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Who was Tony Stratton Smith?

Written by on 12th July 2021

by Steve Ashwell

The answer can be found listening to the Solid Rock show between 7-9pm on Wednesday 14th July when Chris Groom author of a new biography on the man is interviewed by Steve Ashwell. The book is called Strat! The Charismatic Life and Times of Tony Stratton Smith and was published by Wymer Publishing in June this year.


Tony Stratton Smith’s professional life began in Birmingham as a sports journalist. He later moved to London to become a sports writer for larger papers and in the early 1960s was sent out to report on the World Cup in Brazil. It was while in Brazil that Tony formed an interest in the music industry and upon his return to England he sought out the best in the business for advice. Music licensing was far too dry and difficult to get into so after speaking to Brian Epstein he became a manager. Not particularly impressed with the care and attention that the record labels bestowed upon acts he managed, Tony decided that he could do a better job of it himself. Thus The Famous Charisma record label was founded in 1969.

The label became best known for it’s roster of avant garde and non-commercial acts but there were some gems that kept the label going. Acts that kept the label afloat included Clifford T Ward, Van der Graf Generator, The Nice, Rare Bird, Lindisfarne and Genesis. There were other acts such as Vivian Stanshall, The Bonzo Dog Doo Da Band and John Betjeman.

Originally records bore a pink label based on a pub scroll mirror design however later on this was replaced with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party illustration, which was a perfect fit for Tony. The original pink label records are sought after by record collectors.

Hear more stories, find out what happened to the label, what Tony’s relationships with his acts were like, understand the type of man he was and hear about the connection with Jenny Pitman the racehorse trainer by listening to the interview this Wednesday (14th July) on the Solid Rock show 7-9pm.