Scrapbook & extracts from ‘Musing’s of a Muso’
Anyway, I have found some pix and stuff in the loft and added (below) some text from my musings (or boozings).
The Writ | Jazz Trio (Eddie) | Gt. Yarmouth (Majorca) | MelEddy and Germany | Westgate House | Roger Cotton | Final Chapter |
Junky James & The Sect and Cat Balou
Left to right:- (front) Pete Trower (Trumpet/Guitar); Jimmy Pragliola (sadly died); Geno Washington; Guitar player (forgot); (back) Richard (drummer); Mel Stallwood; Bruno Urciouli (Guitar/Bass); Unknown; Stan Beesley (Sax) Paul Thompson (lead guitar) took the photo (so not in picture) Bruno and Jimmy and myself were friends from schooldays. We formed one of our very first bands together with me on Rhythm guitar. I stupidly thought they would think that playing piano was uncool. I was rubbish on guitar so when they wanted to sack me I revealed my true self. We played our opening gig at the Elwes Hall in Peterborough (our youth club the ‘Heaven & Hell’ was in the basement of the old hall). The ‘Heaven & Hell’ must have been the coolest club in town (for kids) and ‘Father Green’ (RC Priest) was our ‘Roadie’. He drove us around (fully cassocked) in an old Bedford Dormabile. The van had seats (for orphange outings) with which had to stack the gear on top of and then lay all over the place with arms and legs sticking out of windows (great days). I had to play our first gig in my best suit (with collar and tie) because my Father refused to allow me out on a Sunday unless suitably attired. Later we teamed up with Pete and Stan (Trumpet and Tenor Sax) who became our brass section in a band called ‘Junky James and the Sect’. We played all over to great receptions and became resident at the ‘Pink Flamingo’ club in Wardour St. London where we backed bands like ‘Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames’, ‘Alan Price Set’ Graham Bond and ‘Zoot Money’ etc. I remember having a massive row with Alan Price (from ‘The Animals’) when a Flute went missing from the dressing room we all shared. We played together in many different formats over the next 20-30 years but sadly drifted apart. Strangely we all became ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ at different times during our lives (that’s another long story though).
Eddie – The Writ – Jonathan King – Decca
1965 (picture later)
Left: Dorothy Stallwood (my Mother) Middle: Eddie Cavanagh (Drummer) Right: Mel Stallwood.
Aged only 16, I left Bruno & Jimmy to join Decca recording band ‘The Writ’ with Pete Trower (guitar/trumpet), Dave Lodge (bass), Eddie Cavanagh (drums), Mick Davison (vocals/guitar) Alan Sewell (vocals/trumpet) The original keyboard player was Fred Iveson – actually the band was originally called ‘Beats Ltd’ but manager Jonathan King, wanted obtain a song for us to record and had a ‘writ’ served by ‘Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham who had some vested interest in ‘Did you ever have to make up your mind’ (1966) which the band had released and was ‘climber of the week’ on Radio Caroline. The song never quite made the top twenty after being withdrawn from sale on account of the legal proceedings. (some details have now alluded me due to passage of time) but ‘Beats Ltd’ became ‘The Writ’ and although further releases were unsuccessful (Juke Box Jury voted us a miss!), we did a tour of the country playing to packed houses and a season at Dreamlands in Margate alongside all the top bands of the day. I remember we playing a big gig in London with Ike & Tina Turner. It was a totally different scene for bands in those days in that you didn’t need a top ten hit to have hoards of screaming fans at gigs (coming from London or Liverpool helped). We played Bradford Majestic (might have been the town hall) one night and were amazed by the size of the poster on the front of the building – it must have been 30 feet high ‘From London – Decca recording artistes “THE WRIT” latest release, blah blah… We heard the D.J. introduce us as if we were the Beatles. Suddenly the lights blinded us and the curtains opened to a deafening crescendo of the sound of a thousand screaming girls. We fell apart. Mick (vocalist) split his hipster paisley flairs, Eddie broke a drum stick with his first shot, I fell off my keyboard stool, Pete’s trumpet mouthpiece flew off and broke a note in the middle of my keyboard just after he knocked a mike-stand over trying to catch it – and then Dave’s bass amp packed up and he quickly plugged into mine and we both suddenly sounded like ‘Metallica on steroids’ (which, I kid you not, all happened in the first few seconds of the opening number. I think we got away with it though.
When we broke up I formed a jazz trio with Eddie (the drummer).
The Jazz Trio
Gt. Yarmouth and Majorca
Eventually we came home and ‘Bruno’ came back with us and we worked the northern club circuit as a showband. When we finally all split up after even more summer seasons, (in Gt. Yarmouth & Clacton) I went back to London and worked with my old mate Jimmy Pragliola in an R&B funk outfit called ‘The Randyband’. Jimmy was a bit of a dope addict in those days I had to drive all over London to gigs in my little morris minor van full of drums and keyboards with Jim rolling joints and puffing out clouds of dope but Jim was probably the nicest man I ever knew (Jim died unexpectedly in 2011). Eventually we teamed up with Eddie and Bruno and worked a few more summer seasons together at Clacton-on-Sea. We ended up in a variety club with added brass section backing top acts – ‘Bucks Fizz’ Brotherhood of Man’ ‘Cannon & Ball’ ‘Danny Williams’ and many more.
MelEddy – Germany – Ships
Eventually Eddie and I drove to Germany in a clapped out 1948 morris van (which drew crowds wherever we went) We conked out regularly and ended up being sent to prison by the local police to prevent us from freezing to death in the snow. We ended up joining the German navy and after all the medicals and training, we got our seamans papers, cards, and passport etc. we got a job for about 3 years on a German/Swedish ship (the Prins Oberon) playing our duo stuff (We even backed ‘Chris Farlowe’). We worked on the most terrible seas imaginable. I remember one winter being in a hurricane on the North-Sea and everyone on the ship had to be strapped to their bunks. Another time we were in the Galley having supper and the ships horns were blowing like crazy and we suddenly started veering abruptly to starboard. Out of the portholes we saw an enormous tanker passing us by what seemed a few yards away. On another occasion we hit a small yacht and had to rescue the 2 man crew. Another time we actually hit another large boat which scraped a fairly large hole in the side of the ship. We took in water and had to be piloted into Bremerhaven where we spent a whole week in dry dock over Christmas. The passengers were flown or bussed off and the whole crew left to drive off to Sweden, Denmark and Germany to their homes for Christmas. The shipping company wouldn’t pay for us 3 musicians go back to England but kindly left us a with 1 chef on board (who couldn’t cook) and a horribly diseased Bulgarian prostitute.
We were eventually relocated to another ship (Prinz Hamlet) which was OK until one terrible night when waves were crashing over the ship but freezing until the ship was encased in ice. We became completely stuck when the sea froze solid. The most exciting part was when an icebreaker had to come and rescue us. Can I just say that none of these stories are exaggerated in any way!
Once an old guitarist/drummer mate who I played loads of session work with over many years (Pete Carter) got me a job to MD the ‘Bachelors’. I got stuck in a French farmers protest at Calais and never made the Ferry. Pete told me that the Bachelors managed to blacklist my name through the union and I never worked (serious sessions) again in England for years (hence my exile abroad). (sorry I missed your funeral Pete)
When we came home, Eddie was offered a job as manager at ‘La Scala’ nightclub in Peterborough by the local Italian ‘mafia’. We knew them as kids but now they were all suddenly rich. Eddie booked loads of star cabarets and we formed the ‘La Scala Orchestra’ for the sessions with brass section mates from the local ‘Neil Mitchell Big Band’ (Neil Mitchell, John Farrington, Claudia Locke, Chris Watson and of course Bruno (Chris-Bruno pictured left) were all involved. I also regularly commuted to London to MD shows starring everyone from Bert Weedon to Lenny Henry (often with Pete Carter on drums or guitar). Another time I played in a Peterborough pub (either the’Heron’ or the ‘Halcyon’) with Rex Gates (on drums) and slap in the middle of our set the police burst in, dragged me off stage, handcuffed and arrested me and ripped my whole house apart while I was thrown in a cell! I had recently played a couple of weeks with a big-band at Nottingham Palais while the regular pianist was ill, and after I left on the last night, the entire 24 piece band-parts dissappeared (band parts were worth £££thousands in those days). The Band-leader rang the Peterborough police accusing me of theft and the rest followed. Thankfully the truth came out in the end but I still never got another Palais job..
Westgate House (Ian Bowen)
Morag McArthur Richardson “Really loved reading this post. I used to work with Ian Bowen (drummer) selling pianos, organs and keyboards.
Mel Stallwood was my musical hero. He taught me so much that had I not met him I’d never have known. He introduced me to Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea and too many more to mention.
I remember fondly Mel getting me to tap out the the 7/8 time signature on the piano lid whilst he played Unsquare Dance.
Mel is an outstanding musician. I’ve heard a lot of pianists play, but I’ve yet to listen to anyone as musically and technically as good as Mel. He could do it all. Classical, jazz, rock. All of it. He is so knowledgable about music in every aspect. I miss those days of standing by the piano as he played. Here’s my favourite picture. This is the time when THE Buddy Rich Orch. came to Peterborough. We supplied the concert grand piano that night. That’s me in the front. Then left to right…
Chris Simms, Mel Stallwood, Buddy Rich, Bim Livesy jr, Bim Livesy snr, Geoff Elliman (local piano tuner) and Ian Bowen was just out of shot.
Mel, wherever you are.. thank you for the music x”
Country Rose – Roger Cotton – Alias
Back in the good ol’ UK the 1980’s have arrived and Roger and I worked summer seasons on the South and East coasts and lots of recording sessions for TV and Adverts. We also toured Britain on a luxury coach with the ‘Disney’ show which included a former Arlene Phillips dance team and played with our band ‘Alias’ in big open air rock gigs in Holland, Germany and Leeds Castle (Kent). One pre-season we actually played for ‘sequence dancing’ imagine (Roger Cotton) one of the most coolest Rock/Blues keyboard/Guitarists in the country, now with Peter Green’s Splinter Group (splintered from ‘Fleetwood Mac) PLAYING FOR OLD TIME SEQUENCE DANCING. I rest my case. God bless you Roger. So sorry we fell out.
We carried for a while during the 80’s adding Pete **** (drums) and Lori ****(female vocals) playing gigs in London, Kent, Sussex and a couple of Summer Seasons on the South Coast interspersed with some really posh weddings. Once we were playing our set and a helicopter landed on the lawn outside. It turned out to be a surprise present for the bride (from the groom). He had paid for her favourite band (The Platters) to come from the USA and sing to her at the reception. Luckily we knew all their hits ‘Only You’ ‘The Great Pretender’ ‘Smoke gets in your Eyes’ ‘My Prayer’ ‘The Wonder of You’, they just stood there and sang to our backing. It was a surreal moment I will never forget.
The Final Chapter
I eventually became fed up with the whole music business and decided to pack it all in and do something else. Jane and I married and we bought a nice 3 bed semi in Stamford (Lincs) and I embarked on other business ventures for 5 years or so when I suddenly became quite ill. We wanted to live somewhere a little less pacey and after a spending a relaxing holiday in the North we suddenly upped and moved to Teesdale. I have always taught piano/organ on and off and so I started a teaching practise which became very successfull and ‘upped’ my teaching qualifications from ALCM(TD) to LLCM. I signed up with the agency we worked for back in the 70’s (Beverley Artistes) and played solo gigs around the North-East and Cumbria areas. Boring gigs included lots of posh hotels and weddings as cocktail pianist. Interesting gigs included Mike Nevill’s farewell function at the BBC at the Mansion House, Jesmond. I remember feeling unwell on arrival and (comic) Tom O’connor (the nicest guy in showbusiness) met me at door and kindly helped me with my gear, got me a drink and generally helped through the gig (Thanks). The place was full of celebs and there were live video screens streamed from the Beeb in London with people like Frank Bough and Selina Scott with fond memories and appraisals while I tried to play the odd chord and bum-bums.
Beverley then offered me the MD job at Custom House Theatre South Shields. The panto that year was Cinderella and the cast was chosen from local and northern soap operas, comics and actors. It was really hard work for me arranging and playing the whole score alone in the pit with the fairy godmother sprinkling fairy dust all over my expensive keyboard setup every matinee and evening. But somehow I survived to tell the tale, although the keyboards crackled and complained sometimes. The cast were all great characters and the show was hilarious. When I was told that a couple of ‘stars’ from ‘Biker Grove’ were appearing I automatically assumed it was ‘Ant & Dec’ but there yuh go… I recently found the program clearing out the loft when we moved house so I can add the thumbnails here. Click to enlarge them and fairy magic should happen..
Another ‘interesting’ gig was recording a series of the ‘Ladettes to Ladies’ Aussie TV series for RDF media. I had to play piano for their singing & dancing classes and prepare them for a posh stately ball. We filmed for several weeks at Eggleston Hall and I kid you not, I do not know how I survived this gig! The Teesdale Mercury will no doubt have a few stories in the archives covering their complete destruction of the town and local pubs.
I also used to provide classical or jazz music at the Bowes Museum (lovely grand piano) for the international exhibitions and I really enjoyed the ridiculous accoustics that made the tones swim around the building. I realised I had to stop gigging when I collapsed when playing solo at the Royal County Hotel in Durham and had to be stretchered home – this wasn’t the first time I had terrible dizzy attacks but the most inopportune. I still managed to play several nice gigs with the ‘Teesdale Jazz Quartet’ but I wasn’t allowed out on my own again! Then ‘Rheumatoid Arthritis’ came along and I realised that was probably the end of my journey in music.
About this time my multi-talented wife Jane (I would not have survived the last 25 years without her) a former poet and photographer had also become an artist and managed to get into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Jane was even on the BBC ‘One Show’ at the time Phil Tuffnell was featuring artworks on the programme. Giles Brandreth made a surprise visit to our house with flowers and a camera team and we all lived happily ever after.