It was on a hitch hiking tour of Europe that saw a 16 year old Tony befriended by a group of Swedish students at a camp site in Malmo Sweden. Every evening was a sing along with a growing number of residents and travelers singing popular folk songs from their respective countries. Tony and his mate Roger were an instant hit with their rendition of 'Theres a hole in my Bucket' which seemed to appeal to the Swedish humour and camp fire mood. One of the regulars of the sing alongs was a mature loner called khy he was a cool Swedish student of life but he had something none of the others had - a guitar. Being the kind, patient soft spoken guy, he was he showed tony a few chords and taught him his first song Dylan's Blowing in the Wind still a sentimental favourite of Tonys today. Thanks Kye you were my inspiration and I will always be grateful.
Having a few more simple folk songs under my belt I went off to Plymouth to College, living in a communal house with 30 other guys the home of a local TV presenter one of the other great periods of my youth. It was very early on at Hill Crest that a senior student, Nigel, who had a 12 string guitar, the first I had seen, taught me the next most important song in my life, the House of the Rising Sun. wow a completely new set of chords!
I soon took over from Nigel as the resident musician and was invited to many parties and so enjoyed quite a social life and continued to add more and more songs to my repetoire. Sunday Nights were spent at various Folk Clubs in Plymouth and surrounds where I started to meet many up and coming musicians. I finally got a booking at a folk club which was to be my first actual appearance in public outside of a student party.
My room mate who lived in Chard near Taunton invited me for a weekend at his home and introduced me to some of his country friends and a whole new country life including the great Somerset folksongs of Adge Cutler and the Wurzels (who I befriended later and who was sadly killed in a car accident. On the Saturday night before my Folk Club gig they introduced me to apple scrumping, unfortunately the farmer and his dog caught up with us and we had to vault a barb wire fence to escape I ripped a finger off and after some stitching and a lot of throbbing was sent home. With an in built sense of the show must go on I did my first gig with a bandaged middle finger a severe handicap for a guitarist - and a long with a bad attack of nerves causing me to forget my words I was a dismal failure but still managed a pat on the back from my mates for trying thanks guys. It was a while before I even thought of appearing in public again though.
Besides the student partys my other performances were for my rugby club after match sing alongs back in the days of the great rugby songs. My mates were always improvising with all sorts of instruments and we eventually put together a skiffle band including an old packing case bass and an array of odd percussion instruments, performing at local hotels and of course rugby club events.
We used to practice in my mothers front room once a week, one week we were loaned a junior drum set on which our boys brigade mate Roger immediately took over, but soon got the sack when quiet Peter Grace had a go and played the perfect backing to All Right Now and Satisfaction and a new band was formed Amazing Grace coinciding with the Judy Collins hit of the same name which seemed to allow people to think they had heard of us before and early stroke of good luck marketing.
We became one of the top local pop bands playing at the country clubs and hotels featuring all the hits of the day a great period and a great adventure to see out my teens.
A stream of jobs locally in the Devon area ensued but realising there was something greater in life I packed a bag and headed for London, staying with my sister at Shepherds Bush, eventually moving into a basement flat in the trendy Kings Road. And then on to Richmond upon Thames which became my base for a few years.
1976 - Turning Professional
It was New Years Eve 1975 that I was home alone and decided to visit a new Wine Bar Colins Wine Bar in Kew Road and have a drink it was so quiet and boring I asked Colin if he would like me to fetch my guitar I hadnt played for quite a while. The night was a great success and Colin built me a small stage with a microphone and booked me for three nights a week at three pounds a night! Wow I was off. I soon hooked up with a female singer Pauline Malone and we hit off with our repetoires and soon became quite a popular West London Act progressing from a folky type repetoire to a pop duo doing the Grease numbers and other tops of the time. We became popular Cabaret act appearing at venues all around the UK including Londons West end and the famous Working Mens club circuit of the north of England. We both maintained our solo careers throughout these years and enjoyed the wonderful 70s, working with and alongside some greats of the time Peter Starstedt, Ralph Mctell in Putney, Pete Entwistle (the Who) and Dennis Waterman at the Turks Head Teddington. Long John Baldry in Cornwall, Lance Ellington son of Duke to name a few.
One of favourite gigs was the Caf above Thursdays nightclub in Kensington High Street, a top night club and an all night eating establishement I worked here for two years on and off, often accompanied by many a well known artist or musician visiting after finishing their own gigs, as I oftern did the midnight til 3am shift. Entertaining a wide range of international audiences including many prominents and royalty (Princess Margaret lived next door) I had one of the most embarrassing moments of my career at the Caf whilst playing a request Annies Song by John Denver an open top Cadillac drew upside and a bunch of guys jumped out, walked in and sat at the table right in front of be it turned out to be the heavy metal band Judas Priest fresh form their concert at the nearby Hammersmith Odeon. Ouch - of all the songs to be playing they turned out to be good fun and joined in on improvised drums and second guitar for a few more up tempo rock and roll songs.
Following an interesting and well received 6 month resident cabaret job for Pontinental in Yugoslavia in 1979, I returned to the London scene but felt it was time for a change so I packed up a Volkswagon Camper van and headed for Munich a whole new world, music scene and language. Difficult at first to break into the music scene I found a niche as a country and western singer which was popular there at the time. I decided it was time to start writing and recording and rented a cellar and set up a small recording studio and go down to learning the art of recording a completely different game to being a performer. It soon became a little business as local bands and artistes wanted demo disks and tapes this led to a wider range of music jobs including:
- A season as a Marlboro Cowboy touring southern Germany in Marlboro gear promoting cigarettes and singing country and western songs.
- Sunday afternoons playing in a hot sauna club
- All day corporate days on a giant raft drifting down the river with a giant barrel of beer and upto 40 people
- Sound productions for Amnesty International with the people of Chile kicked out by Pinnochet
- 7 night a week monthly contracts in night clubs including as I say appearing bottom of the bill with 5 exotic dancers an erotic duo and a boxing kangaroo yes in Munich - along time before my arrival in Australia
A big feature of this era was being asked to put together a seven piece band for a series of shows at the Sheraton. A truly international band was formed, consisting of some of the most talented musicians around. A german new wave rock drummer, a Romanian pianist, a Hungarian fiddle player, a Bavarian saxaphone player, an American bass player (a former Four Season of Frankie Valli fame) and another american lead guitarist, with myself on vocals and guitar wow those boys carried me!
Klaus the drummer became my partner in a bigger better recording Studio Ace Studios Munich - that saw us recording larger rock bands and also a range of other interesting contracts including jingles, theater backing tapes - we started our own record label Ace records and survived the cut throat industry for a couple of years meeting and working with many well known names of the time and performing around the exciting city as well as touring into Austria France and Norway.
During my last couple of years in Munich I was a partner in my own bar where we built a small stage and regularly entertained and frequently had special guest artistes appear. It was fun but limited my musical direction in 1984 with a wife and two year old son I decided it was time to settle down back in the UK and made plans to move back, my last job in Munich was in the Lola Montez Night Club. This was 7 nights a week for two months with Xmas night off. Some excitement followed this gig as it ended on the 31st January and I took a booking starting the 1st of February in London a 24 hour drive! In a great hurry I missed the ferry at Ostende and drove on towards Calais I was waved on through the Belgian Border post and a kilometer down the road was stopped at the French border post I was not allowed in without papers regarding my musical equipment a lack of a Carnet. After some argument with an arrogant Gendarme I turned around and headed back to Ostende where I was stopped at the Belgian border which I had driven through 30 minutes earlier and was not allowed in due to lack of the same papers stuck in no mans land I demanded they do something about it and after a few calls to superiors was allowed to travel to Ostende and report to the authorities there thankfully I was allowed onto a ferry finally arriving in London but missing my first night.
I worked in a Piccadily bar in Londons west end for the month taking a day off to look for a rental home back in Devon where I grew up In February we moved back to Exmouth where it wasnt long before I was working five to seven nights a week with the help of some good agents and an all year round tourist industry.
Finally in 1989 I moved roots to Brisbane Australia where I now call home.
Brisbane offers a huge range of music venues and I think I have tried them all, some of the big sports clubs offering great stages and atmosphere. The warm Queensland climate making options for outdoor venues and gigs a great change.
Maintaining the evergreen oldies style music shows has proven popular and today I enjoy working at venues great and small both solo and as duo or small band.
Exciting opportunities have arisen over the past few years and seen performances in New Zealand, Fiji and ShangHai.
One of the biggest recent achievements was stage managing the World Rugby Golden Oldies Festival opening ceremony and performing in front of thousands at Ballymore.
Based in the bayside suburbs of Brisbane I continue to perform my songs around Queensland and run a recording studio specializing in audio visual productions, voice overs and music production.