Later this month, Rocketman will hit the cinema – the big-budget film which explores the early years of musician Elton John as he heads towards worldwide super stardom. If you intend to catch this film we have an amazing piece of Emanuel School trivia for you, both connected to the film and Elton’s early career.
There is a character in Rocketman called Elton Dean (OE1956-62) who was a member of Elton’s late 1960s bands “Bluesology” and is played by Irish musician Evan Walsh. At the time, Elton Dean would have been in his mid-twenties, a few years after he left Emanuel in 1962. Walsh, who plays Dean, was a member of popular Irish band “The Strypes”. We’re not sure how big a role Walsh/Dean has in the film, but in the history of the stage name ‘Elton John’ he is a significant figure.
Did you ever wonder where Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as ‘Elton John’, acquired his now famous stage name? In the late 1960s, before Elton changed his name, he was playing the pub and small club circuit with Bluesology which included Elton Dean on saxophone and ‘Long’ John Baldry with whom he recorded his first couple of albums. After the band split up ‘Dwight’ then mixed the names of both former band members Elton Dean and John Baldry together and ‘Elton John’ was born. He legally changed his name in 1972, in homage to the two musicians he previously played with and greatly admired.
Pictured: Elton Dean (OE 1956-62)
Although an OE influenced and had a hand in creating the stage name of one of music’s most famous performers, Elton Dean is probably best known for his recordings with the cult rock and jazz band “Soft Machine”. They did not have much commercial success in their seventies heyday and they are now regarded as highly influential in the musical fusion of these different sounds.
Dean was seen as a genius with the saxophone; known for his amazing improvisation; recorded with many famous artists and toured widely for decades as a solo artist and with other bands. By the time of his death in 2006 he had a huge back-catalogue of live recordings, sessions and albums. Dean was significantly better known in Europe and the USA than in the UK where he toured widely.
Tony Jones (Senior Librarian & Archivist)
Pictured: Elton Dean on the saxophone