My Potted Musical History……..
My family moved back to Whitehaven from The Midlands when I was four or five years old. My Father was Whitehaven born and bred, and worked as a miner for most of his life. He had moved the family to Nuneaton in Warwickshire in search of work long before I was born but because of health issues, he decided to return to his home town in 1956, where I had a fantastic childhood, a lot of great friends, and the whole of The Lake District to use as a playground!
Having a very musical family, there was always a banjo or an acoustic guitar laying about and it wasn’t long before I had my first guitar. A Vox ‘Stroller’ bought for £12.00 from Brookes Electricals on Duke St in Whitehaven (I believe it’s still there!) My Dad had to put it together for me because it came in pieces in a small box! I also had one of the very first ‘Fuzz Face’ fuzz boxes which Jimi Hendrix favoured from Brookes. After a certain amount of practice, I played in a band with my brother Barry for a while but I was very young and had a lot to learn.
The picture above shows me in my first band! It was taken in Lenny McMean’s back garden in Mirehouse, with Len on drums, me on lead guitar, Alan Shipley on bass, Keith Henderson on vocals and fags, Dave (?) on Rhythm and ‘Noddy’ Cleaver making up the numbers! We were crap but they were happy days! I eventually met up with Frank Hall, Dennis McCarten and Rodney Beaumont and we played in a band called ‘Magenta Mural’…..well, it was the sixties! This was my first proper band and we learned a lot from each other. For a time, we renamed ourselves ‘Heaven’ and worked with a band from Birmingham called ‘Earth’ who went on to become Black Sabbath.
I eventually left the band and Whitehaven and Frank and Dennis went on to form ‘Necromandus’ a band which toured extensively with Black Sabbath. I have no idea what became of Rod but Frank is still a drummer to be reckoned with and has had a fantastic career. Dennis unfortunately passed away some time ago as did Baz Dunnery and Billy Branch of ‘Necromandus’. I moved to Coventry in ’69 and very quickly immersed myself in the culture and got myself a job in a band called ‘Liberation’ with Jim Pryal Dek McConkey and Phil Street.
That lasted for a year or so and I met up again with Jim in another band called ‘Stepmother’ which played one show as I remember! The live music scene at that time in Coventry was very active and I eventually bumped into long time friends, Paul Hooper, Bob Jackson and Tim James and together, we formed a band called ‘Monster Magnet’. This band had as many as 8 people on stage at any one time! It all depended who was in town on the night of the gig!
We once did a ‘tribute’ show to The Beatles long before ‘tributes’ were thought of, at The Lady Godiva or ‘The Dive’ as it was known. We called ourselves ‘The Beagles’ and did all The Beatles early catalogue. If only we knew then what we know now! Paul & Bob later joined me in The Fortunes. After working for peanuts in ‘original’ bands and having to work full time as a store-man at Oscott Equipments in Coventry to make ends meet, I decided to stop suffering for my art and joined for a short time, a band named ‘The Yankee Clippers’ who were an Irish Showband. We did all the big Irish Pubs and Clubs all over the country. It was here that I met Barry Walker who asked me to join his band ‘The Eyes of Blue’ who went on to become ‘Smackee’.
Along with Barry and two lovely blokes, Kevin Connelly and Trev Hilton, we backed American acts touring in the UK, Germany, and Italy, and became the backing band of “soul legends” Percy Sledge, Ann Peebles, and The Marvelletes. As the popularity of the band increased, an ever increasing number of American artistes, chose us to back them on their visits to Europe. Pop legends such as Del Shannon, PJ Proby, Johnny Tillotson, and Bobby Vee also used us many times on their European tours. Barry then decided to change the line up to appeal to a different market and recruited sisters Dawn & Carol Glenville.
I was retained on guitar, Terry Bown was put on bass and Ricky Medlock was given the drummers stool. During this time, the group toured at least twice a year throughout Germany and entertained in major cabaret venues in such cities as Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg, Köln, and Berlin. Paul Hooper joined me in Smackee a short time later when Ricky and Terry decided to leave. Tom Mullins, a fantastic musician and very nice guy, was brought in on bass guitar. We won ‘Band Of The Year’ at one point in time (I forget when) and came second in the nationally shown ‘Search For A Star’ TV show!
In 1983, twelve years after joining Smackee, Rod Allen and Barry Pritchard from 60’s legends The Fortunes came to check me out at a show Smackee were doing at a club in Coventry. The Fortunes were looking for a possible replacement for Barry’s brother David, who unfortunately had to leave The Fortunes through ill health. I was offered the job that night, and now over thirty years later, the rest as they say…………..is history!