The Good Old Days
Michael Parkes - the story so far ...
Since I discovered your site a few days ago it’s been fascinating to read about people I knew, many I admired, and to read their history and what they have done since I quit the music scene in the late 60’s, so a big thank you for that. I’ll tell you what I know and remember from those days, the people, the groups, the characters and the mood, as I remember it of what was undoubtedly a very special decade.
I’ll tell you from my perspective and if it comes across as “this is my life”, I assure you that is not my intention. It’s very obvious that your knowledge of the era, the people, the music and the places, is extensive. It’s similarly obvious that the whole Manchester scene at that time was musically incestuous, so some little detail I provide might enable you to complete someone else’s “jigsaw puzzle”.
Manchester venue (Military)
5 songs again and again
Tone it down
’63 Black Cat Bones
- Kevin Carney Vocal
- Kevin Churchouse Bass
- Paul Jones Drums
- Roger Partington Lead
Started off middle of road then moved more and more into R&B/Blues and later into jazz influences. G.F & Blue flames (more names).
Kevin Carney, the lead singer was a tremendous stage presence, a confident showman. He was also an excellent dancer and he left the band some months after I joined to pursue a dancing career with his then partner.
Kevin Churchouse was an excellent bassist who looked good on stage in Cuban heels, bell bottoms and a fantastic “Beatle” haircut.
Paul Jones was a good, if not flamboyant drummer whose main interest in being on the stage was the inevitable female following. He and I were the youngsters in the band and competitors for our female followers. He was better looking!
I lost touch with all the guys but I do know that Paul sadly died in his 30’s of natural causes.
Brings me to Roger, Roger Partington, the energy, the force, the direction of the band. Roger was a good guitarist, became a good harmonica player and an adequate saxophonist. Roger led the musical direction of the band, took us from Freddy and the Dreams to John Lee Hooker and Howlin Wolf and we found we liked it there. We quite quickly established a reputation as a blues band. We just as quickly lost most of our regular venues where the audience wanted “pop”.
Apart from a brief mention to myself as Paul’s competitor for our female fans, I haven’t mentioned me yet in this band. Time I did, pour yourself another drink and get a pillow!
You will no doubt remember the two dominant factions in teenage society in the early 60’s, Mods and Rockers. I suppose a great many kids just “got on with life” and declared allegiance to neither fraternity. If you were in the music business seriously you could not sit on the fence.
I answered an ad in the Manchester Evening News for a rhythm guitarist vocalist (backing). I was a Buddy Holly 3 or 4 chord guitarist with no formal teaching and I turned up for the and. Probably with Tony Curtis hair, Buddy Holly glasses, and drainpipes. I was 15.
Audition was at Roger’s parent’s house (front room). I rang the bell and Roger opened the door, shoulder length blonde hair, hipster bellbottoms, and Cuban heels. I auditioned. I couldn’t play to their standard, I looked totally out of place, but, thank god, I could sing. They agreed to take me on provided I agreed to some major image changes and practiced guitar with Roger everyday. I felt like I’d just been discovered by Epstein and I happily watched my BH glasses flushed down the bog and my hair re-styled with instructions to grow it. I quickly learned, and learned to like a very different lifestyle and general view of life. Within months of me joining the band our musical direction had changed to the point where our lead vocalist Kevin Carney was no longer comfortable. His clean cut image didn’t fit and he didn’t want to change. He left. My ambition and self esteem was always greater than my talent but I could sing so I persuaded the band that we didn’t need a new vocalist. I had become a better than average rhythm guitarist (even had a mention in NME or MM), and we carried on for some months as a four piece typical line up, lead, rhythm, bass, drums.
Our mentor, Roger, by this time was into GF/Blue Flames. Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, and Booker T. He decided we needed keyboards, I drew the short straw! Just when I was becoming adequate on one instrument I had to learn another. None of us had any knowledge of a keyboard but we went out, bought a FARFISA and sat and listened to Green Onions and worked out how to play it. Became our signature tune.
The more we explored this musical genre the more we liked it. Became serious followers of G.F. and Roger learned to play tenor sax. God, we were having fun and getting better by the day.
Lawrence St. James Group
Black Cat Bones didn’t describe us anymore and we became the “Lawrence St. James Group”. Leaning toward Brian Anger etc.
Roger left!!! Married a fan, told him he was making a mistake, he thumped me goodbye.
Over night I had no band, but I had a cool band name, a local reputation and a lot of front. Hey, I was a mega experienced 16 year old by then. I advertised for new members. Auditioned funnily enough in the front room of my parents house. I found two complete gems. A drummer from Stockport, John Redfern. John was no Keith Moon but he was a musicians dream, wherever you wanted to wonder off to instrumentally, he’d be there rock steady when you re-landed.
The other was a bass player called Stuart Syrett. I’ll mention Stuart a great many times in the following pages. The guy blew me away. This was 64/65, he was playing slap bass, chord bass like “doesn’t everybody do this?”.
This was the peak of my musical career, we were good at getting better.
Stuart was a neighbour and acquaintance of Wayne Fontana and in 1965 Wayne split with the Mindbenders. Wayne approached Stuart, asked us to join and form a new band. Stuart and I talked and agreed to audition. Wasn’t my kind of music but Wayne was big at the time and the money and fame appealed.
Wayne was with Kennedy St Enterprises, Danny Betesch and Harvey Lisberg. We did a formal audition at their premises off Piccadilly (can’t remember road name) at the end of which the managers said they wanted me and Stuart, sorry not John!
This was my band, I said “all of us or none of us”. Stuart disagreed and left the band to join Wayne.
I auditioned a thousand bass players and couldn’t find the Stuart replacement. We still got regular work but we were never as good again. Stuart had been an essential ingredient.
We recruited a replacement, Barry, I hope he’ll forgive me for not remembering his last name. Barry was a good bass player but we never “bounced off” one another like Stuart and I had done. We were practised and mechanical. Not what music is about.
For the first time I was not enjoying performing and a few months later fate intervened. We played a venue in Sheffield and managed to upset the boyfriend of a would be girl fan. He unfortunately was in the company of 100 mates. Equipment got trashed, van got burned! No insurance.
Couple of weeks later met Wayne, Stuart, along with Frank Renshaw and Bernie Hogginbottom in a breakfast café. Wayne asked if I would reconsider joining him, seemed a better option to unemployment! This bit is going to sound shitty, but from day one I hated it. I was a paid musician, paid to make a particular noise every night twice sometimes, on demand. I was now 17 and should have been chasing down my own musical aspirations. The money, the lifestyle and of course the glamour kept me locked in, and my musical talent died.
On the road, 3 weeks tour, Hermans Hermits (Peter Noone had financed the tour and was top of the bill!) Wayne Fontana, The Fortunes, Billy Fury, Johnny Kidd, Dusty Springfield (come back to that) and little Frankie and the Country Gents.
I was 17, used to playing small, intimate, venues and suddenly I’m playing theatres and sharing stages with my idols!
Come on home – Wembley
That 3 week tour turned my life upside down.
I was totally in love with Dusty. I’d watched her, admired her, and I was totally in tune with her musical direction, (me and the rest of the World!). I was convinced that fate had thrown us together and I actually bought her some flowers, went to her dressing room with a prepared speech. Something like “der, I love you, here’s some flowers”. She was in the middle of one major domestic with Madeline Bell. I was devastated the woman I loved, loved a woman.
We had a lot of fun on that tour. Peter Noone was 21 while we were young and touring and the last night of the tour in Manchester was a barrel of laughs. If you’re still in touch with him, ask him, although some of the fun was at his expense!
I grew up so quickly in 3 weeks. I shared a stage with Billy Fury, I had won a talent competition at “Brown’s school of dancing” singing half way to paradise, just three years earlier. I sat and talked with him in his dressing room. In one minute he was reduced from my idol to a sad and disillusioned man, his career was over.
Learning to play guitar I had “lead” examples from Hank and the Shadows, (if I don’t mention them later please remind me), and rhythm examples from B.H’s stuff. One riff that every guitarist, learning in that era, will remember is Johnny Kidd’s “shakin all over” guitar intro. I’d learned it, practiced it in front of a mirror thought it was “cool” at the time, and even though my musical tastes had gone into “fast forward”, I still respected the guy.
His performances were good, but musical audiences were so fickle that they were boo-ed. I sat with him later in his dressing room, he played “come back” songs that were never to be.
Hey, what a tour, 3 weeks? On the tour were “Little Frankie and the Country Gents”. Frankie was a powerhouse, lulu x10. She really was good on stage and a great personality. She was engaged to Carl Green of H.H. on the same tour. Shortly after that tour Frankie broke the relationship with Carl and we got engaged.
We were in different bands, gigging touring and didn’t see enough of one and another, so she quit the band. I regret that, she was good, should have gone on. Sorry.
I was still working, touring with Wayne, not enjoying it, losing my hunger, my passion. Working with good musicians, Frank, Stuart, Bernie, and of course Wayne, incredible voice and great showman but not my music.
Saville – 3 coins – Little Walter