One of the pioneering figures on the British pub rock scene, Sean Tyla was a champion of tough, straightforward rock & roll through the 1970s and '80s, and saw his profile rise as the advent of new wave and punk created a more welcoming climate for his no-frills style. Sean Tyla was born John Tyler on August 3, 1947 in Barlow, North Yorkshire. Tyla began playing guitar and keyboards in his teens, and earned his stripes playing on the road with U.K. rockabilly maven Freddie "Fingers" Lee and expatriate R&B legend Geno Washington's Ram Jam Band. In 1970, Tyla released his first single, "Miracles," under the name Third World (no connection to the noted reggae act, which was formed in 1973), and also worked on an album with jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson that never saw release.
While he was between projects, Tyla became a roadie for the London-based country-rock band Help Yourself, and briefly joined the group in 1971 as a guitarist and vocalist, as well as contributing the song "All Electric Fur Trapper," based on a short story he wrote. In early 1972, Tyla and Help Yourself bassist Ken Whaley left the band to form Ducks Deluxe with guitarist Martin Belmont and drummer Michael Cousins. By the time Ducks Deluxe released their first album in 1974, Whaley and Cousins were out and Nick Garvey (bass) and Tim Roper (drums) were in. Playing hard-edged R&B and boogie rock, Ducks Deluxe, like their contemporaries Dr. Feelgood, anticipated the fierce sound and spirit of punk, but broke up in 1975 before tastes could catch up with them.
After the Ducks' demise, Tyla formed Tyla Gang with bassist Brian Turrington and drummer Mike Desmarais (both ex-Winkies) and guitarist Bruce Irvinere. Upping the energy of Ducks Deluxe, Tyla Gang made their recorded debut with a 1976 single for Stiff Records, "Styrofoam," and signed with the American indie label Beserkley Records, for whom they recorded two albums, Yachtless (1977) and Moonproof (1978). Brian Turrington quit Tyla Gang midway through the recording of Moonproof, and Ken Whaley signed on in his place; it was an omen of coming poor fortune, as Beserkley went out of business in 1979 and the band promptly broke up. Roger Daltrey staked Tyla to some studio time at the Who's Ramport Studios, and Tyla's first solo album, 1980's Just Popped Out, was strong enough to earn him a deal with Polygram Records. "Breakfast in Marin" from Just Popped Out became a major hit single in Germany, which would become Tyla's musical home base.
In 1981, Tyla played guitar on some sessions with Joan Jett that appeared on her albums Bad Reputation and I Love Rock n' Roll, as well as cutting his second solo album, Redneck in Babylon, and launching a side project with Deke Leonard of Man, the Force. Tyla's third solo album, Rhythm of the Swing, appeared in 1983, but while touring with the Force Tyla was reported to have developed a severe case of stage fright, and in 1985 he retired from music. After pursuing a successful career as a web designer, Tyla returned in music in 2007 with a new album, Back in the Saddle, and in 2008 Ducks Deluxe reunited for a one-off show, which was successful enough to prompt the group to begin recording and touring again. In 2010, Tyla played a series of solo acoustic shows as well as re-forming the Tyla Gang for a Scandinavian tour and a new album; despite all his musical activity, Tyla found time to complete his autobiography, Jumpin' in the Fire, which was published in October 2010. ~ Mark Deming
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