Tuesday, May 5, 2009


For 30 years he managed the career of his son, Paul Weller, through three different incarnations, in the Jam and the Style Council and his highly successful reinvention in the 1990s as a solo artist. 

Theirs was a unique relationship, blood ties transcending the usual bond between a manager and artist to create a fiercely loyal support system that gave the Wellers a head start when it came to negotiating the shark-infested pools of the music industry. 
There was little in Weller's background to suggest that he would become such a shrewd business operator. Born in Brighton in 1931, he was a schoolboy welterweight boxer before he left school at 14 for an apprenticeship on the Chichester Observer. At 18 he was called up on National Service, serving as a physical training instructor and winning army boxing championships. 

After his discharge he moved to Woking, Surrey, where he worked on building sites by day and drove a mini-cab by night. After marrying Ann Craddock, their son, Paul, was born in 1958 and their daughter, Nicola, in 1962. 

The family lived in Stanley Road, an address later celebrated in Weller's 1995 chart-topping album of the same name, and which provided a classic suburban working-class environment for a young rock'n'roll rebel. From his early teens, Paul Weller played the part to perfection. The one departure from the stereotype was that Weller Sr had an unwavering belief in his son's talent and from the outset wholeheartedly backed his ambitions to become a rock star. 

As his son grew up, they shared together a passion for the music of the 1960s, with the Beatles, Kinks and Small Faces as particular favourites. 

Weller bought his son his first guitar when he was 12. Within a few years he was driving his son's first group - named the Jam by Nicola Weller - to local gigs. 

After Paul left school at the age of 16, for a while son and father worked together on local building sites, but Weller Sr financed the Jam to make some demo recordings and in 1977, they were signed to Polydor Records. 

Installed as the group's manager, in truth Weller was initially poorly qualified for the role. The label had to pay him the group's pounds 6000 advance in cash because he didn't have a bank account. But he was pragmatic, single-minded, dedicated to his son's cause and shrewd enough to employ an accountant and a music business lawyer at an early stage. 

As his grateful son put it, "he just learnt as he went along", and before 1977 was out, the Jam were rivalling the Clash and the Police as the most successful new group in Britain. 

Father and son almost fell out when, in 1982, the Jam broke up. The lead singer and songwriter wanted to seek new creative pastures while the manager could not understand the logic of disbanding a successful group at the height of its fame. 

Nevertheless, he threw his energy into getting Paul Weller's new group, the Style Council, up and running, and stories of his loyalty became celebrated. On one famous occasion, after the head of Polydor, David Munns, had made a disparaging remark about the Style Council's latest record, Weller Sr was said to have lifted the hapless executive out of his chair and told him: "You don't speak about my son like that." 

When Paul Weller launched a solo career in 1991, father and son established their own label, Freedom High. But a year later John Weller negotiated a lucrative deal with Go! Records. Paul Weller's first three albums on the label all went to No 1. 

John Weller, rock manager, was born on November 28, 1931. He died on April 22, 2009, aged 77 

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