Tom Holland grew up on Chicago’s south side and was influenced by the city’s rich jazz and blues heritage from a very young age. His father’s love of music and vast record collection was the catalyst for Tom’s love of music, especially blues. Tom began playing guitar at age 13, learning by listening to Muddy Waters recordings. Tom cites Muddy Waters, Earl Hooker, John Primer and Magic Slim as his greatest influences. By the time Tom turned 18 he was ready to start learning from the musicians on the Chicago blues scene.
Tom started playing professionally in Chicago at age 19, landing his first gig with L.V. Banks, in a beauty salon on Chicago’s south side. Tom worked with L.V. Banks on and off for four years. It was also during this time that Tom was introduced to Muddy Waters last guitarist, John Primer. John took Tom under his wing, and proceeded to give Tom an education in blues guitar. Tom toured for two years with John as a member of his band, the Real Deal Blues Band. Tom also recorded a CD with John during his time in the band, recorded in 1998, It’s a Blues Life on Wolf Records. It was also during this time that Tom formed the first incarnation of the Shuffle Kings.
In late 1999 Tom was asked to join Chicago blues guitarist Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater’s band. Tom toured with Eddy Clearwater for three years as bandleader. It was during this time that his status as one of Chicago’s top sidemen was solidified, also freelancing with Carey Bell, Phil Guy, A.C. Reed, Byther Smith, Hubert Sumlin and countless other Chicago bluesmen and women. In 2001, between tours with Eddy Clearwater, Tom began to focus more on the Shuffle Kings, and by late 2002 was touring full time with the Shuffle Kings. In October of 2002 the band recorded their CD, titled Tom Holland & the Shuffle Kings, it garnered the band radio airplay in many states, and praise from both critics and fans alike.
In November of 2003, Tom was approached by harp legend James Cotton, who was in need of a guitar player. Tom accepted and has been touring with James now for over ten years. In July of 2004 Tom toured Japan for the first time with James, as well as Switzerland. Tom played and sang on James' 2010 album Giant and plays guitar on the brand new Cotton Mouth Man, both on Alligator Records. 2013 saw the release of the Shuffle King’s second record, “No Fluff, Just the Stuff on their own E Natchel Records. In between tours with Mr. Cotton, the Shuffle Kings have been touring the Midwest, gaining new fans and solidifying their status as one of the few bands, young or old, still playing traditional Chicago blues.
Tom was inducted into the Chicago chapter of the International Blues Hall of Fame in 2013