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. It wasn’t long before he heard the call from the pied pipers of rock and roll (aka Jerry Lee Lewis & Ray Charles) and found himself transformed into a leading light on Bournemouth’s vibrant music scene & in 1961 he formed the first incarnation of the Big Roll band.
Zoot was spotted by ‘British Blues Godfather’ Alexis Korner’s then manager & invited to play with Korner’s seminal Blues Incorporated for a temporary spell. He decided to stay in London, and the other Big Rollers soon joined him. Before long The Big Roll Band, alongside those other luminaries of the Soho blues scene of the time, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames and The Animals, had become permanent fixtures at the Flamingo Club in Wardour Street – the epicentre of the Swinging Sixties. In the late 1960s, after scoring a hit with ‘Big Time Operator’, the Big Roll Band metamorphosed for a while into the prototype psychedelia outfit Dantalian’sChariot, sharing bills with the likes of Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett vintage), Soft Machine and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. 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/TV dramas.
Since the 1980s, during which he notably acted as musical director for ‘TuttiFrutti’, the BBC TV drama, Zoot has continued to appear regularly worldwide, both as a featured artist with groups such as (among others) the Spencer Davis Band, Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Mick Taylor, Alan Price’s Electric Blues Band, Humble Pie, The Blues Band, The Foundations, Geno Washington’s Soul Train and The Animals (again) to name but a few.
These days Zoot is still to be found performing with many different artists: a regular spot with Alan Price’s West London residency and touring appearances with the latest incarnation of The Animals, as well as guest spots at blues festivals and with a wide range of blues bands both in the UK and internationally. Of course Zoot is still delivering the goods with the Big Roll Band too. The line-up varies, but as often as not includes at least one other original member. You can catch them on the final Thursday of most months at the Bull’s Head in Barnes and at various locations around the UK and beyond.
Bringing things full circle, many of Zoot and the Big Roll Band’s early records have been re-issued on CD in the past few years – expect more recorded gems to be made available as the years go by and maybe one or two surprises too.
Al Kirtley is a seasoned piano player who has accompanied artistes ranging from Matt Monroto Screaming Lord Sutch. Before moving from his home town of Bournemouth in 1970 he was a member of bands such as the original Zoot Money‘s Big Roll Band, the Sands Combo, Trendsetters Limited and The Al Kirtley Three. He has subsequently worked in and around London as a jazz and blues pianist, both live and in recording studios. He has recently teamed up again with Zoot Money and now appears regularly with him at the Bulls Head, Barnes and other venues.