hom Rotella, born in Niagara Falls New York, started playing his grandfather’s guitar for fun when he was six years old and began serious lessons at the age of ten. During his teen years, he played in rock-n-roll bands with fellow local musicians at dances, clubs and band competitions. He formed his first band The Princetons and then The Apaches, London Fog and Purple Gas. Soon he discovered jazz through recordings of Wes Montgomery. He attended Ithaca College as a classical guitar major, studied at Berklee College under Gary Burton (70-72); left Berklee to tour with a lounge band; then moved to Los Angeles, where he quickly established himself as a top call studio musician. He missed performing live, so in 1980 moved to New York, where he continued studio work, but also had more opportunities for live performances. It was at this time that he was ‘discovered’ by the pioneer digital recording company, DMP (Digital Music Products) and made three CDs, (1987-90) all of which found a world-wide market, receiving extensive radio airplay. By 1988, he moved back to Los Angeles, where he has been a very successful studio and recording musician. His recordings were well received, personally and commercially as well as critically, but his live shows had become an exciting attraction due to his smooth jazz performances. In 1998, Rotella and his band were part of some of the best attended radio station festival celebrations in Dallas, San Diego, Santa Rosa, Newport Beach, among others. Notably, Thom Rotella is a talented instrumentalist and composer who has achieved both critical and commercial success. He has produced and recorded 11 CDs as a leader that has garnered listeners throughout the world for many years. He has also had a thriving career writing and playing for television and films, as well as being an in-demand session player. He has performing and recording credits with a wide variety of world-renowned artists across the musical spectrum, including Norah Jones, Donna Summer, Frank Sinatra, Cher, The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, Lionel Ritchie, Bette Midler, Luciano Pavarotti, Seth MacFarland, David Foster, Stanley Turrentine, Tom Scott, Rick Braun, Gerald Ablright and Gregg Karukas. He wrote and performed the score for the movie ‘Altos’; has appeared on numerous movie soundtracks, including ‘Ted,’ ‘Ted 2,’ ‘Splash,’ ‘Same Time Next Year,’ ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy,’ ‘Rumblefish,’ ‘Mississippi Masala’, ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green,’ ‘Hail to the Groupies’ and ‘The Baytown Outlaws among many others. He has written for and performed on such TV shows ‘Ellen DeGeneres’; ‘Extra’; ‘Sex and the City’; and ‘China Beach.’ He created original music for television commercials for Ford, Cadillac, Goodyear, Chevrolet and Taco Bell. In addition, he also played guitar on ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Family Guy,’ ‘American Dad,’ ‘The Tonight Show’ and ‘The Tracey Ullman Show’ and many others. He is currently working on a new jazz CD; that is featured on a big band collaboration with composer Walter Murphy (‘Family Guy’, ‘Ted, Fifth of Beethoven’) and continues performing with his 4tet, with sax legend Ernie Watts.’ With all this world-wide acclaim, Thom Rotella never forgets his roots. He is quoted on his website: “Looking through the basement window of Mt. Carmel Church in Niagara Falls, NY where there’s a dance going on. I see this multi-headed monster, with arms flailing and all this sound and energy blasting me, and people dancing… it was the first time I saw a live band and I said to myself, man I gotta be a part of this!” To this day, Thom Rotella remains in contact with long-time friends and musicians in Niagara Falls. He once made a guest appearance performing in the Lewiston Jazz Festival.
It is our pleasure to honor and welcome Thom Rotella as a member of the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame Class of 2020.