Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Barnabus - A Charity Gig 2017

Barnabus Charity Gig by Pete Clemons

On the same evening that Black Sabbath were saying au revoir, by way of their hugely publicised gigs at the LG arena, another band from the region, were doing similar.

This, more low key affair, was taking place at the Nelson Club in Warwick. It featured rock group Barnabus who, strangely enough, I heard being compared to Sabbath by some lads who had been standing behind me at the packed out venue.

Apart from the odd reformation there has effectively been a hiatus of over 40 years for Barnabus. But on the rare occasion that this 3 piece do get together they retain the exact same line up whom once graced venues such as The Walsgrave and The Plough up on the London Road. And the time apart hardly shows.

Barnabus, originally formed in Leamington Spa, were and still are John Storer on lead guitar, Keith Hancock bass guitar and Tony Cox on drums. They initially came together in 1970 when John and Keith who both had, then, recently split from covers group The Jay Bee Kay Pees aka The JBKP’s, and joined forces with Tony who himself had just left The Rockin’ Chair Blues Band.

The Rockin’ Chair Blues Band who last performed during the late 1960’s, were themselves a popular act back then, and regularly seen at venues such as the Drumbeat Club at the Globe Hotel in Warwick. They were also on the bill for the 1969 weekend music marathon staged at the Umbrella Club in Queen Victoria Road, Coventry alongside bands such as The Chris Jones Aggression, Wandering John, Dando Shaft and many others.

This latest event itself did have a serious side as it was put together as a charity gig in order to raise money and awareness for Leukemia Care.

First up, and opening the proceedings on the night, were drummer Tony Cox’s current group The Hoochmongers Blues Band who have been touring the Coventry and Warwickshire pub scene for a number of years now.

Barnabus followed with their brand of guitar led heavy rock that was quite prevalent at the time they first formed. From initially being a rock and blues covers band Barnabus began to write some very good original material. This was done with the help of a young lyricist and poet named Les Bates whose work was once described as being articulate, and, a lot better than some of the ‘name’ bands around at the time.

During 1971 Barnabus recorded an album at Monty Bird’s studios, in Snitterfield near Stratford upon Avon (aka Bird Sound Studios). And a great deal of the music performed by Barnabus at the Nelson Club featured on their album.

Then, in 1972, the band had a major breakthrough. Barnabus went on to win the Midlands heat of the Melody Maker Rock & Folk contest. The judges at the competition, incidentally, included Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. This success led to the band furthering their growing reputation resulting in them breaking away from the gigging circuit around Coventry and Warwickshire. Support slots for bands such as Man, Trapeze, Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band followed.

But, despite being so close to making it into the big league, it was all short lived and Barnabus split up a year or so later during 1973.

Back to the charity night and, as the wise one who accompanied me to the gig quickly pointed out, it was like stepping back to the 1970s. And he was right. Even the Nelson Club’s concert room had kept its charm and character from those days.

Last up on the night were The Jaykays Sixties Band, featuring John Storer and Keith Hancock who lightened the atmosphere and had the audience on their feet dancing and singing along for the remainder of the evening.

The gig itself was a sell-out and the club was packed. This resulted in the Leukemia Care charity itself being better off by over £1000 so a huge well done must go to the organisers. The whole event was memorable to say the least.


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