My brother who worked at Carborundum Abrasives in Trafford Park told me that someone at work (Dave Howard) was looking for a vocalist.
The Saracens had just folded, I think because of the work commitments of our guitarists Graham Weedall and Kenny Wade so Chris and I were at a loose end. Just before The Saracens folded I’d acquired a Vox 30 amp on hire purchase with my dad as guarantor and with no band money coming in I had to get rid of it.
At the time in the next street to me lived Harry Donnelly (Black Velvets) and he agreed to take the amp off my hands and continue the payments. At the time think Harry’s band was called The Ravens but memory plays strange tricks.
Following an audition over the telephone (singing softly into the phone in a backroom, as at the time I worked for the Post Office in Trafford Park, it was lunchtime and the office was packed) I was successful and met up with Dave and Alan who asked me if I knew of a drummer.
Luckily Chris was not gigging so he joined us.
To start with we picked up gigs as a result of our previous bands, playing youth clubs (St Lukes in Wythenshawe, St Peters in Gorse Hill). We then moved on to Manchester city centre venues The Black Lion off Deansgate, The Gog and Magog in Ardwick before becoming resident at The Lass O' Gowrie on Charles Street.
This didn’t exclude us from other venues and as Manchester was packed with live music venues, we even picked up work through “Kennedy Street “ playing venues such as “ TheOasis”.
One night “The Who” were appearing in the Oasis main room (we were gob smacked watching them destroy more gear in one night than we owned as a group, they had also just taken delivery of one of the first new style van called a Transit).
Around this time through the generosity of my Gran I’d purchased a van, ex Margo and the Marvettes, painted in Salmon Pink and Sunburst Yellow.
The van was an Austin J2 with high backed coach seats in the back.
As I’d not passed my test Alan and Dave shared the driving duties even to the extent of augmenting our income transporting my brother Brian and his team mates to football pitches around Manchester so that Chorltonville F.C. arrived in style.
When playing at the “Lass” some evenings a Glasgow lad Bob Smith joined in. Bob was a very talented guitarist and subsequently joined the band unfortunately he was not averse to a snifter and as most of our venues by now were pubs and clubs this caused problems and eventually we went our different ways. However as a result of Bob joining us a friend of his Martin (technical wizard from AEI in Trafford Park) joined us and proceeded to create little electronic gizmos out of tobacco tins, switches and bits of wire, he also built two speaker cabinets which unfortunately got wrecked by fans of “the Who” who thought they would emulate their heroes on the night we played the Oasis. Martin owned a Bedford Van and he transported us to our gigs prior to our acquiring our own transport. He was learning to play bass guitar and covered once or twice when Dave couldn’t make the gig.
Whilst playing at the “Lass” we were asked to go on and play The Ardri club once we’d finished at the pub. We agreed to this and eventually this venue became another residency and some Saturday nights we left our homes at 6-30pm in the evening eventually crashing out in my mother’s front room at 2-30am.
All this time we were spending the minimum on vehicle maintenance and on many occasions I sat in the front passenger seat holding a broken battery lead in place so that the van would keep going.
Around this time we started using the name Mac and the Maniacs but as we had the residencies and other long-term commitments we continued to use the name The Nomads so on some occasions until we got to the venue we didn’t know who we were.
Other significant venues
The Beehive – Swinton (At the time, the venue also featured The Cymerons) Wishing Well Club – Swinton (We’d heard this was an upmarket venue so as a treat Dave brought his wife and I took my girlfriend Pat, sitting them close to the stage. Dave and I went to get ready, then standing in wings we watched the preceding act, it was an exotic dancer with tassels et al.) Devonshire Club -(Headline act Julie Rogers), whilst waiting in the compere’s room to go on after a Wild West act I felt a tug on my sleeve and heard something fall to the floor, looking on the floor I saw what looked like an air rifle pellet. The act had his target set up against a hardboard wall behind which was a piano, the pellets were going through the target into the piano and whizzing about all over the room. We spent 10 minutes lying on the floor until he finished his spot.) Luxor Club – Jackie Carlton, Johnny “Goon” Tweed, other local comedians and Big Julie. Southern Sporting Club – Just included “Hang on Sloopy” in our repertoire. Having decided to feature it in our first spot we’d played a few bars when Dave broke a string on his bass, an almost unheard of situation however we carried on with Alan and Chris improvising whilst Dave replaced his string in time for the next number. As we’d not done “Sloopy” justice we thought we’d include it in the second spot. We started the number when lo and behold Alan broke a string and we had to complete the number this time with Dave and Chris improvising. As they say the show must go on. Colne Mechanics Club – Strange set up playing from a stage about 10 feet above the dance floor and the audience. The Paddock – Pub in Salford that had featured acts like Alma Cogan, Lita Roza and Eve Boswell. The Craven Heifer – Another of a number of pubs we played in Salford. Having played the first set of the gig the landlord of the pub next door whose band hadn’t turned up asked the landlord of the Heifer if he’d let us play in his pub, so with the permission of the landlord we did a spot in the pub next door. Thankfully the other band turned up so we didn’t have to flit between the two pubs all night. Ponderosa Club – Chorlton (Asked at short notice to cover because we were local. And having just added “A groovy kind of love” to our repertoire we used it in the set only to discover that the headline act for the evening were “The Mindbenders”). Surburban Pub – Gorton Ashton on Mersey Rugby Club – Great venue only problem was the jugs of ale sent to keep us sweet so we’d do a long finishing set.
On occasion one thing we did to check if a song suited us was to use it in a talent comp, we weren’t overly interested in winning the cash prize but then in quick succession we won two comps one was to be considered to tour with a southern band “The Riot Squad” the other was to tour the USAF bases in Europe. Unfortunately these opportunities were the beginning of the end. Dave was married with two children, Pat and I were to marry and Alan now had a steady job and was in a serious relationship with his future wife Carole, consequently neither Dave, Alan nor I fancied the touring aspect and eventually we all went our separate ways.
Dave, Alan (who subsequently married Carole my wife Pat’s cousin) and I are still in touch and on occasion have discussed a playing reunion but despite my best efforts I have been unable to contact Chris who I believe moved to Australia.
Alan’s recollection of the Shooting incident.
This was on a freezing January night at the Devonshire Club on Ardwick Green (now sadly demolished). There was a Wild West act; a comedian; Julie Rogers (The Wedding Song) and the Nomads were the final act.
This was no air rifle this was the real McCoy. The Wild West act had done some work for the Disney studios and was touring the clubs. He had two .22 colt revolvers with special low power ammunition but unfortunately he loaded full power bullets in error and started his act by shooting balloons off his scantily clad assistant (I'll leave it to your imagination where the balloons were attached) who was standing by a padded board in front of a wall made of hardboard and the clubs prized piano.
We were all behind the wall waiting to go on. The comedian had us in fits telling jokes he couldn't tell on stage. I was sitting on a table next to the wall and a large metal PA unit when I heard a ping. I looked at the wall and saw a hole, dismissed it and carried on tuning my guitar while listening to the jokes. I heard another ping, and with growing apprehension, looked and saw another hole and thought that wasn't there before!!
As I looked, another hole appeared and something fluttered across my line of sight about a foot away. I shouted, " They are coming through" and dived to the floor. There was panic and the room cleared fast. Dave and the club's compere also dived onto the floor as bullets rattled round the room. I remember seeing the soles of a pair of shoes disappearing over a desk on the far side of the room, Chris legged it out of the door, and then everything went quiet, (must have been reloading).
The compere said we've got to stop him, who's coming with me? Dave said he would, then they both looked at me, so against my better judgement, I agreed to go. We slowly stood up and the hail started again. The compere grabbed his throat, gurgled and fell back. Dave and I fell on him. We had a job to get him to let go of his neck and I fully expected to find a bullet hole, but as we pulled his hands away we could only see a small red mark on his skin. He asked, "Am I going to die?" I swore at him out of pure relief.
I think both Dave and I were shaking, so we stayed on the floor after that. At the end of his act, there was applause from the audience, the door opened and as the shooting act walked into the room, he found bodies lying everywhere. He left the club ashen faced and shaking. When we were packing up after the show, we noticed that the club's prized piano was riddled with bullet marks. The compere was worried he would be sacked.
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