Saturday, January 16, 2016

Godfather of Local Pops: Tan Peck Soo TMA Music: Post I

I received a note from blog reader Mr Henri Gann who announced the demise Mr Tan Peck Soo, former owner of TMA Pte Ltd. @ High Street, a music shop in the 1960's. Any band boy who played decent guitar would have met and known him. He was the Godfather of local 60's pop.

Mr Tan passed away on January 11th, 2016 in Vancouver B.C., Canada. A fine and generous man he was a friend to all who met him. He is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and two grand children. 

According to Mr Gann, he was the man who sold the first Fender Stratocaster and Fender Reverb in Singapore to pop guitar group, The Trekkers ( 1962 ).  Mr Tan and his equally enthusiastic electrician assistant helped the Trekkers build their first guitar amplifiers to simulate the sound of the Fender Showman and the Fender Bassman. 

Thank you Mr Gann for your personal tribute.

"The Trekkers tribute to the man they called Mr Tan of TMA (Pte) Ltd - Singapore 1960's.

Peck Soo had vision
The year was 1960. The 2 major guitar shops were Swee Lee and TMA. The former had an advantage guitar product being the sole agent for Gibson. TMA only had the Bellafonte calypso guitars and ukelele and was focused on Hohner harmonica and accordion. 

I had just met Peck Soo. He had returned from a tour of the musical factories in Europe TMA represented. I showed him a Fender catalogue. He convinced his dad to import Fender even though Fender was a little unknown custom shop company in America. The Fender Stratocaster was later made famous after the death of Buddy Holly and the surfing music of the 60's. 

Peck Soo was a born banker
I was just a kid. Peck Soo offered me one of his first Stratocasters on credit. Buying things on credit was almost unheard of at that time least of all to a kid with no credit. The man knew relationship was key to business success.

Peck Soo was a gifted salesman
Store products were primarily displayed in the showroom and occasionally advertised in the newspaper for early Singapore. Peck Soo went a step ahead of the others. He had the Trekkers played his showcase amplifier on stage and especially at the British R n R club on Beach Road and the stores would be filled with British servicemen asking for the Fender products the next morning.

Peck Soo loved his electronics

He scanned his Heathkit catalogues daily like some people shop Amazon today and owning a Fender Showman and Bassman then was like having a Tesla today. Peck Soo saw it in our (Trekkers) eyes with the Fender amplifiers and said that he could build us one and he had a very sharp electrician who could do just that. Peck Soo knew his speakers well which was key to designing a good sounding amplifier and Geylang had great custom cabinet maker. The Trekkers build the first look alike and sweet sounding Fender tube amplifiers in Singapore in 1960.
Peck Soo was a funny man
We had one travel together from North America to Singapore. The year was 1985. Yes we did travel on SIA business class. Our first stop was Taipei,Taiwan. Peck Soo had his Sherlock Holmes rain jacket on and moved impatiently from one line to another as we were clearing immigration till I lost sight of him. 

When I found him after clearing customs he was the only person left at customs and they were making him empty his pocket and unroll his US$100 bills while another official was looking closely at his passport. He looked bewildered after the cross examination by customs.

Peck Soo said to me many times that he had a full life.
He was a good son to his father and moved to Canada only after his father decided to close down the business in 1980's. He immigrated to Canada to give his children and wife a better life. And he achieved his Canadian dream by having a good life in his retirement years. 

Thank you Peck Soo and I like to send this closing song tribute to you...
Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven - Eric Clapton."

Eric Clapton: Tears In Heaven: Tribute to Mr Tan Video by: Toni Charlie cs.

Many band members from the 1960's are familiar with Mr Tan. If you are, do write in to tell us.

Part Two:
Henry Chua (Quests) and Horace Wee (RTS Orchestra) tribute. Connect here:

Further reading:

Images: 1) Courtesy of Lee Kip Lin and National Library Board; 
             2) Henri Gann's Private Collection.

Video: YouTube by Toni Charlie - cs.

Article: Henri Gann Copyrighted.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Henri Gann from Vancouver, Canada, wrote to me to announce the death of Mr Tan. Here are his 2 pieces of notes to me:

1) a tribute to a friend of many musician in Singapore in the 60s' Mr Tan Peck Soo who passed away yesterday in Vancouver B.C., Canada. A fine and generous man he was a friend to all who met him. He is survived by his wife, 2 son, 1 daughter and 2 grand children.
This will describe Mr.Tan's role in the music of the 60s' in Singapore.

"A notable shop was T.M.A. Ltd., a very successful music shop selling instruments, music scores and records run by Mr. Tan and his family. Mr. Tan was godfather to many of the aspiring early "pop musicians" of the early 1960s, and to encourage them on, made 'painless payment plans' to enable young musicians to afford expensive and high-quality instruments. Many of these families continued these retail and/or import/export trading activities right until the 1970s when the emergence of other shopping areas and Orchard Road, took away much of the business and glamour of High Street. Acquisition of properties from the 1970s has changed the face of High Street." ...Singapore National Library
Thank you to the man who sold the first Fender Stratocaster and Fender Reverb in Singapore to The Trekkers ( 1962 )

2) A memorial service to celebrate Mr Tan's "Celebration of Life" will be held at the home of Mr Tan's son in Vancouver BC, Canada this Sunday Jan. 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm. I will have my silent moment and pause whatever I am doing to think of a wonderful man, a special friend, who lighted up on any discussion of electronics and the world of guitars and amplifiers. By the way, Mr Tan and his equally enthusiastic electrician assistant helped the Trekkers build their first guitar amplifiers to simulate the sound of the Fender Showman and the Fender Bassman.

Here's my letter to Mr Tan's daughter Lay Tuan and son Toon ...
" Please accept my deepest sympathy and condolences to the passing of your dad. As
another day passes, I can only think of all the wonderful discussion I had with your dad on guitars, amplifiers and electronics in the cramped and cold record listening booth of the TMA store. How can I forget the " new car " smell of the Fender instrument and the "sweet sound"of Fender occasionally blasting off from a potential customer.
For a young lad in his early teens, spending the afternoon with your dad at TMA was like experiencing my little "nirvana." Thank you Peck Soo for leaving me with these wonderful memories. A big hug for your mom who is so dedicated to your dad to the very last days of his life - another true love story."

His 3rd note appears as a posting on the blog.

Thank you Mr Henri Gann for the information. Please send my personal condolence to Mr Tan's Family.

JL said...

Indeed Mr. Tan of T.M. A. Ltd. was a very kind and generous man to many musicians all the years that I have known him since my school days. He was very knowledgeable in his trade and always very helpful. He made the difference in our guiding our music. He hand-built my first fuzz box for a budget price. By a stoke of good fortune, I caught up with him years later in Vancouver and we continued our coffee chat on many occasions in the last twenty plus years. He often talked about the musicians in Singapore during the 1960's era. Mr. Tan will be much missed by many baby boomer musicians for sure. He is now in a better place. God bless him.

Thank you Mr. Tan.

henri gann said...

A Wow ! Andy.
Nicely done. I love it.
Thanks from me and Peck Soo's family.


I know Mr Tan very well. Stays in a bungalow in East Coast and sponsored Silver Strings with a Fuzz Box for Mike and Herb's recording of I'VE BEEN A FOOL. We were the first to use this gadget which sounds like distortion. Rolling Stones used it for the song SATISFACTION.

He also provided a Wah Wah pedal for Shirley Nair's song I'LL REMEMBER TODAY and Silver String bought all Fender guitars and amplifiers from him at his TMA shop, corner of High Street.


Ya, dia orang baik... dulu kita ambil musical instrments sama dia punya kedai. I think umur dia lebeh 80++.


Translation: Yes, he's a good man... we take/buy musical instruments from his shop. I think he is more than 80 years old ++


Dear Andy,

Mr Tan was a kind man, in fact he was an encouragement to young aspiring musicians then. He brought in better stuff than his peers.

Keep in touch my dear Andy. Happy healthy and successful Ne Year to you and family.

SUNNY WEE said...

My condolences to the family of Mr. Tan


Mr Tan likes me that's why I was invited to his house in East Coast. He only sponsored Silver Strings with new gadgets but not to other 60's bands.

He even displays Silver Strings photo in his shop and at that time TMA was the sole distributor of Fender and Swee Lee in North Bridge Road at the junction of Stamford Road near the Capitol Theatre Building, was the agent for other brands like Hofner, Farfisa, Gibson, etc.

chakap chakap said...


Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven

Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please

Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven


'Tears In Heaven' lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group


I remember this famous music store long time ago. But I don't think I remember him although I might have bought things from there before.


Indeed the Godfather of pop sixties here. I bought my first drum set from him. Generous and always keen to be of service. My deepest condolences to his family.


Heard of him but don't really know him.

Unknown said...

Dear Andy,

Thanks for your continual flow of informative articles about local music and music related personalities. Without your blog, no one or very few, would have known about Mr Tan's demise. My prayers and thoughts are with Mr Tan's Family during this difficult time.

As mentioned to you yesterday, in some ways I am glad I do not know the gentleman. One reminder too many lately of the passing years and with them, the sad reality of the inevitable. Be that as it may, life goes on. One cannot stop water from slipping out of one's hands no matter how hard one may try to do so. The only certainty in life, from the moment of birth, is that it has to end one day. When it does, it matters not if one is a pauper or a king. When a child is born, his hands are clenched. When a man dies, his hands are opened. Coming into the world a person desires to grab everything. In death, everything he has ever owned slip away like water out of a pair of cupped hands. And is lost!

While we are here, lets try to be a bit kinder. A bit more forgiving. For we may never pass this way again!

All the best brother Andy!


Anonymous said...

Was Henry the lead guitarist of the Trekkers who won the Singapore Shadows contest?


In the 60's Mr Tan was well like by all who knew him. Together with his sidekick Mr Pang they were inseparable as fast as handling of their franchised brand Fender.




Mr Tan of TMA
My recollection of Mr Tan is still vivid in my mind. This man struck me as a kind and helpful human being.

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.

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.

He even rewired Reggie’s Stratocaster to achieve the neck and bridge pick up combination.
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.

Fabian Foo said...

Dear Andy,

Wow it goes to show the power of social media. Within few hours news from the other part of world is being published.

Although I do not know Mr Tan of TMA personally, I do want to offer my humble condolences to his family for the demise of such a personality in the 60's. He must surely be instrumental in promoting and influencing the local music industry with his business.

We offer our heartfelt respect to another legend in the local music scene.

RIP Mr P S Tan.

Fabian Foo


Mr. Tan. A trustworthy man with a heart of gold. Pure in speech, mild mannered with a beautiful character, whom I did not have an opportunity to know but briefly. Years have passed. Memories of Mr Tan remains and now with the news of his passing... another chapter of my early years is closed.

With teary eyes and a heavy heart I say, "Thanks for the memories, Mr. Tan." Rest in peace my dear friend. I will cherish these wonderful memories always.

God Bless.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The mail above came within the morning. Shows how much our band boys and girls care for Mr Tan and the impact he left in Singapore's music world.

Thanks to Henri Gann for writing in immediately, without which no one would have learnt of Mr Tan's death.

And thanks to all of you for the response and condolences.

henri gann said...

an email from Peck Soo's favorite daughter Lay Tuan who by the way has several of her students performed at the Carnegie Hall and continuing the musical interest of the family. Peck Soo's son Toon and grandson Ryan by the way are both "top chefs" in Vancouver continuing the magical talent of Mrs Tan.
Really !
Dear Henry,

So amazing to read these stories about my dad, who would surely be blushing and wondering what all the fuss is about.
Thank you, on behalf of mom, for the beautiful memories.
I am so glad that so many musicians got to meet this wonderful man I am so proud to call, my dad (Pops).
We were all very lucky to have him in our lives and we Miss him so.
Dad loves you too, Henry.

With thanks and great appreciation,

Unknown said...

Though I don't know Peck Soo personally but have bought some intruments in his shop TMA Music. RIP Tan Peck Soo. Deepest condolences to his bereaving family. S A Nathan



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.

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.

But the friendship I formed with him was a passion for electronics...

...hope to meet you or someone like you again,in some other lifetime.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Horace,
How are you sir? After such a lapse you've finally written again and I am grateful. I shall summarise your comment for the moment and put it up because I think it deserves a larger space than most. Next week's posting will be a combination of yours and Henry Chua's superlatives, which I think, will show our other boys and girls that two great guitarists can be two superbly tuned writers too.

Please be patient. And I must thank you and all the others who took some trouble to write in.

HENRI GANN said...

It is very nice for you to do all these for Mr Tan especially since you had never met the man. His wife really appreciates it.

FL said...

Hi, Andy, thanks for putting up TMA shop photo. When I was a teen I used to pass by this shop and marvel at the guitars, drums, amplifiers,etc. Remember, I wrote that my elder brother bought a Congress hollow guitar for beginners at TMA for $30 in 1965. Only older generation have seen this shop while walking or on the bus at High Street in the 1960/1970s. Anyway, I have no idea when the TMA shop was demolished. Hope someone can tell us. Thank you.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi FL,

Yes, the shop was well-known among the Seniors of today and together with Sincere Watch shop diagonally across and Aurora Department Store directly across from TMA, High Street was the centre of attraction for many shoppers when they walk down from the Capitol Cinema along the other end of North Bridge Road, passing Bata and The Adelphi Hotel along the way.

Thanks again for writing. You are truly one of this blog's regular contributors.

henri gann said...

Hey Andy !
I finally have the name of the "super" electrician who was always with mr tan and helped build our first fender clone showman and bassman.
It has been bothering me that his name had not been brought up anywhere. I had several discussion with mr tan about his loyal assistant through the years and each time I got a smile from him. I think your blog reader would know who I am referring to.
"Hey Lay Tuan ! Do you remember the name of the tall indian electrician who worked with your dad ? maybe your mom would know." Me

"We called him Uncle Joe" Lay Tuan

Sweet ! ( I thought )


I remember I was a 14-year old in 1963 living in Farrer Park and like any teenager back then liked electric guitar music.
There were quite a number of music shops I visited often.
They were Eagles Piano near New World amusement park, Swee Lee, Seasons, AMA and TMA who were in the.Capitol/High Street area.
There were other music shops too.
However, since I was interested in electric guitars and amplifiers I usually visited Eagles Piano who sold Teisco.
Swee Lee who sold Gibson and of course TMA who sold Fender.
I met Mr. Tan, who as everybody has mentioned was a friendly, kind and generous man.
I was attracted by a sunburst Fender Stratocaster and the Twin Reverb when they became available.
Like any teenager back then, I had no money to buy any of the instruments or amplifiers.
Mr. Tan was the man who inspired me on the road and passion of crafting electric guitars.
Maybe his friendliness, kindness and generosity rubbed off and stayed with me too haha.



from Lay Tuan...
Thank you Henry.

How amazing it is that this blog exists for so many to write in to tell their stories.

Makes me wish I could go back to the 70s.

I cherish my memories of TMA.

With each new entry to Andy's blog, I would try to recall if I knew the name.

Thank you.


Whenever I walked along that I always took a look at the guitars and drums displayed at the shop's window.Though I don't play any musical instrument I enjoyed looking at the vast guitars at TMA.