John Entwistle (TheWho)

the-whoThe Late great John Entwistle, Bass Player with The Who, was born on 9th October 1944 in Chiswick, London. He began piano lessons aged 7, and after joining Acton County Grammar School aged 11, switched to the trumpet,moving to French horn when he joined the Middlesex School’s Symphony Orchestra. He met Pete Townshend in the second year of school, and the two formed a trad jazz band, The Confederates. The group only played one gig together, before they decided that rock ‘n’ roll was a more attractive prospect. Entwistle, in particular, was having difficulty hearing his trumpet with bands, and decided to switch to playing guitar. However, due to his large fingers, and also his fondness for the low guitar tones of Duane Eddy, he decided to take up the bass. He made his own instrument at home, and soon attracted the attention of Roger Daltrey, who had been the year above Entwistle at Acton County, but had since left to work in sheet metal.

Daltrey was aware of Entwistle’s reputation and asked him to join as bassist for his band, The Detours. After joining the Detours, Entwistle played a major role in encouraging Pete Townshend’s budding talent on the guitar, and insisting that Townshend be admitted into the band as well. Eventually, Roger Daltrey fired all the members of his band with the exception of Entwistle, Townshend and the drummer, Doug Sandom, although in Sandom’s case it was only because he had not yet found a drummer with sufficient talent to replace him. Upon the entry of Keith Moon to the band, Roger Daltrey relinquished the role of guitarist to Pete Townshend, instead becoming frontman and lead singer. The band considered several changes of name, temporarily performing as the High Numbers, and finally settling on the name The Who, with Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, harmonica and guitar), Pete Townshend, John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass and vocals) and Keith Moon (drums and percussion). Entwistle was the only member of the band to have had formal musical training. In addition to bass guitar, he contributed backing vocals and performed on the French horn (heard on “Pictures of Lily”), trumpet, bugle, and jaw harp, and on some occasions lead vocalist on his compositions. He layered several horns to create the brass section as heard on songs such as “5:15”, among others, while recording the Who’s studio albums, and for concerts, arranged a horn section to perform with the band. In1967, Entwistle married his childhood sweetheart Alison Wise and bought a large semi-detached home in Acton, filling it with all sorts of extraordinary artefacts, ranging from suits of armour to a tarantula spider. His eccentricity and taste for the bizarre was to remain with him throughout his life, and when he finally moved out of the city in 1978, to Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, his 17-bedroom mansion, Quarwood, resembled a museum. It also housed one of the largest guitar collections belonging to any rock musician.

The Who went on to become known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction and Entwistle picked up two nicknames during his career as a musician- “The Ox” because of his strong constitution and seeming ability to “Eat, drink or do more than the rest of them and was later nicknamed “Thunderfingers”. The band also had a strong influence at the time on their contemporaries’ choice of equipment, with Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience both following suit. John Entwistle contributed material to all of The Who’s albums, with the exception of Quadrophenia, he also experimented throughout his career with “Bi-amping,” where the high and low ends of the bass sound are sent through separate signal paths, allowing for more control over the output.

In 1971 Entwistle became the first member to release a solo album, Smash Your Head Against the Wall, which earned him a cult following in the US for fans of his brand of black humour. He went on to release Whistle Rymes (1972), Rigor Mortis Sets In (1973), Mad Dog (1975), Too Late the Hero (1981) and The Rock (1996) and In 1974, he compiled Odds & Sods, a collection of unreleased Who material and, with The Who resting in 1975, went out on the road with his own band, Ox. He also fronted the John Entwistle Band on US club tours during the 1990s, and appeared with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band in 1995. A talented artist, John Entwistle held regular exhibitions of his paintings, many of them featuring The Who. In 1990 Entwistle toured with The Best, a short-lived supergroup which included Keith Emerson, Joe Walsh, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Simon Phillips and later formed The John Entwistle Project with longtime friend, drummer Steve Luongo, and guitarist Mark Hitt, both formerly of Rat Race Choir. This evolved into “The John Entwistle Band”, with Godfrey Townsend replacing Mark Hitt on guitar and taking over lead vocals andAlan St. Jon joining on keyboards. The John Entwistle band toured in 1996-7 and again in 1998 and released an album of highlights from the tour, called Left for Live. In 1995 Entwistle also toured and recorded with Ringo Starr in one of the incarnations of Ringo’s All-Starr Band. This one also featured Billy Preston, Randy Bachman, and Mark Farner. From 1999 to early 2002, he played as part of The Who and also played bass in a country-rock album project of original songs called The Pioneers, with Mickey Wynne, Ron Magness, Roy Michaels, Andre Beeka and John Delgado. In 2001 he played in Alan Parsons’ Beatles tribute show A Walk Down Abbey Road, alongside Ann Wilson of Heart, Todd Rundgren, David Pack of Ambrosia, Godfrey Townsend, Steve Luongo, and John Beck. He also played with The Who at The Concert for New York City. He also joined forces again with The John Entwistle Band for an 8-gig tour. In January–February 2002 John Entwistle played his last concerts with The Who in a handful of dates in England, the last being on 8 February at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In late 2002, an expanded 2-CD Left for Live Deluxe was released, highlighting the John Entwistle Band performances.

Sadly though John Entwistle tragically died in hotel room 658 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on 27 June 2002, one day before the scheduled first show of The Who’s 2002 United States tour. The Clark County medical examiner determined that death was due to a heart attack induced by cocaine. His funeral was held at St Edward’s Church in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, England, on 10 July 2002. He was cremated and his ashes were buried privately. A memorial service was held on 24 October at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. Entwistle’s enormous collection of guitars and basses was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London by his son, Christopher, to meet anticipated duties on his father’s estate.

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