Tuesday, November 29, 2005

DRUMMEROBIT: Tony Meehan

Following a fall at his home, Tony Meehan has died.

Drummer Meehan was a founder member of the The Shadows; although he wasn't actually part of the band in their earlier Drifters incarnation he hooked up with Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch he was on board when they decided to let the American group with which they shared a name have a clear run and became the Shadows. That was in October 1959, setting in train a period when they'd have a bizarre double life: working both as Cliff Richard's backing band and as an act in their own right, having hits in both incarnations. The Cliffless version of tha band happened almost by chance, as the group had turned in a couple of vocal-less performances on Richards' first live album - he was suffering from a throat infection and needed to give his voice a rest during the set.

The Shadows hadn't set out with the intention of being an insturmental act - their original plan had been to offer an Everly Brothers style singalong experience. But the tracks with singing didn't do as well as their first big instrumental release, Apache - a song notable for giving the band the rare eexperience of knocking themselves off the number one spot when it unseated Cliff and The Shadows' Please Don't Tease. The public had spoken: they preferred the band when it didn't sing, and a pattern of successful singles, eps and albums followed across the 1960s and into the 70s. By this time, though, Meehan had left the band to pursue other interests.

Meehan had started drumming when he was ten, getting an early taste of life on stage with a Willesden dance hall band and as timpanist for the London Youth Orchestra. He had been planning to study law, but the offer of a £25 a week gig with a touring act proved more tempting than another three years of school, and he never looked back.

After stepping down from the Shadows in 1961, Tony worked extensively as a session man, and had a number one with fellow Shadows alumnus Jet Harris in 1963. He continued to drum - playing with Cliff Richard during his Wembley gigs in 1989 - and, in later years, developed a second career in psychology and psychoanalysis.

Meehan, who was 62, is survived by his wife and seven children.


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