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Canadian Heritage

David Clayton-Thomas


David Clayton-Thomas (vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, producer) was born David Henry Thomsett in Surrey England on September 13, 1941. After emigrating to Canada his family settled in Willowdale. Influenced by his mother’s love of music and an antidote to his troubled teen years he took up the guitar and performing.

His talents brought him to the attention of Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, and he went on to form his own R and B based groups. A regional hit of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” got him a TV appearance on NBC TV’s “Hullabaloo”s, exposure to New York’s burgeoning folk scene and back in Toronto he also absorbed influences in the famed Yorkville club scene from such stellar musicians as Lenny Breau and Oscar Peterson.

Returning to New York in 1966 and through the introduction of Judy Collins, he became an instrumental part of a new rock/jazz fusion band called “Blood Sweat and Tears” as their lead singer. The groups self titled debut album in 1968 garnered 5 Grammy Awards including Best Album and Best Performance by a Male Vocalist. The album was an international success and produced three gold singles “Spinning Wheel”, “You Make Me So Very Happy” and “And When I Die”. Touring included such venues as the Royal Albert Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival and being the first rock band to penetrate the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.

Clive Davis, renowned producer, described his initial impression of David’s unique whiskeyed voice as “ a perfect combination of emotion to go with the band’s somewhat cerebral appeal. I knew he would be a strong, strong figure.”

In 1972, he took a 3 year hiatus from the group later returning to perform with them until 2004. After 30 years in New York, David returned to his blues and jazz roots in Toronto recording and producing number of solo albums, collaborating with such artists as Doug Riley and Bruce Cassidy and is an annual participant in Jazz FM’s annual concert, “Jazz Lives” since it’s inception.

In 1996 he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and “Spinning Wheel” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006