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
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.
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: -
life is a song and we each write a line
most we can ask for is try and make it rhyme
all leave a legacy for better or for worse
the Rock'n'Roll man wrote a verse