March 3, 1979 – Mike Patto (Spooky Tooth) was born Michael McCarthy in Cirencester, Gloucestershire on September 22nd 1942 (also named name Michael Patrick McGarth).
Patto first came to light as the vocalist in a Norwich R&B outfit called Mike Patto and The Breakaways. After several line-up changes, The Breakaways became The Bluebottles, but soon after Patto headed for London to join The National Youth Jazz Orchestra. At the same time he had a spell with The Bo Street Runners and the Chicago Line Blues Band in 1966 before forming Timebox, which eventually evolved into Patto.
Developing from a complicated ancestry that included The Bow Street Runners, Patto’s People, and the Chicago Blue Line, Timebox made two singles for Pye’s Piccadilly subsidiary as a six-piece, before signing to Decca’s Deram label in 1967 with the line-up of Mike Patto (born Michael Patrick McGrath in Glasgow) on vocals, Pete ‘Ollie’ Halsall on guitar and vibes, Chris Holmes on piano, Clive Griffiths on bass and John Halsey on drums. This line-up recorded five singles for Deram between ’67 and ’69, none of which troubled the compilers of the Hit Parade, despite the excellent musicianship that allowed them to encompass several genres of music in their output (“Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind“).
In 1969, after their last single “Yellow Van” failed, and Chris Holmes departed, they decided that their future lay in the burgeoning progressive movement, which in itself was born of the freedom from instant commercialism that the better musicians of the psychedelic flowering had forged. And thus Patto (the group) was born.
Lucky enough to be signed to the recently created Vertigo label, soon to become home of many progressive rock classics, Patto went into the studio with Muff Winwood in the producer’s chair. Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group shortly after his brother’s departure in 1967, in order to take up the job a the head of A&R at Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, Blackwell having managed the S.D.G. Perhaps as a reaction to the complicated sound of the Timebox records, Winwood decided to record Patto with a ‘live-in-the studio’ feel, though the result still showcased Ollie Halsall’s guitar virtuosity. The imaginatively-titled “Patto” was released in November of 1970, and whilst the album demonstrated the band’s expert handling of tricky time signatures and jazz changes (applauded by the critics and fellow musicians), their efforts were not rewarded with substantial sales. Mostly because the time was not right.
A second album, “Hold Your Fire“, issued a year later, contained many of the same ingredients, and resulted in similarly disappointing sales and Vertigo dropped the band. Muff Winwood’s connections got them a new deal at Island Records, and they returned to the studio with Winwood to record “Roll ‘Em Smoke ‘Em Put Another Line Out“, released in 1972. As is plainly audible, the ramshackle element of their live act is well to the fore, along with elongated examples of the band’s humor. The outstanding musicianship can still be heard, but the album was unfavorably received.
All three albums were heavier in style than what he’d done to date but failed to capture a wider interest. Nonetheless, “Patto” (1970), was a good jazz-rock fusion featuring some fine vibraphone and guitar playing from Ollie Halsall. “Hold Your Fire“, which is now hard to find on vinyl, was reputedly better, although their album for Island was rather disappointing. When the project disintegrated in 1973, Patto embarked on a brief solo career and in 1974 he joined Spooky Tooth as vocalist and 2nd keyboardist. Spooky Tooth was one of the very few bands to adopt the twin keyboard approach.
Afterwards he was a founding member of the rock band Boxer along with the legendary guitarist Ollie Halsall and keyboardist Chris Stainton. They toured both the US and Europe. His final solo 45, “Sitting In The Park” was a ballad done by Billy Stewart and Georgie Fame.
Ollie Halsall joined Jon Hiseman’s power trio Tempest for the latter of their two albums, before he and Patto formed Boxer in 1975, their first album being better remembered for its cover than its contents. Two more albums were recorded, but Mike Patto’s career was sadly arrested by illness.
He died of lymphatic leukemia on March 3, 1979 at age 39.