Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Peggy Tann Story Part One: By Henri Gann

Henri Gann trusted me when he decided to let me in on these stories about our pop music stars from the 50's onwards. I respect his wishes and remind readers that his publishings have been copyrighted. 
I must thank him again for the time and effort he took to research Ms Peggy Tann.

This posting is a National Day 2017 gift from Henri Gann to the people of Singapore.

Near 3,500 viewers forv
Parts 1,2 since release   

Remembering Peggy (Part 1)

"Peggy Tann could very well be Singapore's next great singing star. She had several necessary qualities to reach stardom. A style and identity, talent and showmanship and a desire to be a big name artist."
... popular Hong Kong Radio DJ Tony Orchez (1962).

Pictures 1
She was a singer, jazz pianist and organist and a fashion icon in Singapore 60s. She had excellent taste in clothes, food and music ( Tony Orchez '62 ). She was elegant, classy and beautiful; the type of girl you would see in the fashion magazine like Her World or today's Vogue. 

Music, Dance Halls, Hotel Lounges and Jazz Music in Singapore 60's

Jazz music was popular in Singapore 60's. At that time, it would not be uncommon to hear the music from a 3 or 4 piece jazz band echoing from the hotel lobby. I can recollect the deep distinctive notes from the double-double bass, the sweeping brush strokes of the snare drums, the sexy expressive sound of a saxophone and a smooth voice of a singer-pianist whenever I walked past the Adelphi Hotel or the Raffles Hotel. This was the jazz music of Peggy and the HH Tann Orchestra.
Peggy and HH Tann Orchestra

Peggy Tann was an all round musician. She was not only a singer but could also play the piano and the organ which is an instrument few can master because of its difficult bass pedals. She had her music training in classical piano and her vocal coaching at the school.

Peggy was inspired by her father HH Tan who was himself a talented musician. He was a saxophonist and a band leader with his own orchestra. It was an unusual career for him considering that most of the professional musicians of his time in Singapore were either Eurasians or from the Philippines. 

He was also a very modest man who shunned publicity (Straits Times Jan 28, 1972). He gave Peggy a head start by focusing her early appearances only in exclusive places. 

Pictures 2
In Singapore 60's, it was very difficult for a young musician to gain entry into the business. In the report " Musical Practice of Jazz in Singapore " of the National Archives, it was mentioned that within the musicians' group, there were those who played for the 5-star hotels and others that played for the amusement parks cabarets: New World, Great World and Happy or Gay World

Classical Training:

The main difference between these two types of musicians was the ability to read notes. The Trekkers members had the opportunity to meet professional musicians such as Charles Lazaroo, Winston Filmer, Sam Gan and Louis Soliano when we had our short stint playing at Radio and Television Singapura and at Rediffusion

We were also fortunate to have met the up and coming musicians like Philip Chin and his Blue Combo and the Key Notes when we were at the Great World Cabaret Battle of the Bands contest. 

Peggy's ability to read music from her classical piano training together with the guidance from her musician father put her at an advantage over many of the amateurs and she gained professional musician status in a very short time. She was still in her teens when she achieved professional status.

Tough Tenure:

In the same article, ballroom dancing was also reported as a popular form of entertainment. It was said that while the VIPs and expatriates would go to the 5-star RafflesAdelphi and Cockpit Hotels, the locals and off duty military personnel would often patronise the Dance Halls or Cabarets of the Amusement Parks

It was at the El Amigo Nightclub of the New World Amusement Park where Peggy had her early start in show business like many that came after her. The club was at Kitchener Road located in a historical part of old Singapore and named after the British Earl Kitchener from World War 1

It was also in the Jalan Besar area, formerly a very rough area part of town. Still, it was here that Peggy first learned about jazz while playing as a duet with her dad.  The tough tenure at the club gave her the equivalence of the experience that legendary jazz artistes from the New Orleans Preservation Hall of America would have gone through.

Read Part 2: Connect below:

Please make comments if you wish, especially if you are familiar with Peggy Tann and HH Tann.

Part Two would follow soon.

Happy National Day 2017 to all Singaporeans near and far.

Images and Collage: Henri Gann (right).
Copyrights Reserved (California, USA).



Wonderful songstress. Used to listen to her at Princess Garni at Orchard Road.

henri gann said...

- [ ] this article was inspired by a sad note from Melvyn Tan in Andy's blog regarding his aunt Peggy Tann ... " my dearest aunt passed away at 7:55 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016 and had left us with a treasure trove of her music and sweet memories of her soul. "

henri gann said...

Peggy's jazz mentors were pianist Oscar Peterson and the great organist Jimmy Smith. Here's a Youtube reference to music by these great legendaries together with Stan Getz playing one of her favorite tunes she had played with her father HH Tan.
1. Time After Time - Stan Getz

2. Call Me - Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery

3. Volare - Oscar Peterson Trio

4. Sunny Side of the Street - Jimmy Smith

5. Night Train - Oscar Peterson Trio

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Henri. Another senior moment. I forgot this letter. Yes, the note encouraged Henri to write and research PEGGY TANN.

This man has a heart; he handles money every day but keeps his heart intact for another love, music. Paid me ang-pow $10 during Chinese New Year for publicising him on this blog. Just kidding.


60's &70s were good Rock n Roll days for Singaporeans band.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...


Hi guys, remember PEGGY TANN and the HH TAN ORCHESTRA? When nightclubs were filled with dancing Singaporeans. Sometimes in bow ties and tuxedos?


This was the era my childhood and teenage years I lived in. My dad played for Peggy Tann often. Winston, Theresa etc were my dad's music circle too. Those were the days. Cheerio.

BERT FERN said...

Good morning beautiful people. Sending you and yours lots of God's Precious Blessings.

Have a Blessed Sunday.


I did see her perform on TV and live in nightspot .She was singing in her father's band.I liked her jazzy voice


Thanks for sharing this story Andy. I do enjoy reading about musicians and singers from the golden era of our local music scene.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Michael. Glad to note your dad was in this circle of friends with Winston Filmer, Theresa Khoo too.

And Stephen, thanks for telling us about having seen Peggy live. Yes, she has a pleasantly jazzy voice.

And thank you, Leslie, for enjoying the read. It was truly a golden era. It's different ball-game to day right? To all the others who like this posting, thanks very much.

And Mr Rajendran and Lange Brunei. A million thanks.

DAVID CHEN said...

I was with HHTan band at Oasis nightclub Peggy on the piano


(1) Hi David
I am curious as to what instrument you played in the HH Tan Orchestra
and how many members were there. I also would like to know more about HH Tan
and Peggy Tan. Can you also name some of the favourite tunes you guys played?
I appreciate you identifying yourself and your comment.
Thanks, Much !!!

(2) To Rajendran, Michael Lee and Stephen Han
Wonder if you can name some of the tunes played by
Peggy and HH Tan in their performances.
Thanks much for your comments !!!

henri gann said...

Nostaligic! I remember her well! She was versatile and had a lovely voice. We had very few singers who could match her personality! Unfortunately like all of the local singers that faded away.

P. Wee Eu Liang


If I were to mention some of the old jazz songs and the lovely standards, that's what they were playing and singing like I Left My Heart In San Francisco and Cry Me A River.

P. Wee Eu Liang said...

Nostalgic! I remember her well! She was versatile and had a lovely voice. We had very few singers who could match her personality! Unfortunately like all of the local singers that faded away.

Samuel Siang Kiang Foo said...

I hope they keep your blog as archives in the Singapore museum. Great contribution of an ex Singaporean with deep roots.

Charles Ng said...

Peggy must have been some lady ya?

Lawrence ( Shangrila Hotel Management ) said...

Yes Henri, I remember Peggy Tann during the 60s. Well written article and thanks for sharing.


Thanks, Stephen. Peggy and HH Tan had a great selection of movie and jazz tunes in her LPs and I am just wondering if they had any favourite tune(s).

DAVID CHEN said...

Will try to contact Frisco Soliano in Australia who played Bass with HH Tann. I play the trombone and still playing at Kallang CC every Friday night From 8 pm. Drummer Moses Chia was the drummer with HH Tann and also still playing with me. Tony Leong (tenor sax) and Ben Garcia (trumpet) passed on Surmak (Baritone saxophone) passed on. Peggy sang many old favourites in English and Mandarin. HH Tann was a very good leader and arranger.


Encik Andy Young...tahun 60an saya ada dengar lagu Melayu yang di nyanyi oleh Peggy Tann (lagu Inggeris di Melayukan). Ini kah dia penyanyi Peggy Tann tu.

(Translation: during the 60's I heard a Malay song sung by Peggy Tann (an English song translated into Malay). Is this the same Peggy Tann?)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Apa Khabar Che S Mohamad, Sebetulnya saya tidak berapa ingat lagu Inggeris ini yang di Melayukan. Tapi Peggy Tann banyak kali menyanyi lagu2 Melayu. Boleh-kah Che S ingat nama lagu-nya? Mampir lagi kalu sempet. Terima kaseh, Che S.

(Translation: Actually I cannot remember the English song that has been translated into Malay. But Peggy Tann has sung in Malay many times. Can you remember the name of the song? Please visit again. Thanks, Che S.)


Thanks David for the insight into Peggy and the HH Tann Orchestra. There is very little information written on either of them and your input certainly added a new dimension to the story.

Do you have any recording of Peggy and the HH Tann Orchestra? I would like to see you play the next time I am in Singapore.

Thanks again for your invaluable comments.

Hi Che S
You are correct that Peggy's earliest record releases (the late 50s) were in Malay/Indonesian hits. The songs listed on her records were:
Shorga Dunia
Mawar Merah
Bengawan Solo
Kayuan Meska
Sapu Tangan
Ku Puja Alam
Her records are virtually impossible to find even on Ebay.

henri gann said...

Hi David
Don't know if you have seen this but I was curious on your mentioned of Frisco Soliano.
Is this the same person ? I found it on the internet.
"ADDED BY Shoba Sharif
MEMORY OF Shoba Sharif
DATE 09/08/1966

Took part in the 1st National Day parade in Aug 1966:
As a member of People defence force-playing the trombone as the band member. We assembled from Raffles hotel and marched on to the Padang. That was such a memorable event and have enjoyed that as I was a young lad.
Polished my boots after work around 3 am in the morning so that I would look good and presentable. My uncle gave me a glucose tablet so that it would boost my energy to participate in such honourable and prestigious event that I will always remember for life. I am currently residing and retiring in Perth and such memorable moment was indeed one noble event as a Musician.
Australian add: 13 Blackthorn Road
Eden Hill, WA 6054. Tel: 08-92791937.
I am known as (Frisco Soliano). Name in full: Francisco Varella Soliano"