Born John Alec Entwistle on October 9, 1944, to Herbert & Maud "Queenie" Entwistle in Chiswick, England. Herbert Entwistle played trumpet. Queenie Entwistle played piano. The Entwistle's marriage failed shortly after John' s birth. Entwistle spent most of his childhood living with his grandparents.
At three, Entwistle stood up at a local cinema to sing along with Al Jolson songs. Entwistle's grandfather took John to workingmen's clubs where John stood on chairs and sang Jolson standards.
At seven, Entwistle began taking piano lessons until 11. Then, Entwistle began playing the trumpet based on his father's knowledge of the trumpet.
At Middlesex School, Entwistle played a tenor horn purchased by the school. After school, Entwistle played in trad bands. Entwistle picked trad jazz so he could play the trumpet. Trad jazz is where Entwistle met Pete Townshend. Entwistle and Townshend kicked around in a few bands together. Entwistle eventually went to a better band.
At around 14, Entwistle became a fan of Duane Eddy and John wanted to play loud like Eddy. Entwistle stated, "I just wanted to be louder. I really get irritated when people could turn up their guitar amps and play louder than me. So I decided that I was going to play guitar."
Entwistle also stated, "I did want to be a lead guitarist. The role of lead guitarist was the most glamorous to me. I wanted to make solo spots in a group. And you don't go from being a front man to a back man. But I always preferred the sound of a bass- it excited me the most."
Entwistle's family couldn't afford to purchase a bass guitar. So, Entwistle obtained a piece of mahogany that was in the shape of the popular bass of 1960, a Fender Precision body. Entwistle had the bass fretted like a Hofner bass.
Entwistle completed the bass on grandmother's best dining room table that permanently damaged the surface of the table. Entwistle then moved to a Fenton-Weill bass made by Entwistle and Fenton factory hands.
Entwistle then became a member of Roger Daltrey's band called the Detours. In fact it was Entwistle who recommended Pete Townshend to Daltrey to join the band on rhythm guitar.
In 1961, Entwistle graduated from Acton Grammar. Entwistle's family could not afford to pay for John's education. Sometime in 1962-1963, Entwistle found work with Inland Revenue Service, England's IRS.
Entwistle would sleep in the tax office after long nights of playing in the Detours. Entwistle became a filing clerk in the tax office because John was hoarse from spending the night singing "Twist and Shout" and "I Saw Here Standing There."
At this time, the members of the Detours were Townshend on rhythm guitar, Entwistle on bass, Daltrey on lead guitar, Doug Sandom on drums, and Colin Dawson on lead vocal.
In late 1962 and early 1963, the Detours opened for Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, a power trio with a lead singer band setup. After a change of lead singers, the Detours decided to go to a power trio plus singer with Daltrey switching to lead vocal and Townshend switching to lead guitar. Entwistle would then change his sound to be more of a second guitar than as a traditional bass.
As one of the Detours, Doug Sandom said of Entwistle, "John didn't like to upset anybody. He was the boy who was quiet, who wouldn't upset anybody."
Entwistle recalled that the Detours were, "the first band to use large amounts of equipment" because "we decided to be loud, to have a lot of impact."
Pete Townshend recalled that Entwistle was the first musician to play through Marshall amplifiers. "[O]nce John had a Marshall he was so loud, I had to get one," said Townshend.
In February of 1964, the Detours decided to change their name to The Who because Entwistle saw on television an Irish band called the Detours.
In April 1964, drummer Doug Sandom left the band. Keith Moon became The Who 's drummer. Moon's addition changed Entwistle's role. Townshend remarked, "What's interesting in our group is that the roles are reversed. John's the lead guitar, and although I'm not the bass player, he produces a hell of a lot of lead work."
The Who were developing a powerful stage presence. Entwistle, though, just stood there as a straight quiet bass player. As Townshend stated, "John doesn't demand attention. For years, nobody even noticed John was there."
On the early Who stage presence, Entwistle stated, "The thing was at the back of our minds, we trained ourselves to think everyone else was below us. I never would have been able to walk on stage if I didn't think I was the best bass player in England."
At this time The Who were going through numerous management changes. The Who met Pete Meaden, a Mod. Under Meaden, the band's name was The High Numbers. The band dressed like Mods and appealed to Mods even though they were not Mods. The Mods were amphetamine takers who wore tab collars and Italian shoes and drove Lambretta scooters. The Mod credo was "clean living under difficult circumstances."
In August 1964, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp took over management of the band. In October 1964 The Who again became the band's name.
Soon after, The Who began a Tuesday residency at the Marquee Club with the poster of Townshend in full arm swing declaring "Maximum R & B." Entwistle was using Marshall amplifiers in a stack.
The Who signed a record deal which forced them to write their own material. In January 1965, Townshend composed "I Can't Explain." The next single was "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere." During a live performance of this song on Ready, Steady, Go!, Entwistle's bass playing is fluid, loud, and rumbling. This live "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" can be found on The Kids Are Alright soundtrack album.
In December 1965, The Who released the My Generation album. The revolutionary title track featured an Entwistle bass solo using a Danelectro bass which strings break easily. Replacement strings required the purchase of a new bass guitar. Entwistle bought three basses in order to finish the song. Entwistle co-wrote "The Ox" (Entwistle's nickname within The Who), a Mod instrumental take-off on surf's "Wipe Out." Notably, the cover of My Generation has Entwistle wearing an Union Jack jacket.
Winter 1966, The Who released the album A Quick One (Happy Jack in the U.S.) with two Entwistle songs with John singing "Whiskey Man" and the perennial concert favorite, "Boris The Spider." Entwistle's compositions established his dark sense of humor. "Whiskey Man" is an Entwistle song that features a prominent horn, a grumbling bass and John's vocals. "Boris The Spider" was written after a drinking session with the Rolling Stones' bassist, Bill Wyman. Entwistle sings about a spider, "black and hairy, very small," that crawls up a wall only to be smashed in the final verse. On the title track, Entwistle sung the part of Ivor the Engine Driver. Entwistle's vocals, in particular his falsetto on the ending "You Are Forgiven" coda, are brilliant in live performances of "A Quick One."
Spring 1967, The Who began their first appearances in the U.S. Entwistle roomed with Keith Moon where the rock & roll's finest rhythm section repeatedly ordered caviar, lobster, and champagne that totaled over $5,000 at the time (about $40,000 in 1998 dollars). The Who release the single "Pictures of Lily" with the B-side of Entwistle's "Doctor, Doctor." On "Pictures of Lily" Entwistle played a French horn solo.
Summer 1967, The Who played the Monterey Pop Festival with Entwistle upset about The Who not having their Marshall amplifiers at the show thereby not having their wall of sound. At the conclusion of the Summer 1967 tour, Entwistle had to borrow money to upgrade from coach to first-class on the flight back to England.
Winter 1967, The Who released the album The Who Sell Out a tribute to pirate radio and its ad jingles. Sell Out had two Entwistle songs with John singing "Medac" and "Silas Stingy." Entwistle also co-wrote with Keith Moon the advertising jingles. Entwistle stated, "Me and Keith thought them up in the pub next door." In England, The Who release the single "I Can See For Miles" with the B-side of Entwistle's "Someone's Coming."
1968 was a year of inactivity for The Who. There were rumors that that Entwistle and Moon were going to form a band with Jimmy Page called Led Zeppelin. However, The Who stayed together releasing the single "Call Me Lightning" with the B-side of Entwistle's "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," a homage to Moon's personality splits.
May 1969, The Who released the double album Tommy with two Entwistle with John singing "Cousin Kevin" and "Fiddle About." Both songs were about Tommy 's relations molesting poor Tommy. Entwistle's other contributions to Tommy were his beautiful French horn, his strong backing vocals and stabilizing bass runs especially on "Overture," "Amazing Journey," "Smash The Mirror," and "Tommy Can You Hear Me."
August 1969, The Who played Woodstock with The Who opening with Entwistle's "Heaven and Hell."
February 1970, The Who played at Leeds University for a live album. Live at Leeds is considered rock & roll at its finest particularly "Shakin' All Over."
Spring 1971, Entwistle released his first solo album, Smash Your Head Against The Wall. Summer 1971, The Who released the album Who's Next with one Entwistle song with John singing "My Wife" about marital discord that would become a Who concert perennial. Entwistle's bass playing on "Bargain" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" is revelatory and explosive. Fall 1971, The Who released the single "Let's See Action" with the B-side of Entwistle's "When I was A Boy."
In 1972, Entwistle released his second solo album, Whistle Rhymes.
Summer 1973, Entwistle released his third solo album, Rigor Mortis Sets In. In Fall 1973, The Who released the double album Quadrophenia composed by Townshend in its entirety. Quadrophenia is about the four-faceted Jimmy, a Mod from 1964-1965, who climbs on The Rock to examine his life. Each member of The Who has a theme. Entwistle's theme was "a romantic, is it me for a moment," about the quiet, reflective, and laconic aspect of Jimmy's personality. "The Punk and The Godfather," "5:15," "Doctor Jimmy" are the significant tracks.
Townshend on Entwistle's contribution to Quadrophenia, "On other albums, he worked off his frustrations by writing a couple of songs. On [Quadrophenia], he's done a fantastic piece of arranging work, sitting in the studio writing out and then dubbing on 50 horn parts."
December 1973 during The Who's tour of Quadrophenia, The Who smashed a suite at a Montreal hotel. The Who were arrested. Entwistle wrote a song based on the events called "Cell Number 7" appearing on his future solo album, Mad Dog.
In 1974, The Who played New York's Madison Square Garden. Tommy began shooting as a feature film. Entwistle went through some Who studio tapes to compile the release of Odds & Sods, a collection of Who B-sides and rejected album songs. Entwistle remarked, "we thought we'd have a go at some of the bootlegs. We thought it was about time we released a bootleg of our own." The Who released as a single, "Postcard," an Entwistle composition about life on the road touring. Entwistle formed a band named after his nickname, The Ox, and embarked on his first solo tour in December of England.
In 1975, Entwistle released his fourth solo album, Mad Dog. Entwistle formed a band named after his nickname, The Ox, and embarked on his first solo tour of America.
Fall 1975, The Who released The Who By Numbers with one Entwistle song with John singing "Success Story," that has a furious bass opening. Entwistle drew the cover for the album. Entwistle was also featured with intense bass soloing at the end of "Dreaming From The Waist." A stunning version of this song can be found on the CD re-issue of By Numbers.
In 1977, Entwistle played horn on Townshend's solo album, Rough Mix, on "Heart to Hang Onto."
Summer 1978, The Who released the album Who Are You with three Entwistle songs with John singing "905" and "Trick of the Light." "Had Enough" and "905" were part of an Entwistle science fiction rock opera. "Trick of the Light" featured Entwistle thundering on a nine string bass opening the song singing about an evening with a lady of the night.
September 8, 1978, Keith Moon, Who drummer, died in his sleep. Entwistle burst into tears upon hearing of Moon's passing.
In 1979, Entwistle completed the musical soundtracks for the feature films, Quadrophenia and The Kids Are Alright, The Who's bio-pic. Also, The Who added Kenney Jones as the drummer to embark on a tour. Unfortunately, a concert in Cincinnati resulted in 11 deaths due to a pre-show stampede for festival seating.
In 1981, The Who released the album Face Dances with two Entwistle songs with John singing "You" and "The Quiet One." Entwistle released his fifth solo album, "Too Late The Hero."
In 1982, The Who released the album It's Hard with three Entwistle songs with John singing "One At a Time" and "Dangerous."
In 1985, Entwistle performed with The Who at the benefit concert Live Aid.
In 1989, Entwistle appeared on Townshend's solo album Iron Man performing on "Dig" and "Fire." Entwistle with The Who toured which included two benefit performances of Tommy.
In 1993, Entwistle walked on for an encore with Pete Townshend during one of Townshend's solo concerts performing "Let's See Action" and "Magic Bus."
In 1994, Entwistle appeared at Carnegie Hall for Roger Daltrey's 50th Birthday as part of the Daltrey Sings Townshend shows. Entwistle then toured as the part of Daltrey's band for a tour called Daltrey Sings Townshend that also had a symphony orchestra.
In 1995, Entwistle toured America and Japan with the Ringo Starr All-Star Band which gave John "the dubious pleasure of knowing that he has performed 'Yellow Submarine' more times than Paul McCartney."
In 1996, Entwistle formed a band called the John Entwistle Band that went a "Left for Dead" tour. Entwistle and The Who revived Quadrophenia as a theater piece for 1996-1997 tours.
In 1997 during the Quadrophenia tour, Entwistle sold his art, including the cover of The Who By Numbers to cartoons of rock stars such as Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones.
In 1998, the John Entwistle Band toured America and was planning to release a live CD of the tour.
John Entwistle is simply a musician's musician; steady, reliable, and ever the professional.
Entwistle, also known as The Ox, Thunderfingers, and many other nicknames, is rock and roll's greatest bass player, ever. Entwistle uses an overhand fretting style that is unique. Entwistle bass playing in concerts is over powering and fantastic- find and listen to "Happy Jack," "Heaven and Hell," "Overture," "Young Man Blues," "Shakin' All Over," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "The Real Me," "5:15," "Dreaming From The Waist," "Trick of the Light," and "The Quiet One."
Entwistle has written some of rock's funniest songs, "Boris The Spider" and "My Wife" as well as the most sadistic songs, "Someone's Coming" and "Heaven and Hell," as well as poignant songs, "When I Was a Boy" and "Trick of the Light." Entwistle's heavy metal songwriting acted as a counterweight to Pete Townshend's arty, social criticisms.
Entwistle's lead vocals on "Twist and Shout," "Boris The Spider," and "My Wife" are superb. Entwistle is also one of the best back-up singers in rock, notably on "Summertime Blues" and "A Quick One."
John Entwistle has been married two times and has a son, Christopher, from his first marriage.
John Entwistle died June 27, 2002 in Las Vegas, just before The Who were to begin their 2002 U.S. tour.