Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Steve Walwyn - Doctor Feelgood and DT's

Pete Clemon's latest for the Coventry Telegraph - Steve Walwyn - guitarist with Dr Feelgood and The DT's.

Feelgood Steve's in DT's back.

 Pete Clemons 

SOUTHAM-born Steve Walwyn is, arguably, best known nationally as lead guitarist for rhythm and blues band Dr Feelgood, the band he joined during the spring of 1989.

Of course, closer to home, Steve will also be known as a member of the recently reformed R 'n' B band The DT's who appear at The Spencer Club on Friday, November 1. Thrust straight into the deep end, one of Steve's earliest gigs for Dr Feelgood was at London's Town and Country Club, which was recorded and released as the album 'Live in London' as well as also being filmed for TV.

And, apart from when Dr Feelgood had some downtime after the tragic death of vocalist Lee Brilleaux in 1994, Steve has continued to be one of the mainstays behind the band for over 20 years clocking up what must total as over 1,000 gigs for them.

You would therefore think that after all those years of being on the road Steve would not have found room for any other musical activities but I was staggered to learn that this was not quite the case. During the period when Dr Feelgood was on hiatus, following Lee's illness, Steve filled his time by performing with bands such as Eddie and the Hot Rods, The Roger Chapman Band with who he toured Austria, Germany and Switzerland before joining The Big Time Playboys.

The Big Time Playboys were founded by Ricky Cool during 1984 and are a hugely popular rhythm and blues band. But where they differ to other R 'n' B acts is that they are a revival group in as much that they cover a lot of American blues from the 1940s and 1950s.

And this uniqueness has made them very popular with the major names of rock music having performed for the likes of Eric Clapton and Robert Plant. In fact Steve's first gig with them during 1994 was just hours after he had auditioned to join them. This association with the band led to Steve having some particularly memorable moments. Crazy Legs was an album released by Jeff Beck and The Big Town Playboys during June 1993. It pays homage to the music of Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps who were a major influence on Jeff's early career. Although Steve was not involved with the recording of this album he did join the band shortly after its release and was with them when they were invited to play at a surprise 50th birthday party for Jeff at his home in Kent.

With Jeff out for the day the band set up their equipment to perform in front of an audience that included Kate Bush, Queen guitarist Brian May, Paul Rogers who was the vocalist for both Free and Bad Company and Journey's Neal Schon among others.

It must have been a quite intimidating experience but after the gig Steve got to discuss guitars and amps with Brian and Jeff, who went on to show him some of his own vintage guitars, and both Brian and Jeff complimented Steve on his playing. In fact Jeff Beck also attended some later gigs at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, London.

Steve was also a member of The Big Time Playboys when they performed as part of the wedding celebrations for Pink Floyd's David Gilmour when he married Polly Samson at Marylebone Register Office during July 1994.

Of course this is only a snap shot of Steve Walwyn's distinguished career. His first band "Hands Off" were formed while he was still at school. He then joined rock band "Chevy" in 1978 and it was at that point when he turned professional.

His next band was 'The DT's' who he joined in 1982 and it was while with them that he played with the late Steve Marriott (ex-Small Faces, Humble Pie) from 1987 until joining Dr Feelgood in 1989.

Surprisingly, it was not until he was about 17 years old when Steve thought about learning to play the guitar. He had been inspired by many artists and records, but his main influence at that time were the likes of Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Marriott, Peter Green and other, mainly blues, guitar players.

Influences came from many musical styles as wide ranging as from classical to country, rock and roll, Cajun, jazz, and some folk music. But above all the blues is his number one musical love with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson being particular favourites. 

Away from his commitments with the 'Feelgoods' Steve Walwyn has more recently re-created an iconic music night. Kelly's bar in Leamington was, for decades, a 'must play' venue for many local bands. Throughout the years it has catered for all tastes including R 'n' B. So now on the first Wednesday of every month at The Zephyr Lounge in Leamington, which sits adjacent to The Assembly, you can now hear those sounds once more. So far bands like Chevy, Barnabus and The Mosquitoes have all appeared and January 2014 sees a scheduled visit by Dr Feelgood themselves.

As and when time allows Steve is also keen on organising charity gigs in aid of those less fortunate. At these events he does seem to be able to attract the cream of local musicians into joining his band for the occasion. His most recent of these gigs also included Horace Panter of The Specials on bass and acted as a fundraiser for Baginton Fields School.

Thanks to Andrew Lock for his use of the photographs from the recent reunion gig by The DT's. Andrew is hoping to put on his first themed live music exhibition in Leamington this coming December.

It will be on a Monday night and will be based on the blues. It will feature photos of Steve Walwyn, Larry Miller, The Animals, Oli Brown, Cherry Lee Mewis and many more. It is also hoped that Steve will be in attendance and the plan is to have a charity raffle with a few of Andrew's prints along with some other surprises as prizes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Pilot and The Craftsman - Coventry Pub Venues

Pete Clemons focuses on two Coventry venues for his latest Coventry Telegraph article - The Pilot and The Craftsman.

Bands on beat in the city.
Pete Clemons 

I HAVE always personally considered that it was mid 1963 when, from seemingly out of nowhere, a sort of musical explosion happened in Coventry.

Of course, this is not strictly true because a lot of the musicians and singers involved in this release of energy were already established and had actually been around the local circuit for some time. But it just seemed that a lot of events came together at that time which brought to the surface what was maybe a more underground scene.

There is no denying though that there was a fundamental change happening at that time. Rock 'n' roll was far from gone but, at the same time, a large amount of new bands were emerging, energised by the beat boom.

Legendary local promotion company, Friars, were growing and all of a sudden there were plenty of venues willing to embrace and introduce beat music into their own pub or club. By now this revelry was not just confined to weekends. Weekdays were now beginning to get busy as well.

And the Whitmore Park/Holbrooks areas of the city were, very quickly, at the centre of the action in the shape of two very contrasting public houses that sit barely a mile and a half apart. Already established as places for live music and entertainment The Craftsman, on the corner of Beake Avenue and Rotherham Road, and The Pilot in Burnaby Road became magnets for Coventry's musical talents back then.

The Pilot opened in 1938, although it's not clear if that also reflects the age of the building. Looking at an old 1936 Ordnance Survey map of the area the pub is not shown but it is there by the 1955 version. A building plan for the pub was approved on September 7, 1938. However, this is just when the plan was approved rather than when construction started.

The Craftsman opened in 1958 or 1959, the licence having been transferred from a pub in St John's Street which had closed. Again this does not necessarily reflect the age of the building. The pub is not marked on a 1959 map of the area but is shown on the 1963 map of the same area. A building plan, dated December 1956, exists for the construction but again this is just when the plans were approved.

Pre-1963 and both pubs put on free and easies along with trios and quartets led by band leaders such as Brian Willis, Gordon John and Paul Leslie. Beverley Jones, from a very early age, would famously sing at Sunday lunchtimes in The Craftsman from early 1962.

But 50 years ago, from mid-1963, both these pubs were suddenly at the forefront of this new release of musical vitality. For a while during the first half of the 1960s both venues were among a whole host of Coventry pubs that were heavily used by Friars promotions for live gigs.

Initially 1963 saw The Craftsman bring in a resident band, Col Williams and the Easibeats, who would play several evenings a week. The other evenings saw regular visits by acts such as Tony Martin and the Echo Four, The Avengers and The Rave On's.

Down the road at The Pilot a similar thing was happening with The Matadors and The Millionaires appearing there on a very regular basis in the up stair concert room. In fact The Matadors became a permanent fixture at the pub for several years.

1964 continued where 1963 left off with regular visits by Johnny B Great and the Goodmen, Beverley Jones, The Beat Preachers and Coventry's first 'Mod' band The Sorrows. So popular were the bands that, over the weekends, you would have both lunchtime and evening sessions.

Maybe it is down to the geographical location of Whitmore Park/Holbrooks area and the fact that it is on the Birmingham side of Coventry but both venues even staged 'Brum Beat' nights Birmingham acts like Carl Wayne and the Vikings, Gerry Levene and the Avengers and Denny Laine and the Diplomats (complete with future ELO and The Move drummer Bev Bevan - Bev had been a member of The Diplomats around this time) regularly made the journey down the A45 to perform at both pubs.

Of course, both Carl Wayne and Denny Laine would each both reach even greater success with future bands The Move and Paul McCartney's Wings respectively.

One of the problems with The Pilot however was the constant rowdiness and boisterous behaviour that the place seemed to attract and became renowned for. The doormen were always kept on their toes to avert any trouble. It did get to the point where the manager threatened to pull the bands in order to preserve his licence. Toward the end of the 1960s the live music, by way of bands, seemed to dry up at both venues and they reverted back to mainly free and easies for way of entertainment.

However 1969 saw The Pilot become a hub for growing folk music scene. An early resident band was Dando Shaft who appeared there many times prior to them releasing their albums and finding a wider audience.

By 1973 The Pilot folk club had formed and, although relatively short lived, it managed to attract many guests such as Jasper Carrott, Jake Thakery and Harvey Andrews.

Even the legendary Joe Brown and his band at the time, Homebrew, played a gig at the club. It became incredibly popular and regularly attracted three figures on club nights. But increased costs, imposed by the venue, soon put paid to the folk club and it moved on.

Like most pubs though, the 1970s and 1980s saw mobile discos take over and pushing out the live bands. That's not to say that entertainment levels tailed off. There were still some memorable nights to be had at these venues. This brought many spin offs as each became very popular for wedding receptions and other family events.

Today the fortunes of each of the pubs seem to have gone in very opposite directions. The Pilot is still a very imposing building with huge potential but is currently boarded up and there is no denying that it looks very tired and run down.

The Craftsman, however, continues to thrive. It seems to have a really healthy passing trade and appears to be a fairly popular place to go at the moment. The function room with its extensive garden are used on a regular basis by organisations such as the 'All or Nothing Scooter Club' who hold their family days there.

And not forgetting the Saturday football special double decker bus that once took you directly from the pub to the Ricoh Arena - hope fully it will not be too long until that one resumes again.

Also at the Pilot Folk Club in 1973 - Derek Brimstone and Colin Scott.

Trev Teasdel recalls " I did a floor spot that night - to get in free to see Derek play. I was friends with his son Steve - also a good guitar player but who preferred open tuning at the time. I met Steve when i lived in Birmingham for the summer of 1971 - Kings Heath. He was travelling around with a couple of guitar players having been down to the beaches of Cornwall. Steve also stayed with us in 72 at the cottage out  at Shilton. The cottage was original the base of Coventry folk rock band April. Steve taught me the rudiments of clawpicking when I was just learning guitar back then.

It was a well organised folk club and the two main acts were well received"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Jimi Hendrix at Coventry Theatre 1967

Pete Clemons tells the tale of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Move and Amen Corner at the Coventry Theatre November 1967 for the Coventry Telegraph.

Moved by Jimi and Pink Floyd.
Pete Clemons 

THE YEAR of 1967 was a tremendously important one for rock music with the release of so many incredible albums and 45s.

Among the many great releases from that particular year were 'Are You Experienced' and 'Axis Bold as Love', both by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' by The Pink Floyd and The Move's then latest single release 'Flowers in the Rain'.

From November 14 through until December 5, 1967 all three bands were a part of a package tour of the UK. They shared the bill with The Amen Corner, The Nice, Outer Limit and Eire Apparent and the tour, which was compered by Radio 1 DJ Pete Drummond, took in 31 shows across 16 cities.

And on Sunday November 19, 1967 the tour stopped off at Coventry Theatre for two shows. Jimi had been inspired musically by the blues and initially his success was in the UK and Europe. However, after appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival in California during 1967, his name quickly spread across his native America. Later on in his career, he would perform at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Shortly after that Isle of Wight performance he died in London on September 18, aged 27.

The first of the two Coventry shows was scheduled to start at 6pm and the other began at 8.30pm. In terms of stage time The Jimi Hendrix Experience had been given a 40 minute slot per show, The Move 30 minutes, The Pink Floyd 17, Amen Corner 15, The Nice 12 and the others eight minutes each. The whole event had been described as one of the most exciting happenings to take place in the city since the visit of The Beatles a few years earlier.

More than 3,000 people attended the two houses. Apparently most of them appeared to rush the stage when Jimi Hendrix and his backing group 'The Experience' appeared while, those that didn't, stood on their seats. Everyone was in great anticipation and they were not to be disappointed. Jimi was totally uninhibited and completely went for it.

His showmanship and musical brilliance shone through. Every trick in his book was revealed from playing with his teeth, or behind his back, lying on the stage. The result was a stunning, completely individual performance which included hits like 'Hey Joe,' 'The Wind Cries Mary' and 'Purple Haze,' and the wildest version yet of 'Wild Thing.' The Coventry Telegraph reported at the time that he had 'mixed pop's new sounds with the rawest of blues combined with a brilliant musical technique. He can play guitar better, with it behind his head, than most with the guitar in the more 'conventional position'.

The same Telegraph report was, however, not so complimentary when it came to The Pink Floyd. The same report continued 'but the teenagers who had stood on their seats for Jimi Hendrix were unmoved - and I guess somewhat bewildered - by The Pink Floyd, a group for whom the new wave is more of a spring tide. The Floyd's extended instrumental/electronic experiments were fascinating, almost hypnotic, but unappreciated by an audience probably expecting their hit tunes'.

After a bit of research I believe that The Pink Floyd performed two extended tracks on the tour. The first was a piece called 'Take up thy Stethoscope and Walk' and the second being 'Interstellar Overdrive'.

The Pink Floyd's iconic leader Syd Barrett had been in very poor shape at the time of that 1967 tour. The band had just returned from a disastrous tour of America where his problems had really begun to surface. Syd's personal issues had caused the band to arrive late at pre-arranged dates and the cancellation of several concerts. Where he did appear he would stand motionless and simply stare into space. In the words of the band 'he was unable to function'.

I may cause some disappointment and debate here but after reading several books and interviews with those involved in this tour, I am convinced that Syd did not actually play at those Coventry Theatre gigs at all. I am certain, in my mind that, the guitar player under the floppy hat that night was actually Davy O'List of The Nice. In a recent interview with Davy he alluded to how he had deputised for Syd on the tour: "We were kind of similar in build and had similar length hair so the image fitted. We played the same colour Fender Telecaster so the image fitted. And when I came on girls began screaming loudly and I was convinced I would be recognised from being on stage earlier with The Nice."

Of course, I might be totally wrong in my assumptions but, ultimately, those previously mentioned issues led to Syd being replaced in the band by David Gilmour early in 1968.

Birmingham band The Move got a warm reception and their set did include their top ten numbers 'I Can Hear the Grass Grow', 'Fire Brigade', 'Night of Fear', 'Something Else' and 'Flowers in the Rain'. Carl Wayne, the group's bass player, was no stranger to Coventry.

He and his band The Vikings had performed here several times prior to forming The Move.

Both The Nice and The Amen Corner were also highly praised for both of their sets. The Amen Corner included 'Gin House Blues' and 'Bend Me Shape Me'. And, in particular, the group's fine lead singer Andy (Fairweater) Low was singled out for special praise as his vocals on 'World of Broken Hearts' brought a section of the audience to fever pitch excitement. The Nice, whose classical influences gave them a more avant garde feel and who were a precurser to Emerson, Lake and Palmer performed 'The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack' and 'Rondo'.

Nowadays, I guess, it is hard to imagine three or four of the biggest acts in world music appearing on the same stage at a humble venue a short bus ride from where you live. But it did used to happen.

And during the 1960s music fans were blessed that these artists brought their music to the masses by turning up in their towns and cities to play at the local cinema or concert hall.