Ollie Halsall

Peter John 'Ollie' Halsall (14 March 1949 – 29 May 1992) was an English guitarist best known for his role in The Rutles, the bands Timebox, Patto and Boxer, and for his contribution to the music of Kevin Ayers. He is also notable as one of the few players of the vibraphone in rock music. He was known by his childhood nickname 'Olly' or 'Ollie' which was simply a corruption of his surname ('alsall, 'ally, 'olly,). The Ollie Halsall Archive was established in 1985, with the aim of documenting and promoting the work of a unique musician.[1]

Ollie Halsall
Ollie Halsall playing at Hyde Park, 1974
Background information
Birth namePeter John Halsall
Also known asOllie
Born(1949-03-14)14 March 1949
Southport, England
Died29 May 1992(1992-05-29) (aged 43)
Madrid, Spain
GenresPop, rock
InstrumentsGuitar, Vibraphone
Years active1966–1992
LabelsVirgin, Epic
Associated actsTimebox, Patto, Tempest, The Rutles, Boxer, Kevin Ayers , Vivian Stanshall, Cinemaspop


"Ollie may not have been the best guitarist in the world, but he was certainly among the top two." John Halsey, 1997[1]

Halsall began his musical career in 1964 playing drums with various local bands such as Pete and the Pawnees, The Gunslingers, The Music Students and Rhythm and Blues Incorporated. In 1965 he taught himself to play the vibraphone and was invited to London to join fellow Southport musicians bassist Clive Griffiths and keyboardist 'Professor' Chris Holmes in pop rock outfit Take Five, which became Timebox. in 1967, Halsall took up guitar. They enlisted Mike Patto on vocals and drummer 'Admiral' John Halsey.

In 1970, following the departure of Holmes, Timebox evolved into the jazz-rock band Patto, featuring Ollie on both guitar and vibraphone.

In 1973, Halsall left to join Jon Hiseman's Tempest. After less than a year, he quit and did numerous sessions, including a track for Kevin Ayers which led to a permanent position in Ayers' band The Soporifics. He was briefly considered as a possible replacement for Mick Taylor following his departure from the Rolling Stones.[2]

His UK session work included concerts and recordings with The Scaffold, Grimms, Neil Innes, Andy Roberts, Michael d'Albuquerque, John Otway, John Cale and Vivian Stanshall.

In 1975, Patto staged a brief reunion comprising just three benefit gigs. The reuniting of Halsall and Patto sparked the formation of Boxer during 1975. Boxer never reached its true potential, as Mike Patto died in 1979 during the mid term of their contractual obligations to the Virgin record label and are best remembered for their debut album Below The Belt and its controversial sleeve design.

Somewhat ironically – since he was never fully credited – Halsall's most commercially successful recording is his work on the album The Rutles (1978), which reached the top 20 in the UK,[3] on which he plays many of the instruments and provides lead and backing vocals – most notably on the tracks "Doubleback Alley", "With a Girl Like You" and "Get Up and Go". Eric Idle was cast in his place in the accompanying film and Halsall only featured in a very minor cameo role as Leppo, the fifth Rutle who became lost in Hamburg.

During 1976 Halsall had rejoined Ayers with whom he stayed for the next sixteen years. For much of that time he frequented the town of Deia in the north of the Spanish island of Mallorca, commuting to Madrid on the mainland to produce and play for numerous Spanish artistes, including his final work with Radio Futura. In the 1980s he was, together with vocalist Zanna Gregmar, part of a Spanish synthpop band created by producer Julian Ruiz called Cinemaspop. They released two albums – 'Cinemaspop' (1983), just a collection of synthpop covers of classical movie tunes, and 'A Clockwork Orange' (1984) which included some compositions by Halsall, as well as a bizarre electronic version of The Troggs' Wild Thing. In 1989, he replaced the ill Enrique Sierra in Radio Futura, another Spanish rock band.

A finished solo album, produced by Robert Fripp, remains unreleased.[4]

Halsall died from a drug-induced heart attack on 29 May 1992 at 43 Calle de la Amargura, Madrid, Spain.[2]


Halsall has been described as an influence by Alvin Lee, Bill Nelson, Allan Holdsworth and Cheap Trick's guitarist Rick Nielsen. XTC's Andy Partridge cites Halsall as one of his top three influences, saying "He made the guitar sound more like Albert Ayler or John Coltrane, more like a sort of fluid piano player."[2]


  • 1972 "Ollie & The Blue Traffs" (unreleased – produced by Robert Fripp)
  • 1979 "Caves"
  • 1980 "Abbot's Langley"
with Mike Patto
  • 1967–69 The Deram Anthology (as Timebox – released 2000)
  • 1970 Patto (as Patto)
  • 1971 Hold Your Fire (as Patto)
  • 1972 Roll Em, Smoke Em, Put Another Line Out (as Patto)
  • 1973 Monkey's Bum (as Patto) (released 2017)
  • 1975 Below the Belt (as Boxer)
  • 1979 Bloodletting (as Boxer)
  • 2000 Warts and All (as Patto – recorded live 1971)
with Kevin Ayers
  • 1974 The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories
  • 1974 June 1, 1974 (with Nico, John Cale and Brian Eno)
  • 1975 Sweet Deceiver
  • 1976 Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today)
  • 1978 Rainbow Takeaway
  • 1980 That's What You Get Babe
  • 1983 Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain
  • 1984 Deià...Vu
  • 1986 As Close As You Think
  • 1988 Falling Up
  • 1992 Still Life with Guitar
with Cinemaspop
  • 1983 Cinemaspop
  • 1984 A Clockwork Orange (La Naranja Mecánica)
Other Albums


  1. The Ollie Halsall Archive
  2. Russell Hall (16 April 2012). "The Strange Case of Ollie Halsall". Gibson – News – Lifestyle. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  3. "Chart Status – The Rutles". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  4. Sid Smith (10 July 2007). "Has Anyone Spotted The Blue Traffs?". Archived from the original on 30 April 2015.
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