Daniel Joseph Anthony Meehan (2 March 1943 – 28 November 2005) professionally known as Tony Meehan was a founder member of the British group the Shadows with Jet Harris, Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch. He played drums on early Cliff Richard and the Shadows hits and on early Shadows instrumentals.
Meehan was professionally nicknamed "The Baron" by his many admirers and friends within the British pop/rock music industry. He is reckoned to have influenced many thousands of teenage boys and adolescents to take up music as a career including Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac as a result of his iconic film performance in Cliff Richard's film The Young Ones. His drumming style (cf. Bongo Blues, Apache) is noticeably different from that of other drummers that the Shadows employed during 1958–2010 such as Brian Bennett, Clem Cattini and Trevor Spencer, preferring a simpler 1950s jazz style kit to a voluminous 1970/80s rock/metal drum kit. Thus his kit was significantly more spartan, in terms of quantity of drums and accessories, than Brian Bennett's modern expansive drum kits through the decades. In his contribution to the 1961 book The Shadows by Themselves Meehan gives very useful, timely and helpful advice to all would-be drummers on drum-kit care and maintenance.
Tony Meehan was born to Irish parents at New End Hospital, New End, Hampstead, North London, England. He was 10 when he became interested in playing drums. By 13, he had his first job with a band playing in a dance hall at Willesden, London. He also played timpani with the London Youth Orchestra. When he was 15, Meehan was set on becoming a lawyer but he was offered a job at £25 per week in a touring show. He was given six months' holiday. The tour never materialised but he did not go back to school. Unlike other members of the Shadows he was never short of work, playing cabaret at Churchill's and the Stork Club. He also played with Jet Harris in "The Vipers".
Meehan left the Shadows in October 1961 to work as an arranger/producer and session drummer for Joe Meek (John Leyton, Michael Cox: "Young Only Once", Andy Cavell) and from early 1962 at Decca Records. He teamed again with Harris (who had also left the Shadows and moved to Decca) and as a duo had success with the instrumental "Diamonds" which also included Jimmy Page on acoustic rhythm guitar. "Diamonds" was a number one hit in the UK. Harris and Meehan had two further hit singles together – "Scarlett O'Hara" and "Applejack".
On 1 January 1962, the Beatles were auditioned at Decca by Meehan, performing a selection of covers they had performed in various clubs over the years, interspersed with three Lennon–McCartney originals. The Beatles later found out that their manager Brian Epstein had paid Meehan to produce the recordings made that day in order for the Beatles to retain ownership of the tapes. Decca rejected the Beatles choosing the Tremeloes, who auditioned the same day as the Beatles. After talks with Epstein, Decca did arrange for Tony Meehan to produce the Beatles at Decca if the Beatles manager agreed to cover the expenses of about £100. On 7 February 1962 Brian Epstein met Meehan. Meehan expressed condescending comments about the Beatles’ audition with the meeting not going very well and Epstein not impressed with Meehan. Brian Epstein rejected the Decca offer.
Meehan briefly played with the Shadows some years later when Brian Bennett was in hospital. At one point, John Rostill was in hospital at the same time, and the Shadows were playing live with Brian Locking on bass and Meehan on drums.
Meehan quit the music industry in the 1990s for a major career change as a psychologist, as a result of a lifelong hobby/interest. He worked in London at a local college lecturing in psychology until his death. He was a regular churchgoer at his local Roman Catholic church in Maida Vale.1956 – (Skiffle Trio)
John Kessler (g/v), Tony Kessler (guitar) and Tony Meehan (drums)
1956–57 – (Trad-Irish-band)
Billy Flynn (g/v), Raymond Cleary (g), David Rees (b) and Tony Meehan (wb)
1958 – The Vipers
Wally Whyton (vocals/guitar), Johnny Booker (vocals/guitar), Freddy Lloyd (vocals/guitar) Jet Harris (b) and Tony Meehan (drums)
1959–1961: Gretsch (The Drifters); (The Shadows)
196?–196?: Trixon (The Shadows)
196?–196?: Ludwig (The Shadows)
1962–1963: Gretsch (Jet Harris and Tony Meehan)
1963–1964: Gretsch (Tony Meehan)
1964–1970: Gretsch (Tony Meehan)
1970-1975 Premier endorsement
On 29 November 2005, BBC News quoted Bruce Welch as saying that Meehan had died the previous day, as a result of head injuries, following a fall down the main staircase at his London flat in Maida Vale. Meehan died at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London.
"As the drummer with the Shadows, Tony Meehan helped to lay the foundations for British rock’n’roll, both backing Cliff Richard and on a long string of instrumental hits recorded under the group's own name. John Lennon once claimed that before Cliff and the Shadows, there had been nothing worth listening to in British music. As the first backing band to emerge as stars in their own right, they were early trailblazers for the beat-group boom that eclipsed them." – Shadows drummer who became an A&R man for Decca – The Times (Obituaries), 30 November, 2005.
At his death, Meehan had been twice married and had seven children.The Vipers Skiffle Group
Cliff Richard and the Drifters
Cliff Richard and the Shadows
Jet Harris & Tony Meehan
The Tony Meehan Combo
"Diamonds" / "Footstomp" – 7" – Decca
"Scarlett O'Hara" / "Hully Gully" – 7" – Decca
"Applejack" / "Tall Texan" – 7" – Decca
Jet and Tony – EP – Decca
Remembering – LP – Decca
Best of – CD
Diamonds and Gems – CD
"Song of Mexico" / "Kings Go Fifth" – 7" – Decca – 1964
Louise Cordet – "I'm Just a Baby" / "In A Matter of Moments" – 1962 (Decca)
Jay and Tommy Scott – "Angela" / "Did You" – 1962 (Decca)
Jet Harris – "My Lady" / "You Don't Live Twice" – 1964 (Decca)
White Trash – "Road To Nowhere" / "Illusions" – 1969 (Apple)
Cody – "I Belong With You" / "Wanna Make You Happy" – 1971 (Polydor/Atco)
Darryl Read – "High Rise Angry Young Man" – 1981 (on "Collectomatic vol I" – LP—1997 (White Label))
Donal Donnelly – Take the Name of Donnelly – 1968 (Decca)
Tim Hardin – Painted Head – 1973 (CBS)
John Howard – Kid in a Big World – 1975 (CBS 80473)
Kevin Westlake – Stars Fade (In Hotel Rooms) – 1976 (UTOPIA 1–1388)
Roger Daltrey – One of the Boys – 1977 (MCA)
Eric Burdon – Darkness Darkness – 1980 (Polydor)