Adventures of a Skinbasher
(click on most pictures to open a new page with a larger image)
Chapter One - The formative years.
It all began for me personally around 1959
when the pop scene was developing from skiffle and primitive
rock 'n roll into a more refined pop music, which was primarily
vocalist-prominent. To the general youth of the time it
was not really the 'in' thing to be interested in the backing
bands and musicians. But when the Shadows and some of the
American instrumental groups like the Ventures started making
the 'hit parade' it became more attractive to youngsters
like me to try and take up an instrument to play and form
a 'group' (as bands were called then) to play what we heard
on the radio and records. I actually took to the drums at
an earlier age when I played in our local scout band so
to graduate to playing 'kit' drums was a natural progression
We formed a very amateurish trio in 1961, practising at my
home, in Kidsgrove and it consisted of two schoolfriends,
Geoff Stone and John Parry on guitars and myself on a very
modest kit of 'Broadway Glitter' drums that just about supplied
the required 'noise'! At that time we had no intention at
all in seeking a vocalist. So our initiation debut at the
Kidsgrove Amateur Theatrical Society's annual Valentines
Ball held in the Masonic Hall at Kidsgrove was as an instrumental
Very soon we realised quite firmly that we could not continue
repeating our rather limited repertoire of six instrumental
tunes over and over again, so we set about looking for a vocalist.
Along came Jim Mayer, who was a pal of the lead guitarist
Geoff and we started to practice some of the vocal numbers
popular at the time.
This was at the time when the Beatles and 'beat groups'
were just taking off, so most of our numbers then were of
the early Beatles/Stones classics, with perhaps some 'evergreen'
numbers performed by such people as Johnny Kidd and Buddy
Holly. It was always felt that our music should represent
what was in the 'hit parade' at the time and so it was sad
that we had to discard a lot of the instrumentals that we
had taken so long to learn. We did keep the odd couple in
though, just to maintain variety of interest. It was quite
conventional to open with an instrumental, then the singer
would appear for the rest of the 'spot'.
Also around this time (1962) I replaced my rather flimsy
drum kit with a brand new Premier Blue Peal outfit, which
I bought from Barratt's music shop in Manchester, costing
me £102/19/11d! That really was an astronomical amount of
money to pay out in those days and I had to pay it by H.P.
which then accounted for most of my group earnings for the
next couple of years. This kit lasted and served me well.
I still have it in fact and it sounds and looks almost as
good now as the day I received it forty-odd years ago. I
always remember the day the new kit arrived on train from
Manchester. It was our weekly 'practise' night at Hilltop
School, Talke and my father, being the group manager was
adamant that we attended the practise session, even though
I just wanted to unpack and set up my new kit! It arrived
at Kidsgrove station at about 5.00pm and our group members
set off to collect it. On arrival at the station we found
the massive box was far too big and heavy for us to carry
between us so we had to borrow one of the station trolleys
and pull it all the way round the town to our house in Fifth
Avenue, about a mile away. It was a hard slog as the trolleys
are very heavy and large even without any luggage on. Then
of course we had to go to practise. No time to unpack the
drums, so I spent a truly miserable evening on my old kit
practising when all I wanted to do was try out my new drums!
By the time we got home it was late, but I still managed
to unpack and set them up and it must have been about two
o clock in the morning when I woke my Mum and Dad with a
tentative 'tap' on the drums!
Chapter Two - Learning fast.
Armed with a vocalist, new songs and my treasured new kit,
we started to obtain more 'earning' bookings, playing the
local pubs and workingmen's clubs as well as the 'freebies'
we always seemed to be asked to do for the local youth club
dances at Talke where we then practiced. I always remember,
about 1962, when we reached the pinnacle of our limited
achievements one evening when our local youth club put on
a dance and another amateur group from (I think) Eccleshall
also appeared and with us being the 'host' club, we were
automatically top of the bill! It was almost like playing
top spot at the London Palladium relatively speaking, as
we had never appeared with any other group before then.
The incentive and honour involved in going on after another
group brought out the showmanship in us and we performed
above our own expectations really and you couldn't get us
off the stage, even though everyone had long since left
From that moment on we became more confident and ambitious.
We gradually built up a regular 'clientele' of local Workingmens'
clubs and pubs, where we were asked back more often than
not! Some of the clubs where we were always welcome were;
Basford Coronation Club, Newcastle WMC, Abbey Hulton Suburban
Club, Hanley Central WMC, Scotia WMC, Park Site Social Club,
Talke Social Club, Wolstanton Social Club and East Fenton
WMC, quite a few of which are sadly no longer operating.
The regular pubs I can recall being The Lord Nelson; Goldenhill,
The Talisman; Tunstall, The Plough; Stoke, The Market Tavern;
Sandbach and the Beat Cavern. No, not THE Beat Cavern in
Liverpool, but the rather smelly (as it was then) damp and
unkempt cellar of the Bear Hotel, at Brampton, Newcastle,
where they tried to emulate the famous Beatles venue (without
much success I may add!).
The local Workingmens' club scene at the time was saturated
with beat groups as it seemed every other house in every
other street had a group-member of some sort and so competition
was strong to get regular bookings at clubs. Every month
on a Sunday lunchtime, the North Staffs Club and Institute
Entertainment Federation held their artists' auditions,
which were held at different clubs in turn.
We had our own manager who just happened to be my father!
He was (if I may sound slightly biased) very knowledgeable
and a very competent manager, who always used his charm
and politeness in getting us booked at these auditions and
at clubs direct. The Clubs' Institute had their regular
monthly magazine called 'Wots On' which advertised each
club's artists for the month. I still have a copy of 'Wots
On' from August 1967 when our group disbanded and it was
announced in the Editorial. Probably the only time we were
mentioned as an item of 'news'! I will explain in a later
chapter why we decided to call it a day then.
In the same
editorial of Wots On was this snippet of nostalgic monetary
value; - 'Club Secretaries are notified that the annual
trend for artists to increase fees has already begun. One
very well known act booked during 1967 at 15 guineas has
already notified it's intent to raise their fee to 18 guineas'
- It wasn't us!
Throughout the sixties, fees were never really all that
much of a problem to us. We played mainly for enjoyment
and if we could get enough to pay off the van driver (sometime
as much as £1.50!) and other expenses, anything we had left
over was just a bonus really. When we first started regular
paid bookings in 1962 I think the fees were about £4 - that
was for the whole group! Out of that we had the van driver
to pay and expenses like bus travel (some vans would not
hold us as well as the gear), tax and beer money. Around
1967 just before we disbanded I think we were getting about
£10 a booking. This was still reasonably good money in those
days. We probably played at every club in North Staffs and
South Cheshire between 1962 and 1967, whilst being only
five years still seemed to have had a hell of a lot of good
times crammed into it.
Throughout this period I often 'guested'
or 'deputised' with other groups, mainly to satisfy my taste
for adventure as I found playing the same tunes every night
with the same group quite boring sometimes. In fact I 'absconded'
from my regular group once to start up a second group, which
was called the Trespassers (more about that group later).
But I returned to my original 'mates' full-time after a
while. The two groups remained close friends and most weekends
our respective 'band vans' would be parked outside our house
for the regular 'group gossip meetings'.
Some of the group names I either played with or were associated
with at the time were; - The Invaders, The Equadors, James
and the States, The Trespassers, The Imperials, The Saracens,
The Steeplejacks and Eeny Meeny Miny and Mo. Of course our
own groups were never as good as the 'elite' local professionals
around at the time. Such groups as The Marauders, Tennesseans,
The Escorts and Lance Harvey and the Kingpins were the standard
to aim for, but we never really achieved their level of
professionalism while we were knocking around. But later
on we found ourselves 'muscling in' with a famous hit parade
Chapter Three - Groups Groups Groups.
As I mentioned in the previous chapter, we never came near
the quality of the best pop groups in the Potteries, but
we made up for what we lacked in collective talent in our
overall enthusiasm. There were, however, quite a good bunch
of medium-level groups around, into which category I think
our lot fell into. Some of which I have visiting cards etc;
I mentioned earlier I started up a group named the Tresspassers
in-between stints with my long-term group. This was out
of frustration really of having to play the same stuff all
the time. I ventured away after meeting up with a guitarist
named Joe Dobbs, from Clough Hall. He seemed to have lots
of 'showmanship' and brought along his mate Chris Berrisford
from Stoke, on rhythm/bass. We advertised for a singer and
along came Mervyn Camm, from Whitehill, Kidsgrove.
Very soon Chris decided to leave as it was too far to travel
to practice and Mervyn suggested we took his friend, Cliff
Tams from Whitehill on board as rhythm guitarist and we
would look for a bassman next. We messed around practicing
for a while then realised it just wasn't working. There
was a clash of personalities between Joe and the rest of
us so we kindly asked him to depart. In Talke Pits, about
3 miles from Kidsgrove, there was a brilliant trio of guitarists
who did nothing but practise playing Shadows instrumentals
in their homes. We (myself, Mervyn and Cliff) went to see
them;- Ray Hall (lead), David Wood (bass) and Ivor Moseley
on rhythm guitar and while we only really wanted
Ray and Dave, we had to take Ivor too so we ended up with
too many guitarists at first! After thrashing away overcrowded
it was naturally made sense for one of the rhythm guitarists
to depart so Ivor did the decent thing and we were then
left with the eventual line-up of three guitars, drums and
We continued for a year like this then once again
I pined for change. It was in my blood I think, and as my
father was still managing my old group I had to return eventually
I suppose. Thankfully the Tresspassers were very understanding
and they managed to obtain a super replacement drummer named
Ian Ford, who did a really good job for them.
On my return
to the original group we had a change of singer for a while
when John Oliver, from Stoke joined us to sing mainly blues
numbers. It was the era of the Animals, the Stones and the
blues originals like Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon and Jimmy
Reed and we managed somehow to get by in even workingmens'
clubs playing this sort of music. But sadly it wasn't really
ideal so we asked our original singer Jim Mayer to return
and we took up where we had left off again.
I was a big
fan of the local group the Shondells where I first noticed
drummer Gerry English. He was a brilliant drummer and was
wasted really playing in pop groups, as he had been through
'proper tuition' and was considered therefore a 'proper'
musician. I first met him after he left the Shondells when
he played with a cabaret band called Pete Kinsey Quartet,
featuring girl singer Julie Cliffe. More about them later
but just wished to introduce Gerry, as he would instil quite
a lot of influence in my own 'career' as a drummer.
I was always interested in 'showmanship' and so after seeing
the then famous Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers where Peter
Jay the drummer had flashing lights in his drums, I copied
this idea (which was quite revolutionary at the time - light-effects
were a fairly new thing in pop music then) and created my
own flashing drums! Of course this meant I had to do a solo
each night and everyone seemed to remember it because when
we returned for subsequent bookings, people asked when the
'illuminations' were going to start!
I was also an enormous
fan of the great showman drummer Eric Delaney and so my
solos were based on a mix of his style and my own. Of course
I was nowhere near as good as him, but I managed to 'con'
my way through twenty minutes of skin-bashing! But I think
maybe the audiences enjoyed the light show more than my
racket! A few years ago the Sentinel nostalgia magazine
'The Way We Were' did an article on me in particular the
flashing drums bit!
Once when we appeared at Basford WMC,
the concert secretary there, who was about to move to Scotia
WMC near Burslem, as their new concert secretary, asked
me if I would do a booking at his new club - on my own!
He seemed to think I could make a whole night of drum solos
or something! I explained I didn't do anything like this
on my own but he persisted and even offered me £4 for the
night. FOUR POUNDS! Wow that was very good money then. It
was more than I earned in a week in my day job. I was currently
only picking up about a pound a night in the group. But
still I was very reluctant to accept, as I hadn't a clue
how I would fill in a night's entertainment on my own! After
a few discussions the chap said he would also book a 'Tom
Jones' type singer from South Wales, who always brought
his own backing with him and I would be able to just play
along with them and fit in my own thing during the evening.
So I agreed. After all, four pounds is four pounds! As usual,
it never worked out as planned. I turned up on the night
to find the other artist had cancelled and all I had to
play along with was an aged lady pianist! She was so sweet
and timid, but must have been at least seventy and had no
idea of the type of music I was expecting to play along
with. I had to restrain myself all night playing in almost
total silence with soft brushes to the strains of 'Come
into the Garden Maud' or similar ditties. But of course
I was nailed up on the door as 'Solo Drummer' (ouch! sharp
nail!) so I had to try and live up to expectations so when
it came to the time I just asked the old lady very nicely
if she would take a break and I let it rip for half an hour,
trying to keep the interest going unaccompanied and without
playing the same note twice (!) Of course it was all a big
embarrassment to me (and probably everyone else in the club),
but four pounds ..... etc. After the night was over, I almost
collapsed with shock when the concert secretary came up
to offer me a return booking at a fiver! No way this time
Throughout our five-year long 'career' we never
really got involved with any of the agents that were springing
up like flies in a hot summer as the 'beat scene' became
really popular. Some of the more respectable agents being
Chris Wainwright Agency, Dave Daniels and a weird but shrewd
character named Ernie Pepper. We did, however have one rather
unfortunate experience with one of the shady types, which
coincided with a bit of a disastrous weekend for us.
Chapter Four - Van extraordinaire.
During the mid-sixties, fed up of searching and begging
people to transport us about in their vehicles, we had pooled
together to buy a 'band van'. In the past we had used various
friends and friends of friends who happened to have a van,
to transport us around. We employed whoever (and whatever)
we could find to run us to bookings. We have been transported
in all sorts of vehicles to this end. Once we obtained the
services of someone who owned an old Rolls Royce hearse!
And someone offered the use of his Morris Traveller with
a gigantic roof-rack box on top, which was bigger than the
car itself. Into this went all our equipment - with room
to spare. But the vehicle was considerably lower than standard
height when it was travelling! But back to the plot; - One
weekend we had just bought a very old and clapped-out Commer
van from another group (I forget their name) and it created
total chaos from day one. It was AWFUL to drive and it was
a mystery how we managed to get about in it, as it seemed
to 'stop' more than 'go'. Jim was our only driver so he
was designated to try and tame the beast. We had a booking
at Adderley Green Workingmens' Club on the Saturday, which
was at the top of Anchor Road, Longton. We wondered before
we set off if the van would actually make it up Anchor Road
but surprisingly it did and we played the night as normal.
On returning afterwards, the engine cut-out halfway down
Anchor Road and we coasted down to Dividy Road, where we
just blocked the junction! It appeared to be an electrical
fault as nothing would work, including no lights, so we
tried to get it off the road. We pushed it towards Weston
Coyney a short distance as we had spotted a clearing in
the roadside hedge there. Then we pushed it backwards into
the clearing. It was all totally dark so we had no idea
where we were pushing it! Then as we could do no more then
we left Jim and Allan (Allan Billington who replaced Geoff
as our lead guitarist in 1965) to sleep in the van (naturally
the van also would not lock up, so we had to have someone
to guard the instruments etc). The rest of us, including
my father and my mother and various girlfriends took taxis
home. On returning next morning with a friend's LandRover
to tow the van back we discovered the van rear wheels were
teetering right on the very edge of a steep drop into a
ditch! Any undue movement and it would have disappeared
and probably have smashed to pieces as it was quite a sheer
drop! Of course Allan and Jim had slept in the van all night
and never knew! After they had both recovered from their
shock in the nearby Waggon and Horses pub, we got the van
hitched up to the LandRover and towed it to our Sunday booking
which, being the Greenways Pub, in Baddeley Green, was on
the way back anyway so no point in going home at all then.
We spent the rest of the day trying to fix the van on the
Greenways car park, with no success. The evening too was
a disaster as we were doing a 'door-takings' fee booking
only and the new agent who set it up was collecting an admission
charge which we thought would be paid to us, less his usual
ten percent. Just before the night ended, while we were
still on stage, the agent just got up, mouthed 'tara' or
words to that effect and disappeared! Along with all the
door takings. We never heard from him again and needless
to say that was our last involvement with agents. In those
days though, they were springing up all over the place.
Most were just parasites and only a handful were genuine.
So it was a weekend to forget (or to remember in the case
of telling the story!). And needless to say the van was
sent to McGuiness's resting home for distressed group vans.
As I said before we had many vans (or rather vandrivers
with their vans) over the years and one who perhaps stayed
with us the longest was Ken Ridgeway. He had a 'classic'
group van, a Bedford Dormobile and we had many good times
in that one. Ken, being 'one of the lads' really, enjoyed
the group scene as much as we did so he went everywhere
I remember one Saturday night we played at the Beat Cavern
in Newcastle, packed up about midnight, jumped in the van
and just went for a drive all night long! We ended up at
Rhyl! But not without first spending a few hours broken
down on a desolate stretch of road somewhere in Wales. I
don't ever recall us being scared or anything while we tried
everything to get the van going again. It was pitch black
though and no one had a torch except a box of matches (and
my half-dozen non-reusable flash bulbs!). We eventually
traced the fault to the plugs being flooded with petrol
I think and one way to dry them was to burn off the excess
petrol from each plug. Incredibly we did this INSIDE the
van and with the smell of petrol all over the van it was
a wonder we didn't blow us the rest of the way to Rhyl!
Eventually we arrived in Rhyl at about 7.00am and we were
really tired, but still tramped the full length of the prom,
looking for breakfast. After lunch we started back and made
it back to Weston Coyney in time for Sunday's gig at the
Blythe Spirit pub there. So when we got home that Sunday
night it was the first time we had slept since Friday night.
On another occasion, where once again when we were short
of a volunteer van-owner, we actually travelled to a booking
by train! We were booked at the Alsager Arms, which is right
next to the station. As our base was in Kidsgrove and about
half a mile from the station there, we decided to risk BR
to get us there and back. It meant two separate journeys
to the station on foot, carrying large amplifiers and speaker
boxes and my drums etc. The worst part of this was getting
the lot over the footbridge at Kidsgrove, which straddled
four railway tracks. On the return journey we had to keep
a very careful watch on the time during our last spot as
the last train back from Alsager was about fifteen minutes
after we were due to end. And of course for some reason
they liked us so much we were asked to keep doing encores!
It was a very tight squeeze to get to the platform in time
and I can remember Geoff being the last one to come struggling
up the platform with his guitar under one arm and an amplifier
under the other and the guard stood patiently holding up
the train for us! I think he was a pop music fan, as he
seemed so keen to help! Either that or it was the shock
at seeing a group with all it's equipment travelling about
by train! It was probably the most arduous booking we ever
had but looking back now it was fun!
Chapter Five - End of an era.
Humping all our own gear about ourselves was maybe the only
downside of grouping really. 'Roadies' were never even invented
then! And we could never have afforded one anyway. I remember
once we played at the famous Golden Torch in Tunstall along
with current 'hit-paraders' Dave
Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch.
We, of course, were the support group and were to open the
evening, and then close it later after the main act had
done their stuff. Because the stage at the Torch was very
small, we had to remove our gear completely after our first
spot so that DDDBM&T could set up theirs. Also, as the Torch
had little or almost NO space backstage, there was no room
at all to store our gear temporary so we had to dismantle
and cart everything right out of the building and back into
the van, which was parked in Tower Square, a good 200 yards
from the Torch. Then cart it all back again for the last
spot! I am not sure who was the most exhausted at the end
of that night; ourselves, or the D.J. Barmy Barry, who had
to keep announcing 'Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch',
followed by 'Eeny Meeny Miny and Mo' - twice! I think he
must have thought we were all related.
Where I lived in Fifth Avenue there was another guy in the
next street but one (Second Avenue) named Gerry Knapper.
No relation to me but he was then playing piano with a group
called (if I remember correctly) Gary Rogers and the Vampires.
Towards the end of the sixties he left to take up a career
impersonating Roy Orbison and his stage name became Gerry
'Orbison' Grant. I had known Gerry most of my life but
we never actually appeared together on stage until one night
I was out clubbing and ended up in the 007 Club in Burslem.
This was the old 'Embassy Club' of old and in the early
sixties it was a big venue for established pop groups and
up-and coming groups. We played there a few times too. An
agent named Dave Daniels ran it then. Anyway later on it
was turned into a more 'sedate' nightclub called the 007
club. There was a resident trio that played some nice soft
Jazz and also provided the backing for cabaret artists that
appeared. I was with a couple of mates just enjoying the
entertainment, which that night was Gerry Grant and his
'band'. He usually had his own backing group but with it
being a small club (and stage!) he was expecting to use
just his bass player and 'loan' the resident drummer. However,
the drummer Des had other ideas and refused to play as he
probably felt he was being asked to work overtime for no
extra pay! Gerry began to apologise to the audience for
this and was about to launch into his act when he spotted
me and asked if I fancied joining him. Of course I didn't
mind as I liked Orbison stuff and knew all the numbers,
which were very easy anyway. So I ended up the night playing
with his band.
Things like these tend to have knock-on effects as the compare
at the 007, Liam Kildare, also did cabaret bookings himself
elsewhere and he asked me to do a few gigs backing him so
I got a few paid gigs out of that one!
As I have mentioned previously, the group scene for me all
came to an end in July 1967. It was really my own decision
that caused it to happen, as the other members didn't want
to split up the group really. As I explained, I tended to
enjoy moving around and playing with different groups. I
was also generating a strong taste for jazz and swing music.
Earlier in the decade I was put to work at ICL alongside
a guy named Arthur Tweats, from Kidsgrove, who was a part-time
Jazz Drummer. He introduced me to Jazz by way of just one
L.P. This impressed me so much it was very influential in
kick-starting what turned out to be a lifelong love of this
kind of music. The LP was called 'Modern
Jazz performances of Songs from My Fair Lady' as performed
by a trio called 'Shelley Manne and his friends'. The trio
was made up of Shelley Manne on drums, Andre Previn on piano
(yes the famous classical conductor and Eric Morecambe 'stooge')
and Leroy Vinnegar on double bass. The LP became a jazz
classic and is still played today on Jazz Radio stations
Arthur also told me of his own favourite drummer, Phil
Seaman. He was a Britisher and played mainly in the
Jazz Clubs in London. Shortly, I found out he was
playing at the Bulls Head in Hanford with Alexis Korner's
Blues Incorporated, a jazz/blues band of note. I persuaded
my dad to take me along (I was only about 16 then and underage
to go into pubs!). But somehow I was allowed in and that
evening will stay impregnated in my memory forever. To see
Phil doing incredulous things on the drums completely swayed
me and from that moment on he was MY favourite drummer too.
I have seen the best of the rest, including Buddy Rich,
but Phil had that definite rhythmic style and technique
that beat them all into the ground (pun intended). I remember
he dropped his drum-tensioning key and I picked it up and
handed it to the Great Man. He thanked me and it really
made my day! I read since that he often played at the Pavilion
Ballroom in Buxton when they had regular big bands there.
He played with Jack Parnell's band. Jack is a drummer as
well as a bandleader and when he wasn't playing in the band
Phil would take over. They had both kits set up and the
highlight of the evening was a 'drum battle' between Jack
and Phil, which I understood brought the house down. I was
too young to experience those events though which were in
the fifties. Sadly Phil was an addicted drug user and he
died a few years later from an overdose. He still remains
my most favourite Jazz drummer of all time.
I also saw Phil a couple more times, at a Jazz Club in Manchester,
which was a regular place for me. Most weekends me and my
mate would travel to Manchester on train and either go to
a Jazz Concert at the Free Trade Hall, or go to the club,
which was called 'Club 43'. This had a very strong reputation
in the jazz world as being one of the best in the country
and certainly in Manchester. Sometimes, after the Free Trade
Hall concert we would dash across the city to the club and
catch an hour before dashing back to the station to catch
the last train back at 12.30am. This went through to Stoke
so we had to hitchhike back to Kidsgrove. But we never worried
about getting home. It was far too exciting seeing the big
jazz names to worry about that. Often the big-name performers
at a concert at the Free Trade Hall drifted over to the
club afterwards and jammed with the regulars there. I remember
being in the Club and all three of the Oscar Peterson Trio
walked in! They didn't get up to play but the guys on the
bandstand that night didn't half improve their performance!
I took a couple of photos of a couple of impromptu sessions;
- The drummer in the photo below, Tony Levin, played in
the Tubby Hayes Quartet at that time and almost everyone
has heard of Tubby! I got to know Tubby through Tony, as
I had met Tony before at some gigs in Hanley. We kept in
touch for a while after Tubby died. Incidentally I was one
of the last to see Tubby Hayes perform, as he died two days
after I saw him in the club. Tony Levin is another 'great'
in the jazz drumming circles and I believe he is still working
in the Birmingham area.
Anyway as well as getting really interested in Jazz and
'Be-Bop' in particular, towards the latter end of the group
era my interest in pop declined dramatically and I began
to make contact with some of the local dance bands around.
It was the age of 'cabaret' bands taking over from beat
groups in the local clubs and it was only natural that I
wanted to move on too, so as the other group members were
not keen to get a replacement drummer, we all agreed to
disband the group on my 21st birthday party, which was to
be held at Kidsgrove Town Hall, and which was to be one
big final bash! As well as our group, a few other friends'
group members offered to come along too to make it a big
jamming night. I booked one of the best local dance/cabaret
bands to appear too. This was the band I mentioned previously,
Pete Kinsey Quartet featuring Julie Cliffe. Their drummer
of course was Gerry English. I learned on the night that
Gerry was finishing soon due to his new business commitment
and before the night was over I had 'signed' with the band
as their new drummer! I remember thinking at the time, it
was the only time after playing drums for over seven years,
that I considered myself 'grown up' and was respected by
other musicians too.
But I still look back at the 'group years' in the sixties
with great fondness, as they really were the most enjoyable
and enlightening years of my life. About ten years ago the
original three group members from 1961 met up again at my
parents anniversary party and incredulously the party was
held at the exact same venue, the Masonic Hall in Kidsgrove,
where we made our debut as a group. It was too good an opportunity
to miss so we arranged for someone to take a photo of us
together again. Sadly, John passed away shortly after the
photo was taken. Geoff returned to playing in recent years,
in a Sixties Revival band based in Market Drayton. But he
is now retired and living in Spain.
In the next three chapters I will tell all about my progress
from the pop group era into the world of 'proper' bands.
Chapter Six - The progressive years.
Immediately the group disbanded I started drumming for Pete
Kinsey and his band. Even before that though, I had forced
my way into the 'band' scene by sitting in with a few musicians
at the various 'jam sessions' that were held about the Potteries.
One such place was the Queens at Basford where every Sunday
lunchtime musicians from around came along for a natter
and a blow/tinkle/knock/strum depending on which instrument
they played. I didn't play much there myself as I was only
just beginning to learn the basics of 'be-bop' and swing
drumming. Instead I watched and listened in awe at the ease
in which these professionals interacted with each other
musically. Also at that time you could find good quality
swing bands appearing at venues like the Marquess of Granby
pub in Burslem. Each Monday I think it was, the Allan Johnson
Quartet played there. Their drummer was a brilliant guy
by the name of Harry Robbins. He had seen it all, done it
all and his vast repertoire consisted of a very good singing
voice as well as an excellent drumming style. He also did
a little 'comic routine' too. He had a voice like Tony Bennett
and a drum style like Shelley Manne. Both being two of my
favourite performers. He was also very sociable and a well-liked
guy. Of course eventually I got round to playing a few numbers
with the band there. Harry was glad of a break anyway as
he did quite a lot to carry the band all night, what with
his drumming and singing etc. I always remember the first
time I 'sat in' with them. Harry told me to 'Watch me HiHat
as it's a bit wonky'. Of course first thing I did was knock
the beggar over! Very embarrassing, seeing as it was my
first appearance and I managed to send a Hi-hat (for the
initiated it is a foot-controlled cymbal stand with two
cymbals that 'snap' together). The resultant crash as these
cymbals clattered across the bandstand was quite embarrassing
for me, but very funny to everyone else watching! However
I survived and my red face gradually subsided as I got into
the 'swing' of the music. It then became a regular thing
for me then to go to that pub every week and play a few
numbers with the band. Good experience. Members of that
band that I remember were; Allan Johnson (piano), Dave Brough
(Guitar), Harry Robbins (drums) John E Clay (vocals) and
Johnny ?? (bass).
Another musicians' meeting place was the Oxford Arms at
Maybank. Again it was usually held on a Sunday lunchtime
as all musicians would be playing in their 'day-jobs' at
night-time so it was the only time when most could get together.
Again, I didn't play much then but later on I had a long
association with The Oxford Arms and I will write about
that in a later issue. An episode I recall once was when
I won a drumhead at the same Oxford Arms. It was a 'drum
clinic' put on by London drummer Kenny Clare - another of
my respected heroes. He was touring with Tony Bennett and
as the tour took in the Gaumont (now the Regent) Hanley,
Den Chatfield (of Chatfield Music Stores, Hope Street, Hanley)
took the chance to ask Kenny to give us local drummers some
advice as well as publicising his drum products! The 'session'
was in the afternoon of the show and the place was crowded
with drummers and band members. There was a raffle draw
and I won the drum head (which incidentally I still have
on my snare drum). It was presented to me by Kenny Clare
and we had a few words together after. Nice bloke and very
sad when he died shortly after then. I had seen him a few
times before including when he was one of the two drummers
in the Clarke-Boland Big Band - an international 'occasional'
band. Run jointly by German arranger Francy Boland and American
drummer Kenny Clarke. The personnel read like a 'who's who'
of International Jazz including Ronnie Scott, Tony Coe,
Benny Bailey, Ake Persson, Johnny Griffin and Eddie 'Lockjaw'
These drum 'clinics' were quite regular events in those
days, but usually confined to places like Manchester and
Birmingham and usually put on by Drum manufacturers like
Premier and Slingerland. I attended a few at Manchester
including ones hosted by Louie Bellson, Joe Morello, Andy
White and Bobby Orr. Maybe unknowns to most people but almost
god-like among the drumming fraternity. I actually met Louie
Bellson (he of 'Skin Deep' and Duke Ellington fame) when
he was packing up his drums after his clinic and I was gobsmacked
at how nice he really was. He always came over that way
on TV etc but to meet and talk to him just confirmed every
detail of his genuinely friendly nature. He even gave me
a 'chart' (a music score) of his which he had been using
that day and autographed it for me. Sadly I have looked
EVERYWHERE for this but to no avail... it is lost!
I also remember, at the Joe Morrello (Dave Brubeck, 'Take
Five') clinic, which was held at Belle Vue, Manchester,
standing right next to me was my boyhood hero himself Eric
I felt so overawed though I didn't have the nerve to express
my appreciation to him then! But later on I did meet him
- at Talke Social Club actually! His band was playing there
in 1979 and I introduced myself as a lifelong fan and it
all came pouring out, about how I bought my first 'toy'
drum with his name emblazoned on it and had worshipped him
ever since I first saw him on TV when I must have been aged
about 9! He really is a great showman and a gentleman too.
As I mentioned before, he influenced me a great deal, especially
when I did my own drum solos etc. He also autographed a
book I had (called 'The Big Band Era of Buxton); Incidentally,
the plastic 'toy' drum that I had in the late fifties and
was endorsed by Eric Delaney can be seen in the photo on
page 1 where I had 'converted' it to use as a makeshift
Going back to 1967, I was drumming regularly with Pete Kinsey
(real name Graham Peake). The line up then was Pete Kinsey
(piano), Brian Moore (guitar) Bill Taylor (bass), Julie
Cliffe on vocals and myself on drums. I don't have a photo
of this band with me playing but I took a photo just before
I joined them and it was taken at Kidsgrove Labour Club.
It was the same line-up apart from Gerry English on drums
who I mentioned, retired to make way for me! We played all
over, doing a slick 'cabaret' act in the nightclubs, the
workingmens' clubs and playing for dances etc. One venue
that we played at was Eccleshall Castle! It is more like
a mansion than a castle really and it was private party.
It had rather small rooms for such a large building and
we found we had one room to ourselves to play in! The doorway
was also very large and this led into three or four 'open'
rooms. So it was very strange to be on our own playing away
while people danced in the other rooms! It was also a very
well paid booking and I think I got three times as much
as I had ever earned on one night before.
I must stress however I was squeaky clean with declaring
my earnings as I was also working at ICL so I had no need
to try and deceive anyone. So about a third was always 'put
aside' for any tax demands that arrived, usually years after
the event! Soon after I joined Pete Kinsey we were reduced
to a Trio (plus Julie) after Brian Moore decided to leave.
We then also went through a patch of having a different
bass player nearly every gig as our regular bassist Bill
Taylor wanted to retire to concentrate on his new business
venture. A few bassists I can remember who guested are;
Steve Robinson, John Titley and Bill Ratcliffe. Now Bill
was the father of our singer Julie Cliffe (hence the name!)
and he was getting on a bit too! He must have been about
70 when he played with us on a few gigs and he played a
double bass. While being basically a danceband we still
had a modern attitude and modern amplification etc as we
also played pop numbers too, so to try and cope with an
acoustic double bass played in the style of the 20's was
a bit 'different', even though the double bass was one of
my favourite instruments, it was just not quite in the right
setting for our band. But Bill was a lovely character and
absolutely spot-on with his bass playing. A real musician
and a real gent. So we just didn't have the heart to refuse
his offer to help out while we sorted a regular bassist.
In the end our original bass Bill Taylor changed his mind
and rejoined us.
Anyway, after about 9 months or so with Pete Kinsey I once
again had the urge for change and adventure and so left
the band to go 'freelance' that is to become a free agent
and offer my services as a 'dep' (short for deputy) drummer.
This was a real challenge I thought, as you really need
to be both experienced and adaptable to be able to fill
in at short notice with a band you have probably never even
seen before. I had limited 'music reading' skills but probably
just enough to get by. Most bands didn't bother with 'charts'
anyway and it was left to the drummer to improvise to suit.
Ironically, one of the first 'gigs' I did as a freelance
was with a famous pop group!
Chapter Seven - Freelancing and dancing.
An agent (I can't remember his name now) contacted me one
Saturday evening to ask if I could do a job at Northwich,
very short notice, ie; NOW! A cabaret/dance affair. Group
member taken ill at the last minute. They needed someone
who 'knows a bit of 60's pop'. So, intrigued, I accepted
it and was at Northwich within 45 mins. To my surprise it
was one of my favourite pop groups of the sixties, The Dakotas.
Billy J Kramer's backing group and famous in their own right
as an instrumental/vocal group. I even still had their number
one 'hit' record called 'The Cruel Sea'. The gig was so
hurried their roadie had already set up the equipment, including
the drums they used and there was no time for me to set
up my own kit so I used their drums. Incredible really,
it was the same Slingerland kit that had been used on their
hit records and TV appearances. I met the drummer Tony Mansfield
and he told me a bit about them. He was suffering with some
kind of stomach bug but stayed the night anyway but was
too ill to actually drum. A very nice guy and he was impressed
with how I coped too. We also had the legendary Mick Green
on lead guitar too who originated with Johnny Kidd and the
Pirates and of course went on to play with many famous super-groups.
On another occasion I played with perhaps the best dance
band currently then playing in the Potteries and that was
the Pete Chell Big Band, which were resident at the Crystal
Ballroom in Newcastle. I was asked to stand in for their
regular drummer, Brian Perry, who was another of my drumming
'heroes', as I had often visited the Crystal and usually
just watched and listened to the band. Brian had family
engagements for a few nights so I played in his place. What
an experience that was. I can't recall all the band members'
names but I do recall Benny Gidman on saxophone who was
a real character as well as a brilliant player. Later on
he joined John Symonds band (as did a few others of Pete
Chell's band) resident at Jollees Nightclub.
There were lots of good musicians that passed through Pete
Chell's band. One was a drummer who played with the band
long before I started going to the Crystal and whom I 'met'
only six years ago and since then we have become the closest
of friends. Only thing is, he lives in Florida! But with
the wonder of e-mail and the Internet you could almost say
we live in the same street. His name is Dennis Walton. We
'met' by chance after a photo of the Pete Chell Band appeared
in the Sentinel once and it showed Dennis on drums. He got
to hear of this photo so wrote to the Sentinel asking if
anyone in the band would care to renew acquaintance with
him and included his e-mail address. So I e-mailed him to
say I also played in the same band, although about ten years
after he left them. From then on we have been firm friends,
but we have never met in person... yet. I'm still waiting
for those magic six numbers...!
Born at Bucknall in 1934, Dennis started playing drums professionally
at age 15 with the Doug Mason band. Later on he joined Ken
Griffith's band at the Crystal, which eventually was led
by Pete Chell. This was around 1958. Dennis left the Potteries
in 1963 to live and work in London, playing with such 'names'
as Ken Mackintosh, Denny Boyce and the BBC Radio Orchestra
throughout the sixties. In 1970 he immigrated to the USA
and at first lived in New York, where he played in lots
of Broadway shows and the industrial promotion shows that
were prevalent at that time. In 1983 Dennis moved to Melbourne,
Florida where he remains to this day, still playing and
in his mid-seventies now. During the time he lived in Florida
he got to tour with bands backing such artists as Jack Jones,
Bob Hope, Angela Lansbury, Ann Miller, Donald O'Connor,
Ray Bolger, Van Johnson plus many more that he tells me
he can't recall right now! Oh and he has done regular gigs
with the Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras, Clarke
Terry Big Band and again too many others to remember off-hand.
So we can be proud of another Potter who has made a very
successful career for himself as a drummer. I have mentioned
Gerry English a few times. He was a big friend of Dennis
too and they often 'swapped' gigs occasionally. Gerry once
played with Ken Griffiths Band using Dennis's drum kit.
Below is a photo sent to me by Gerry taken on that night.
Anyway, getting back to little ol' me, I was continuing
to 'slop around' in various bands for a few years, until
I was offered a 'residency' playing every Saturday and occasionally
mid-week at the Wayfarer Hotel at Stone (now called the
Walton Hotel). This was with a three-piece called the Harry
Good Affair comprising Harry (Big H) Mouat on bass, Pete
Rowan on organ, plus myself. I wouldn't say Harry was one
of the best technicians around (and he will agree with me
I'm sure!) but he didn't half make up for that with his
showmanship and energy. He also made very sure that we were
paid well and 'looked after'. A chap named Wilde who had
a Spanish wife name Marie then owned the Hotel. She was
great fun and really enjoyed the dances we played for every
Saturday. We rarely started before 9.30 most weeks then
played until about 1.00am. Then we were often treated to
a slap up meal in the restaurant area. Sometimes it was
gone 4.00am when I got home! But of course, residencies
never were my 'style' and after nine months there (a MAMMOTH
stint for me) I decided to leave the band, but first I needed
to find a replacement.
I had heard of a guy named Alan Gilbey who was playing at
the Oxford Arms in the cabaret band there.
He wanted a move to somewhere closer to where he lived as
he was setting up his drum designing/manufacturing business.
Alan agreed to move if I would take his place at the Oxford.
Another residency! Something I was not too keen on at first
as I wanted to freelance again, but at least I could give
it a go and then see how it went from there. I don't again
have photos of myself playing with Harry's band but I did
take a couple when Alan joined (his first night there) Alan
Gilbey went on to great success with his drum manufacturing
business which he called RICHMO DRUMS,
which is famous the world over in the drum manufacturing
industry and very well-respected too. In fact Alan invented
the revolutional 'double-shell' drum way back in the early
seventies. This had immediate success. But he found the
popularity and demand far too great to handle so he contracted
manufacture to Premier Drum Co, who took up the design in a new
range called 'Resonator'. Alan was a very dedicated musician
too and I recall him playing at the Wayfarer once with his
arm in plaster, having broken his wrist! How he managed
it I don't know. He was a big friend of Kenny Clare, the
London drummer (Clarke-Boland Big Band, Sounds Orchestral,
Johnny Dankworth etc) I have mentioned before. Kenny was
a partner in Alan's business at the time he started up until
his untimely and tragic death in 1985. I spoke to Alan recently
and he tells me he is now back to producing the Resonator
drums himself and supplies custom-made drums to such elite
as Eric Delaney (still playing now at 80!) and the deaf
classical percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.
In the final part of my story I tell you about my stint
at the Oxford Arms and the decision I had to make which
led to me packing up drumming completely.
Chapter Eight - The end is nigh.
I turned up at my first gig at the Oxford, (it must have
been in the mid-seventies by then) with a little apprehension,
not really knowing what to expect because as I had been
playing every weekend prior at the Wayfarer there was no
chance to go to see what was currently on at the Oxford.
I was met by three of the friendliest guys you could ever
wish to meet. The band there comprised of organ, bass, guitar
and drums and an enthusiastic singer/compere who just happened
to be the manager of the pub too. His name was Roy Peddy.
The band members were; - Lionel Llewelyn (organ), Brian
Chell (guitar) and Frank Broadley (bass) plus myself. Lionel
was one of the nicest of nice guys and a very accomplished
accompanist, as well as a great player. Brian Chell was
a master of his instrument, being a qualified Classical
Guitar tutor and a knowledgeable and very fluent jazzman.
Frank had probably played in just about every band on earth!
Well in the North Staffs area at least and he made up the
band on bass guitar, although occasionally he would play
the double bass when the mood called for it. Brian and Frank
used to play regularly with Harry Piper and his Band at
Trentham Ballroom before Harry retired from bandleading.
I must say that from the moment I played the first number
with them I was hooked and they were definitely the best
outfit I had played with as the atmosphere and approach
was so casual and easy-going, made possible by the vast
experience that made up the band. But the biggest plus was
I was at last playing with the best musicians in the area
and really blending in with them from the word go. In nearly
all other gigs that I played there was the initial element
of 'tension' because usually it took some getting used-to
straight away but with this band it just clicked from the
first note. It was obvious straight away that we all had
the same love of swing and jazz so it was also obvious that
we were going to play as much of it as we could get away
The Oxford had music and cabaret every Saturday and Sunday
nights. We opened with Roy singing a couple of bright swingers,
followed by a few instrumentals of ours (usually some nice
swingy classics) then the first spot of the cabaret which
could be anything really and a different artist every night
so we had to be on out toes to be able to back them without
any kind of rehearsal. This is where experience and natural
ability comes in as we had perhaps ten minutes max to 'run-through'
with the artist all his/her repertoire and arrangements.
Most had just 'fag paper' charts which were next to useless
to us, some just had the piano/chord charts, some even had
full orchestra scores which would not disgrace the Royal
Philharmonic! And of course some had nothing at all. We
took all in our stride and gracefully completed the mission
impossible many times over!
I do recall one comedian/singer rolled up and calmly handed
out some very 'posh' looking leather-bound dossiers with
the different orchestra section embossed on the cover of
each one. I was handed the one marked 'percussion'. Rather
apprehensively I opened it, fully expecting to find dozens
of complex charts, rhythms and impossible scores for me
to master immediately. I fell over laughing though when
I saw just a single sheet with VERBAL instructions written
on, like 'Crash of cymbal when (artist) falls over',
or 'drum roll when (artist) asks for audience quiet'
etc. So to keep up the 'ploy' I prominently perched the
dossier on a music stand and pretended to be concentrating
very hard all night long! In fact I had a copy of the Evening
Sentinel in there and was checking the Sports reports!
After the first spot we might catch just enough time to
refill our beer glasses and then it was a similar sequence
for the second half of the evening. After the last of the
applause died away for the artist of the night, we would
let it rip with our 'pub-clearing' number which was usually
'Intermission Riff' the Stan Kenton number, or 'How High
the Moon' another jazz standard. This served two purposes;
- it gave us something to bite out teeth on and also unwind,
while the nature of the music (now almost pure jazz) drove
the general crowd out so that Roy could lock up! But of
course there were always the genuine music fans who would
sit listening right up to the end until Roy physically pushed
Up the road from the Oxford was the Queens Hotel, and the
band members there always popped down during their intermission
for a quick pint and a listen to us. It was almost like
appearing before royalty as some of the band members were
hardened professionals too and some of the favourable comments
they made about us was real mind-blowing stuff! The drummer
in the band from the Queens once asked to play a number
with us while I had a short break. His name was Trevor Steele
and I had known him from group days too. Of course whenever
someone 'unknown' sits in for the regular drummer he immediately
becomes a hero and he had more applause than I had had all
the time there! But that's show biz! It works in reverse
too as I often popped on the stand impromptu at other places
and got the same treatment and applause. One place that
my mates and me used to go to was the Three Crowns in Macclesfield.
Whenever I had a Saturday off we would go there as it was
all 'open mike' stuff and I created quite a following there.
Even had my name up as 'possible guest appearance from our
own Barry on drums'. So it was all swings and roundabouts.
I remember one night at the Oxford we actually played in
front of 'Royalty'. No nothing to do with our Royal family
but if you were around at that time and were a big cricket
fan like we were, you would understand when I say that 'Sir'
David Steele entered the pub. David was a local-born cricketer,
and was then playing for England and Northamptonshire, chiefly
as a batsman and it was exactly the time when he carried
out his heroics on the field defying the touring Australian
team in the Ashes and being made the man of the series,
a sort of Freddie Flintoff of that era. It was just a week
or so after the accolade and he walked in the Oxford! Can
you imagine the reaction now if Freddie Flintoff walked
in your local pub? The whole pub rose and clapped him. It
turned out he was a friend of Roy's from their schooldays
and had been invited along for a night out. Of course that
raised OUR game too. We spoke to him for a bit and it was
obvious he actually enjoyed listening to us. There is an
epilogue to this though when a couple of weeks later I was
at Longton Cricket ground watching Staffordshire playing
Northamptonshire in a then 'Gillette' cup match and David
was fielding when he spotted me in the crowd. He came over
and complimented me on my drumming the weeks before! I couldn't
believe he would even remember me, never mind notice me
in the crowd there. A truly nice man.
It was very arduous playing at the Oxford on the whole though,
despite all the obvious pleasure we got out of playing our
own thing when we could sneak it in and it was not very
well paid either but we accepted that. Usually we would
start at 8.00 and hardly stop until about 11.30. On a few
occasions I never left my drum stool at all from start to
end of the night. But normally it didn't really bother me
all that much. It was such good fun. However another kind
of stress sometimes got to me as I will explain later, and
I had to take a night off occasionally.
Usually I found my own 'dep' and on other occasions the
lads in the band (we were called the 'Dons' for some reason!)
found me a dep who had perhaps played with them before.
However, one night all of us were stumped as all our regular
deps had bookings, so we resorted to an agency and they
sent this young chap along. Obviously I never saw him but
the lads said he couldn't handle the 'swing' music at all.
Kept playing 'straight 4/4 stuff' as we called it, as played
in pop/rock styles. I obviously played both styles, but
apparently some drummers just never make the transition
to swing from rock. I asked who he was and they couldn't
even remember his name except that he said his regular band
was Sounds Incorporated! They were one of my favourites
in the sixties and of course were out and out rock. Ever
likely he found our more 'jazzy' style a hard chore.
On another occasion I asked an old friend of mine, who I
knew used to play drums well but had not played for years.
He had since become an alcoholic but I never thought he
would carry his problem onto a gig too! He was drunk out
of his mind nearly all night and I got some very stern looks
and words the next night when I returned from my night off!
The Oxford was supplied with cabaret by an agency and while
the pub was primarily a music-loving crowd, we did get the
occasional 'non-event' artist. Roy insisted on a singer
if at all possible, but occasionally the agency sent along
something different. We could accept the comedian who sang,
the drag artist who sang, the novelty act that required
a musical backing etc but when it fell sour was when someone
was sent who required no musical backing at all and we were
left shuffling our feet itching to get back on the stage
again, such was the atmosphere there and our enthusiasm
too. It didn't go down with the pub regulars too as they
also liked our band and to hear music rather than sit listening
to a comedian or a speciality act.
I could never list all of the artists that appeared with
us, but just a small handful That I can recall are; - Sheila
Sexton (a comedienne with a great singing voice, who used
to sing with big bands), Cliff Nelson (a local singer-comedian
who used to play in the group called Cliff Nelson and the
Trafalgars), Kenny Stevens (another ex-group member). Real
name Ken Knowles and I knew him well from way back in the
early sixties when we were in the same class at Technical
College. He was lead singer/guitarist with the Escorts,
later the Changing Times). Another I remember is Pete Conway
(real name Pete Williams and of course, father of Robbie
Williams). Pete was a comedian mainly but also had a good
singing voice in the style of Frank Sinatra so that suited
us down to the ground to back him.
Thankfully there were a lot more 'good' acts than there
were bad ones. Just one 'bad' one I recall was a very strict
'operatic-style' girl singer who had no stage sense whatsoever
and required no backing really as whatever we played she
ignored. She had NO sense of timing or rhythm whatsoever
and would have been best taken to one side of the stage..
and left there.
This was now around 1976-77 I think. Throughout all these
'rants' and reminiscences, I have never mention the fact
that I have always suffered with a rather severe hearing
disablement. This stemmed back to when I contracted a serious
Meningitis-type disease at age of only 9 months. It was
not the disease but the medication I received that destroyed
most of the tiny nerve cells in my inner ear. This left
me then with a poor sensitivity to the higher frequencies.
I could still hear very good lower frequency sounds though
and it didn't seriously effect the way I could hear music
in general, but I could never hear the trumpets or piccolos
for instance, and for that matter I could not hear myself
playing the cymbals either. Only if there was no other sound
going on could I then determine this sort of frequency.
So all the time I played, I had to play the cymbals without
hearing them. The other downside of this was I relied almost
100% on lip-reading for speech too, so it was very stressful
and arduous as I got older and my hearing also got worse,
to the point where around this time, 1976, I felt the strain
was getting too much, especially as with playing at the
Oxford it required very acute hearing sense to tackle impromptu
cabaret work with fresh artists every show. It became quite
a chore, despite the enjoyment I got from playing with the
band. I felt then that rather than go back to freelancing,
I would call it a day.
I had had a truly enjoyable 17 years or so of drumming which
gave me great pleasure and memories and had played with
the best musicians in the area so I had no regrets. Incidentally
the progressive worsening was diagnosed even when I was
a child so the worsening was nothing to do with the noises
of playing in a band. It was inevitable and irreparable.
Since I decided to end playing drums, I have on a couple
of occasions been 'coaxed' out of retirement just for friendly
or special occasions but I have not had the real urge to
start again. Once my mate Eric Barker, whom I worked with
at ICL, and had started playing bass about the same time
as me in the late fifties, asked about forming a trio just
for the odd club date. We got hold of a real strange character
from Liverpool. He was a singer/guitarist and had done some
cabaret work on his own before and he joined me and Eric
to form a trio that only lasted one gig! That was at Packmoor
Workingmen's Club. It was one big mistake and I wished we
had never bothered at all. We went down OK but Alan, the
singer just didn't click in a 'band' situation. Eric and
me were 'proper' band musicians whereas Alan just wanted
to do his own thing. So after that one we didn't bother
with it again. It was best to remember the good times I
think and there were many of them.
To end on a sad note, I have constantly throughout these
pages mentioned Gerry English, who I lost touch with for
many years after I finished playing drums. But last year,
after searching I found his e-mail address and made contact
with him again. We were both overjoyed and we were to make
arrangements to meet up again. Tragically I had made contact
just as Gerry was diagnosed with cancer and before we could
meet up he passed away. It was terrible blow after reuniting
after so many years, I never managed to get to see him again
in person. I hope this book will offer a small tribute to
him in some way, as he really was one of the best local
Since this narration was first 'published' in local on-line
Forums, I have been approached by many people who were mentioned,
or simply some people who remember some of the topics. One
is Andrew Wren, the son of Brian Moore (who played with
us in the Pete Kinsey Quartet). Andy himself is a guitarist
and lives in the South of England. He also has his late
father's guitar and is keen to hear from anyone who knew
his father. Please contact me and I will pass you on to
Another drummer to make contact is Steve Massey, who I am
not sure I ever met, but he is playing regularly at various
venues in the Potteries and can relate to a lot of people
I named in my story. He plays a lot of 'free and easy' gigs
and the vocalist/compere is none other than Mick Bailey,
who was once the singer with the Imperials, the group we
grew up with in the early sixties.
I was also very surprised to receive an e-mail from Ray
Hall, of Tresspassers fame, who tells me he is still plucking
the strings and writing songs. I would still love to hear
from others and any that do contact me I will update these
pages to include them.
Many thanks for reading my story and I hope it has entertained
you as much as it entertained me in writing it.
The cast; - (without which these
fantastic years would never have been as enjoyable as they
Barmy Barry (not me!),
Dave Dee & Co,
Gerry Knapper (Gerry Orbison Grant),
Ken Knowles (Kenny Stevens),
Harry Mouat (Harry Good),
Cliff Newton (Cliff Nelson),
Graham Peake (Pete Kinsey),
Pete Williams (Pete Conway),
Sadly these people are no longer with us.
And last but not least, my late parents to whom I express
my most grateful thanks for their eternal support and encouragement
and for putting up with me when I practised at home! Apologies
for the MANY omissions, mainly because in the mist of time
I have temporary forgotten your names. If anyone reading
this who is mentioned (or has been accidentally left out),
spots any errors, or would like to change or add anything
please contact me. Needless to say I would be DELIGHTED
to hear from anyone mentioned.