“The Long Shadow of the Little Giant: The Life, Work and Legacy of Tubby Hayes”
by Simon Spillett (Equinox Publishing)
A brief chat with the author precedes the book review.
1. When did you first have the idea of writing a book on Tubby?
In 2003. I began my initial research at that time. Interviews with those that knew him then followed. I was still discovering and adding new information to the manuscript right up to its completion.
2. How long did it actually take writing from start to finish?
The actual writing process started in 2008 and then went on – with considerable gaps owing to gigs, other writing projects and personal circumstances – until early 2013.
3. How difficult or not was it to source material for the book, and did you, as a Tubby aficionado, already have a lot aside?
Sourcing material didn’t present a problem as I already possessed a fairly substantial archive on British jazz during the 1950s-1970s. However, meeting those who knew and worked with Tubby provided material which otherwise wouldn’t be available to me. This helped give a far more detailed and intimate idea of what Tubby did and who he was.
4. What was the greatest challenge whilst writing the book?
The greatest challenge in writing the book was to maintain my belief that it would see the light of day eventually. There was a long period in which I gave up entirely.
5. What have you enjoyed most writing about Tubby and why?
I enjoyed writing the book in so many ways; firstly, it was wonderful to finally get an insight into his character. Then, I particularly enjoyed unravelling all the rumours, legend and folklore in order to record an accurate version of events. Sitting and writing about jazz in the UK during that period was like a dream assignment for me, as I have a real affection for that era and its players.
6. When we spoke briefly in January this year on the 80th anniversary of Tubby’s birth, we touched upon how Tubby had entered your world. You will, I am sure, agree Tubby is here to stay forever and ever in our world and in our hearts. So how does he live in YOUR world?
Tubby Hayes music continues to give me great enjoyment and inspiration – a feeling that hasn’t abated since I first listened to his records in my teens.
Simon Spillett, tenor saxophonist, journalist and writer with a penchant for perfectionism.
When I received the copy of “The Long Shadow of the Little Giant” I was taken immediately: the book is beautifully made, in hardcover with a marvellously young and smiling Tubby on the cover. Perfect.
I wanted to ask Simon a few questions before reviewing his book. He was, as usual, very accommodating and incredibly humble about how he came to write the book about his hero, Mr Tubby Hayes.
“The Long Shadow…” is an amazing book. Simon’s teenage years spent devouring anything jazz-sounding, especially with the help of his father, being mesmerized whilst watching Tubby Hayes Big Band’s one-off appearance on BBC’s Jazz 625 in 1965, have meant that the musician Simon Spillett has achieved a long-haul task: that of writing about Tubby, his life, work and legacy in a flowing, readable manner.
There are no heavy words, no too technical bits of jargon. It must have been hard for the author to put down on paper words about another musician, but this book is a demonstration of how a sheer passion for jazz and a real enthusiasm for bringing the genius that is Tubby to life can make even a tome like this (which is no easy task) a smooth journey.
Particularly enjoyable is reading about Tubby’s early years, growing up in South-West London. His father, Teddy Hayes, was a professional musician, a violin player and leader of his own dance band. Touring around places like Brighton, Herne Bay, Burnham-on-Sea made sure that Teddy earned a good living to provide for his family.
The black and white photo of a smiling 1-year old Edward Brian Hayes on page 13 of the book says it all. It is moving and uplifting at the same time. This photo is one of many throughout the book the reader can enjoy: all kinds of beautiful and intriguing photographic memories courtesy of either the author’s collection or Liz Grönlund, for example, a Finnish jazz fan and with whom Tubby had a brief affair. As a keen black and white photography fan, I was truly impressed by the incredible array put together for the book. This, in itself, is a treasure to behold and keep safe for generations to come.
A question worth re-emphasizing as put by Simon in his book and to which I adhere to totally is: how long before a blue plaque with Tubby’s name goes up at 34 Kenwyn Road, London (Tubby’s childhood home)? If more people are discovering Tubby’s music, then we have to hope that either English Heritage or the National Trust will decide to put this up sooner rather than later. The time is ripe to celebrate the music and the life of this British jazz giant. And with a Selected Discography to end the book and a moving, yet informative Afterword, Simon Spillett has created THE definitive Tubby Hayes book which will be essential to any old and new Tubby’s fan!