Please see foot of page for details of how to... Following persuasions and threats from various members of this Forum...

Please see foot of page for details of how to obtain a printed copy of this item as a book Rantings and memoirs of a pop/danceband drummer in
the 60's and 70's
Following persuasions and threats from various members of this Forum I have succumbed to write a series of reminiscences of the times when I played
drums in various pop groups and other bands, covering the period 1959 to the mid-seventies.
Part One (1959-1962)
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 for me.
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 group.
First 'gig' at masonic Hall Feb 14th 1961. Left to right; Geoff Stone, John Parry, Barry Knapper.
About ten years ago the original three met up again at my parents anniversary party and incredulously it was held at the exact same venue, the Masonic
Hall in Kidsgrove. 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 is still playing though and is doing well in a Sixties Revival band based in Market Drayton.
'Reunion' of the first giggers - Aug 1995. Left to right; Barry Knapper, John Parry, Geoff Stone.
Anyway, back in the beginning We soon 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'.
The Equadors, just after Jim Mayor joined us as singer. Note the pic was also taken at the Masonic Hall, Kidgrove a year after our first
debut appearance there.
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.
Premier Blue Pearl '58' kit. Photo taken some years after bought new.
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 Avenue to our house in Fifth Avenue. 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
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 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 (only joking!).
A 'publicity' photo of our group when we were called 'James and the States' taken around 1964. Left to right; Jim Mayor, John Parry, Barry Knapper and
Geoff Stone
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 issue 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!
Page of 'Wots ON' clubland magazine with the announcement of our disbanding in 1967 (we were called Eeny Meeny Miny & Mo then.
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'.
Regular sight outside number 9 Fifth Avenue as our home was a meeting place for a few groups in the area. Shot shows the Tresspassers and James & the
States groupvans
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.
A selection of 'visiting cards' that were around at the time showing some of the groups I played with
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 band.
Part Three - Groups! groups! groups!
As I mentioned in the previous 'rant' 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;-
Collection of visiting cards of some local groups at the time, most of which I played with at some period.
Colin Kane and the Trojans flyer
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. 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 Essex Drive on
board as rhythm guitarist and we would look for a bassman next. We messed around practicisng 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 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 Ian
<forgotten name>(rhythm) and while we only really wanted Ray and Dave, we had to take Ian 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 Ian did the decent thing and we were then left with
the eventual line-up of three guitars, drums and a singer. 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 with them.
Mervyn Camm, at the time he sang with the Tresspassers, with his girlfriend Barbara who later became his wife.
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 instill quite a lot of influence in my own 'career' as a drummer.
Two pictures of the original Shondells, playing at the Crystal. (both photos given to me by their drummer Gerry English)
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 a big fan of the 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 skinbashing! 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!
Article that appeared in 'The Way We Were' magazine in 2002
Once when we appeared at Basford WMC, the concert secretary there, who was about to move to the old Scotia Club 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 nights 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 though!
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;-
Part 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;- On the weekend in question, 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. 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 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.
When I was with the Tresspassers, our regular van driver then was John Moore, who was a good friend of Mervyn our singer. He was very enthusiastic and
did a lot for the group. He was also a little 'reckless' at times with his driving though! Once we were returning from a booking in his Ford Transit. It was
jam-packed with all the gear plus most of the group members and my parents too. It was a very cold and icy night and as we came down Gloucester Road
approaching the railway bridge, the van went into a spin. John was of course travelling a little too fast so when he braked the wheels slipped and the van
spun round . We hurtled down spinning towards the bridge central support and we all expected the worst. At the very last minute John managed to
straighten the van but was on the wrong side of the road then and we just shot through the right-hand passage through the bridge and just pulled up in
time at the main road. Lucky! Plus lucky that there was nothing coming up through the bridge too!
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 with us.
The van is loaded up ready for a booking. Left to right; Our biggest fan (Mum), Geoff Stone, John Parry, our manager (Dad) and Ken Ridgeway our vandriver.
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-reuseable flash bulbs!). We eventually traced the fault to the plugs I think and one way to try 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!
A delicate moment with a damp plug somewhere in North Wales about 4.00am. "Is that petrol I can smell?"
Eventually we arrived at 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!
Part 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 coudl never
have afforded one anyway. I remember once we played at the Golden Torch in Tunstall along with ‘hit-paraders’ Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Titch. We,
of course, were the support group and were to open the evening, 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 their’s. 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.
Photo taken outside the Torch Ballroom in Tunstall with Barmy Barry DJ and members of the Tennesseans group, plus owner of the Torch, Chris Burton,
sitting in the car. On the extreme right is Gwenne Price, a secretary for Chris Burton then and who is now my neighbour and good friend
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. It was run then by an agent named Dave Daniels.
Anyway later on it was turned into a more 'sedate' night club 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 compere at the 007, Liam Kildare, also did cabaret bookings himself elswhere 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 influental in kickstarting what turned out to be a lifelong love of this kind of
music. The LP in question 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 worldwide. 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 band-leader 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. But before then I managed to see him a couple more times in Manchester. He still remains my most favourite drummer of all time.
A clipping from a magazine about Phil Seamen. One of the characters of the music business and forever my biggest influence in drumming
I also saw Phil 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 hitchike 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;-
Two shots I took in Club 43, Manchester of two different 'jam' bands. Very hard to remember names here but some are;- Top photo; Tony Levin, Dave
Lynane, (unknown), (unknown). Bottom photo; Tony Levin, (unknown), Dick Morrisey.
The drummer in the second photo, Tony Levin played in the Tubby Hayes Quartet 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 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 swingiest years of my
The very last photo taken of our group at my 21st birthday party on July 28th 1967 held in Kidsgrove Town Hall. Behind our group is a scattering of
equipment belonging to Pete Kinsey Quartet plus a few other groups who turned up on the night. From left to right; John Parry, Barry Knapper, Jim Mayer
and Allan Billington.
In the next parts I will tell all about my progress from the pop group era into the world of 'proper' bands.
Part 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 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 unitiated 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 embarrasing 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 drum head 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' Davis etc. 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,
standing right next to me was my boyhood hero Eric Delaney. 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 embrazened 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 as I mentioned before, influenced me a great deal when I did my own drum solos etc. He
autographed a book I had and this is the page;-
Autographed page of a book that Eric Delaney signed for me at Talke Social Club in 1979
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!
Two photos I took of Pete Kinsey Quartet, at Kidsgrove Labour Club about 1966 (before I joined them). Left to right (bottom picture);- Pete Kinsey, Bill
Taylor, Gerry English, Julie Cliffe and Brian Moore.
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 Titly 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 a basically 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 were 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!
Part Seven - Freelancing & 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 imigrated 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.
Dennis Walton, photo taken a few years ago when he was an incredibly young-looking 66! (it's all the hockey I play, says Dennis)
In 1983 Dennis moved to Melbourne, Florida where he remains to this day, still playing at 71. 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'Conner, 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 a 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. Here is a photo sent to me by Gerry taken on that night.
Gerry English playing with the Ken Griffiths Band at the Crystal Ballroom and using Dennis Walton's drum kit
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'.
The Hotel was then owned by a chap named Wilde who had a Spanish wife name Marie. 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) and I include them here;
Alan Gilbey, at the Wayfarer, now owner of RICHMO Drums of Meir Heath
The Harry Good Affair at the Wayfarer, the night after I left them, with Alan replacing me on drums.
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, 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 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.
Part 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 most friendly guys you could ever wish to meet. The band there comprised of organ, bass, guitar and drums and an enthusiatic 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
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 with!
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 them out. 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!
Talking of royalty, I remember one night 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 heriocs 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 worked 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, depite 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
I DO thank you all for reading it all and am glad that it made you laugh a little.
I have a small appeal to make as I have not heard for a long time from some of the people mentioned in my stories so if anyone knows where they are now
or can give me some information on how to contact them again I would greatly appreciate it.
These are;Our van driver Ken Ridgeway. I think he came from Chell way.
Cliff Tams. Last heard of living in Lynne Avenue, Talke.
Julie Cliffe, real name Maureen Ratcliffe, Last known running a shop in Shelton near to Hanley Park.
Harry Robbins.
John Titley.
If anyone is still interested I have produced an A5 book of 'Adventures of a Skin-basher'. Printed on quality paper and with a strong outer
cover. I thought against using inferior paper as the photographs would not print very well. Unfortunately photo-quality paper is not
cheap so this will have to reflect in the cost of the books.
I am printing them all myself too, on a 'on-demand' basis so as to eliminate wastage and to keep the overall price down. So if anyone would like one, for
£4.50 (which includes packing and postage) Please Email me at [email protected] and I will send details of where to post cheque/Postal order, or
you can also pay by Paypal if you wish. Please allow up to a week for despatch. Members outside the UK (Europe) can buy one for £5.50 incl postage. Rest
of the World £6.50 incl postage. Please note, outside UK please pay by Paypal only. Please Email me for details of my Paypal identity.
Best wishes.