Tony Meehan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Tony Meehan
Birth nameDaniel Joseph Anthony Meehan
Born(1943-03-02)2 March 1943
New End, Hampstead, North London
Died28 November 2005(2005-11-28) (aged 62)
Paddington, London
Occupation(s)Drummer, lecturer in Psychology
Years active1956–1990
Associated actsThe Shadows, The Vipers Skiffle Group

Daniel Joseph Anthony Meehan (2 March 1943 – 28 November 2005[1]), professionally known as Tony Meehan, was a founder member of the British group The Drifters, with Jet Harris, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, which would evolve into The Shadows. He played drums on early Cliff Richard and the Shadows hits and on early Shadows instrumentals.

Meehan was professionally nicknamed "The Baron" by his many admirers and friends within the British pop-rock music industry. He is reckoned to have influenced many thousands of teenage boys and adolescents to take up music as a career, including Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, as a result of his iconic film performance in Cliff Richard's film The Young Ones. His drumming style (cf. "Bongo Blues", "Apache") is noticeably different from that of other drummers that the Shadows employed during 1958–2010 such as Brian Bennett, Clem Cattini and Trevor Spencer, preferring a simpler 1950s jazz style kit to a voluminous 1970–80s rock-metal drum kit. Thus his kit was significantly more spartan, in terms of quantity of drums and accessories, than Bennett's modern expansive drum kits through the decades. In his contribution to the 1961 book The Shadows by Themselves, Meehan gives advice to all would-be drummers on drum-kit care and maintenance.


Tony Meehan was born to Irish parents at New End Hospital, New End, Hampstead, North West London, England.[1] He was 10 when he became interested in playing drums. By 13, he had his first job with a band playing in a dance hall at Willesden, London. He also played timpani with the London Youth Orchestra. When he was 15, Meehan was set on becoming a lawyer but he was offered a job at £25 per week in a touring show. He was given six months' holiday. The tour never materialised but he did not go back to school. Unlike other members of the Shadows he was never short of work, playing cabaret at Churchill's and the Stork Club. He also played with Jet Harris in "The Vipers".[citation needed]

Meehan left the Shadows in October 1961 to work as an arranger/producer and session drummer for Joe Meek (John Leyton, Michael Cox: "Young Only Once", Andy Cavell) and from early 1962 at Decca Records. He teamed again with Harris (who had also left the Shadows and moved to Decca) and as a duo had success with the instrumental "Diamonds" which also included Jimmy Page on acoustic rhythm guitar. "Diamonds" was a number one hit in the UK. Harris and Meehan had two further hit singles together – "Scarlett O'Hara" and "Applejack".[1]

On 1 January 1962, the Beatles were auditioned at Decca by Meehan, performing a selection of covers they had performed in various clubs over the years, interspersed with three Lennon–McCartney originals. The Beatles later found out that their manager Brian Epstein had paid Meehan to produce the recordings made that day in order for the Beatles to retain ownership of the tapes. Decca rejected the Beatles choosing the Tremeloes, who auditioned the same day as the Beatles. After talks with Epstein, Decca did arrange for Meehan to produce the Beatles at Decca if the Beatles manager agreed to cover the expenses of about £100. On 7 February 1962, Epstein met Meehan, who made condescending comments about the Beatles’ audition. With the meeting not going well and Epstein not impressed with Meehan, Epstein rejected the Decca offer.[2]

Meehan briefly played with the Shadows some years later when Brian Bennett was in hospital. At one point, John Rostill was in hospital at the same time, and the Shadows were playing live with Brian Locking on bass and Meehan on drums.

Meehan quit the music industry in the 1990s for a major career change as a psychologist, as a result of a lifelong hobby/interest. He worked in London at a local college lecturing in psychology until his death. He was a regular churchgoer at his local Roman Catholic church in Maida Vale.

Early career groups (pre-Shadows/Drifters)[edit]

1956 – (Skiffle Trio)
  • John Kessler (g/v), Tony Kessler (guitar) and Tony Meehan (drums)
1956–57 – (Trad-Irish-band)
  • Billy Flynn (g/v), Raymond Cleary (g), David Rees (b) and Tony Meehan (wb)
1958 – The Vipers
  • Wally Whyton (vocals/guitar), Johnny Booker (vocals/guitar), Freddy Lloyd (vocals/guitar) Jet Harris (b) and Tony Meehan (drums)

Drums career usage[edit]

  • 1954–1958: Ajax
  • 1959–1961: Gretsch (The Drifters); (The Shadows)
  • 196?–196?: Trixon (The Shadows)
  • 196?–196?: Ludwig (The Shadows)
  • 1962–1963: Gretsch (Jet Harris and Tony Meehan)
  • 1963–1964: Gretsch (Tony Meehan)
  • 1964–1970: Gretsch (Tony Meehan)
  • 1970-1975 Premier endorsement


On 29 November 2005, BBC News quoted Bruce Welch as saying that Meehan had died the previous day, as a result of head injuries, following a fall down the main staircase at his London flat in Maida Vale.[1] Meehan died at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London.[3]

As the drummer with the Shadows, Tony Meehan helped to lay the foundations for British rock’n’roll, both backing Cliff Richard and on a long string of instrumental hits recorded under the group's own name. John Lennon once claimed that before Cliff and the Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music. As the first backing band to emerge as stars in their own right, they were early trailblazers for the beat-group boom that eclipsed them. – Shadows drummer who became an A&R man for Decca – The Times (Obituaries), 30 November 2005.

At his death, Meehan had been twice married and had seven children.


  • The Vipers Skiffle Group
  • The Drifters
  • Cliff Richard and the Drifters
  • The Shadows
  • Cliff Richard and the Shadows
  • Jet Harris & Tony Meehan
  • The Tony Meehan Combo


As Jet Harris and Tony Meehan[edit]


  • Remembering – LP – Decca
  • Best of – CD
  • Diamonds and Gems – CD


  • "Diamonds" / "Footstomp" – 7" – Decca, #1 on British charts[4]
  • "Scarlett O'Hara" / "Hully Gully" – 7" – Decca #2 on British charts[5]
  • "Applejack" / "Tall Texan" – 7" – Decca, #4 on British charts[5]


  • Jet and Tony – EP – Decca 33 on British EP charts[5]

As solo artist[edit]

  • "Song of Mexico" / "Kings Go Fifth" – 7" – Decca – 1964

Production credits[edit]



  • Louise Cordet – "I'm Just a Baby" / "In a Matter of Moments" – 1962 (Decca)
  • Jay and Tommy Scott – "Angela" / "Did You" – 1962 (Decca)
  • Louise Cordet - "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" / "Loving Baby" - 1964 (Decca)[6]
  • Jet Harris – "My Lady" / "You Don't Live Twice" – 1964 (Decca)
  • White Trash – "Road to Nowhere" / "Illusions" – 1969 (Apple)
  • Trash – "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight" / "Trash Can" – 1969 (Apple)
  • Cody – "I Belong with You" / "Wanna Make You Happy" – 1971 (Polydor/Atco)
  • Darryl Read – "High Rise Angry Young Man" – 1981 (on "Collectomatic vol I" – LP—1997 (white label))


  1. ^ a b c d Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2005 July To December". Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Brian Epstein and the quest for a contract". 13 February 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  3. ^ BBC News: The Shadows founder member dies
  4. ^ Brown, Tony, Jon Kutner & Neil Warwick, The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles and Albums, Omnibus Press, London, 2002 p. 451
  5. ^ a b c Brown 2002, p. 451.
  6. ^ "Louise Cordet – Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying". Discogs. Retrieved 26 January 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Driftin' with Cliff Richard, by J. Harris, R. Ellis and C. Richard
  • The Shadows by Themselves by Royston Ellis with The Shadows. Consul Books. 1961. No ISBN.
  • The Story of the Shadows by Mike Read. 1983. Elm Tree books. ISBN 0-241-10861-6
  • That Sound (From Move It on, the story of the magic sound of The Shadows), by R.Pistolesi, M.Addey & M.Mazzini. Publ: Vanni Lisanti. June 2000. No ISBN.
  • The Complete Rock Family Rock Trees, by Pete Frame. Omnibus. ISBN 0-7119-6879-9
  • Guinness World Records: British Hit Singles & Albums (19th Edn), David Roberts. ISBN 1-904994-10-5
  • The Complete Book of the British Charts (Singles and Albums), by Neil Warwick, Jon Kutner & Tony Brown, 3rd Edn. ISBN 978-1-84449-058-5
  • Jet Harris – Survivor, by Dave Nicolson, ISBN 978-0-9562679-0-0, 31 Oct 2009.