback career, should he need it, so he applied to Hamilton. “I met Doc Woods (Michael Woods, Margaret Bundy Scott Professor of Music) there during my interview and sat down with him, and he was awesome,” Carman recalled.
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He majored in music and history, and met the woman he would marry, classmate Kelsey Lawler. Of course, he played in extracurricular campus bands. “The first one I was in freshman year was called Walter Funkite, which is, I think, a hilarious name, and Walter Cronkite (IV) was actually in my class. I was friends with him,” Carman said.
Post Hamilton, he attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston for two years, then plunged into music full time. He made sure he never needed to settle for a fallback career. He’s a music entrepreneur who juggles a range of work — playing, teaching, and writing and publishing books on drumming. “Honestly, I don't think I would be able to write a book if it wasn't for the knowledge I learned studying history at Hamilton,” he said.