Jazz and blues piano teacher in London

About me

  • 1947 Born to parents who only listen to Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. Luckily two uncles play the piano and write songs.

  • 1954 Mrs. Miller gives me piano lessons. She also smokes a pipe, gives me sweets and tickles me.

  • 1957 My parents move me to Mr. McRory. Little do they realise that he is a pub pianist and gives me pop songs to play. This is more like it!

  • 1959 At my Jewish Youth Club I play Russ Conway hits and sing the top harmony of Everly Brothers songs. I'm suddenly more popular. Girls start talking to me.

  • 1960 I am singing at my Bar Mitzvah and half way through I faint. I am carried out but recover and claw my way back to finish the performance. Four years later James Brown incorporates this in his act. This is also my first experience of Musical Theatre.

  • 1962 I listen to lots of Ray Charles music and start playing piano in dance bands.

  • 1963 I pass all my GCE exams - except music. This has some irony as I have been a professional musician now for over 40 years and still know nothing about biology. I would also like to believe that my school music teacher now works as a caretaker.

  • 1966 I start playing organ: a Vox Continental. (I suggest that keyboard anoraks take themselves off to my keyboard player page where they can trace my keyboard journey in greater detail.) I join my first semi pro band, the Hijackers, and we win a competition at the Lyceum for the best R&B band in London. One night we arrive at Orpington Town Hall and are amazed to see a queue round the block. We think we've hit the big time but realise we are supporting The Who. From the wings I watch Keith Moon, expecting him to self-combust. Afterwards I have a long chat with Pete Townsend about all the guitars he's smashed up but are still unpaid for.

  • 1967 Playing all-nighters and trying to hold down a job as a Tax Officer do not sit well together so I turn professional and invest in a Lowrey organ. I am suddenly doing a month residency at The Star club in Hamburg with an odd little outfit called The Yum Yum Band. This amazing group called The Vanilla Fudge turn up in two furniture lorries and top the bill for two nights. I'm so impressed by them that I tell their keyboard player that they've "gone beyond music". He takes this the wrong way and throws me out of the dressing room.

  • 1968 I am in Joe Brown's backing band. Earlier in the decade he'd had some chart success and we were touring the clubs on the back of this. His daughter Sam did well for herself in the 80s but I only remember her as a tiny tot.

  • 1969 I play on the Roy Orbison show but sadly my job is not backing Roy but a British comedian and singer called Dick Emery. I also tour with Heinz Burt, a wonderful blond chap who had been with the Tornadoes.

  • 1970 I tour with the American soul singer Percy Sledge. This is a great experience; particularly as when we did shows and TV in Holland he was top of the charts with 'When a Man Loves a Woman'. It was strange to be driven around Holland in a luxury coach with a chart-topper and then return to the UK and push-starting the old Bedford van. I also record an album with Chris Spedding, one of my favourite guitarists.

  • 1971 I buy a Hammond M100 organ and join P. J. Proby's band. People usually remember him for splitting his trousers on stage but I recall nights when he was staggeringly drunk on stage. The audience would heckle, he would invite them on stage for a punch-up and I would hide behind the Hammond. But there was just one night at the Wooky Hollow club in Liverpool when he was sober - and sensational. I also start writing songs and form my own group called 'Listen'.

  • 1972 'Listen' win the first Melody Maker Rock band contest. We sign with EMI, I am interviewed on The Old Grey Whistle Test, we release a single and do lots of radio. Unfortunately two of the band are American and are beset by work permit nightmares. The group folds. Meanwhile my bank of keyboards now includes an ARP Odyssey synthesiser. May 6th of this year was Tony Blair's 19th birthday. So why should this be of any significance? Well, at this time he was trying to be a rock promoter and he chose our band to kick off his career. Unfortunately he booked us into the Queen Alexandra Hall (5000 capacity) and only 60 people turned up. Admittedly this was about 50 more than we usually expected it but it has to be said that the man made a poor decision. I believe that since then he has moved on to make bigger decisions, like whether we should go to war.

  • From this time I begin making the transition to Musical Director and composer and for the next twenty years learn my new trade. Here are a few jobs I particularly enjoyed.

  • 1973 A summer season called The Comedians based on the TV series of the same name. This was on Clacton pier and I would have blotted it from my memory but for one incident. Saturday night, second house, bursting with the elderly, band in the pit (me on Hammond) and Russ Abbott doing his Tommy Cooper impression (he was at this time the drummer for a group called The Black Abbotts). Suddenly a man in white overalls jumps on stage, grabs the mike and makes two announcements - unfortunately in the wrong order. "The pier's on fire." "Don't panic". I couldn't believe that the drummer was actually packing his kit away as I jumped the rail and pushed past any elderly person blocking my exit route.

  • 1975 1978 Resident Musical Director and composer at The Albany Empire.

  • The atmosphere and sheer energy of this fringe theatre in South London produced a series of breathtakingly original shows. Actors such as Alfred Molina and Jim Carter were regulars at the Albany and the band Squeeze played many of their early gigs here. I'm now playing a Fender Rhodes and Solina string machine.

  • 19791981 Resident Musical Director and composer at The Bubble Theatre.

  • The London Bubble tours London parks and commons in a gigantic tent. I composed the music for 'They Shoot Horses Don't They' with a fresh-faced Gary Oldman playing the lead. I still have a tape of him singing one of my songs. In 1980 Bob Carlton's 'Return to The Forbidden Planet' began its life at the Bubble as a late night show. My main keyboard during this period is a Korg PS3200 polyphonic synth, basically a wooden box with jack leads hanging out of every orifice.

  • The Garden of England by Peter Cox for The 7.84 Theatre Company.
    Derek Thompson (recognised these days as 'Charlie' in Casualty) played the lead in a powerful musical play about the 1984 miners' strike.

  • Trafford Tanzi by Claire Luckham. This had already been around for some time before I took over as Musical Director. I had the good fortune to work at the Mermaid Theatre for six months with Toyah Willcox playing Tanzi.

  • Blood Brothers by Willy Russell.

  • I was Musical Director for this show both at Derby Playhouse and Leicester Haymarket. Both times the wonderful Lesley Nicol played Mrs. Johnstone. She has since stopped the show nightly in Mama Mia. Micky Starke (Sinbad in Brookside) played Micky.

  • The Royal Hunt of the Sun by Peter Shaffer.

  • This is one of many commissions for the Chung Ying Theatre in Hong Kong but I have fond memories of this production as it also featured Hong Kong's City Contemporary Dance Company.

  • Serious Money by Caryl Churchill. Music by Ian Dury.

  • This was really Colin Sell's gig and I used to dep. I mention it only because I managed to stop the show (full house, Wyndham's theatre) for the worst possible reason. I mistook a cue and brought the band in (just me, a synth and a drum machine) half way through a scene. Sometimes actors are not forgiving.

  • The Secret Policeman's Ball. In this show, in aid of Amnesty International, I played piano as part of the Ken Campbell Roadshow not knowing at the time that they were going to turn it into a film.

  • Alton Towers. I wrote the parade music that went out every day of the season for five years. This was quite a challenge as every float needed its own theme and style but all the music had to synchronise when played together.

  • The Comedy Store. I often stood in for Richard Vranch on the improvisation nights. Much fun was had by forcing Paul Merton to sing.

  • Then, for 20 years I taught at The Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London as their singing coach. This establishment produced an array of actors that include Anthony Sher, Minnie Driver and Julia Ormonde. I also taught vocal improvisation, song presentation, repertoire and audition technique.

  • These days I spend most of my time teaching jazz piano and playing the odd gig with my trio.