When comedian Tommy Miles, better known as Nephew Tommy, is not busy helping hopeful singles pursue their one true match on “Ready to Love,” he’s either landing jokes on the airwaves or for a live audience.
Miles has done scores of live performances and had guest spots on television and roles in films throughout his 20-plus-year career. But what some may not know about the Houston, Texas, native is that part of his big break was working as the opening act for arguably one of the most respected male vocalists of all time.
“I opened for big Luth [Luther Vandross] for three years,” said Miles to Atlanta Black Star. A then twenty-something year old Miles had hopes of being a “thespian” — he can easily recite lines of Shakespearean prose at the drop of a hat to this day — but instead he found himself taking a stab at comedy and succeeding.
Making his rounds in the comedy scene paid off as he landed the gig of opening act for the “Never Too Much” singer. In a way, Miles attributes finding his way to the morning radio show to Vandross and God.
“He [Vandross] went on hiatus and said, ‘Hey, Imma go write a new album, and when I come back we’ll be back out on the road,” recalled Miles. So he used his free time to test out the airwaves.
“I go hang out on the radio for a week, two weeks, they love the whole chemistry, the uncle, the nephew. It shoots through the roof, Los Angeles is going crazy saying, ‘Who is this crazy kid on the radio with Steve [Harvey]?'” But still, Miles had his sights set on returning to tour life with Vandross.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m having fun with y’all on the radio, but when Luther call me I got to go, I can’t be playing with y’all on the radio.’”
Unfortunately that call would never come. In 2005 the Grammy-winning singer, who had a recent birthday on April 20, died at the age of 54. Tearfully, Miles explained how he experienced grace during that difficult time: “God gave me a job before I knew I needed one because Luther died and never came back, and I already had a job, I was on the radio.”
Twenty years later and Miles is still rocking the mic and leaving listeners in stitches. But to this day he says the lessons he learned from Vandross have carried him throughout his career.
“He was a perfectionist. Everything, he wanted it perfect. He didn’t get mad if it wasn’t, but he got on it to make it perfect. He was a perfectionist, and he made me that. That was a great time in my life. A great three years. A great experience,” says Miles.
“I can’t ask for a better person to look up to on having someone to let you know how to conduct yourself, and handle yourself in the entertainment business than Luther Vandross.”