David Bowie receives a saxophone for Christmas

Fourteen-year-old David Jones received a saxophone from his father on Christmas Day 1961.

It is a white Grafton alto model with gold keys, made with injection-moulded acrylic. John Jones purchased the instrument from AT Furlong & Sons, a record and music shop next to Bromley South railway station.

It was at Furlongs I got my first real taste of how things could be. Furlongs was owned and run by the pipe-smoking Vic Furlong, an intense man in his forties who was the perpetual jazzer/college type. New Orleans was his thing.

Furlongs was the record shop. For absolute integrity and a huge stock of jazz, r&b and pure blues, there was nowhere else like it until London itself.

It was here that the power of recorded music struck home. I don’t mean it was where I discovered music, (I had already discovered that power through Little Richard and Elvis) no, it was more how those bits of black plastic could affect other people’s behaviour.

David Bowie
The Times, 16 March 2007

Grafton acrylic saxophone advertisement

The instrument was fragile and had poor projection, and the following month David persuaded his father to get another saxophone. The replacement, a tenor made by Conn, was bought on hire purchase instalments from a music shop on London’s Tottenham Court Road.

In the spring of 1962 Bowie began saxophone lessons with Ronnie Ross, a local tutor. The first three lessons were weekly, and fortnightly thereafter, charged at £2 an hour.

He arrived highly motivated and was well prepared for the learning. He was quite shy, but he had a good sense of humour. He definitely showed an aptitude for music, and he was very interested in jazz.

You notice when people work at things, because some people when they come back they give excuses, they’ve been busy. But he always came back and he’d done what I’d given him to do. He was a student and he wanted to learn.

Ronnie Ross
Alias David Bowie, Peter & Leni Gillman

The lessons lasted until August 1962, when Bowie joined the Konrads.

The Conn sax was used by David during his time with the Konrads, and appeared on the back cover of his 1973 album Pin Ups.

Last updated: 6 July 2021
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