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Remembering Tubbs! - The Music of Tubby Hayes

  • Birth Name: Edward Brian Hayes
  • Birth place - Raynes Park, South Wimbledon 30/01/35
  • Active: '50s, '60s, '70s
  • Instruments: Vibraphone, Sax (Tenor), Flute


One of Britain's top jazz musicians of the 1950s and '60s, Tubby Hayes was a fine hard bop stylist on tenor and occasionally vibes and flute. A professional at 15, Hayes played with Kenny Baker and in the big bands of Ambrose, Vic Lewis, and Jack Parnell during 1951-1955. He led his own group after that, and started doubling on vibes in 1956. Hayes co-led the Jazz Couriers with Ronnie Scott (1957-1959), and appeared in the U.S. a few times during 1961-1965. He headed his own big band in London, sat in with Duke Ellington's Orchestra in 1964, and was featured at many European festivals. Heart trouble forced him out of action during 1969-1971, and caused his premature death. Tubby Hayes led sessions for Tempo (1955-1959), London, Jazzland (1959), Fontana, Epic (a 1961 date with Clark Terry and Horace Parlan), Smash (a 1962 album which matched him with James Moody and Roland Kirk), 77, Spotlite, and Mole. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide.

Personnel - "Return Visit!" showcases Tubbs on tenor saxophone and vibes along with 'Jimmy Gloomy' (James Moody) on tenor and flute, and multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk playing tenor, flute, nose flute, manzello and stritch. Accompanied by a rhythm section of pianist Walter Bishop Jr, bassist Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on drums.
Recorded in New York on June 23, 1962.Tracks -
Aftenoon in Paris
I See With My Third "I"
Lady "E"
Stitt's Tune
If I Had You
Alone Together
For Heavens Sake

Tubby Hayes was born and brought up in Raynes Park, London. His father was a BBC studio violinist who gave his son Violin lessons from an early age. By the age of ten Hayes was playing the Piano and started on the Tenor Sax at eleven.  One much repeated story about Hayes' early career was told by Ronnie Scott. Scott was playing at a club near Kingston, and was asked if he minded if a local player sat in: "This little boy came up, not much bigger than his tenor sax. Rather patronisingly I suggested a number and off he went. He scared me to death."  After a period spent playing with various semi-professional bands around London, Hayes left school and started playing professionally at the age of fifteen.

His major recognition came on the BBC Jazz Club shows of December 18th 1968 and April 9th 1969.
The first was the radio "debut" of Tubby's new quartet with Louis Stewart, Ron Mathewson and Spike Wells, and on the programme they appeared opposite the Joe Harriott quintet comprising Joe, Kenny Wheeler, Pat Smythe, Ron Mathewson (again!) and Bill Eyden, who played a wonderfully mixed repertoire by Kenny Wheeler, Ornette Coleman, Horace Silver and Joe himself.

Tubby had formed the quartet with Louis in late summer 1968, after the famous "Mexican Green" line-up of Mike Pyne, Ron Mathewson and Tony Levin had disintegrated following Tubby's drug-related period of seclusion. In fact, hearing that Hayes was looking for a guitarist, Stewart, who'd barely been in London a few weeks, decided to introduce himself to Tubby;
"It was all very casual at first" he told writer Tony Wilson shortly afterwards, Tubby said it was the kind of thing he was looking for. Initially we rehearsed a lot. some of Tubby's compositions are quite unusual...there are some fast tempos that I haven't experienced. If Tubby wants to keep me, I'll be happy".
Tubby was indeed very satisfied with Stewart, as he wrote later that year;"he handles the difficult 'comping' role unobtrusively and with taste in the absence of a piano in the quartet. In this role he follows Terry Shannon, Gordon Beck and Mike Pyne, and when I say I do not miss the piano, it is meant as the highest compliment".

Newpaper advertisment for the Wood Green Jazz Club @ The Fishmongers Arms, Wood Green, London with blatant mispelling of Louis Stewart's name in the Royal 'Manor' - probably phoned in.

more back ground  on the Bourne Hall / Wood Green / Fishmongers Arms Jazz Club from contributors to Sandy Brown Jazz
Also on Paul Vernon Chester Website

However, Tubbs was experiencing less immediate results in securing the bass and drum chairs of the new group. Initially he opted for the "safe bets" of former Jazz Couriers Phil Bates and Bill Eyden before Ron Mathewson and Tony Levin returned for what was in Levin's case a second brief stint with Tubby.
When the quartet made its public debut at Ronnie Scott's in November 1968 (opposite none other than T-Bone Walker!) Tony Oxley was behind the kit. It was to be Ron Mathewson who finally settled Tubby's worries about a suitable drummer when he suggested Tubbs hear the 22 year old student living in the downstairs flat at the famous 80 Sinclair Road, West Kensington, (home to not only Mathewson but Chris and Mike Pyne and Ray Warleigh); Spike Wells.

Late in the autumn of 1968, Mathewson arranged an "audition" for Wells to be held at Sinclair Road. "I just had a short time to get my head around the fact I was having the opportunity to join the leading jazz group in the country. I wood shedded a lot, particularly on fast tempos, which was the one thing I knew he would be merciless about", Wells told me recently.
Spike's worries were needless, as the audition got no further than the second number before Tubby turned to him and promptly offered him the job!

The quartet with Stewart, Mathewson and Wells lasted until July 1969, when Stewart left the group following the legendary "aborted" Fontana sessions, ceding once more to Mike Pyne. Stewart would remain an integral part of Tubby's big band until the autumn of 1969.

The two surviving BBC Jazz Club performances are classic post-"Mexican Green" Tubby. Whereas compositions such as Blues In Orbit on Mexican Green more than hinted at Tubby's fascination with Coltrane, the spacious possibilities of the group with Stewart, identical in instrumentation to Sonny Rollins "Bridge" quartet, drew out Tubby's more melodic and rhythmic side. His version of Luiz Bonfa's bossa nova The Gentle Rain is a flute tour de force which ranges from lyricism to a gorgeous percussive unaccompanied chorus. Jimmy Heath's Gingerbread Boy is another first class example of Tubbs flute work, whilst the breadth of his tenor skills is illustrated on the killer breakneck tempo of Oleo and the singing Getz-like ballad reading of Lalo Schifrin's The Right To Love.
Tubby's interest in the avant garde is present in the admittedly rather mannered "freak out" section of his own composition The Inner Splurge and the rock-based Song For A Sad Lady (written for Joy Marshall) which was to become a staple part of Hayes 1969 repertoire both with the big band and the quartet, gives an indication of his nods towards popular music.

Perhaps the BBC sessions most intriguing piece is Rumpus, one of Tubby's own themes which gives early indication of his fascination with whole-tone harmony. Other "late" Hayes compositions such as Sienna Red and Lady Celia contained sections based on whole-tone modes, something Tubby may well have gleaned from his interest in the work of Joe Henderson.

Spike Wells recalls how during his time with the Hayes quartet, Tubby virtually wore out his copies of Henderson's classic Blue Note LPs. This point is worth expanding upon; the language of John Coltrane, whilst indisputably something about which Tubby was both enthusiastic and curious, was not his natural musical environment. Tubby's latter day enthusiasm for Joe Henderson and Booker Ervin reveals much about his thinking. Both these players trod a very personal middle ground between the dominating twin influences of Trane and Rollins, something which I think Tubbs saw as practically useful.
Again, for me this is one of Tubby's most endearing musical traits, that he could and did throughout his career synthesise elements from the finest saxophone influences (Trane, Rollins, Griffin, Getz, Mobley, Zoot, Joe Henderson) and come up with something which was so instantly recognisable as his own.

I can think of few saxophonists apprenticed in the musical environment Tubbs grew up into who could so masterfully manage the extremes that his music touches, from Mexican Geen to the tightest hard bop of the Jazz Couriers to stunningly lyrical balladry. Indeed, when you pause to think of Tubby's achievements and stylistic evolution in what was a brief career you see the same characteristic interlinking thread of energy and commitment encountered in John Coltrane's musical journey.
Tubby may not have changed the musical landscape in the way that Trane did, but I continue to believe that there is something profound in his story which transcends his super proficiency, technical dexterity and the surface gloss and which goes far deeper. Consider the equation of opportunity and environment which was the background to Tubby Hayes career.
The certainty and confidence he always possessed retain the power to move and inspire today. What better legacy could any jazz musician leave?.......................Simon Spillett

More from Simon.....

My research has shown that during his hey day barely a month went by without Tubby appearing on a BBC jazz broadcast.
1969 was clearly a purple patch with Tubby's big band and quartet appearing on the Jazz Club, Jazz Workshop and then new Jazz In Britain series.
The quartet featuring Mike Pyne, Ron Mathewson and Spike Wells actually recorded the very first installment of the latter on Friday September 26th (broadcast on October 22nd 1969). Amazingly, Spike Wells recalls that the session, held at BBC Maida Vale studios, started at 9 a.m!
One track from this set, the Hayes flute version of Mike Pyne's devilishly complex A Uttoxeter Idyll was broadcast on the BBC Jazz Legends episode devoted to Tubby in 2001.

Part of the Hayes big band's July 1969 Jazz Workshop session found its way onto CD in 1992 as 200% Proof. The big band and both editions of Tubbys' quartet (featuring Louis Stewart or Mike Pyne) made no less than five other appearances on Jazz Club that year. Three items from the August 6th Jazz Club broadcast were issued as CD only bonus tracks of the Harlequin album Live 1969.

The above effectively encapsulates Tubby's jazz work on radio during this period, however it isn't widely known that from autumn 1968 Tubby made regular appearances in a rather more commercial vein on Radio One's Late Night Extra.
As a featured member of the David Francis Tentette (and billed as such in the Radio Times) Tubby joined a series of mouth wateringly bizarre programme line-ups for a show which, as the Beeb itself put it, promised "music and news; pop; people and places".
Broadcast between ten and midnight on weekdays, the programme was introduced by Terry Wogan (!) or Bob Holness (who once revealed that the first time he saw Tubby was at the old Studio 51 club, sitting on the stage, his feet dangling and a borrowed baritone clamped between his jaws). The Francis Tentette might find itself sharing the bill with guest big bands such as Edmundo Ros or the Radio Big Band and vocalists such as Danny Street and Rosemary Squires. One wonder if any of these survive?

Tubby's association with David Francis was ongoing up until his death in June 1973. Indeed one of Tubby's final big concert appearances was at The Fairfield Hall, Croydon on Friday March 9th 1973 with David Francis and the Sound of Strings. Billed as "a programme of Film and Show music", the concert programme lists such disparate musical treats as a Wild West Medley, and the themes from The Onedin Line and Shaft!
Tucked away towards the end of the night was a version of Moon River featuring Tubby.

The evening prior to the Croydon concert, Tubby had played what would transpire to be among the last half dozen or so gigs he would perform with his quartet. Tubby, Mike Pyne, Ron Mathewson and Spike Wells had travelled to Southend at the behest of former Flamingo compere Bix Curtis (the man to whom Tubby had dedicated his composition The Serpent....use your imagination!) who was then promoting weekly jazz events at a noisy pub named the Top Alex in Alexandra Street.

Tubby and pianist Tony Lee had already played a session at the venue on Sunday February 4th (accompanied by bassist John Moule and avant-garde drummer Trevor Taylor, who nowadays runs the FMR record label and the Soundworld publishing company) but for the March 8th gig Hayes and the quartet appeared opposite the local Kenny Baxter Jazztet (fronted by saxophonist Baxter, still a fixture on the jazz scene in Kent I understand) and, as special guests, trombonist John Picard and tenorist Kathy Stobart.
The final jam session had the Hayes rhythm team accompanying Baxter, Picard, Stobart, Tubby and tenorist Gary Windo, who Tubby had become friendly with during his last year.
It would be Windo who would drive the Hayes quartet to its ill-fated final gig in Brighton on Saturday May 12th 1973, and who would have the unenviable task of replacing Tubby at the last minute when he became too breathless to play.

The Southend gig had a delightful moment when Tubby's patience snapped, as Spike Wells recalled. Irritated by Bix Curtis repeatedly disrupting the evening in order to remind patrons that food was available, Tubby grabbed the microphone and said "Ladies and gentleman, just a brief interruption to tell you that the specialities of the house are filth omelette and vomit pie and chips!"

I witnessed a performance by Tubbs in the Abergeldie Jazz Club in Aberdeen circa 1961 with Tubbs on Tenor & Vibes and now forgotten bass & very crisp Drums. Tubby displayed a blistering delivery with his phenomenal technique and interspersed with his wonderful touch on Vibes an element of his playing which is oft ignored - see below.  When implored by a modern jazz starved audience to do one more encore Tubby counted in a long but impossibly fast tempo - he blew one note on his tenor and .............said Goodnight!

Another story was of the Reading Jazz Festival when he stepped forward for his solo and in taking a large gulp of air for his intended attack he ingested one of the moths attracted by the spotlights and caused some consternation among fellow musicians as to how to fill those silent bars with sound as Tubbs coughed up and away the dusty mite from the back of his capacious tubes.


interesting music stands - who designed them - audience friendly, but are they practical for musos?

Tubby's first band started at Southsea Pier on April 1st (prophetic) 1955, and struggled on until October 1956.
The original personnel in the photo was Harry South (piano), Pete Blannin (bass), Lennie Breslow (drums), Dave Usden, Dickie Hawdon (Tpts), Tubby & Jack Sharpe (tenors) and Mike Senn on alto. Bobbie Breen was singer & conga drum. Later Dave Usden was replaced by Ian Hamer. Lennie Breslow by Bill Eyden.

Jazz Eddie - Bobby Breen (was the name borrowed from the American Child singer/actor) also sang with the Dankworth band and had a very pronounced but endearing lisp - this gave a new slant with his enunciation and interpretation of Route 66 - as written by Bobby Troup - Jazz Pianist who was later married to Julie London and mastered her hit "Cry me a River"

Jimmy Deuchar -Tubby Hayes - Suddenly Last Tuesday

Interview with Tubby Hayes

Tubby Hayes - Sal Nistico Exchange
Excerpt about his Vibraphone
NISTICO: Im told you play excellent vibes, Tubby. I never heard you.
HAYES: I used to play em a lot. I dont play em very much these days.
NISTICO: Howd you get into that?
HAYES: Through Victor Feldman. When he was with Woody Herman - he came over here for a holiday, or something. Its about ten years ago now. And we were working together in a club in town. I used to stand there behind him, listening all the time - and I fancied playing em. So when he went back to the States, I bought the instrument off him, that he was using, and I started playing. But I just found that I didnt have enough time. Id go on a gig and by the time Id set the vibraphone up, plugged it in and got about a 240volt shock all up my arm - my hands are covered in grease, Im sweating - then Ive got to get the tenor out, and were on! Then Im exhausted In the end it got to the stage where I used to set the bloody thing up - play the tenor all night! Then pack it all away again. I said: What am I doing?

And now, said Tubby, were going to play a number called Ive Thrown a Custard in her Face, from My Fair Lady. Were a bit Mozart, and there are some dodgy Norwegians in there, but well do our best.

Norwegian Fjords were chords

Danny Kaye's hit Orchestral Music saga 'Tubby the Tuba' may have been responsible for Edward Brian's Hayes endearing but affectionate adopted or imposed nickname. ...............................Oh! - said Tubby - I am so happy!

We certainly are Tubbs - Thanks!!

Simon Spillett Profile of Tubby Hayes

Simon Spillett Website


Remember Tubbs

Matters were made worse for Hayes by his development of a drugs habit, which came to badly affect his health. In the late 1960s he underwent open heart surgery he was able to start performing again in 1971 (though he had more heart surgery that same year), and in 1972 toured Scandinavia. on 8th June 1973 he died during another heart operation, at the age of thirty-eight.
Tubby Hayes was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium as later was fellow Jazz Courier Ronnie Scott.  Tubby's ashes were scattered in Section 1-L .............a suitably fertile zone.

The early death of a musician at the peak of popularity often leads to legendary status as we reflect on the magic of the performances we have witnessed or heard and we mourn the great potential that we have been robbed of by their untimely departure.

Hail to thee oh Tubbs! - Lest we forget.................

Hi,  I would just like to say, great website, especially the article on Remembering Tubbs as the former Flamingo Compere Bix Curtis (the man to whom Tubby had dedicated his composition 'The Serpent') was my grandfather.  Regards  Mark Curtis

Jazz Professional - interesting anecdotal jazz site!

Tubbs with the Benny Golsen UK Band

Tubbs - Parisien Thoroughfare

Tubbs on Flute - In the Night

Tubbs - Inner Splurge

Tubbs Big Band - Killers of W1





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Last modified: 18/02/2012