Musician & Artist
Gilson Lavis has a career spanning four decades where he has played with a myriad of names from the entertainment industry. He is one of Britain’s most experienced and versatile drummers, still performing and touring Britain and Europe on a full time basis. His talents are many. Besides drums and percussion, he has in the past worked as a singer, a guitarist and a male model. Gilson lives in the Lincolnshire countryside with his wife and son where he writes and records music in his studio.
Gilson was born in Bedford on 27th June 1951. He started to play the drums at the age of 12. His parents brought his first drum kit, a red Peal bass drum and snare with a sizzle cymbal. His first live performance was in 1965 at the Roman Way public house in Dunstable at the innocent age of 14, with The Starlights – a band managed by his father Frederick Gilson Lavis.
At the age of 15, Gilson moved to Battlefield in Glasgow. He joined a rock band called the Bo Weevils with Andy Mulvey (from the Poets) and Zal Cleminson on lead guitar. Zal was later to become part of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
After six months Gilson formed his own band – “Headline News” and proceeded to serve an apprenticeship playing American Military bases across Europe for the next three years, performing as a unit and as a backing band for troubadors such as Arthur Connely, Edwin Starr, Clive McPhatter, The Platters and many more.
In 1968 Gilson settled in Cambridge where he joined a group of musicians who toured the north eastern working men’s clubs under a variety of names. The band also earned a living as pick up musicians for many American artists touring Europe. Skeeter Davis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Hamilton IV and Bo Diddley to name a few.
Work followed as resident drummer in Talk Of The South cabaret club and Gilson found himself playing for a wide variety of acts including Tommy Cooper, David Frost, Lulu, Freddie Starr, Bob Monkhouse, Bruce Forsyth and Engelbert Humperdinck.
1972 saw Gilson getting hired by promoter Mervin Conn to play with various country artists who were touring Europe, like Dolly Parton & Tammy Wynette. There were other bands too such as Springfield Revival and The New Seekers.
In 1975 Gilson joined the South London band Squeeze. Their first record -Take Me I’m Yours – was released in 1977 and was a massive UK hit. The was soon followed by a string of hits including Cool For Cats, Up The Junction, Pulling Mussels, Labelled With Love and many more.
Squeeze made countless tours of the US, Canada, Europe and Australia – headlining shows at Madison Square Garden, The Hollywood Bowl, Maple Leaf Gardens, The Royal Albert Hall and Giants Stadium.
After approximately eight years of great success, Squeeze split and went their different ways. Gilson used this time to record an album with Graham Parker and toured and recorded with Chris Rea.
Eighteen months later Squeeze reformed, producing more hits including Hourglass. Tours of America, Canada and Europe followed, culminating in a show at the Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica to an audience of 100,000 fans.
Around 1989 Jools Holland and Gilson parted company with the rest of Squeeze and started doing live shows as a duo under the name of Jools Holland Big Band. The Big Band has evolved over the years into an 18 piece Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with whom Gilson still plays today.
In this present format, Gilson has been featured on many TV shows such as The Happening, Later with Jools Holland, The Hootenanny series and Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. The band also had the honour of playing at the opening ceremony of the Millennium Dome in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.
Gilson has worked with some of the world’s best performers. They are too numerous to list entirely, but here are a few of them:
Barry White, Neil Sedaka, Cher, George Harrison, Paul Young, Eric Clapton, Roger Daltrey, Robert Plant, Taj Mahal, Tom Jones, BB KIng, Marianne Faithful, Smokey Robinson, Bono, Suggs, George Benson, Brian Ferry, Jeff Beck, Dionne Warwick, Sting, Dr John, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, John Cale, Steve Winwood, Mick Hucknall, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Louie Bellson.
Regarding his art, Gilson is self taught. He started drawing by copying Marvel Mags. His drumming career and other lifestyle choices were getting in the way, so Gilson stopped painting or sketching for 40 years. Starting again only 4 years ago, he has sold many originals and prints of his distinctive work.
- Website: www.gilsonlavis.co.uk