A former heavy metal rock music producer based in Los Angeles is now enjoying success as an innkeeper in the Berkshires.
The sounds Tom Werman used to hear came from a smoke-filled windowless music studio when he was producing records for rock groups like Cheap Trick, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Poison and Ted Nugent. Now, his ears ring with the sounds from a smoke-filled kitchen – but don’t worry, it has windows.
Werman and his wife Suky own and operate Stonover Farm in Lenox, Massachusetts. The bed and breakfast was highlighted by Travel + Leisure magazine in its 2013 edition of “The World’s Greatest Hotels.” Its five suites nestled on 10 acres less than a mile from Tanglewood have drawn the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Leonard Nimoy and Chelsea Clinton. Werman says what makes Stonover unique is that it’s a luxury bed and breakfast, something he calls an oxymoron.
“If we had a logo or a motto here, it would be ‘Why sacrifice convenience for charm?” said Werman.
The suites come with all the trappings of your typical B&B, but accommodate 21st century travelers with wifi, iPod docking stations, cable television and a collection of more than 250 DVDs. But before the Wermans were catering to Berkshire tourists, Tom was busy producing 55 albums, with 20 reaching gold and platinum status, during the 1970s and 1980s.
“Initially it was incredible because it was a new world,” he said. “I was young and dumb. All the trappings of the rock and roll fast lane life. I embraced them and I made records. Most of them were hits at the time. At one point, I had three albums on the Top 40 Billboard album chart [with] different bands.”
Tom thought he could be a producer forever. He admits he was wrong.
“There are four phases to any Hollywood entertainment career,” Werman explained. “The first one is ‘Who’s Tom Werman?’ The second is ‘Get me Tom Werman.’ The third is ‘Get me a young Tom Werman.’ And the fourth is ‘Who’s Tom Werman?”
When the 1990s came, Werman says the music industry burned out on him and he burned out on the industry. The hair bands Werman was connected to were no longer popular as grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the charts.
“The kind of music that I had been attached to became embarrassing to these bands,” Werman said. “If they found themselves attached to a producer who had produced Motley Crue, which I had, it would really compromise their street creditability.”
Werman moved away from the music industry at 55, after enjoying more than two decades in the entertainment business. He says he does get nostalgic at times, but doesn’t dwell.
“You won’t find many 60 year-old producers who are working with an 18 year-old rapper or some whiz kid who’s doing whatever the next big thing happens to be,” said Werman.
Werman says music was a big part of his life from the get-go and something he didn’t realize he was more into than his friends were growing up. While taking classes at Columbia University, he played guitar in a band called The Walkers that had regular gigs during the mid-1960s. After playing in New York City, he recalls being approached by the lawyer for Brian Epstein, who managed The Beatles.
“This was at the height at the Vietnam War,” he recalled. “I said ‘Gee let’s say we make a hit record, we’d have to tour right?’ He said well that’s what they usually do. So I turned him down. I said ‘If we leave school we’ll get drafted.’ So I made that choice. I regret it, but I’m just not sure. If I had actually become something of a rock star I probably would’ve killed myself anyway…recreationally.”
After college, Werman worked for an advertising agency but soon moved onto CBS Records in New York and then LA, when he realized what he was doing was dull, grim and boring.
“I always was happy to know that all across the country on a Friday night, there were literally hundreds of thousands of teenage boys listening to the music that I made while they were getting ready to go out, getting pumped up or whatever it was,” Werman said. “I still get emails and letters thanking me.”
Werman says he needed to give himself a reason to wake up in the morning after unsuccessfully trying to reinvent himself in the music industry. He planned to open a sandwich shop in LA, but changed his mind after his friend gave him a book called Who Stole My Cheese? In 40 minutes, Werman devoured what he calls a children’s book that’s really a self-help guide for adults on how to handle unexpected change.
“I stood up and smacked my forehead as if to say ‘I could’ve had a V8, what am I doing?” he recalled. “I immediately booked a flight to the East Coast.”
Being that he’s a Boston native and his wife Suky hails from outside New York City, Werman says he visited seven towns on the East Coast looking for a property to turn into a B&B. Lenox was his last stop. He found what is now Stonover after taking a drive because he was early for an appointment to take a look at another site.
“Literally four months after I read that book we were living here,” Werman said. “We had sold our house, packed up and decided to move. We did everything. A year after that we opened and we’ve been doing really well for the past 12 years.”
Nearing 70, Werman says he’s not really interested in today’s music industry because he’s still hearing songs from his earlier years for the first time.
“Music is now mostly machine-made and perfect, which doesn’t do it for me,” he explained. “I like to be able to hear a little mistake, a little variation in the tempo, a little flat note from the singer. It makes you see what’s going on, in your mind.”
So what does his wife Suky think about the switch? While in LA, she was a fifth grade teacher and worked in museums. She continues to curate art from local and international artists at Stonover and throughout the Berkshires. She calls the whole thing simply an adventure — one that started 45 years ago when she and Tom met on a seven week trans-America biking trip.
“We realized we liked each other after the fourth day,” she said. “We’ve essentially been together ever since, since we 16. But I’m still cycling. He’s playing golf.”