The autobiography of a Super tramp
I was born in Todmorden, West
Yorkshire, England (U.F.O. centre of the U.K. ) in 1945 and grew up, rather
sheltered from the big world, in the quite austere 1950s.
I sang in the church choir
and had piano lessons for a year at age nine. After hearing Monty Sunshine
play Petite Fleur with Chris Barber's Jazz Band, I was inspired, and saved
up for two years to buy a clarinet for 15 pounds when I was thirteen.
I soon began to appreciate modern
jazz and bought a saxophone two years later. My inspirations then
were Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis and Art Blakey.
The Premier Dance Band (1960)
When I left school
I went to Birmingham to work as a computer programmer. There I played
with various bands and groups including The Dicemen (we wore Beatle
suits with trousers so tight we had to be lifted on to the stage)
and Jugs O'Hen ry with whom I turned professional in 1965.
Jugs O'Henry (1965)
Jugs.. was short-lived,
and, after putting an advertisement in the Melody Maker music weekly
which read Have sax, will travel, I joined The Alan Bown Set with
whom I spent six years. We made several albums, played thousands
of gigs, and had the singers Jess Roden, Gordon Neville and Robert
Palmer. Our music progressed (or regressed, depending on your point-of-view)
from soul music to quite free jazzy rock, calling in on flower-power
and psychedelia on the way.
The Alan Bown! (1967)
After the demise
of The Alan Bown! (as it became) in 1971 I followed our bass player
Dougie Thomson into The Twilight Rooms club in London to play non-stop
music from 9pm to 3am for strippers and singers, and where the clientele
would have to purchase vast quantities of Champagne for the hostesses.
When I couldn't stand that any more, I moved to the Celebrity Club
a much more up-market, sophisticated place. Still plenty of naked
After touring with
the bands of Jimmy Ruffin, Arthur Conley and Johnny Johnson in England,
and also a spell in Germany with Pete Lancaster playing mostly U.S.
air bases, I got a call from Dougie Thomson, who had joined Supertramp,
asking me to come and play with them in August of 1973. I was intrigued
with, and excited by the music, told a few good jokes, and stuck
around (for 31 years so far!).
We made the album
Crime of the Century and began the long climb to international success,
moving to California in the process.
Breakfast in America
was the biggest seller in the world in 1979!
During a Supertramp
hiatus in the nineties, I moved back to England to study at the
Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester . However, a scholarly
life was to take a back seat in 1996 when I worked with ex-Supertramper
Roger Hodgson, and recorded and toured with Supertramp
again. Our latest album Slow Motion and the It's About
Time tour were in 2002.
There may be more to come from Supertramp, but right now I'm
playing music based on my many inspirations, including jazz, funk,
blues, soul and rock, with some of my favourite musicians. The
group, John Helliwell's Creme Anglaise includes Mark Hart
(vocals, guitar and keyboards) from Supertramp and Crowded
House, Mike Walker (internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist)
and the rocking Geth Griffith on double bass and bass guitar.
On piano and drums respectively; Arthur Lea and Ben Bryant, two
very talented young men, both having recently completed their
degrees at London's Royal Academy of Music.
Creme Anglaise - April
Have a listen to
some excerpts of our music - if you like them half as much as we
do, then we like them twice as much as you do! Come and see and
hear us in a place near you!