Q&A with Zoot Money, quite simply the biggest character on the British rhythm and blues scene since the 1960s

"Music MUST be used to bring people together and should be introduced to children, so they can understand what ' harmony' really means. It also helps with mental arithmetic."

Zoot Money: Let The Big Times Roll

Quite simply the biggest character on the British rhythm and blues scene since the early 1960s, Zoot Money was born George Bruno Money on 17 July 1942 in Bournemouth, Dorset, England. Part of a large and noisy family, both his parents were Italian immigrants, although his father’s family were originally English. At school Zoot played the French horn and sang in the choir, but it wasn’t long before he heard the call from the pied pipers of rock and roll (aka Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles – what a combination!) and found himself transformed into a leading light on Bournemouth’s vibrant music scene. In 1961 Zoot formed the first incarnation of the Big Roll band; over the next two years the line-up settled into Andy Summers, Nick Newall and Colin Allen, with Zoot on piano and Hammond organ. This dramatis personae continued for a few years with various interruptions. The first was when Zoot, spotted by ‘British Blues Godfather’ Alexis Korner’s then manager, was invited to play with Korner’s seminal Blues Incorporated for a temporary spell. Zoot decided to stay in London, and the other Big Rollers soon joined him.                      Zoot Money / Photo by John Price

A brief stint with Eric Burdon’s American-based New Animals followed, and Zoot decided to stay in the USA for a bit. At this point he began picking up acting roles, starting a parallel career which has continued ever since with character appearances in many high profile film and TV dramas. On the musical side Zoot featured with (amongst others) the Grimms, Ellis, Centipede, Kevin Coyne and Kevin Ayers before signing up in 1980 to Paul McCartney’s label, MPL, to record the Jim Diamond-produced Mr. Money. In addition to his live music and acting talents Zoot is no mean songwriter – his song ‘It Never Rains But It Pours’ was recorded by Jimmy Witherspoon, for example, and he has also written for such artists as Lulu, Maggie Bell and Long John Baldry. His prodigious musical knowledge is also called on from time to time as a radio programming consultant, and a few years ago Zoot turned producer for two very different artists: soul diva Ruby Turner (‘Call Me By My Name’) and indie singer-songwriter Woodstock Taylor (‘Road Movie’). His last studio album "The Book of Life...I've Read It" (2016 on Treasure Island Music). Also, the Big Roll Band released a 5 cd box set on Repertoire Records titled "1966 and All That".

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and R&B music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Listening and playing it has, as a practical therapy, informed my attitude towards my fellow man. Philosophies expressed in the lyrics acted as a guide’s X I travelling the world.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My 'sound' comes from years of allowing many music genres flow "through me".

"We are merely acting as funnels through which an inspiration from the Gods passes "...as Alexis Körner once advised me.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

Everyone I've met have shaped my life in some either small or great way. Working alongside very talented people (some famous) made me raise my game and ability. My meetings with important well-known artists are too numerous to mention here.

"We the 'baby boomers', were released from WW2 ration restrictions and as 'teenagers' allowed to find a way to express ourselves...and the unscripted free form of blues allowed us to mix ideas of jazz, gospel all into our own story. Also, all art forms were centered around Greater London and other cities making it possible to compare notes & ideas." (Photo: Zoot Money's Big Roll Band, c.1960s)

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I only miss the simplicity of basic Delta/ Mississippi performers who had limited musical expertise but an abundance of 'feel'. As long as young blues players always bare those artists' angst and desperation in mind the future blues should be alright...with all the new technologies and experiences at their disposal.

What were the reasons that made the UK in 60s to be the center of Blues/R&B researches and experiments?

We the 'baby boomers', were released from WW2 ration restrictions and as 'teenagers' allowed to find a way to express ourselves...and the unscripted free form of blues allowed us to mix ideas of jazz, gospel all into our own story. Also, all art forms were centered around Greater London and other cities making it possible to compare notes & ideas.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

How to make it a concert and not a competition. Work WITH people and not AGAINST them...particularly in music and acting...and subsequently in life.

What is the impact of music on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Music MUST be used to bring people together and should be introduced to children, so they can understand what ' harmony' really means. It also helps with mental arithmetic.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Any day in the forties before I was born in Chicago or Los Angeles.

Zoot Money - Home

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