Thursday, January 21, 2016

Guitarists Henry Chua And Horace Wee Pay Tribute: Post II

The letters keep pouring in about Mr. Tan in response to his passing away last week. Henry Chua, former bassist of The Quests and Horace Wee, guitarist with RTS Orchestra, wrote a comment each for the blog and because both had much to share I decided to share their stories. Thank you Henry and Horace.

Mr Tan of TMA by Henry Chua.
"My recollection of Mr Tan is still vivid in my mind. This man struck me as a kind and helpful human being.
I studied at Raffles Institution at Bras Basah Road in the 60’s. I was given just 20 cents for bus fare to and fro to school from my home in Tiong Bahru. Had to change buses for each trip. One the way home I need to take the STC bus from the St Andrew’s Cathedral and then changed to a No 6 Hock Lee bus at North Canal Road. Very often just to save 5 cents I walked from school to North Canal Road.
The walk was money saving and also it provides me some time to visit the music stores along the way. The first was Swee Lee at the Capitol Cinema complex. Then Sassoon, next to the Union Jack Club at the open car park next to Capitol. Sassoon was the importers of Vox guitars and amplifiers [image: Henry Chua].
The last stop was TMA at the junction of North Bridge Road and High Street. It was opposite the Metro departmental stores. There was also B.P. de Silva and Polar Café along TMA’s side of High Street.
I would always make a visit of the TMA shop to look and drool at the guitars. I was a 12 year old kid and had dreams. There was a circular display in the middle of the shop. Vinyl record racks on the left and a glass show case on the right as you enter the shop. On this glass case were displayed a few Fender guitars. 
I recalled seeing a Stratocaster priced around S$700, mega bucks in those days for a kid with 20 cents in his pocket. There was a sound room to listen to the records you wish to purchase. I remembered the friendly uncle who put on a Dave Brubeck LP for me to listen. My first introduction to jazz including the 5/4 Take Five and 7/8 rhythm.
Some years later in 1964 we (The Quests) got to befriend Mr Tan. He was helpful and loan us the whole set of Fender guitars and amplifiers for our gigs. We just had to pick them up at his home along Mountbatten Road. That house is still there. He even allowed us to pay for the things we purchased from TMA by installments. No contracts, just gentlemen’s honour.
He even rewired Reggie’s Stratocaster to achieve the neck and bridge pick up combination. He kept this rewiring secret between the Quests and him alone. That’s where we got our sound. Thanks to Mr Tan. Of course these days most would know how to acquire this fix. 
He was the service engineer for TMA. I usually find him in his little room fixing and repairing things. No matter how busy he was he would always find time to have a chat. He was a very patient man and I had never seen him enraged even on a difficult day.
We bought a Fender spring Reverb (S$400) from him and most of our guitars from him. At one stage he loaned us a Fender analog tape echo to test, but unfortunately there was just too much wow and flutter and the echoes were flat, so we couldn’t use it. Finally he imported the famous German Swiss Echo and that was our tape delay for all our recordings since Shanty.
How could I not remember him as the friendly, kind uncle who helped us in our musical journey.

RIP Mr Tan, the Singapore music world loves you."

"Hi Andy,
My take on Mr. Tan of TMA 

This has to be one of the kindest persons I have ever known. Besides being a great salesman, he was able to relate and support the young of that time who aspired to be a famous band or musician. The comments on your blog attest to this.

Every time I look at my Fender Twin Reverb, Stratocaster guitar and Swiss Echo machine (all of which I still own) I still think fondly of Mr. Tan of TMA from whom I bought these instruments in the sixties. Much has been said on how he offered the Fender instruments on loan, installment payments and other generous offers of sponsorship and promotion . 

But the friendship I formed with him was a passion for electronics and at that time the dawn of guitar effects pedals. He would share his information on circuits with me and likewise I would do the same. 

When he was about to leave for Canada, he took the trouble to see me in order to introduce his US contacts to me in order that I might be able to have some business connections with them. Something that he did not have to do, but it illustrates the generosity and big-heart of this man [image: Horace Wee].

In all the years that I've been in music, there have been very few music stores or salespersons (IN THE WORLD) that I can say that I was happy to have bought from them. Mr. Tan of TMA is one of them.

RIP M. Tan. It was a privilege to have known you, I shall never forget you and I hope to meet you or someone like you again,in some other lifetime.

Horace Wee."

Images: A Private Collection.
Articles: Henry Chua and Horace Wee Copyrighted.


John Cher said...

Dear Andy

When you first mentioned that the two Hs (Henry and Horace) were going to write about Mr Tan of T M A, my unspoken reaction was that I hope its not going to be one those over exaggerated accounts about the awe-inspiring achievements of a larger than life character.

Having read both Henry's and Horace's pieces, I am more than glad that my initial reaction was wrong. Both accounts were simple and the sincere recollections of two leading local musicians who had the privilege to know the man. On behalf of the many readers who must have enjoyed the articles, I wish to thank both Henry and Horace for taking time to share with us!

I will be 65 this June. I have been self employed since I was 22 years of age. Naturally I have met many people. During these years in the business world, I cannot recall, in honesty, more than perhaps 3 people who possessed Mr Tan's integrity, kindness and sincerity! In the kind of society in which we live, where people are paralysed by materialism, someone of Mr Tan's calibre is without parallel and is near extinction! More often than not, its about people who would toss friendship to the wind, just to make some financial gains!

There is always something good that we can learn from everyone we meet at the crossroads of life.
Lets all learn from the many lessons Mr Tan has imparted to us!

Thanks to Henry and Horace for sharing. Most of all, thanks to you, Andy, for creating this avenue for us to share as well as to pay tribute to a very fine son of Singapore, Mr Tan Peck Soo!


John Cher

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

How true your words ringing in the ears of many i.e. "people who would toss friendship to the wind, just to make some financial gains!"

Appreciate your serious view regarding the matter. And thanks again for supporting and visiting this blog.

FABIAN FOO said...

It's a great link for 60's music from USA. Will use it when on your blog.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Fabian for the encouragement. Now when the blog reader browses he/she can listen to some 60's music. This app/widget has been in the market for some time but I could not find a suitable one that doesn't provide too many advertisement. This particular station seems good but it's on a trial run, so readers please let me know your opinion.