A cornerstone of our Northern California drumming scene, Tom Donlinger passed away on April 20 following a long struggle with a terminal illness. He was 63.
Originally from Chicago, Donlinger was barely out of high school when he launched his drumming career, playing with such legendary Midwestern outfits as Rotary Connection, Aorta, and The Cryan’ Shames. His reputation soon spread across the continent and he was invited to join Lovecraft, a Northern Californian psychedelic band backed by Bill Graham.
In the ensuing years after moving to the West Coast, Donlinger performed onstage and recorded with such notable artists as Jerry Garcia, Howard Wales, Mike Bloomfield, and Keith and Donna Godchaux, even while studying at San Francisco State University to finish his Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance. Following a year’s tenure with Hammond master Brian Auger, Donlinger spent five years playing alongside Pee Wee Ellis, Mark Isham, and John Allair with Van Morrison’s backup band.
He will be greatly missed by his friends, fellow bandmembers, and drum students.