1st public appearance, 29/ 12 /1949. At St Helliers Hospital Carshalton.
Educated Welbeck Rd School, later renamed Gaynesford Secondary Modern High School.
I had the desire to play the drums, when I heard my Mother talking to our next door neighbour, about a film, The Gene Krupa Story. Our neighbour said she loved drummers, and as I had a school boy crush on her, I thought that’s it. Become a Drummer.
I used to get our large galvanised bath and buckets and set them up like a set of drums, and bash the hell out of them, until the neighbours would show their appreciation for my music, by shouting things like, telling me what I could do with my improvised drum kit. All very encouraging stuff.
I got my first go on a real drum kit at a cousins wedding, after I had supplied the drummer with a half pint of whiskey, I think he even danced with my brothers wife.
The drummer gave me a pair of real drum sticks, so I played them on the sound box of a banjo that we had in the house, the skin on the banjo sounded like a snare drum. I was in Heaven.
Some school friends, Alan White, and Steve Norman, and I, decided to form a group. We were born within nine days of each other, in the same hospital, I think that we were probably thinking about our first gig, while we were in the maternity ward. When we did decide to form a group, I said I would be the drummer, so I had to get a drum. I got a Snare drum, a Gigster drum, from a second hand shop in Croydon, for six pounds, I sneaked it in the house so my mother did not see it, as soon as I started playing it, she found out. I had forgotten about the noise.
Then I made a cymbal out of mild steel in our schools metal work room, and converted an old microphone stand into a deluxe cymbal stand. I then found a bass drum for £12, this was a Carlton bass drum, which I still have. I didn’t have a bass drum pedal for a while, so I used to kick the beat on it, my mild steel cymbal sounded like an orchestra of dustbin lids, but it was some thing to play.
I then saved up to get other pieces of kit, until I had some thing like a real kit.
The group that we had formed, was called The Changing Times, later to be called the Soupherbs.
We played at school dances, youth clubs, weddings, working mens clubs. Our first gig was at Sutton Gasworks club. Another unusual gig we did, was at the opening day in a boutique in Dorking, then on to a wedding in the evening. We had energy.
We recorded at a recording studio near were we lived called, R.G.Jones, the studio was in Morden.
We first did an E.P. Under the name of the Changing Times, then a L.P. Under the name of The Soupherbs. R.G.Jones record label was called Oak records. The studio played host to the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, and a lot of the name groups of that era. I have since found out that the Oak Label has become a collectors label, and that a copy of our L.P. Has been sold to a collector for quite a lot of money.
There were two rival drummers near my house, we were friends, but rivals all the same. One came and boasted about having drum lessons in a music shop in Tooting Bec, so I thought that I had better have some lessons as well. I went to the shop and started lessons. The owner of the shop was Bobby Kevin, one of London’s top session players, he gave me my first lesson, as the regular drum teacher was away. Bobby Cook was his name, he also was a top London player, he was taught by Bobby Kevin. I later started teaching at the same shop in 1976, the shop was called Cascade Music. There seems to be a Dynasty brewing.
I had decided to leave The Soupherbs, as I wanted to play more Jazzy type of music, so I started playing as a free lance drummer. This allowed me to gain more experience in playing a wider variety of music and to meet more musicians. My drum teacher Bobby Cook offered me a six months work on the Queen Elizabeth, but as I was in a sheet metal apprenticeship at the time I felt that I should continue with the apprenticeship, deep down, I didn’t think I was musically ready. I began to get a lot of Dance Band gigs, good training for keeping a steady tempo, also learning all the dance rhythms. Mambo and quicksteps one night, then in Rock and Roll groups, playing serious Gene Vincent to a pub full of Rockers the next night, it kept me on my toes.
I did some out side broadcasts for London Weekend TV. Residencies, Pantomimes another great experience for following slapstick routines. Also there was a good supply of possible future girl friends in the chorus line.
I had an audition with Gilbert Webster, at the Guild hall School of Music as a part time student, studying Timpani. Another huge form of experience. When I had worked hard in his lessons, he would telephone my home, and ask my mother to me a chip buttie for my efforts. I learnt a lot from him, not only music, but how to respect the student that you are working with.
I formed a rock trio with a organist Dave Simmonds, and Adrian Brewster. The group was called Rusty Slug. I was still doing other gigs while we worked on original music for Rusty Slug.
Rusty Slug worked in Switzerland, we played alongside The Sweet, the English pop group.
We were also booked to perform in The Volkshaus in Zurich with the American rock band M.C.5.
We had worked on a mime that I had written with music, called The Insect Revolution. We recruited some drama students to act out the mime, while we played the music. The reaction from audience was total stunned silence, I don’t think they had seen that sort of thing at a rock concert before. The combination of drama and rock music was still in its early stages then. On returning back to England we decided to add Guitar to the band with more vocals. We met Felix Cross, also we changed the name to Still Life. During that time toured Southern Norway, and back in England, we played along side Arthur Brown, Roxy Music, The Edgar Broughton Band. With performances at The Round House, and twice at the Marquee club London. Still Life disbanded in 1975. Back to sheet metal work.
I came out of the metal factory one day, and saw an advert in a shop window for a drummer to work in a pub in Peckham, the Montpelier Arms, for five nights a week. I went to the audition and the Pianist there was a Pianist that I had worked with in the rock and roll pubs in 1968, he was known as blind Billy. He played just like Jerry Lee Lewis. No more sheet metal work. I started there and stayed for about three years.
I also started teaching in the music shop at Tooting Bec. The shop was run by Don Lushers Wife, Diana Lusher the Trombonist. Through them I met the world class drummer Kenny Clare , and had a great conversation about Drums, Music, and teaching drums. At that time there was a huge amount of work for Organ drums duos, in South London. There was a pub at Camberwell Green where a lot musicians would meet up for a jam session, where you do your stuff and get gigs and meet other players, while having a few beers. While playing lounge work, I was also playing in a Jazz Rock band Run by an amazing Canadian Saxophone/ Flute player, Mike Forbes. We did some recording, but he had to move back to Canada. Then I worked with a band that did sessions for London Music Publishers, making demos for their artists, also doing the lounge scene in South and West London.
I moved to Chatham Kent, were I played with local club bands, and residencies in restaurants backing cabaret artists. One of the bands I worked with was run by a singer, who ran a chicken farm, he paid the band with trays of eggs, he was known as Eggs. Then I worked with the Roger Humphrey`s Country Band, doing dep gigs, then I joint the band full time. We did a lot of work on the American Military Bases in England and Germany, and back to Zurich, in the old town of Zurich as well as the Country clubs up and down England. We played at the Peterborough Country Festival in our own rite, and as the house backing band for some of the American singers. The band played a six week residency in Kristiansand, Norway, with a new guitarist, John Stannard. The Bass player of the band, Dickie Day, a legend in his own rite.
We also did tours with American and Canadian Country singers when they toured Europe. One tour with an American singer that we did, who I cant remember his name now, while we were in mid set, a stick flew out of my hands and hit him on the back of his head. I had to retrieve my stick, and tripped up over a cable on the stage and fell flat on my face, the audience thought it was part of the act. Melba Montgomery, Melba was a good and genuine person. Also with Dick Damerons mystery tour. They were good tours. I left that band about 1983/4.
I began to do more teaching in the schools in the Medway area, also a lot of private tuition, still working in Cascade music at Tooting Bec,and playing in dance bands and jazz groups, up till 1990.
I moved to Fife Scotland, I got a job working in Edinburgh teaching Drums and Percussion in the State schools, later I worked in St Leonards Private school in St Andrews. In both St Leonards, and Edinburgh I met and worked with some excellent Musicians. My first engagement in Scotland was the show West Side Story, nothing like the deep end to learn to swim. On the day of the first rehearsal, I was just about to leave the house, I had a visit from St Andrews C.I.D. They thought that I was involved with a scam bringing in foreign workers on forged work permits. Someone was using my name. So I had to ring the M.D. Of the show to say I would be late, because of my guests from St Andrews. Its always good to make a good impression on the first rehearsal.
Working in Edinburgh was one of the best things to happen to me for my own musical education.
I had to teach in areas that I had some knowledge, but needed improvement, which was a good thing for me. Part of my job was to coach the percussion section for the Edinburgh schools Wind band, also the Regional Wind band percussion section, a great experience for me. I also coached the rhythm section for the Edinburgh schools Jazz Orchestra. With Dan Hallem, he knows his jazz.
I was also playing with a great six piece jazz group called Diminished 5th. Known as Dim five.
I played and met some good players and great people in that band. It was said that you join Dim five, but you never leave it, a bit like a musical Mafia. In my Edinburgh schools, I set up percussion ensembles, in each school, this was a good way in introducing other types of percussion instruments to students that they were not unaccustomed with. It was also a good way of getting the heads of the music departments to buy more percussion instruments. Out of that I was asked to form The Edinburgh Schools Percussion Ensemble. We did a great concert with Evlyn Glennie, at The Usher Hall Edinburgh, that was a great experience for me, and the members of the Ensemble. One of the members of that ensemble who was one my pupils at Broughton High School, Andrew Bain has gone on to become on of the U.K’s leading Jazz Drummers and educationalists. As I said earlier, there is a dynasty brewing.
I met a wonderful lady, Miss Diana Mackie, who lived on the Isle of Skye. As a treat that day I took Diana to a play in Edinburgh called The Corpse, it was a comedy, we had a good day. I began to visit Skye quite a lot on weekends and holidays. On one visit Diana showed me a painting that she had done, called Breaking Weather. The idea was to make a film of the painting, giving the viewer the sensation of be in the painting. Diana asked me to compose a sound track for the film.
Diana had got this idea from an exhibition the she held in Portree. A friend with a video camera had filmed the painting, and by accident walked towards the image, which gave Diana the feeling of going into the painting. We then found a film company in Inverness, HCVF Television. Who was prepared to put up with these two lunatics. A lady called Anna, their media technician, got the job of controlling Diana and I, on this project. We had a ball working on the film, Anna’s expertise in this field was amazing, as we were all doing something new it was a total collaboration. When I was with the Edinburgh Jazz Orchestra, we made a C.D. At the music department of Edinburgh University. The sound engineer was a student his name was Oliver Kass. During the jazz recordings it was obvious that he new his stuff. So I approached Oliver to see if he would be interested in recording our sound track, and as he not done any thing on that scale before he was up for it. We recorded the whole thing in a week. I was playing percussion, my step daughter Rebecca played the Double Bass, and a Cellist Robin Mason. At that time I did not have a computer to work on, so I wrote it all by hand. So I was not able to hear what the end result would be until it was all recorded. I did not tell Diana that until it was finished. We were very happy with the result, so we decided to add four more Images, and link them to the first one, and titled it, The Journey.
I decided to move to Skye, from Fife, Diana and I opened No.Ten. Our self catering cottage.
I left working in Edinburgh that year, also gave up the drum chair with Dim five, as I said earlier you don’t leave Dim five, they came up and played at our wedding in 2009, also the jazz group that was playing with at the time played at our wedding, that was MacJazz. With Neil MacBeat on guitar. I had a busy night that night. We also had a great Fiddle Player doing Ceilidh music, Farquar MacDonald.
I had an accident and fractured my left wrist in three places, I wont do the Tommy Cooper joke.
Diana insisted that the doctors at Broadford Hospital did not just shove plaster on my wrist and send me home. Because I am a musician she asked them be careful on how delt with me. They were excellent, and sent me to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where they did a great job on my wrist. I worked on the physiotherapy that I was instructed to do, and I feel that I am playing better than ever.
I do not recommend to my pupils that breaking your wrist is the best way to improve your drumming.
Earlier this summer, A Dutch couple came down to visit Diana`s Gallery, while we were talking I mentioned the film we had done. It turned out that the guy was a Dutch film director. We showed him and his wife the film, and they liked the concept, as it turned out Diana and I were going to visit The Netherlands. So a meeting was set up with Dan and his wife, and we were introduced to a Dance student Tina, who is a very talented dancer. Also we wanted to include some poetry that was written for the film by Dianas daughter Amy. A friend of ours Mr Aonghas Phadraig Caimbeul. One of Scotland’s leading Gaelic Writers/ Poets, has done some voice overs for the film. So it is work in progress. I am still thumping the tubs, in a covers band, The Fulltones, playing some 60s & 70s stuff and other things. I have gone back to my roots as they say.