He got a piano on his 8th birthday and studied music for the next 8 years. He was mostly into classical Russian composers. By age 18 he joined his first band, got entangled with the Rupert’s People line up and replaced John Hawken on the keys for Renaissance between 1970 and 1980 and again from 1999 to 2002. When he joined the band, in 1970, Renaissance had undergone a complete overhaul from its beginnings as a project founded by Yardbirds members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, and by the end of 1970, no original members remained.
When Tout joined, Renaissance was looking for a mix sound of classical with popular and manager Miles Copeland, who later joined the Police on drums, heard potential in the group’s new sound, and shepherded them through a revamped (but still constantly shifting) lineup that led to a series of increasingly successful albums throughout the ’70s.
“I just played what came naturally, really,” Tout later said of the way his distinctive playing enhanced Renaissance’s classically inspired sound. “It didn’t seem as though it was different to me. I just liked classical music, and the idea of Renaissance originally was to feature so-called classical music and that appealed to me, which is why I joined in the first place. … It was something I enjoyed, playing classical music. It’s funny, really, because I like soul music and I was playing soul music for a long time. I suppose the opportunity to do something a bit different came and I took it and carried on.”
Tout left the band in 1980, later explaining that at the time, he was subconsciously “blocking off everything to do with music” because of grief over his sister’s passing. “I thought the music had to die as well,” he recalled. “I just shut myself away. I didn’t do anything at all. … For 10 years, I didn’t do anything at all.”
I didn’t play for for ten years because my sister died and I had a bit of a block against playing. She was a piano player too and we used to play together. I was in therapy for three years. That was seven years after my sister died and I suddenly realised something was wrong because I was just staying in bed and I didn’t want to get up and do anything. A friend of mine recommended a psychologist to me. I went to see him and a lot of things came out then. Basically what I was doing was blocking off everything to do with music; because my sister had died I thought the music had to die as well so I just shut myself away. I didn’t do anything at all. So for ten years I didn’t do anything at all. I started playing again when some very good friends of mine who live in Worthing bought a piano. I went down there and her husband said, “Give us a tune.” I’d taken some music down to try this piano out for them as they wanted to know if it was any good or not. They encouraged me to start playing again so that’s when I realised I could actually take back all the stuff that I’d buried.
Renaissance folded in 1987, but reunited in 1998 with a lineup that boasted a quartet of returning alumni that included Tout, and although he left the following year, he remained part of the band’s circle, joining members sporadically in the studio and onstage. He’d planned to work on a new project with former Renaissance bassist Jon Camp, but declining health, including a heart attack he suffered in 2009, forced him to scale back on his activities.
He also was part of Renaissance drummer Terry Sullivan’s band Renaissant which released one album in 2005. Prior to joining Renaissance he was briefly a member of Wishbone Ash.
Tout, whose age was 70 died of lung failure on May 1, 2015 while he was in the care of doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
Here is an Interview from 1998 with John Stout.