Brighton Argus, March 5, 2003

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Brighton Argus

UK & Ireland newspapers


Rocker who proved hecklers wrong

The Argus

Top rock drummer Pete Thomas will have the last laugh on the hostile Newhaven dockers who tried to jeer his first band off stage.

On Monday Pete will be inducted into the elite Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame at a ceremony in New York as part of Elvis Costello And The Attractions.

It will be a long way from his early days growing up in South Way, Seaford, dreaming of rock stardom while drumming with bands with names such as The Grobs.

Those early gigs included being forced to play The Stripper by rowdy Newhaven dockers, to the horror of the cleaning lady who was thrust centre-stage.

But the experience stood him in good stead for his rise to fame with Costello's band as part of the late-Seventies punk explosion.

Later Pete established a reputation for himself as one of the world's top session musicians.

He was the drummer for the house bands on Jonathan Ross' first UK chat show and the US hit series Ally McBeal.

He has also collaborated with a wealth of stars including Sheryl Crow, The Corrs, Pearl Jam, Suzanne Vega, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Finn and Badly Drawn Boy.

His parents Philip and Sheila, who still live in Seaford, were full of pride to see him perform at last week's Grammy awards ceremony.

They are just as thrilled by his latest honour although they will be unable to attend next week's ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan.

Philip remembered an early Attractions gig in London where crowds queued around the street corner. The police waded in and The Guardian's music critic was arrested.

Philip said: "They were an amazing band and those were amazing days. I'm not sure how my eardrums survived but over the years we learned to love the music.

"Costello's songs are extremely clever and work on many different levels. We're on very good terms with him."

Pete's grandmother bought him his first set of drums aged seven.

Philip said: "We were not entirely happy at first but we soon realised how dedicated he was. The neighbours used to get upset and we would get calls of complaint. When he got famous they were ringing up for tickets."

Pete attended Lewes Priory School and the Sussex Music School while playing with a series of local bands.

Philip said: "He still tells the story of the Newhaven dockers being the toughest crowd. The cleaning lady used to do a turn after a few drinks but she was begging Pete's band not to play The Stripper. Unfortunately the dockers insisted."

Pete moved to London in 1972 and joined a pub band called Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers before moving to California to drum for singer-songwriter John Stewart.

He was invited back to Britain in 1977 to join the band backing Elvis Costello.

Costello reformed the Attractions in 2001, although the band chose to use the name The Impostors.

Pete, 48, now based in Los Angeles, starts recording a new Costello album next week and more tour dates are planned for later this year.

Joining Pete at the induction will be his wife Judy and daughter Tennessee.

The first induction ceremony was held in 1986. All inductees are represented at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.


The Argus, March 5, 2003

The Argus profiles Pete Thomas in advance of his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, March 10, 2003.


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