Back in 2013, I was frantically trying to raise some finance to finish off our documentary on top UK jazzer Tubby Hayes. In the previous months of ‘hand to mouth’ filmmaking, the name of Tony Hall kept popping up as someone I should interview on the subject. Only problem was at the time of tying to contact him, the dough had run dry, so I had to put him on the back burner.
Eventually of course we managed to fund the finished doc. but by that stage we had enough talking heads and it was time to get the edit done.
So sadly I never met him.
Then in June of last year he died aged 91 and I read all the glowing obits that detailed a fascinating career and I had a pang of regret that it never got sorted. So, in a classic case of ‘better late than never’, please sit back and take a look at his fascinating life and times.
He was born Anthony Salvin Hall in Gloucestershire in 1928 and educated at Lancing College, a boarding school in West Sussex. A jazz fan from an early age, growing up, he was very fond of singer and trumpeter Nat Gonella. Immediately after finishing his National Service in 1949, he found work at the ‘Feldman Swing Club’, at 100 Oxford Street, which is of course the 100 Club we all know and love today.
There, he worked as the compere for many a jazz influenced evening. Then from 1952 he teamed up with Jeffrey Kruger, who had started the Flamingo Club under The Mapleton Hotel near Leicester Square. Tony helped advise Kruger on booking acts for the club.
He had also begun writing reviews for what became the New Musical Express. Eventually he landed at Decca working as a promotions man from 1954.
Whilst there, he reactivated the Tempo label and produced modern jazz by the likes of Tubby Hayes, Victor Feldman, The Jazz Couriers and the seminal album ‘Blues in Trinity’ by Dizzy Reece which was released on the legendary Blue Note label and became one of Tony’s proudest achievements.
By now Hall was very much in demand and his contacts within the music world, found him working in a myriad of other jobs, including writing a weekly column for the magazine, The Record Mirror, and as a DJ on Radio Luxembourg, as well as the BBC Light Programme, and popping up as co host on the TV show ‘Oh Boy!’
In the mid 60s, he picked up work in the promotions dept. for Atlantic Records and helped break the song ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ by Ike and Tina Turner here in the UK after it had flopped in the US. Heavy play rotations on Radio London help ensure a number 1 hit here.
Tony also had a massive hand in breaking the career of Otis Redding in the UK, for which I will always be personally thankful and he was also a very early supporter of the Motown label and very much a soul music enthusiast in general. He hosted Sunday night gigs at The Saville Theatre leased from the Beatles manager Brian Epstein, and introduced The Four Tops there one evening, a concert which went on to achieve legendary status.
In 1967 he had formed ‘Tony Hall Enterprises’ and through that he promoted acts like Joe Cocker, Dusty Springfield, Love Affair, The Zombies, Jimi Hendrix and Scott Walker as well as getting behind ‘007’ by Desmond Dekker that same year, ensuring another hit.
He had also discovered a blues band called ‘Earth’ who had just returned from a stint in Germany and were now named Black Sabbath. After a showcase at Ronnie Scott’s of all places, he got them signed to the Vertigo label.
In 1972 he signed a group called The Sophisticated Soul Brothers who later morphed into the better known The Real Thing, named said Hall after a Coca Cola advert he had seen flashing at him in Piccadilly Circus one evening.
‘Tony Hall was responsible for everything I have achieved in the music business. He was the first to give me confidence to sing a lead vocal. He was the first to give me the encouragement to write songs. He was solely responsible for what The Real Thing became. We owe him everything’ – Chris Amoo.
In the 1980s Tony managed Loose Ends who went on to have a number one on the American R&B charts with their song ‘Hanging on A String’ in 1985
‘Tony Hall – a giant among men! I was privileged to have him as a manager. Tony taught me the beauty of being humble. It was fabulous!’ Steve Nichols, artist, Loose Ends
Towards the end of his life, Tony returned to his first love of Jazz, and reviewed releases for the Jazzwise magazine, well into his late 80s.
So there you have it – compere, DJ, music journalist, TV presenter, record promoter, record producer, music publisher and artist manager. And he remained friends with those he worked with.
That is certainly what I call a life well lived.
The Mumper of SE5