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Murray Journal

Have you heard of Tony Summerhays?

Aug 31, 2017 01:36PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Tony Summerhays, a professional musician for 45 years. (Tony Summerhays)

By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]

You may have heard music by Springsteen, Sinatra or Schubert but what about local musician Tony Summerhays?

Summerhays a 30-year resident of Kearns has been performing professionally for over 45 years and began his musical training early. 

“I started when I was 10. I’m from a musical family and everyone played an instrument,” Summerhays said.

Summerhays’ first instrument was the trumpet. He studied under Dick Skilicorn and Stewart Grow, president of the Salt Lake Musicians Union.

“I choose the trumpet because I thought it was cool,” Summerhays said. 

Summerhays enjoyed the trumpet but continued to expand his musical repertoire. Summerhays took piano from Salt Lake musician Dan Waldis and guitar from master musician Scott Ferguson. 

Summerhays’ musical versatility and talent earned him a scholarship from Weber State College.

“While at Weber I formed a band with my sister and brother in law and started to play gigs for money. I found that in two weekends of playing I made more than what my scholarship was worth so I dropped the scholarship and focused on general eds,” Summerhays said.

After four years at college, Summerhays went on the road to western Canada with local band, The New Citations.

“It was cool, how many 21 year olds get to tour around another country for two years in a disco band in the mid ’70s? And that’s when the night clubs were booming,” Summerhays recalled.

After Canada, Summerhays returned to Salt Lake and formed the Walter & Hays Band with Walt Gregory.

“Tony had a passion for making something happen. We played eight years together. We were really good friends. We had the same goals and did very well together. We also had good laughs, sometimes laughing together until our stomachs hurt,” Walt Gregory said. 

After eight years of performing with Gregory, Summerhays began his solo career and has been performing as such for the last 20 years. 

“I love Tony. I have been following him for 30 years and I continue to follow him. He is a very talented showman,” Marva Webster, attendee of the Murray Heritage Center said.

That showmanship is part of what fans of Summerhays love. 

“I learned long ago the first rule of show biz is don’t let the audience out dress you if your going to be an entertainer. I like standing out compared to the other bands,” Summerhays said.

His fans agree he does just that.

“Tony has more costumes than any other performer in the valley. For a dance band, he has the best down beat of any dance band in the valley. He knows how to play to his crowd,” said fan Ralph Cravens.

That crowd for the last 10 years has been at the Murray Heritage Center. The center holds dancing every week for senior citizens that love Summerhays and his music. 

“He is a very versatile music man. I have enjoyed dancing to him for many years,” said Norm Tabish.

Norm and the other dancers are appreciated by Summerhays himself.

“These people are the cream of the crop and have the attitude to get up and do something instead of sitting home. It’s amazing the kind of music they will go for. I can play just about anything and they’ll go for it. These people in their 80s and 90s will dance all night long,” Summerhays said.

And the whole night they enjoy a craft that Summerhays has spent over 45 years refining. 

“You have to make a big commitment to your profession. I’ve played professionally for 45 years, it didn’t make me rich but I did what I wanted to do and I’m proud of it,” Summerhays said.