Donald Thomas "Tom" Scholz (born March 10, 1947) is an American rock musician, inventor, engineer, and philanthropist, best known as the founder of the band Boston. He is also the inventor of the Rockman portable guitar amplifier. He has been described by Allmusic as "a notoriously 'un-rock n' roll' figure who never enjoyed the limelight of being a performer," preferring to concentrate almost exclusively on his music, and in more recent years, spending much of his time working with charities.
Tom Scholz was born in Toledo, Ohio and raised in the suburb of Ottawa Hills. His father, Don Scholz, was a homebuilder who garnered considerable wealth from his designs of prefabricated luxury houses and founded Scholz Design, the forerunner of Scholz Homes Inc.
His mother Olive was valedictorian of her class, and went on to become an architectural designer and a landscape architect.
As a child, Scholz studied classical piano. He also had a penchant for tinkering with everything from go-carts to model airplanes and was always building or designing. A top student and a member of the varsity basketball team, he graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 1965. Prior to his musical career, Scholz received both a bachelor's degree (1969) and a master's degree (1970) in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for Polaroid Corporation as a senior product design engineer. Scholz would then reside in Boston.
Musical success, hiatus, and return
Scholz had a keen interest in music and began recording demos in his home studio while working at Polaroid. These demos attracted the interest of Epic Records who signed Scholz and singer Brad Delp to a recording contract. Scholz believed his demos were good enough to comprise the full contents of Boston's debut album, but Epic told Scholz to re-record the demos. Most of the guitar, bass, and keyboards were performed by Scholz, although other players were involved sporadically throughout the recordings. Epic did not want the album recorded entirely in Scholz's home as Scholz had intended (the label suggested using a recording studio), but most of what ended up on the album was indeed ultimately recorded by Scholz in his basement. The album was released in 1976 and became the biggest-selling debut album by any artist up to that time. Scholz's reputed perfectionism delayed the follow-up album for two years. When it was finally released, he was unhappy with the result, Don't Look Back, and claimed that it was released under pressure from the record company. Scholz then declared he would not release any more music unless he was completely satisfied with the final product. Consequently, Boston's third album, Third Stage, did not appear until 1986. That album was certified 4x platinum, and "Amanda" reached the top of the singles chart. Scholz and Brad Delp were the only members of the original group to appear on the album.
Scholz also started his own line of guitar effects under the name Rockman. These were supposed to sound like the "true Boston" sound. The boxes were arranged in cabinets and played through an (analog) stereo signal path. The originals have today become collectors' items.
After the death of Boston lead singer Brad Delp in March 2007, Delp's adult children organized a concert in his memory on August 19, 2007 at the Bank of America Pavilion in Boston and invited the group to perform. Fran Cosmo was unable to sing due to a vocal injury, so Scholz invited guest singers to appear in his place, including Michael Sweet from Stryper and long time Boston fan Tommy DeCarlo who, after auditioning for Scholz, made a guest appearance on lead vocals.
Scholz has been a vegetarian for over thirty years. He set up his own charitable foundation, the DTS Charitable Foundation in 1987 to help support such causes as animal protection, providing vegetarian resources, stopping world hunger, creating homeless shelters, food banks, animal rescues, and sanctuaries, and advocating for children's rights. Through his work with his foundation, he has raised millions of dollars. PETA awarded him their Compassionate Action Award in 2013.
Scholz married his second wife, Kim Hart, in the Florida Keys on January 11, 2007. They live in the Boston area.
From his first marriage, Scholz has one son, Jeremy, who graduated from MIT in 2005 with a degree in mechanical engineering. When asked if his son likes his music, Scholz joked, "I think he does, but he's such a nice kid that he would pretend he did even if he didn't." At MIT, the younger Scholz made his own pedals for electric guitar and experimented with various sounds.
Scholz has remarked on the relationship with Boston's various record labels that "The [music] business would be a good thing, except that it's dominated by drug addicts and businessmen." In regard to the theme of his album Corporate America, Scholz told the Sierra Club that "The thing that made me decide to break with previous albums and include an overtly political song, was when I discovered that for the first time in American history big business owns the news media." He also stated that "The public has been sold a bill of goods about the free market being a panacea for mankind. Turning corporations loose and letting the profit motive run amok is not a prescription for a more livable world".