Tams was a musical director and actor at the National Theatre from 1976 to 1985 and then again from 1999 to 2001, working on such shows as The Mysteries, Lark Rise to Candleford, Glengarry Glenross, The Crucible, Golden Boy, The Good Hope and The Mysteries Revival in 1999.
He was a member of the creative team headed by Bill Bryden.
Tams was a member of Derbyshire folk group Muckram Wakes in the 1970s, then worked with Ashley Hutchings as singer and melodeon-player on albums including Son of Morris On, and as a member of the British folk rock group Albion Band.
Splitting with Hutchings in the 1980s, he formed Home Service.
He is regarded by many as one of the unsung heroes of folk music. In 2012 he performed at Horse Guards for members of the British Royal Family singing "Only Remembered," and the next year he sang to an estimated television audience of 53 million when he performed "Only Remembered" to the Queen, the Royal Family, Heads of State, serving and retired soldiers and their families at the Royal Festival of Remembrance live from the Royal Albert Hall.
In 1974, Tams and Neil Wayne went to County Clare to make field recordings of highly regarded traditional players of the concertina.
He first worked as a reporter for the Ripley and Heanor News, and then as an editor on the Belper News - where he notably interviewed the then deputy prime minister George Brown - and for the Alfreton Observer.