Tom (2016) – Still free ‘n’ easy after all these years!

Tom Coulter was born in Scotland where he spent the early years of his life before moving to Salisbury, Rhodesia, with his parents as a 12 year old. After initially being accommodated at the Cranborne Hostel, the Coulter family soon started to settle in and Tom went on to attend Churchill High School. During his high school years he was exposed to a number of fellow pupils who were involved in musical activities. These personalities included John Hodgkinson of The Gentlemen and the Heather brothers, and Peter and Reggie Guntrip, of the Chequers. Duncan Harvey, a guitar player, was another who was involved with the Chequers at the time. On occasion, Tom would sing with the Chequers and his association with Duncan Harvey was to continue at the Teachers’ Training College (TTC), which they would both attend, after school.

It was after starting his training at TTC in 1963 that Tom bought his first 6-string guitar and started to teach himself the basics of guitar playing, largely through observing others. He was at TTC with another luminary of the Rhodie Music scene, Mike Westcott.

It was then that Tom formed his first folk trio, New Found Folk, with Barbara Bacon on vocals (she has a voice very similar to Karen Carpenter’s) and Melanie Wright on guitar. The band played the folk sounds of the day, mainly at functions and gatherings on the TTC campus.

At the completion of his teacher’s training, Tom started the round of schools in Bulawayo and taught at various junior schools such as Baines, REPS and Newmansford. In 1966 he formed another group called Free ‘n’ Easy. The members of this band were:

  •  Tom Coulter – Guitar and vocals
  •  Ian McGuigan – Guitar and vocals
  • Brian Regeness – Lead vocals
  • Peter Moore – Bass guitar

On occasions, Willie Birch would join the band on drums.


It was during this period that Tom wrote some original songs for the band and they made a number of regular television appearances, particularly on popular programmes such as “Hoedown”. The sound of music itself was hardening as pure folk gave way to the creeping influences that would become folk-rock.


Following the demise of Free ‘n’ Easy, Tom launched his latest project, Trivana. Trivana’s members were:

  • Tom Coulter – Guitar and vocals
  • Ian McGuigan – Guitar and vocals
  • Ivana Krupicka – Vocals and percussion
  • Ray Robshaw – Guitar and vocals

The band played cover material from groups such as Fairport Convention and Buffalo Springfield. Again, Trivana made regular appearances on local television programmes such as “Hoedown”.

On other auspicious occasion, Tom performed with Mike Westcott (vocals and guitar), Barbara Bacon, Jane Urquart and Martin Rickards on the same bill as Eddie Calvert who was visiting the city. This was a short-lived ensemble which didn’t amount to much other than this particular event.

During all this time, Tom made regular return trips to Salisbury where his parents still lived. On such occasions he would take the opportunity to perform at the regular Beverly Rocks music gatherings.

In due course Tom moved out of television and into television production and song writing. His early work included written tunes for the children’s programmes, Telly Tots and Jackdaw. It was during this period that he performed on television with Trish Matthews and Ian McGuigan, a show which was seen by Alan Garrity who, impressed with Trish’s vocal talents, went on to record an elpee with her. During this period he also co-wrote an original song (with Rick Rickards) called “Busy People”. The song was performed by The Collection when they went on to win the Texan Rock Band contest that year (mid-70’s).

He was also asked whether he would be interested in joining the Bulawayo band, Lincoln, as they were about to set off in search of fame and fortune in South Africa, however, he declined having other priorities and interests in his life. It was around about this time that Tom, for all intents and purposes, drifted away from the music scene. In due course he relocated to South Africa where, for the past 20 years or so, he has been very involved in the Presbyterian Church. Tom has now had his Hofner 12 string, which he bought at Radio Ltd in Bulawayo, for 50 years and still plays it regularly in the praise and worship team at his church. He has also written a number of religious songs.