Asked in 2017 about the origin of his band’s name, Entrain, Tom Major said it comes from the word “entrainment,” which “has to do with the synchronization of asynchronous rhythms.”

Not clear? Then try this definition from The Psychology of Music (Academic Press, 1982): “A process whereby an emotion is evoked by a piece of music because a powerful, external rhythm in the music influences some internal bodily rhythm of the listener (e.g., heart rate), such that the latter rhythm adjusts toward and eventually ‘locks in’ to a common periodicity.”

Still not clear? Then forget all the highfalutin lingo and do this: listen to an Entrain album, check out their official YouTube clips or, best of all, catch their live show. You’ll get the meaning of “entrainment” in seconds. Believe me.


A skins-slammin’, brass-blarin’ brew of jazz, rock, blues, funk, calypso, zydeco and ska poured over classic-pop hooks and world-music polyrhythms, Entrain’s sound defies standard categorization. They call themselves “a funky-world-jam-ska-reggae-rock stew with enough drums to sink a battleship” on their website, which is as accurate a summation as anyone could possibly muster.

The group’s foundation is infectious, drum-driven rhythms, just as it was when Major founded it some three decades ago. “Once we’ve got that, anything goes, everything goes,” he wrote on the band’s official website. “The most important thing that we try to do with our music is bring everybody together in the spirit of peace, love, fun and a ton of drums.” That said, lyrically he and his co-writer bandmates have been outspoken advocates of social change, particularly with regard to environmental issues. “Our target audience is really anybody and everybody who likes positive-vibe music,” he said in a 2018 interview, “but specifically people who are somewhat awake, people who get what’s going on in the world and want to effect a change, people who understand that we are all one.”

In addition to being a popular headliner and festival mainstay, the group has opened for and/or appeared on bills with a bevy of major acts including Carly Simon, Buddy Guy, Toots & The Maytals, The Neville Brothers, Jimmy Cliff, Gladys Knight, Pete Seeger, James Taylor, Bob Weir and Huey Lewis & The News. Entrain has recorded eight albums, all released by Dolphin Safe Records, the most recent being 2012’s Reason to Feel Good.

Formation, Band members

Major, a drummer who studied at Berklee College of Music from 1976 to 1978, formed the group on Martha’s Vinyard in early 1993 as a sextet with the lineup of John Cruz (guitar, vocals), Judd Fuller (bass, vocals), Sam Holmstock (trombone), Rob Loyot (saxophone) and Rick Bausman (drums). At the time, Major was the kitman for Bo Diddley, a role he played from early 1990 through mid-1997; he was the main drummer on the legend’s final studio album, A Man Amongst Men (Atlantic, 1996), which included guest artists Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Jimmy Vaughan.

Entrain’s lineup, which has changed multiple times over the decades, has included Brian Alex (guitar, vocals), Lennie Peterson (trombone, keyboards) Ned Nugent (bass, conga, djembe), Hilary Noble (saxophone, percussion), Klem Klimek (saxophone, accordion), Eggiest Castrillo (percussion) and M’Talewa Thomas (bass). While Major has made Entrain his main focus, he’s recorded and toured with several other bands since Entrain came together, the most recent being Drums for Peace.

Albums, Boston Music Award

In 1994, the band won a Boston Music Award for Best Live Act and cut their first album, All One. A 12-track collection recorded at Rear Window Studios in Brookline, Massachusetts, all songs were written or co-written by Major, Alex and Nugent except for “Jolene,” which is credited to Alex and Dolly Parton. In 2000, three of the tracks – “Cutaway,” “Arm Yourself (with Love)” and “Jolly Green Giant” – were included on the soundtrack for the film Cutaway (starring Stephen Baldwin, Tom Berenger and Dennis Rodman).

Entrain’s second and third studio efforts were issued in 1996, an eponymous LP followed by Can You Get It, a 13-song disc partially recorded in Carly’s Simon’s barn on Martha’s Vineyard. In 1999, the band appeared in a TV ad for Jordan’s Furniture – broadcast during the Super Bowl – playing a track from the latter album, “Dancin’ in the Light,” live; at the end of the spot, Jordan’s owners Barry and Elliot Tatelman are seen lying on a mattress near the stage as the copy “With the right mattress, you can sleep through anything” closes the commercial. The song was also used in national TV and radio commercials for Sylvania Company

In 1997, the band cut their fourth LP, No Matter What; unlike on previous albums, songs were credited to “Entrain,” not to individual band members. In the 2000s, the group has recorded four more LPs: Live Vol. 1: Rise Up (2002), Live Vol. 2: Right Away People (2006), Just a Matter of Time (2008) and Reason to Feel Good (2012). In late 2011, the single “Lucky Just to Be Alive” from Reason to Feel Good was #2 in Martha’s Vineyard-based WMVY’s “Top 25 Songs” list and had similar success on a number of other stations.

Notable New England appearances

Entrain has appeared across New England including shows at the House of Blues in Cambridge; Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence; Higher Ground Showcase Lounge in South Burlington, Vermont; Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, New Hampshire; Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut; the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River; and Cape Cod Fairgrounds. In 1994, they played at a party hosted by Carly Simon on Martha’s Vineyard at which sitting President Bill Clinton sat in on saxophone.

Drums for Peace

In 2017, Major’s primary side project was Drums for Peace, a show that ran for about a dozen performances on Martha’s Vineyard and small theatres in other parts of southern New England. “Imagine a stage filled with instruments from all around the world and a gigantic screen behind the band,” he explained in advance of the opening performance, adding that “the basis of the show is the power of the drums and the energy of the drums.”

The broader goal of the program, Major said, was “to promote a greener world, to promote unity, to promote racial equality, to promote caring for the Earth and prosperity.” During the song “Drums for Peace,” a drum groove overlayed with a chant, a video plays showing various peace movements from around the world.

In assembling musicians for the program, Major sought out Native Americans to participate in the drum circle, which he thought was an essential element of the program. “When we played on Martha’s Vineyard, we got members of the Wampanoag tribe to come and open the show,” he said. “They sang songs in their native tongue that were all about unity and friendship and love.  It was important for me to pay homage to the natives in that area.”

Comments on influences, Social change

Asked in 2017 about which artists and bands have influenced him most, Major cited some of pop music’s earliest champions of social issues. “As far as using music for social change, I think that was instilled in me from what The Beatles and John Lennon had done, and then after that, it was Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder,” he told WorldPress. “People that were using their music not just for fun and frivolous love songs – not that there’s anything wrong with that – but for a deeper purpose. There was some intention behind the music. And the intention was that we are all one and that we need to embrace love and repel hate and honor each other and honor the earth.”

Asked in the same interview if Entrain and/or Drums for Peace were going to become more overtly political given the recent party-line divisiveness in the United States, Major said they would not and spoke of inclusiveness. “It should not be about politics,” he said. “It should not be about blue and red, left and right, Democrat and Republican. Everyone needs to realize that we can make a better world if we can all get together and unite. Not everyone is going to get the concept, but the people who get it can be from all walks of life.”

(by D.S. Monahan)

Published On: November 24, 2023