John F Payton, co-founder of the AMA, passed away peacefully on 14th November after a brief illness, two weeks after his 92nd birthday and just one year shy of his 70th wedding anniversary. Up until the 5th November he had enjoyed the active stimulation of the music business, reporting to work five days a week at F Payton & Son’s Artarmon head office. Born in London in 1920, John was educated at Dame Alice Owen School of Islington. As a child, he was privileged to be selected for the choir of St Bartholomew-the-Great, London’s oldest church, where he had been christened and was later to marry. He insisted he only got the position in the choir because of his brother’s exceptionally pure voice; his mother had done a deal, take them both or none at all. Having endured the London Blitz, John was called up for military service on his 21st birthday at the height of World War II, serving as a wireless and communications instructor firstly at an army base near Salisbury and later at Sandringham Military Academy, where he met his wife, Glen, an ATS driver.
Once demobbed from the army, John helped his mother with the family music business which incorporated a music school, dance academy, music shop and violin repair service. With his father’s death just a couple of years prior, John became the third generation to take the reins of F. Payton & Son, which was started by his grandfather in Fleet Street in 1881.
By the mid-1950’s, John expanded his business interests to include the importation of glass and pottery which in turn led him to establish a small factory to gild and decorate wine glasses. He then added a recording studio (cutting wax records) to his music business and introduced the sale of records to the music shop. As opportunities arose he opened an art supply shop, a wool shop and eventually an antique shop. At this time, and still with the music business as his core, John formed the Camden Passage Traders Association, a cooperative of local businesses whose aim was to upgrade the area of Islington in London’s north. This led to the establishment of the Camden Passage Development Company, whose mission was to redevelop various bomb sites into the world’s first purpose-built antique centre. Camden Passage, which was formally opened in 1960, remains one of the most important antique trading areas in England and continues under the direction of his daughters, Karen and Glen.
John Payton immigrated to Australia with his wife and two sons in 1969. He was surprised to find that there was no formal association for the music industry. After re-establishing F Payton & Son in Sydney’s Clarence Street in 1972, he started discussions with Boosey & Hawke’s Jeff Auty, Australis’ Peter Hayward and Tolchin Industries’ Neville Chambers before taking their ideas to the wider industry. Not long after, the Australian Music Trades Association was formed and John served as its first president. By 1975, the dedicated committee of the AMTA staged the inaugural music trade show in the humble settings of a selection of rooms in Melbourne’s Hilton Hotel. This was a truly hands-on time for John, who was both coordinating the show from Sydney whilst still coping with the day-to-day running of his fledgling business, including order taking, hand writing invoices and assisting the storeman with picking and packing. The following decades had John serving in many roles on the AMTA committee, including a few more stints as president and overseeing the association’s transition into the AMA. In his time as a volunteer with the AMA he helped coordinate and organise many of the trade shows, however, in 1988 he took on the added responsibility of Show Organiser, with the assistance of Boosey & Hawkes’ Pat Reilly, at Sydney’s Royal Agricultural Pavilion – a runaway financial success that resulted in the Association having the ability to return part of the exhibition fees to the exhibitors.
John has been a long standing fixture at the international music event held in Frankfurt each year, which he attended up until the age of 86. He forged close personal relationships with such industry luminaries as Mark Barnes (or Barnes & Mullins), Helmut Schaller, Horst Wittner, Leo Fender, Marina Kun, Admira’s Keller family, Vasile Gliga and many more. Most agencies he secured in the early years have remained a staple product range for the company for the last forty years.
John will be best remembered as a gentleman of the industry. He put morals before business and relationships before profit. He had a wonderful optimism for the future and enormous faith in the human spirit, whilst always maintaining a lovely sense of humour.
At the age of 92, John’s desire to attend the offices of F. Payton & Son on a daily basis, meant that his sons, John and Paul, and grandsons, Chris and Ben, were greatly privileged to enjoy his companionship each working day. He continued to be an inspiration to all around him and kept himself useful and busy with many varied tasks in both the warehouse and office. It has been truly gratifying for his family to see him so well cared for by each and every member of staff, who at all times demonstrated deep respect and genuine affection towards him.