Tony Vincent

7th July 1946 to 5th July 1994

Tony Collick, known to everybody as Tony Vincent, the best loved milkman in the south died two days before his 47th birthday.  Three days earlier marked the passing of a Rock'n'Roll legend – CSA played for the last time at the Magpie’s Nest on Bromley Common. 


For those who don’t know, Tony Vincent was the lead guitarist and singer with a band called CSA.  That last statement may be factual but it falls far short of the facts.  Tony was the band – an accomplished vocalist and a supremely versatile guitarist, he played with a multitude of musicians but no matter who accompanied him, the sound was always pure CSA.


Brought up in Worcester Park, he started playing guitar before he was ten.  In the early sixties he formed a band with Doug, Terry and Dick who, after various alternatives (The Manxmen, Tony and The Pontiacs) settled on the name The Orbits.  The band recorded ‘Lonesome Me’ with Dave Allen before he moved on to other things and then they continued to play local clubs and pubs.  Did anybody see them at the Marlborough Hall, Wimbledon in November 1963 (admission 3/6d) or Cheam Cricket Club in December 1964 (admission 4/-)?  An early high spot was winning the Merton and Morden Beat Groups Championships, which led to Tony writing and recording ‘I Can’t Deny’ in 1965.


For various reasons, the group went their separate ways and Tony enjoyed a brief spell with the Rock'n'Roll All-Stars before reforming his own group as Rock Mobile with Les Bailey on drums and Terry Glasse back again on bass. In the mid-seventies, while playing The Fountain at Tooting, Tony announced to the other two that he was changing the name to CSA and a legend was born.


You may have seen CSA at the Old Tigers Head in Lee Green, Hackney Hospital, The Adam and Eve in Hackney, The Castle in Tooting, The Telegraph in Brixton Hill, The Fountain in Tooting, The Gun in Croydon, the United Ex-Services Club in Carshalton, or Croydon Football Club in South Norwood among many other venues.  You may have been on one of the many Rockers Reunion Runs or the Annual Party where CSA almost always played.


The venue I most associate with CSA was the Leslie Arms, Addiscombe on Thursday and Sunday nights (Thursday was Country and Sunday Rock'n'Roll).  Admission on both these nights was free, as were most of CSA’s gigs (a penny or two on a pint covered costs) and an enjoyable evening was guaranteed.  No matter how many times or for how long he performed, Tony always seemed to enjoy himself on stage and his enjoyment was contagious. 


He also liked to let others enjoy themselves by getting up on stage and joining in – one of the most common sights was Big Al with his sax reeling about the stage – I’m sure Tony only let him on stage so he could steal the roll-up from behind his ear.  Big Jim was encouraged to form The Starlighters by Tony after a few times behind the mike with him.  He even started his nephew off on a musical career by persuading him to play one night at the Leslie Arms.


One thing that was often absent at these pub gigs was applause.  Tony appeared neither to need nor want encouragement.  As soon as he finished one number he was into the next (with occasionally a momentary pause for a swig of his pint or a draw on his roll-up) all the way through to the end of the set. 

Often wearing his trademark T-shirt with “Bass Player and Drummer Wanted” emblazoned across it, Tony would appear with a variety of assistance - Les Bailey, Johnny Blunt, Pete Gammon, Terry Glasse, Johnny Angel, Basil, Randy, Liam, Ginge – the list goes on and on.  One had to feel sorry for these guys as Tony would often change a tune halfway through and they just had to keep up.  He used to test his drummers by speeding up and slowing down as the mood took him.  On occasion he would throw in a new song he had learnt without warning the rest of the band.  He was just having fun doing what he loved.


Tony’s skills on the axe were remarkable – he could play a Shadows number with just a drummer and bass guitar but you would swear there were a lead and rhythm in there somewhere too.  He could do things with a guitar that other, more famous, players wouldn’t dream of.  Fame, however, didn’t seem very high on Tony’s list of priorities – “I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in an ocean” was his response when I asked why, followed by “I’ll have a Jack Daniels, thanks.”


Who was Tony – a tall, lean guy, big smile, thick rimmed glasses, beard (sometimes), ‘tache (sometimes), swathed in tattoos, roll-up jammed in the strings of his Gretsch Tennessee with TONY VINCENT on the neck, “Oh shit!” whenever he hit a bum note, a lover of guns and Canada, singing his own version of ‘White Lightning’ – ‘White Powder’ and an all-round nice guy.  He has been and will continue to be missed.


The funeral was a massive affair.  Hearses full of floral tributes, a seemingly endless line of cars and a phalanx of motorcycles as far as the eye could see followed his body to the cemetery.  The crowd was twenty or thirty deep around the grave, all of whom had been totally silent whilst the service was carried out.  The coffin was lowered into the ground, draped in a Confederate flag and CSA was finally laid to rest.  Then it was all back to Carshalton for a Rock'n'Roll piss up to see Tony off in the way he would have wanted to be remembered.


A song (‘The Rock'n'Roll Man’) was written for Tony by a close friend shortly before he died and the chorus goes a long way to summing up this great Rock'n'Roll man: -

If life is a song and we each write a line

The most we can ask for is try and make it rhyme

We all leave a legacy for better or for worse

And the Rock'n'Roll man wrote a verse





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