How Elton John made his name

MARK NICHOLLS It's one of those bizarre rock 'n' roll coincidences and brings together a 40-year link between superstar Elton John and the man whose name he borrowed. Incredibly, both will be playing venues in Norwich during May.

MARK NICHOLLS

It's one of those bizarre rock 'n' roll coincidences and brings together a 40-year link between superstar Elton John and the man whose name he borrowed.

Incredibly, both will be playing venues in Norwich during May.

You can catch Elton John and his band performing before 20,000-plus fans at Norwich City's Carrow Road ground on May 29.

But next Wednesday, May 4, at the Garage, a venue holding up to 115 people on a good night, top billing goes to the Hugh Hopper Trio, a band which includes journeyman saxophonist Elton Dean in the line-up.

So what's the link?

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The story actually goes back to the mid-1960s when Elton Dean was in a band called Bluesology with singer Long John Baldry and a pianist named Reginald Kenneth Dwight.

When Reg was looking around for the name millions around the world know him better as, he picked Dean's first name and that of Long John Baldry . . . and Elton John was born.

But far from being a carefully picked stage name, there was an enormous element of the random in the selection, as Elton Dean explains.

"We were on a plane back from Scotland after a Bluesology gig when Reg turns to me and says he's going to call himself Elton Dean.

"I told him I wasn't that keen, so he looked along the plane and saw Long John Baldry's head and said, 'OK, how about Elton John?'"

Not too long after that, the band members went their separate ways - Elton John on to eternal global stardom, Long John Baldry to success in the '60s as a singer and Elton Dean to join the cult band Soft Machine, which is now undergoing a revival.

Elton John and Elton Dean have not met for the best part of 35 years.

Asked if he minded Elton John taking his name, Elton Dean said: "To be honest, I haven't given it that much thought, though my mum wasn't too happy when he started getting all the headlines!

"I did joke with Reg at one stage about him giving me 5pc of all he earned because of the name - that would have been nice, wouldn't it?"

Elton Dean has carved a reputation on the jazz circuit over the past three decades, playing smaller venues. "Nothing on the scale of Elton John," he added.

Long John Baldry, who is now reported to be seriously ill, moved to Canada.

But their fame has been eclipsed by the global magnitude of Elton John, who has consistently churned out chart-toppers such as Candle In The Wind, Rocket Man and Crocodile Rock.

The £5-a-ticket gig at the Garage is almost sold out and will seem a million miles away from the thousands who will pay £40-£75 to watch Elton John at Carrow Road.

The Hugh Hopper appearance is part of more than 60 events at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Last night festival spokeswoman Rachael Murray described the appearance of Elton Dean in Norwich as "an incredible coincidence".

"We were not aware of it and it is amazing there is a link with Elton John who is playing in Norwich at the end of May," she said.

Hopper was one of the founder members of the Canterbury School of progressive music that produced the influential bands Soft Machine, Gong and Caravan.

A bassist/writer with Soft Machine, Hopper has subsequently collaborated on numerous projects with musicians such as Robert Wyatt and the Carla Bley Orchestra.

Joining the band for the show on Wednesday is ambient guitarist Mark Hewins.

Virtuoso German touch-guitarist Markus Reuter (former guitar student of Robert Fripp and member of the Europa String Choir) provides support with a set of unique, atmospheric, loop-generated compositions.

As part of the build-up to the Elton John concert, the EDP teamed up with Radio Norfolk to compile the Ultimate Elton John Top 20 in a reader/listener vote. Find out which songs topped the poll between 10am and 1pm on Radio Norfolk on bank holiday Monday.

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