Classically-trained professional musician Tony Giles has captivated audiences - from the Queen herself, to regulars down the local pub - and has performed alongside Girls Aloud, Jamie Cullum and Status Quo.
He formed the band The Tony Giles All Stars in 2007 which reguarly plays at the Bustard Inn in South Rauceby - but his musical career began at the tender age of seven.
“I was brought up in St Neots, Cambs and started clarinet age seven when Dad brought one home one day,” explained Tony.
“My first ‘gig’ was on stage at the St Neots beer festival with a local band where I busked When The Saints Go Marching In to 1,500 drunk people on clarinet aged eight years old.”
He went on from this experience to be classically trained on clarinet, achieving grade 8 at age 16, and joining the RAF services shortly after.
He went on: “I had an alto sax bought for me aged 14 and was learning lovely ballads and funky brass riffs from this age. It was fairly handy when I joined the Western band of the RAF based at RAF Locking in Weston-super-mare as there was a thriving music scene down there. I joined a nine-piece soul and funk band called The World Machine and this band was jam-packed full of great musicians and even better friends.
“Whilst down in Weston, I was asked to join The Manhattan Orchestra, a Bristol-based big band. I was the youngest member of this band along with another young gun friend of mine called Ian Matthews who went on to become the drummer with British rock band Kasabian. It was with The Manhattan Orchestra that Eric Delaney heard me playing and after the show came up to me backstage, shook my hand and simply said ‘nice’.”
“The closure of RAF Locking in 2000 saw the Western Band move to RAF Cranwell to be called the Band of the RAF Regiment. I was playing lead Alto at this point and lead Alto for the RAF Shades of Blue big band. We formed a fantastic soul, funk, rock, pop and blues covers band called TNT Soul Explosion. This band did 11 overseas tours to entertain the troops. These were not particularly glamorous tours, but a lot of fun and gave huge job satisfaction. It was on one of these tours that a rather important station commander enjoyed our work so much that he invited us to perform at Children in Need in 2005 at RAF Brize Norton with Jamie Cullum, Status Quo, Tony Christie and Girls Aloud to 18,000 people.”
In 2007 Tony decided to have professional lessons in order to further his musical knowledge - taking two performance diplomas in jazz.
“One of them required me to form my own band and present the exam in the form of a concert,” he explained. “So The Tony Giles All Stars was born. This group has gone from strength to strength and can be found frequently down at The Bustard inn S. Rauceby where we have had a residency for 10 years.”
Tony retired from the RAF in 2015, finishing as Lead Alto Band of the RAF College and RAF Swing Wing, after a successful 26 year career with what he describes as ‘many stand out moments’.
He said: “A particular highlight was playing in the jazz quartet for Her Majesty the Queen in 2012 at an intimate luncheon of just 29 other guests. After which she thanked me and the group for playing so beautifully. Another was receiving a standing ovation for my solo performance of ‘Against all odds’ from a packed Birmingham symphony hall.”
“I play lead alto with The Good Guys Orchestra, formed by my good friend Guy Garrett. The GGO is another fantastic professional local Big Band. We have released several live recordings and one of the finest versions of Against All Odds was captured by Rob Baldock and is on YouTube with just over 8,000 hits.
“Last year I had a great festival season, I played at the Newark Jazz fest with The Good Guys Orchestra, then popped to Glastonbury, (had a little spot there) the following week visited British Summer Time in Hyde park followed by Love Supreme fest where I had a little spot.
“I still enjoy practicing hard, working hard and playing hard. I love jazz and learning about jazz and big band. This has lead me to funk. My influences include Dexter Gordon, Michael Brecker, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis. (The JB Horns) Earlier this year I attended a master class by Pee Wee (who my son is named after) and he came right up to me as I was playing, cocked his ear to my sax, looked me right in the eye nodded and said ‘Yeah! That’s it!’. So that’s good enough reason for me to just keep on trying, and keep on enjoying what I do.”