Crooks Brown Band

In 1968 our band had a regular gig at an after hours drinking club in Bury, the Philsbury, the owner of which was a European gent of no fixed nationality called - you've guessed it - Phil.

One night Paul Young called in on his way back from a Young Brothers Gig at one of the famous Yorkshire working men's clubs and had a sing with us.  He told us that at the end of his gig, the Concert Secretary had taken possession of the mike to announce 'the turns' for the following week.  According to Paul he had said something like, "Next week we've got four n*****s booked over my head by the committee.  You might like them, I don't - The Original Drifters!"  Whether or not it was true, it was a good story.

With regard to the redoubtable Archie, he played congas with us for a short time in the late sixties during which he gave us a load of laughs at the same time managing to prove that not all of God's children got rhythm.  His vocal rendition of 'Hold Him Joe' was, shall we say, rhythmically free and I don't think that 'Me donkey wants a smoke' was part of the original lyrics.  When I last heard of him he had become a painter and decorator assisted by Dave Jones, sometime vocalist and once junior deputy assistant roadie with the St. Louis Union. 

One of their jobs was decorating a cellar in Moss Side which resulted in Dave developing a particularly nasty dose of a very vivid yellow jaundice. At one point Archie was picked up by the police for being in possession of some suspect cigarettes.  The police held him overnight and while he was in, his flat was burgled.  When the magistrate asked him if he had anything to say, he explained that it wasn't fair that the police had lo  cked him up because while he was in burglars had stolen 'Arl me gears'. 

The case was not dismissed. 

Pete Crooks
18/4/09

The Crooks Brown Band Story

I first met Bernie Brown in 1961 or 62 when he was playing baritone sax in a 16 piece rehearsal band somewhere in Beswick or Collyhurst.  From then on, Bernie and I played together in various bands until in 1965 we decided to put our own group together to play jazz, and that was the Crooks Brown Band.  The band continued on and off until the early1990s.  Over the years the personnel and the style of the music changed but the two constants were Bernie Brown on flute and baritone sax or tenor sax or soprano sax or vibes, which ever he was into that week and me, Pete Crooks, on guitar.  I did think of trying to do the enthralling history of the band in an exciting chronological narrative as it happened, but life's too short. 

Instead I'll just give you a run down of some of the people who played with us and some of the exotic places we played.



TRUMPET

The line up of the first incarnation of the Crooks Brown Band was trumpet/fluegelhorn, baritone sax/flute, guitar, bass and drums.  A vocalist was added a little later.  Our first trumpet player was the elegant market trader, Rod Dunford.  Rod used to buy seconds dresses off Sandy Shaw's husband Jeff Banks and sell them on various markets.  He was a decent player, always dressed  to kill and naturally very popular with the young ladies.  His main failing was an unhealthy interest in the music of Herb Alpert.

The only other trumpet player that I can remember playing with us was Pete Lee in 1970s.  Bernie had met Pete while they both playing in a Mancunian Irish Show Band called Tom Coogan and the Clippers (or was it Clip Coogan and the Tommers?) at the Osborne Club in Collyhurst.  Pete was a good player and something of a loony, which suited us.

SAXES
Our principal saxophonist was, of course, Bernie (right), but then he didn't always play the sax.  Sometimes he saw himself as a vibes player and off he would go to Stock and Chapmans and trade his horn in for a set of vibes.  After a while he'd go back to being a sax player, sometimes a tenor sax player, sometimes a baritone sax player and once, a soprano sax player.  Throughout it all, he remained a flute player and that was arguably his best instrument.

Graham Attwood joined our 1968 band on tenor and flute.  I don't actually remember anyone asking him to join; he just used to turn up, but he was cheap and cheerful, like the rest of us.  He was in several versions of the band, he just wouldn't take 'Sod Off!' for an answer.

Lenny Sax  or Saxon (neither of which are his real name) was an occasional participant in the fun and games.  He's a fabulous player and I always enjoyed playing with him.  I expect that he felt that playing with Sade Cafe was a poor second to the Crooks Brown Band.  Bernie had met up with him when they both played for the St. Louis Union. 

Even better than his sax playing is his piano playing.  He's a pianistic virtuoso very much in the style of those icons of the piano world, Les Dawson and Eric Morecombe.  It was a joy to watch the faces of innocent pub goers when po faced Lenny sat down to play, always close enough to the melody to keep them wondering  whether or not to laugh or to clap politely.

Being a jazz group, people used to turn up with their instruments hoping to 'sit in' and have a blow.  The results could be a bit mixed but there were occasional high spots.  One such was when Jack Lancaster (Blodwyn Pig) turned up at a gig in Hyde of all places and blew everybody's socks off doing his Roland Kirk simultaneous two sax thing.

Our classiest sitter-in was undoubtedly Charlie Owens, one of the alto players from the Buddy Rich Band.  Our African Conga drummer, Eddie Music (I don't think that it was his real name) told us that he'd be late for the gig the following night because he was going to see the Buddy Rich Band at the Free Trade Hall and that they were all mates of his and he'd bring one back with him.  We all rolled our eyes and said 'Of course you will Eddie' and blow me he did!  He walked in with this handsome African American wearing a smart black caftan with medallion and carrying a sax case.  This was Charlie.  He put his horn together and I asked him what he'd like to play, expecting it to be something really funky.  He requested “Danny Boy”!  Charlie told us that Buddy Rich had found his guitar player warming up backstage that evening and had asked him why he couldn't play that good when he was on stage.  In the course of the ensuing 'conversation', the guitarist had said that he thought that the drummer in a band was supposed to keep time.  The guitarist was on the plane back to the States even as Charlie was telling the story.

I think that Dave Moss played with us on tenor from time to time.  I've certainly often played with him but it might have been in somebody else's band.

TROMBONE
Trombonist Paul Latham sat in with us once or twice and I remember doing a gig with Eric Brierley who is now with Mart Roger's Manchester Jazz, but trombone was not an instrument of choice for the Crooks Brown Band.  I think that there was another guy called Neville Taylor who played with us once or twice in the 60s but I can't remember any more than that. Sorry Nev.

KEYBOARDS
In our early days before electronic keyboards were widely available, we never bothered  about having a piano player.  Pub pianos were usually well out of tune and whilst you could tune the guitar and bass to the piano, brass players had an unreasonable dislike of playing in keys like B natural or F sharp. 

Besides which, any half way decent piano player could get himself a good trio gig without having to split the money with saxophone players or guitarists.  In the 80s we finally added a piano player and the first one was a guy from Buxton whose name I can't remember but I think that he was a news agent in the real world.  He was followed by or even alternated with Ken Garside from Castleton.   Ken was a window cleaner with big hands but a nice touch on the piano.  I think that I did a gig under the Crooks Brown name with Stockport jazzer Freddie Gardner on piano and Ian Wright on drums. 

I played bass on that but for some reason, probably financial, Bernie wasn't with us.  Bernie had an ambition to become a piano player but thankfully it never came to anything.

GUITAR
That was me.  We did have another guitar player at one point but in the 70s but I don't remember his name. 

He was a mate of the drummer, whose name I can't remember either, and they travelled together in the guitarist's MG with their gear in a huge trailer.  I think that they played together in some sort of cabaret band.  I do remember that he had a rather nice Gibson  ES175. 

There was a guy who used to come and sit in with us who had been Marlene Dietrich's accompanist.  He wasn't a great jazzer but naturally he was a very accomplished musician.

BASS
Our original bass player was Holly Parris.  I first met Holly when I had a residency at the Colonial Club in Moss Side.  I was in a trio consisting of  Granville Edwards, a Jamaican tenor player and connoisseur of cricket and rum, Benny Dennis on drums and me on guitar.  Not a very inspiring line-up, but it paid.  One night while we were playing, this guy walks in pushing a double bass, with a pair of pram wheels on the spike, in front of him.  He was wearing a tweed overcoat and a tweed hat and he was a dead ringer for Paul Chambers, Miles Davis's bass player at that time. This was Hollister Clifford Parris all the way from Princetown, Trinidad.  He was instantly recruited into the band on the basis of his looks alone.  As it turned out, he was a decent player as well and  we  became good mates and worked together on and off until he died from a brain tumour aged only 34.  Benny and I got disgustingly drunk at Holly's funeral; it was the least that we could do for the lad.

For some reason Holly wasn't with us when we started a weekly gig at Bernie's first pub, “ The Sportsman's Rest” in Bredbury in 1968.  Instead we had had Alan Johnson on bass guitar who I believe had been with the “Deltones” and I think that he came on Graham Attwood's recommendation.  He was very po-faced  and it was difficult to tell whether or not he was enjoying himself but Alan and Eddie Edwards our drummer at the time (also ex-”Deltones”) made a formidable rhythm section.  The wife of a friend of mine who was given to throwing herself about the dance floor in a very undignified fashion said that the 1968 Crooks Brown Band was a fantastic band to dance to.  I don't think that Bernie quite approved; I think that he felt that jazz should be taken more seriously.  Alan later gave up the bass guitar in favour of the ukelele banjo.  Not only that, he started doing a George Formby tribute act around the clubs and by all accounts was very successful.

At different times, Bernie was the landlord of three pubs.  There was a malicious rumour that he became a landlord just so that the band would have somewhere to play but that wasn't true.  Over the years he had developed a strong interest in the licensed trade and he felt that he might have a vocation.  In the 80's he took over the “Wanted Inn” at Sparrowpit near Chapel-en-le-Frith and the Crooks Brown Band was resurrected yet again.  We were short of a bass player but Bernie assured me over the phone that he'd found somebody.  I turned up and there, sat in the corner was a guy with a Hitler moustache and matching haircut, wearing a trench coat.  Next to him was a filthy battered rusty stringed “Hondo” bass guitar (15 guineas from Littlewood's Catalogue).  This was Steve Middleton from “Chapel”, our new bass player.  I was introduced.  He was very formal and very well spoken; not at all your typical muso.  I put a brave face on  it and off we went.  He was very good!   He was a musical asset but a social liability.  The haircut and the moustache were no accident and he wasn't safe in mixed company, especially if there were any dark skinned beauties about.  In the real world he was a part time unlicensed self-employed taxi driver.  His “taxi” was an old French car  that was in a similar condition to his bass.  The back seat wasn't bolted down and if he pulled up suddenly the passengers in the back rapidly became the passengers in the front.  He lived with his Grandmother and ruled the house like it was the third Reich.

At one point I joined Graham Attwood's “Sixth Edition”.  I never found out what happened to the other five editions; doubtless it was something dreadful.  I think that the line up was Graham, Rod Dunford on trumpet, John Dickinson and I on guitars, Alan Johnson or Dave Barrow on bass, Nig Cretney or occasionally Bruce Mitchell on drums and Bobby Harrison vocals.  They had a great pad, mostly written by my predecessor, Roy Davenport.  Roy had gone pro and went to work for Mecca (the dance hall not the Holy City).  At some time he had switched to bass and later he played with us on our regular gig at the Victoria, the pub at the back of the Opera House. 

I lost track of him after that but a few years later I went with my then wife, who wrote  TV and radio commercials, to a shindig organised by a TV production company who did a lot of work for her.  Incidentally, there was a live soul band on which included a few of the usual suspects – Graham Attwood, Dave Moss and Dave Barrow.   My wife was introduced to the TV company's Financial Director who looked vaguely familiar to me.  When he heard her name he said, “You're not related to the Crooks Brown Band are you?”  It was Roy Davenport in a suit. How he got to become a Financial Director I never did find out but the company went out of business soon afterwards.  Nothing to do with Roy I'm sure, possibly all the Company's profits had gone on paying the band but I doubt it.

Wind on a few more years.  One day I was reading a copy of the Ronnie Scott Club house magazine  that someone had passed on to me.  In it was a poem about driving home from dreadful badly paid gigs in the early hours of the morning and wondering  why we did it; something we can all sympathise with.  There was a footnote saying that the poem was by the late Roy Davenport and that he would be sadly missed.  I still play some of his tunes from the old “Sixth Edition” pad; I think that that's a good way to be remembered.
 
There were others.  Dave Barrow played with us a few times but then, Dave's played with everyone at least a few times if not more.  There was a school teacher whose name I can't remember (it was Alan Jackson).  He was quite a capable player but being an ardent fan of the “Shadows”, he was totally lacking in street cred.  Once, after we'd just finished one of our better performances I remember him saying, quite seriously and totally without irony or prejudice, “Well, that would set our friends in Moss Side jitterbugging.”  When I last heard of him he was trying to arrange another come-back tour for Jet Harris (I've just seen in my local paper that Jet's doing a show in Evesham as part of his current come-back tour).

We had another school teacher bass player, Alan Stubbersfield.  Stubby was not just a decent bass player, he was a floor show. He was totally incapable of keeping still.  It was worth going to one of our gigs just to watch him move.  When my stepson moved to Bramhall High and told me about this mad English teacher who would fling his brief case ahead of him into the classroom, it could only be one person.  It gave me a great deal of pleasure to go to parent's evenings in my role as concerned step-parent and give Stubby a hard time.

As you can see, we got through a fair few bass players over the years and finally the time came when I had to go out and buy myself a bass.  Of course, as soon as I forked out the money, the phone stopped ringing.  It got to the point where, to my everlasting shame, I joined a Country and Western Band just to bring in a little bread.  But that's another story.

DRUMS
Our original drummer was Benny Kwame Dennis.  I don't think that his name was really Benny or Dennis but it was certainly Kwame which in one or more of the 43 dialects spoken in Ghana means a boy child born on a Saturday. 

This is irrelevant because to us he was Black Dennis to distinguish him from White Denis, an alto player friend of ours who was white.  He was a good looking lad, much older than the rest of us, but it didn't show because according to his wife, Laura Nora (she answered to either), he used to touch up his grey bits with Cherry Blossom Boot Polish. 

He and I were close mates and we played in a few different bands together over the years.  He was a friend of Phil Seaman's and before the drugs finished Phil off, Benny used to look after him (and he really needed looking after) when he came to Manchester on a gig. 

Because we played jazz, we never got paid very much, consequently, if one of us had a proper paying gig, it took priority.  I think that's why we used Dr. Len Whitehurst on some gigs.  Len had a PhD in biochemistry but he ran a butty shop with his Dad in the centre of Manchester.  I used to enjoy playing with Len but he was a bit too avant garde for some people, in fact there was one quite well respected tenor player in town who refused to play with him, which in my opinion was the tenor player's loss.  From time to time, Len and I would leap into his Aston Martin on a Saturday night and head off to London to Scott's or to see a concert.  Is that cool or what?

To my mind the best Crooks Brown Band was the 1968/69 line up which had Howard “Eddie” Edwards on drums.  I think that Eddie had played with the “Groundhogs” and the “Deltones” before joining us so he didn't have a jazz background.  As far as I was concerned, that was an advantage because I was a strong  advocate of what became known as “fusion”.  I wont go on too much about that but suffice it to say jazz might be an art form but that's no reason why it shouldn't be entertaining.  I've recently adopted a new motto, “Just because it's s**t it doesn't mean that it's art”.  Eddy went and fell in love and got married and became a Dad or perhaps he became a Dad then got married but whatever, it seemed to take priority over going out on gigs.

Nig Cretney played with us now and again.  Nigel is top class and always a joy to play with.  He's still playing, currently with Mart Rodger's Manchester Jazz but I hear his health isn't what it should be.  It's probably all that running that he insists on doing.  If God had meant us to go out running, he would have bought us the Nikes.  Nig's hero and mentor in his early days was Bruce Mitchell and I think that Bruce might have played with us on occasion.  Bernie and I have both known Bruce since the days that he used to travel to gigs on the bus – with his drums.  The last time that I remember seeing Bruce I'd been on a photographic shoot.  I was with the photographer and we were parked on Whitworth Street when the photographer said, “What on earth is this?”.  There, shambling down Whitworth Street towards us, was a familiar figure wearing an old fashioned boy scout hat.  The photographer nearly fainted when Bruce stuck his head through the car window to say hello.
 
Over the years we went through drummers like we went through bass players.  There was one called Colin who responded to a desperate cry for help that we placed in the “Evening News”.  He was a good drummer but far too sensitive to be a musician, let alone a drummer.  He made the mistake of asking Bernie what he thought of his drumming and Bernie in his kind fatherly  way said, “F*****g awful”.  Poor old Colin almost burst into tears and we had to send Bernie's wife after him to console him and tell him that he didn't really mean it. Then there was another guy whose name I've mercifully forgotten.  He didn't seem able to play all the way through a number without stopping.  On the plus side, he did know the words of all of Dean Martin's songs.  Paul Burgess played with us once but it didn't inspire him to give up the 10cc gig.

CONGAS AND COW BELLS
The first conga drummer that we ever had was the aforementioned Eddie Music.  Eddie was a small Ghanaian chap who was always dressed in a Pacamac.  I could easily believe that he slept in it.  Young people might not remember the Pacamac; it was a cheap plastic raincoat that you could fold up and put in your jacket pocket ready for that rainy day.  It was a very inelegant garment that never looked good on anyone - except Eddie Music.  Part of the Pacamac deal was a matching plastic hat cover designed to fit over a trilby.  Eddie wore this too but without the trilby.  The other thing about Eddie was that he preferred not to speak in any language known to man.  He communicated using short staccato noises punctuated by a stabbing finger.  He was a very good conga drummer and, according to Benny, an even better trap drummer.  Eddie claimed to be good mates with every American jazz musician who'd ever been to this country.  We took this claim with a pinch of salt until we visited Eddie's flat.  The walls were covered with photographs of Eddie with every American jazz musician that had ever visited this country.  Every photograph carried a message on the lines of  “To my Good Friend Eddie from Oscar Peterson” or Count Basie or Dizzie Gillespie or whoever.  You name them, he knew them and more to the point, they knew him.

Then there was Archie.  See the story above.

There was another guy again whose name I can't remember.  We were playing every week at a pub in Hale and this lad turned up complete with congas and an immense collection of things that you rattle or bang.  He came a few times then disappeared which was a shame because he would have been a great asset.  We did hear that he hadn't been well and when Bernie bumped into him a few months later he found out that he'd had cancer and you can't have a better excuse for missing a gig than that.

SINGISTS
John (or sometimes Jonathan) Lavelle sang with the very first Crooks Brown Band.  It was good to have John in the band.  Whereas some singers will only do a short set for the sake of their vocal chords, with very little encouragement, John was willing to sing all night which allowed Bernie to spend even more time at the bar chatting up the punters and engaging in some serious research into the effects of alcohol on the average jazz musician's metabolism.  He's got a good voice, he sings in all the “as written” keys and he knows most of the songs in the Great American Song Book.  He's an amiable guy and I'm ashamed to say that Bernie and I used to take the p. out of him behind his back while he was singing.  Very infantile.  John's still singing and he's still only 29.

Dave Jones deserves a 'My Story'  space all of his own except it would have to have an X Certificate.   At the time that he was singing with the Crooks Brown Band, he had never had a proper job, he was of no fixed abode and he was totally unknown to both the Inland Revenue and the Department of Social Security.  In spite of this he was always very dapper in a mod suit and a narrow brimmed hat.  At that stage he was a good looking lad and as evidence of this, he once turned up for a gig with a bandage around his male appendage where a jealous girl friend had tried to emasculate him with her teeth.  Had she succeeded  we would have had to relearn all his songs in different keys..  Bernie had met up with him when Dave was doing some roadying for the St. Louis Union.  I can't remember much about his voice but he knew most of the words and he sang in tune, what more could you ask for?  After the Crooks Brown Band he went off to make candles in Macclesfield Forest

VENUES
After the first hundred years or so all the places that you've played at seem to blur into one.  I'm sure that you musos will recognise that feeling.  On the other hand, incidents bring a place back into focus like our residency at the Philsbury Club (see above).  The Philsbury was an after hours “Supper Club”.  In other words when the pubs chucked out, you could go to the Philsbury, order chicken in the basket and then drink all night because the law allowed alcohol with meals. You didn't even have to eat the chicken in the basket which was probably the wisest course of action.  Part of our deal was that we played from 12 until 2 with a break and in the break they would feed us.  Over the time that we were there, the 'meal' that we were given had deteriorated into a plate of curly cheese sandwiches.  In addition to this abuse of our working conditions, Phil the owner had started booking 'turns' who we were expected to accompany.  That was not part of the original deal.  One night, Benny's wife Laura Nora spotted that the 'cabaret' had been given, in her words, “Friggin' Steak Sandwiches”.  At Laura Nora's insistence we sent Holly off to demand “Friggin' Steak Sandwiches” for the band! We got our steak sandwiches – and the sack.

Speaking of the Philsbury brings to mind another institution familiar to musicians of a certain age – the late night chip shop.  On our way home from the Philsbury Bernie and I always stopped at a chip shop run by two Italian brothers which was, I think, on Ashton New Road.  We played at the Philsbury on Fridays and Saturdays so in the early hours of every Saturday and Sunday morning, for a matter of months we stopped at that chip shop at the same time.  Every time we stopped, the two brothers  asked us the same questions in the same bored voices and we always gave them the same answers:-

“Where you been?”
“We've been working.”
“What you do?”
“We're musicians.”
“Where you play?”
“At a club in Bury.”
“Is a nice club?”
“Yes.”
“We come and hear you some time.”

Bizarre.

There was a nice club on Deansgate where we used to play regularly, the Ebony.  I think that it later became the Majestic.  It was run by singer Blanche Finlay and her husband and Blanche would sometimes sing with the band.  I remember bass player Les Clark who was a friend of Holly's, sitting in with us there.  Playing with Les could be quite disconcerting because he would often join in with the front line playing the melody.  Not at all what a member of the rhythm section's supposed to do.

We once got ourselves an agent who found us a gig at a nice pub in Cheshire.  We had the avant garde Len Whitehurst on drums that night and when we turned up, we found that our audience was a coach party of old age pensioners probably on their way home from a day out at Colwyn Bay.  Strangely enough we played really well that night, I think that it must have been a case of in for a penny, in for a pound plus, of course, Len's inspirational drumming.  Nobody threw anything, but we weren't invited back.  We sacked the agent.

If venues have anything in common it's usually that you have to carry your gear either up or down at least one flight of steep stairs.  Sometimes the stairs are unlit.  Sometimes you can only get to them down an unlit alley sprinkled with randomly placed obstacles. Sometimes there's a door that swings open the wrong way so that you can't push through it when your hands are full.  I was thankful when my son was old enough to come on gigs with me (age 8) and help me with my gear . One of the sounds that will stay with me forever is the that of a dismantled set of vibes falling down an unlit staircase followed by the vibraphonist (Bernie).  Luckily Bernie was protected by alcohol and he bounced.  Sadly the vibes didn't.  That was the night that Graham emptied a box of bicarb tablets meant for the soda stream into the container that held the beer and the very pompous ex-army member of the audience who was giving us his views on the youth of today suddenly started frothing at the mouth.  He would probably have done that without the bicarb.

Considering that we presumably become musicians with a view to entertaining people, we can be very scathing about our audience.  Perhaps not usually as scathing as what Graham repeatedly told the man at Bramhall Cricket Club to do (ask Graham) but scathing non the less.  Mind you they do sometimes ask for it.  Take the student who came up to me at a college gig and asked me what records we played.  He didn't seem to be able to comprehend that we played live music, not records.  He certainly deserved a scathing remark, which he got.  On the other hand you do sometimes get what might possibly be taken as compliments.  For example, on several occasions I've had someone come up to me and say, “I don't like jazz but I like what you play.”  Now I'm never sure whether that's an insult to me as a jazzer or a compliment to me as a musician.  I prefer to take it as a compliment.  The other back handed compliment which again has been said to me more than once is “The band I booked for last week let me down at the last minute. I was going to ring you to see if you could do it but I knew that you'd already have a gig.”   Of course last week we were sat at home waiting for the phone to ring.    

Well, Bernie Brown was last seen heading for Spain wearing a false moustache, dark glasses and with his flute cunningly concealed about his person and I'm now living in the Cotswolds where one gets a better class of gig, so the Crooks Brown Band can be no more. 

On the other hand I could nip into Evesham and have a word with Jet Harris and ask him how to go about organising a comeback tour......

Pete Crooks
9/5/09

Memories

Great to read through the history of this excellent band.  I was the teacher who went on to have play keys with Jet Harris of 'The Shadows' who is now fighting throat cancer.  I'm afraid that all the cred I had from playing bass in 'The John Senior Blues Band' in 1967 was lost with my 'Shadows' connection.

The time I spent with 'The Crooks Brown Band' was, perhaps, the happiest time in my career (with Graham Attwood around it was always fun). 

I remember after a gig we went to a chippy in Heaton Moor and I was standing next to Lenny Crooks, Peter's sax playing brother (see below), in the queue and this chap came in, recognising Lenny, was telling us about his great friendship with Paul Burgess, drummer with '10cc', and how he was Paul's drinking partner.  As it happened, Paul had sat in with us that evening and was also standing in the queue, unrecognised by the chap!  Bullshitters!

I wish all musicians who featured with this fine group the best of luck and health.

Alan Jackson
9/8/09

There is a story behind my leaving the Crooks Brown Band which I did not include - perhaps boring to some.  I used to inprove my cred by playing bass in a 'big' band at a pub in Poynton on a Wedneday eveming called 'Boulders Brass' which comprised mainly of musicians from the N.D.O. and Syd Lawrence Orchestra.  They were bloody good!  On Thursdays I was out with Pete Crooks and the lads.  One day the drummer of the Shadows group 'Vintage' told me that the rest of the group could only rehearse on Wednesdays and Thursdays and that I had to pack in the other bands.  This, sadly, I did.

Some time later I was chatting with the group (the drummer was somewhere else) and they metioned that I didn't play jazz anymore and so I asked them about why they had to change practice nights to those two nights.  They said that the drummer did not approve of my playing in other bands and that I should concentrate on 'Vintage'.

I immediately went out and joined another band who has a residency on Tuesdays and this gave me a night out with my girl as well.  I believe that the drummer was not amused!

I did mention 'The John Senior Blues Band', a Chicago blues outfit based on the music of the Beano era of John Mayall.  John was a fabulous guitarist who idolised Clapton and hated 'Cream' with a vengence.  Just before I joined his band they had a gig at Joule Hall of Residence at Salford University.  Top of the bill was 'John Mayall's Bluesbreakers'.

Anyway, during their set Eric's Marshall amp went up in smoke so he asked John if he could use his VOX AC30 to finish the set.  John agreed and after a bit of knob twiddling Eric got exactly the same sound out of the VOX as he was used to.  At the end of the set John took his amp into the dressing room and stuck sellotape (I believe it was called Sealotape in those days) across the pointy knobs to preserve the settings that Eric had used and, even when later he scratched marks on the panel level with the points on the controls, the sellotape was never removed. 

One final twist to the story was John's alarm clock.  He made a board on which was mounted a wind-up alarm clock and a switch.  When the alarm clock went off the key at the back turned round and pulled a string which then pulled the switch on.  This turned on his VOX amp and also his record deck on which was the Beano l.p. with the pick up set on the start of the record.  In this way John was awakened by the sound of 'Steppin' Out' at full blast.  He was never late for work! 

Unfortunately, I had to leave the band to go to University but we had a great but really sad party to see me off.  Later John Dickenson respected guitarist, told me the the band had cult status in Manchester - I never realised.

Alan Jackson
14/8/09

It's good to see Alan's contributions.  I'm afraid that Lenny Sax/Saxon and I weren't actually brothers - we just happened to share similar surnames.  I think that the brother thing was probably put about by Atty (the artist formerly known as Graham Attwood).  I was always a great admirer of Lenny's, particularly his piano playing, but he has one major count against him - he comes from Yorkshire!  Incidentally there's a clip of 'Sad Cafe' in concert on Youtube with Lenny doing his thing on soprano sax in the background.  I believe that he was under contract to Herb Alpert due to his association with Sad Cafe but I'm still looking out for that first album - 'Lenny Saxon and his Monton Street Mariachi Band'.

I knew the guy who claimed to be Paul Burgess's mate but who didn't recognise Paul Burgess.  I think that he claimed to have been 'laying down some tracks' at Strawberry Studios all day with Paul not realising that Paul was standing next to him.  I first came across him when Richard Cripps (the bass player with 'Spice') and I were building a studio in Richard's cellar. This well spoken person turned up at the front door and told us that he was available to 'lay down some guitar' on any of the tracks that we were recording.  He also told us that he was a personal friend of Mick Jagger's and that Mick had just been to see him (he lived in a terraced house in Stockport) to discuss the two of them appearing in a film together.  It turned out that his guitar playing ability was on a par with his ability to tell the truth. 

Thankfully, I can't remember his name but I wish him all the best; he was not a well young man.     

Pete Crooks
9/5/09
  

I should perhaps point out that the Graham Attwood mentioned above is actually 'Atty', the artiste formerly known as Graham Attwood.  Similarly the Lenny Sax/Saxon (neither of which is his real name) is actually 'Lenni', the artiste formerly known as Lenny Sax/Saxon (neither of which is his real name). 

Both these artistes have changed their names for reasons of security (Social Security).

Pete Crooks
15/10/09
  

 

 





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