Born 2 October 1951, in Wallsend, north-east England, Gordon Sumner's life started to change the evening a fellow musician in the Phoenix Jazzmen caught sight of his black and yellow striped sweater and decided to re-christen him Sting. Sting paid his early dues playing bass with local outfits The Newcastle Big Band, The Phoenix Jazzmen, Earthrise and Last Exit, the latter of which featured his first efforts at song writing. Last Exit were big in the North East, but their jazz fusion was doomed to fail when punk rock exploded onto the music scene in 1976. Stewart Copeland, drummer with Curved Air, saw Last Exit on a visit to Newcastle and while the music did nothing for him he did recognise the potential and charisma of the bass player. The two hooked up shortly afterwards and within months, Sting had left his teaching job and moved to London.
Seeing punk as flag of convenience, Copeland and Sting - together with Corsican guitarist Henri Padovani - started rehearsing and looking for gigs. Ever the businessman, Copeland took the name The Police figuring it would be good publicity, and the three started gigging round landmark punk venues like The Roxy, Marquee, Vortex and Nashville in London. Replacing Padovani with the virtuoso talents of Andy Summers the band also enrolled Stewart's elder brother Miles as manager, wowing him with a Sting song called 'Roxanne'. Within days Copeland Senior had them a record deal. But the hip London music press saw through The Police's punk camouflage and did little to disguise their contempt, and the band's early releases had no chart success. So The Police did the unthinkable - they went to America.
The early tours are the stuff of legend - bargain flights to the USA courtesy of Freddie Laker's pioneering Skytrain; driving their own van and humping their own equipment from gig to gig; and playing to miniscule audiences at the likes of CBGB's in New York and The Rat Club in Boston. Their tenacity paid off though as they slowly built a loyal following, got some all important air-play, and won over their audiences with a combination of new wave toughness and reggae rhythms.
They certainly made an odd trio: guitarist Summers had a career dating back to the mid-60s, the hyper- kinetic Copeland was a former prog-rocker, and Sting's background was in trad jazz and fusion. The sound the trio made was unique though, and Sting's pin-up looks did them no harm at all. The band returned to the UK to find the reissued 'Roxanne' single charting, and played a sell-out tour of mid-size venues. The momentum had started. The debut album 'Outlandos d'Amour' (Oct 78) delivered three sizeable hits with 'Roxanne', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'So Lonely' which in turn led to a headlining slot at the '79 Reading Festival which won the band some fine reviews, but it was with 'Reggatta de Blanc' (Oct 79) that the band stepped up a gear.