Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oh What a Night! - The Four Seasons Coventry Gig!

Pete Clemons hammers the keyboard with another gem for the Coventry Telegraph - This time it concerns and non-Coventry band and the story of their appearance in Coventry.

Oh, What a Night... we missed! Your memories.

 Pete Clemons 

THE Jersey Boys, as many will know, is an acclaimed musical based on the lives of the New Jersey harmony group The Four Seasons. It opened to positive reviews during 2005 and has gone on to win numerous awards.

I have never seen the play but from my understanding it portrays the history of The Four Seasons over four parts, with each part being taken up by a different member of the band. Therefore, it is effectively a reflective story of the band by each of its singers who are supposedly reflecting and giving their own perspective of the band's histor y.

But I will bet that the play with its memories does not stretch to including the Saturday evening, late May, back in '63 when The Four Seasons were supposed to perform in Coventry.

Originally formed during the 1950s as The Four Lovers, they became The Four Seasons in 1960. The original classic line-up was Frankie Valli on falsetto lead vocals, Bob Gaudio on keyboards and tenor vocals, Tommy DeVito on lead guitar and baritone vocals and Nick Massi on bass guitar and bass vocals and, unlike many other groups of the time, they wrote much of their own material.

The first song they cut under the name of The Four Seasons, after changing it from The Four Lovers, was called 'Bermuda'. It came and went without really troubling the charts.

However, August 1962 then saw the release of their first album 'Sherry and 11 others' from which came their first hit single of the same name. It was when they released 'Sherry' that the band really became noticed. The song stormed to number one in the US and the wider world was beginning to take notice of this incredible harmony group.

'Sherry' was followed up, during October 1962, with the band's second US number one. It was another song taken from their debut album and was called 'Big Girls Don't Cry'.

Then in January 1963 they released their third consecutive smash hit and million plus seller 'Walk Like a Man' which was the first British release on the Stateside record label and its B-side was called 'Lucky Ladybug' a song that, for some reason, the resident disc jockeys at both The Locarno and The Orchid Ballrooms received a great deal of requests to play.

1963 also saw the band make a couple of appearances on the influential US TV programme, American Bandstand and this boosted The Four Season's popularity even more. By April of that year the group set off for their first ever tour of the UK.

The Four Seasons had been a late addition to an 'All Star '63' tour which also included John Leyton, Mike Berry, Jet Harris and Tony Meehan and several others. So late in fact that their photo and band details were not included on the promotional posters or the official programme which was available to buy at the shows.

The 21-date tour, organised by Robert Stigwood, had began during April in Brighton and was making its way around the UK, stopping off at the normal big city venues. It was scheduled to finish on May 18 with a final date set for Bournemouth Winter Gardens.

Saturday May 18 was also the date that The Four Seasons were scheduled to appear in Coventry, not as part of the package all star tour, but as a special one-off gig to be held at the Matrix Hall later on in the evening after the Bournemouth show. Needless to say, things did not quite happen as they were supposed to.

The quartet was to have been backed by a group called The Innocents and the support act for the night was Shane Spencer and the Casuals.

The Innocents were formed in February 1963 and, since their formation, had almost continuously been on the road backing top artists on one night stands. They had also been on the 'All Star '63' tour as backing group for some of the other acts but not The Four Seasons.

That job had gone to a group called The Hi-Fi's.

As far as the revellers were concerned, the evening had began fine, as Shane Spencer and the Casuals performed their songs but little did they know of the turmoil going on behind the scenes. Incredibly, The Innocents arrived at the venue and performed an extended impromptu set, as I guess they had hoped to buy some time.

This was because The Four Seasons had not been so lucky and arrived late at the venue. I assume the 120-mile dash between Bournemouth and Coventry was just too difficult a journey for them.

Promoter Terry Blood announced to what was still left of an understandably angry audience that The Four Seasons had apparently got lost en route to The Matrix Hall and, although making to the venue, it too late for them to perform. For their inconvenience, and by way of an apology, Terry Blood offered the disappointed concert goers free tickets for his next major Coventry event which was to be the visit of another American - Jerry Lee Lewis. The Jerry Lee gig would also be held at The Matrix Hall later the same month. And apparently that peace offering seemed to pacify the crowd sufficiently.

Of course, The Four Seasons would go on to even greater success with the release of a string of other golden hits such as 'Rag Doll', 'Let's Hang On', 'Working My Way Back To You', 'Who Loves You' and 'December 1963 (Oh What a Night)'.

But, for very different reasons, that night back in May '63, sounded just as exciting.


A couple of Corrections from Martin Bird

Hello Pete,

My father was at the Matrix ballroom the night The Four Seasons apparently didn't play. They were late arriving because they got lost and did actually play three or four songs before being asked to leave the stage due to 'Lords Day observancy'. Dad says they were brilliant despite the short set. There were some protests however after the band left the stage and a young man (who my father worked with at Alfred Herberts) kicked the drum kit over. The disgruntled audience were all offered tickets for a Wednesday night show by Bee Bumble and the Stingers. Dad saw many bands at the Matrix during the 60s - Beatles/Stones. He recalls with relish, seeing a Birmingham band called Danny Kings Mayfair Set at the Sportsmans in Allesley too. John Mayalls Blues Breakers at the police ballroom Little Park Street was another gig he was fortunate to attend.

Anyway, I hope this corrects a few points.
All the best,  Martin Bird

From Pete Clemons

Hi Martin,

That's great feedback.

I'm happy to be wrong in relation to fact that the Four Seasons did actually 3 or 4 numbers after they finally arrived. I must admit that the info I had was inconclusive as to if the band played or not!

However I do have a newspaper clipping where Terry Blood, the promoter mentions that free tickets were given away for a Jerry Lee Lewis gig.

To my knowledge B.Bumble only played Cov the once and that was in 1962 (The Four Seasons gig was 1963) so your info there was quite was useful.

As was the fact B.Bumble played on a Wednesday. The only gigs I had ever known for the Matrix were on Fridays and Saturdays.

I will do some more research on this -

The feedback was great to see though.

Thanks again - Pete Clemons.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The DT's and Steve Marriott

Pete Clemons turns his spotlight on the DT's who have returned but in former days toured as Steve Marriott and the DT's. This is his latest article from the Coventry Telegraph. Thanks to Alan Joseph for making the photos available.

Welcome return of the DTs

Pete Clemons 

IT may not have escaped the notice of local rhythm and blues fans that the incredibly popular band The DTs have re-surfaced and are playing selected gigs in the region.

Not only that but these events are being fulfilled by what was known as the classic line-up of the band which existed between 1982 through to 1989.

The bands major date in Coventry will be at The Spencer Club on Friday November 1 but, before that, they will also be playing The Zephyr Lounge adjacent to The Assembly in Leamington on Wednesday September 4. Although the histories of individual band members can be traced back much further The DTs themselves were formed in 1981 with the line-up of Simon 'Honeyboy' Hickling (blues harp), Stuart Wilson (vocals), Craig Rhind (bass), Chris Drayton (drums) and long time musical collaborator of Simon Hickling, 'Big' Al Taylor on guitar.

The earliest appearance I know of the band playing in Coventry was when they performed at the Dog and Trumpet in June 1981. Soon afterwards they played at a festival in Riversley Park, Nuneaton alongside bands such as Bron Area and Eyeless in Gaza. There then followed a number of dates at The General Wolfe that culminated in a gig on New Year's Eve.

Another local band Chevy had been getting some great reviews but at the same time not really getting anywhere. Unhappy with the situation resulted in both drummer Andy Chaplin and lead guitarist Steve Walwyn leaving the band. Steve briefly joined yet another local outfit The Mosquito's with whom he recorded a single 'Somethin' Outta Nothing'.

In the meantime Andy Chaplin had been to see The DTs at one of their gigs at the Wolfe and found out, possibly through the then Wolfe manager, Ken Brown, that they were looking for a replacement drummer.

So in 1982 Andy Chaplin joined The DTs and it was not long until Steve Walwyn had followed him into the band because it turned out that guitarist Al Taylor was also at the point of leaving.

Simon Hickling had known Steve through 'jam sessions' they attended at Winston's in Leamington and asked him if he would be interested in joining the band. Steve accepted.

During the life of the classic lineup of The DTs they were incredibly busy and played an enormous amount of dates with many locally at venues like The Wolfe, The Depot Studios at the rear of The Belgrade and several other city venues. And support at these gigs would come from equally popular bands such as Some Kinda Earthquake and The Mighty House Rockers.

This was also the start of what turned out to be a productive and successful period for The DTs in terms of album releases as this particular line-up recorded three albums, 'The DTs', 'Shakin' and Stirred' and 'Messing with the Blues'.

The DTs were also huge favourites with Coventry Blues Club from whichever pub it operated out of or was based at. And 1984 saw the first of several gigs put on by Tony 'Mojo' Morgan when he ran the club from The Freemasons Arms during the early to mid 1980s.

In parallel, the mid 1980s, saw Small Faces guitarist and songwriter Steve Marriott gigging with a band called Packet of Three. He was playing at the legendary JB's club in Dudley during 1986, a venue where incidentally, The DTs would easily sell out for themselves.

Some of the DTs band members had attended that gig. They had also arranged to go for a drink with Steve Marriott himself after the gig and this resulted in the start of what lay ahead for the band.

Soon afterwards and The DTs found themselves as a regular support band to Packet of Three, who a little later became known as The Official Receivers.

Steve Marriott was more than impressed by them. So much so that during 1987 he was jamming with them and by 1988 he had actually joined forces with them. Steve now had a new backing group as Steve Marriott and the DTs were now born. Suddenly, due to Steve's infamy, The DTs became more visible to a wider audience as they appeared country wide and at more prestigious venues. An early date for this alliance though was at the old favourite, The General Wolfe, during June 1988. 

This alliance lasted for two years or so and with it came a live album 'Sing the Blues'. Steve Walwyn and Simon Hickling also added their talents to a Steve Marriott solo album titled '30 Seconds to Midnite'.

During the 1980s The DTs had also been the support band for, among others and on several occasions, Dr. Feelgood. As such they were well aware of Steve Walwyn's prowess as a guitarist.

Early 1989 saw the departure of their then guitar player Gordon Russell and immediately band leader Lee Brilleaux asked Steve if he would audition with a view to becoming his replacement. He was accepted and joined up with them who he has been a member of to this very day.

But despite Steve leaving The DTs it was far from the end of the band. They would take stock and quickly regroup. Guitarist Al Taylor returned to the fold and with a line-up that also included Tex Corner on bass, Mister Mac on drums and of course Simon Hickling, the band were out there playing again.

By the early 1990s Coventry Blues Club was based at the Hope and Anchor and The DTs performed there along with another blues friendly venue The Lady Godiva or The Dive as more commonly known.

To this day there has always been a version of The DTs fronted by Simon 'Honeyboy' Hickling. In his own words this is a 'Never Ending Tour'. Since the turn of the century he has been nominated for awards for his harp playing as well as released a clutch of solo albums. Only time will tell what the future holds for Simon, Steve, Craig and Andy in their collective form of The DTs and if this series of gigs prove to be just a one-off.

But one thing for sure is that this classic reunion promises to be something special and rather memorable. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Banba Club (Treetops)

Pete Clemons turns his spotlight on the Bamba Club - (Treetops) on Foleshill road for his latest Coventry Telegraph article. Home of Irish show bands and later Pete Waterman's soul disco.

Showing Show at way the Banba; Your memories.

Pete Clemons 

THE Banba Club on the Foleshill Road was, at one time, the city's foremost Irish club and social centre.

And at its height it attracted the cream of Irish entertainment and was a hub for the Irish showbands from that existed during that era. The club enjoyed continued success for around 12 years.

The building that hosted the club had first opened on January 31, 1933 as the plush 1,500 all seated Redesdale Cinema. And today, the building still stands on the corner of Foleshill Road and Edmund Road, although nowadays it is known as the Nanaksar Gurdwara Gursikh Temple.

After the demise of the cinema the club first opened its doors during 1956. At first the only music being played in the club was more or less Ceili, folk and traditional dance bands. However, at around the same time The Banba's membership was expanding a musical revolution was happening over in Ireland.

Up until the mid 1950s the traditional Irish dance band musicians would normally be all sat behind their music stands happily playing away. This conformity was fine to dance to but not particularly exciting to watch.

One particular band had the idea, and legend has it that it was Strabane's Carlton Clipper Band, that it would be a good idea to stand up and start moving to the music. And, thus, the Irish Showband had been born. The idea of injecting a little excitement into the performance spread across the country like a wild fire as similar bands followed suit.

This was indeed an explosive moment in Irish entertainment and for Irish culture as a whole. And it was not to be long until the ripples of the new phenomena would be felt in England and beyond.

In fact whereever an Irish community had settled and a social club had sprung up would soon be feeling the impact.

By the early 1960s the Showbands were proving increasingly popular whereever they played, mainly due to their key objective of entertaining the crowds, get them up dancing and keep them up dancing. And it was at this point that The Banba really began to expand its programme as it was able to attract, not just the top showbands, but also national and internationally known artists.

The club really began to take off in 1960 with the visit of The Dave Glover Showband. Belfast musician Dave is the person credited as having created the Showband phrase. After seeing, and being influenced, by what the Clipper Carltons had started he added the word 'Show' into his band's title.

But it wasn't just a venue exclusive for the Showbands. The Banba had visits from well respected performers such as Joe Dolan, Dickie Rock, Larry Cunningham, Jack Ruane, The Bachelors, The Wolfe Tones, The Dubliners and many many more. Even Bert Weedon had a short residency there.

Not only did The Banba attract the top Irish artists and balladeers from outside of the city it also found plenty of room for those that were home grown. And fitting that description was The Pat Gissane Showband who, from the early 1960, were regular performers at the club.

The Pat Gissane Showband was very popular around the city and beyond and, although based in Coventry, the roots of the band members were very much in Ireland.

Another Coventry based Banba Club regular was Dublin born Oliver Murtagh who was better known round these parts as Colin Scott. As well as being a member of local band, New City Sounds, Colin was, for a while, the MC and also the resident singer.

At its height the ballroom membership numbered in excess of 1,000 people and an average attendance for a Saturday night dance was around 650.

The weekend clubroom average, which was separate to the ballroom, was in excess of 600 people. Yet despite these healthy figures the clubs success did not last. These were the days when strict licensing hours still existed.

The Banba's future started to take a turn for the worse when the club was raided by police in February 1967. As many as 250 people were found to be drinking in the clubroom after hours and during April 1967 the authorities applied for its closure. The club must have appealed successfully as it continued to run until late into 1968. Another Irish club, The Hibernia, had set itself up at The Matrix Hall in 1967. The Hibernia Club then relocated to the same building vacated by The Banba and opened up during September 1969. But by the early 1970s the popularity of the Showbands had taken a downturn. I am not sure if this was a contributing factor but the Hibernia was relatively short-lived and eventually closed for good in 1972.

That was not quite the end of the story though. Between 1973 and 1977 the fortunes of the building changed yet again when it reopened as The Tree Tops Club. During its time the Tree Tops put on some excellent gigs. This time, however, the entertainment was more mixed. It was also the venue for where a certain young soul fanatic called Pete Waterman ran his Coventry Soul Club and his Steampacket rock music nights.

Pete Waterman was at the Tree Tops, Foleshill Rd. Thurs C 1974 according to Hobo magazine
and Pete Waterman's Roadunner Disco (1973) according to Broadgate Gnome.

Adverts from Hobo magazine 1974 including the Steam Packet organised by Direct Enterprises. 

Some of the tracks you may have heard Pete play at the time.

Pete Waterman  at the decks 1974

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Joe O'Donnell's Shkayla - by Pete Clemons

Once again we archive the latest article by Pete Clemons who takes a look at another of the high profile folk rock musicians who settled in Coventry in the 1990's.

Last time it was Dave Swarbrick, now it's Joe O'Donnell and Shkayla. The article is from Coventry Telegraph.

Joe, his bow and electric shows; Yourmemories.

 Pete Clemons 

THE next few months will see a surge in activity for the highly acclaimed electric fiddle player Joe O'Donnell and his band 'Shkayla'.

They have a new album due out on May 1 called 'Into the Becoming' and they will also be playing a series of live dates across the region in both three and five musician formats.

Limerick born Joe's musical activities can be traced back as far as 1965 when he played guitar back in Ireland for a group called 'The Intentions' who would later become known as 'Granny's Intentions'. By 1967 he was with another Irish band called 'Sweet Street' with whom he stayed till 1969.

After studying music at The Royal Irish Academy in Dublin Joe then teamed up with 'The Woods Band' in London who featured Dubliners and founder members of Steeleye Span, Gay and Terry Woods. Joe had known Terry from when Terry had been a member of Irish band 'Sweeny's Men' circa 1968. Future 'Wings' guitarist Henry McCullough and Joe's brother Al had also been a member of Sweeny's Men at that time.

This period saw Joe work briefly with folk rock band 'Trees'. Although he did not feature on any albums he did tour and perform on BBC sessions with the band.

Then in 1973 he replaced Dave Arbus in progressive rock band 'East of Eden' and a period of touring Europe and recording ensued until the band finally split in 1978.

During his time with 'East of Eden' Joe found time to record an album in 1975 with progressive rock band 'Headstone'. That same year he was a guest on Henry Mc-Cullough's debut album 'Mind Your Own Business' which was released on George Harrison's Dark Horse label.

After 'East of Eden' Joe was then instrumental, along with Bias Boshell and Barry Clarke in a reformation of 'Trees'. Again no studio recordings exist but plenty of live work followed.

During the 1980s Joe lived in Guernsey. During this period he remained incredibly active in the folk rock scene and appeared with various bands at festivals in Brittany and the Channel Islands. Joe settled in Coventry during the late 1990s and it did not take long before he began to leave his mark. 1998 saw the release of his album 'Shkayla' and then together with ex-'Dando Shaft' players and multi-instrumentalists Martin Jenkins, Ted Kay along with Martin's son Ray on guitar they formed the first live line-up of the band bearing the same name.

'Shkayla' quickly established themselves and 2001 saw them perform at the Godiva Festival and then both the Warwick and Brinklow folk festivals. These appearances were very highly acclaimed.

2002 saw Martin resume duties with an earlier band of his, 'The Vulcheva Jenkins Incident'. They had been lined up to play prestigious dates in Bulgaria. He would also perform duos with Ray Jenkins across the region. Meanwhile Joe O'Donnell and friends were holding court at the Pitts Head on Gosford Street, or Phat Larry's as it was known by then, in weekly music sessions.

When 'Shkayla' resurfaced during 2004 they had a new line-up that included guitarist Dave Perry and Martin Barter on keyboards. Then by 2006 the band expanded to a five-piece having added drummer Paul Johnston and bass player Mark Fulton. And it was this version of the band that triumphantly performed 'Gaodhol's Vision', Joe's classic and captivating album first released 35 years ago, complete with orchestrations at the Warwick Folk Festival.

The wholly instrumental 'Gaodhol's Vision' was initially recorded back in 1977. It is a remarkable and beautiful record. From folk through to rock it seems to traverse so many musical styles. Contributing musicians are as diverse as 'Jade Warrior's' Jon Field and Rory Gallagher so that in itself gives an indication of the albums scope and range.

The album tells the musical story of an Egyptian tribe called the Milesians whose job it was to protect the Pharaohs. The Milesians found themselves expelled for voicing their anger toward injustices against one particular Pharaoh. After a long journey they settled in Eire where they became the building blocks for future saints and Irish community as we know it today.

Joe is known as a Celtic violinist and, yes although this is evident, it never seems to overpower the music. In fact, in all his releases the Celtic influence is never far away yet at the same time does not dominate the proceedings. There always seems to be room for delicate improvisation and sublime playing.

And it was also that 2006 line-up who were the backbone to Joe's next album 'Celtic Cargo' released in 2008 although for promotional gigs the band featured Coventryborn Si Hayden and Brendan J Rayner on guitar and drums, respectively.

Si Hayden is, of course, very familiar locally and has gained a reputation in his own right as an accomplished guitarist as well as being a stylish double bass player. He wrote and recorded his debut album in 1998 and has since racked up over 25 albums. In fact, if you include guest appearances then he has appeared on more than a very impressive 50 releases.

The current line-up of Shkayla is Joe O'Donnell (electric violin, mandolin and vocals), Martin Barter (keyboards), Si Hayden (guitar), Brendan J Rayner (drums) and Adrian Litvinoff (bass).

The forthcoming album has more of a contemporary Celtic feel to it and the title 'Into the Becoming' comes from a Hopi Indian saying that roughly translated means "into the future".

As with past 'Shkayla' albums where tracks have lyrics, they will be in a mix of English and Gaelic although this time Joe will introduce some Scottish dialect. As Joe says, "These guys are fantastic musicians to work with. They come from different musical backgrounds but there's a great bond between us on stage and they really do bring out the power of Celtic music."

Dates I know of so far include Hinckley ACT on June 14 but prior to that the full band is on the bill for the Coventry Jazz Festival on Sunday May 26 at Blue Bistro in Spon Street.

We also have an article on Joe and Shkayla on our Coventry Folkclub blog here

And another article on Joe O'Donnell and Shkayla here

P is for Paddy - this track is truly beautiful - take a listen.