Yes it has been very wet and very windy here, but it seems to be quietening down now, I even ventured out with the camera yesterday for an hour, however the rain soon came and drove me away. On the up side – because of the bad weather – it has given me a chance to dig through and sort some of my old photos out.
First up is a photo I found from a time when I was young and single and thought the world was my Oyster. It’s a pic of me and a band member in a group called the Rikki Alan Trio. We were quite ahead of our time in Wales and unusual for a rock group in as much as we all read music. This came in very handy later when we ventured up to the big city (London) to become ‘Professional’ Musicians. Anyway, that is a long story and I don’t know if this is the right place to start digging it all up in any detail, but maybe bits from time to time. Suffice to say that this photo shows me and one of the guys – Gerry Smith – in about 1957. We are way up in the Welsh Valleys in a place called Aberaman and we are bottom of the bill which is headlined by a British Rock star named Marty Wilde. The interesting thing about this pic is, looking at the kids who are watching us and the way they are dressed etc, you would think it was taken in the 1930’s.
This was at a time when coal mining was still a huge industry in Wales and the biggest employer. However, today there are no mines, well maybe one or two private mines, but there are lots of bits of bits of memorabilia around, this next pic is just one such piece. This was taken in a place called Mysycymmer (at least I think that’s how it is spelled) and it is of some of the coal trucks that were left when the mine was closed. Rather than dump them some clever person decided to make a memorial out of them.
Lastly, for this blog, is another photo of me (well it’s my blog). We started with a pic of when I was a young whipper snapper who thought he was God’s gift (soon found out that he wasn’t when he got to the city)! And, we end with a photo taken some 15 years later. Picture is me on drums, the late Peter Bocking on guitar and the late and very great Lonnie Donegan out front. This was taken in Lounge at the Riviera Hotel in Vegas where we were supporting Vic Damone. Very briefly Lonnie was known as the King of Skiffle, he was responsible for every kid in the UK buying a guitar and starting Skiffle groups. We all had a Skiffle group. Even the Beatles started as a Skiffle group, they were called the Quarrymen, but I guess my dear readers will all know that.
Whatever, to this day Lonnie is hailed as the one man who started the whole British Rock and Blues industry because, after the Skiffle groups, all the budding musicians – as they became more and more proficient – turned into rock groups. Many of the stars of today name Lonnie as the one reason for starting them off in their chosen profession including: Eric Clapton, Brian May, Elton John, Paul McCartney et al. The list is endless. I was very fortunate when that day he walked past my drum kit in a London music store where I was demonstrating the product, and dropped his visiting card on my floor tom-tom and said, “if you ever need a gig give me a call”. Needless to say, I called him the very next day.
Trying to get out as much as possible, but time is always a problem, however, finding some interesting stuff in my archives.
In sifting through some old memorabilia the other day I found this signed photo of Lonnie Donegan. It was my first visit to a theatre and my my first live show. I was blown away! I stood outside the stage door for an hour waiting for an autograph. When he finally came out he gave me this pic. Little did I know then that in 12 years time I would be playing in his group!
On the subject of Spring however, I did manage to get out for an hour just to my local patch. I didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but I did manage to get this shot of, what I believe to be a sparrow with dinner for the family.
Peter was one of life’s unique people. I have some very fond memories of Peter that go back to when he came for the audition for the Lonnie Donegan band in about 1971. We had been auditioning all day and were all pretty cheesed off. Peter came in next. He was tired, as he had travelled from Manchester to London, slightly stooped, (as even in those days he suffered tremendous pain with his back, and sitting on a train for a couple of hours hadn’t helped) and was wearing an obvious and not very good hair piece. We all looked at each other and silently thought…. eh hem… ere we go.
He set up his guitar (which gave us a surprise as it was a ‘jazzers’ guitar and not what we had expected) a Gibson L5. Lonnie counted it in and off we went! Peter literally blew us away! Suddenly we all woke up and he inspired us to play, he was a wonderful musician.
I’m pleased to say Pete stayed with the band for quite a while and every time we did a tour he and I would be ‘Roomies’. I have a great tape of a Jam we did at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas with some of the members of the New Vaudeville Band, who were all accomplished musicians. The music is great, especially considering that it was 4.00 am and we had been drinking all night. Or in Pete’s case all week!!
Of all the outstanding and memorable guitarists I have had the pleasure to work with during the past 40 years, ‘Bocking’ (as he was lovingly known) is right up there with the best of them. God bless you Peter, and now at least no more of that excruciating pain you have endured for 30 years plus.
You may not have had any blood family left, but I know that you know, you were loved by so many.
In 1974 I joined CBS/Arbiter Ltd. in their London offices as a Promotions Manager. My main role was to ensure that the ‘name’ musicians of the day (especially drummers) were playing our products. This would involve me attending the BBC Studios in Shepherds Bush every Wednesday to watch the filming of Top of The Pops and to encourage the acts appearing to consider and or swap over to CBS musical instruments. I also had to visit all my old haunts including theatres and concerts halls for the same reason. For the first 6 months, it felt like I hadn’t stopped playing professionally. I was still in the Smokey recording studios, and the TV studios, and all those grubby back-stage areas. The only difference was that this time, I didn’t have to play!
Another of my roles at CBS/A (and there were many!) was to demonstrate the product to interested potential customers en masse, usually on behalf of one of our European distributors or retail outlets. The events are known as ‘Drum Clinics’. I did literally dozens of these things a lot on my own and some with ‘Star’ drummers such as Jon Hiseman and Roy Burns.
The picture shown is from a clinic tour I did of Sweden for Brinks Music, the Swedish distributor of the time. The owner of the company, Stig, was a lovely guy and went out of his way to make my stay in his Country a happy one. He also provided a three piece band to travel with me, Guitar, Bass and Keyboards. On the occasion this pic was taken, I had arrived in the Country at about 4.00 pm and by 7.00 pm we had all the demonstration kits set up, I had rehearsed a couple of numbers with the guys in the group and by the time I had changed clothes ready for the set, there were 500 people sitting in the audience!
It was Stig who was responsible for introducing me to the drummers with ABBA (they had two), Ola Brunkert and Malando Gassama and through that introduction both drummers played our kits throughout their world tour in 1977. The picture below is from the front page of the London Evening News Monday February 14th 1977. The article was by John Blake and the picture was taken by David Thorpe. It was a bit of a coup for me and I felt quite pleased that I had managed to get two drum kits on the front page of a major London paper, and, behind ABBA one of the biggest bands in the world.
Unfortunately, despite all the hard work put in by all the team at CBS/Arbiter Auto-Tune Drums didn’t stay the course and were eventually discontinued.
Many people know me for being a musician rather than a photographer. Not surprising since I started playing drums when I was about 14.
The first group I was in were called the ‘Black Dominoes Skiffle Group’. We were totally out and out Lonnie Donegan fans and, the week that the new Lonnie Donegan record came out, the singer guitarist Alan Lewis, would buy the record and we would be playing it that night!
Around about this time there was a talent show doing the rounds, this was in the days long before ‘Opportunity Knocks’ or the ‘X Factor’. It was headed up by a chap called Carroll Levis, he may have been Canadian or American, I can’t really recall. However, we entered, as did countless others all over the Country and, much to our surprise, we actually won the show.
We were featured in the final at the lovely old Lyceum Theatre in Newport (no longer there I’m afraid) and then on 20th June 1959 we had to go to London and perform a live show in front of an audience for the BBC Light Programme at the Playhouse Theatre in Northumberland Avenue. As far as I can remember, we recorded the show and it was later broadcast on the 12th August 1959.
For the BBC performance we were paid the princely sum of £51.00 including travel expenses, and that was for a 5 piece group. That was a lot of money then and we really thought that maybe we were on our way. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
I have been taking photos for over 40 years now and I have amassed boxes full of negs, slides and prints. Unfortunately, I have always been ashamedly lax when it comes to admin. Hence the majority of the collection is in no real order! So, I am currently in the process of trying – slowly but surely – to get things in order.
I have started by trying to digitise the collection where possible, and I am getting great pleasure from re-visiting some of the pics that I haven’t seen for many years.
One such pic was from a session when I was working for CBS/Arbiter in London who was responsible for the distribution of the musical instruments manufactured by CBS Inc. in California. My role was that of Promotions Managers, which was also responsible for the Sales & Marketing of the percussion lines both from America and those manufactured in the UK.
As my speciality was Percussion I was obviously very much involved in ensuring -wherever possible – that the top ‘names’ of the day were playing our instruments. I worked very closely with the Chairman, Ivor Arbiter who was initially an old friend and who has become a legend in the industry for a number of reasons, not least for converting Ringo Starr to Ludwig Drums from Premier in about 1962.
One of the projects I was closely involved with was working with Ivor on his latest invention at that time which was Auto-Tune Drums. Briefly he had invented a drum where the drum head (the skin -which are now plastic) could be tensioned not by the normal screws into nut boxes, but by revolving the head down onto the drum shell, just like screwing the lid on a jar. It was a very exciting time and I was fortunate to work with a heck of a lot of very good drummers at that time on the development of the line.
One of the drummers who was extremely helpful at the time was Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) and I found this old photo today, it is in a very bad condition, and I have done my best to try and make it presentable, please forgive its shoddiness.
The pic shows Ivor, who sadly passed away a few years ago, me – with a strange face, as I was suffering from Bells Palsy, which makes your face drop on one side, so you look like you may have had a stroke – and of course Carl Palmer.
Hopefully, any future pics will a lot better quality than this one. Once again my apologies for the quality but I felt it was such an important photograph recording the invention and three of the people who were so closely involved in its development.
A sad day today. Heard first thing this morning that Mitch Mitchell had been found dead in a hotel room in Oregon, USA. Apparently he was alone and died of natural causes, he was 61 and the last surviving member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
We first met in a dance hall in Putney, London in about 1962 he was 15 and played so good. Although we only met up occasionally we remained good friends. I remember I sold him a bass drum beater I had in my trap case. It had a small round hardwood ball as the beater. As I was still using Calf skins and not plastic at that time, the beater kept smashing my bass drum heads, so I ditched it and just left in the case. Mitch saw it picked it up banged it on the stage floor with a tremendous thump, and said I gotta have this. I sold it to him for £2.00. When we met many years later in the late ’70’s I reminded him of the beater. He said he had used all through the Experience days and still used it to that day.
What a sad loss to the music industry, and it should be noted somewhere, by someone the influence that Mitch had on rock drumming and drummers throughout his career.
The Spread in Hereford used to be heard around the house all the time from about 2001.
Jozif was a regular at the gig and was always so enthusiastic about the venue and the DJ’s who worked there. It wasn’t too long before younger brother Oli started accompanying Jo to the gig, I know ‘The Spread’ holds some fond (and not so fond) memories for them both.
Next to be recruited to the ‘Spread Team’ was big bro Ben. Ben is the technical one, the one who can fix it, whatever ‘it’ is! When there were problems with the Booth one week, Ben was called out on an ’emergency’. He was there within the hour and within 20 minutes had all the sound and lights back on and functioning perfectly.
Later on Ben completely redesigned and installed the booth and re-sited and installed all the lighting equipment. Hence Ben’s trading title www.Designed2Play.co.uk.To the best of my recollection Ben went on to promote and run the gig for about 2 years.
Since moving to London four years ago, Jozif and Oli don’t get the opportunity to visit Hereford as much as they would like, and Ben is now busy with www.Designed2Play.co.uk, where as well as his ‘fix-it’ roll, he is also producing his own music and that of a number of local bands.