Tommy Bruce

Singer of 'Ain't Misbehavin' '


Thomas Charles Bruce, singer: born London 16 July 1937; married first Sheila Prytherch (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), second Ida Spiller; died Watford, Hertfordshire 10 July 2006.

The most surprising pop star of 1960 was Tommy Bruce with his revival of "Ain't Misbehavin' ", and no one was more surprised by his success than Bruce himself. He had been working at the fruit and vegetable market in Covent Garden and had never considered singing in public.

Bruce was a cockney, born in Stepney in 1937, and had worked in Covent Garden since he left school. When he moved into a flat in Notting Hill Gate, his upstairs neighbour was Barry Mason, a young man desperate to break into the music business. Mason thought that Bruce looked like a pop star and asked him to sing.

Bruce recorded a gravelly version of Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin' ", which Mason took to Norrie Paramor, a producer at EMI. Paramor recognised the possibilities of Bruce's distinctive voice. "I was given a recording contract and, when 'Ain't Misbehavin' ' crashed into the charts at No 14, I was still working at Covent Garden," Bruce said. "All the papers were coming down to take photos of me loading up spuds and all the fellers were teasing me about it." "Ain't Misbehavin' " went on to reach No 3.

Bruce told me that he "had the same sort of voice as Louis Armstrong", but he was a modest man and he did not mean that he shared Armstrong's ability or control. He was referring to his voice's corncrake quality. Similarly, although he was described as the UK's answer to the Big Bopper, he did not know the Bopper's work at the time. When Bruce did his first stage show with Mike and Bernie Winters, he was terrified about appearing in public. Mason advised him to say "Hello, doll" when he walked on and that broke the ice. While touring on the Rock'n'Trad show, Bruce worked with the Vernons Girls and said "Hello, doll" to his future wife Sheila Prytherch.

Mason combined rock'n'roll with the cha-cha for Bruce's follow-up single, "Broken Doll", which made the Top Forty. "Babette" was also a minor hit and Bruce toured with a group from Birmingham, the Bruisers, who had their own success with "Blue Girl". However, the public began to tire of Bruce's gimmick. Such records as "Lavender Blue", "Let's Do It" and "Love, Honour and Oh Baby!" made no impression, even though Bruce was managed by Mason and had Peter Lee Stirling in his band, both of whom became leading songwriters. Mason comments,

I wasn't really writing at the time and I didn't have anything like "The Last Waltz" or "Delilah" around. Tommy did make some good records and it was just the luck of the draw that he didn't have more hits.

The success of the Beatles and other British beat groups made it difficult for Bruce and his contemporaries, who came to be seen as old hat. Fortunately, Bruce was noticed by a television producer when he sang his cockney tour de force "London Boys". He was offered a regular spot on the very popular Stars and Garters variety show and he worked in the TV pub from 1963 to 1965 alongside Vince Hill, Kathy Kirby and Ray Martine, the compere.

Bruce later became a smartly dressed entertainer, often performing in Malta and Spain, and he was content being an opening act on oldies shows. He toured with early rock'n'roll stars like Mike Berry, Jess Conrad and Wee Willie Harris. He said,

I'm often called a one-hit wonder, but I wasn't really. Still, if they want to say it, I don't worry. It don't mean nothing to me anyway.

Spencer Leigh

You only have to say to anybody, anywhere, any time, the name Tommy Bruce and the answer always comes back, "Oh yes - 'Ain't Misbehavin' ", writes Dave Lodge. It was his defining song. The recording sold a million and gave Tommy silver, gold and platinum discs and a career that lasted nearly 50 years.

In March this year the arts and entertainment charitable trust the Heritage Foundation presented him with a lifetime achievement award. They were kind enough to allow me, as his manager, to make the presentation and I shared the stage with him as he received the applause of an audience of his peers.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice