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 was hooked on 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 “2 I’s” while also forming Cliff’s backing group The Drifters with Hank and Bruce, so luckily for me, Jet would leave his gear at the “2 I’s“. Later, because of legal reasons, The Drifters had to change their name so Jet thought as they were always in Cliff’s shadow he famously came up with the name 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 period of regular broadcasting on the BBC Light Programme which later became Radio 1. Our first broadcast was Easy Beat (with The Johnny Howard Band) which was recorded in front of an audience at The BBC’s Playhouse Theatre London. The top of the bill was a new guy with a chart-climbing song called “It’s Not Unusual.” ; he of course became the legend that is 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 such as 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.
We promoted our first record “Many Things From Your Window” on ITV’s Thank Your Lucky Stars hosted by Jim Dale and later made an appearance on ITV’s 5 o’clock Club with Chris Andrews and The Kinks, promoting another of our records “Run For Your Life”.
We recorded several singles:
MANY THINGS FROM YOUR WINDOW (1965) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHyPFi6go78
STAND UP AND FIGHT LIKE A MAN (1965) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVlOheT5RzE
RUN FOR YOUR LIFE (1966) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBiNYUS9enM
DON’T FIGHT IT (1966) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOjsT81j3uA
LOUIE GO HOME (1966) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quFYUcTrfmQ
We became a “nearly made it but not quite” 60’s band mentioned in the book “What About Us!” : https://www.amazon.co.uk/What-About-Rocklopaedia-Recording-1962-1966/dp/1908372656
The Transatlantics split up, and John, Ian, and I formed The Glass Opening blues band with Tony Miles on drums and soul singer Tosh Yates; we 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 of Johnny Howard, Ray McVay and Joe Loss 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; ten years earlier I had worked alongside Ray many times on the BBC Radio 2 show “Monday Monday.” I left The Nocturnes with Ross’s blessing, he said 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.
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 two night club/cabaret bars: 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 Cliff Richard, 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 died. He had a week off and then appeared in what was to be his last ever performance on LWT’s “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.
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 Tony Harding(from Harmony Grass and Cliff Richard’s backing singers) on bass voice and guitar; Lindsay Benson(from The Cliff Adams Singers) on top tenor voice and trombone; Carey Wilson (also from The Cliff Adams Singers) on tenor voice and trombone and me on Baritone voice and bass guitar.
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.