Thursday 20 December 2012

For the Christmas, and New Year period I am leaving my Rush experiences, and telling a short tale of my experiences as a roadie in the '60's, and one time a little later  when I met a famous band I had never heard of.

Part 1

It is very important that you believe me when I say any stories I recount here are all true. I may not get the year right, but they all happened to me and, are not me telling yarns I have heard from other people. My main association at this time was with a local Carlisle band called Norman's Conquests

Those that know me realize that I have been lucky, and met, and remained friendly with a couple of so called “ famous “ folk during my life. The best known over here probably is a soccer player called Stan Bowles, who is still one of my best mates.
However the thing about a lot of musicians, and singers that we played with back in the sixties was, they were not all well known then. Of course some were, but I have never been in awe of anyone, so talking to these celebrities has never been a problem. Of course the majority were those who I met once, or maybe twice, and then never came across in person again.

I would like to start with such a case, though in fact I had never heard of the guy at the time, even though I probably should have.

In December 1965, Norman’s Conquests were booked for a mini tour of the south of England some three hundred miles away. Now this was almost unheard of for a local band. They were very good at what they did, and were very reliable in a world where time keeping wasn’t always adhered to. We had five gigs to play in seven days. We really thought we had made the big time.

All the venues were around the London area, but the only one I can remember was the final one, in Camberley, Surrey, the Sunday night before we came home.

We turned up to find a double Hammond organ, at right angles, so the guy could lay both at once, already on the stage, and some very seriously looking long haired rock people milling around. Peter Smithson, our lead guitarist plugged in his guitar only for his amp to blow. He called me over, and asked me to go, and see if we could use their lead amp. I told him to go, and ask himself. He just looked at me in amazement, and said in a hushed voice “ But that is God, I can’t talk to him “ Bemused, I went over and, asked who the lead was. A couple of the guys looked at me like I was insane, but one came over, and offering his hand, and said , “ that’s me mate “. I explained the situation and he immediately replied. “ I was just coming to see you, we have a stand in bass player, and the pratt hasn’t brought an amp with him..“ I suggested leaving our bass, and their lead amp on for both groups. This was agreed.

Our band played first, doing their usual pop stuff, Herman’s Hermits, Beatles etc. The boys wore suits, and ties with Norman wearing a different colour. Then as I stood by the stage waiting for the curtain to be pulled back for the other band, I heard this incredible sound, the Hammond being played, and a guitar like I had never heard before live. I stood there totally amazed for the next hour or so as this wonderful music was played.

The band was called The John Mayall’s Blues Breakers and the guy on lead guitar was Eric “ Slowhand “ Clapton. How my band ever got through the second set I will never know. After an even better second session from Clapton and co., Eric came across, shook my hand, and thanked us for the use of our equipment.

He was a lovely friendly guy who gave a couple of tips to our dumb struck lead, wished us all the best, and disappeared into the night. At no time on stage did he ever speak, never mind sing. He seemed really shy so it was a surprise in later years to hear him chatting away on stage, and singing. For obvious reason he has always been one of my favourite guitarists, although as you will discover later on, by no means the only famous one I met.

That night I met a beautiful young girl who worked for Radio Caroline, in the office, and for some reason decided a northern roadie was cool. When I later moved to London we used to meet up quite often.

I started with a high profile “ meeting “ mainly to get your interest, but also to show you how easy, and not unusual it was, to play with, and meet top musicians in the 60’s. Something, I guess, that would be very hard to do today.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year.

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