Original Def Leppard drummer set for concert at Sheffield club in aid of Stan Shaw appeal

“I got crazy about music, and rock music in particular, after seeing Black Sabbath at the Sheffield City Hall when I was 14. That’s when the idea of setting up a band started.”

By Andy Kershaw
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 6:41 pm

Original Def Leppard drummer Tony Kenning picks up the sticks at Crookes Club again next month after a 35-year break for a charity concert in aid of the Stan Shaw appeal – which aims to raise money for a permanent memorial in honour of the last of the ‘Little Mesters’ who died aged 94 last year.

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Tony tells Andy Kershaw all about the early days of the legendary Sheffield band.

Stan Shaw.

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    Tony Kenning is now an incredibly young looking 61 and a father of three grown up children, but nothing about him betrays his early life as a drummer in one of the most iconic rock bands on the planet.

    He’s spent his life working as a Telecoms engineer with firms like British Rail, BT and most recently for Sky having spent the last 13 years living in London, but has n ow moved back to Greenhill where he lives with his girlfriend Lisa.

    “I was born at home and brought up in Hillsborough until the age of 10 when my dad moved us all to North Wales for his Job. Up until then, I attended Marlcliffe Road School”, says Tony.

    “When I was 14 we moved back to Sheffield, and I went to Tapton School where I made new friends including Richard (Rick) Savage, later to become Def Leppard’s bassist.

    The cover of the book.

    “Rick and I started the same job back in 1977,” smiles Tony.

    “I got crazy about music, and rock music in particular, after seeing Black Sabbath at the Sheffield City Hall when I was 14, says Tony. That’s when the idea of setting up a band started”, he says.

    “I was 16 when we started the band, (we had just left school), and I was 17 when I quit, I suppose I was in the band about 16 months all together”, he adds.

    “It was Rick, me and Pete Willis who set up the band that would become Def Leppard, recalls Tony. I found a rehearsal room in an old cutlery factory at Portland Works in Sheffield, which was ideal because they had a forge with hammer rights and we could make as much noise as we liked”, he jokes.

    Stan Shaw.

    “We then recruited Joe Elliott as a singer and then Steve Clarke as a second guitarist, I suppose I was in the band for about 16 months all together”, says Tony.

    “The early days were extremely exciting, especially when we started to sound good, and people would say nice things about us. It was a real buzz”, he recalls.

    “We started by playing covers like Suffragette City and Thin Lizzy songs. Then we started writing songs and after about a year we started gigging around Sheffield”, says Tony.

    “We played at the Limit Club and the Wapentake among others”, he adds.

    Original Def Leppard drummer Tony Kenning.

    Tony has now written his own story in a new book entitled ‘My Time with Def Leppard and Other Bands’ in which he talks about those early days and the events surrounding his departure from Def Leppard before they really hit the big time.

    “The book also documents the very early Def Leppard gigs, our holiday on the Norfolk Broads, and writing the first 8 or 9 of the bands iconic songs, which I’m very proud of,” says Tony.

    “After Def Leppard, I had a break then started other bands including Tour de Force, Cairo and the Ministers of Inspiration”, he recounts.

    “I now play in a band I set up 3 years ago, called ‘Shef Leppard’ - obviously, a tribute to Def Leppard which is playing the charity gig at the Crookes Club on Thursday, July 7, for the Stan Shaw memorial appeal to create a permanent memorial to Stan and all the Little Mesters of Sheffield who have now disappeared”, says Tony.

    “It was my girlfriend Lisa that pushed me into playing the drums again, after a 35-year break to bring up my family and travel around Europe, says Tony.

    “It just seemed natural to do this and try to recreate the excitement I felt all those years ago and to play some of the songs that we did back then”, he says enthusiastically.

    Tony explains that he saw a guy called Harris Nixon playing a Def Leppard Song called ‘Animal’ with a band in the Church House pub in the city centre.

    “And that’s the moment I finally decided on a Def Leppard Tribute band,” he smiles.

    “I spoke to Harris and asked if he was interested, and he jumped at the chance. He also found our bass player, Andy Scott, and our other guitarist Andy Frost, he explains.

    “I tracked down Paul Banks our Singer. I was chatting to a lady called Hilary Dennis and asked her if she knew any great Rock singers and she suggested Paul. So, we really owe Hilary, a drink or three for that recommendation”, he promises.

    “It’s quite amazing how the band have taken off. Covid delayed us so we started playing live just over a year ago and last weekend we played at a biker’s festival with over 4,000 people in attendance”, says Tony.

    “It gives you a real buzz playing in front of a big crowd”, he adds.

    “Shef Leppard only ever play Def Leppard Tracks, but faithfully reproduced”.

    “Sheffield is the Steel City and world renowned for its cutlery and Stan Shaw was the last Little Mester, or Master Craftsman.

    Shef Leppard and Atomic are playing for no fee in aid of the appeal Crookes Social Club is donating the venue for the evening’s fundraiser. People will also be able to buy some of the ‘Stan’ special IPA ale produced by the Little Mesters Brewing co of Sheffield.

    “Def Leppard started out in a cutlery works and we are proud to support this appeal so that the true history of Sheffield is not forgotten by future generations”, he concludes.

    Shef Leppard play the Crookes Club on Thursday, July 7, supported by 80’s band Atomic Tickets are £10 advance or £12 on the door and Tony Kenning will be signing copies of his book, which is also available on Amazon marketplace.

    For tickets go to Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/330744655167