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all you ever wanted to know about Adge Cutler & The Wurzels

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Tommy BannerTommy Banner
(Wurzel 1967-present)

Tommy Banner was born in Penicuik, a small Lothian mining town a few miles south of Edinburgh. He was the younger of two brothers, his father being an army major in the Edinburgh-based Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), the oldest Regiment in the British Army.

Music and sports were the two loves of the young Banner - if music had not been such a love, perhaps he could have been a successful sportsman. Tommy was part of the East Of Scotland under-16's football side that won the Scottish Cup for their age group. In saying that, it is doubtful that a footballing career would have lasted as long as his music career has done! John Miles' 1976 Combine Harvester LP sleeve notes state that Tommy "plays most sports including football, tennis, squash and golf." Certainly his physique is more sportsman than aging rocker - something he happily shows off at most Wurzels gigs!

Tommy's early piano lessons paid off big-time - and the budding young musician had soon added the piano accordion to his instrumental repertoire. The Wurzels World book shows a picture of a teenaged Tommy playing accordion with his friends - and we're talking a full-sized 120 bass with 41 treble model here, none of your kiddies' starter models! And it has been the piano accordion that have been the trademark of Tommy Banner ever since

Little is recorded about Tommy's early bands prior to joining Adge Cutler & The Wurzels, but one can envisage a mix of local Scottish folk bands where Tommy honed his accordion skills, and showbands playing the local dance halls; The Wurzels World book also pictures a dapper young Tommy with sharp suit and bow tie playing piano for the Tommy Tulloch Band at Glencorse Barracks in 1956. By the 1960s, rock 'n' roll must have had it's influences too; Tommy still manages a mean boogie-woogie on the piano!

Tommy's reputation was such that in 1967, after Reg Chant had left the band, Adge (or more likely John Miles) sent north for a young and talented accordion player to fill his shoes. According to the notes in the Wurzels Songbook, Tommy claims that 'The Wurzels could not get a good accordionist in England so they went to Scotland and got a bad one!' He originally took a three months booking with The Wurzels prior to beginning a contract for a round the world trip playing in another band. That was over forty years ago and he has been in the West Country ever since.

On 5th November 1967, Tommy arrived in Somerset from Scotland expecting to join a "trendy pop group", and was surprised to find he was renamed "Jock McSpreader" by his fellow band members and expected to wear old second hand clothes on stage while singing songs about such arcane subjects (to him, anyhow) as dung spreading, pigs, scrumpy, tractors and the Pill ferry. The culture shock and problems he experienced in having to get used to scrumpy instead of Scotch, not to mention the language difficulties, are documented in Tommy's autobiographical song Haggis Farewell.

On his arrival he moved into a caravan near Pill in North Somerset. He claims to have still been living there in 1976 when The Wurzels were #1 with Combine Harvester - so perhaps it was a rather nice caravan! By 1977, he had moved to Easton-in-Gordano, and he is still a Somerset resident today living down Taunton way. Tommy had his own finance and insurance business in the West Country during the 1980s, but only in between Wurzels gigs. And now bookings for the band are such that he is back as a full-time Wurzel.

On 5th November 2007, Tommy celebrated 40 years as a Wurzel! So, not only the 'only Scottish Wurzels in captivity!" as Adge claimed, but also the 'oldest Wurzel in captivity'. And he has no plans for retiring soon, so maybe we can look forward to 2017 and all help Tommy celebrate half a century as a Wurzel!

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