About Tony Clout
I was eight years old, and I made my stage debut as compère for a holiday camp variety show during which I did impressions of Terry Thomas and Norman Wisdom!
My first instrument was a wooden recorder bought for me by my mother. I didn’t want to bother reading music with the rest of the class; I just liked playing by ear. I would astound my teacher with tunes like Grieg’s Piano Concerto, Swinging Shepherd Blues, and The Dambusters March!
I first started to play the guitar and also discovered bass guitar because of Jet Harris playing his Framus Star Bass with The Drifters on Cliff Richard’s first album Cliff. I fell in love with the bass and decided that was the instrument for me!
I played rhythm guitar down at the “2 I’s” in Soho with a band backing Paul Raven (later Gary Glitter). On nights when I wasn’t with Paul Raven, I practised playing the bass guitar on a Framus Star Bass that was always left downstairs in the cellar club. I had no idea who it belonged to. I didn’t have my own electric bass guitar, so it was very useful for me to practice. Forty years later, I was finally able to meet my hero Jet Harris at a Shadowmania event, and when I told him that story he said: “You were playing my bass!” It seems that Jet played with Wally Whyton’s Skiffle Group at the same time as forming The Drifters so, luckily for me, Jet would leave his gear at the “2 I’s“. Later, Jet renamed The Drifters, and they became The Shadows. The rest is history!!
In order to play the bass at home, I converted my very first guitar, a cheap classical acoustic, into a short scale bass guitar by using the four middle string positions and using a BG ‘A’ string tuned down to E; a BG ‘D’ tuned down to A; a BG ‘G’ tuned down to D and a guitar bottom ‘E’ tuned down to G. This served me well until my mother bought me my first Electric bass which was a Vox; it cost her the princely sum of £32 guineas at a time when a Fender Precision Bass was about £180 guineas!
I was also the co-founder of top Essex pop group The Nightriders with John Edmonds, Pete Brewer, and Ian Scott.
The Nightriders, still going strong, re-equipped with an all Sonic Blue Fender line-up – 2 Strats and a Jazz Bass. We later recruited lead vocalist Peter Wright and became Peter Night and The Nightriders.
Peter Night and The Nightriders, were now managed by Dick D’Auray from Canada. The band, now renamed The Atlantics, was to start on a 2-year stint of regular broadcasting on the BBC Light Programme which later became Radio 1. Shows included Easy Beat (with The Johnny Howard Band). This was our first BBC show, and the top of the bill was a newcomer with a chart-climbing song called “It’s Not Unusual.” That artist was, of course, Tom Jones!
Later on, because of a clash of names with an American band, we changed the name to The Transatlantics. We continued broadcasting on shows like The Joe Loss Pop Show, Monday Monday (with Ray McVay’s band), Saturday Club with Brian Matthew, The Jimmy Young Show, Swing into Summer (5 days a week), The Pete Murray Show, This Must Be The Place with Paul Hollingdale, and two Beatles Bank Holiday Specials.
The Transatlantics also appeared with Chris Andrews and The Kinks on ITV’s 5 o’clock Club
The Transatlantics split up, and John, Ian, and I formed The Glass Opening blues band and continued broadcasting on the BBC. At this point I was determined that eventually, I would turn professional, having previously cultivated an interest in music arranging while working alongside the big bands on Radio 2. Already having a good ear, I set about teaching myself to read and write music.
I turned professional for a short season with a 7 piece band called The Seventh Elation formed of friends from various Mecca bands.
My next resident gig was Ross Mitchell’s Nocturnes at Tiffany’s Ilford, one of the many national Mecca ballrooms. One of the Nocturnes was my old school friend Paul DaVinci (left) who was later to be the magical lead voice on the Rubettes no.1 hit Sugar Baby Love.
I was invited to join The Ray McVay Orchestra and left The Nocturnes with Ross’s blessing, as Ray’s band was the top touring showband in the country and this opportunity would only come once! This was a complete change of life for me as I had to learn to cope with being on the road and touring nationally, playing at society and showbiz events at the country’s top venues, including London’s Grosvenor House, The Savoy, and The Empire Ballroom Leicester Square. Ten years before, I had worked alongside Ray on the BBC Radio 2 show “Monday Monday.”
I left Ray McVay amicably to give touring a break and concentrate on arranging commissions. Shortly after, I was contacted by Ross Mitchell who, having heard on the grapevine that I had left Ray, invited me back to ‘normal’ resident life at Tiffany’s, Ilford.
Ross, who wanted to expand his band to a much larger orchestra, was told by Mecca that to do this he would have to move to a larger ballroom in Portsmouth. As I wasn’t prepared to commute from Essex or move house, I left Ross on good terms for the second time. Miraculously (and thank goodness for ‘the grapevine’) Ray McVay had heard that I’d left Ross…again!
He invited me back into his band which was a great honour. I was to be in the band for a further five years during which time I played at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles’s 30th Birthday Party; the entire Royal Family were present. I remember the couple who started the dancing were The Queen Mother and Lord Mountbatten. I met the Queen while we each happened to be next to each other simultaneously pouring out a cup of coffee; she asked me if I was enjoying the party!
Ray and I once again parted company amicably. I had been offered the post of Musical Director for Bob Wheatley who owned The Circus Tavern in Purfleet Essex, and Caesar’s Palace in Dunstable Bedfordshire (which opened in 1987 with The Shadows on the opening night). My job was to fix both club’s house bands (Sounds Around and Caesar’s Sounds Around) and write all the arrangements for both in-house floorshows which included teams of dancers. We also mostly backed the top of the bill too.
I was with Bob Wheatley for ten years during which time I worked with, or alongside, the top entertainers from both sides of the Atlantic including Cannon and Ball, Les Dawson, Freddie Starr, Gary Wilmott, David Essex, The Four Tops, The Shadows, Barry Humphries, Shirley Bassey, Bob Monkhouse, Lenny Henry, The Drifters, The Platters, Chas & Dave, Rowan Atkinson, Smith and Jones, Little and Large, The Stylistics, Russ Abbott, Bobby Davro, Jimmy Jones, Joe Pasquale, The Barron Knights, Michael Barrymore, The Everly Brothers, Duane Eddy, and of course the great Tommy Cooper.
I remember a particularly special treat: two nights of The Everly Brothers AND Duane Eddy with an all-star Nashville band headed by Albert Lee.
Bob Wheatley, closed the Tavern for the summer for refurbishments, so I took the opportunity to do a UK and Channel Islands tour with Michael Barrymore, The Roly Polys, and Stutz Bear Cats. No matter where we were during the tour we always appeared at the Wellington Pier Theatre Great Yarmouth every weekend. With a family to feed, and therefore money to save, I chose to sleep parked round the back of the theatre in my Cortina Estate, which was lavishly appointed with airbed, sleeping bag, and pillows. This saved me money on digs (and they say it’s an easy life being a musician!). Michael wrote, “To Tony, the only man who has made a profit on this tour!”
My special favourite was my comedy hero Tommy Cooper, with whom I became good friends. We had a routine where I would put down my bass and go out on stage to help him with a special ‘two-handed’ trick. I was the last person he worked with before he had a week off and then what was to be his last ever performance on “Live from Her Majesty’s” where he sadly died on stage before a packed theatre and a tv viewing audience of millions. Tommy has been an everyday part of my life ever since.
Since 1983 I had been arranging and copying for various West End shows, including Bill Kenwright’s Blood Brothers. This led to a prestigious gig writing light orchestral music arrangements for BBC Radio 2 shows for the next two years, during which time I worked with Chas & Dave, John Inman, Bobby Crush, Marti Caine, Charles Augins, and BBC musical director Ronnie Hazlehurst and his 40 piece orchestra. The producer was Sonia Beldom. 22 years later we would get married, after a long friendship!
My band Sounds Around, having left the Circus Tavern two years before, re-formed with some new personnel and we travelled around the East Anglia area playing at Weddings, special occasions, and events.
Three major events dominated the year for me: I was to appear at The London Palladium with a Four Freshmen tribute called Fresh Aire. We finished the first half the Gene Pitney show.
The line-up was four vocalists singing complex jazz harmony, and between
The second major event for me in 1998 was a special show put on at The Criterion Theatre in London’s West End by BBC Radio 2 DJ Mike Read. He had put music to the poetry of John
The third major event for me in 1998 was creating tabman.co.uk whose customer base has become world-wide over the succeeding years until the present day.
My Millennium Night 1999 gig was with another
I still do arrangements for various people, including string quartets, and the Palm Court Quintet at The Ritz, as well as for local pantos – and of course, tabman.co.uk still keeps me busy.
I am retired, happily married to my ex- Radio 2 producer and sweetheart, Sonia Beldom, and fulfilling an ambition I’ve had for the last 35 years; building an OO gauge model railway.
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