In 1962 all he had was $20, a battered old guitar and a determination to change his life-which he did in a spectacular style. Best known as the lead singer for Blood, Sweat and Tears, David Clayton-Thomas joined the group in 1969 and was the composer of the band’s biggest hit single “Spinning Wheel”. The group’s self-titled second album spawned three top five singles (Spinning Wheel, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” “And When I Die”) and spent seven weeks at No. 1, as well as a total of 109 weeks on the Billboard Album Chart.
Born in Surrey England of British-Canadian parents, Clayton-Thomas moved to Canada at age six and was raised in Toronto. He had a troubled adolescence and was in and out of reformatories from age 15 to 21. But it was there that he learned to play guitar. By 1962, music was his salvation and he began performing in Toronto nightclubs. He led the Fabulous Shays, an r%26b band that recorded the national hits “Walk That Walk” and “Brainwashed” in 1965. He then formed the Bossmen, one of the first rock bands to incorporate elements of jazz.
The young singer took every opportunity he could to play alongside great bluesmen such as John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins, Son House and Muddy Waters. Hooker took Clayton-Thomas to New York’s Greenwich Village to play a gig with him and when Hooker left, Clayton-Thomas decided to stay.
New York opened new doors for him. He met Bobby Colomby and joined his group, Blood, Sweat %26 Tears. The band’s first album featuring Clayton-Thomas as lead singer sold 10 million copies. Featuring a fiery fusion of jazz and rock, blues and the classics, Blood, Sweat %26 Tears played everywhere from the Metropolitan Opera to Woodstock to behind the Iron Curtain. By 1972, with five successive gold albums, and singles such as “Hi De Ho,” “Lucretia MacEvil” and “Go Down Gamblin’,” the band was at the top of the music industry. Although most of the original members moved on, a newr version of the group continued to perform throughout the ’80s.
Lately, Clayton-Thomas has been pursuing a solo career. He released The Uptown Album, and has been working on new musical ventures from his state-of-the-art digital home studio in Catskill Mountains. Beating the odds of his early youth, Clayton-Thomas is living proof that blood, sweat and tears pay off.