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Tony Baylis
(Wurzel 1969-1985)

Tony Baylis, who sings, plays bass guitar and Sousaphone, and has been a Wurzel nearly as long as Tommy. Enjoys sailing and spends ninety per cent of his spare time catching fish and the other ten percent eating them. (Not as good a fisherman as Pete)
[John Miles from the Combine Harvester LP sleeve notes]

Gaffer BaylisStewart Anthony "Tony" John Baylis was born in London on 25th May 1935. As a young man, he learnt double bass, augmenting that with electric bass and later the sousaphone; and quickly became part of the burgeoning London jazz scene. He played double bass with various semi-professional traditional jazz bands in the late Fifties before his first big break, joining Ian Bell's band in 1961. Following that, he formed his own jazz jazz quintet, The Jazz Confessors, who played around the London jazz scene between 1962 and 1964.

Tony played with some of the big names in the jazz scene at the time including The Lennie Felix Trio, and Pat Hawes. He was briefly part of the quintet fronted by alto sax player Bruce Turner and trumpeter Mick Mulligan Quintet. He was also drafted into the Fairweather-Brown All Stars - the most successful Scottish trad jazz bands of the time, fronted by Edinburgh jazzmen Sandy Brown and Al Fairweather (Al had served in Egypt at the same time as Acker Bilk, and later teamed up with Acker in the later 1960s). Tony's unlikely Scottish jazz connections continued when he covered for Ron Mathewson of Glaswegian traditional jazz outfit, The Clyde Valley Stompers for three months while Ron had a hernia operation.

In 1965, he joined Long John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men featuring Rod Stewart on vocals. Later that year he joined Franz Pinter's Band and did a six month residency at the London Playboy Club. He followed that by joining up with Rod Stewart's new post-Hoochie Coochie Men band. In 1967, he joined the outrageous nine-piece comedy-jazz band The Temperance Seven as sousaphone player; the first record I have of him playing the instrument publicly. A year later, and Tony had teamed up with another great Scottish jazz musician, trumpeter Alex Welsh from the Leith area of Edinburgh. He joined Alex's acclaimed band - recognised as one of the best small bands playing jazz at the time - from May 1968 to January 1969 including playing at the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival.

In 1968, Tony made what is mostly likely to have been his TV debut as 'Band Member #3' in Majesty, episode 3 of the comedy/drama The Jazz Age (aired 24 September 1968). Whether this brought him to the attention of Adge Cutler remains a mystery but in January 1969, the Call of the West came, and Tony joined Adge Cutler & The Wurzels.

Tony was a key part of the Cutler-Quantrill-Banner-Bayliss line-up of The Wurzels which recorded the Carry On Cutler! album (with Tony's predecessor Henry Davis as musical arranger) - and was credited with lyric writing on one of the band's early parody songs Willie The Shake. The next five years of touring saw Tony cement his position in the band, and when Reg Quantrill left in 1974, he was by now an established band member.

After the death of Adge Cutler, it was the decision of Tommy Banner and Tony with 'new boy' Pete Budd, to continue performing as The Wurzels, and so the band entered into their most successful recording period. Tony was part of the triumphant trio who topped the charts in 1976, and although he might have appeared to have been the 'quiet one' behind Pete's lead vocals and Tommy's outrageousness, his input was equally important.

Tony's songwriting should never be disregarded. He is the only band member to have one of his songs on the 1975 The Wurzels Are Scrumptious! album; writing and singing A Drinking Man's Life (he also co-wrote Cheddar Cheese with the Pete and Tommy on that album). His compositional input is no more obvious that on the Golden Delicious album where he is involved in the writing of four of the songs. His singing voice is quite distinctive, no more so than on the quite exquisite Crabapple Hill on the Combine Harvester album.

Tony remained with the band until January 1984, the year after the band released their Freshly Cut album. I have no idea what prompted his decision to leave, but I would suspect that he could see that without a record deal or a management team, the gig, as they say, was over. It would appear to have been a canny move, as the mid-1980s to the late-1990s were lean years for the band.

Tony remained in the Bristol area, and - like many former Wurzels - fell back into the local jazz scene. He appeared on the Pete Allen Jazz Band album One For The Road released in 1987, and one would presume played with the band around this time. He then joined Bristol-based jazz band, The Dukes of Swing and played with them through the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also played with the Avon Cities Jazz Band - although as this band has a history running from 1949 to the present day, and involved the good and the great of Bristol jazz in its line-up - perhaps it would be more surprising if he had not played with them (fellow Wurzel John Macey was a member, although not at the same time).

Some time around the late 1990s, he relocated to Spain and was working as a physiotherapist; and he later emigrated to New Zealand where he is part of the local jazz scene there; appearing at the 13th Annual Nelson Jazz Festival in 2004. He does make occasional visits back to the UK to visit friends Reg Quantrell and Henry Davis.

Wurzel Discography

Other Recordings

  • 1987: Pete Allen Jazz Band album One For The Road - Tony Baylis (bass)

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