Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rocking at the Gaumont

Another article hits the press - Coventry Telegraph - from the pen of Pete Clemons. This time he regales us with the rock history at the Gaumont in the 1950's. If the likes of Bill Haley, Eddie Cochran and Cliff Richard ring a rock tune in your head - read on -

Jiving away at the Gaumont; MUSIC historian Pete Clemons looks back to when the Gaumont cinema played a major part in the rising rock 'n' roll scene in Coventry. Pete, from Keresley, charts the history of the popular venue, which played host to big name stars including Bill Haley, Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran.

NOWADAYS, if you mention the Odeon cinema you will more than likely cast your mind to the multiplex picture house located within the Skydome complex built on the site of the old GEC factory in Spon Street.

But one of the most popular places for film goers when I was growing up, and I suspect for hundreds of others in Coventry, was the Odeon in Jordan Well. Until 1967 it had been known as the Gaumont and, of course, this particular Odeon is not to be confused with the one that existed until the early 1960s in Far Gosford Street and subsequently became a bingo hall.

I personally remember the Odeon in Jordan Well as being a rather plush place with its wall to wall carpeting. I can also recall that it had a large stage and had a distinctive Wurlitzer organ, the kind that was typical within cinemas at that time. I can also recall the Saturday morning club which was so popular with us youngsters.

The building itself is now known as the Ellen Terry centre, and is an annex of Coventry University. It first opened as a cinema in 1931 and during the war it took several direct hits and was extensively damaged. It seems that the damage was patched up until a full restoration took place in 1949.

I had always been aware that, when it had been known as The Gaumont, it had played a short but significant part in the Coventry music scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s but it was not until I began my research that I realised just how important the place had actually been during those formative years of rock 'n' roll. 

One of the very earliest, of several high profile package tours to be staged at there, was that of a visit by Bill Haley and the Comets on Sunday February 10, 1957. It had been promoted by future TV giants Lew and Leslie Grade.

This was a major event at the time and was hugely anticipated and awaited. During late January of that year the Sid Phillips Orchestra were playing Coventry Theatre. They finished the evening with a rousing version of Rock Around the Clock which, according to a local news report, was met with 'frenzied applause'.

The following week saw the Basil and Ivor Kirchen Band perform a Sunday jazz concert at the theatre. Yet again tribute was paid to the forthcoming visit.

The words 'On your marks, get set...' opened the concert which attracted well in excess of 2,000. The excited teenagers were then hit with a 'white hot' version of Razzle Dazzle.

The 45-minute set also saw the seven-piece perform See You Later Alligator and the inevitable Rock Around the Clock. Afterwards praise was given to the cinema manager and staff for their efficiency in dealing with anyone who attempted to jive during the performance. Apparently a sharp warning was issued that you had to remain seated or face being ejected.

A year later on Sunday February 16 saw the Big Teenage Show of 1958. It hosted the stars from the '6.5 special' and topping the show was Colin Hicks and his Cabin Boys along with The Four Jacks. Further down the bill were a very young, Marty Wilde and his Wildcats.

The next big music event came on the June 3, 1958. It was another Lew and Leslie Grade promotion and featured 'America's most outstanding group' The Treniers along with the Hedley Ward Trio. This particular tour had initially included Jerry Lee Lewis but after completing the first few dates he returned home early because of the controversy about his 13-year-old wife.

This was his third wife and, at the time, he had not actually divorced his second. And this, along with the fact that she was only 13, didn't go down very well with the British press, causing a major storm. The tour continued, including The Gaumont date, with Charles (Chas) McDevitt Skiffle Group and Terry Wayne replacing Jerry Lee.

The year also saw concerts at The Gaumont by Frankie Vaughan and Wee Willie Harris.

Another 'Big Teenage Show' came to the city in 1959. Wednesday September 16 saw a Larry Parnes promotion starring Cliff Richard and the Drifters. By coincidence it was sometime during this tour that The Drifters became known as The Shadows. In fact there was a headline feature in the New Musical Express for the week dated September 18 reporting as such. 

As the new decade began, 1960 saw the last concerts at The Gaumont.

The first of these, another Larry Parnes production, was when Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Vince Eager, The Viscounts, Tony Sheridan and others visited Coventry on that now infamous tour that, during April, ended in tragedy.

April 3 saw Craig Douglas, The Mudlarks and The Avons perform. Alan 'Fluff' Freeman was compere and Bunny Lewis the promoter.

An early promotion by Don Arden followed during May. This time the stars were Conway Twitty, Freddie Cannon, Johnny Preston, Joe Brown and Lord Rockingham's XI. Don also compered this particular show.

And finally the last recorded date, I have, for a package tour to be staged at The Gaumont. Monday November 28 saw Billy Fury, a returning Joe Brown, Tommy Bruce and no less than 12 others perform in another Larry Parnes promotion. By now these shows were being given proper production and this one had been produced by none other than Jack Good, the man who gave rock 'n' roll its first break in the UK with the TV series 'Oh Boy'.

Rock n roll was not a passing fad as predicted (or maybe hoped for) by the powers that be at the time. In time it was even embraced by all, including the provincial theatres, such as the Coventry Theatre, which went on to include the music within their variety show programmes. The Gaumont cinema then reverted back to doing what it was built for... showing the latest films.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Indian Summer - Coventry band

Peter Clemons treats to the first of two articles top 70's Coventry Prog-rock band Indian Summer, published recently in the Coventry Telegraph.

Keyboard player Bob Jackson went on to play with a range of top artists and bands including John Entwhistle's Ro Ro and then Ross, Pete Brown's Piblokto, Badfinger, Dodgers and more recently The Fortunes. 

This is part 1, part two when published with focus on their 1971 album Indian Summer.


Music success dried up too quickly for Indian Summer; MUSIC historian Pete Clemons this week looks back at the career of Coventry band Indian Summer. In the first of two parts, Pete, from Keresley, charts the acclaimed group's progress to their 'classic' line-up as they prepared to release their first and only album in 1971.

Part 1 (for part two you will have to read the cutting Seasons in the Sun!).

IT is roundly acknowledged that the 1960s and 1970s produced a wealth of amazing music. It is also agreed that, as well as the obvious talent, there was a lot of luck attached to those bands that reached greatness.

Sadly though there were an awful lot of bands whose music, although just as good - if not better - simply flew under the radar.

For whatever reason lady luck was just not on their side.

One of those bands that I feel never got the recognition they deserved were Coventry's 'Indian Summer'.

The roots of Indian Summer can be traced to the mid-1960s when, as teenagers Bob Jackson and Paul Hooper were members of bands like 'This That and the Other' and 'The Rochester Beaks'.

It was all very youth club stuff but even back then both Paul and Bob knew that they were determined to put something good together musically and that they had ambitions.

The two then became involved with friends who were playing in bands like The Perfumed Garden (1966/67) and the Acme Patent Electric Band (1967/68) where Bob ended up played bass.

Both bands were more than competent and covered everything from Stax to Tamla Motown although the Acme band would become renowned for stretching themselves by playing more progressive art-house material and utilising stage props for dramatic effect.

The band was really the mastermind of one Malcolm Harker, student at the Lanchester Polytechnic and multi-instrumentalist. Indian Summer was formed during late 1968 by Bob and Paul. Bob had by now realised his main goal at the time and he had bought himself a Hammond organ. 

This was an impressive bit of kit to own and involved a lot of self sacrifice and saving hard which meant Bob walked everywhere rather than pay for bus fares.

To show support and solidarity Paul often walked with him. The day finally arrived when Bob took ownership of his Hammond. This was the point where Bob and Paul, on drums, could put together their long planned for band and set about recruiting the other members.

Completing the line-up was bass player Alan Hatton and guitarist Roy Butterfield who had effectively been head hunted mainly through his excellent abilities and partly through his image.

Initially Indian Summer played covers which included playing the music of Jimmy Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Blood Sweat and Tears, early Arthur Brown and even Frank Zappa, but more and more the band developed their own songwriting abilities.

They rehearsed hard at venues such as the Antelope club and began to start playing many local gigs which they often got for themselves or via local agencies such as Friars Promotions.

Word about the band was spreading and gigs were forthcoming including several at Hotel Leofric. To transport equipment the band managed to get a Black Mariah van which, in itself, caused issues with the police, who often stopped the van being confused as to who was using it and for what.

Then, just as it was all getting serious with things looking good and taking off, Roy Butterfield suddenly and surprisingly left.

Local blues guitarist Steve Cottrel, from the band 'South Side Loop', was drafted in to take over lead guitar duties.

It was at this point that the band began to branch out further afield and started to secure gigs in and around Birmingham. It was during this period that they came to the attention of jazz musician, promoter, manager Jim Simpson, who was gaining a reputation for getting behind Birmingham bands such as 'Bakerloo Blues Band', and a band called 'Earth'.

Jim ran a production company called 'Big Bear Records' and he was interested in getting a deal for Indian Summer who were steadily gaining a good reputation.

In fact while supporting Fleetwood Mac at the Swan at Yardley bass player John McVie was so impressed that he asked the band to send him a tape. Thinking he was only patronising them they foolishly ignored his request.

It was while playing Henry's Blues house on the corner of Hill Street and Station Street in Birmingham, a music club run by Jim Simpson, that they came to the attention of Olav Wyper who had founded the successful record label Vertigo for the Philips record company and who had signed Black Sabbath, another band from Jim Simpson's stable. 

Jim Simpson had recommended Indian Summer to Olav Wyper who, at the time, had not long been employed by RCA to head its progressive Neon Records label.

Most record labels back then had a progressive label. EMI for example famously had the Harvest label.

The interest was there and tough decisions needed to be made over commitment and ability. As a result Alan Hatton left the band as he felt he should adhere to his career as a computer programmer. At this juncture Paul and Bob left their respective 9-5 jobs to become professional musicians. Engineering student Malcolm Harker, who had been known to Bob and Paul since the days of the Acme Patent Electric Band and The Perfumed Garden, was drafted in on bass.

From when he joined though Malcolm knew that he could only commit for a limited time and would be leaving the band within 18 months in order to take over his father's engineering company in Stockton on Tees.

He was a forthright character with business acumen and used this skill to promote and get gigs for the band. No sooner had Malcolm joined when Steve Cottrel, out of sympathy for Alan's departure, also decided to go. This resulted in guitarist Colin Williams being asked to join.

Colin had come with a reputation for being a fast playing guitarist with an impressive technique and had been a member of local band 'From the Sun'.

The 'classic' line-up was now complete.

Next week: The release of Indian Summer's album and the key management decision involving Black Sabbath which hit their career. 

More on Hobo - A to Z of Coventry Bands

From Coventry Evening Telegraph 1971

Trev Teasdel "Summer 1970, Indian summer played Pete Waterman's Walsgrave pub Progressive Music venue. I was doing the door for Pete and through bass player Malc Harker (who was soon to leave the band) booked them for the Coventry Arts Umbrella club. The Umbrella was only a small venue but the Friday night band sessions went on until about 2am. We were lucky to get them, the band were in big demand at that stage and not long afterwards made their first album for RCA Neon - still a classic on the Prog-rock scene after all this time."

The early version of Indian Summer with Paul Butterfield (far left) and Al Hatton 2nd left.

More on tracks on Youtube

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Mercers Arms Music Venue

Another article from the hot pen of  Pete Clemons from the Coventry Telegraph - this time charting the history of the Mercers Arms venue -


When jazz and blues ruled at the Mercer's; MUSIC historian Pete Clemons, from Keresley, this week looks back at the live music years of Coventry pub The Mercer's Arms.

BUILT in the early 1930s, and on land that was once allotments, The Mercer's Arms public house used to sit on the corner of where Thackhall Street meets Swan Lane and across the road from the Coventry City FC's Highfield Road ground.

Of course, for many years, it was used as a meeting place for Coventry's football fans and a chance to get 'a last one in' before a match but there was another side to The Mercers.

By night, and after the nearby floodlights had been turned out, this famous old pub had a country wide reputation as being a prestigious jazz and music venue.

From the mid 1950s through to the mid 1970s weekends at this venue were dominated by jazz of one form or another. You could choose to visit a Friday night club or attend either a Saturday or Sunday session. And then, from the mid 1960s, it found itself embroiled in the R 'n' B explosion that happened across the UK. One of its earliest clubs was the Weary City Jazz Clubs and included guests like Chris Barber, The Jazz Makers and The Jazz Couriers complete with Ronnie Scott. The pub's esteem must have been incredibly high for these acts to have travelled up from swinging London.

The Abracadabra club of the early 1960s continued to build the pub's reputation as they secured regular Friday nights and attracted guests such as Tubby Hayes, Nat Gonella, Alan Ganley, Harold McNair, Cy Laurie and Terry Lightfoot.

During November 1963, and after much preparation and rehearsal, Club Harlem was opened by trumpet player Dud Clews along with his Jazz Orchestra. This incredibly popular band performed in the style of the 1920s/1930s Chicago jazz era and took up a residency on Saturday nights. However, within a few months of the club opening, Dud himself was fatally injured in a car accident at the age of 26. Despite this massive loss, and with the blessing of Dud's family, the band managed to regroup and continue at the Mercers through till the end of 1973. Even then that was not the end for the band. They moved to the New Inn (later renamed The Fiesta) in Longford. The band eventually folded in 1981. 

1966 saw yet another new jazz club establish itself. The Yardbird Club was opened by the Mercer's Arms veteran Ronnie Scott and his Quintet.

The Yardbird Club again attracted high calibre quartets led by Stan Tracey and Dick Morrisey along with acts such as The Johnny Patrick Trio and continued until mid-1967.

Of course some musicians at this time were experimenting with rock rhythms and electric instruments and some were beginning to incorporate elements of jazz into their blues and soul music by experimenting with extended free form improvisation. And as such jazz clubs, to the horror of traditional jazz enthusiasts, were becoming more eclectic and broadening their horizons.

Inevitably and in parallel to the traditional jazz, that still took centre stage at the weekends, early 1967 saw Monday night sessions spring up. The venue had seemed to quickly latch onto the fledgling British blues scene that was taking off country wide. All of a sudden bands such as The Jeff Beck Group, complete with Rod Stewart, and Robert Plants Band of Joy were appearing while other weeks would see local bands Jigsaw and The Ray King Soul Pact. In fact Rod Stewart would play at the venue several times.

The next club night appeared at the end of 1967. This was known as the Tudor Club and continued to build on the success of its predecessor.

The Mercers by now had a country wide reputation as a leading venue and was attracting regular Sunday evenings with Chris Farlowe, Jimmy Cliff, Herbie Goins and Jimmy James and the Vagabonds.

The Tudor Club continued to flourish until it ceased operating during November 1969.

The end of the 1969 also saw, I guess, an attempt by The Mercers to replicate Birmingham's Mothers Club as the next club night to appear was called Fathers. It may have only briefly existed but Fathers attracted bands like Fat Mattress and Atomic Rooster to their Sunday evening slots. Coventry's own Beverley Jones, who deserves a story in her own right, also played the venue several times during this period.

The final major club night, and again one that had a Birmingham connection, began toward the end of 1970. Henry's Blues House existed till mid-1971. This particular club staged bands like Tea and Symphony, Medicine Head and Coventry's Indian Summer. The Birmingham connection being that the second city also had a Henry's Blues House run by promoter, jazz musician and Big Bear record label owner Jim Simpson. Jim was also manager of Indian Summer. 

By the end of 1971 the R 'n'B, the rock music and the soul bands had all but finished at the venue yet the jazz music, that had initially given the Mercers its reputation continued for several years after.

Interspersed between the live music clubs were the sporadic activities of several folk clubs, that including the Tavern folk club which had moved at some point in the 1960s from the Swanswell Tavern, and other folk related events. For the rest of the 1970s the pub was kept very busy by way of the various discos that The Mercers staged. These included an early residency for Coventry's Pete Waterman.

The 1980s saw an attempt to breathe new life into the venue again by way of a cabaret style club called the Nite Inn. However, the good times did return by way of the thriving local scene at the time. Bands as diverse as Bob Brollys Calvary, Sammy Earthquake and the Volcano's and the Travelling Riverside Blues Band continued to play there on a now and again basis till the end of the decade.

Toward the end of its life The Mercers became known as The Sky Blue Tavern before being bulldozed just after the turn of the millennium to make way for an overflow car park for football parking. Eventually though the land, along with the land made vacant by CCFC when it moved to The Ricoh Arena out at Rowleys Green in 2005, was used as part of the housing development that is now known as 'The City'.

Addition Information Below
DJ Mark Brown at the Mercers Arms 1968

Mike Tyzack on Historic Covnetry http://www.historiccoventry.co.uk/memories/m-tyzack.php remembers - " In 1959 I started going to jazz clubs: There was The Weary City Jazz Club at The Mercer's Arms in Highfield Rd. They had visiting bands including Chris Barber and his band."

New Modern Idiot Band (Rod Felton / Rob Armstrong) played there in the late 60's.
Fat mattress 9th Nov 1969
At Henry's Blues House - Mercers Arms 1971 - 
Satisfaction - Thurs Jan 7th
Alan Bown - Thurs Jan 14th
Climax Chicago Blues Band - Thurs Jan 21st
Julian's Treatment - Thurs Jan 28th 
Mogul Thrush - Thurs Feb 4th
Dando Shaft - Thurs Feb 11th
Duster Bennett - Thurs Feb 18th
Medicine Head (with guest - Keith Relf on guitar / Trev Teasdel on Jews Harp! - See story!) - Thurs Feb 25th

On Thursday 25th February 1971, Trev Teasdel (then organising the band nights at the Coventry Arts Umbrella and assisting Pete Waterman on the door at the Walsgrave Pub Progressive Music nights every Tuesday, went to the Mercers Arms with local drummer Steve Harrison and they met up with some female friends - the two Jans', Louise and Jackie. Trev had heard Medicine Head on John Peel and bought their first sing His Guiding Hand ( on the John Peel 'Dandelion label). Medicine head were a two-piece with songwriter John Fiddler on guitar and one man band drums and Peter Hope Evans on harmonica and Jews Harp. Peter however was off ill that night and a strange, unannounced guitar player took his place. As they had no Jew's Harp player John Fiddler asked if anyone in the audience played Jew's harp and would like to join them on stage for a couple of numbers. The girls volunteered Trev on stage. Although he had began writing his own songs and poetry, it was his first ever venture on stage! Quite daunting with such luminaries as Medicine Head but little did he know who the mystery guitarist was, that he shared a mic with and whom shared his bear with (Jew's Harp makes your mouth quite dry!). The band struck a twelve bar and Trev watched the guitarist fingers, noting his skill as he played along on the Jew's Harp but not realising just who he was! It should be noted that Trev was used to a small Jew's Harp that you could buy in the local music shop but the roadie had opened a box of assorted harps and gave a huge version that vibrated the hell out of his mouth! Coming off stage the roadie asked Trev if he knew who the mystery guitar player was. It turned out that it was only former Yardbirds lead singer Keith Relf, only his hair was a long longer these days. Keith had taken Medicine head under his wing and was now playing in a new band Renaissance!  Not bad for a first gig! Trev tried to book Medicine Head for the Umbrella Club but their fee was way out of the Umbrella's range!


c 1974 Jim Reilly ran the The Cosmic Music Club at the Mercers Arms 

Read more about Direct Enterprises and The Cosmic Club here http://covdiscoarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/direct-enterprises-coventry-music.html


Bob Caldwell 

THE publicity surrounding Coventry City's planned new stadium reminds me of a venue much loved by jazz enthusiasts which became a casualty of an earlier redevelopment.

The Mercer's Arms, opposite the Sky Blues' Highfield Road football ground, was flattened to make way for a car park. In its final years the pub was known as the Sky Blue Tavern.

But in its heyday the Mercer's Arms was the venue where several local bands and many national names packed in the crowds during the decades when jazz was indeed a popular music.

Bands such as The Idaho attracted large Saturday night audiences during the late 1950s and the average age of the musicians was about 19.

At about the same time, a band composed mainly of art students, The Weary City Jazz Band, became so popular that its sessions were extended to both Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Trumpet player Paul Barnes is now a BBC radio presenter and clarinetist Jack Ashby took up tenor and now leads The Jack Ashby Band.

Possibly the most significant development was the Dud Clews Jazz Orchestra, which played the big band music of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington and McKinney's Cotton Pickers.

Saturday sessions were enormously popular from 1962 to 1974 and it is sad that Dud never lived to see how his original idea evolved into today's vintage big band, Harlem.

Enthusiastic local promoter Harry Flick brought modern jazz to The Mercer's for several years.

I remember hearing Stan Tracey, Ben Webster, Joe Harriott, Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes and countless others.

Meanwhile, the great traditional and New Orleans bands were making the pub a Friday evening haven with Ken Colyer, Terry Lightfoot, Alex Welsh and Colin Kingwell.

Harlem performed there with American legends George Kelly and Benny Waters as recently as 1982 and it is a source of regret that a building with such a history should end up being demolished.


Mercers Arms
Another hardcore R&B / Jazz venue, this played host to a number of regular club nights like The Yardbird Club (1967 - 69), Tudor Club (1967), Henry's Blueshouse (1969) and Pete Waterman's Floorboards Club (1970). Legendary acts like The Graham Bond Organization, sax player, Tubby Hayes, flautist, Harold McNair, pianist Stan Tracey, reggae outfit The Skatalites and Shotgun Express (featuring Rod Stewart when he was good!) all performed there.
Sadly the venue is now demolished.

1967 The Penny Peep Show played at the Mercers Arms at the Tudor Club 19th November 1967

The Penny Peep Show


Coventry drummer Jim Pryal tells us that Leamington band Stepmother played at the Mercers arms in the mid 70's "The Mercers Arms Cov on a Monday night - 5 long haired hippies playing to an empty room till a coach load of rugby players came in!!! Mick Smitham of The Fortunes is on guitar along with me, Harry Frazer and Jamie Lord."

Below are a few photos supplied by Mark Rider of Coventry band 'Bullets' playing on stage at the Mercer's Arms in 1982. Bullets were Mark Rider- guitar, Ray Borkowski (bass) and Roger Strong (drums) and singer (unknown!). Mark and Ray had a duo called Sasp'rilla in 1974 and a band called reflex 1979 / 80 and mark was involved with the legendary Horizon Studio in Coventry where the first Selecter album was recorded by Roger Lomas. Mark is now in another duo called Skawaddy.