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Dick Greener
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Dick Greener

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TONY HOOPER, 1939-2020

Tony Hooper died on 18 Nov 2020

Dave Cousins wrote (and supplied this photo - right):

I am deeply saddened at the passing of Tony Hooper.

Without Tony there would have been no Strawberry Hill Boys.

No Strawbs!

For me, Tony’s own words sum it up best....

“Ah me, things aren’t what they used to be, Ah my, in days gone by.”

Rest in peace.

Hud writes:

Tony, my friend, you will be sorely missed.

You were the gentlest of men, kind and humorous, modest and unassuming. You were also amazingly talented, your voice unequalled for its purity, with its beauty enriching the lives of so many people who, like me, hold you in high esteem.

I will treasure your memory.


Dick Greener writes:

I am extremely sad to have to pass on news of the passing of the co-founder of the Strawbs, Tony Hooper, who died on 18 Nov 2020. He had had an operation for oral cancer a few months ago, and returned home, but was later admitted to a hospice and I heard this morning that he died yesterday

Dave Cousins and met back at school at Thames Valley Grammar, quickly becoming firm friends and musical partners. They collaborated in an early group, the Gin Bottle Four, which made second place in the Ealing Skiffle festival that year, after which the pair moved on from skiffle (on one occasion they appeared as "David and Anthony") but mainly as the Strawberry Hill Boys, named after the area of West London in which they rehearsed. Starting out with predominantly bluegrass material, they progressed through a traditional folk phase till eventually the bulk of their material was self-penned. In parallel, the band's name gradually shortened to become the Strawbs, gigging pretty constantly in clubs and colleges from 1963 onwards, until the band's breakthrough with "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" in 1970.

The purity of Tony's angelic voice – and its combination with Cousins' vocals for many was a key element in the appeal of the Strawbs in those early years. According to Dave who spoke to me the other day, it was the main reason the Strawbs were signed to A&M, and many of the songs on the albums up to Tony's departure from the band in 1972 amply demonstrate that perfect synergy.

He and Cousins had already dabbled with producing other artists – Paper Bubble's first album was their work, and they collaborated on a second, which remained unreleased until 2018. After leaving the Strawbs, he spent more time producing other artists – The Settlers (he had shared a flat with a member of the Settlers in North London) and the Settlers' Cindy Kent's album. He also notched up production credits, mainly for the York Records or Myrrh labels - Wooden Horse's 2nd album (featuring Noosha Fox, later of pop band Fox), and albums by Garth Hewitt, Ian Page, Narnia, Davey & Morris and various others.

He then left the music business altogether, working at book and journal publishers Macmillan for many years, but returned to the stage with Strawbs in 1983 till the 30th anniversary celebrations in 1998 (and again briefly for their triumphant return to the QEH in 2000, 30 yearson from that first fateful concert). Outside of the Strawbs he collaborated with Elaine Charlson in Misalliance (who produced three albums in the 1990s) and Pitchfork, a popular barn dance and ceilidh band.

I've had the pleasure of knowing Tony for a good number of years socially now – Hud and I and various others fell into the habit of meeting up reasonably regularly for drinks in Central London in the past few years. A true gentleman, always interesting to listen to and interested in what others have to say, and with a wicked sense of humour, combined with a glint in his eye and an innocent impish smile. I couldn't agree more with Elaine's description – "a lovely man", and I will certainly miss him. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

To celebrate his life, I'll shortly be adding some pictures to Strawbsweb, which he let me have a long time ago, but which have never made it online before now, whilst listening to some of the Strawbs tracks which underline his undoubtedly key contribution to the Strawbs.

There's a kind tribute from Rick Wakeman on his website and a Strawbsweb interview with Tony, conducted by Lindsay Sorrell back in 2007.

His funeral took place on 4 Dec 2020 at 12.00 and was streamed online.

Lindsay Sorrell wrote in last night:

I was dreadfully sorry to hear of Tony's passing. As one of the Strawbs family he had meant the world to me since my first introduction to Strawbs back in 1971 with the newly-released From the Witchwood album, which was the most amazing music I had ever heard. I soon caught up with Strawbs' earlier albums, and vividly remember hearing "Where Am I - I'll Show You Where to Sleep" for the first time. Tony's voice took my breath away with its crystal clear, angelic qualities. I played Tony's introduction to the song over and over again; not a simple task in the days of turntables and needles. Although I first saw Tony play with Strawbs in 1972 on the Grave New World tour, I didn't have an opportunity to meet him until October 1974 when Strawbs played at Fairfield Halls in Croydon. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I spotted the elusive Tony was standing in front of me! He seemed to be something of an enigma; in pre-internet days it was impossible to find out anything much about him, so It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet him and chat about who-knows-what! This brief encounter confirmed that Tony was as friendly and welcoming a person as his smile showed him to be. I saw him play several more times with Strawbs throughout the following decades, including at the glorious and unforgettable Chiswick House 30th Anniversary day.

I can't actually remember how it came about, but I somehow talked Tony into letting me interview him in my amateur roving reporter way. I spent the most wonderful afternoon interviewing (aka" interrogating") him at The Cabbage Patch pub in Twickenham. Although it doesn't seem that long ago it was actually in 2007. We talked about all manner of things for several hours, and it was obvious he was extremely happy away from the spotlight and the less palatable aspects of the music business, though he also recounted many happy memories of the good times. He still loved making music with a local band called Pitchfork, and continued to enjoy his day job designing book covers for Palgrave Macmillan. There I was, chatting away with one of my earliest heroes, who turned out to be one of the humblest people I can ever remember meeting.

My sincere condolences go to all Tony's family and friends, and in particular to his beloved Colette and Nick (Tony's son, who released a couple of fine CDs a while back under the name Nick Eliot. Nick also creates some wonderful artwork which I believe he still displays on the Saatchi Art website). Tony was very much the proud father and frequently mentioned his children with great fondness. Sincere condolences also to Elaine Charlson, Tony's good friend and ex-band mate in Misalliance. I'm not certain when we first met, but it was lovely to see Elaine and Tony when they came along to see the Strawberry Fools play some years ago. Elaine has been incredibly kind, and I will always be extremely grateful to her.

It's nearly 3 a.m., but I can't sleep. I've played countless songs which feature Tony and shed a few tears while doing so. RIP Tony, you'll be so sadly missed by more people than you'll ever know, but you'll remain in all our hearts. Forever.


Obituaries have now appeared in the Times and the Telegraph - click to see full size images

Times obituary

Telegraph obituary

Short pieces have also appeare in Mojo Magazine and Record Collector

Mojo "Real Gone" column

Guitarist Tony Hooper (birth date incorrect) first me Strawbs founder Dave Cousins at primary school in Twickenham. A shared love of folk and American blues led to them playing in the Strawberry Hill Boys. Becoming the Strawbs in 1967, they hit big with 1973's "Part Of The Union". From there the band's sound expanded from folk rock into prog extravagance, taking many detours along the way. Hooper had departed the group after 1972's Grave New World, though in 1983 he rejoined for another decade.

Record Collector "Not Forgotten" column

Tony Hooper died 18 Nov, age 81. The singer and guitarist was a co-founder of the Strawbs and a key influence on their early folk direction. He had formed the band alongside frontman Dave Cousins and double-bassist Ron Chesterman in 1967, his soft voice and acoustic guitar-playing on the group's first six albums helping to establish them as one of the foremost proponents of the British folk-rock revival. As the group filled out with new members (such as keyboardist Rick Wakeman) and inched towards a more prog-oriented sound, Hooper made the decision to leave following 1972's Grave New World. He would rejoin the band in 1983 for another 10-year stint and appeared on a further three albums.

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