With over a thousand songs to his credit, Tom Knight has been performing his original, interactive, musical puppet shows since 1988.
Knight has performed at festivals, museums, and libraries across the country as well as right here in western Massachusetts.
Producer Dave Fraser caught one of his shows and brings us his story.
Learn how Tom Knight became a self-taught YouTube pro in a digital exclusive interview.
Read the full transcript:
Tom Knight, Musician & Puppeteer: ♫ A book of good stories…♫
There are a lot of folk singers with guitars, a lot of white, old guys with guitars going around singing their songs. I think my songs are great, but at the same time there aren’t as many people going around doing musical puppet shows for kids. And I think doing music for kids and puppets is the best use of — of my skills in the world.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: With a cart load of bins filled with instruments and props, Tom Knight makes his way into the West Springfield Public Library. Knight has been entertaining children and their grownups for more than 30 years.
Using handmade puppets, catchy songs, and lots of audience participation, his unique blend of musicianship celebrates topics like reading, science, the environment, and bringing people together.
Tom Knight: One of the things that somebody said about me was that I wasn’t preachy, which I really like. And the messages, I like to say, are kind of embedded in stories.
So, one of the things that I talk about, for instance, is recycling. And so, there’s like a little bit of environmental message, but it’s in the context of this song about a kid and the garbage monster. And the garbage monster turns out to be made of recyclable things, and then the kid recycles the garbage monster.
And so, I like being able to kind of make my point through the story rather than, “Okay, kids, you need to recycle now!” You know, I don’t know that that actually works. My shows are really built around my songs, which are short little stories.
And so, there aren’t a lot of voices and characters necessarily in the — in the piece because it’s really, it’s my voice singing, telling the story.
♫ And I like winter…♫
I find that doing kind of the shorter pieces really works well for — for young children with short attention spans. And I also like to do pieces where I’m standing up and moving around and getting the whole audience to stand up and move around because, you know, it’s hard to sit on the ground for 45 minutes. So, I appreciate that.
And it’s like, “Okay, we’re all going to get up and move around now and then we’ll sit down and pay attention again some more.”
Here it is!
Dave Fraser: Knight recently released his sixth album entitled “Look Both Ways.”
The new album takes its theme from the title song, which extols a basic safety rule while embracing the notion of viewing life from more than one perspective.
Tom Knight: One of the new songs, actually, the kind of the first single, is an old song that I wrote in 1992 called “Alligator Jump,” and I decided to redo it and do it as a bilingual Spanish song, actually. And then I hired Micah Farias Gomez to to sing the Spanish part, and she’s from Argentina.
Micah Farias Gomez, Singer: ♫ Y desde la cocina hasta la guarida / Bailaban los caimanes /seguían la movida… ♫
Tom Knight: Well, I’m very proud of this new album, and it’s fun to revisit some songs that I recorded from 1992 and a song from — two songs from 1989. It’s just kind of nice to see how much I’ve grown, really, as a — as a musician and a producer.
♫ It’s the Tom Knight show. It’s The Tom Knight Show! ♫
Dave Fraser: In an effort to help parents and kids cope with the unprecedented situation of the global pandemic., Knight created “The Tom Knight” show on YouTube, where he and his puppets sing and have fun.
Tom Knight: One of the things that I — that I like about what I do is that it is all homemade, you know? I write all the songs and I make all the puppets and I make the puppet stage. It has a certain homemade quality to it, even though it’s not, like, completely polished and it’s not what you can buy at Walmart. But I think that’s a good thing! That it’s unique and has a lot of charm, I find.
You know, honestly, if I just played guitar and sang, it’s just guitar and vocals, most kids would probably be fine with that. But I also know that kids, the adults, are going to be listening to this music as much as anybody, and they might need something that has a little bit more depth and musical variation to it.
One of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten is that I’ve heard parents say that they listen to my songs in the car even when the kids aren’t around.