His mother, painter Eve Mass, was from Holland. His father Anthony Goins Sr., from North, Carolina, was a musician. Tone was born in New York City.
At age 6 he built his own guitar out of scrap wood, nails and rubber bands. Although it did make sound was wasn't playable as a musical instrument. His parents were impressed with his creativity and bought him a second hand Harmony Airline Stratotone electric guitar but couldn't afford an amp. He immediately taught himself the chords to The House of the Rising Sun.
When he was 12 he heard about The Tom Scholz Rockman headphone amp. He pled, argued and badgered his mother until she finally gave in and bought him one. He practiced constantly to the excursion of everything else. Schoolwork, sports, friends, TV and sometimes even meals went neglected when he was practicing. His mother would often find him late at night asleep with his headphones on and his guitar in his hands. He started playing live at age 13 with his band The Footnotes.
When Tone was 15 his mother died. He blamed his father for her death and disavowed all connection to him. He shortened his given name from Anthony to Tone. He also took as his surname, a combination of his mother’s two names in reverse order, Mass - Eve. That same year he left home. By the time he was 18 he was doing session work in NYC.
Graham Parker saw him playing with a band called Robazz Bowtime, and asked him to play with him. That only lasted a few gigs. “I didn’t play with Tone for a great deal of time, but it was one of the most illuminating musical experiences of my career. Yes, he was that good. But like many artists of genius calibre, he could be a bit of a Bolshy bastard and get right up in your face with some right daft ranting. The price of such extreme talent, no doubt.