b. Thomas Charles Bruce, 16 July 1937, Stepney, London, England, d. 10 July 2006, Watford, Hertfordshire, England. This 60s rock ‘n’ roll vocalist possessed an extraordinary voice that was described as a subtle blending of a corncrake, steam hammer and gravel polisher. Orphaned at the age of 10, Bruce worked for some years as a driver’s mate in London’s famous Covent Garden fruit market, before his neighbour, the then actor and later successful songwriter, Barry Mason, encouraged him to make the demo record that secured him a contract with Norrie Paramor at Columbia Records in 1960. His first release, the Fats Waller oldie ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’’, was a UK number 3 hit, and his follow-up, another standard, ‘Broken Doll’, also reached the UK Top 40, but was his last record to do so. The singer, who was either loved or hated, was often accused of emulating the Big Bopper. He hotly disputed this claim, saying he was not particularly familiar with the late singer’s work. Together with his group the Bruisers, he appeared on television programmes such as Wham!! and on many live shows, often under the auspices of impresario Larry Parnes. This unique cockney performer, who never claimed that he could actually sing, also recorded on Polydor Records in 1965, RCA Records in 1966 and CBS Records in 1969. Bruce later sang in rock ‘n’ roll revival and 60s nostalgia shows.
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