Fuzz Townshend

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John Richard Keith "Fuzz" Townshend (born 31 July 1964) is a British drummer, TV presenter of National Geographic Channel's Car SOS,[1] also shown on Channel 4/More4, "Cherished and Classic Cars" ambassador for Carole Nash Classic Car Insurance, motoring journalist (writing, among others, for Classic Car Weekly, former technical editor of Practical Classics, and mechanic. He is also Honorary President of the famous Triumph Sports Six Club.

The early years[edit]

Christened Richard, his Afro hair was unique in his junior school and so, at seven years of age, his school chums renamed him Fuzz, a moniker that has remained to the present day.

Since childhood, Fuzz has had two passions: older motor vehicles, and music. A combination of both interests forms the core of the TV presenter, musician and classic car expert's current career.

His mother won a Vauxhall Chevette in a national newspaper competition when Fuzz was ten; and having never learned to drive, she instead opted to take the prize in cash: setting off for central Birmingham by bus on 30 December 1975, they returned home by taxi, complete with a drum kit, Fuzz's promised treat from the windfall.

Lessons soon started with local jazz legend, Al' Reed, who just happened to live in the same street; Fuzz's stage debut was made in March 1977, aged just 12. Bands came and went and by the end of the '70s, Fuzz had graduated to playing in club and college bands, sometimes arriving back from shows and heading straight into school from the band's van.

Tinkering with motors[edit]

Townshend started an apprenticeship with the local bus company. After serving his full diesel motor vehicle engineer appenticeship with the West Midland Passenger Transport Executive, Fuzz spent a couple of years helping to maintain some of the hardest-worked buses on British roads at the PTE's Dudley garage.

True to his desire to pursue both careers in parallel, during his time at Dudley, he recorded his first two John Peel sessions for "BBC Radio 1" and released his first single which made its way into the NME indie charts with his latest group.

Music allure[edit]

Music had an allure which was too hard to resist, however, and Fuzz decided to try becoming a professional musician; he joined several bands in the hope that one would 'make it' and provide a decent living.

Eventually, he was spotted by former Beat singer, Ranking Roger, and was soon playing for his band General Public, which later headed out on tour across the USA under the guise of 'Ranking Roger'. This gave him his first real taste of major touring. During this period he also set up the reasonably successful independent record label, 'Cake', with which he enjoyed several more indie chart successes. The world of music can be capricious, and the need for regular work spurred Fuzz to go back to his former boss at Dudley bus garage. Happily, he was offered his old job, starting the following Monday.

Locally-based major chart and number 1 indie band, Pop Will Eat Itself, noticed Fuzz drumming with local acts; their management began paying Fuzz visits at the bus garage. Within a few months, he had left the grimey world of public service vehicles and was back behind his kit.

Fuzz spent the next four and a half years drumming for the band, during which time they had their biggest chart successes in both the UK single and album charts. More was to follow, as PWEI built a huge following in the USA and toured extensively with Nine Inch Nails. Indeed they were signed to NIN's singer, Trent Reznor's 'Nothing' record label.

Townshend started his own record label (Fidelity Lo) and began working on solo material.

Fuzz started playing drums for the hugely popular 'big beat' dance music outfit, Bentley Rhythm Ace.

Fuzz's first solo releases[edit]

His first solo release, "Hello Darlin'", started a bidding war amongst the UK major labels and he eventually signed to 'Chrysalis Record"'s imprint, Echo Records, in July 1997. One of the stipulations of the buyout was that the original issues of Hello Darlin' be pulled from the shops at an unfortunate time, as the record had just enjoyed two consecutive weeks as 'record of the week' with both evening and daytime BBC Radio 1 DJs. This stopped its chart progress dead in its tracks at a peak of number 51, which was at least enough for an entry into the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.[2]

However, he was now able to make his first solo album, Far In, which was eventually released in the UK in 1999 and the USA in 2001, the latter being on Stinky Records headed by chief MTV/VH1 lawyer, Sabrina Silverberg.

His second, eponymously titled album followed in 2002,[3] along with his second child; Fuzz's music seemed to strike a chord with film and TV makers, being used in shows and films such as Jackass, Sex and the City, Malcolm in the Middle, Charmed, Spaced and National Lampoon's Van Wilder: Party Liaison.

It also found its way into the campaigns of K Mart in the USA and as the signature tune for the 2005-6 NASCAR season.


During all of this time, Fuzz had remained dedicated to older motor vehicles, running as his daily drivers from the tender age of 18 the likes of a Series 1 80" Land Rover, Rover P4, Austin 1300, Daimler V8-250, a pair of Austin Gipsys and naturally, a couple of buses, amongst other things.

Fuzz became a part-time college lecturer in 2004, lecturing in music practice and music technology and during this time, his old band PWEI decided that they'd have one last hurrah in their original format.

Fastest live show-to-commercially available recording[edit]

PWEI hit the stage again on a sell-out UK tour, with fans flying in from all over the globe. Indeed, a live album recorded at a Birmingham show was on general release in high street shops by the following morning and, up to now, retains the world record for fastest live show-to-commercially available recording. Fuzz is therefore a world record holder.

From dodgy pub to top night spot[edit]

Another project for the intrepid, drumming mechanic, was to take over one of the nastiest public houses in Birmingham, The Rainbow, and turning it into one of the area's top night spots and live music venues, winning the brewery's 'Entrepreneur of the Year' award. Unfortunately, Fuzz was too busy gigging to attend the ceremony in person.

Fuzz's writing career, and the birth of Westgate Classics[edit]

While reading his regular magazine buy, Practical Classics, Fuzz noticed a small news item: the publication was recruiting a new staff writer for the team. In typical can-do style, he chanced his luck and within a week found himself working in an office for the first time in his life, quickly picking up the basics of magazine writing, as a staff member of the UK's biggest selling classic car magazine. His practical knowledge and experience soon led to him being offered the job of Technical Editor, responsible for at least a third of the magazine's content, a role which he fulfilled until March 2011, when he decided to go freelance, as well as starting a new classic car restoration business, Westgate Classics.

By this time, Fuzz had also been recruited by The Wonder Stuff, as their drummer, as well as by Birmingham band The Beat.

Fuzz the TV presenter[edit]

While rehearsing with TWS, Fuzz missed a telephone call and later picked up a voicemail, asking him to call a TV production company. He was invited to screen test for a brand new show, Car SOS. The screen test was held at Fuzz's Westgate Classics garage and he got the role. Not only that, but the production company also asked if he would allow them to use the business (Westgate Classics) as the show's location; the staff would undertake the restorations being performed in the shows as their own projects.

Classic Friendly[edit]

His latest creation is Classic Friendly Ltd, a network of classic car-friendly garages, offering comprehensive safety inspections for MoT test-exempt classic cars as well as standardised servicing regimes. He is also about to launch an inspection scheme for auction and online auction cars under the same CFL umbrella.

Car SOS's success[edit]

Car SOS airs on Nat Geo/Fox channel in over 100 countries. In the UK, the show has been bought by Channel 4 and More 4; in their Sunday evening 8pm slot, Car SOS has out-performed the slot average by up to 50% with viewing figures of over half a million. Car SOS is now on its third series and Channel 4/More4 have bought series 2, already being aired.

Townshend currently plays drums for The Beat (known in the U.S. as The English Beat).

He is based in Bishop's Castle, Shropshire and has regular features in Practical Classics magazine as well as Classic Car Weekly.

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Far In (1999), Fruition
  • Fuzz Townshend - 2002

Singles[edit]

  • "Hello Darlin'" (1998), Fidelity Lo - UK no. 51
  • "Get Yerself" (1998), Echo
  • Tasty Big Ed (1998), Echo
  • "Smash It" (1998), Echo
  • "Dollar 97" (1999), Fidelity Lo - featuring Murphy
  • "Bus" (1999), Fruition - featuring Noel
  • "Y2K the Bug Is Coming" (1999), MBug - Ian Dury, Jim's Super Stereoworld & Fuzz Townshend

References[edit]

  1. ^ Young, Graham (2013) "Rockin' robbin'... Wonderstuff star steals cars - then does them up and returns them", Birmingham Mail, 3 February 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2014
  2. ^ "Fuzz Townshend", Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 December 2014
  3. ^ Woodside, Martin "Fuzz Townshend Review", Allmusic. Retrieved 9 December 2014

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