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Tilly Rutherford

by Gloria Jones

If I tell you that Tilly Rutherford is President of Tilly Tunes, Chairman at Digger Music, Director at Lisson Records, President of “tilly rutherford music”,has been a world wide consultant at Distronics and is one of the founders of PWL - The Hit Factory, you’ll get an idea of how important music is to him. In fact he has many more credits to his name for record companies and recording studios throughout the years so I was very interested to meet him on one of his recent trips to Pattaya and ask some questions.

Unfortunately my first question asking him how he came to find himself in Pattaya brought forth “I hated the place when I first came here 18 years ago”. He was here for three days following on from a trip to Bangkok. The Hard Rock Hotel had just opened and from there he was taken to Walking Street with some friends unfortunately whilst there he saw a lot of fights,a lot of police and a lot of drunks and decided it wasn’t for him. However, he rediscovered Pattaya five years ago whilst on a trip to Cambodia and since then has made it a regular stopping point when he is in Asia. “So what is it about Pattaya that you like now?” I asked. “ Well it’s mainly the people, the friends I’ve made here “ many of them as you can probably guess are musicians and he is also a great lover of all the live music that’s available here.

If you don't know the name Tilly Rutherford you will certainly know some of the artists he’s signed during his long-term musical career. Singers such as Kylie,Jason Donovan, Rick Astley and Bad Manners who he signed in 1979 after losing out on Madness. The ska scene was very popular at that time and unfortunately David Robinson of Stiff Records gazumped him. So along with Roger Lomas who had already produced The Selector he put Bad Manners into the studio and this fun. energetic bunch of chaps led by The Famous Buster Blood Vessel had a string of hits along with many memorable live performances.

While talking to Tilly other names crop up, David Van Day from Guys and Dolls and then Dollar, Hazel Dean and Sonia, all people he worked with. However I was curious to find out how the signing of Kylie and Jason came about. So Tilly told me that Mushroom Records in Australia had a deal with the channel that produced the soap opera Neighbours which has since spawned so many famous actors and singers. Kylie Minogue was then starring in the show and they had her record “The Locomotion” in Australia, a few months later with her manager Terry Blamey she travelled to London to see if she could make a record in the UK.

However Neighbours at that time wasn't so popular due to a disastrously early time slot and she wasn’t well known in the UK . She spent most of her the time in the UK cycling around and being a tourist only at the last minute did she go into a studio to lay down a very basic track of “I should be so Lucky”.Stock Aitken and Waterman augmented what Kylie had sung and the track was then taken around town and duly rejected by 10 different record companies ! Therefore PWL decided to back Kylie by putting her on their own label - 19 singles and four albums later it certainly seemed that they had the last laugh.

Another really interesting story from Tilly is that of the signing of Rick Astley. This came about because Pete Waterman was going out with a girl from Warrington and whilst in a working man's club saw a young Mr Astley playing drums with a local band. Pete obviously recognised some talent there and brought him back to London although at first he had nothing for him and so Rick just became the studio tea boy and general runner. However, rather in the same way as their more famous forerunners “Motown Records” there were always songs going round for different artists to try. Jason Donovan (who followed Kylie to PWL) was given “Never Gonna Give You Up” but turned it down. So Rick Astley was allowed to give it a shot and the resulting single went on to be a number one hit in bothe the UK and US grossing over 15.8 million worldwide !

For a heady 3 years PWL was the number one label in the UK and along with their own signings also produced for other stars notably Donna Summers on “This time I know it’s for real”, Cliff Richards and Latoya Jackson (Michael’s lesser known sister). As well as being fully immersed in the recordings Tilly was also in charge of all the marketing,sales, promotional support, pretty much everything for the concerts such as those at Wembley arena and all the Hit Factory tours. However when Pete Waterman eventually sold 50% of the company to Warner Brothers the fun really went out of the work and it was time to leave.

So Tilly set up his own consultancy and helped out on popular tracks such as Cotton Eye Joe and by putting people within the music industry in touch due to the connections he had made over the years. Certainly the owner of Distronics could see the benefit of having such a person work for him asking Tilly to join as his World Wide Consultant . This involved them travelling around the world to visit music conventions and production companies and for seven years they had a marvellous time. Travel always involved turning left on the plane and enjoying the best food and drink money could buy. The company was then sold in the year 2000 at which time Tilly then set up a digital company buying some catalogues that have served him very well.

So to the present day and a new venture as DJ Rutherford is soon to be one of the DJs at “United DJs The Station of the Stars”. He will only be in Pattaya for another few days but has been enjoying his time here spent with other “musos” such as Barry Upton, Marina Perfileva and Yves Baron . Lovely to meet you Tilly come back and visit us all again soon !