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.

Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
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
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
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
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

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Java Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

SAP Functional Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000.

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Functional ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn