Drinking Beer

Chris Youlden and I met for a drink last week. It turned out to be a long session as we hadn’t met for months. He is still having problems with his ankle but it isn’t going to get any better and will require regular dressings and the fortnightly attention by a visit to the doctor’s surgery. He is able to get around again so that’s a plus. He is in good enough spirits on the whole and it was agreeable to meet up again.

It is a while ago now that I went to a Jon T-bone Taylor jazz gig but although the group played well the beer was awful and the audience were rowdy for the wrong reasons. Even a jazz version of “Danny Boy” didn’t do the trick for the most noisy, but it’s good to see some live music in the area. Shame about the beer. No wonder it was so cheap.

However I do meet up with Jon from time to time on Monday night at a really good beer tavern where the beer is on special offer at £3 a pint that particular day and well up to scratch. This of course is the Grand Union on the canal on the corner of Woodfield Road and Great Western Road. The background music is better the average, so that is also a bonus.

Once more unto the breach…

It was recently pointed out to me, by my web maestro, Jason (in a pub of course) that I hadn’t posted anything for a while. Indeed, he was specific as to the actual number of days. Well I promised to rectify that the next day. However, I did not keep my word on that as it is more than a week since I made such a rash statement. Well I’ve probably made a number of rash statements since then but not to do with this post. So, once more unto the breach…

We did the gig at the Chippenham with a slight change of personnel as Jim Mercer wasn’t sure that he could do it. I then arranged for Brian Diprose to dep on bass.
As it happens, Jim called on the morning of the gig to say that he was up for it after all, but it was already sorted. Unfortunately Chris Youlden wasn’t able to make it due to his ongoing problems with his ankle. There was international rugby on that evening so we did a brief spot, two numbers, during half time and then after the match, we did an extended set. It went down well and even many of the rugby fans stayed on and were very complimentary about the band.

I resumed business with Jim at the Alley Cat for a couple of months afterwards. However we recently decided to call time on this particular gig as it wasn’t really going anywhere because of the early time slot. I had enjoyed the challenge of playing in a different format, but we couldn’t see it progressing much. It did nevertheless keep me active as far as the music scene is concerned, so that I will miss that part of it.

Every year, Rex Langsman, brother of guitarist Bruce Langsman who died a while ago, arranges a reunion to remember Bruce. It involves a get-together with some of Bruce’s band colleagues from my band and also from the Nighthawks, plus some of Bruce’s mates from his ATV days. It always means a pub gathering and this time it was at The Swiss Cottage in Finchley Road. This was particularly apt, as Bruce and I started out playing just around the corner at The Hole in the Ground, another venue that got redeveloped, but a nostalgic one for all that.

Catch Up

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here which doesn’t mean I’ve been having the time of my life, just that I’ve been remiss. No change there then. However…on New Year’s Eve I went to the Chippenham, to hear the Johnny Nikki Band and they were on the case. A good crowd saw the new year in and I believe I was relatively sober though there were no relatives around to confirm that. I returned to the Chip a few weeks later to catch the Pete Duke band and again enjoyed myself.

I’ll be there again this Friday but with my own band. The line-up is Alan Vincent on guitar, Mel Wright drums, John Lewis, piano, Jim Mercer, bass and vocals and myself. Jon T-Bone Taylor has agreed to come along on guitar also so we should be on the ball, though not the snooker table. I managed to give the wrong post code for the Chippenham in the gig listing. It is 207 Shirland Road, W9 2EX and the gig is due to start at 9pm.

As for the other pub crawling, I recently met Dino Coccia for a drink at the Churchill Arms in Church Street Kensington and the place was heaving. Dino posted a pic or two on his website. I appear remarkably sober in them, which is not always the case. Last night I went for a drink at the Grand Union on the canal by Woodfield Road, with Jon T-Bone, Eddie G and Neil and then strolled home. The Union was hectic on account of a birthday party. They have a regular beer promotion at three pounds a pint on Mondays and the beer it tip top. Naturally I go there quite often on Mondays, doing my bit to enjoy the recession. Oh sorry, it’s supposed to be over. Tell that to all those unfortunate people still inundated with flood damage.

On a lighter note, I have been joining Jim Mercer in the Ella Speed band on alternate Tuesdays at The Alley Cat in Denmark Street. I will be there again tonight at six o’clock, the “happy hour“. No doubt I will end up nearer to home at the Squirrel afterwards. C’est la vie…

Ho Ho Ho…

A couple of weeks ago, Chris Youlden, Mel Wright and I met for a drink. Last time we met, neither Chris nor Mel were drinking. I’m glad to say that when I arrived, late of course, they both had drinks in front of them. Suddenly, I felt I was in the right pub. Mel is engaged in writing another part of his Hastings trilogy, so he brought us up to date with that. Chris is on the mend, though there are setbacks from time to time. His leg swelling had eased somewhat though the skin eruptions continue. He has to go to the hospital twice a week at present. He’s hoping to be well enough to do the gig at the Chippenham in February. Let’s hope the treatment continues to work and that he can join us.

A few day’s later, I did a gig with Jim mercer’s band Ella Speed at The Magic Garden (formerly The Secret Garden) in Battersea Park Road.  It’s an interesting pub, and is set up for music well enough, with a stage and lighting, a sound system. and an engineer. It also has an appreciative crowd of regulars, so it has all the makings of a great gig. It also has regular events and has been going great guns for a few years now. I certainly enjoyed the place and the gig.

As for today, I’ve got the turkey in the oven and the kids, grandkids and great grandkids are coming around later so another enjoyable family gathering is underway. I merely start proceedings and Gigi, Jessica and Elinore do all the donkey work. I have just given a friend a lift to do his meals-on-wheels Christmas deliver and will pick him up after he finishes when he will join us for the meal. As for New year’s eve, The Johnny Nikki Band is on at the Chippenham so I shall catch them there. Incidentally, our gig there is on the 21st February at 9pm and it is free, so I hope to see a few people there too. The first of the family are ringing the doorbell right now, not a jingle bell one, but time to wish everyone a happy Christmas. Enjoy yourselves!

Before I forget…

I managed to miss the last Ella Speed gig at the Alley Cat Bar by simply misunderstanding when they were taking a break from the fortnightly residency. However I did manage to catch another gig by a trio led by Dan Nash, a singer guitarist, who has a great repertoire of blues songs. It was just by chance that I was in the Chippenham hotel at the end of my street that night and it was a pleasant surprise when they came on. I highly recommend them. His web address is


I did remember to go to a previous gig at the Alley Cat though it wasn’t the Tuesday residency but was in fact a late one with various other acts. It was well attended and the audience were enthusiastic. We’re there again on the 10th of the month so I shall probably manage that one, age permitting. We’re also doing an Ella Speed gig at The Secret Garden in Battersea on the 15th.

Despite all the claims that the economy is improving I’m finding just the reverse as my overdraft limit has just been reduced. Needless to say I was not amused. Of course I could give up drinking but back in the real world I can’t see that happening. My newest excuse for going to the pub is that I get to see my seven week old Great grandson Harley there from time to time. So far he’s not on beer but he definitely licks his lips when I down one…

Art and about…

The other day, I was stopped in the street by a couple of neighbours who recommended an art exhibition at a nearby canal-side church, St Mary Magdalene’s. They told me that the exhibition was well worth a look and also the vaults of the church where the exhibition was being held were really fantastic. Armed with this information, I duly persuaded  my partner Gigi to pay a visit with me. We were not disappointed.

As we arrived we ran into the artist, William Stevens, and had a brief word before entering. The works, “The Drovers“, are based on the imaginary clash of 19th century cattle drovers entering modern day London. The artist had travelled in Central Asia where he had encountered a current culture similar to that of the old drovers of Victorian times. The result is a reflection on history, fantasy, and modern urban life on the streets. The exhibition is on until the 29th October from midday until 5pm. In addition, the vaults themselves are also spectacular. St Magdalene’s is a fine neo-Gothic church and somehow is a very appropriate setting for the display.

After the exhibition we went to the nearest bar, no surprise there, where we sat with our drinks under an awning beside the canal, watching the interloping Canada geese passing up and down, without, I hasten to add, the ushering of drovers. I was suddenly reminded of my first full-time job. I had worked on a dairy farm and on a few occasions I had indeed driven cattle through the streets of Hereford, from the Cattle Market to a farm on the banks of the River Wye, just outside town  I had completely forgotten these incidents. Must really be getting old.

On the subject of getting old, My annual birthday bash went really well, though there were some late arrivals who thought that the gig went on after 11pm. Well it did a bit, but not intentionally planned. I really enjoyed it and the audience was very appreciative. Once again I want to thank the band and the guest musicians. Photographer Tim Holt was in attendance and I’ve just received  his archive gallery of the event. You can access the photographs of the night on his website: http://phatfotos.co.uk/shakey/Shakey_et._al./Welcome.html

Paris Blues

I would like to thank everyone who sent birthday wishes via facebook and cards. I’ll be having my birthday bash at the Chippenham Pub in Shirland Road this year. The pub is at the junction with Chippenham Road. The band will be Alan Vincent on guitar, Jim Mercer on vocals and bass, Mel Wright on drums and John Lewis on keyboards. Chris Youlden can’t guarantee to be there as his health problems don’t seem to be getting any better, but I’m expecting a few guest musicians along. The gig will be on the 12th October starting at eight in the evening. It’s actually about ten days after my birthday but that has nothing to do with old age. As for my actual birthday, well that’s another story.

In fact, Gigi had to go to Paris for the day on business so I  went along with the idea of  having a celebratory meal there before returning to London.  We started off by almost missing the Eurostar from St Pancras because of traffic problems but we just about made it by switching to the underground mid-journey. The business took place in the garment district of Paris but went on much longer than planned. This was not a secret plan to keep me out of bars, or so I was led to believe. Any way the business finished around six thirty and we went to a nearby café  for  much needed refreshment of  French cheeses and wine.

Then the evening got a little out of kilter. We decided to make our way to the Gare du Nord terminus and have a meal in the vicinity before boarding the train. A simple plan which went slightly wrong when we met by chance a couple of friendly Australian ladies and fell into conversation  punctuated by a bowl of  very spicy olives interspersed with the odd glass. That was when we realised  it was time to make our way to the station. After much huffing and puffing we arrived just in time to watch the last train leave. We were given a couple of goodwill ticket changes  so that we could catch the first train out the next morning.

Time for plan B. A couple of phone calls to London  to let people know of a change of the next day’s  arrangements  followed by a decision to find hotel and then get my birthday meal. We didn’t have to go far and checked in then went to a nearby restaurant and ate. And so to bed at about half one in the morning. We awoke not so bright and breezy at six for the journey home. Suffice to say we did not miss the train.

Not so tired…

Recently Bettye LaVette did a gig in Chelsea at the Under the Bridge club. She had recorded one of Chris Youlden’s songs, “I’m Tired” so Chris and I went along to catch the show. She duly performed the song and later we met her backstage, thanks to the auspices of Kevin Kiley.  She is one of those performers who never seem to get proper recognition until late on in their career, but she is a great singer with a sense of irony and knows how to put on a show. She has a good band too, who supported her well. She then finished the evening with a solo vocal, with a gospel tinge which emphasised how exceptional a voice she has. A fine evening.

I did another gig with Jim Mercer’s band Ella Speed at the Alley Cat in Denmark Street on the following Friday and that went pretty well too. Pete Miles sat in on drums and did his usual great job and there was a friendly crowd too, so I thoroughly enjoyed the evening there also.

I didn’t get to Notting Hill Carnival this year for the first time in years, so I don’t know how it went, but there seemed to be a lot more people there from what I’ve been told.  Gigi and I had other things arranged but there’s always next year. However we did manage a post |carnival party along with Jon T-bone Taylor and other friends at Jason’s annual shindig. He does the website for me, but his other talents as host and chef did the trick. Well, as I’ve fully recovered, it must be time for a drink…

Chris Youlden improving

I gigged at the Alley Cat in Denmark Street with Jim Mercer’s band. It was during the happy hour as usual and eventually people arrived and got happy, well they applauded boisterously, so I guess they were happy. I remained sober which does not mean I was unhappy. We are going to do a less than happy hour on Thursday 11th July starting at nine in the evening or at least after the happy hour which ends at eight. Jim has finally decided on a name for the band which is Ella Speed an old Leadbelly song I believe. The line up is Jim Mercer on vocals and guitar, Peter Parker on Bass, Sakura Mori on drums and myself on harp and vocals.

Last Friday I met up with Mel Wright and Chris Youlden for a tipple or two. I did the tippling because the others were on non-alcoholic beverages, Chris because they’ve finally tried an antibiotic which seems to be working and Mel for whatever reason, (sanity probably…I daren’t ask). Chris’s leg is still badly swollen, but the virus seems to be responding to the new medication. He promises to drop in at the Alley Cat when he’s properly recovered. I look forward to his recovery.

Last Saturday’s gig at the Red Squirrel went well, despite the opposition from Glastonbury and sports on television. The band played enthusiastically and we had a couple of sitters -in…Natalie, who did a tasty version of “Mustang Sally” and Eddie Gee, who did a spot on harp and vocals. It was a very lively party crowd which meant lots of drunkenness. I didn’t want to be the party pooper so after the final set I too joined in the revelry, or boozing as some people might call it. As the rest of the band were driving, I had to dispose of the band drinks which had been bought for us. Well we’ve all got do our bit haven’t we. We are all in it together, right?

Nothing but a party

We are doing another gig at the Red Squirrel this Saturday the 29th June. The line-up will include Alan Vincent on guitar, Brian Diprose on bass and Neil Littman on drums. It happens to be the day after both Alan’s and Brian’s birthday, as they share the same birth date, so plenty of reason to party and celebrate. In addition, there will be a christening party on behalf of the son of one of the Squirrel staff, so, all in all, it seems like it’s going to be a fun gig. I of course will be my usual sober self.

On a less happy note, I recently had my computer hacked by some virus that takes the  contact names and email addresses and then sends out a load of rubbish adverts to unsuspecting recipients. I apologise that this has happened and hope it didn’t cause too many problems for other people, though I fear the worst in that respect.

Another computer problem is that I somehow deleted a message from a lady before answering it and the sender was not on my contact list and I can’t remember her name. The message concerned an inquiry about  the Little Woman You‘re So Sweet album and whether there were any Cd copies of it. In fact  there was a Cd issued by a German label. Surprise , surprise, I knew nothing about it until someone sent me a copy. The lady enquirer used to listen to her Dad playing the vinyl album when she was young and continued to listen to it as she grew up. I hope that she reads this and  get’s back in touch.

Recently, Gigi and I went for lunch al fresco at Cote Brasserie in St. Christopher’s  Place just off Oxford Street. We got some great service from a member of the staff named Albert, a Catalan, I believe. He was, later in the month, going to Yorkshire to assist in the opening of another branch, so I wish him well.  At the next table were  a father and son and we got talking. It turned out that they had both played cricket for Gloucestershire and in fact the father had played for Pakistan. He was the youngest of five brothers, four of whom all played for the national team He was Sadik Mohammed and we had a really enjoyable conversation.. It’s the sort of surprise encounter that you can get in London and I look forward to many more.

What’s in a title?

The gig atthe Red Squirrel was a great success  with a good turn out, lots of dancing and drinking and lots of photos courtesy of Tim Holt who’s website is phatphotos.co.uk. Tim did the Greek Street album cover by the way. The band, Jim Mercer, Alan Vincent, Mel Wright and myself was in cracking form and surprised a few of the regulars who only knew me as a guy propping up the bar most nights. They now know that I’m not just a pretty face… A big thanks to all the people who turned up and made the night really enjoyable.

The following Tuesday, I went to the Alley Cat in Denmark Street for the usual fortnightly duo with Jim Mercer but this one was different as we were augmented by drums and bass. This too went enjoyably well and we hope to have the four-piece next time. Incidentally that won’t actually be on a Tuesday as there is a record launch that evening. We will be playing on the day after, Wednesday 15 April, at the usual time, six till eight, which is the happy hour. This caused various interpretations of phrase last time we played there. Jim had just finished announcing the song he had just performed, “Four until Eight” when Tim Penn interjected that should be six until eight,  forcing me to declare my interpretation, which was: Sex until Late. Yes I am still living in a dream world…

Friends and places past

Yesterday evening I met Dino Coccia at the Princess Louise Pub in Holborn to pick up the last available copy of  the “Got Blues If You Wannit” cd, and of course to have a quick drink. We had done a gig the previous week at a wake for a friend of Dino’s and had really enjoyed the gig, with people eventually persuaded to get up and dance.  Enid, for whom the wake was organised, had been a lively enough soul and would have been first on the dance floor, as her daughter Sue had informed me, so I was pleased to see the dancers.

During the course of the drinking at the Louise, I realised that this had almost certainly been the place in Holborn where I had promoted the Hellhound Blues Club, way back in the late sixties. It had also been the venue of various jazz sessions some of which Dino had worked in. These reminiscences led to the usual comparison with the London music scene then and now. Perhaps the new easing of the licensing laws will encourage a return to busier pub venues but I’m not holding my breath.

Back to the here and now, the duo gig I’ve been doing with Jim Mercer every other Tuesday is cancelled next week and we’ll be back at the Alley Cat happy hour session on the 30th of this month. Before that Jim will be on bass and vocals with my band on the 27th at my local, the Red Squirrel on the junction of Elgin Avenue and Chippenham Road in Maida Hill. Jon T-bone Taylor also sent me an email about doing a repeat gig in the greenhouse at Ravenscourt Park in July. No rest for the wicked then.

I spoke to Chris Youlden yesterday but he is unable to do the band gig at the Squirrel as he has serious leg and ankle swelling  which he’s having antibiotic and zinc-dressing treatment for. He has been told to rest so lets hope he improves soon. as we’re due another drinking session. Which leads me to another  meeting on Saturday with friends of the late guitarist Bruce Langsman, who gigged with me in the early days and may well have gigged at the Hellhound blues Club. Mel Wright and Wolfie Witcher are attending at this annual get-together of Bruces mates which is being arranged as usual by Bruce’s brother Rex. The late bassist /vocalist Ron Skinner was a regular at this event too. Incidentally, I have not been invited to play at Maggie Thatchers’s wake, but perhaps there isn’t one…