Roger Beaujolais & Neil Burns
born in Harrogate in Yorkshire although my parents were from Devon & Cornwall. My father had a job in Leeds at the time. When I was 2 years old my parents moved to Winchester where I lived till I was 8 when my parents moved to Portsmouth. I was there till I was 18 when I moved to Dorset with my parents (not by choice – it’s a long story). When I was 20 I moved to Devon & stayed there for a couple of years before moving to London in 1975. I bought my first vibraphone in 1977 at the age of 24 having never played one before in my life. At the time I had a full time job & a year later my daughter was born so I didn’t have much time to practice. I started in earnest around my 26th birthday. I played my first gig at the age of 28. Before that I didn’t have a car which made it impossible. Within 3 days of buying a car I played my first gig. I am completely self taught.
When people find out the above they often ask if I played other instruments before. Yes, I did – but not for long & not to a high standard. I bought a drum kit when I was 15 (I had a summer job in a factory to pay for it) because some school friends were forming a rock band & thought I’d do! I had lessons from a retired big band drummer for a few months so learnt the rudiments. When I was 16 I started having piano lessons at school primarily to play blues & boogie woogie which I was really into at the time. I had lessons for 9 months – till I left school – & got Grade 1 piano. That is the extent of my musical tuition.
Soon after starting on vibes I was a founder member of jump/jive band “The Chevalier Brothers” & had a successful time in the 1980’s touring Europe extensively along with many gigs in the UK & trips to the USA & Japan. For a brief period we were darlings of the UK rock press but outside the UK we were known on the jazz scene playing at numerous jazz festivals including Montreux, North Sea & others in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Belgium & France.
The Chevalier Brothers split up in 1988 & immediately I was offered work by pop band Fairground Attraction. I had played on their original demos before they got their record deal & then played on their first album. The album & their first single ‘Perfect’ went to Number One on the pop charts. I was with the band until they imploded in 1989 & then, with the money that I’d earnt from working with them, I paid for the recording of my first album.
Acid Jazz Records agreed to release it & that started a 5 year collaboration that produced 4 albums – two latin jazz albums by the Beaujolais Band – ‘Mind How You Go’ (1990) & ‘Talk, Talk & More Talk’ (1993) & two soul jazz albums by Vibraphonic – ‘Vibraphonic’ (1993) & ‘Vibraphonic 2’ (1995). I got dropped by Acid Jazz Records in 1995 which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that at the time I was giving the label a lot of grief over the £7,500 they’d owed me for some time. They had zero interest in whether one of their successful artists was able to pay his bills or not…… Then it turned out that Hollywood Records in LA were interested in Vibraphonic so I signed to them in 1996. Hollywood Records is the audio arm of Disney so I was signed to Disney & used to get cheques with Mickey Mouse on! In 1996 they released ‘A Vibraphonic Christmas’ (their idea, not mine) & then in 1997 they released ‘On A Roll’. Just as ‘On A Roll’ was being released Hollywood sacked their MD & as a result no funds were made available for promotion & marketing. When there’s no promotion no-one knows an album is out so not surprisingly it didn’t sell well. Six months later Hollywood hired a new MD who looked at sales & got rid of me. That’s the music business for you……
A year later I was just about to record another Vibraphonic album in my home studio when my flat flooded. That put an end to that idea – or the schedule for it anyway. Frustrated because of that I decided to make a ‘straightahead’ jazz album which was released in 1999 – ‘For Old Times’. That was under the name of the Roger Beaujolais Quintet. That started things moving in a slightly different direction musically & I found that I really enjoyed playing acoustic music on an acoustic vibraphone. For the previous 15 or so years the bands I’d played with were too loud for me to play acoustically so I used a Deagan Electravibe which, great as it was, always felt a bit like a compromise in terms of sound. Despite that I still recorded another Vibraphonic album (once my flat had dried out!) which came out on my own label, StayTuned Records, in 2000.
Three other quintet albums followed – ‘I’ll See You Tonight’ (2002), ‘Sentimental’ (2005) & ‘Blue Reflections’ (2008). And then there were 4…… The band became a quartet in 2010 & a quartet album – ‘Mind The Gap’ – was released in 2013. I have just released a second quartet album ‘Sunset’ in June 2017.
I’ve glossed over a few things like the Soul Station album ‘Cuttin’ The Groove’ from 1996, the Travis/Beaujolais Quartet album ‘Berlin Vibe’ from 2000 & the LushLife album from 2009. Also, becoming a Professor of Music at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance & the sessions with the likes of Robert Plant, Roni Size, Paul Weller, Morrissey, Kirsty MacColl, Alexander O’Neal, Neneh Cherry, Shola Ama, Colin Vearncombe, Alison Limerick & many more – but this could go on forever. …….."