Tom Blake prepares to play at the Alien Wine Festival, Friday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Among the thousands of new faces in town this weekend for the UFOâ€ˆFestival, one face is familiar â€” that of local musician Tom Blake. Born and raised in Roswell, Blake has become a fixture for the community over the years, as famous as the festival itself.
This year Blake will be providing live entertainment, along with other bands, for the Alien Wine Festival. But most know him from various events throughout the city year-round, whether itâ€™s the annual Jazz Festival in October, the Memorial Day Prayer Breakfast at the Elks Lodge or the annual Womenâ€™s History Month Celebration Brunch in March. No matter the occasion, Blake is there, guitar in hand.
â€œIn so many ways, music is so beneficial and therapeutic to anyone who participates,â€â€ˆBlake said.
Blake began his 40-year musical career in the fifth grade singing in a choir, and picked up his first guitar when he was about 12 years old. His inspiration?â€ˆHis mother, Reece Blake, a soprano who trained him during his early years. She, too, performed in Roswell, and the rest of her family were artists and performers by trade, he said.
â€œMy motherâ€™s side of my family were all singers and musicians,â€ he said. â€œMy uncle was a Vegas performer for many years, and actually performed worldwide with some groups … But she was my greatest influence, my mom.â€
After years of â€œpractice, practice, practice,â€ and with help from friends, Blake began booking gigs at the Roswell Community Little Theatre, which he calls the launching pad of his career. He developed his own voice as a musician, and found his signature sound:â€ˆacoustic guitar, country beats and patriotic lyrics.
In 1998, he produced his own musical, â€œRoswell:â€ˆThe Musical,â€ which played each year during the UFOâ€ˆFestival at Pearson Auditorium on the New Mexico Military Institute campus. The play, which had about 50 actors, told the story about the world-renowned 1947 Roswell Incident, and was a hit among tourists. A Japanese television station even filmed the musical and aired an episode about Roswell.
Financially strapped, the show stopped after just three years. But Blakeâ€™s career was just beginning, and besides that, he had found another musician to perform duets with, his now wife, Marina Blake, who is also an account executive at the Daily Record. The couple have been singing for the past 28 years, he said. They formed the Tom Blake Trio about five years ago with another vocalist and guitarist Cheryl Patterson and bassist Jerry Metcalf.
Blake began playing with the Spring River Valley Band around the same time as â€œRoswell:â€ˆThe Musical.â€ The country rock band still performs about once or twice a month for both public and private events, usually dinners and dances.
â€œItâ€™s a lot of country, and a lot of old soft rock,â€ Blake said.
Blake later recorded his first and only album in 2003, produced by Market Place Productions. The record covers traditional classical music, and he is accompanied by violins, cello and flute. He says he hopes itâ€™s not his last album.
â€œItâ€™s totally different than the music we do now,â€â€ˆhe said. â€œWe hope one day to do another recording.â€
For years, Blake had volunteered to provide entertainment to the city of Roswell, and now he is employed by the city as a recreation leader at the Yucca Recreation Center. But he says he still likes to volunteer.
â€œI like to assist in any way that I can with events that are beneficial to the community at large,â€ Blake said.