Just   Drumming        professional drum tuition Biography.

1961 - I received my first drum kit for Christmas and immediately started to ‘entertain’ the neighbours in Derwent Street, Hartlepool!

My professional playing started in 1963 when at the age of 15 I joined Teesside based band 'The Denvers' playing for the American Armed Forces in France and during this period the band recorded  'Liverpool Party' in Paris for the Polydor record company.

Upon my return to the UK in 1965 I joined the R&B influenced band 'The Whirlwinds' and supported many of the big Liverpool bands at the 'Outlook Club' in Middlesbrough including The Big Three, The Searchers, The Undertakers  etc.

1966 - 67 - I studied with the legendary drum teacher Max Abrams travelling on the overnight sleeper from Hartlepool to London for a monthly lesson.  Also during this period I  secured a job playing seven nights a week and Sunday lunchtime at The Owton Manor Social Club, Hartlepool which involved playing for cabaret (‘Turns’ if you live in the North East) and dancing. It also provided me with a very large room in which to practice!

With the help of Max Abrams I passed an audition in London for my first theatre engagement which was at the Floral Hall in Scarborough (North Shore, sadly now demolished). The show featured the comedy legend Jimmy Clitheroe and a full variety supporting cast. Best of all I was required to play for the Sunday concerts that featured visiting top entertainers from Radio & TV including Roy Castle, Andy Stewart, Kathy Kirby, Jimmy Tarbuck, Susan Maughan, Val Doonican, Max Bygraves, Frankie Vaughan, Tommy Cooper etc.  The rehearsal for the show consisted of a quick play through the music from 2.00pm till 5.00pm followed by two evening shows, a great way to develop your sight reading.

The following year continued with more of the same, this time at the Princess Theatre in Torquay. The show stared Val Doonican who at that time was the most popular entertainer in the UK. I played in the pit orchestra and Val had his own group on stage led by jazz guitarist Jimmy Currie (Jimmy was Lonnie Donegan's guitarist for many years and co-wrote 'Never Fall In Love Again’ for Tom Jones) and three great jazz musicians, Roger Richards (piano), John Ferguson (double bass) and Adrian Macintosh (a great drummer who played with Humphrey Lyttleton for many years). It was during this season that I developed a love for contemporary jazz, staying up all night with the Roger, John and Adrian listening to Miles Davis albums over and over till the sun came up!

1968 - 1969 - Following the Torquay season with the Val Doonican Show I secured a job with the 'Ivor Kenny Big Band' at the Leicester Palais. It was a six nights a week job playing for Ballroom dancing (another large room to practice in). After a few months working in Leicester Jimmy Currie called asking me to join his quartet playing full time for Val Doonican. The first gig was to be a sixteen week season at the London Palladium! Another great room to practice in I thought, and I did nearly every day from 10.00am. This was followed by a period of touring and nightclub engagements throughout the UK and a second but shorter season at the Palladium after which I stayed on as the resident pit orchestra drummer.


I then took a long break from working with Val, returning in the late 70's for another long season in Eastbourne and more touring and recording .

1969 - Returned to the North East and joined the Peter Trundly Quartet (resident band at Tito's Night Club, Stockton on Tees) with Peter on bass guitar, Paul Flush on Hammond Organ, and vocalist John Pontone. Tito's was one of the famous (to those of a certain age) Bailey Clubs, that started in the North East and grew into the UKs largest chain of nightclubs and casinos.  The job was seven nights a week (8.30pm - 1.30pm) plus a Sunday afternoon rehearsal and featured top UK cabaret artists and some very interesting speciality acts including jugglers, acrobats and contortionists  (always the trickiest music to read and play).  

1970 saw a migration from Tito's in Stockton to a club just down the road in Norton called the 'Club Fiesta'  joining the Bob Peacock Band. The Club Fiesta was one of the biggest and most prestigious clubs outside of London (probably even better than the London clubs) and it featured the biggest artists anywhere in the world.  Regular visiting artists included, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Three Degrees, The Beach Boys, Neil Sedaka, Blue Mink, The Seekers, Tony Christie, Tommy Cooper etc.…

1973 - So much happened during the 'Fiesta' period that I could probably fill a book, but then again that would probably lead to legal proceedings!!!!!!  During my time at the club I played many times for the ‘New Seekers’ and as a result of this I was invited by record producer (and original Seeker member) Keith Potger to record with his new protégées 'Springfield Revival'.  This led to a tour of America playing drums for 'Springfield Revival' who were supporting the 'Osmonds'. On returning to the 'Fiesta' I continued doing freelance session work for Keith Potger with the 'New Seekers' ( You Wont Find Another Fool Like Me - Pinball Wizard etc) and worked with them on a seven week run of the David Frost TV series.

I had always been a big fan of the Jazz/Rock/Blues band 'Back Door' and their saxophonist Ron Aspery would occasionally stand in with the 'Fiesta' band. This led to him asking me if I would like to try out as a replacement for their current drummer, Tony Hicks. This was the end of my Cabaret days and the start of something completely different…. Welcome to 'Rock & Roll'!


BACK DOOR  1974 - 1977

1974 - Touring UK, Germany and appearing as headline band for two seasons at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London

1975 - Recorded 'Activate' for Warner Bros Record Company  produced by Carl Palmer (Emerson Lake & Palmer) co-writing three of the tracks (Thru The Zig Zag Gate, Train Won't Blow & Eliminate) with Colin Hodgkinson and Ron Aspery. I became an endorsee for 'Tama' drums and also for a short period of time for 'Arbiter Auto-Tune' drums!  On Carl’s recommendation I became an endorsee for the 'Paiste'  cymbal company and appeared in their profile advertisements.

1976 - Touring in Germany with Back Door including Berlin Jazz Festival. Touring with Alexis Korner including live recording in Mainz.

Started a long association as part of the Musicians Union Rock Workshop team (1976 -1981) demonstrating drumming techniques and contemporary styles of music.

1977 - Started the 'Full Circle' Jazz Club in Hartlepool with some great musicians including John Brownsett (bass guitar) Alan Plaice (guitar) Alex Hand and Lewis Watson (saxophones) and Keith Hewson (keyboards). John and Alan also worked with me in the following year when I toured for the Ludwig drum company performing drum clinics.

1978 - With Val Doonican again for a long summer season in Eastbourne plus recording and UK tours.

Whilst still playing intermittent gigs with Val Doonican I joined singer Tony Christie’s band (1978 - 1980) and toured extensively in the UK and Europe.

Continued working with the Musicians Union workshop team which featured Derek Wadsworth (Musical Director, trombone & electric Didgeridoo!) Colin Hodgkinson (bass guitar & vocals) Geoff Castle (keyboards) and Rick Morecombe (guitar). Over the ensuing years various workshop members included Colin Dudman (piano) Les Davidson (guitar) Alan Holdsworth (guitar) Bill Le Sage (vibraphone) Glen Hughes (bass guitar) Paul Carmichael (bass) Don Weller (saxophone) Tom Blades (guitar) Rob Burns (bass guitar).

1979 - Continued to work with the Musicians Union Rock workshops plus drum clinics for the Ludwig Drum Company and commercial recording sessions for TV & Radio etc.

The musical instrument group Rose Morris put together a concert at 'Olympia' in London billed as the 'The All Star Rock Band' featuring Jon Anderson (Yes) Jack Bruce (Cream) Alan Holdsworth (Tony Williams Lifetime) Brian Chatton (John Miles) and myself.

1982 - Formed the band 'W.H.T.V' with Mick Whitaker, John Hedley and Derek Vasey.

1982 - 1990 - I Played  with the Malcolm Saul Trio & Billy Harper Trio (and with other trio’s) accompanying an illustrious list of visiting American  jazz artists, including:

Al Grey, Kai Winding, Jimmy Knepper, Phil Wilson, Jimmy Forest, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Sonny Stitt

Ken Peplowski, Scott Hamilton, Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Charles Mc Pherson, James Moody

Teddy Edwards, Spike Robinson,  Buddy De Franco & Terry Gibbs, Harry Allen, Red Holloway

Kenny Davern, Barney Kessel, Charlie Byrd, Cal Collins, Tal Farlow, Al Casey, Herb Ellis, Doug Rainey,  Howard Alden, Louis Stewart, Mundell Lowe, Oliver Jones, Gene Harris,

Jessica Williams, Ray Bryant, Art Farmer, Nat Adderley, Joe Newman, Warren Vache, Red Rodney, Bobby Shew.   Also some great UK jazz artists including. Peter King, Don Weller, Mark Nightingale, Steve Waterman, Roy Williams, Alan Skidmore, Jim Mullen, John Etheridge, Stan Tracey Octet, Art Themen, Dave O’Higgins, Mornigton Lockett, Henry Lowther.

1983 - Tama drum clinics

1985 -1988  Formed the band 'Full Circle'   with  Rick Taylor, Paul Flush and Gary Culshaw. Recorded the album ‘Beauty Of The Unexpected’  which was highly acclaimed by the UK music press and we played major jazz festivals in the UK and Belgium plus a season at Ronnie Scott’s playing alongside Cuban band Gonzalo Rubalcabas that featured a then unknown young Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez on drums.

4 up 2 down  Jazz TV series on channel four with Jimmy Witherspoon (Don Weller, Brian Dee, Len Skeat). These are the only remaining You Tube clips (others have been removed).

1985 - 1989 Tetley Brewery & Federation Brewery Road Shows with Jim Tait and a cast of thousands.

1986 - Little Shop of Horrors with Richard O’Brien (The Rocky Horror Show) at the Newcastle Playhouse Theatre.

 1986 - Jazz Action In 1986 I was contracted by the Arts Council (Northern Arts & Yorkshire Arts) as the jazz development officer for the North East of England and Yorkshire.

1988 - ongoing -  Dean Solomon Band  Top North East function band. Anyone getting married…?

1990 - Ian Carr Quintet - Going Home by Alan Plater. Ian Carr contacted me to put together a quintet to appear in the new Alan Plater play. The play featured the quintet on stage throughout the show and we got to play some great jazz  every night - it later went on tour playing at the Empire Theatre in Sunderland and the Civic Theatre in Darlington.

1996 - ongoing - Voice Of The North Jazz Orchestra with Andy Sheppard - John Surman - Michael Garrick - Tommy Smith - Tim Garland - Steve Waterman, Mark Nightingale, Bob Mintzer , Jason Yarde, Graham B Wilson and Henry Lowther.  Recorded two albums with Voice Of The North ‘Chain Reaction’ (with John Surman - John Warren) & ‘Park Bench Story’ (the music of John Warren).

2001 - 2006 - Northern Brass was an ensemble featuring a brass choir and a jazz quintet. Canadian composer John Warren was commissioned to write for the band and it featured top jazz soloists Mark Nightingale (trombone) and Steve Waterman (trumpet & flugelhorn). Recorded a double album featuring two new works by John ‘Mixing It’ & ‘Kicking The Traces’

2006 - ongoing - John Warren's Splinter Group  an eight piece band formed from within the ranks of the Voice Of The North Jazz Orchestra that specialises in new compositions. Members include Andy Champion (bass) Paul Edis (piano) Graeme B Wilson (tenor saxophone) Graham Hardy (trumpet) Keith Robinson (alto saxophone) Chris Hibbard (trombone) Mark Williams (guitar) also Noel Dennis (trumpet) Alex Leathard (trombone).

2009 -  ongoing  - ACV  the initials stand forAndy Champion Five’ and the band was formed by Andy to enable him to ‘exorcise’ his love of all things Prog Rock, Heavy Metal and Jazz Improv. It sounds dangerous, but in fact it works brilliantly! Recorded the album ‘Fail In Wood’ 2010.

2010 - ongoing - SPELK  with Chris Sharkey & Andy Champion is a trio that specialises in playing totally improvised music (Free Rock), with no rehearsal and no musical preconceptions, anything can happen and usually does!

2011 - ongoing - Private teaching studio opens. In recent years I have received numerous requests from drummers for lessons, but due to various work commitments I have not been in a position to accept them. Now I am able to offer one-to-one tuition to a number of students (of all ages) who want to improve their playing and understanding of the art of drumming and who also feel that they can benefit from my experience as a professional drummer.

2013 - New CD with ACV (see above) ‘BUSK’ on the BABEL record label.

Adrian Tilbrook, Just Drumming!

Adrian Tilbrook

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