George Bruno Money was born in 1942, in Bournemouth, Dorset. He learned to play French horn at school and also sang in a local choir. As a young teenager he was drawn to the music of Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles and destined to become a singer in a group. George had a good sense of humour and got his nickname ‘Zoot’ after he went to a concert by American Jazz saxophonist, Zoot Sims. The first line-up of the Big Roll Band which he formed in 1961 was Roger Collis (lead guitar), Al Kirtley (piano), Mike "Monty" Montgomery (bass) and Johnny Hammond (drums). The Big Roll band mastered a mixture of American soul, jazz and R&B and like many emerging groups of the time, the line up frequently changed. In 1962, Pete Brookes (drums), Johnny King (bass) and Kevin Drake (tenor sax) replaced the originals by which time the group had built up a large and loyal following. Attracted to London the group moved to Soho and shared residency at the Flamingo with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and The Animals.
Andy Summers (lead guitar), Nick Newell (saxophone), Johnny Almond (saxophone), and drummer Colin Allen had joined the group with Zoot now on piano, vocals and Hammond organ. On stage they were musically tight and highly visual as Zoot’s showmanship was supreme. His mastery of the Hammond organ made the group standout and by the time Paul Williams (bass/vocals) and Clive Burrows (saxophone), were added Zoot Money and the Bog Roll Band were main attractions on the Mod scene. In 1964 the group released their first single "The Uncle Willie" to modest response.
They switched labels the following year but their singles including "Good,” "Please Stay" and "Something Is Worrying Me" went nowhere.
The debut album “It Should Have Been Me” also was lost to obscurity.
The main problem was the group’s studio work was mild by comparison to their live performances which were difficult to capture on vinyl. In 1965, Zoot was asked to join the Animals as a replacement for Alan Price but tactfully declined. In 1966 the group released Big Time Operator which became their most successful single.
In the same year they recorded a live gig at Klook's Kleek called Zoot! Live at Klooks Kleek (sometimes called The All Happening Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band at Klooks Kleek). This is generally regarded as a classic of the genre and era.
Alexis Korner spotted Zoot as a talent and asked him to sit in with Korner's Blues Incorporated. Sensing a change in musical taste the Big Roll Band drifted into prototype psychedelia and was relaunched in 1967 as Dantalian's Chariot. Much of their recorded material failed to materialise until the 90s.
Paul Williams meantime had left to join John Mayall and then later Jucy Lucy. In 1968 Zoot and Andy Summers were asked by Eric Burdon to join Eric Burdon & The Animals and they did so touring the US. When the Animals line-up changed Zoot was briefly reunited with former members of Dantalian's Chariot but the reunion was short and the Animals broke up soon after. Zoot and Andy stayed in the US and they both took acting lessons. Zoot worked with Vic Briggs who produced his first solo album, Zoot Money.
He also did sessions and worked as a musician appearing on works by Centipede, the Grimms, Ellis, Kevin Coyne, and Kevin Ayers, among many others.
In 1969 he moved back to London and recorded Zoot Money's Music Band with slide guitarist, Mick Moody. A year he had another solo album released called, Welcome to my head.
Throughout the 70s Zoot kept busy playing with various U.K. 'progressive' outfits. He also pursued his acting career but in 1980 made another solo album Mr Money (produced by the late Jim Diamond). In 1983, Zoot joined Eric Burdon for the Animals UK tour then worked the rest of the decade with Alexis Korner on various projects as well as enjoying success as a songwriter and later producer. He wrote songs for Jimmy Witherspoon, Lulu, Maggie Bell and Long John Baldry. Zoot also balanced his musical career with acting endeavours and became the music director of John Byrne’s Tutti Frutti (BBC Scotland), as well as appearing as an extra.
Zoot Money continued to perform both as an artist and with groups such as the Spencer Davis Band, Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames, Mick Taylor, Alan Price's Electric Blues Band, Humble Pie, The Blues Band, The Foundations, and Geno Washington's Soul Train. In 1994 Zoot Money appeared with Alan Price and The Electric Blues Company alongside vocalist and guitarist Bobby Tench, bassist Peter Grant and drummer Martin Wild. He also formed a new version of the Big Roll Band in the 1990s. During the same decade Zoot toured with Ray Dorset (Mungo Jerry), Paul Williams, and Long John Baldry under the collective name the British Legends of Rhythm & Blues. In 2000 he featured in the Majik Mijits album with fellow musicians and former Small Faces, Steve Marriott and Ronnie "Plonk" Lane.
In 2004 he was once again working with Alan Price, and with veteran British soul-shouter Cliff Bennett and Liverpool legend Tony Sheridan. A year later Zoot joined Pete Goodall of Thunderclap Newman to re-record a new version of Something In The Air.
In 2006 he joined British Blues Quintet with Colin Allen (drums), Colin Hodgkinson (bass), Miller Anderson (guitar) and Maggie Bell (vocals). The Big Roll Band now consists of Paul McCallum, (bass), Steve Laffy (drums), Gary Foote (sax) and Ronnie Johnson (guitar), plus anyone else that is available and they still perform with Zoot on vocals and organ.
Worth a listen
The Uncle Willie (1964)
Please Stay (1965)
Big Time Operator (1966)
Let the good times roll (1966)
It never rains but it pours