Tony Kaye (born January 11, 1946) is a British musician born in Leicester, England with the name Anthony John Selvidge (some mistaken authors spell it "Selridge"). He was the original pianist and organist for Yes.
Kaye was only four years-old when he started to receive piano lessons. At twelve he started to play in local concerts and he attended the London School of Music, aspiring to be a concert piano player. Later on, when Tony was fifteen, he discovered he preferred the music of both the Dixieland and modern jazz as well as the modern youthful sounds of the Beatlemania days. He played in one jazz band when he was still a schoolboy and at 15 he joined the Danny Rogers Orchestra. Three years later he abandoned his classical music lessons definitely.
During the 1960s he played with Johnny Taylor's Star Combo and later recorded a handful of singles with at least three different rock groups (The Federals, Jimmy Winston & His Reflections a.k.a. Winston's Fumbs and Bittersweet) before being invited by Chris Squire to join a new band called Yes. It was 1968, the post-psychedelic era. The original lineup of Yes featured Tony Kaye on keyboards, Peter Banks on guitar, Chris Squire on bass guitar, Jon Anderson on vocals and Bill Bruford on drums. These five musicians put Yes on the English music map and released two albums: the eponymous Yes (1969) and Time and a Word (1970), and a few singles. The second album featured an orchestra joining the band and stealing much of Kaye's and Banks' parts. In 1971, Yes released The Yes Album with guitarist Steve Howe replacing Banks. The opening track, titled "Yours Is No Disgrace", was the first song featuring Kaye as (co)composer. But after a last concert that year at The Crystal Palace, Kaye was asked to leave the group. Some apparent reasons were the animosity Steve Howe showed to him during the first US tour of the band (among other things, they had to share the same bedroom), musical disputes with Howe over solo spots in the new songs, and Kaye's unwillingness to employ synthesizers and Mellotrons. Kaye had even rehearsed with the group some songs that would appear later in the album Fragile, such as the epic "Heart of the Sunrise", with his keyboard parts being rerecorded by Rick Wakeman.
While Yes went on with other keyboardists (Rick Wakeman, Patrick Moraz, Wakeman again and then Geoff Downes) until 1981, Kaye went in and out of quite a few groups as well. In 1972, he guested with ex-fellow bandmate Peter Banks on the (eponymously titled) first album by Flash; and then formed his own group: Badger, together with bassist David Foster (who coincidentally played with Anderson some years before in The Warriors and who co-wrote at least two Yes songs from the early era). Badger released only two albums: "One Live Badger" (1973, with co-production help from Jon Anderson) and "White Lady" (1974). Meanwhile, a Yes compilation of its two first albums, called Yesterdays (1975), hit the stores and all sold well.
After a brief period touring with David Bowie during 1975-1976, Kaye joined Detective, a band with slightly funky arrangements, releasing three albums: "Detective" (1977), "It Takes One To Know One" (1977) and "Live From The Atlantic Studios" (1978). Living in Los Angeles, Kaye then moved on to join Badfinger in 1981. He was making up his mind to record a solo album when he met accidentally with Chris Squire in a party and was invited to join him in some free studio sessions. This encounter led to Kaye joining "Cinema," a new group formed by Squire, drummer Alan White and South African guitarist Trevor Rabin.
Some sessions were produced by Trevor Horn (who had been the Yes singer on the Drama album and tour, in 1980) and an album was prepared. In the final stages of production, the name Cinema was discarded when Jon Anderson was invited to sing and Yes was, again and unintentionally, reborn.
Kaye was absent for the latter part of the 90125 recording sessions, so Rabin played some keyboards in the recorded songs as well. He was also absent in the video for "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (replaced by Eddie Jobson), but returned to the sessions before the resulting album was released. That album was 90125, the top-selling album by the band (including its only Number One single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart", as well as the track "Cinema", which was awarded a Grammy as Best Instrumental), and the tour that followed was the best grossing ever for the group, ending in February 1985 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In January 1985 Yes played in front of hundreds of thousands of fans at the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro (and transmitted live all over the world). An EP, 9012Live and a couple of singles were all the live material that was released from this successful tour, but a video of the same name was a commercial success and was nominated for a Grammy.
On the 9012Live album, an extra credit is found for keyboardist Casey Young. It was revealed that while Kaye played keyboards on stage for the tour, Young played additional keyboards backstage, while remaining unseen from the audience. (This is not surprising given the technology of the time and the demands placed on the keyboards by the intricate 90125 songs. Kaye has said in an interview that he did not use MIDI until the Big Generator tour.)
In recent years, Kaye has largely retired from the music business, although he does appear on a number of archival Yes releases, including The Word is Live. He has been involved with occasional projects, such as a Neil Young tribute band called The Neil Deal and a number of sessions with former Yes colleague, Billy Sherwood. Kaye and other past and present Yes members appeared on three Pink Floyd tribute albums. He is now in Circa: with Sherwood and White from Yes.
Tony was engaged to Chris Squire's daughter, Carmen Squire, but the marriage did not happen. He began a series of small businesses apart from music (such as a pizza restaurant in L.A.). He has been involved in a number of legal actions against Brian Lane (Yes' former manager) and Yes over unpaid royalties.