John Prine’s Son Tommy Prine Enters The Family Business

We may no longer have John Prine with us, but we still have his songs. We also still have the record label he founded, Oh Boy Records, which has helped give rise to the careers of Arlo McKinley, Kelsey Waldon, Emily Scott Robinson, and Tré Burt to name a few. There is no sign that the legacy and songs of John Prine will be fading from memory anytime soon.

But if you were looking or hoping for someone who could help carry the Prine name and legacy into the future for further generations, you just may be in luck. Though it’s all still in it’s nascent stages with a lot to still be determined, John Prine’s youngest son Tommy Prine has decided to get into the family business. No, there is no album to purchase or to stream on Spotify just yet. But he is touring around, getting his feet beneath him and his voice about him, playing his original songs and a few from pops.

At 26-years-old, Tommy is the youngest son of John with his wife and widow Fiona Whelan Prine. Tommy has an older brother Jack, as well as Jody Whelan, who John Prine adopted as his son and who helps run Oh Boy Records. John Prine died in 2020 at the age of 73 due to COVID-19. Tommy learned how to fingerpick from his father, first picking up a guitar at the age of 10. But his voice is all his own.

Interestingly, it wasn’t his father’s music that directly inspired Tommy to get into singer/songwriter stuff at the age of 17. It was Jason Isbell’s opus Southeastern. Tommy did go out on the road with his dad, helping to sell merch, and upon occasion, taking the stage to sing a song. It was performing with his father at the 30A Songwriters Fest a few years ago where Tommy caught the bug, and wanted to become a performer.

Having started playing professionally about a year ago, Tommy also knows he has big shoes to fill and expectations to meet due to his last name. After all, pedigree is a big deal in country music, even if John Prine was more considered folk and Americana. That is why Tommy has chosen to play a few of his father’s songs in concert, because he knows his last name is one of the reasons folks are at his shows, at least for the moment.

John Prine never really got to see his son bud into an aspiring songwriter and performer though. As his wife Fiona said in a recent feature before Tommy played a show in Boston, “Seeing Tommy on stage is, above all, a source of immense pride and joy for me. Naturally, there are melancholy moments because time is passing, and thoughts too, about how thrilled John would be and how helpful he would be to Tommy at this time.”

On the 2-years anniversary of his father’s death, Tommy Prine posted on Facebook, “It sucks sometimes because I have so many questions . . . [and you’re] the one person that would know what to say.”

Time will tell if Tommy has the stuff to make it professionally as a songwriter and performer. An album of original songs is rumored to be on the way. But it’s hard to not be happy that the Prine name will be conferred to another generation, since it’s meant so much to so many generations before.

Stay tuned.

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