I am delighted to have this site to mention a few people who, through meeting them, changed my life.
The 1st I have to mention is Tony Marshall. Tony is a couple of years older than me and we both attended Chorlton Grammar School.
I owned a guitar but tuned it to an open chord and couldn`t reall play it. I met Tony ( who was already a great player ) and he agreed to teach myself and Pete Jackson after school. The three of us used to go to a small classroom and Tony would , VERY PATIENTLY , teach us , E , A and B7 , with which we could play an awful lot of pop songs ! I was a huge Cliff and the Shadows fan and Tony taught me lots more chords , and eventually suggested I had `proper` lessons with his teacher ` Harold Earl. He was a pro player in the House Band at the Opera House, Manchester.
I really would never have stuck at the guitar had it not been for Tony's great enthusiasm and generous help in my very early years. I`m delighted to say wer`e still in touch 54 years later. He is now an AMAZING Jazz Guitarist whose speciality is 7 string guitar ( I guess 6 is just too easy for him! ) OK , 2nd , the lovely John Dickinson. When Barratts music shop was in its tiny corner location it was run by John and Tony Walmsley. They were both great players and again , happy to share their knowledge. Tony was a keen Chet Atkins fan , someone Tony Marshall also urged me to listen to. John was just a fabulous musician and I used to spend my lunch hours in the shop jamming with whoever was there. I owned a Hofner Colorama at the time but LUSTED after a Fender Telecaster. They were VERY rare 2nd hand and were 117 gns. Brand new. I was earning £8 a week and was saving every penny, missing buying lunch and trying to dodge paying bus fare from Chorlton cum Hardy to M/cr centre ! John said why didn`t I buy an Esquire , it was NEARLY a Tele but a much more affordable 84gns. He ordered it for me and it took months to arrive ! He gave me a huge £20 p/x on my Colorama , GAVE me a second hand case and new strings when I needed them. NEVER charged me for the strings , just slipped them in my pocket ! He left Barratts and went pro with the Victor Brox Blues Band. He`s an early guitar hero of mine and still a good friend to boot.
NOW , it gets interesting. It was 1970 and I still called into Barratts regularly. This was now the bigger shop on Oxford St and was managed by Brian Higham. This was a meeting that certainly changed my life. Brian COULD be an abrasive character ( oh yes you could ! ) but when I picked up a guitar and played along with what he was playing , there was a spark.
He'd finished at the Golden Garter and was looking to play again. He and John Lee were temporarily estranged`but I think Brian enjoyed the fact that I could play almost anything he threw at me, in any key. ( Its just something I can do!) He made some phone calls and we had a few rehearsals with a nice guy called Keith Shepherd from Sale on his Epiphone Bass. We got together in Keith's front room and began to get a set list together.
We were doing fine until 1 night when we were doing a Beatles tune, I told Brian, rather undiplomatically, he was playing the wrong chords! He replied he`d been playing those chords for 10 years. I retorted , well , YOU`VE BEEN PLAYING THEM WRONG FOR 10 YEARS ! After which , Brian took off his guitar, put it in its case and stormed out without another word ! ( Abrasive ? ) Keith said`You don`t have to stand for that `. I saidI'd no intention of doing and went home.
Anyway nobody phoned anybody for a couple of weeks so I wandered into Barratts and Brian greeted me like nothing had happened. He did however pick up a guitar and say `What were the chords to that song ? `I showed him and all was well. ( A fact he kindly mentioned in his write up of Sir Cliff and Myself ! ) We got a reasonable list together but needed a drummer ! Brian contacted Robin Barber from Buxton and we did our first few gigs at the Spa Bar , Buxton.
I wanted to `cash in` on the Harbour Lights good name but Brian said we couldn`t use it unless John Lee was in the group. He eventually talked John into listening to me play so we had a run through with him above his shop on Stockport road, Hazel Grove. John was as quick on Bass as I was on Guitar and he had a great voice. He liked that I could play some obscure stuff like Didn`t We ( This time we almost made the pieces fit ) and some Stevie Wonder stuff. ( I have to confess, at THAT time , I wasn't a fan of `black`music and wasn`t keen on playing , Four Tops , Temptations etc , My loss , we could have done a great job on them!) That was the birth of the Harbour Lights era with me on Lead Guitar.
The lovely, friendly Alan Forbes was brought in on drums and we had a very successful run for many years, doing some great gigs , Cheshire Rugby Clubs and Young Farmers B B Qs and our speciality was a one hour Beatle spot ( with ALL the right chords, ALL in the right order ! ) I have to say that Brian ended up as one of the best Rhythm players i`ve ever worked with , enjoying getting the songs right, great at keeping the correct tempo and had a good memory for the songs. Once learned never forgotten.
I left the Harbour Lights in 1973 to travel around Europe with my wife. Les Hilton, a very fine player took my place.
I returned to the UK mid 1974 , I had a Telecaster and an H&H valve sound amp with a Fane Cresendo Leech 1 x 12'' cab.
It was around that time that my life took an amazing change of direction. Brian has given hIs version , on these pages , of how I became Cliff Richards lead guitarist.
Bearing in mind it was nearly 50 years ago , I don`t remember it QUITE the way Brian does. However , it needs to be said that IF I'd never met Brian , I would never have got the chance to get the best gig of my life !
I did get an audition and Hank had already told me Cliff now preferred A Thicker Lead tone and that Terry Britten , the guy I was replacing , used a Les Paul Custom. Brians own custom was set up with 12 to 52`s , way too heavy for me. He lent me a Stock Les Paul from Barratts that had been set up for me with 9`s. Weeks later I heard I'd got the job but there were no 2nd hand Les Pauls around. My own Tele wasn`t suitable. As I was going to Japan for 3 weeks , Brian, very generously lent me his own Custom and changed the strings to 9`s for me. We had 3 days rehearsal in London where I met his Cliffness for the 1st time !
At this point, Tony Marshall returns into my life. He was living in Cricklewood , London and put me up whilst rehearsing. He owned a Les Paul Deluxe Gold top that he wasn`t using. I preferred the jumbo frets on the De Luxe , Brian's was a `Fretless Wonder`. I bought the DeLuxe off him before we flew out and Tony got Brian's Guitar back to him.
When I was in Japan I was told Cliff was very happy with my playing and singing so I was offered the 8 week UK tour when we got home. I needed an amp for that , ( I was NEVER fond of the H&H Valve Sound ). Tony Marshall to the rescue again ! He had a mint 22watt Fender Deluxe reverb. ( Thats the model I'd used in Japan ). The Les Paul Deluxe into the Fender Deluxe Reverb was quite the best toneI'd EVER had.
Brian got me an amazing free supply of Eric Clapton,Sound City Guitar Strings from the rep so I could change them every week! Unheard of extravagance ! ( I STILL have some, probably collectors items now!)
I`ll write again about my return to the Harbour Lights and Bredbury Hall and The BEST incarnation of the Harbour Lights with the two Brians , Griff on Bass and Rick and or Steve on drums. What a great sound we made!
I did my last gig for Cliff in May 1975. It was a one nighter, variety show at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester.
In early 1975, Cliff had appeared on The Bay City Rollers TV show at Granada Studios. There was pandamonium after the show with hundreds of Bay City fans surrounding the studio. They tried to smuggle Cliff out in a van, the fans attacked the van assuming it was the Rollers inside and they overwhelmed the Police guard. Tragically a young policeman was killed in the incident and Cliff did the Manchester show for the benefit of his young family.
It was a GREAT night. My Mum, Dad, wife Sue and Brian Higham were all backstage after the show. Brian had a new Polaroid camera and he snapped the shot of Cliff and myself, shown above.
Now my memory does get hazy! I seem to remember that John Lee and Les Hilton decided to continue as a 3 piece (don`t know who was on drums) and left Brian out in the cold.
As to how Brian and I got back together I really cant be sure. However the new band was The 2 Brians, Griff Bayley on Bass and, at first,John Benson on the drums. We immediately started back at Bredbury Hall, every Friday and Saturday.That was a tight four piece and in my opinion, way better than the John Lee / Alan Forbes band. We were all a few years further down the road, Griff was an amazing Singing Bass player,
John Benson was a wonderful drummer, I'd had a years experience playing in Cliff's band and I think we ALL played with a new found confidence, including Brian H.
As to why John Benson left, I can`t remember. I KNOW he wasn`t sacked!
How did we stumble on Rick Henshaw ? I havn't a clue but right from the start he clicked ! Like when I met Brian at the start, there was a spark. Not only is he up there with the best drummers I`ve ever worked with, he is a genuinely funny guy to be around. Absolutely the same goes for Griff, a great bass player, great singer and a wonderful sense of humour.
With this super line up we started doing more adventurous stuff, 10 cc ( Difficult to do as a 4 piece ) and some of the later Eagles tracks.
In 1975 I took delivery of my Gordon Smith guitar, serial no. 0001. Having played John Farrars Telecaster that he`d had a Bigsby B bender fitted to, I had one fitted to my Gordon Smith. This replicates a Pedal steel string bend and was great for our Eagles and Country songs. Brian used an Ovation Glen Campbell for the 1st two spots then his trusty old Les Paul custom for the last two.
He should NEVER have sold his Black Telecaster with the two racing stripes!I'm one to talk, because until I got my Gordon Smith, I was chopping and changing ALL the time, trying to get that ultimate tone ! I didn`t buy another Electric Guitar for around 15 or 20 yrs. I still have it but have retired it from live gigs now.) Ricks brother, Steve also played in the band when Rick wanted a weekend off. You couldn`t tell them apart for ability, they were both Ace musicians. Steve took over full time when Rick joined the RAF. I see Griff and Joan about once a month for a curry and am looking forward to seeing Rick and Steve again some time soon.
That incarnation of the Harbour Lights,with either Rick or Steve, was in my opinion, the very best we ever played.
All good things come to an end. I moved to Whaley Bridge and was asked to join a popular local group called Blue Axis with whom I had years of fun.
As for now, I'm in the most talented band I`ve ever been in. Lovely blokes, lots of laughs, NO EGO`S, and a great set list of 50`s, 60`s and 70`s. We`re called the Reactions we rehearse every couple of weeks for very few gigs really, but we just love playing together ! Andy Rayner on Bass ( Leader ), Martin Soar on Drums ( Drummist) , Peter Scott on Twin Lead Guitar ( Captain ) and me ( Flash ) on other Lead Guitar.
Leader christened me `Flash` years ago. I'd been recommended to Andy by our mutual friend Steve Downes. Andy shook my hand and said `I`ve been told your pretty good at 60`s stuff. ` Apparently I replied ` I'm NOT pretty good, I'm F**KING GREAT! I`ve been Flash ever since. Thats MISTER Flash if I don`t know you well!
All 3 of them have great voices ( I don`t sing any more of which, more later ). LOVE doing Paperback Writer, And your Bird can Sing ( Twin lead ), Get Back from the Love album and are working on a lot more later Beatle stuff.
I have also taken to playing more Solo Guitar . I play solo every month at Trefor Owens Jazz Guitar Club in Cheadle. As Brian H said, I always did a bit of Chet Atkins style but have now expanded into` Dinner Jazz ` standards.
If you search YOU TUBE, Brian J Lewis, you`ll find 15 solo pieces with lots more to come.
From my mid fifties I`ve not enjoyed great health.
Firstly, I nearly took the end of a finger off with a bench saw. It was the third finger of my left hand (quite an important one for Guitar Players ! ) and it took a groove of flesh, diagonally across my finger print and took a small chip of bone. I thought, at the timeI'd be selling my guitar collection but we have amazing healing powers ! I now have a small scar but no feelings in the tip. This has slowed me down considerably !
When I was 57 I was having trouble peeing, went to the Doctor and was referred for a straight forward T U R P operation. Following that, I could pee like a fire engine ! However, following a biopsy, I was diagnosed with an aggressive Prostate Cancer.
My old friend Bruce Welch had beaten it a few years ago and he was one of the 1st people I phoned. We`d stayed in touch but were by no means, bosom buddies ! I can`t tell you how supportive he was, phoning for progress reports, always confident for a good outcome. As he says `We are both members of a Gentlemans Club that we didn`t wish to join !`These are the times when you need GOOD friends .
Thats behind me now but worse was yet to come !
About 2 years ago , I woke up deaf. For some yearsI'd been a little deaf in my left ear (I had a hearing aid ) but my perfect right ear compensated.I'd also had Left Ear Tinnitus but had learned to live with it.
Now I was severely deaf in both ears, had tinnitus in both ears ( at different pitches) and have a condition called Diplacusis. Google it, IT SUCKS for a Musician. This condition means you hear one note at different frequencies in each ear. On a bad day I can`t play or tune a guitar, can`t listen to music of any kind and can`t pitch to sing. I still have good days and bad days. The latest 14 postings on You Tube were all done since my deafness. Stranger on the Shore , The First one, is the only one I did with perfect hearing.
I was referred to Warrington Audiology and cannot sing the praises of the staff there, loud enough. I have 2 digital hearing aids which they have constantly `tweaked` to get them as good as they can for me.
Following some severe attacks of vertigo, I have been diagnosed with bi lateral Menieres Disease. There is no cure or treatment, although I take a daily tablet to control the Vertigo.
The guys in The Reactions have been great. All the Harmony Parts I used to sing have been rearranged and if we have a gig on one of my bad days, I play it from memory ! Providing the guitars are in tune to start with, I'm ok!
Tony Marshall, who I mentioned earlier, was staying with me for a day or two and started quizzing me re my Prostate symptoms. That raised a red flag and so we talked at length I insisted he went to see his own Doctor after what he told me.. He was referred to a consultant and lo and behold, he`d joined the club. I phoned Bruce Welch and told him what a great player Tony was and that he was a huge Shadows fan in the early days. He phoned Tony next morning, introduced himself and they chatted for 10 minutes or so. Tony was over the moon that he`d taken the trouble. As someone said earlier, it must be great to have friends.
My guitar friends are Tony Marshall, John Dickinson, Brian Higham, Roy Sainsbury, Trefor Owen, Griff, Rick, Steve, all the Reactions and knowing each and everyone has enriched my life in some way. I`m happy to say I'm still in touch with nearly all of them, if Ive missed you out please accept my apologies.
Brian J Lewis
Ps. If you are a male, over 60, it is your RIGHT to have an annual PSA test to check for PROSTATE CANCER. A low figure doesn`t mean you DON`T have it, A HIGH figure means you probably DO. I was young at 57 to get it and my PSA was a low decimal figure below ONE. I shouldn`t have had Cancer with that reading, BUT I DID. EARLY DETECTION IS EVERYTHING. Go and get checked. Good Luck !
Brian Lewis used to creep into my garage in Prestbury late at night. Why?
Because despite my wife's protesting, I converted it to a studio complete with multi-track recorders, mix downs, amplifiers, a drum set and yards of carpet on walls.
I am distressed to hear of Brian's problem with his hearing and guess that the only reason I avoided any hearing problems was that I couldn't afford folding piano stool, so sat on am amplifier with the sound thus well below head level.
Brian Lewis and Brian Higham were to me always the dynamic duo of music. I'm sure however that I figured way down on their scale of musical prowess!
Dr John Pollard