Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ray King - Coventry Music Legend

Pete Clemons with yet another portrayal of a Coventry legend - Ray King. the article is archived here on behalf of Pete Clemons.

The Fortunes - Fifty Year Milestone - Pete Clemons

Pete Clemons has been chalking up more articles in the Coventry telegraph, which on his behalf, we are archiving here. This article focuses the history of the Fortunes -

Band has followed their Fortunes for nearly fifty years; YOUR nostalgia COVENTRY music expert and Telegraph contributor this week charts the incredible longevity of The Fortunes, who have their 50th birthday in their sights. Pete, who lives in Keresley, looks at how the band has overcome several tragedies and how musicians from Coventry and Warwickshire have been a mainstay of the group's line-up for the past 30 years.

FIFTY years in the music industry is, by any standard, an incredible achievement. 2012 will see The Rolling Stones and Manfred Mann both reach this milestone. Another band who will hit that target next year, but I suspect not create as many headlines, are The Fortunes.

The Fortunes have always been considered a Birmingham band.

However, for the last 30 years, those roots have firmly weaved their way into Coventry and Warwickshire.

The story actually begins though in 1961 when, under the guidance of Reg Calvert, Rod Allen and Barry Pritchard became members of Robbie Hood's backing group The Merrie Men. They played bass and guitar respectively. This lasted until early 1963 when they formed their own harmony group The Cliftones. A little later Glen Dale, who had been singing as a solo performer and had a fine falcetto voice, joined up with the Cliftones and by mid 1963 were known as The Fortunes Harmony Group.

During these early days the band served their 'apprenticeship' with Reg and learned how to perform and entertain on stage. They had also been signed up to Decca records where they cut their first 45rpm 'Summertime Summertime'. This single was credited to The Fortunes and The Cliftones and released during August 1963. Support slots to the likes of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Lance Harvey and even The Beatles followed.

To fill the sound out several musicians came and went but by the end of 1963 Rod, Barry and Glen had added drums and keyboards and had become a five-piece.

The line up was now settled at Rod on bass and vocals, Barry on guitar and vocals, Glen on guitar and vocals, Andy Brown on drums and David Carr on keyboards.

A follow up single 'Caroline' was released in January 1964. And when Radio Caroline came on air on Good Friday March 27, 1964 the song was used as the station's theme tune. This gave the band plenty of airplay and the platform they began to build from.

The Fortunes had now hit their stride and a couple of highly successful years followed. This period saw them release several singles of which 'You've Got Your Troubles' and 'Here it Comes Again' were incredibly popular and became hits on both sides of the Atlantic.

However mid-1966 was to be the start of a turbulent period for the band. They were rocked when in June of that year manger Reg Calvert was shot and killed. And then shortly after, in July, Glen Dale left to pursue a solo career.

Shel MacRae replaced him and the hit singles began again with 'Is It Really Worth Your While'. August 1967 then saw the band leave Decca and move to the United Artists label where the band change direction to suit the times. After the release 'Seasons In The Sun' in late 1968 David Carr left. He would be replaced some time after, and briefly, by George McAllister.

A new dawn arrived for the band. in 1970. They had slimmed down to a four-piece and they recorded an album 'That Same Old Feeling' for the US World Pacific label. That, in turn, led to them signing up to Capitol Records in 1971.

Another very successful period of chart hits followed in both the UK and US with hits like 'Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again' and 'Storm In a Teacup'. The band really were flying high again Toward the end of that decade music styles had changed immensely and another change in direction was required. The 60s harmony style bands were now playing within the club and caberet circuit that had developed.

Andy Brown and Shel MacRae had, by now, left but the core band of Rod and Barry continued with three new recruits. These were vocalist John Davey, Rick Purcell on guitar and drummer John Trickett.

This particular line up was highly professional and had the now impressive back catalogue to draw from. However, in the early 1980s Rick and John Davey left. Paul Keatley was enlisted to play on guitar and vocals and The Fortunes were once again a four-piece.

During early 1983 Nuneaton resident and guitarist Michael Smitham (one time member of Monster Magnet along with Paul Hooper and Bob Jackson) was asked to join the band after Rod and Barry had seen perform with Smackee. 1984 saw John Trickett and Paul Keatley leave and Coventry born drummer Paul Hooper recruited.

This new line-up continued through till 1995 and were incredibly popular the world over, in particular Holland and the Benelux countries. Gold discs and other accolades ensued.

In 1995 Barry Pritchard left the band through ill health. Coventry's renowned singer, songwriter and keyboard player Bob Jackson joined and added a totally different dimension to the band. Sadly Barry passed away during 1999.

So Rod, Michael, Paul and Bob continued to build on the bands success and took them into the new century still touring far and wide.

But tragedy was to strike again.

Founder member Rod Allen was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in early 2009. The tributes poured in and the band agonised over whether or not to continue. Their future was uncertain. But it had been Rod's will that they did so.

When the band did feel that the time was right to go out again they brought in vocalist and bass player Eddie Mooney who had covered for Rod during his illness.

The band continued to be as successful as ever, playing shows as far afield as Las Vegas and Canada and making frequent visits to the Continent.

In 2010 came the addition of Glenn Taylor, ex-Marmalade drummer, to the fold and the recent completion of a nationwide theatre tour with The Searchers and Gerry and the Pacemakers.).

Fifty years in and The Fortunes have created an amazing legacy, some wonderful songs and will long be remembered for their strong harmonies and melodies.The band is in great shape and in great hands and, above all, their popularity remains undiminished. 
Fortunes with the Radio Caroline theme tune

You've Got Your Troubles 1965

A medley of clips taken of the Fortunes In Concert circa 2009.
The band line up then was Michael Smitham , Eddie Mooney, Paul Hooper and Bob Jackson,


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coventry Cathedral Gigs

The latest article from Peter Clemons in the Coventry Telegraph

Cathedral has been the Ruins of many a musical career! WITH The Enemy set to play two open air gigs in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral next month, Telegraph contributor Pete Clemons takes a look back at other concerts that have taken place at the sacred venue over the years. Rock fan Pete, who lives in Keresley, is currently compiling an archive of the Coventry music nostalgia.

THE ripples of controversy surrounding the recent announcements of the forthcoming gigs to be played by The Enemy inspired me to look back at the more contemporary and classical events to have taken place within Coventry Cathedral.

The first major event was of course for the consecration of the cathedral extension, or the new cathedral as it is more commonly known, on May 25, 1962. Benjamin Britten composed his masterpiece 'The War Requiem' for the occasion and this was given its premiere in the new cathedral on May 30, 1962.

Britten, a pacifist, was commissioned to write the work and given complete musical freedom. He began the writing it early 1961 and completed the 85-minute piece in January 1962.

The next significant event was something different altogether. It was that of an appearance by Duke Ellington who performed in the new cathedral on February 21, 1966. The then 66-year-old visited the city for the first European performance of his Concert of Sacred Music.

More jazz followed in 1968 by way of the Jacques Loussier Trio. I have no idea what they played but over he years they have graced many cathedrals performing music by the likes of Bach and Elgar. 1968 also aw the visit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their now infamous, corn planting, within the cathedral grounds.

A highly regarded band from Coventry called Asgard appeared in the old cathedral ruins on July 12, 1969. This was as part of an arts festival organised by the nearby Lanchester Polytechnic. The event was titled 'Jericho' - a programme of song and dance. This was one of many partnerships that the cathedral and polytechnic/university would engage in. 1969 also saw the likes of Al Stewart and The Pentangle perform in the cathedral. 

August 28, 1970 saw a fundraiser for the Coventry Diggers (a group of local hippies who had produced our first arts and music magazine) in the grounds of the old cathedral. Bands like Ra-Ho-Tep performed and this is how the Telegraph reported it at the time: 'More than 200 young people sat or stood around in the Cathedral ruins for Coventry's own mini pop festival on Saturday evening. Fifteen minutes after the festival - called "A Digger's feast" - started, there were 200 youngsters in the ruins, and more were coming in'.

World renowned classical guitarist, John Williams, also gave a recital in the cathedral on October 3, 1970, as did jazz great Johnny Dankworth on February 2, 1971 and Andre Previn a year later on February 2, 1972.

1975 saw the controversial decision to allow German band Tangerine Dream perform in the new cathedral.

This was part of a reconciliation tour that saw this electronic experimental outfit play at major cathedrals across Europe. The concert was performed on October 4 and was filmed by author and producer Tony Palmer.

According to my own listings the next 20 or so years produced very few noteworthy moments but of those that did happen some were quite momentous such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Michael George and the Choirs of Coventry and Lichfield Cathedrals who performed and sang, among others, 'the best carol of all time', In The Bleak Midwinter. This concert took place on December 3 and was recorded on CD.

Other worthy mentions from the 80s and 90s include German electronic composer and one time Tangerine Dream band member Klause Schulze on April 26, 1983, Irish soprano and harpist Mary O'Hara on March 14, 1987 and a return visit to the old ruins for Ra-Ho-Tep's Tim James on August 17, 1991 for an event called jazz on a summers day.

Toward the end of the 1990s and well into the early 2000s saw a series of jazz festivals in Coventry. The inclusion of world music recently saw it rebrand itself as the Rhythm Festival. But since their inception these festivals have always had links with the cathedral with artists appearing their most years.

Cathedral performances, normally in the old ruins, often under a huge marquee and always over the August bank holiday, include Steve Tayton in 1999, John Surman in 2003, Georgie Fame, Courtney Pine, Soft Machine Legacy in 2006, The Pirates and Tony 'TS' McPhee in 2007. A noteworthy performance as part of the May 2009 Rhythm Festival and held in the new cathedral was that by King Crimson leader Robert Fripp. This performance was also recorded and is available on CD.

November 2010 marked 70 years on from the destruction of the old cathedral and the loss of almost 600 lives during the Blitz. A series of major events was held at the cathedral.

These included a performance of The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace that was hosted by Karl Jenkins. This was Karl Jenkins second visit as he had previously appeared as part of his Stabat Mater tour in November 2008.

As mentioned previous the nearby university has hosted many events at the cathedral. More recently they have held their summer balls there within the ruins. The most recent was held in May 2011 and performances included Tinchy Stryder and a DJ set by Chase and Status.

Fifty years on from the consecration and a week after The Enemy are due to appear things seem to go full circle. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem will be recreated by the CBSO on Wednesday May 30 in a world where the music will seem every bit as relevant today as it did back then.