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Northwest bluesman Tom McFarland dead at 59

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TACOMA, Wash. -- Tom McFarland, a well-traveled blues shouter, guitar player and composer who placed a vital role in reviving Seattle's blues scene in the 1970s, is dead at age 59.

McFarland, who performed with such blues greats as Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush and Isaac Scott, died in his sleep early Friday at home in West Valley, Utah, said his son, Thomas Riley McFarland of Tacoma.

He had been unable to play for five years because of health problems, including an enlarged heart, and had a stroke six months ago, friends and relatives said.

McFarland's signature tune was “Going Back to Oakland," recorded in 1987 on the album “Just Got In From Portland." His other albums were “Voodoo Garden" and the highly regarded “Travelin' With the Blues," recorded in 1978.

Among the better known blues artists who covered his tunes were Musselwhite, Margo Tufo and Kathy Hart.

Known for a booming voice and beatnik spirit, McFarland was “definitely one of the funniest people I've ever known," said his wife, Susan McFarland. “Not long ago, he said he wanted his epitaph to say, 'I Told You I Wasn't Feeling Very Well.'"

McFarland was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Grants Pass, Ore., came to Seattle in 1973 and soon had the only blues band to get steady work in the city at the time, years before such artists as Robert Cray and Curtis Salgado put the Pacific Northwest on the blues map.

McFarland left in 1976 for San Francisco, recorded for Arhoolie Records and began touring with Lightnin' Hopkins, Musselwhite and Rush. He later lived in Tacoma; Vancouver, Wash., Clinton, Miss.; Terre Haute, Ind.; Spokane, and the Salt Lake City area.

Other survivors include a daughter, Naomi McFarland of Tacoma, and two grandchildren. A ceremony in his honor is planned Sept. 19 at The New Orleans Restaurant in Seattle, a club where he used to perform.

-Associated Press

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