In remembrance of John Cole Tatum (March 12, 1948- Dec. 2, 2019) by Historian and friend Dr. Larry Schweikart.

NOTE: This is not an official obituary nor is it meant to take the place of an obituary. This is my personal remembrance of my friend John Tatum.... 

John Cole Tatum, husband, father, Christian believer, and musician, died on December 2 of complications related to Alzheimer’s. John grew up in Arizona, went to Coronado High School, earned a BA in Music and a BA in Education from Arizona State University. He went on to teach music and band at Thunderbird High School, composing and conducting one of the first “rock operas” ever performed in the state.

            My acquaintance with John began when I was a young rock drummer and had heard about his band, “Goldmyne,” which was a popular favorite around the Phoenix area. It was a nine-piece horn band in the style of “Chicago” and “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.” As my friends and I would hang around during breaks and talk to John, I learned of his deep appreciation for music of all sorts and that he found rock and roll confining. At the time he was married to Alice Tatum (now Alice Chuba), and as we continued to meet and talk, he discussed expanding his rock composing to an entire orchestral approach. 

            In these discussions, we learned that John had been a member of a group called the “Earwigs,” which was renamed the “Spyders” with a lead singer named Vince Furnier. They had moved to Los Angeles and renamed themselves “Alice Cooper” and struggled through tough times before making it big as a theatrical stage act. John had stayed in Phoenix to form “Goldmyne.”

            About that time, John had seen a band of mine called “Shotgun” in a “Battle of the Bands” in Mesa. He decided to abandon the larger horn band and return to rock and roll basics with a guitar, keyboards, bass drums, along with Alice on vocals, so he brought me, Kevin Staley, and Randy Gage aboard (drums, keyboards, bass, respectively)—but kept the same name. This led to some interesting club dates when club owners, expecting a nine-piece horn band, instead got a five-piece rock and roll band. Before long, John had us touring all over Arizona, then beyond. In 1972, literally the weekend after I graduated from Arizona State with a BA I political science, John had us in a van headed to Peoria, Illinois, where we opened in a Holiday Inn. We were setting up when the manager came out and said, “You’re too loud!” (We hadn’t even plugged in our amplifiers!) Nevertheless, we managed to please the crowds and kept the gig. Over the next year, we played throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Finally, as often happens, the band broke up over internal spats and we all headed back to Arizona by separate paths. 

            Not long after that, John contacted me again, this time working with a Mesa band (of all LDS members of which, he, at the time, was one) called “The Family Way.” Instead of rock and roll, this band was aiming for more of a Las Vegas show type of material, with flashy satin outfits and renditions of “Carpenters” songs. Before long, I was replaced and “Family Way” went on the road. But the music was not meeting John’s need for something more “rock and rollish.” He worked out an exit whereby bassist Dan Dorian (formerly of “Gabriel”, another horn band) and I would join John and Alice and “Family Way” on the road and would alternate sets, until we had learned enough material for the new “Goldmyne” to go on the road on its own. One of our most memorable gigs—from which I still have live tapes—was at “Norm Silver’s Moustache Club” in Montreal, Canada. The band was extremely hot, but, again, fell apart due to differences of direction. Once again, we all returned to Arizona via separate routes. 

            John began working at Milano’s Music Store and I began to lose touch with him as I went on to some other bands. But sometime around 1978 we met up again and reminisced. He had a new, hot rock and roll band. Again, we drifted out of touch. I later learned that John and Alice had been divorced. 

            I cannot remember how we made contact again. All I know was I learned that he was working as the sound, music, and lighting technician at Universal Studios in Burbank, California on the Globe Theater (the main stage). He would later receive an special recognition from then-governor Arnold Schwartzenegger for his work there. John and I met at Universal one afternoon and he was extremely happy. He had been able to continue his recording in his home studio while holding a union job at Universal. Over the next several years, I learned he had remarried, to Rebecca Lee, in 2000. 

            The next time we met in person, I learned that John had renounced his LDS background and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. This was an amazing leap from the rock and roller I once knew. (I once was interviewing Alice Cooper [Vince] who recalled that in the Spyders John was the guy they sent to beat people up who were causing trouble!) John entered into nearly full time Christian music ministry, turning out many songs and a great album, “Christ Jesus is the King.” The title song remains one of the favorites on my 3000+ playlist. After retirement from Universal, John played and sang with Rebecca as worship leaders in many churches and had a weekly Christian radio show. John went on to write a book called The Victory Prayer, a useful prayer for any Christian seeking a model in structuring prayer.

            In 2009, Rebecca noticed that John was having difficulty remembering things. A piece of metal lodged in his head form youth made it impossible to do a full MRI of the skull, but the doctors generally concluded he had dementia, specifically the Alzheimer’s variant. Over the next few years, John would work as he could on his final album, including (I was surprised to find) a song called “Father of Lies” for which I had written lyrics years earlier and completely forgotten. John died in peace in his bed with his dog on one side and Rebecca on the other. His last words were, “I love the Lord and God bless it”.