Tom Kochie has the blues, but only in the best way.
He started playing the cornet at age 9 as part of Horace Mann School in Rochester, but since then he’s shared the stage with the likes of Buddy Guy, a time he says has “sort of validated” his blues guitar playing. Now, at 65, he will be inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame.
Kochie learned her first guitar riffs from her older brother Dave who played in a Cannon Falls surf band called The Shades. He got his first electric guitar when he was around 10, but before that he started learning on the acoustic guitar from his sister Peg, which he says was really hard to play. His first guitar was purchased using the Sperry & Hutchinson green stamps, award stamps that had been collected at supermarket and petrol station counters.
“I guess I loved it because it was so much easier to play than acoustic, and I could play with it for hours before my fingers hurt,” he says.
In fourth grade, he showed off riffs from songs like Ray Charles’ “What I Say” to his classmates. In 1972, at the age of 15, Kochie had her first real gig. He played for a mixer at the Rochester YMCA.
In 1982 Kochie moved to Austin, Texas to complete a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
“At that time, Austin was becoming a music mecca and we were playing a lot of blues,” he says. “All the old blues greats from Chicago used to play there at a place called Antones that I frequented and tried to snatch a few licks from great guitarists like “Gatemouth” Brown, Albert Collins, Eddie Taylor and Muddy Waters. ”
Kochie worked at IBM in Austin, TX and Rochester for 35 years as a software engineer and manager. Although he is currently retired from that position, he says he “sneaks a few hours a week into consulting for IBM educating clients on how to use AI and data cataloging software” .
The list of local bands Kochie has played with is impressive. He was part of Doghouse Jon and The Misbehavers, Wheelhouse, The Annie Mack Band, The Gopher Tones and Jimmie and The Band of Souls.
“I cherish the time I spent with all the great musicians in these bands,” he says.
Performing with Doghouse Jon in the Inwood Ballroom opening for Canned Heat and Commander Cody introduced Kochie to performing in front of large audiences. He has since traveled to the Memphis International Blues Challenge where he has met blue musicians from all over the world. He performed at the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, and even at Buddy Guy’s Legends nightclub in Chicago with Annie Mack.
While Kochie says her guitar playing has been influenced by famous musicians like Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, as well as older Chicago blues players like Hubert Sumlin, Eddie Taylor and Jimmy Rogers, her biggest inspiration over the years came from Charlie Lacy, another Rochester “guitar wizard” who he shared the stage with and calls his “musical music”.
Kochie’s appreciation for the blues stems in part from its status as one of the few musical genres created in America.
“The blues has a simple musical structure but can be a real challenge to rock the music to the beat,” he says.
Kochie learned he would be inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame in June when it was announced while performing with Jimmie and The Band of Souls at Brothers Bar and Grill in Rochester to a crowd of friends who had been very supportive of his music over the years.
“It was totally unexpected,” he says.
The induction ceremony is being hosted by the Minnesota Blues Society at Jimmy’s Event Center in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota on Sunday, October 16, 2022. Although he has no specific duties related to his membership in the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame, he says this means that when he is not busy reading books to his grandson Elliot, he will continue to play the blues.
Kochies is currently working on recording a collection of Chicago Blues covers with many of the musicians he has collaborated with over the years. He says some samples are available on The Gopher Tones website at
“Being inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame gives me a sense of accomplishment and affirmation that I’m on the right path in following my passion for blues music,” says Kochie. “For me, the award is not so much about my musical abilities as my promotion of blues music and the joy of those who love this style of music.”
To learn more about the Minnesota Blues Society, visit