Sunday, July 08, 2007

Thunderclap Jones

Morgan "Thunderclap" Jones was a piano player active on the British rock'n'roll circuit in the late '50s and early '60s. He was notorious for his live shows during which he would do a striptease. Off would come his jacket and bow tie; his shirt would be unbuttoned; and then he'd remove his shoes. It's worth noting that he weighed over 17 and a half stone.

I've seen one photograph of him in which he is standing at his keyboard sweat-drenched, his luxuriant quiff unravelling, with his exposed corpulent belly spilling over his trousers. It's quite a sight.

Jones originally hailed from Capel Isaf, Llanelli. A grammar school boy, he once won a music prize at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. He spent a couple of years at Trinity College Carmarthen and went on to become a school teacher before giving it up to pursue his musical dreams.

In 1956 he secured a 3 year deal with Oriole Records and released his debut single Hurricane Boogie. With its hybrid of jazz and rock'n'roll styles it was dubbed: "the zaniest disc of the year" and Jones bizarrely labelled: "the Johnny Ray of the keyboards". He was also more accurately known as: "the Wild Welshman of the Keyboards". Appearances on television and further record releases followed.

In 1961 he co-wrote So What for Johnny Kidd and the Pirates which is regarded as one of the few genuinely great songs to come out of the British rock'n'roll scene during its heyday. Jones' thrilling piano solo on the record is its most distinctive feature.

A trawl of the internet reveals that Thunderclap was living above a guitar shop in Denmark Street, Soho, in the 1980s but after that the trail goes cold. Any additional information on the intriguing Morgan Jones would be much appreciated.