Spotlight on ....
If Tommy Bruce were alive today and he had known that he was being afforded the privilege of having the spotlight on him on Matt Monro’s web site he would have been thrilled. The reason why he would have been thrilled is because as he told me on many occasions, he liked and admired Matt as a person, even more than that he was a fan of Matt’s wonderful voice.
Tommy Bruce was unique as an entertainer and not just because he went to the top of the charts with his first record in 1960. Tommy never performed in public until that record ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ was at No3 in the charts. How rare is that? He was still working in Covent Garden Market as a fruit porter the night before his first stage appearance on the Mike and Bernie Winters Show at the Kemble Theatre in Hereford, He was terrified and could not get out of the wings, Barry Mason who discovered Tommy has told me since that he thought Tommy’s career would be over before it began. Luckily for both of them Tommy did get out on stage, giving Barry the opportunity to fulfil his dream of being in the music business as a song writer and Tommy to become a much loved entertainer in a career spanning nearly fifty years.
After featuring in the Larry Parnes Rock and Trad tour Tommy delighted audiences in summer seasons and theatre shows up and down the country. He had other hit records, ‘Broken Doll’, ‘Babbette’ and Lavender Blue to name just three but none had the success of that first recording ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ that has always been the defining song of his career.
In 1963 Tommy Bruce went on to give performances that would see him become a household name and a true star of British television, He achieved this in the weekly series Stars and Garters. In this show compared by Ray Martine, Tommy appeared with other popular entertainers of the day, Clinton Ford, Vince Hill and the lovely Kathy Kirby. This combination proved unbeatable and the show became the first program to knock Coronation Street off the top of the viewers rating. Tommy was presented with an award by Granada television in recognition of this.
This success would prove to be a turning point in Tommy’s career, in 1966 he came out of the series to find he didn’t know what to do next. This was because as Barry Mason had stopped managing him in 1963 to pursue his own career as a song writer nothing had been done to advance Tommy’s progress in the business. Without a manager Tommy found himself working for many agents who found it easy to place him in theatre shows and summer seasons throughout the seventies due to his popularity with the fans who remembered him from Stars and Garters. But although he was still making occasional guest appearances on shows like The Pop Proms and on Stuart Henry’s Do You Remember concert, which raised money for Muscular Dystrophy, right through until the nineties his regular TV career had come to an end.
As his friend I started to try and help is career at the beginning of the eighties and we remained together as team until his death on the 10th July 2006. During that time Tommy had and incredibly successful career in cabaret both here in UK and across Europe. His renditions of some of the great Nat King Cole numbers such as ‘Ramblin’ Rose, and ‘Sweet Lorraine’ wowed audiences everywhere and proved that he was much more than the loud rock and roll singer who first came to fame in 1960.
In 2002 Tommy made what was to be his last performance at The London Palladium. He received two standing ovations during his five-song set. This proved once again what the big promoters constantly overlooked, the public loved Tommy Bruce and more to the point he loved them. I was privileged to be his friend and manager and before his death I was fortunate to have his biography, Have Gravel Will Travel, published by Graham and Margaret Smith at Media World Best Books On Line. There will be a new album of Tommy’s live Saturday Club performances released in 2007 and I know from speaking to his many fans that it is eagerly awaited.
The boy who came out of a Middlesex Orphanage in1952 and went on to shake the world of music with his gravel voice, became one of Britains most loved entertainers. He never changed he was always Tom Tom the warm hearted cockney boy to friends and fans alike and there will never be another like him. As I said at the start Tommy Bruce was unique and we loved him.
By Dave Lodge: Personal Manager to the late Tommy Bruce.
Sammy Davis Jr.