Artist Catalogue

Tony Ashton

In the 1970s , Tony Ashton formed a new group with Remo drummer Roy Dyke and bass player Kim Gardner. They called themselves Ashton, Gardner and Dyke. The trio recorded three albums, but gained recognition in the United Kingdom in 1971, when the single "Resurrection Shuffle" reached number three on the UK Singles Chart. Their music, which was all composed by Ashton, was a unique fusion of R&B and jazz and very innovative and ahead of its time. After such a sudden success, they failed to get any more hit singles and broke up in 1973. Ashton said: "The hit backfired on us and we ended up playing cabaret again. The best thing we did was playing with Herbie Mann at Ronnie Scott's. We wanted to be an album band, but once you've got a big hit, you're in the pop league."

Ashton also played with "The Executives", the "College Boys", "Mastersounds" and on sessions with Jerry Lee Lewis, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.

Tony met Deep Purple in the early 1970s, when the last recording of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke was a collaboration with keyboardist Jon Lord on the soundtrack for a b-movie called The Last Rebel. In the meantime, Ashton had appeared on Jon Lord's first solo album Gemini Suite in 1971. In 1973, Ashton joined the group Family for their last album and tour. That same year, he and David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes were guest vocalists on Jon Lord's second album Windows. Tony became close friends with Jon Lord. In the summer of 1974, during a break in Purple's busy touring schedule, Tony Ashton and Jon Lord recorded their album First of the Big Bands. This project was launched with a gig at the London Palladium the same year and the BBC taped a special live appearance at Golders Green Hippodrome in London. The album of this show is a tour-de-force groovy, rhythm and blues, boogie piano and Hammond organ, big band fest. Tony also contributed to Roger Glover's Butterfly Ball project. In these years, Ashton and Lord found a second home in Zermatt, an alpine resort in Switzerland, sometimes to ski, but more often to offer giant and brilliant non-profit gigs in a unique complex (one hotel-two night-clubs-two restaurants and four pubs) called "Hotel Post" which was run by american-born Karl Ivarsson. Ashton managed to come to the place almost until his death, and Jon is still a regular visitor even if the "(in)famous" hotel doesn't exist anymore.

In August 1976, when Purple split, Jon Lord and Ian Paice found themselves with a lot of free time on their hands and a need to steer away from the hard rock scene. The logical step to take was to call on their old friend Tony Ashton. The result was the formation of Paice, Ashton, Lord (P.A.L.), a band rooted in funk, jazz and rock. The line-up was completed by future Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden and bass player Paul Martinez. They recorded Malice In Wonderland in Munich and a nation-wide tour of the UK was set in motion. Unfortunately the tour was cancelled halfway because of big financial losses. The band broke up leaving Ashton without a record deal and not many future prospects.

During the eighties Ashton co-hosted a TV show with Rick Wakeman called "GasTank". Every week, there were guests ranging from Phil Lynott to Ian Paice who sat in with the show's in-house band led by Ashton and Wakeman. In between performances, the guests were interviewed by Wakeman. In 1984, Ashton was given a very small[quantify] budget to record an album for EMI in Switzerland. The result was the album Live In The Studio, recorded in less than three days. After that, Ashton went through some very hard times due to ill health and lack of work. Although he continued to gig here and there, he did not release anything until 1988 with a single called Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. In 1986 he married Sandra Naidoo and adopted her daughter Indira.

By the early 90's, Tony Ashton had gotten back on his feet and began to develop his second career, as an artist, specialising in idiosyncratic drawings and more elaborate paintings. He had always dabbled in art as a minor hobby but became very serious about it, thanks to her mother in-law who owned an art gallery. Many of Ashton's paintings were bought by the television presenter and DJ Chris Evans for exhibition at his art gallery, Well Hung, in Notting Hill. Apart from selling a lot of paintings (ink drawings and oil/acrylic), his work can be seen on the covers of various CDs, including his maxi-single Mr Ashton Sings Big Red and Other Love Songs.[6] In 1996, Tony played in some gigs in Germany and reunited with Bernie Marsden. Together they played ad various Festivals (in Norway and in the UK). In 1999, when he became seriously ill, a special benefit concert was recorded and filmed at EMI's Abbey Road Studios, featuring the many diverse talents of a number of Tony's friends and colleagues over the years, including Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Micky Moody, Bernie Marsden, Howie Casey, Chris Barber, John Entwhistle, Zak Starkey, Pete York, Zoot Money, Joe Brown, Geoff Emerick, Mike Figgis and Ewan McGregor.

At the end of his life, Ashton also wrote a book about his crazy years in Zermatt: Zermattitis, which should be published in a near future. Tony Ashton died from cancer on 28 May 2001 at his home. He was 55.


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