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?
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.
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…
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…
Well I didn’t get to the gig on January 22nd , nor indeed the one the following fortnight. Whilst making my way down a slope covered in ice, I managed to slip up and crack a rib or two. I had the wind knocked out of my sails for a while and then started to haul myself up just as a young middle-eastern guy wearing a union jack tee shirt offered to help. I thanked him and continued on my way to the newspaper shop, which had been the reason for my journey. I got my paper and walked home, avoiding the slop by detouring. As the day wore on, the pain increased so much so that eventually I called an ambulance. By a curious coincidence it turned out that the father of one of the ambulance crew had exactly the same birthday as me, down to the actual year. When I chatted her up I was told I was old enough to be her father…A&E on a Sunday evening is never a great place to be.
Eventually I was discharged about 2.30 in the morning, with some pain killers. They weren’t very effective and I had to call another ambulance on the following Wednesday. The examination was more intensive this time and I was discharged with much better painkillers and a letter to my GP. The pills ran out a week later so I trudged off to the doctor and was given more pain killers and also antibiotics for a lung infection. That meant another missed gig at the Alley Cat but Jim Mercer told me that Gordon Smith went along to help out so I didn’t feel at all guilty. Suffice to say that I did finally get to the latest gig on the Tuesday just gone. Yes, I did drink and no I wasn’t drunk when I fell over on the ice. This is the third time I’d cracked a rib and only once had I been drinking, just to set your minds at rest.
Now back to the less mundane. Is it just me or is there a certain irony in that DNA evidence was used to verify that the burial site of Richard the Third had indeed been discovered and that DNA evidence also led to the discovery of horsemeat being used to augment beef products. Perhaps if a cow had been at hand at that battle, he could have saved his kingdom and we wouldn’t have needed DNA to tell the story. On the other hand, “A Cow, a Cow, my kingdom for a cow” wouldn’t have suited Shakespeare, though it seems he too had his sense of humour. The news coverage of the confirmatory evidence about Richard also mentioned that a plaque had been placed at a nearby river bank where it was alleged his body had been thrown in by an angry mob. In the discussion about where the bones should be laid to rest, seems to have occurred to no one that they could have been thrown into the river where the plaque was. Oh well, I have my ideas of how to do things and nobody takes any notice…
It’s quite a while since I wrote anything here. It can’t have been all the partying I’ve been doing, although I did enjoy Christmas with my family. Nor has anything ultra-extraordinary happened in my life. On the contrary, it’s been pretty much déjà vu. Regular pub visits but not much in the way of music, at least not my kind of music. However, all is not lost.
A couple of months ago Jim Mercer asked me to join him in a gig at the Alley Cat in Denmark street, just off the north end of Charing Cross Road. It’s the sort of club I would consider running myself, not too big but spacious enough and near a tube station (Tottenham Court Road) and served by plenty of buses. We do a duo every other Tuesday, with Jim on guitar rather than his usual bass and we play during the happy hour, between six and eight. We had a break over Christmas and will be back on Tuesday 22nd January. Chris Youlden says he will make it that evening. In theory it keeps me out of trouble.
I’ve also agreed to do a gig at the White Lion in Streatham for a children’s charity which helps children in Nepal. For further details about the promotion go to the following website: events @music4children.org which gives some details about the White Lion and the way it ahs been changed into a community bar from what seems previously to have been a pretty run-down pub. Not that I have too much against run down pubs as long as they are still open. There is always hope of some improvement instead of the place becoming yet another Tesco local store, with or without beef burgers. The gig will be me, Dino Coccia on drums, Alan Vincent on guitar and possibly Jim Mercer on bass, but as he’s still in the Caribbean, I can’t confirm that yet. Chris is unable to do that particular gig but may do further ones should they arise.
I met Chris the other day to pass on some information and show him a video of Betty Lavette covering one of his songs. We met once more at the J.D. Wetherspoon’s on Charing Cross Road. Chris is doing okay with a few health niggles, but his wife is having quite a few problems, so I hope things pick up for her soon. I don’t think I’ve completely convinced him to get an I-pad but he seemed impressed at being able to watch the You-tube of Betty’s performance and then write and send a reply without having to leave the pub. I met Dino the next evening in the Princess Louise in Holborn. As I wrote previously; déjà vu. A belated Happy New Year to everyone.
Just before my birthday I met up with Chris Youlden, Mel Wright and Brian Diprose for a long overdue drink. We agreed to meet at the Wetherspoon’s pub on Charing cross Road and as there was a back entrance on Greek Street, I decided to enter from there. It was a surprise to see posters and photographs on the walls from the Marquee Club as I went in, until I realised that this had been one of the Marquee venues towards the latter days of the club. Once in the main part of the pub I was able to remember it better. The place is really spacious and with more than a nod to it’s musical past. The beer was up to usual Wetherspoon’s standards and I shall no doubt be frequenting the place more often in future. Another surprise was that Mel had finished his third novel and presented each of us with a copy.
It concerns a bunch of sixties people coming to terms with the fact that they aren’t getting any younger, well at least that’s my rather biased interpretation of it. It’s set in Hastings and the town also seems to be undergoing the problems of facing up to the recession. Mel has done an amazing amount of research on the town, including the saga of the end of Woolworths. One of the main characters is naturally a blues fan. I wonder who that is based on. I really enjoyed the book. It’ entitled One Thing And Another and is available from Dartford Forum Publishing for £4.99
The website is
My 75th birthday day bash went well and I’d like to thank everybody who turned up and partied. Also I have to thank Paul Lamb, Big Joe Louis, Laurie Garmon and Chris Youlden, among others, for sitting in and doing a great job. While I’m at it I should like to thank all those people who posted birthday wishes on facebook. Thanks too to the band, Jon T-bone Taylor, Jim Mercer and Pete Miles for the gig. Lastly I have to thank my partner Gigi and her friend Stephanie, for producing the cup-cake spectacular on the night. That is it as far as partying is concerned…well perhaps my 100th. Mmm maybe I’m the one who should be facing up to the reality of the past disappearing too.
So much for enjoying the fact that I had some more gigs. The reality is that the Chippenham gigs have now been cancelled after the manager departed at short notice. Rather than jump off the nearest tower block, I decided to move the gig on the 6th of October to the pub even closer to me in Chippenham Road. So my birthday blues celebrations will now be at The Red Squirrel at the junction of Elgin avenue and Chippenham Road, W9.
We’ll probably start the celebrations at about eight even though there may be an extension. That sounds like another alcoholic turbo boost.
The band will be Jon T-bone Taylor on guitar, Jim Mercer on bass and vocals, Pete Miles on drums and myself . Chris Youlden has confirmed he’ll be there too so a good night is a probable. So if anyone reading this knows anyone who’d intended to turn up at the Chippenham, please let them know of the change of venue.
Someone, possibly from Germany, as I think the name was Gerhardt, recently emailed me about buying two Cds, but it had gone into my spam box and when I tried to move it, it somehow got deleted. I then closed down the computer so the trash can got emptied too. Anyway, if that gentleman reads this, could he please email me again and I can apologise to him.
A few month’s ago, Jon T-bone Taylor and I were in the audience at the Chippenham, the pub at the end of the road I live in, enjoying the music of The Johnnie Nikki Band. A couple of week’s later we did a gig there ourselves and have managed to do about seven more since then, including some last-minute substitutions when other bands have pulled out. To think, a while back I was bemoaning the lack of gigs. I‘m beginning to enjoy playing again, though the place reminds me at times of what a rough Mississippi .back-country juke might have been, with the odd argument ending in a fight. Still, if you only play blues you have to take what you can get. On the scheduled gigs we get a number of blues people, but on the last-minute gigs we don’t get so many. Then it’s what I call a small but select audience, though I’d like to know who the hell selected them. Continue reading
A while ago Jon T-bone Taylor got me a gig at the Chippenham at the end of my road. As none of my regular band was available I got together a four-piece including Jon and we did the gig. At the end of the evening the manager gave me a list of dates up until Christmas, one gig every five or six weeks. We’ve continued to do those and in fact have been given another three extra gigs as well, when other bands have pulled out at the last minute Continue reading
A while back I did a video interview at my local pub for the National Blues Archive which was arranged by Stevie King whose band are regulars at the Coach & Horses in Leytonstone. He was accompanied by Steve Taylor who did the actual video work. Naturally part of the interview seemed to involve drinking. I’m not sure that will contribute much to the history of British Blues but you never know. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, being at a loose end one evening, I decided to go and catch some live blues, so after some deliberation I chose ‘ain’t nothing but…’in Soho as a suitable place to queue for a drink. There was some enjoyable piano playing early on and then Jimmy C and his band started their first stint. They are one of those bands who seem to have a good rapport with the audience and I found it interesting and enjoyable. Then duty called and I went and joined Gigi who’d been out at a birthday party, which she didn’t enjoy. Ain’t that the blues. Continue reading