I decided to play with Mick Rhodes. He had a drummer friend Derek Chadwick who was older than me ... everybody was older than me at this point! We started playing regularly in Mick's front room, doing Shadows tunes and Walk Don't Run and Perfidia by The Ventures. We called ourselves The Echoes'. It was 1961 or 62.
Three weeks later, I am working as a junior production guy in an ad agency in Manchester (Wilson Advertising) when my Mum calls me and says Ivan’s Meads want you, on bass. Within days, I was a Mead.
I called the new band The Big City Blues’ after the recent Howlin Wolf mini tour with Chris Barber and Long John Baldry that came to Manchester.
I started picking up the phone and hassling the Abadi Bros at the Twisted Wheel for gigs. It paid off. After playing a few off nights at the Wheel, we were awarded the honour of backing Champion Jack Dupree at the Blackpool and Manchester Wheel Venues.
The guitar player, Ron Walker, was still only 15!
We did a great job, and backed Jack again at the Manchester Sports Guild, about a year or two later.
I started to get interested in playing sax after we added a great sax player to the line-up, Dave Moss. He played me some Sonny Rollins which I thought was amazing.
We were doing some stuff by Mose Allison and Jimmy Witherspoon and I loved James Brown and Jr Walker. I wanted to get funky ... I bought my own sax.
I always have had an instinct for when something has played itself out and to make a move onward, over, under sideways or down.
By 1966 The Big City Blues were on the ropes, nothing was happening; even the name ‘blues’ had a dated ring to it. The future lay in funky R ‘n’ B as being laid down by James Brown and Otis Redding.
Stax and Motown sounds ruled in Manchester now. I must have driven my mother crazy as I attempted to learn every soul lick in the book from records played repeatedly over and over again in the kitchen, while my Mum was trying to watch TV.
Enter Roger Eagle, the famous Wheel DJ, and his partner Laurence Selcoe, who approached us with the idea of backing Milton James , ‘The Boy From New York City’.
We played all over Lancashire, Yorkshire and down to Nottingham. Wherever we went, we wowed ‘em and got booked back immediately. Milton did an amazing Alvin Cash style dance routine and knocked ‘em dead everywhere we went.
I had a Selmer Mk6 tenor sax screeching all over the house for hours on end. Finally, I actually got it down and within 6 months I was in The Gin House run by Kevin Bowden, the keyboard player.
I was hired as a second horn player.
A guy called Phil was the main tenor sax man and soon the two tenors were sounding great as a section in this funky Gin House band.
One by one members of The Big City Blues were recruited, and one day after drunkenly hitting an old age pensioners’ bus on the way to the Blackpool Wheel while driving the band, Phil was fired and suddenly I was the singing sax player/front man.
It all ended rather suddenly when we demanded more money and refused to cart Milton's PA around any more! Rather childish when you think about it now, but it was a big deal back then!
I played on the last 45 release A Little Bit O' Soul on Mercury, which had been a USA hit for a band called The Music Explosion but it flopped miserably when we covered it. I was not looking forward to another extended stream of chicken-in-a-basket gigs. It all panned out nicely for a while - I enjoyed Germany, Del was great to work with and so were Paul and Dave Berry.
A chance meeting with the Fagin-like Kirk St James helped me to see a way out of this situation.
My Mum once told me ‘Never trust a Brummie' and she was right in two cases; my dealings with Kirk St James and later, the girl I married then divorced were from Birmingham. Both were bad choices for me. Let’s deal with Roland Alex Boyce aka Kirk St James - Roland - Kirk get it?
The man could sing like Jimmy Witherspoon or Johnny Taylor. He had a magnificent voice and some may remember him winning New Faces on the Beeb in the 70s and also in a cameo role in John Goodman’s movie King Ralph.
He had a thick Birmingham accent and was a member of a Birmingham band The Nomads’ in the early 60s. He appeared on the Manchester scene quite suddenly and was holding down a house gig at Bredbury Hall in Stockport with ' Studio One', a horn/Hammond organ band comprising of mainly old Big City Blues/Gin House band members.
I used to go down to see him as often as I could whenever I was not gigging with The Richard Kent Style. I'm not sure how I was offered this very shaky gig to go to Beirut, Lebanon for 3 months but he must have got me at the right time as I was disgruntled with the way things were working out for me in The Richard Kent Style.
I had recently started seriously dating Davina Goldstein, a singer who had just left The Dollies female singing group. We spent a lot of time listening to Paul Butterfield’s Pigboy Crabshaw and Electric Flag's (featuring Mike Bloomfield) Long Time Comin albums together. I was thinking ‘This is the gal for me’ but it was not to be.
The offer of a trip to Beirut was too tempting to pass up; Davina said she could handle waiting 3 months. So off I went into one of the biggest disaster gigs of my life ... but you know, I would not have missed it for the world.
Kirk had assembled quite possibly the strangest ensemble known to man.
Les Crompton (lead) and Ray Gibson (drums) were a couple of lovable 'eee by gummies’ from the Glossop/Stockport area; and Pete Marsh on Hammond was a posh, nervous, cigarette smoking guy. They all could play but we had not played together - in fact we did not get to rehearse till we got to Beirut. Fortunately we gelled rather well; I was on bass and vocals.
We had been scheduled to include two go-go dancers for this strange soul revue, via our agent Ted Lemon (yes he was called that, you can't make stuff like this up) in London; we met them on the plane as we left on our flight from Heathrow.
The girls actually were Soho strippers, Penny Blue and Helen (second name eludes me). After awhile I got into a raging affair with Helen and upon returning to London was knocking off Penny too - but that's another story!
Upon arriving in Beirut we were met by a grinning cocky disco looking guy in an orange shirt, white bell bottoms and white boots; his name was Tony Coe, former roadie for Geno Washington and he was the club DJ at Rasputin’s or Raspoutine as some called it .
Once we got our gear set up, we underwent rapid rehearsals to knock the band into shape before we started our ‘engagement’. Initially I did not like Tony at all but eventually we got to be great friends. He lives in Ipswich now and we call/email each other every week 40 years later. He is my brother.
Our accommodations were cramped but later we got separate roomier apartments. Unfortunately everything is next to a Mosque in Beirut, so we were awakened repeatedly by loud calls to Allah day and night. We got used to it.
The club Rasputin was owned by an upscale French hooker - a real hard-assed bitch. We had to use transformers to equalise the voltage in our amps.
One night they over-heated and the one that was attached to the organ amp set on fire while we were playing; the fire spread to the stage backdrop. We extinguished it with seltzer bottles but it made a hell of a lot of smoke.
The owner came in and in a typically arrogant French accent said, ‘Vot is dis? Dis smoke? I do not pay you to make smoke!’
I said ‘Lady your club was on fire we just put it out’.
She just turned and walked away. Amazing.
Beirut is famous for its American University and back in 68 there was little or no violence. It was known as the Paris of the East, which it was. There were gorgeous Arab girls in mini skirts everywhere and I met a girl named Janet McRobert. Her Dad was Scottish, a pilot for Middle East Airlines, liked jazz and used to drink a lot. Janet spoke fluent Arabic and had a friend called Hodda, who was gorgeous. Both girls fancied me but I opted for Janet, as the idea of confronting Janet's drunken Dad appealed to me more than getting tied to a camel and butt fucked by a bunch of angry Arabs should anything go wrong!
When I left Kirk, with Pete Marsh to play Barbarellas they got the DJ at the club to play bass. It's Tony Coe - he was a roadie with Geno Washington and a London club DJ
Upstairs at Rasputin we ate in the restaurant carte blanche, pigging-out day after day. One day I recall in conversation around a meal someone saying this place will be a bloodbath soon. We kept on gigging and never thought anything about it until one night the Israelis decided to lay a commando raid on the airport and actually blew up 6 Middle East Airline jets.
Pete Marsh and I had decided to leave Kirk’s little set-up (some argument about PA rental that Kirk was charging the band for ... it was not even his own PA) and we started working a rival club called Barbarellas as a Brian Auger/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown-style organ trio using a talented Iranian student guy on drums, Abi.
This pool contains future Chas and Dave guys Chas Hodges
Back in 69 the Bahamas were beautiful and I would like to go back there one day. At that time they were still flying the British flag but now they are independent and I imagine a lot has changed.
I remember one girl I was seeing; her Dad had a plane and business in Nassau, so it was arranged for me to experience a great day trip over to Nassau which was absolutely beautiful. The plane flew low over clear sky blue ocean, white sand bars, and the island of Nassau, though touristy was exquisite in every way. Those Pirates in days of yore sure could find great places to hide out!
This time I was not going back to Manchester.
As the 60s were coming to a close, my next audition was with O'Hara's Playboys (above), another band I had met in Beirut. The difference was they got paid and left before anyone was blowing anything up.
Audition with Jeff Beck
Dorris Henderson and Eclection. We toured with
Within 45 minutes I was back on the train - Sheffield bound. End of that story! The album that came out several months later was Rough And Ready with Clive Chaman just kicking arse on bass.
I recorded two singles for Polydor with a band called Swampfox.
I knew two of the guys through the Beirut experience - they were in the band that had been there before us.
After answering an ad in the Melody Maker, I met my buddy Ric Adams and we played in a country trio Western Union for a while and that took us to the Seychelles, just in time to recover from my divorce from Pauline.
I took another more rockin' outfit back to the Seychelles for a few weeks then formed pub rock band Grand Slam with Ric Adams.
Our friend Tony Owens was in the band for a while and we did the usual rounds of playing the clubs like the Marquee, etc. Grand Slam were getting a lot of encores all around greater London, but not much interest from anywhere else.
I was booking gigs from the telephone booth across the street from my flat in Muswell Hill! I didn't even have a phone back then!
Constantly shifting personnel became our eventual downfall, coupled with an offer to me from RCA to join a band called Limey.
The single and album were released and we toured with Andy Fairweather Lowe ... but the music scene was changing; the punk scene was emerging.
I began working in sales again, selling jeans this time.
Tony TS McPhee
Tony TS McPhee asked me to join him for a while in Terraplane.
We gigged a little, with Rory Gallagher’s drummer Wilgar Campbell on drums.
The pop band Kenny tried a musical come back; I was in Kenny for a while.
We went to Germany for 4 fun days of TV and bad lip synching to our new demos!
|Back to 9 -5
Shortly after this, I took a holiday to the USA for 8 weeks. I came back to the UK and got a job in an Ad Agency - Doyle Dane Bernbach on Baker St.
Tony Coe and I had recently found each other again and we put a nice little band, The Regulars, together which gigged every weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sundays – and I was booking gigs from my office in the agency. It was a very happy time.
Mal and Boiler were two infamous roadies who had roadied for everyone including Limey, Strider, The Faces and many more ‘name acts’. They were actually working with Rod Stewart when I ran into them in the Marquee bar in London in 1980.
I told them I was thinking about coming over to the USA for a trip, so they gave me their hotel address in LA and of course when I went over for my “looking around” holiday I looked them up.
We went to Disneyland, ate at Barney’s Beanery and got pretty drunk. All in all, my 8 week vacation in the USA had a mind blowing effect on me. I visited Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, St Louis, New York and all points inbetween! I returned to England determined to move back permanently one day.
Once back in England I took up the option of a job I was offered prior to my trip by Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, an Ad Agency on Baker Street. I think I only got the job because I was willing to join the agency football team which needed beefing up a bit - I was hired as soon as I mentioned I played any left position and had a strong left foot! Pretty soon I had been promoted to the position of production guy in charge of the Volkswagen account - responsible for 400 dealership ads appearing on time every week in papers throughout the British Isles. After meeting deadline or as near as I could on Fridays, I was out the door to gig with my band The Regulars with my buddy Tony Coe, who would come in from Ipswich every weekend.
I would return to DDB knackered on Monday morning after playing hard Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I was doing OK; I had a job, money, a good band, and a beautiful Armenian girlfriend, Markrid. Sunday afternoons were spent with Tony browsing record stores in Camden Town before going to our night gig. We had recorded some powerful demos of my originals which sounded great. These were pretty darned happy times for me but something was missing.
Off to the USA
The lure of the States was calling me and in the end it was too much for my brain to handle.
By 1981 I had quit my job, got a six month visa, sold everything and moved to the United States to a place in Denver, Colorado: a basement of a house of a guy I had met on my travels who said I could stay at his pad as long as I maintained the house, a pretty fair deal.
Markrid was upset by this move and came over to try to stay with me. She had relatives and could have gotten residency very easily but again, idiot that I was, I said no. I wanted to go it alone and had to end the relationship. To this day I feel it was regrettably a big mistake. I felt at that time I had to be able to move fast and travel unburdened to find what I was looking for … whatever that was!
Denver Colorado in 1981 was a booming oil town: there were lots of country bands and live music was everywhere, largely due to the ‘Urban Cowboy’ craze that was in full swing at that time. My first thoughts were to get a job. I began exploring the possibilities of me working for an ad agency but on a 6 month visa, that was out of the question.
I found a vintage left-hand Telecaster bass in Wedgles pawn shop on Broadway in Denver, in mint condition, and I bought a Peavey bass Amp. I would try my luck on the thriving country music scene. I had been in Denver a good couple of months and nothing was happening, the words of the Regulars’ drummer, Andy ‘arsehole supreme’ Walton back in London, were ringing in my ears ‘You’ll be back within 6 months with your tail between your legs.’
I decided to make another round of the music stores and look for something yet again ... the owner of one of the guitar shops told me a Western Swing band were looking for a bass player, their name was Rage Of The Sage. They were a very talented bunch, the guitar player Bob was really a jazz freak/Joe Pass type genius and the steel player Jim Stahlhut had a penchant for playing John Coltranes Giant Steps on steel guitar! The break tune was Cherokee done Charlie Parker style. I managed a few gigs with them, and they were my first American gigs. I remember we played Dillon and Granby Colorado, which were mountain gigs, and a couple of other places.
I was delighted to be playing and I liked the material, which was Bob Wills /Asleep At The Wheel styled stuff with some nice R&B overtones to the music. I found out soon after I joined that the band had cancelled work in Wyoming and had basically split up. So I was back to square one!
Shortly after this, I met a guy called Brett, who sang and played guitar. We assembled a trio and rented a trailer for the gear, along with a drummer (who was really the bass player in a band called Oak Creek who had a cancellation that weekend) and we were off on a three nighter in Twin Forks, Colorado.
It went well and led to me meeting drummer John Homerski who suggested we get a permanent project together. He sent for his old army buddy from Pennsylvania, Jeff Michel, on guitar, as we just could not find a dedicated proficient country guitarist locally. Within weeks we had a string of gigs booked and were up and running.
This band was called Payday - we were a real hot little trio. We all sang and did three-part harmonies; we rehearsed hard to get a big sound. J
ohn was an expert booker and I learned a few things from him about ‘how to do it’.
We had all the work we could handle but I was getting worried as my 6 month visa was getting close to expiring and I would soon have to make the decision on either going back to UK to get a renewal or becoming illegal and trapped in the USA pretty much without being able to return to visit my Mum in the UK.
Once your visa runs out , they don’t let you back in if you venture out of the country.
Our next gig was in Wheatland, Wyoming - a large country dance–hall on the edge of town.
I ran into a buxom gal called Sheri and we hit it off immediately; she was divorced and had a cute young son, Chad. Very soon we struck up a relationship and she offered me legality by saying she was willing to marry me in order that I could stay in the USA as a permanent resident, also she offered with an option for me to go my own way any time I wanted to should it not work out.
This was all very sudden but after a few days thinking about it I decided to get legal and see how things turned out with this remarkably honest and genuine woman.
We incorporated our first few days together as man and wife with a band trip down to Portales New Mexico; a town virtually next door to Clovis. Clovis, as any Rock’n’Roll fan knows is the place where Buddy Holly recorded most of his hits back in the 50s, under the supervision/production of Norman Petty.
The Payday band were booked for a couple of weeks in the Portales gig and Sheri and I scouted out Clovis and found the studio where this historical stuff took place. I was surprised to see the original sign still on the studio and we took photographs. Sheri had to get back to work, so after she left for Wyoming, I went back to Clovis to track down Norman Petty.
Main Street in Clovis had an old cinema/movie house frontage, with the words ‘Church Meetings Every Wednesday‘on the awning, a window near the old box office said ‘Norman Petty Productions’ and next to it, a door with a bell which I boldly rang. A moment later a grey haired Norman opened the door.
I said I was from England and playing around the area. Without hesitation he let me in and we shook hands; within moments he ushered me into his office.
‘Welcome to my mortgage mountain‘ he said cheerfully, ‘Let me show you around’ The Church notice on the frontage of the building was clearly camouflage for what I was about to see. Inside the cinema was a state of the art recording studio sound stage, the seating area had beautiful red upholstered cinema seats and upstairs in the old film /projection area was a control room resembling the best that Star Wars had to offer; all top of the line stuff. Flanking the control room, acoustic custom built separation booths were up there too!
During the tour of the building, he said Paul McCartney was here about a month ago and no one in town even knew. I found out later that McCartney owns all the publishing to Buddy’s catalogue; maybe the deal was done right here? Linda Ronstadt was just here last week too!
Back in the office we chatted while he listened to my demos that I had recorded in the UK; my first songwriting attempts. I expected him to be dismissive about them but he let me down easy - very diplomatic!
I spent about 3 hours with Norman and it was truly a memorable experience.
He gave me his business card and I had it in my file for many years but somehow it went astray and of course Norman and his wife Vi Petty who played keyboards on Buddy’s records, notably Everyday and Rave On are both now deceased.
After our Clovis gig, it was decided by John our bandleader to add a fourth piece to the trio - a guy who played steel, fiddle and guitar, all badly! On top of that he was a pain in the ass and Jeff and I did not like him; or the fact that we were sacrificing our money to pay for this extra guy.
Jeff and I decided to split and we bought a PA system and a drum machine.
Now we were a duo; hooking up with an agent, we found ourselves out on the road for a 7 month stint, 6 nights a week all over the South, and Southwest United States playing all the Waylon, Willie and Merle tunes you would ever want to hear at Holiday Inns and Best Western Hotels in places like Lake Jackson Texas, Grant’s New Mexico Gallup, Albuquerque and Sedona Arizona.
We spent 5 weeks in Guymon, Oklahoma and also a pretty good stay in Flagstaff Arizona at the Little America Hotel, where we ran into Chevy Chase.
Jeff tried to get him to sing with us but he declined!
It got to the point where Jeff and I were leading separate lives and we decided we needed a break. He went back to Pennsylvania never to return though we are still in touch at holiday times occasionally. I split back to Wheatland Wyoming, and after a short holiday in Wyoming and South Dakota sightseeing, we considered a move to Nashvillle.
Pat McInerney, drummer with Limey in the UK, had been there for several years as a part of Don Williams’ band and we decided to visit not only to see the sights but to see if it would be for us.
Visiting Buddy .. Passing thru Lubbock Texas with Jeff (my duo partner) 1981.about 6am in the morning .. We drove a lot back then !
It was fun visiting the Country Music Hall Of Fame and especially the old Ryman Auditorium, to stand where Hank Sr , and all the other country music legends had once stood, but in the end we felt it was not for us.
I played a couple of solo gigs up in S.Dakota as ‘Dave Andrew‘ (my middle name ) which did not pan out quite the way I wanted them to, so Sheri, Chad and I left Wyoming and moved to Denver and rented a house. I found myself ‘between engagements’ and Sheri went to work for a glass company in the administration offices.
A new experience and I become The Captain
One day while flipping the radio dial in the car, I came across an AM station playing jazz ,and a little blues; very unusual for Denver. I listened hard; the station was KJJZ Am 1390.
Next thing I knew I was in the office - a trailer house converted into an office right next to the radio mast. I walked into the owner’s office and said ‘I think I would be good on your radio station’
He asked ‘Have you ever had any experience in broadcasting?’
I swas honest and told him ‘no’.
He replied ‘Well, I like your voice (English accent) - you start tomorrow’.
My wage was $850 a month not bad for 1982, and now I was in radio. Next day I went on the air. I juggled with 2 turntables (all LP’s back then ) and learned real fast how to cue up tracks and within the first break, the station had many calls - all positive - I was in!
I was the morning man, 6am till 10 am, then on Saturdays I did a blues show. My boss said ‘Play what you like,there’s the library you seem to know a lot about the blues’ - an understatement, I feel.
Before long The Captain’s Red Hot Blues Show was racking up Arbitron ratings. My boss, Denny, had nicknamed me the ‘Captain’ as it sounded English (to him).
I relished my blues shows and got many, many calls while I was on the air, I had advertisers calling to request time on my show , so I was selling a little advertising too! The show was approaching cult status locally, and back then there was little or no blues on the radio or to be seen live in Denver. My birthday was rapidly approaching; I had an idea. Straight Johnsons was a club advertising blues shows on my show, they had successfully brought in The Legendary Blues Band (Muddy Waters’ band) for a first shot at featuring some true name acts.
Denny Sheneman was the owner of the club; I approached him about forming a special band to celebrate my birthday, in conjunction with the Red Hot Blues Radio Show. He agreed.
I mentioned on-air what was going down and I was looking for players. Trombonist JD Kelly called and said he had a complete band, with horns, waiting and ready to go.
I checked em’ out; they will do, I thought. The only thing was, we had two bass players - me and this amazing character called Ludwig, who sported a large waxed moustache.
I decided to retain Mr. Ludwig on bass and fake it on guitar with the three chords and two Chuck Berry licks that I knew. I was now a lead guitarist and a bandleader of a 7 piece blues band!
On the evening Of June 13th (my birthday gig night) I arrived early at the club and took a nap in the basement. One by one the band members arrived with all their stage gear - we had decided to dress the part as well as play the music, so we were togged up to the max.
I sleepily went upstairs to the club and my jaw dropped, the place was packed with folks waiting to see this ‘Captain’ guy, and there were lines down the street! My show had a bigger audience than I bargained for! My boss Denny had declined my suggestion that we put up the radio station banner behind the band to promote said radio station. Denny’s secretary, Susan called him up ‘You’d better get down here and bring that banner - the place is packed!’
As soon as we hit the stage the energy was electric. Our first gig could not have gone better! I decided to keep this band intact and before you know it we were gigging 7 nights a week, all over the front range with our new manager, Brad Miller, taking care of our business, our bookings and stealing agency commission to pay for his drug habit. We had a great agent; Paige Fraley, but after Brad Miller suddenly left town we found he had not paid Paige and we owed thousands in back commission.
This was resolved by gigging harder and paying double commission till we were all squared away. The press were our best friend at this point; we were everywhere. The Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post did regular features on us and the weekly Westword Magazine gave updates on the ‘Captain’s’ activities in most every issue. Eventually, I could not get to work at 6 am to be on –air in the morning as I was finishing gigs and driving back from 6-nighter mountain jobs every night and getting about 45 minutes sleep before going on the radio each weekday.
The gigs were flying in; we cut back to 6 members and we were packing them in everywhere we went. My boss at the radio station had become very hostile since the bands success and he was very patronizing intolerable to work for.
I got my last paycheck, cashed it , then left the airwaves …but not forever. Twenty-three years later I would be back on the radio!
The next three years were a haze of craziness.
First publicity picture of the Capt's Red Hot Blues Band , I grow a moustache,and some chin hair.. start wearing a turban , and take on a Sam the Sham personna! ..the local press loved us ,and the band really took off. 1983.
The Captain’s Red Hot Blues Band were to get really popular in the ski areas of Colorado.
On any given night, say, at the Red Lion in Vale, you would see celebrities like Tom Cruise hanging out. One night I got off stage, a blonde guy with long hair and a beard in a Southern accent said 'Ya’ll sounding good up there. I’m Greg' It was Greg Allman shaking my hand.
One night Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna & Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame got up to jam with us. Someone had provided a guitar and an amp. He was pretty well high on the booze. He said to me 'What shall we do?'
I said 'How about, I Wish You Would' (from one of the Hot Tuna Albums).
He said 'You sing it' so I did.
Dan Fogelberg & Joe Vitale the drummer & Kenny Passarelli (bass) kept showing up everywhere we played. Fogelberg insisted on playing Crossroads with us on his Les Paul. Fogelberg doing Crossroads? It sounded pretty darn good! My bass player needed some time off, so I asked Kenny Passarelli to stand in with us for a week. (He was Crosby Stills & Nash, Elton John’s & Joe Walsh’s bass player at that time.) He said, 'I’ll do it', but insisted on playing upright bass. Kenny is about 5’1” tall. It was quite a site to see him banging on this huge bass. He worked for our pay scale and did the whole week. We had a ball!
One night, I noticed a guy in line at the door of Linden’s club in Fort Collins. The doorman said no one can come in, we’re full. It was Leon Redbone with his huge nose pressed against the glass waiting to get in. The doorman, of course, did not know who he was.
Albert King was also at Linden’s one night, checking out the band. He was, of course, dressed to the nines in a light blue, shark skin suit, with the signature pipe sticking out of his mouth. He said, 'Ya’ll sound great, but you need to slow it down.'
We picked up a new manager, Charlie Dee, a full blooded Native American with a gammy leg (he claimed a bull fell on him). He was an ex-Marine and on his first night with the band beat up 3 college kids in the parking lot who made the bad judgement of trying to touch his pigtails!
We backed Solomon Burke , Bo Diddley (on several occasions) , Rufus Thomas, opened for Dr John, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Big Twist And The Mellow Fellows, and many other name blues acts of the day.
David and his band backed Bo Diddley many times in Denver area in 85, 86. In the above shot, we were clowning by some leftovers in the restaurant. Me and Bo were concentrating on drinking that night. His fave drink was Grand Marnier - until he got diabetes!
By now the party lifestyle and the overall success of this band had spawned an elevation of egos which were beginning to take it’s toll. JD was vying for leadership of the band; I decided to draw an imaginary line in the hotel room ‘Alamo style ‘ on the floor at the Copper Mountain resort to get it settled once and for all.
‘Those who want to go with JD stay on this side those with me cross over’ - all but the drummer sided with me. I replaced the drummer and JD and Paul Benkelman aka ’ Mandrake’comes in on trumpet and keyboards. Charlie Dee is long gone and we are a nice stripped down 5 piece, now named The Captain And The Red Hot Flames (after James Brown’s group).
The music is a lot funkier than the blues band and we still constantly ‘tear it up’ on an even higher level than before. We release a red vinyl EP Can Your Monkey Do The Dog followed by a live cassette-only release Housewreckin Live (cassettes sold pretty good on gigs ).
One Wintry day in the mid 80’s probably 86, I get a call from one of the guys (Keith Murdoch) from a local band called The Rockin’ Rudolphs. They are a Santa themed band and formed only to play national holidays.
They have a Christmas record out with a variety of artists contributing tracks.
Paul Butterfield is featured on the album doing Merry Xmas Baby the old Charles Brown classic. The man behind this is Lon Van Eaton , who ‘s claim to fame was having 2 records released on the Beatles’ Apple label years before. Van Eaton is bringing in Butterfield for a couple of shows, would I be into augmenting some of my players with 2 of the Rudolphs guys to back him up? Yes!
I was very enthused. We rehearsed for about a week; a list of Butterfields tunes was given to us and I remember driving every day through snow and ice to get to the rehearsal place.
Finally the big day arrives and we assemble at Boulders Coast - a real nice big room off Baseline Road in Boulder (it is now a fitness center I believe).
Enter Paul Butterfield clasping a large tumbler of brandy in his hand, staggering onstage to do the soundcheck.
He immediately fires Mark Bliesener, the drummer. Mark was the guy we were counting on to do all the count in’s and cues for the show.
As Mark is packing up his kit, Butterfield wanders off stage and I go over to Van Eaton to tell him to get Butterfield to stop drinking and ask himwhere are we going to find a drummer?
People are beginning to arrive for the show. The next thing I know Butterfield walks up to me and gets in my face.
'I hear you say that I’m DRUNK?'
I took a step back. I said 'Well?'
'YOU COCKSUCKER' said ol’ Butters.
I turned to the stage got up there and told my guys to pack up - we are gone.
It was quite a sight to see the band leaving the venue as people were arriving for a show. I hear later that they sent down to the local music store and the staff had formed some kind of band to back him; it was a disaster.
Three months later, Butterfield is dead. At that time I thought there was something wrong with him, his complexion was kind of olive green. It was no surprise that he passed soon after. I heard later that after he lost his wife and was having a hard time coping with it, that is when his detioration began to set in.
He is still a hero and I still listen to his wonderful stuff to this day. He had a real unique approach to the harp. I learned recently from another harp player more knowledgeable than I, that he was originally a flautist, which may account for his way of phrasing things and his fat tone
It is 1988, Sheri and I have split up; my Mother suddenly passes about two weeks before I’m due to visit her, which results in a 4 day whistle stop visit to UK for the funeral . There are some more personnel problems in the band.
This is a very sad time for me indeed but I feel that my Mum wants the show to go on. I experiment with all sizes of line –ups; at one point we tour the mid west as a 6 piece, a two guitar line–up Myself and Kelvin Daley along with Larry Lorraine on bass , Travis Lorraine on drums and Washboard Chaz, with Sonny Gunn on sax, the only survivor from the Red Hot Blues Band. A definite New Orleans feel has crept into the band and I decide to pare down to a 4 piece. We release one more 45 as The Captain And The Red Hot Flames, a Tony Joe White tune Garter Belt and a Rockin Sydney tune They Call Me Rockin.
I changed the name yet again to just Captain for a while; it appears the name Captain is played out. Utilizing the Louisiana feel that has developed, I come up with the name the Alleygators.
It seems to do the trick.
We are just making a name as the Alleygators when on a night off, I go to see the Dynatones who are passing through town. The Dynatones are a Warner Bros recording band and they sound great.
I get to talking to Walter Salwitz, the drummer/bandleader and mention we are playing at Regis College the next afternoon; they all come out to see me. I am offered the job of guitarist with the Dynatones which means I would have to move to San Francisco.
I am not to happy the way things are going with the Gators and not too happy with my current girlfriend Alita.
I see this as an opportunity to ‘Get Out Of Denver’ so to speak and elect to move . Alita says ‘I know things are not great ,between us , but I want to move to San Francisco too’ ... so we both go.
San Francisco is totally different to Denver, the sea air is great but I find it very cramped and expensive to live.
The Dynatones schedule is grueling as we criss-cross the US and Salwitz turns in to a Hitler figure.
I play Buddy Guy’s ‘Legends’ in Chicago (Buddy is there watching me at the edge of the stage, oh my God!), Milwaukee Fest with Robert Cray with The Memphis Horns, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
After recording several tracks for their new CD, Chopped and Channelled and also several tracks as back up for Sir Mack Rice’s CD Right Now (Mack wrote Mustang Sally and Respect Yourself plus many others ).
I am unceremoniously fired.
Picture left: 1989
The Alleygators ... again.
Snappy Rock ’n’ Roll, with a swamp chomp!
I stayed in San Francisco for a few months gigging and scraping a living with pick up bands on North Beach, mainly led by an amazing character called Perry Welsh, a former Elvin Bishop sideman. I then decided to move back to Denver. In the 18 months I’ve been away I have driven across nearly every state in North America!
1991 sees me back in Denver, my tiny house on Pearl Street has been rented while I was away and my tenant of course has trashed the place. I scramble 5 grand together and assume a loan on a house on S. Franklin St. where I will live up until 2003.
I finally evict said tenant, clean up the place and try another tenant on S. Pearl Street. It works ... for now.
Back on the music scene I hook up with Sonny Gunn and decide to give the Gators another go, both as a duo and a band when there is a budget for a 4 piece.
We record some hot band demos, which get us accepted as semi finalists in the KLON talent search in Los Angeles. We fly out to LA and come in as runners –up; a guy called Kevin Moore wins. He is now known as Keb Mo.
This leads us to release an Alleygators CD (pictured right) as a duo with guests, called Rockin Rhythm And Blues.
I had been dating a girl called Vera since I got back from San Francisco, meeting her through Alita who had elected to stay in San Francisco. We decide to take a vacation down to Memphis, New Orleans and all points in between, including the Sun Studio, Graceland in Memphis and all the spots in the French quarter in New Orleans.
Our relationship, which had been strained to say the least up to this point, was not enhanced by this trip. We were engaged at this point to be married but in one blazing argument in an Indianola Mississippi hotel room, rings were taken off fingers and thrown around!
There is an existing picture on our trip, of me standing by the graveside of my hero, Sonny Boy Williamson. I am clearly not a happy camper due to an exchange of words just before the picture was taken! It was that kind of vacation!
Shortly after we got back to Denver, Vera and I part company; I get an offer to go down to Florida with Sonny as a duo, so we go down for a few weeks in February.
The OJ Simpson trials are on the telly and it is cold in Florida - even the pelicans are wearing wooly hats! We look at the weather in Denver, 70 degrees, and laugh at the fact we came to Florida and froze our asses off!
We play mainly on Marco Island at the Snook Inn but also do gigs up the West Coast of the State. Back in Denver, I was living quite happily alone for the next two years. As 1995 approaches we decide to do a second CD, with Eugene Smith on Cocktail Kit and Mark Diamond on Upright Bass, mainly original stuff. It is called Mojo Alley after my beloved dog Mojo who I had picked up in California; it turns out great. The Best tracks from these two cds are available from my website (www.davidbooker.com) as Chomp, the Best of The Alleygators.
I acquire an address in Holland of an agent from drummer Tony Black, and send over promo and music samples. The agent loves it and sets up a tour for me and Sonny as a duo. Also, my old pal Rod Mayall (from the Ivans Meads days in Manchester) has been in contact.
He brings his family over for a ski trip, sits in on a couple of gigs with us and before you know it, Sonny and I are gigging in the UK with Rod’s rhythm section, then on to Holland for our first tour which is a big success.
This is followed by another tour of Holland with Sonny in 96. After we get back, I decide to go it alone for a while, as I felt Sonny and I had played as far as we could go. I retained the name Alleygators and start playing as a trio with Dave ‘Snakebone’ Martin on bass and Ben Makinen, or Eugene Smith on drums.
The call comes in for another trip to Holland, so I take Washboard Chaz with me as a duo; we have a lot of fun. This becomes the most enjoyable trip of them all, even more so than the next one, which I play with Steve, an American living in Holland - who sets up a couple of nice additional band gigs on my fourth and final trip in Dec 1997.
I had again gotten myself involved with another girlfriend/woman, Julie Reynolds, later she would take me for thousands of dollars in the common law wife trap that I unwittingly let happen to me.
I start to record again and book four hours at Steve Weist’s studio, with Ben Makinen on percussion. We had been doing some duo gigs and it sounded good; I wanted to capture what we had.
We set up facing each other and the tape rolled; four hours later we had more than enough tunes - all done live on my acoustic with live vocals, no overdubs except for Steve’s trumpet on one track. Next day we mix it in another four hours. It comes out on a limited edition cassette, and is the best thing I have ever done. It is now available as O’ Brother I’m Here on CD and I can’t give em’ away! This is a strange business.
Two cool things happened over the 96/97 period; an Alleygators line–up opened for John Mayall at the Boulder Theatre and a hastily assembled 4 piece wowed the crowd at the Ogden Theatre in Denver as we opened for Los Lobos ...quite a memorable night. We got paid $75 for all of us on this one! Round about this time, Steve Weist moves his studio into bigger premises; more recording, a solo CD this time - Take Out Your False Teeth Mama had a Folksy Americana/acoustic flavour to it and had special guests Mary Flower(dobro) and Charlie Provenza (mandolin), among others. I played kick drum one-man-band style on a few tracks and overall it comes out pretty good. While in the middle of the sessions my old pal Ric Adams from Grand Slam and my Muswell Hill London days in UK calls me, and says he’s coming over for a holiday. I said ‘fine, .you can mix my album!
A couple of the tracks on the CD are in the swing mode; The Neo Swing Scene literally explodes within the next few months. I see a musical similarity to the old Red Hot Blues Band and hastily assemble The Swingtet. I assume the name Mr David Booker And The Swingtet to give it a more old timey/George Melly feel and the gigs start pouring in. The trend leans to having a swing wedding and we become the darlings of the wedding AND club circuit . I enter into one of the most productive and busiest periods of my career thus far.
The band is decked out permanently in vintage zoot suit style gear and life is good; we play a concert with the Woody Herman Alumni Orchestra in downtown Denver, and the Blues And Bones Festival in Denver 2 years in a row, we record a live CD at Trios Enoteca on the Colorado Sound Mobile in 1998.
Cowtown Jive is released in mono after a really bad stereo mix down by the Colorado Sound people, overall not a bad CD, though now long out of print!
The Swingtet start gigging all over the place, almost like the old Red Hot Blues Band/Flames days we open at the Fox Theater in Boulder for the New Morty Show; a name act from the West Coast.
9th Avenue West is a trendy swing club, and we are featured there often.
I buy a tenor sax and start playing sax again on a couple of tunes, during each set with the other sax man. Due to work being so plentiful I find I have a budget to start advertising in glossy wedding magazines, like Modern Bride, which brings in more business.
Suddenly the infamous and fabulous 9th Ave West closes and re–opens as a Salsa disco but the trend shows no sign of slowing down, especially on the wedding and corporate scene. There are one or two setbacks; Snakebone Martin proves totally unreliable due to a drug habit, and I decide to play bass and pare down to a 4 piece. - tenor sax, piano, bass (me) and drums; we record a neat little CD called Now Booking.
I manage to play guitar on three cuts, and we release it. I start playing upright bass and doubling on bass guitar, but a lot of folks tell me to go back on guitar.The sax player was drinking so heavily that he could not play the heads, so I find another upright player and get back on guitar again.
My main income now is corporate stuff and weddings and my life with the aforementioned Julie Reynolds is not working out.
I had made the bad decision to let her move in my house with her teenage daughters and it was not a happy arrangement after a couple of years; I felt I had to get her out of my life. Our lifestyle includes us not talking for up to 20 days at a time and it is a tough existence.
About this time I meet a swing dancer, Danielle, and it is obvious we are both having experiences with the wrong partners. After getting to know her just a little bit, I fall madly for this beautiful woman. I finally get down to the nitty gritty with the Reynolds and, of course, it is deemed I am in a common law marriage situation according to Colorado Law. I had never heard of this, do we have this in England? In order to get this over with, I had to cough up the dough, $27,500 (plus $10, 000 for a lawyer ) and pay up as if we had been really married, though not before a couple of days in jail (me) and lots of lying (her) to the Police, plus at least two temporary restraining orders against me going into my own house. That’s American justice folks!
It was a bitter blow, especially as she had asked me to let HER move in my house with HER kids as HER landlord was doubling HER rent. Boy have we heard that one before or what! But this was not the last time I was to be taken for a sap; read on.
The swing scene at this time was getting quieter, although the Mercury Café in Denver - a bastion of freedom of expression, art, poetry, and music - was still doing two nights a week of swing with a DJ on Tuesdays and live bands on Sundays (thankfully I’m still on the roster in 2007). I watched closely as the swing trend declined and I decided it was time to do more variety stuff again, along with the swing stuff , and this proved to be a good move.
The World was shaken by the attack on the New York Twin Towers and since then the whole scene has been affected. Gone are the big budget weddings and the corporate scene for me is non-existent right now.
Without getting too political, a six year war in Iraq has not helped the nation’s economy and while we continue this expensive Government decision , the arts and music are suffering.
David in 2008
David's latest publicity shot
David's current band
A recent shot (with my LH Burns!).
Also I have an acoustic CD just out locally ... and an all originals one in the works hope fully this spring it will be out.
The Acoustic one is called 'Good Evenin Everybody' ... and the originals collection is called 'Shake The Ache'.
https://youtu.be/yozcApoeFS4?t=4 Video solo
|https://youtu.be/47ykoY3DrSs?t=4 Video solo|
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