FP100 Fife bands 51. Tommy Sampson

Tommy Sampson
Tommy Sampson

Dunfermline-based big band leader Tommy Sampson was, for many, one of the most gifted musicians ever to come from the Kingdom.

Born in Newhaven, by the age of just 14 he was already in demand as a cornet soloist and, by the age of 18, he was a depute bandmaster of the Leith Corps’ 30-strong band.

He had made his dance band debut broadcast in 1933, playing on Children’s Hour with the George Watson’s College dance band, and went on to play trumpet in a five-piece band on the Edinburgh dance circuit.

Following the Second World War, where he was a POW in Italy and Germany, Tommy formed a 17-piece big band in 1947.

Band members included Joe Temperley, who went on to play sax with Duke Ellington; star clarinettist Henry McKenzie; lead trumpeter Stan Reynolds; bass player Johnny Hawksworth; and third trombone Johnny Keating, who became Ted Heath’s arranger.

Tommy thereafter joined Chappell’s, the music publishers, as a “song plugger,” while freelancing as a band arranger.

Over the next 40 plus years, he played all the big Glasgow ballrooms and was musical director for showbands performing in hotel venues throughout Scotland including the Sheraton in Edinburgh.

He made his final appearance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in August 2008 before he passed away two months later at the age of 90.