May 23, 2001 – Tommy Eyre was born on June 5, 1949 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. He moved to London in 1969 and what follow is the well spelled out timeline of one of rock and roll’s greatest keyboard players.
Very versatile and prolific keyboardist, Tommy had an incredible career playing with many top bands and artists of almost every genre. His name should be included in any hall of fame for keyboardists, and although his musical contributions are very extensive, he’ll always be remembered by two of his most famous works:
The playing in Joe Cocker’s original version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. Tommy’s organ arrangements gave the song such classy style, and the playing in the famous ‘Baker Street‘ by singer Gerry Rafferty, another eternal song.
Such an in-demand keyboardist, Tommy played the Reading Festival eight different times with eight different bands.
BABYLON – This was Tommy’s first professional band. He left school at 16 to join up with Babylon a band formed by a Dutch saxophone player John and his wife, singer Marie Woodhouse in 1965. They toured Europe, mainly Germany and Spain for around a year and recorded in Madrid, Spain.
JOE COCKER & THE GREASE BAND – Although Joe Cocker was the media star, his bands have always been commanded by the superb Chris Stainton, in those days on bass, it was another keyboard great playing back then, Tommy Eyre. After their earlier lineups, Joe and Chris assembled new personnel in April 1968.
Tommy was in the lineup that recorded Joe Cocker’s first album, the worldwide famous “With A Little Help From My Friends”. The complete lineup only appears in 1 song, a very beautiful rendition of ‘Don’t let me be misunderstood’. Some other great musicians in the album: Jimmy Page, Albert Lee, David Cohen (guitar), Carol Kaye (bass), Artie Butler, the great Matthew Fisher, Steve Winwood (keyboards), Paul Humpries, the much-missed B.J. Wilson, Clem Cattini, Mike Kellie (drums), Merry Clayton, Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway, Madeline Bell, Sunny Weetman, Rosetta Hightower (backing vocals). Tommy plays in ‘Just Like a Woman’, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ (playing a fantastic organ solo) and the eternal “With A Little Help From My Friends”. A classic album.
By the time this album was released however, Kenny Slade and Tommy had left the band (in January 69).
Tommy moved to London where he joined
AYNSLEY DUNBAR RETALIATION – As you can guess by their name, this was a band commanded by superb drummer Aynsley Dunbar. For their third album, To Mum from Aynsley and the boys, Tommy is added to the original quartet. This album was produced by Aynsley’s former boss, John Mayall.
They shared bill with Frank Zappa band in Belgium, in the Amougies Festival, in October 1969, and in Paris, where Zappa puts his eyes on Dunbar, and … soon after, Aynsley breaks the band to join him. Tommy was also offered the job in Mothers of Invention, but at the last minute Ian Underwood decided to stay, so Tommy moved on to Blue Whale.
BLUE WHALE – This is the new band formed by Aynsley in 1969: Tommy Eyre suggested Paul Williams for the vocalist role. They released an album, Blue Whale, in a progressive style, with long jamming songs. Blue Whale veered more towards progressive rock with lots of improvisation. It includes four long tracks written by the band’s vocalist Paul Williams and a version of Frank Zappa’s Willie The Pimp. The best track is It’s Your Turn. The album was recorded during March-April 1970, in London, but only released when technology had already moved up to CDs.
JAKLIN – They only released one album, ‘Jaklin’, before splitting.
JUICY LUCY – This band was formed by Glenn ‘Ross’ Campbell and Chris Mercer. But they went through many changes. For a short period, Tommy Eyre joined the band, when their original guitarist, Neil Hubbard, left. Tommy’s mate, Paul Williams, called him to join them. But they didn’t want a keyboardist, so Tommy played guitar while in the band!! But he soon left, being replaced by another great musician, Micky Moody.
STRABISMUS – Tommy and Roger Sutton reunite, starting their own project, called Strabismus. But the project was put on hold, when they got a call from Mark-Almond.
The only recordings they made, has surfaced under the name Riff Raff, on the ‘new’ album ‘Outside Looking In’ . But that’s not the only material from them. Happily, 1999 has seen how a ‘new’ album has been released. It’s Outside Looking In. It was recorded in 1972, after Tommy Eyre and Roger Sutton finished recording 1st Mark-Almond album. They had some free studio time, and they recorded the songs now appearing on this album. It’s really a recording by Strabismus, but it has been released under Riff Raff name.
MARK-ALMOND – Jon Mark (guitar) and Johnny Almond (sax, flute) were the members of this duo. Both played together in John Mayall band, recording the superb live album ‘Turning Point‘ with Mayall and bassist Steven Thompson. In 1970, they started their career as a band, with Tommy Eyre and Roger Sutton. They decided not to take a drummer. This lineup released their first, self-titled album, Mark-Almond, produced by Hugh Murphy. In 1971, they were playing for a month on Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, along with Charlie Mingus Band. Mingus’ drummer, the veteran Danny Richmond was excited to join Mark-Almond on stage some nights. A new album released: Mark-Almond II. But Roger Sutton leaves the band in the summer of 1972. And Tommy Eyre was to follow Roger very soon…
RIFF RAFF – This was an updated Strabismus, in 1973, Rod Coombes, was wanting to form a studio band, Tommy and Roger Sutton were introduced to Peter Kirtley, guitarist, singer and composer who had been involved with all the major bands in his native Newcastle. His musical ideas fit perfectly with their plans and he was asked to join (it was Peter who came up with the name Riff Raff). Rod Coombes still had touring committments with Juicy Lucy, so Tommy brought in Kenny Slade from the Grease Band on drums and friend Alan Marshall on vocals for the first line up.
Riff Raff wrote all their material, some written by drummer Rod Coomes and they released a self-titled album, recorded in September 1973, with help from sax player Bud Beadle. A very good album. By the time of their 2nd album, they had increased the lineup, with two members from Gonzalez: They released a superb album, ‘Original Man’. Recorded in April-May 1974, it includes collaborations from Jo Newman (vocals) and Joe O’Donnell (viola). Sadly, Riff Raff was to disappear soon; Aureo De Souza wasn’t allowed to stay on England, so he was forced to return to Brazil, the band finally split.
ZZEBRA – Tommy Eyre 1974 in Zzebra. This band was formed in 1974 by keyboardist and lead singer Gus Yeadon (from Love Affair) with ex-If members Terry Smith and Dave Quincey. But Yeadon soon left. So, Tommy Eyre joins them, in order to play some keyboard parts on their first album. Their first album, Zzebra, was recorded during October 1974,
They started recording a new album soon after Tommy joined, but Terry Smith left in the middle of the recording. His replacement was Steve Byrd. And Tommy also brought an old friend for the vocals, Alan Marshall.
The 2nd album, Panic, was recorded along 1975. By the way, a little secret (kept until now). The album features an uncredited appearance by Jeff Beck playing a guitar solo on the song ‘Put a Light On Me’, co-written by great drummer Liam Genockey.
They started recording their 3rd album in Wales, but for some reason it was never released … until now! Again, the great Disconforme label has released this 3rd album, called “Take It Or Leave It”. It includes guest appearances by 4 members of Osibisa.
It’s interesting noticing that this jazz-rock outfit later was used by Ian Gillan to complete his hard-rock bands (McCoy, Byrd and Genockey were members of the band; also Tommy, many years later, as we’ll read).
DAN McCAFFERTY BAND – Dan McCafferty is the singer in Nazareth. He released his first, self-titled solo album, ‘Dan McCafferty’ in 1975. The keyboardist in the album was Hugh McKenna. When Nazareth toured that same year, it was agreed that Dan would make a solo spot, backed by … Nazareth, but with the addition of a keyboardist. By the time of the tour, Hugh McKenna got quite ill, so Tommy Eyre was called to play in Dan McCafferty songs. So, the shows were: Nazareth songs, then a small break, they rolled the keyboards on stage, and Dan did his solo stuff with Nazareth plus Tommy. Another break, the keyboards were off again, and Nazareth did the rest of the setlist.
SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND – After several years with the same lineup, in August 1977, Hugh McKenna leaves the band, being substituted by Tommy. After a new album, ‘Rock Drill’, in October 1977, Alex Harvey leaves the band (again), and Tommy goes with him. They released an album, “The Mafia Stole My Guitar”.
JOHN MARTYN (BAND) – In February 1981, Tommy Eyre joins John Martyn. He had recorded an album with him, ‘Grace And Danger’, and this was the tour line-up to promote it:
John Martyn (vocals, guitar)
Alan Thomson (bass)
Tommy Eyre (keyboards)
Danny Cummings (percussion)
Jeffrey Allen (drums)
This lineup appears in the official video compilation by John Martyn, In vision 1973-1981. Tommy Eyre appears in 5 tracks.
GREG LAKE BAND – After the (first) split of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in 1979, Greg Lake called Gary Moore to help him to assemble a powerful live band, that’s what Gary did, in what a way! This was June 1981.
Greg Lake (vocals, guitar)
Gary Moore (guitar)
Tristam Margetts (bass)
Tommy Eyre (keyboards)
Ted McKenna (drums)
They released a first album, Greg Lake, although it includes many sessionmen. ‘It Hurts’, has some killer tracks, such as ‘Nuclear Attack’. Tommy co-writes a song called ‘The Lie’. Guests: Steve Lukather, Dean Parks, Snuffy Walden (guitar), Bill Cuomo, Greg Mathieson (keyboards), David Hungate (bass), the late Jeff Porcaro, Jody Leigh, Michael Giles (drums), Clarence Clemmons (sax).
They played at Reading Festival in August 1981, where the band amazed the audience, especially due to Gary Moore’s playing. Fortunately, after years of looking for some recording of their performances, we are able to hear them, thanks to a King Biscuit release, Greg Lake in concert. The two King Crimson songs that they played show Gary Moore at his best. It was recorded on November 5th, 1981. There’s also a limited special edition with one bonus track, ‘C’est la vie’.
The last concerts by the band were played in December 1981. They started a second album, Manoeuvres, recorded with the same band, although I guess there must be session musicians too. It was recorded in February 1982, and released next year. It’s uncertain if Tommy is featured there.
The band dispersed in April 1982, when Ted McKenna joined Michael Schenker Group (that would lead Tommy to perform some session work with them, as we’ll read in the sessions page).
Greg Lake released a 2CD compilation called Greg Lake: from the beginning, featuring tracks by King Crimson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, from Pete Sinfield solo album, Greg Lake own solo albums, and Emerson Lake & Powell (with Cozy Powell). Tommy Eyre is featured in some of the Greg Lake solo tracks (no unreleased material featuring Tommy). Other great musicians appearing here: from King Crimson (Robert Fripp, Mike Giles, Ian McDonald, Mel Collins, Pete Giles and guest Keith Tippett), from ELP (Keith Emerson, Carl Palmer, Cozy Powell), and from Lake’s solo material (Geoff Downes, Mike Giles again).
Greg Lake started selling an album directly from his official website. It’s called ‘From the Underground: the official bootleg’. It contains unreleased material (studio and live). It contains tracks with The Shame (1967), Shy Limbs (1968), King Crimson (1969), Greg Lake solo (1973), Greg Lake Band (1981), Asia (1983), Emerson Lake & Powell (1986, with Cozy Powell), Greg Lake solo (1986), Emerson Lake & Palmer (1992 & 1993), Greg Lake Band (1994). Tommy appears in the two tracks with Greg Lake Band, ‘Retribution Drive’ and ’21st Century Schizoid Man’, both recorded live in 1981 at The Palladium, New York City.
After 20 years, both studio albums, Greg Lake and Manoeuvres weren released on CD in the year 2000.
GARY MOORE BAND – Around May 1982, Gary Moore leads his own band, keeping Tommy with him. He plays in Corridors of Power. A fantastic album, from start to finish. With a superb lineup: Gary Moore (vocals, guitar), Neil Murray (bass), Tommy Eyre (keyboards), Ian Paice (drums), plus help from Jack Bruce (vocals in 1 song), the late Bobby Chouinard (drums, 1 song), Mo Foster (bass, 1 song).
By the way, the first edition of Corridors of Power came with a free EP, recorded live at the Marquee on August 26th, 1982. The tracks are: ‘Rockin’ every night’, ‘Back On The Streets’ and ‘Parisienne Walkways’. But soon after the concert at Reading Festival in August 1982, Tommy leaves (being replaced by another great player, Don Airey).
WHAM! – Tommy in concert with Wham. The band where George Michael started his successful career, as a duo with Andrew Ridgeley. After their first album, Tommy was asked to be musical director for them (as well as their keyboardist, of course). That lasted for about three and a half years.
Make It Big, is their second album. Some songs here were great hits, such as ‘Careless Whisper’. It also includes an Isley Brothers cover. Musicians list include: Hugh Burns (guitar, from Jack Bruce Band, later with Mike Oldfield), Deon Estus (bass), Tommy Eyre (keyboards), Andy Richards (keyboards), Steve Gregory (sax, from Gonzalez), Dave Baptiste (sax), Paul Spong (trumpet), Colin Graham (trumpet), Trevor Murrell (drums).
They were the first rock band ever to be allowed to perform in China (Jean-Michel Jarre had played with a symphony orchestra before them). This was April 1985: There’s a live video from those concerts: Wham! in China: Foreign skies.
Music from the ‘Edge of Heaven’ was their third album, with the hit ‘I’m Your Man’. A great guest: Elton John on piano. Plus more great musicians: Hugh Burns (guitar), Robert Ahwai (guitar), Deon Estus (bass), John McKenzie (bass), Tommy Eyre (keyboards), Richard Cottle (keyboards), Andy Hamilton (sax), Dave Baptiste (sax), Paul Spong (trumpet), Danny Cummings (percussion), Charlie Morgan (drums), Trevor Murrell (drums).There are lots of Wham compilations, so Tommy Eyre will probably be featured in all of them.
After Wham!, Tommy worked as a studio musician for records, TV and movies. He also started writing for TV and continued performing with ……
MR. GONE – This jazz-rock band was formed in early 1986: Unfortunately, they split around 1988, without having recorded any material.
BUT THEY DID…
MR. GONE – UPDATE
Tommy was my friend from 1976 on ( although I’d seen him play with Aynsley in the 1960’s). I’ve been recording professionally for 32 years and never met a better musician than Tom. Just a small correction about the band Mr Gone mentioned ton Tommy’s Page.
THEY DID RECORD…. I have 4 or 5 x 2″ 24 track masters from a very hard day’s work. I had the keys to “an un-named London studio…” where I used to freelance engineer. We nipped in on a Bank Holiday when nobody was around and recorded basically an album’s worth of tracks. This was on second-hand tape which I had ( as tape was over 100 quid a reel even then), but the tape was fine and lined-up OK.
Tommy Eyre -keyboards
John Etheridge -Guitar
Dill Katz -Bass
Ted McKenna – Drums
From memory John Etheridge left holes for the solos to do later. This was all live apart from the guitar solos and really stirring stuff with some great playing. We fixed a couple of bass notes for Dill and that was about it as far as patching went. My great friend and ex-production partner Martin Hayles was as big a Tommy fan as I was, and we were both Tommy’s mates. So I think it was Martin who probably recorded the John Etheridge solos. I remember Martin did one session on it when I couldn’t make it as I was doing a session somewhere else..
VERY BIG Thankyou to Gwyn Mathias
RAY RUSSELL BAND – Ray Russell was a very fine guitarist who has played in lots of albums and sessions (just a few examples: Mike Batt, Cliff Richard, Judie Tzuke, Tina Turner, Madeline Bell, Lulu, Victor Brox, Hudson Ford, and many more). He also has played in live bands by Frankie Miller (with Chris Mercer) or Simon Phillips (with Andy Timmons). His solo albums include some elements of fusion and jazz.He was invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 1988.
This concert was recorded, and sometime later, it appeared as a collective live album, appropiately called Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival. But Tommy surprised, as he not only plays in the tracks by Ray Russell. He appears in all the tracks in the album, by two different artists. Other artists appearing were fine Spanish guitarist Joan Bibiloni, and wonderful violin player Scarlet Rivera. Tommy managed to play with them all.
IAN GILLAN (BAND) – Now living in America with his new wife violinist Scarlett Rivera, we find Tommy in the brand new band assembled by Ian Gillan, of 1960s Deep Purple fame, to promote his solo album Naked thunder released on July 1990.
Ian Gillan (vocals)
Steve Morris (guitar)
Mick O’Donaghue (guitar)
Tommy Eyre (keyboards)
Chris Glen (bass)
David Lloyd (backing vocals, guitar)
Ted McKenna (drums)
They released a live video, Ian Gillan live. The band disbanded at the end of 1990.
THE GARY MOORE BAND – Andy Pyle, Tommy Eyre and Gary Moore. The next Gary Moore album was called After hours. The album doesn’t have a definite lineup (3 bassists, 2 drummers), but Tommy Eyre is the only keyboardist on the album. With two very special guests: B.B. King and Albert Collins. A very fine album.
After his change into blues, Gary started calling his live band Gary Moore and The Midnight Blues Band. It’s almost the lineup of After Hours, with Andy Pyle back into the band.
This lineup releases a live album, Blues alive, recorded in 1992. Includes a guest appearance from Albert Collins in one song. All the material is blues, except a beautiful rendition of Gary’s own ‘Parisienne Walkways’. Listen to Tommy’s solo on ‘Further on up the Road’, and how he replies there to Gary’s guitar. Great!!
In July 1993, there’s a new tour with a smaller lineup (no horn section or backing vocalists):
Gary Moore (guitar, vocals)
Andy Pyle (bass)
Tommy Eyre (keyboards)
Graham Walker (drums)
They played two concerts (one of them in Spain), that same month. After the Spanish gig, the whole tour was cancelled, and Gary Moore went to play for some one-off gigs with Jack Bruce
B. B. M. (Baker, Bruce, Moore,) – Tommy with BBM This supergroup was formed by:
Gary Moore (guitar, vocals)
Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)
Ginger Baker (drums)
The idea behind this agrupation was clear. They wanted to recreate a powerful blues trio, just in the style of Cream. They released a very fine album, ‘Around the Next Dream’. Yes, it’s like Cream. That’s what you find there, plus some pleasant surprises, such as the jazzy beautiful ballad ‘Wrong Side of Town’, sung by the delicious voice of Jack Bruce. The keyboards in the album were all played by Tommy Eyre. You can hear clearly his superb organ playing, for example, in the song ‘High Cost Of Loving’ or ‘I Wonder Why’… Great.. great album. The album was followed by a European tour.
After that tour (May to July 1994), everybody went back to their solo careers, and Tommy carried on with Gary again.
GARY MOORE BAND – In April 1995, Gary Moore resurrects his Midnight Blues Band, with his friend Tommy Eyre.
Gary’s next album is a full tribute to Peter Green, ‘Blues for Greeny’ whic included Peter Green’s original songs as well as a version that Peter played with Fleetwood Mac, the beautiful ‘Need Your Love So Bad’. There was a live video also released from the subsequent tour, recorded on April 27, 1995. After playing at Montreux Festival in July 1995, they canceled all the other gigs. Gary Moore’s next step was another great change. He leaves the blues direction, turning into a more rocky style, and Tommy doesn’t stay in his band. There are several Gary Moore compilations, and Tommy is featured on many, including ‘Ballads and Blues’ 1982-1994. This compilation features 3 unreleased tracks, as well as some alternate takes.
MINGUS BIG BAND – When he moved to New York, Tommy started playing with Mingus Big Band.
TOMMY EYRE & RITUAL – Tommy Eyre on keyboard with Ritual at the concert in Montevideo. Ritual is a band formed by three musicians from Uruguay. They released an album “PRESENCIA” in 1995 not with Tommy, and in June 1997 they played a special concert in Montevideo.
Some songs from this concert are available on A NEW MAP OF THE WORLD (including Tommy playing a piece by Claude Debussy on the grand piano). The CD also includes new recordings (featuring Tommy and his wife Scarlet Rivera) as well as remixed and overdubbed versions of songs from the album Presencia.
METRO – Metro is a band with a changing lineup, fronted by the great vocalist Alex Ligertwood. Tommy played with them from time to time, when he was available (another keyboardist for the band is Vince Dicola).
MILES DAVIS TRIBUTE BAND – In November 1999, Miles Davis receives posthumously an “Angel Award”. Tommy assembled a special lineup for a Miles Davis tribute:
Reggie McBride (bass)
Tommy Eyre (keyboards)
Tony Braunagel (drums)
The performance was not recorded!!
SCARLET RIVERA & TOMMY EYRE – Wonderful Scarlet Rivera, who first came into the spotlight as gypsy violinist on Bod Dylan’s Desire album, first met Tommy at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1988. Two years years later, they married and he moved to the US. Tommy used to appear in Scarlet gigs whenever he was off the road. They have recorded many albums together along the last 10 years of his life, although they’re usually credited to Scarlet. Tommy Eyre plays keyboards in all of them, as well as acting as producer and composer with Scarlet.
Tommy died on May 23, 2001 while bravely battling esophageal cancer at age 51.