Gregory James Tornquist
Book, Music and Lyrics
Greg was born and raised in Southern California. He began his musical journey at a very young age when he organized his friends to perform a few songs from “South Pacific” in his neighborhood. By the time he was a teenager, Tornquist played both harmonica and guitar. At age 16, he began writing songs and teaching guitar
lessons after school at the House of Note in Redlands, CA. He also discovered the blues and Mississippi bluesmen Robert Johnson, Skip James and Son House by reading Samuel Charters’ book: The Bluesmen. Greg started a mixed-race rock and roll band SHADES OF DIFFERENCE in high school.
Tornquist attended San Diego State majoring in theater but left college when his high school band mates asked him to move to Los Angeles and be in the PEPPERMINT TROLLEY COMPANY. The first song they recorded “BABY YOU COME ROLLIN’ ACROSS MY MIND” became a hit and the group toured nationally. In 2018 Martin Scorsese used their hit recording for the festival trailer for his movie: DIANE. As session musicians and singers the group recorded the iconic theme song: “THE BRADY BUNCH”.” Afterwards, the band renamed themselves BONES and signed with producer Richard Perry. Bones recorded for Atlantic and MCA records and shared club and concert stages with BB King, Little Richard, Canned Heat, Albert King and the Eagles. Greg also met and sang with George Harrison.
Tornquist then performed for 7 years as a solo guitarist/singer working over 300 nights per year. In Nashville he worked on staff for St Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church for 6 years as a worship leader. During this time he also helped start the Warner Brothers country comedy group: Pinkard & Bowden and received a SESAC songwriting award for “BRING CHRISTMAS HOME.” Tornquist also co wrote two children’s musicals MORE THAN A MIRACE and CHRISTMAS FROM SCRATCH that were recorded and released internationally by the Benson Music Group.
Tornquist moved to New York City and co wrote “UP TO ZION” with Noreen Crayton for Country Music Hall of Fame artist Ronnie Milsap. “UP TO ZION” reached #1 on the Southern gospel charts.
After witnessing firsthand the terror attacks of 9/11, from his SoHo rooftop, Greg began writing MISSISSIPPI the musical. The book tells the story of the mixed-race imaginary town of Hope River dealing with the Civil Rights changes that were sparking like a downed power line in Jim Crow Mississippi. With producer Rob Galbraith, he recorded the tracks for dozens of original songs in Nashville employing legendary studio musicians including Clayton Ivey, Jack Pearson and Bob Babbitt. Then Tornquist arranged and recorded the vocals for MISSISSIPPI in New York City and Como, Mississippi. Bruce Dees mixed the recordings in Nashville.
With the help of Scott Barretta, MISSISSIPPI gained the attention of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford, MS. Noted professor Rory Ledbetter did a table reading on campus. That success lead to a staged reading production at Ole Miss which ended with a standing ovation.
However, not being a theatrical producer, Tornquist set the project aside for a few years and returned to the studio to record an acoustic guitar instrumental album with producer Tom Fitzgerald: LAUGHTER AND LIGHT.
In 2018, Trent Armand Kendall, a singer on the MISSISSIPPI demos passed away unexpectedly. Some of the singers who had been involved in the show got in touch and while grieving and reminiscing expressed a strong desire for the show to move forward. Noreen Crayton took the reins and produced a SRO reading in February 2019 at the Playwrights Rehearsal Studios’ Black Box in New York City.
MISSISSIPPI was then accepted by the New York Musical Festival for its 2019 season. In August 2019, MISSISSIPPI was awarded the NYMF Audience Choice Award: BEST OF FEST-Reading.
Even before Tornquist began writing MISSISSIPPI, he developed friendships with Mississippians in Holly Springs, Oxford, Potts Camp, Greenwood and Byhalia. These friends include Rust College and University of Mississippi professors, bluesmen, gospel preachers, soul food restaurant owners and convicts. MISSISSIPPI became a proud corporate sponsor of the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic, a weekend blues festival.
Gregory James Tornquist continues to write and compose daily while single parenting in Franklin, Tennessee.