The new album 'A Long Road Home' by Steve Somers
The new album 'A Long Road Home' by Steve Somers
My father had been in the Army during the war; he had worked his way up to Major. I had played brass instruments through school and fancied a career in music. I would have liked to go on to music college but that wasn’t an option at 14 when I left school. I said to my father I wanted to pursue a career in professional music. He told me the only way I could do that was to join the Army, which I did whilst still 14 years old. I should have been 15 - that was the school leaving age but my birthday is in August, the school holidays. I signed on still and had to sign on again after my birthday. I did not like Army life, I would have done what I was told without all the shouting! My initiation by the older boys was to have a broom passed through the sleeves of my battle dress tunic and I was suspended between two metal cupboards, my trousers taken down, my......area...shaved none too gently, the articles boot blacked with cherry blossom and then I was put under the floor boards for the evening. They thought it was hilarious, I didn’t.
The NCOs enjoyed yelling at kids. I enjoyed the playing all day , everyday and must have become quite good on my cornet because I gained my junior corporal's stripe and extra pay by playing ‘The Carnival of Venice’ complete with cadenza. On a weekend leave my mother and I were shopping in Chelmsford and I saw a Rossetti ‘Lucky Seven’ guitar in a shop window. My mother forbade me to buy it but I went back and bought it with a soldiers shilling! That was the start of my guitar career and I taught myself to play on those long nights in the barrack hut. Unfortunately I got a bad reaction to the heavy serge battle dress we had to wear everyday and was not allowed to go to hot countries. My band, when they became men at 17 , were being sent to Hong Kong and I would have had to stay in Bury St Edmunds , Suffolk for 10 years as an instructor and I wanted to play, so I came out and into the real world of rough and tumble music.
I got a job in a music shop called ‘Bill Lewingtons’ on Shaftesbury Avenue in London and had to commute from the East coast of Essex to London everyday. A lot of the time I would stay up in town with a guitar playing friend I had made in the shop and we would take our guitars out and play the folk clubs of old London town. The Holy Ground, Bungees etc, Great fun, it felt so risky and we met and played alongside some amazing people who went on to become quite famous . I grew a little beard , smoked a long cherry wood pipe and called myself Rufus Boot. I've never considered myself as daring, but thinking back, I suppose I did live on the edge a bit. I slept on many floors and woke up on a golf course once, if my parents had found out, I think that might have been the end of that career. I hung out with some great people, a few of whom are still alive.
I let the shop with my friend Graham who I nicknamed Bub because it sounded more Showbiz. We walked the streets of London with our guitars, walking into venues and asking for a gig. We would get our guitars out and sing in harmony. Sometimes we got a gig and others, we were just thrown out. That went on for a while, until we found an agent who had contacts with the ‘Working Men’s Clubs’ up North and a whole new era was born. We launched into Clubland and were working well, but only on the weekends, no earning money in the week. We would (I would, Bub didn’t) drive from East coast of Essex to Putney in London, pickup Bub and then drive to Newcastle on a Saturday day, play the club Saturday night, sleep in the car to save money, play Sunday lunch, Sunday night and drive home straight after the show. That’s when I learnt to stay awake behind the wheel ! We had been doing this for some time when our agent said she had a whole weeks work in a nightclub down by Portsmouth. We would sleep in the club for the week as part of the deal. Wow we thought, this is heaven. We were a Cabaret act singing in harmony with two guitars. The last thing our agent Pepe Knight said to us was,”just take care of yourselves boys”. I sounded like a rough house to us, but that’s ok, we’ve played some pretty places ! It turned out to be a gay club and the band who were backing us for the week thought it most amusing to rename themselves ‘Queensway” for the week. We are talking mid 1960’s and we had come across anything like this up North in the working mens clubs. The first night was an absolute triumph, the crowd went mad, although we did think it strange it was all men. We started to get an idea when they started dancing together in their black lace shirts and flared trousers, we still thought they must all know each other and were just having fun. When the gig was over there was a guy sat on his own and looking very different to the others in his open neck white shirt and tweet jacket. He told me he had loved the show and could he buy me a drink to say thank you. When he asked me if I was gay, I hadn’t heard the word used in the modern parlance before (it was 1967) and Isaid, “Yes I’m very happy !” , I had some explaining to do. They were all lovely people , just up for a bit of fun !!! We took it in shifts to sleep that week.
Bub and I were working away a lot and I was very good to my parents, I hardly ever went home ! Our agent Pepe, told us that she had a singer who was going to be big, she was living with Kiki Dee at the time, called Shane Grey who had a contract with a club in Canada for six months work, but she needed a band. I sold my beloved Epiphone Texan (original, made in USA) and bought an electric bass and amp. We brought in a drummer friend to make up a guitar, bass and drums trio. We became Shane Grey and The Shaymen. We rehearsed for a few months, we gig ged around the clubs to bed the act in and then the contract in Canada fell through. Bub and Shane were having a ‘Thing’ and went of as a duo to make beautiful music in a holiday camp where they stayed until I found them years later. I told him , since our parting, I had won New Faces as a singer/songwriter, he told me one thing he had learnt was he could not be ‘Bull shushed !” Anymore . oh the irony of it .
After Shane Grey and The Shaymen, I had to earn some money quickly, so I took a temporary job catching carboard of the end of a line for a carton maker, which is where I met my next Partner Gary Ambrose. He was doing the same, just trying to earn a little money with an idea of going professional. We hit it of, I was playing electric bass and he played guitar, we both loved the Everly Brothers, so Steve & Whizz Ambrose were born. Yes I nicknamed him too ?? We did really well for about 5 years, playing clubs, pubs up and down the country. One eveing we had two gigs in the same night, which was becoming normal for us as we played cabaret sets. A single hour set and on to the next gig. It was Gary's birthday and he had his mum, dad and new wife with him so he took his own car, I followed behind in the van with the sound system. They had all had a drink at the first gig, it was in the early 70's (not an excuse!) and we were rushing to the next gig. We had to go around the back of the venue to get in the stage door which opened straight on to the stage. We were late and in a rush, Gary cut the corner trying to get around the back quickly and ran straight in to a motorbike coming the other way. Luckily the guy was alright, dazed, but ok. We left Gary's mum and dad looking after this poor guy on the roadside and proceeded to get into the club, get dressed and straight on stage. In the middle of our show, a policeman came through the same door at the back of the stage behind us and took Gary away, right in front of the audience. They were all laughing , thinking it was part of the act. That was when I swore I would buy another guitar and learn some more songs for such an occasion . I had to finish the show on my own as best I could with his guitar, there was only one big problem, he was left handed and I was not.
This was an incredible time of my life, I had been working with groups and duos. Steve & Whizz Ambrose had been up to London Victoria Theatre to audition for 'Opportunity Knocks' with Hughie Green. When we got there it was a disaster, there was a queue of bands all with drum kits, amplifiers etc. right around the theatre outside and up the street. There was no where to park and bands were just leaving their vans on double yellow lines and getting towed away by the police. They didn't care, they were going to be famous. We gave up and went home. I had started writing songs when I was with Whizz, not for our duo show, but just for my own creative release. So when we didn't have a gig, I would take my guitar and sit in the corner of a pub and play my own songs. I was playing in the bar of the 'Lion & Lamb' hotel i Chelmsford when a guy came up and told me I should be on 'New Faces' the latest big thing in TV talent shows. I agreed whole heartedly, but wasn't quite sure how I was going to do that. He told me he would manage me if I wanted ? I said 'great', gave him my numbefr and forgot all about it. I thought if auditions were going to be anything like 'Opp Knocks', I've got no chance. I got a call a short while later from the guy, asking me if I'd like to be part of some auditions at Blazers night club in Windsor ? The producer Les Cox would be there with the team and I could use the house band as backing. I was called the New Faces audition show and the public were allowed in to watch and applaud if they felt so moved. I was a great show, the band had music parts for my songs, I got to sit on a stool centre stage and sing three of my own songs and they went well. I got listed for the TV show ! I time came around and Pat and I went up to Birmingham and booked in to the Holiday Inn hotel, paid for by ATV ! My manager was wafting about with a big cigar like Lou Grade. The show was recorded on a Tuesday in the Bull Ring studios in front of a live audience and a panel of professional judges and put out to the nation on the following Saturday. The idea was that the judges would give their vote and then the viewers could fill in a coupon in the TV Times to vote for their favourite. If you watch the video in TV/Radio, you'll see some famous old faces. I had a good performancem but came second to a good group, so no shame in that. Pat and I had had a holiday booked to go away with her Mum and Dad camping in Italy for three weeks and and it had been booked for months before I knew the date for New Faces. As it worked out, we were to leave on the Friday after recording the show on Tuesday. So we missed the transmission, but had asked a friend to video it for me. I won by viewers vote, had no idea that I had won and the 'All Winners' show was on whilst we were still away in Italy. We had no mobile phones then, and the All Winners show was at the London Paladium . Yep !! Missed it !!
But I got more publicity from the national press,my picture appeared in all the national daily's, there was a man hunt for me to tell me I'd won and was going to the Dream gig of a lifetime. The New Faces team had to change the format of the program after that to a 'Viewers Panel' live in the studio at the time of recording.
Lenny Henry was recording a TV show for the BBC in Huntingdon called 'Lenny comes to Town' and I had been asked to go and interview him after the show for BBC Radio. We had all been given tickets to see the show. Little did I know what lay in wait for me
After I’d won New Faces and had had the problem with management that had cut short my singer/songwriter career, I answered an advert in the Melody Maker. I was asked to join the hit making group The Settlers. They had started in 1964 and had had a few chart successes with things like ‘The lightning tree’ used by ATV as the theme to ‘Folly Foot’ the kids series. When I joined, the group was in a state of renaissance and I took over from John Fyffe, the original tenor guitar and vocals guy. But the other members would change quite rapidly. I seemed to be, apart from Mike Jones the founding father, the only constant. Mike wasn’t the easiest fish to swim with ! Before Patty ( my long term singing partner) joined, there was a succession of female singers that would come in all bushy tailed and hopeful, only to leave quite quickly with their bushy tail between their legs ! We were very busy at that time and would pickup the lady vocalist on the way to the gig ! Yes, that was the first time we’d met her and we would rehearse in the back of the van, because the previous miss golden tonsils had quit the night before. Man, you don’t know the half of it !! I was rooting through the scrap books and found this photo of the Settlers when my new wife, who was quite boyish thanks to an ‘A la mode’ haircut, had to stand in for the guitarist who had left the night before. It kept me on my toes I can tell you.
This is the Settlers back in the day, recording a track for a new album. The female vocalist at that time was one of those girls I mentioned in the previous Story, we picked her up on the way to the gig, she had been with us a couple of weeks here. She had been recommended by a friend and we didn’t know her name. She got into the van and we went to the gig and it was, as usual, miles away, so we asked her name and she told us it was ‘Tarn Wiggler’. We’ll, call me old fashioned, but I smelt a rat !! We said, ‘that can’t be your real name, we are going to have to introduce you to the audience’, but she insisted it was ‘Tarn Wiggler’.. We were playing the ‘Talk of the North’ in Workington for the week and staying, as usual, in what the business called, ‘Pro digs’ . We went straight to the club in the Afternoon and stayed there until we had finished the show at 1100 hrs. As usual, the key had been left somewhere safe and sandwiches and a flask of tea had been left out, so we didn’t see our hosts until breakfast the next morning. I was first down followed by Rodney the bass player ( in the picture, another story involving the police and sausage rolls another time) and then Tarn Wiggler. We were sat waiting for our eggs and bacon to arrive when in walks the husband of landlady carrying our food, when he stopped dead in his tracks with his mouth open. We inquired as to his health and all he could say was “Mother, get in here ! “. Mother duly entered, stood there and said, ‘Bloody hell ! , I didn’t think we’d see you again!’ This aimed at Our Tarn Wiggler. Apparently she’d been in the pop group Coco and they’d got so fed up with her, they paid the bill, snuck out in the middle of the night and left her there. She didn’t last long with us, I know it’s a difficult life and you must be strong, but I’m afraid she was just so annoying, but hey I’m just a singing guitarist right ! We used to do split shows with the New Seekers and we were working with them in Scotland on a show and they told us she had gone to them, but got fired. Apparently she was stood at the side of the stage in a £2000 dress and as they were being introduced she had proceeded to rip the dress off her back. She left them that night. I’ll tell you about Rodney and sausage rolls another time.
The Tin Budgie
When I was in The Settlers in the 70’s and 80’s, we would tour the Middle East a lot, every three months or so. We would get taken to places were British guys and gals were working and hopefully brighten their day. Working out there was quite restrictive I was led to believe and the chaps working for the oil companies had to stay on the worksite in a compound and were not allowed out until it was time to go home. Sometimes some of the guys had been on camp for months, with little contact with the outside world and would go a little stir crazy. If anybody caused trouble, they would have their contract terminated and they would be sent home the next morning on a Gulf Air 747. This was known as getting the ‘Tin Budgie’,
We were on one of our usual trips down the gulf. We would fly into Bahrain, play the Bahrain Hilton, the Intercontinental and the British club. The two hotels were always quite a Regal affair, but the British club could get quite rowdy. We had moved on down the gulf through various other stops and adventures and on to Dubai, were Shell had an oil compound. When we arrived, it was like something out of ‘It Ain’t Arf Hot’ from the TV. They had rigged up a makeshift stage with scaffolding and palm leaves by the pool. What you have to understand is, these guys lived in a compound, the workers were not allowed out, but to make them feel at home there was a bar. I know right, in the middle east !! a pool and squash courts. They had put stage lighting around the scaffolding, which was really from the lorry park. We were welcomed like long lost family, taken straight to the bar and plied with drinks after our flight from Abu Dhabi. The show was at 9 o’clock, everyone was well oiled before that. All the sound equipment had been set up before we went to the pool and the audience was roaring. We went down a storm. That’s when things started to get weird. They hadn’t told us about the sea mist that rolled in like a wall of fog up the beach, which is where the pool was in a fenced in area, exactly at 10 pm every night, which is why they’d put us on at 9 pm. They hadn't realised the crowd would want to keep us on stage for longer than an hour. The fog on the Tyne had nothing on this stuff, we couldn’t see the audience, the sound equipment was starting to spark and the stage lighting was taking on a strange glow as the sodium lamps failed.
If you’ve got this far with this, you probably think that’s the story…..OH NO! We all retired back to the bar, guitars in hand and continued to entertain the troops. We were taking a break, when we overheard one guy in the group next to us saying, “OK for £1000 sterling from each of you I’ll do it.” ??? The all laughed and said OK you’re on. He left the bar and returned a few minutes later, completely soaked to the skin, saying, “You lot owe me 5000 pounds. The whole bar emptied and we followed. This lunatic had driven his pickup truck through the 15-foot-high fence and into the swimming pool. All the electrics had obviously shorted out and all the lights were on, the windscreen wipers were flailing away under water and the hazard warning lights were flashing and just as a final embellishment, he had caused a tidal wave that finished what the sea mist had missed with our sound gear !
He got the ‘Tin Budgie’ in the morning.
Life on the road eh!
Rodney was a fine fellow. I had joined the Settlers in a period of change. I had taken over from John Fife , the previous guitar/vocalist , who had decided he had had enough of show business and wanted to settle down and run his own pub. Cindy Kent the female vocalist was still there, but was going into the church as a vicar. It was really just me and the founder member Mike Jones. The bass player, as before, was more a background kind of guy. I was also a bass player, but Mike wanted me up front with him to share the patter. We worked out this thing where I would stand behind him and play the left hand of his guitar and the right hand of his fiddle while he played with his left hand on his fiddle and.......well you get the idea. It looked great, but I can only imagine what it really sounded like.
We were looking for a double bass player and Rodney came up, he’d played with a few big people, Slim Whitman, Carl Denver, so we thought we’d give hime a go. Well Rodney was a force of nature, a joke every second of the day and he didn’t care who he showed his bits to. Yes, that’s what I said ! We were staying in a small private hotel in Bristol when Valery Ann was the lady singer for a short while. One morning we were at breakfast when a voice came bellowing from the top of the stairs, ‘Hey Valery, came and look at my new stage suit” Valery was quite prim and proper and Rodney was always trying to surprise her. What Rodney couldn’t have known was that Valery had taken herself off to the loo downstairs and it was only Mike, me and the landlady. We were all instantly interested, so got up from the table and walked as a group to the bottom of the stairs. When we looked up, Rodney was stood there in cowboy boots and a leather belt around his waist....that’s all. Where he just smiled and said, “What do you think ?” I remember the landladies nonchalant reply to this day, as she turned calmly to go back to the breakfast room, “You need a bigger ounfit to make an impression dear !” She had had pro entertainers before !
The Blue Boar services at Watford Gap on the M1 motorway was always the place to stop after a gig. It felt like we were nearly home and time for a cuppa and a musicians breakfast. Two eggs, thousands on a raft (beans on toast), red lead (tinned tomatoes), Jokeys (Jokeys whips, chips) , and a widow or two (don’t ask !). All the bands would meet there at three or four in the morning after the long journey home. Rodney was, as usual, in high spirits and he would always flirt with the girls on the till. There was always a big pile of something on the counter, like pies or buns for when the locusts arrived. Rodney would play this trick on the girls at the till, he would take a bite out of the pie right on the top and put it back on the pile. When he got to the till, he would say, “here look someone’s had a bite out of that one !” He would then pay for it and take it. Everyone would laugh. This particular early morning,Rodney was parking the van and the rest of us were in first, we’d got our tea and bun and were sat by the rail just watching to see if any other bands were coming in, we would quite often meet Marty Wilde or Joe Brown. Rodney arrived and proceeded to shuffle along with the queue. He saw us and started to wave his arms indicating he was about to do the old ‘Bite out of the pie’ trick. What he couldn’t see was that two policemen had come in for a cuppa and were three or four people behind him in the queue. We could see all of this and were trying to warn him without letting on to the police. In true Rodney style, the pie is picked up, a large bite is taken and the pie replaced. At this point the sharp eye of the law has clocked what is going on and so has Rodney. He only got away with it because the girl on the till recognised him and said , “ oh he always does that, then he buys it and buys me a cup of tea, don’t you dear !” We laughed and so did the police. BUT that is not the whole story
After our Blue Boar break we were on our way again London bound, when we were pulled over by the police, not the same ones from the services, who asked us if we had any sausage rolls in the van. We said no, but we’ve got an old cheese sandwich if they were hungry. They told us a band had run into the Blue Boar and pinched a whole tray of sausage rolls, making off in a white Transit van like ours. They decided it wasn’t us that had done the evil deed and let us go. Not twenty minutes later a transit van came flying past us with someone mooning out a the passenger window and throwing sausage rolls at us. We put that one down as one of our stranger journeys home.
I've been meaning to tell you this story for a while. After the Settlers broke up, Patty and I went out as 'Somers & Co', we did a load of work backing American and British stars on BBC TV. We were always a 'good value' booking, because Patty would sing harmony with me and play percussion and trumpet, while I would sing harmony, play guitar, double bass, trumpet and harmonica and on one occasion, euphonium. But TV work wasn’t regular enough to keep us going and I had a wife and family, not to mention the mortgage. We had to get ourselves out as a cabaret act in our own right. At first Patty wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, so I started Somers & Co, which was basically anybody I could get to join me to make a show of it. Patty decided she would like to work with me and we had Pete the last and best bass player from the Settlers with us when we needed to be three. We would play all sort of weird and wonderful gigs. We were taking on tour by a major truck making company (I can’t remember the name ?? Dodge I think ?) to help sell trucks to Transport companies. The show consisted of a darts challenge by famous TV darts players of the day, Jockey Wilson was a regular, and us as the musical distraction. All the truckdrivers that worked for the transport companies were invited to a free booze up and a game of darts with the champions, what could go wrong? We did this on a weekly basis for a while and earnt good money, but some nights were hard.
Anyway, that is not the story, that is just how we got to be Somers & Co. We were booked into a social club in Kent for a ‘Cabaret night’. I loved variety shows, you never knew who you would be working alongside. This particular night, there was the obligatory Comedian/compare, Somers & Co and a ‘Lady Magic Act’ called ‘Mystique’. She was tall, slim and bedecked in sequins, very glamorous. She did a few card tricks and things with birds like they do and then came the big finale. She got an innocent member of the audience to handcuff her, load her into a large hessian sack and tie the top together. She had instructed the audience to count down in seconds from 'ten to zero' as soon as the sack was tied. I should have told you ‘Mystique’ was the ‘Star Turn’ for the evening and by the time she got on, again the audience was ready for anything. Our innocent audient had duly manacled her wrists together and tied her in the sack. As she hit the floor, she started rolling around the stage like an angry cat in a bag, the audience where dutifully counting down from 10—9—8—Still flailing about on the floor 7==6==5. At this stage she seemed to be ..well levitating I think you might call it, the sack was leaping into the air and come down again with a crash, 4—3—2………I think there was serious anticipation in the whole room at this point, thinking that the tall and lovely ‘Mystique’ had planned the whole exciting build-up and would emerge ‘Cool, Calm and Triumphant’ on the count of ‘ONE’.
Unfortunately ‘One’ came and went, some folks were starting to laugh, some booed and just like some rowdy football crowd they seemed to descend into a collective repeated chant of…..’ONE’….ONE’…’ONE’ , It was a car crash, disaster, call it what you will. After some considerable time, that seemed like hours, ‘Mystique’ emerged from the sack with one wrist still manacled, rather sweaty and looking slightly less than the Christian Dior perfume advert. We renamed her. ’Mistake’
When I was working on a BBC2 TV series with Pete Sayers called ‘The Electric Music Show’ , one of the guests was American singing star Diane Solomon. As it turned out she lived in the next village over from me in Suffolk. I was invited over to afternoon tea and asked if I would bring a guitar. I met her husband/manager David, who was nice and had been a famous footballer. After a song or two, which I have to say went quite well, David asked me if I would join the band as Diane needed someone who could play bass, guitar and sing, the trumpet was a bonus. We went all over the place, it was great, five star luxury where ever we went. People loved Diane, we would fly on the Ford Motor companies private jet to foreign places and get spoilt rotten. The show involved six guys in the band, plus , for the bigger shows like the Ford corporate parties worldwide, the band of the Blackwatch highland pipers. It was quite a spectacle. The encore after the audience had thought we’d finished was ‘Mull of Kintyre’ , we would play the rousing Chorus and audience would sing at the top of their voices and then halfway through the song, a cloud of smoke and in came the Highland pipes and drums. The song before the encore was ‘Music was my first love’ originally by John Miles. I need to tell you at this point the Reg Webb the piano player was blind from childhood. He was an absolutely stunning player, very Stevie Wonder like, but had two glass eyes. It was my job to look after him. We would share a room together when we were away, that sort of thing. The sound crew would aways take care of the gear and I would make sure Reg was with me and at the right place at the right time. We were playing the Casino in Monte Carlo for the end of season bash. The management had built a stage on the back of the terrace, with a scaffolding extension jutting out over the beach. This erection was fifteen feet above the beach. We had gone down a storm, Diane had been glamorous and wonderful. All the great and the good were there and some of the richest people in town. We were in the middle of our final song , the afore mentioned, John Miles ‘Music was my first love’ which has a really rousing section in it where the band gets really loud. We didn’t know , but there was a plan to let fireworks off from the beach under the stage. This started during the John Miles song in the quieter passages and when it got to the crescendo.......’BANG’ !!! They let a thunder flash off in a dustbin . All of us other guys in the band did not know this was going to happen, but we had an eye on the fireworks going up before, but poor Reg was completely oblivious to this and when the thunderflash went off, he fell clean off his piano stool and a terrible noise came out of his piano. We kept playing, but I had one hand trying to play the bass and one hand trying to lift Reg back up into his seat so we could finish the song and the show.
Diane of course retained her composure throughout all of this mayhem, just like the star she is.
I’d like to dedicate this story to the memory of Reg
As the days pass now, more and more stories come flooding back. I think of my life like cabbages and kings. I was doing my Daily show for the breakaway radio station from BBC radio Cambridgeshire When the Prime minister of Great Britain came into my Radio station in Peterborough. JM had come in for an interview, he had agreed to it as chancellor of the exchequer, but was now Prime minister and he had honoured his commitment. He came in and did the interview, but on leaving he wanted to pop into the little room . I was in the studio wrapping up things when all the fire alarms went off. Now I am senior producer and fire warden responsible for getting everyone one out of the building. We at the BBC take these things very seriously , so I would be last man to leave. I had got all the staff out of the the building, the fire brigade were stomping up the stairs with hoses and big boots, but the Prime Minister was still indisposed and refusing to come out . His detective, sworn to guard to premiere with his life, had not moved from outside the door, I was trying to pursued the country’s leader to evacuate the building, when the leading fire person got to the top of the stairs where we all where and discovered that the detective who was guarding the boss whilst in the loo , had been having a crafty cigarette right under a smoke detector!!
A true story
When the kids were young, it was neccessary to suppliment my musicians income, so in the early 80's when the Settlers broke up and before the next thing took me around the world, I worked for BBC Radio as a freelance Program presenter/producer and at times I was the only person in the radio station in Cambridge. This particular Saturday, being the only one left in the building, I had to finish my Country music Program and switch the stations output over to BBC Radio 2 to join the live football coverage. I had never done this before, but was assured that it was an easy job, 'Whilst playing your last record, pre fade, off air, Radio 2 which is on one of the buttons on the sound desk iin front of you, press, say good bye and fade across to their output' . Well what could be easier ? In my usual fashion, I forgot to check or rehease this and when the time came, the record was playing, I looked for the button that said Radio 2............THERE WASN'T ONE !! the nearest I could see was 2 LDS so I prefaded that and heard Mel Smith and Griff Reece thingy rattling on about the pitch and the players. That's it I thought, I made my TTFN's and cross faded to Mel and Griff. Locked up the shop and went home. At 9.30 pm that night I got a call from the station program organiser who asked me if I knew what I'd done ??? 'No ?, I said in all innocence. He'd just had a call from the big Boss who had listened to the entire football match on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and didn't realise he was listening to 'TV SOUND ONLY' , including the action replays of fouls and goals etc., until the Pink Panther came on afterwards, which is only music, no talking. Apparently that was a first in the history of the BBC ! I later found out that the button I shoukd have pressed, was the one with the dirty piece of paper oon it, because everybody always presses that one !! How was I to know. There were to be other 'Firsts' for the BBC at my hands.
I had a guitarist friend who was playing in the Pete Sayers band and with Lonnie Donegan. Lonnie was looking for a bass player for his new amalgamation with the Trad jazz clarinetist Monty Sunshine and Roger kindly got me the gig. We were playing the Zurich Jazz Club for a couple of nights and after the show this night the boys in the band had said, let’s all get a couple of taxis back to the hotel.
Well Lonnie was thrifty at the best of times and he elected to walk. It was cold in the snow, but not wet. Paul, the guitarist in the band for this gig (Roger was away with Shakin Stevens) and me decided that we should walk with him as he had had two heart bypasses at this time. Off we set in the moonlight, it was beautiful and we were congratulating Lonnie on his master stroke to walk back to the hotel. We crossed over the river, walked for half an hour and Lonnie said, “Where are we ?” We were lost, so we crossed over the river again, went along, crossed over.......yes well, we were lost at 3 o’clock in the morning. As we walking in what we hoped was the right direction, standing under the canopy of a shop was a ‘ Lady’ in a fur coat and long boots. Lonnie said to me, “go and ask her the way to the hotel!’ I said to Lonnie, it probably wasn’t a good idea, because I had a hunch that starting up a dialogue with said lady could end up being expensive in more wys than one !! Lonnie tutted loudly, raised his eyes to the sky and started walking towards our new friend, he got half to her to ask for directions when she turned towards him, opened her coat and proved the old saying true about fur coat and no knickers. Under the coat she was absolutely stark naked in the snow at 3 o’clock in the morning. We thought Lonnie was going to have another episode ! We found a phone box and called for a taxi.
A private party on Marbella harbour with film star guests
I’d been hired as singing, trumpet and harmonica playing , bass player for an American female singer who was having some success in UK by the name of Diane Solomon. We did a lot of corporate gigs as it was a very glitzy / glamorous show, with our six piece band, plus the band of The Dagenham Girl pipers and sometimes , if the budget was better, the band of the Scots Guards in full kilted dress kit. All that for one number at the end of the show. We would playnall over the world for major companies like ‘Ford’ worldwide. The care for musicians was incredible, we would fly on private jets. I had never been on a Boing 747 which had sofas with seat belts and coffee tables and waitress service. We traveled all over the place, at one time we played a private party whre the client had hired the whole of Marbella harbour for the night and we played on the waters edge and were served pink champagne all night while we played. George Hamilton the actor came and sat down beside me for a while and I remember thinking , what a strange life I’m leading. We ended up on our hosts private yacht , a modest affair with helocopter pad on the roof , a shag pile carpet that you sunk into so far, you couldn’t see your shoes And gold (yes real gold) teaspoons, tissue box holder etc. Our drummer fancied a souvenir of one of the teaspoons, but when he was admiring it with a view to liberating it, a very large person I can only describe as ODD JOB, appeared out of the marble panelling and just looked at him, he put the teaspoon down and sunk a little further into the shag pile . Our host was Adnan Coshogi
I had been freelancing for the BBC Radio and gradually worked up the ladder to slightly more meaningful jobs. I was , at the time of the photograph, promotions manager for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire . As well as doing my regular broadcasting, I was in charge Of finding ways to promote the station in the community without it seeming too commercial. No sponsors. I would set up music gigs around the county with visiting stars and lesser mortals like me . I would ofter arrange a show at a venue, fix the star to perform and perform myself with a band, acting as compere . I put on Miki and Griff’s last show. The venue took the proceeds and I got a program out of it.
Each year the BBC’s Children in Need appeal would come around and we were all expected to do our bit. I have never been afraid of making an idiot of myself, when there’s a fool within, embrace it. One year I was sent out into the Deep, Dark Cambridgeshire Fen dressed as an elf, with ruddy cheeks pointy hat and curly toed shoes. This was because a manufacturer of plastic garden Gnomes had donated several hundred of the things and I , along with a film crew for ‘Live TV’ were to go around all the pubs at night and sell them to the drinkers. What could go wrong ?
the evening started ok, with people being quite generous, but of course the obvious happened (well it was to me !) , by the time we had got right out into serious Fenland it was late. When I walked in to this particular pub dressed as an elf, they were all rolling around shouting and laughing at me. Well alright I thought and the producer thought it would make good live TV fun for C in N. They bought dozens of these hideous plastic monsters, which had a stopper in the bottom to fill with sand to give them more weight. What I haven’t told you yet is these gnomes had been hand painted by inmates resting at Her Majesty’s pleasure on some scheme or other. The sale of these things was going through the roof as the crowd got into the spirit of fun broadcasting. ‘Let’s go for a take’ shouts the cameraman and I start clowning around all Elf like until one drunken fen boy come up with a scrap of paper, saying he’d pulled it out of the gnomes bottom and there’s a note written on it. Well that was it, on camera, he started to read a note that a disgruntled prisoner had written to whom it may concern ! All I can really remember hearing above the screams of laugher from the pub , was the producer shouting, “Cut....Cut !!’