"The Gin House were employed initially by Roger Eagle and Laurence Selcoe to back Milton James. We were called Milton James and The James Band, changing our name from the Gin House (gigs were scarce - we needed a gig!).
Milton was a GREAT showman we gigged in Yorkshire a bit , Nottingham, and everywhere we went we wowed 'em.
"Unwind The Twine" was a killer Alvin Cash routine that Milton did every night and killed em ' dead! .
We broke up due to lack of money for band members and felt we weren't getting a very good deal. Shame, it could have got to Geno Washington proportions!"
Pictured at Blackpool prior to a gig at the Blackpool Wheel circa 1966
Ian Brooks (trumpet) came in later and Henry Quick replaced Dave Melia on drums shortly after this pic was taken.
I joined the Gin House as a novice sax player, from the Big City Blues - I guess mainly to do vocals and work out some parts with the main tenor sax player already in the band working with Kevin.
His name was 'Phil'. He was very good and soon we sounded great as a two-tenor sax section, with me doing vocals on tunes like Jr .Walkers' Shotgun and Willie Mitchell's 'Everything's Gonna Be Allright' ,etc.
Well, one day on our way to a gig in Blackpool (possibly the Blackpool Wheel) everything was not 'All Right'.
First, let me explain about Phils Van. We nicknamed it 'Phils Flyer' - he was a wild driver and we paid him a little extra as I recall to use the van for gigs. He drove all the time and I don't recollect any of us splitting any driving duties with him.
On our way to the gig we all noticed he was driving wilder than ever and we realised Phil was drunk. Next thing we know, he had ploughed into the back of a coach carrying a full load of old age pensioners to Blackpool!
I will never forget! The entire rear window of the coach seemingly fell out right onto our bonnet and shattered in a million pieces right there all over the front of the van.
We had all been sent sprawling forward with the impact and of course the gear had fallen forward too - on us! I looked up through our windscreen (I think a bass amp had fallen on my back) at the empty rear window of the coach to see all these old folks heads peering down into our van.
I'll never forget the looks on their faces as they sat there in absolute jaw dropping shock looking out the empty back window of the coach. The entire rear window had popped right out!
Well of course we all got out, luckily nobody was hurt. The Cops came; Phil sobered up pretty quick. These were the days of no safety belts and we were really lucky. We made the gig though!
Kevin fired Phil on Monday and we continued as a 5 piece!
Shortly after that , we became back up Band for Milton James - Milton James and The James Band.
Milton was touted as' The Boy From 'New York City' (was he from Swinton?) and I recall faking an American accent as I introduced him onstage every night at gigs! We tried to give the impression that the whole band was from the U.S! It sure helped with getting to know girls tho!
Ian Miller (friend and roadie for the day) adds to the memories of the night:
Do I remember! Of course I do! (at least I think I do).
Yes, we did get to the gig but I'm not sure how (maybe a hire van or someone the police put us on to?)) because the van was totally fucked and the front windscreen had fallen out (it was a split screen with two pieces to it) and the radiator had blown. It was a weird van, very upright and painted an odd beige colour. I remember us all falling about laughing on the side of the road whilst the old folks (they were probably only in their 40s and 50s!) in the coach stared in amazement!
The gig was at the Twisted Wheel, Blackpool. I also seem to remember it was Glasgow weekend in Blackpool so the town was full of pissed up Scots all looking for a fight and it was blowing a gale and raining like mad. Whilst you lot went ahead with the gig I got a bus back to Manchester and I contacted whoever the "manager" was at some club off Underbank in Stockport and he arranged a replacement van for the following day - how I wish someone had invented mobile phones then!
I think the band kipped at the Wheel but I seem to remember you and Johnny B getting off with some women and staying the night with them!
I remember the Gin House well - what a great band.
I played bass with them for a short while and have many happy memories of that time. I remember playing Mr Smiths in Manchester (remember the revolving stage? - felt like we were on Sunday Night At The London Palladium), Rowntrees in Manchester (my moustache was so feint one of you pencilled over it with eye-liner), the many Mecca type ballrooms, to packed houses/chanting fans.
At one gig Dave stripped off and wore just a small union jack to cover his modesty!
I particularly enjoyed the Blackpool and Manchester Twisted Wheel gigs - to play at Manchester, on the same stage where I'd watched Georgie Fame just 24 hours earlier - remember that night Henry (Quick), me and you? - was a great honour and a great memory. The night we played Blackpool Tower Ballroom was also a great event in my memory - The Easybeats were top of the bill that night, and they were at number one in the charts with "Friday On My Mind". Lots of other bands on the bill too, that night.
Henry (who drummed for a short while with my previous band The Shevrons) joined Gin House just before me, with my other mate Rob (previously lead singer with The Shevrons) also on board as roadie. Ian joined just after that. I remember the band auditioning him (in the upstairs room, at the pub in Stockport); he didn't seem to know any of the stuff we did, so we played "Work Song" to see how good he was! (I didn't have a clue what Work Song was, but it was easy to busk along on the bass.)
At that time, if I remember rightly, the brass line up then became Dave on tenor, Ian on trumpet - plus a baritone sax player. It made for a great sound.
In those days there wasn't much in the way of 24 hour/fast food, so we often ended up stopping off at Manchester Airport, on the way back from gigs, for some "refreshments". (A Coke and a burger?) I remember Ron as being 'cool', with his Fender telecaster, and Dave being a great front man - playing and singing "Shotgun", etc., absolutely mega ... used to blow me away just to be on that stage. I was just a kid, whereas the rest of the band - perhaps just a couple of years older? - seemed so, well, not mature - but proper "grown ups" who "knew stuff".
When we were hired to back Milton James it took things to a new level, but I guess it was the start of the end - for me at least. I'd had to buy a second hand Harmony bass, from A1 (or "Graham Mellor's" as it was then) music store on Oxford Road - on HP (Hire Purchase)! A beautiful guitar, which was unfortunately "lost" from Rob's van, the day I was sacked! I'd love to get it back - I had to keep up the payments, which took me months!
I had a terrible bass rig, which made a farting noise if I went anywhere near playing the E string, but couldn't afford anything else. It was so bad it never should have been on a stage anywhere near such a fine band - so, again, I count my blessings for the wonderful time I did have playing with the guys.
When I was sacked, I was told I was replaced by the bass player from Ivan's Meads - who, to me, was a pro, with stage presence, proper mod dresser, great performer, great rig, etc. So, I didn't feel put out to get the elbow.
In fact I was quite proud to be replaced by an Ivan's Meads member, as they were one of my favourite bands - used to go watching them regularly at The Oasis.
Sadly, I never saw the band after that - but you were a great set-up. They (Roger Eagle and Laurence Selcoe) never did let "Milton" sing "Broadway" in falsetto, did they? shame - I thought it was good that way. (Hey, I thought he really was from the US!)
Good luck with your reunion efforts, and thanks for many happy memories.
Tony "Eccles" Surdevan
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