Zoot Money's Big Roll Band Biography

George Bruno Money, 17 July 1942, Bournemouth, Hampshire, England. A veteran of his home town’s thriving music circuit, and a pioneer of Hammond organ-based British R&B, alongside Georgie Fame and Graham Bond. Money played in several local rock ‘n’ roll groups before forming the Big Roll Band in 1961. Its original line-up comprised Roger Collis (guitar), Kevin Drake (tenor saxophone), Johnny King (bass), Peter Brooks (drums) and Zoot Money on piano and vocals. By 1963, the singer was fronting an all-new line-up featuring Andy Somers aka Andy Summers (guitar), Nick Newall (saxophone) and Colin Allen (drums), but he left the group for a temporary spot in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. Money remained in London when his tenure ended, and his band subsequently joined him there. The Big Roll Band secured a residency at London’s prestigious Flamingo Club, and added two new members, Paul Williams (bass/vocals) and Clive Burrows (saxophone), before recording their debut single, ‘The Uncle Willie’. In 1965, the band released its first album, It Should’ve Been Me, a compendium of soul and R&B material that enhanced their growing reputation. A second album, Zoot!, recorded live at Klook’s Kleek, introduced newcomer Johnny Almond, who replaced Burrows. This exciting set included a superb James Brown medley and confirmed the band’s undoubted strength. However, a devil-may-care attitude undermined their potential, and only one of their excellent singles, ‘Big Time Operator’ (1966), broached the UK Top 30. Money became famed as much for dropping his trousers onstage as for his undoubted vocal talent, and several of the line-up were notorious imbibers. Yet this lifestyle was reversed in 1967, when Money, Somers and Allen embraced the emergent ‘flower-power’ movement with Dantalian’s Chariot. However, by the following year Money had resumed his erstwhile direction with Transition, a disappointing release which was pieced together from several sessions.

In 1968, both Money and Somers joined Eric Burdon in his American-based New Animals. Zoot’s vocals were heard on a number of tracks with Burdon, notably a lengthy reworking of his Dantalian’s Chariot showpiece, ‘Madman Running Through The Fields’. Additionally, his spoken dialogue was featured on some of Burdon’s more self-indulgent efforts on Everyone Of Us. Money completed the uneven solo recording Welcome To My Head on the group’s demise before returning to London. He continued an itinerant path with Centipede, Grimms and Ellis, before joining Somers in the Kevin Coyne and Kevin Ayers bands. In 1980, Zoot released the low-key Mr. Money, following which he played on numerous sessions and enjoyed a new career as a character actor in television drama and comedy. In the early 90s he was music controller for Melody Radio, but was back on the road by the mid-90s. He has appeared as a featured artist with Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, Spencer Davis, Mick Taylor, Alan Price, Geno Washington and Humble Pie, in addition to working with a new line-up of the Big Roll Band and touring his one-man blues show. He also produced albums for Ruby Turner and Woodstock Taylor.

The live sound created by the Big Roll Band defined much of the UK club scene of the mid-60s. A valuable bunch of live tracks were uncovered and released on Were You There? Live 1966 in 1999. This splendid collection, although badly recorded, truly captured the smell and heat of those days.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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