Art Wood

Frontman of the Artwoods


Arthur Wood, singer and graphic artist: born London 7 July 1937; twice married (one son); died London 3 November 2006.

In the mid-Sixties, the mod favourites the Artwoods were tipped as the next big thing to follow the Yardbirds and the Animals. Formed by the vocalist Art Wood, the five-piece group regularly played on Eel Pie Island and at the 100 Club in London. They covered some great rhythm'n'blues material, released five singles, an EP and an album on Decca and even appeared on Ready, Steady, Go! However, they are better remembered now as the band for which Jon Lord played keyboards before launching Deep Purple.

Art Wood and his brother Ted also had an important influence on the career of Ronnie, the youngest Wood brother, who was also in a mod group, the Birds, and went on to join the Creation, the Jeff Beck Group and the Faces, and has been the Rolling Stones guitarist since 1975. In fact, the Faces evolved from a short-lived group called Quiet Melon which Art Wood formed in 1969. "Ron and the members of the Small Faces were between jobs at the time and completely skint," he recalled.

"I had some studio time so we rounded up Rod Stewart, Kenny Jones, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Kim Gardner and recorded the songs "Engine 4444" and "Diamond Joe". We played a few Quiet Melon gigs afterwards. But then Rod and Ronnie blew me off, the little bastards, and went on to become hugely famous as the Faces. Oh well."

Born in 1937, Art was the first child of Arthur Wood, a tugboat skipper who also led a 24-piece harmonica big band, and his wife Lizzie, a polisher who later gave up her job at the HMV plant in Hayes to look after Art and Ted. Both boys came down with whooping cough during the Second World War and their father moved the Anderson air-raid shelter from the garden into the house and gave the boys crayons and drawing books to take their minds off the bombings.

In 1950, Art Wood enrolled at Ealing School of Art, and took a keen interest in typography, graphic design and fine art. He was the first from the college in a long line of wannabe musicians which would include both his brothers, Pete Townshend of the Who, Freddie Mercury of Queen and David Bowie. "Ealing was very unusual," Wood remembered.

"It was a straight art school when I first went there in 1950. But it soon started to get this very musical feel to it. Everyone was getting very experimental. It was the beatnik era, the beginnings of what would become skiffle, it was all happening! Anyone who had even the remotest artistic or musical bent was just carried away! "

In 1955 Art Wood received his National Service papers and spent the next two years posted in Devizes, Wiltshire, where he formed a skiffle group. When he returned to London, he began playing interval gigs at the Regal in Uxbridge with the Art Wood Combo. While Ted became a jazzer, Art was the blues and rock'n'roll fan, covering the songs of Chuck Berry and Fats Domino and occasionally teaching them to Ronnie, who acted as the peacemaker when his older brothers argued about music.

By 1962, Art was one of several singers with Blues Incorporated, the ensemble led by Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies which featured Charlie Watts on drums and also gave guest spots to Mick Jagger, Paul Jones and Long John Baldry. They took over the Marquee Club and inspired the British rhythm'n'blues boom which followed.

In 1964, the Art Wood Combo became the Artwoods, with a line-up comprising Wood, Lord, the guitarist Derek Griffiths, drummer Keef Hartley and bassist Malcolm Pool. They turned professional, secured a residency at the 100 Club in Oxford Street and signed to Decca Records. The group developed a formidable reputation as a live attraction and issued five singles, including dynamic versions of Leadbelly's "Sweet Mary" and Sam and Dave's "I Take What I Want", an EP called Jazz In Jeans and an album entitled Art Gallery - all now very collectable - between November 1964 and November 1966.

While none of their Decca 45s charted in the UK, they developed a following in continental Europe generally, and France in particular, thanks to appearances at La Locomotive in Paris, although a paucity of original material did for them. In 1967, they had a one-off single - "What Shall I Do?" - on Parlophone before changing their name to St Valentine's Day Massacre and posing as gangsters to try and cash in on the popularity of the film Bonnie and Clyde. "We released a single of the old Bing Crosby hit 'Brother Can You Spare Dime?'", Wood said. "It was an ill-fated venture, which I would prefer not to dwell on, virtually signalling the end of the band apart from a few heavy-hearted gigs with a changed line-up."

Art Wood attempted to form the ArtBirds and then Quiet Melon with Ronnie, but eventually joined his brother Ted in setting up West Four, a graphic design business. "They used to interweave, the art and the music," Art said. "West Four did commercial art: brochures, leaflets, book jackets, classical album sleeves for the Phillips label, as well as the bands Ted and myself were in."

He also played with the Downliners Sect, another British beat group, and occasionally performed at mod conventions with a revised line-up of the Artwoods. In 1998, the three Woods recorded two tracks for Money Due, an album credited to Art Wood's Quiet Melon, and appeared together at the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham. "Me and Ted were always happy that at least one of us made it," Art told Terry Rawlings, author of Rock on Wood (1999), "and Ronnie made it big enough for all three."

Pierre Perrone

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect