You Made Me So Very Happy ► My Days With David Clayton-Thomas
David Clayton-Thomas by Carl Lender

Dateline September 13, 1941 – A baby is born in war time England, Thames, Surrey, UK, and named David Henry Thomsett. He would later grow up to become David Clayton-Thomas. His father was a Canadian who met his piano-playing mother ‘over there’ when she went to entertain troops in a hospital in London. According to Larry LeBlanc at DCT’s official website:

After the war, the family settled in Willowdale, a suburb of Toronto. From the beginning David and his father had a troubled relationship. By the time David was fourteen he left home, sleeping in parked cars and abandoned buildings, stealing food and clothing to survive. A tough, angry street kid with a hair-trigger temper, it wasn’t long before he ran afoul of the law and was arrested several times for vagrancy, petty theft and street brawls. He spent his teen years bouncing in and out of various jails and reformatories.

David inheirited a love for music from his mother and when a battered old guitar came into his possession, left behind by an outgoing inmate, he began to teach himself to play. Before long he was singing and playing at jailhouse concerts and for the first time in his life, he found acceptance. Now he had a dream and his life had direction… he put the reformatory years behind him and he never looked back.

While Clayton-Thomas is best known as the booming voice of Blood, Sweat and Tears, (to make a long, interesting story very short) he put in his apprenticeship with a series of bands before he made it big. He had his own band, The Shays, at 21 and in 1966 he joined a new band The Bossmen, which had a hit before breaking up. Earlier he had traveled to New York and gathered some other Toronto musicians to form his back-up group The Phoenix. They played in New York City at The Scene before getting tossed out of the country for not having the proper work papers. He kicked around Toronto for a few more years, immersing himself in the Blues and Jazz scenes and sitting in with John Lee Hooker in Yorkville, Toronto’s Hippie mecca. He followed Hooker to New York and when Hooker left for Europe, Clayton Thomas stayed on where he came to the attention of Blood, Sweat and Tears following the release of their first LP. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Back, with liner notes by DCT.
Ishan People’s 2nd LP

Surprisingly, left out of the official biography of David Clayton-Thomas, and even left off his WikiWackyWoo page, is how I came to know David. Back in the day (1976-1977) I managed a group called Ishan People, Canada’s first Roots Reggae band. David Clayton-Thomas produced both our LPs on GRT Records. David was an early proponent of Reggae, well before Bob Marley was a household word. By then Clayton-Thomas was already a singer of some renown with his work with Blood, Sweat and Tears. However, he took a small pittance as a producer to work with music and musicians he loved. Here’s a sample of David Clayton-Thoamas’ work with Ishan People.

I don’t know why this has been left off all the biographies, because this is something that David Clayton-Thomas.should take great pride in. I note he has an autobiography called, appropriately enough, Blood, Sweat and Tears, which I’ve never read. I wonder if he mentions it there. At any rate, you made me so very happy, David. Thanks for everything.



About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.