Life-Story

Scrapbook & extracts from ‘Musing’s of a Muso’

The very first band I ever formed was at school in the very early sixties. Roy Yeals (drums) Ronnie Orchard (Electric Guitar) and Dave Bennett are the only names I remember. We attempted to play at a Youth Club by pushing a piano 2 miles along the roads and playing it periodically as a publicity stunt (we were 12 or 13) another time we managed to get a set of drums and a double bass onto a 301 double decker bus to play somewhere else. Looking back I suppose everyone in those days must have been completely insane. When I was 14 I played sing-along (honky-tonk) piano in The Steam Engine pub in the worst area of Peterborough. A lot of kids today are still being educated in their mid-twenties, by that time I had done everything and worn out most of the tea-shirts.
Anyway, I have found some pix and stuff in the loft and added (below) some text from my musings (or boozings).

Junky James & The Sect and Cat Balou

junkyjames1964
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 AlanPricesection 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).

go to top of page

 

Eddie – The Writ – Jonathan King – Decca

Mum-Eddie-Me
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 Writup 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).

go to top of page

 

The Jazz Trio

I think we called ourselves the ‘Eddie Cavanagh Trio’ as it was Eddie’s idea. Ian Hatch came in on bass owing to the fact that he could drive a car and was allowed to borrow his dad’s tiny ‘baby’ austin (we were all 16/17 at the time). The best band in Peterborough from 1958-63 were the ‘Dynatones’ and just as we ‘evolved’ from ‘The Writ’ we were inspired by another local trio that ‘evolved from ‘The Dynatones‘ – the ‘Adrian Titman Trio’ which contained Adrian (hammond organ) Colin Hodgkinson (bass) and Rex Gates (drums). They were resident every night at the ‘Stilton Country Club’ and we would drive down to Stilton (squashed in our old baby Austin) now and again to listen and have a drink with the guys. One day Adrian said that they were off to Liberia for 6 months and handed over the residency to us. We were now playing 7 nights from 9 till 2 in the morning for £18 quid a week! We had rooms in the old place but one night was enough (spiritual activity prevailed) There were areas of the club where the incumbent dog would not New-Bedfordventure. Our next job was at the ‘Peterborough Cabaret Club’ (£20 quid a week) We were earning more than most footballers at the time! We even bought a grand piano! the only problem was the lure of the casino… Anyway the club was taken over and became the ‘New Bedford Hotel’ for reasons I only recently discovered. The old picture (left} reveals some of its heritage. We had rooms above the club although it was a bit seedy, if you remember I mentioned ‘spiritual activity at Stilton… now we sometimes could hear the fleshly kind of activity. Yes the Bedford Temperance had turned into the Bedford Brothel. We were 18 now!  but  me old mum (Dad had thrown me out long ago) used to sneek in and bring me massive fruit cakes and mince pies which I lived on for a while, until Eddie and Ian found out. There was a coffee house (cafe) in Peterborough called ‘Purdies’ and all the local ‘Mods’ would inhabit the back room and deal ‘blue’s and ‘green’s’ and ‘pinks’ (or whatever) and then go off to the big Northern Soul all nighters in Sheffield and Leeds. Anyway my favourite meal in Purdies was Chips. Steak & Kidney Pie and Baked Beans.

go to top of page

 

Gt. Yarmouth and Majorca

Mel-El-ToroWe played residencies in several night clubs backing cabaret shows through the late sixties when I met my first wife (singer Kerry Allen) at a cabaret ‘band call’. We lived and worked in London for awhile (later Gt. Yarmouth) and spent many years playing shows and summer and winter seasons including Caister Camp and Helmsly. We bought a lovely detached property in Beach Road, Scratby on the Norfolk coast (before all the caravan sites moved in along the cliffs) We worked all the clubs in Yarmouth including a late Showbiz-Footballnight club on the front where all the stars & pros would come down and do a turn – Freddie Starr, The Bachelors, Freddie ‘Parrot Face’ Davis, Dick Emery, Anita Harris, The Tiller Girls. I found this photo of one of our ‘showbiz’ football matches, I am 5th left (back) and ‘Freddie Starr’ in blue tracksuit at the front. I can’t remember anyone else (yet) unfortunately. After 5 or 6 years we offered a stint in Majorca for 6 months. I actually took my piano on the plane and managed to get it in the hold as hand luggage (I bet no one had ever got away with that before!) The Spanish customs impounded it on arrival and I never saw it for several weeks when it had been ripped apart in a drug search. We lived in a lovely villa in a pine forest with a veranda and sea-views. I had to try and direct a spanish band (backing imported English cabaret shows) who could only read in ‘Tonic Sol Fa’. English musicians were not allowed owing to spanish union legislation.
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 morris-minormate 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.

go to top of page

 

MelEddy – Germany – Ships

morris-j2Eddie and myself formed an Organ/Drums duo (called ‘MelEddy) and had great success in pubs & clubs playing Jimmy Smith stuff and spectacular arrangements of the ‘Dambusters’ and ‘633 Squadron’ etc. When Eddie did his amazing drum solo to flashing lights and explosive effects from my rocking Hammond reverb chamber I would remove my WWII ARP helmet and use it to take a collection amongst the audience. We did OK.
Prinz OberonEventually 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!


PeteCarterOnce 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)


ChrisWatson-BrunoWhen 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..

go to top of page

Westgate House (Ian Bowen)

I accepted a job around 1976/7 in the Baldwin Piano & Organ Centre in the Westgate House Dept. Store in Peterborough, demonstrating the instruments and teaching in a little studio there. The owner of the franchise was one of my old mates (and drummer) Ian Bowen who had worked with me in many different bands. Other employees were demonstrators ‘Morag’ (Organ) and ‘Chris’ a great lad who (I remember) played  really nice stride style piano. Morag was a lovely girl who played and demonstrated the Organs impressively. We arranged many big concerts to promote the business and had some great times. Recently, my son in law (David) brought my attention to a ‘thread’ on the ‘Peterborough Images’ website which had been discussing me and my contempories during the 60’s and 70’s. Morag posted a photo (left) of a Buddy Rich Concert we organised and made a nice comment. (below) The best thing about this time was that my first (Organ) pupil at the shop was Jane who I later married and we are still together and have just recently (2 days ago) celebrated our Pearl anniversary. (8th July 2018)

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

I found myself in Germany again after spotting an ad in the Melody Maker for a keyboard player and played US bases for several years in a ‘Country Rock’ band. we even played on secret nuclear installations on the communist border. Once we were escorted to a secret location in the mountains where US & UK forces were on battle maneuver’s. We had to perform in a big tent for all the troops in combat fatigues and face paint but some southern guys would cry into their beer when we played ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ ‘Free Bird’ ‘Silver Wings’…etc. They were shooting drugs (heroin, coke etc.) quite openly. On another occasion we were booked to play at the Rhein-Main US base which days before had suffered a terrorist car bombing. As we approached the base we were ushered through a zig-zag approach road with machine guns trained all over us. Our green Mercedes van and our gear was completely stripped and searched. We of course, had to suffer the same fate. We did get to play the gig though which included scrambled egg officers making speeches to honour the dead from the recent attack. Anyway this was all to much and our guitarist left the band. More UK ads in the’MM’ brought ‘Roger Cotton’ to Germany who became a close friend for about 10 years and probably one of the best musician’s I have worked with. We worked together on the continent in different formats including a German Gala band playing 50’s music trainat high class venues. Eventually we worked for DFDS seaways for a couple years initially on the ‘Dana Anglia’ and ‘Dana Regina’ One day I was late for the ship in Harwich and just as I approached the railway crossing (Harwich Dock) I noticed the barrier began closing. I stupidly panicked and accelerated and managed to drive under before getting stuck on the railway line as the other barrier was already down. I quickly looked left and oh dear! there REALLY WAS A TRAIN COMING… I shut my eyes, prayed and waited to (deservedly) die. When I opened them I was hoping to be in paradise but instead the train (quite a slow one fortunately) had managed to stop inches from my car and I was now surrounded by hoardes of British transport police. I cannot bring myself to relate what happened next. Police interrogations, being hauled before the Captain, losing my Seaman’s cards, trying to avoid the press and local TV. Roger said he didn’t know me…

RogerCottonBack 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 PlattersSouth 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.

go to top of page

 

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.


Cinderella-frontBeverley 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 Cinderella-programgreat 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..


ladettesAnother ‘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.


Bowes_MuseumI 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.


JaneLamb-197x300About 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.

THE END

go to top of page

Recent Posts

Bavarian Journey

I spent several years working in Germany and I wrote this to capture the ambience of Munich and Bavaria. The videos show the Christmas market. I also imagined snowy sleigh rides but didn’t have any clips to match. Maybe I could have added some bells? I rushed this video a bit so the synchronicity is probably… Well there isn’t any actually!

  1. Attack Thoughts! Leave a reply
  2. Requiem for a Tree Leave a reply
  3. Sequence Dance Leave a reply
  4. Classycool Music Leave a reply
  5. Première Impression 1 Reply
  6. Monsieur Clayderman Leave a reply
  7. New Allotment Hoedown Leave a reply
  8. Trippity Trip to Ireland Leave a reply
  9. Un Souvenir de la Mer Leave a reply