Guitarist for area hard rock group dies at age 40

Thursday, April 19, 2007
Thomas Johnson, known to many as Tommy DeWolf, died of natural causes earlier this week. He was the lead guitarist for the hard rock group Drivin' Rain. (Southeast Missourian)

The local rock 'n' roll community has lost one of its best-known guitarists.

Thomas Johnson, known to most as Tommy DeWolf, lead guitarist for the hard rock group Drivin' Rain, was found dead Tuesday night at his home in Cape Girardeau by one of his bandmates. He was 40 years old.

Family and friends say they were shocked to hear the news.

"We are all in shock, as this is the second member we've lost in three years," Drivin' Rain frontman Timexx Nasty wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "Tommy was a big part of this band and my very best and oldest friend. I don't know what we'll do without him."

Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton said Johnson apparently died of natural causes. Toxicology tests are being conducted.

The last time band members saw Johnson was early Saturday morning after they returned from a gig in Champaign, Ill. Timexx talked to Johnson on Sunday, but hadn't heard from him since.

Johnson's involvement in the local music scene dates back to the late 1980s when he joined the band Stage Crew. He helped start Drivin' Rain in 1994, left the band shortly after that and returned in 1999.

His grandfather, 94-year-old Horace Clark of Jackson, said Johnson was "a good boy" and that he loved to hear his grandson play guitar.

Johnson's uncle, Steve Clark, said his nephew picked up the guitar as a boy initially to gain acceptance from other children because he was born with a leg defect that caused him to limp.

"That's what I'm most proud of; he didn't let that stop him," Clark said of Johnson's disability.

Johnson had lived through a near-fatal car wreck a few years ago, and he lived in pain every day, Nasty said, but he would play gigs anyway, never complaining of the pain. Johnson had no medical insurance and found it difficult to get treatment for his pain, Nasty said.

Johnson refused to take drugs, so he self-medicated with alcohol, Nasty said.

"Still even in massive pain Tommy would crawl up on stage and play his heart and soul out," Nasty wrote in his e-mail.

He said the band doesn't know what to do yet.

"We do know Tommy would want us to go on, and it is important to us to keep his music alive," Nasty wrote.

Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. today at Ford and Sons Mount Auburn Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 1 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.

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