Bass Guitar / Guitar / Vocals
The next few years were taken up touring the North of England and Scotland, doing ‘The Club Circuit’. Not only did we perform in our own show, but we also backed many of the well known artistes of the 60s such as Danny Williams, (‘Moon River’ ) Billy Fury, Ricky Vallance ( ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’ ), and too many others to remember. During that time, we also worked as Dickie Pride’s backing group.
Around 1965, I went to sea as a musician and spent the next three years travelling the world for free and got paid for it. How wonderful is that ?
In 69’, I joined ‘Wishful Thinking’. The very best band that I have ever played with…….. Up until now of course. Now that we are back together and are recording again…….
There’s lots of other stuff that you can read about. Such as my ‘other groups’ and my Photographic and Video work in the television industry. You can find it in my ‘full biography’, which follows the gallery below.
Full Biography – ‘My Life Already’
Guitars owned; Original ‘Hopf’ German origin; Burns Weil (See hand painted picture in Gallery) ; 1960 and 1961 Fender ‘strats’ double zero production Nos; 1961 Gibson ES335, Blond, Custom, Gold Plated hardware inc. Bigsby; 62′ Fender ‘Tele’ Special. Sunburst; Fender ‘Precision’ bass, 1961; Guild ? Cherry red; Squire ‘Precision’ bass; ‘Music Man’ Sabre 2 (being restored); 3 various Yamaha acoustics, (1 needs restoration ); and a ‘Levinson Blade 11. which is fab…..
I recollect that I first started to play in a group when I was about 15 years old. It was at school, and several of us decided to form a skiffle group because the Lonnie Donegan group were becoming popular. We came up with an original name, “The Bronnie Onegan group”. I played washboard, which eventually became drums. Actually, that should read drum, because I only had a snare, one brush and one stick. Our first gig was the school concert. I particularly remember that because we painted moustaches and sideburns on our faces to make us look older. Stupid boys.
Sometime after that, we formed the “Five Strangers”. The band comprised of me, ‘Fred Funnel’, Brian Fisher, Roy Bridle and Bill Yaldren. We did some great gigs at that time. I remember ‘The Candlelight Club’ at Woolston, and the ‘Empire Hall’ at Totton.
One of the best was the Saturday morning “Gaumont Show”. Quite a few of the local bands did the show and it was just fantastic…To be 17 years old and playing on a big, real theatre stage with an audience of several hundreds screaming for more at the end of each song did make us ‘Feel Good’. Sometimes there would be 2 groups on and sometimes they might have us, plus a guest singer, such as ‘Tex Roberg’. Well….. It was just wonderful….
It would have been around this time that Kevin and I would have got to know each other. I don’t remember doing many gigs with any of Kevs’ groups except possibly when Len, our manager, would put on a special ‘Showcase’ down at ‘The Royal Pier’ although I think that we may well have played together at The Empire Hall, Totton a few times. I remember that Kev’ did a few gigs, singing with ‘The Strangers’. I can’t think why, because at that time, he would surely have been with ‘The Whirlwinds’ or ‘The Kinsmen’, but I could be wrong…..Must ask him about that….There was a friendly rivalry between all of the bands, but deep down, I’m sure we all thought our own group was the best…
One thing that I do remember very well were the competitions that were staged for all groups to enter. One in particular was at The ‘Atherley’ cinema in Shirley. The final ended up with us against The Blackjacks with my good friend Pete Broyd singing. We won the competition quite easily because we paid the local heavies to vote for us. I think it cost us about 10 shillings. (50p). I have a feeling that we did it once more against ‘Brownhill Stamp Duty’.
There was also this rivalry between the main promoters in the area. Our good friend Len Canham was managing us throughout the early years, but I also recall working for Reg Calvert and Bob Potter. I think that it was always friendly.
Some of Reg’s acts were good. Remember Danny Storm, Buddy Britain? I also remember some of Bob’s groups. In particular ‘The Emeralds.’, who eventually became ‘Wishful Thinking’.
We used to travel some ridiculous distances for really silly money… Camberley for £7.00 between 5 of us? Trowbridge for a “tenner”? We must have been stupid but it was fantastic fun. In John’s biography, he talks about the trouble they had with their van. Well, we had similar problems with ours. We were on our way to Newcastle one day when the windscreen wipers decided that they would stop working. We had a Bedford ‘DORMOBILE’ that had sliding doors. We had to tie a piece of string to the wiper blades and take the string out of one door and in the other and tie it together, then pull it from side to side every time that it rained, which was of course, all the time…and we got wet.
One funny thing that did happen to ‘The Strangers’ in Norway, was when we had to get into Oslo for a management meeting with our record company at 1.30 pm. Fergie woke us up shouting that it was late and was already 12.30. We hurriedly got dressed and were running for the train when we realised that there wasn’t any other traffic around. Guess what? Yup, Fergie had his watch on upside down. It was
6 o clock in the morning. We stayed in Norway for most of that year and had a wonderful time and made many good friends.
We returned to England and Larry Parnes wanted us to become ‘Dickie Prides’ band, which we did. Dickie made some good records. Remember ‘ Slippin and Slidin ’ ? We did a couple of good tours with him. Sadly, Dickie died in the late 60s’.
As far as I can remember, it was around this time that we formed “The Barrie James Show”. There was Barrie, The Strangers, ( Now with John Baker on drums ), Patti Knight, and ” Gary and Lee”. Some time later, Patti left the band and we replaced her with a singer called Sandie Lane…
A fantastic drummer called Johnny Watson joined us around this period. He had previously been working with Tony Sheridan in Germany. Rumour has it that he actually turned down the job with ‘THE BEATLES’ because he was earning more with Sheridan’s band.. John now lives in Australia and still plays in his own Rock Band. He comes over every year or so and stays with a good friend of mine, Geoff Chalke, another bass player that Kevin also knows from way back…We toured the north on a regular basis doing all of the big gigs with lots of the big names of the time. People such as Billy Fury, Shane Fenton, Billy J. Kramer and Freddie and the Dreamers, and probably loads more that I have forgotten….
We continued touring, and bass player Pete Jackson from Doncaster joined when Funnel decided that he’d had enough of being on the road. Soon after this time, John Picken (Yet another drummer) joined this line-up and we started playing at the “Railway” at Woolston. I think that this lasted for 2 years…..
After that, I went to sea with John Baker. We had a fantastic time. We did 5 world cruises during those three years, travelling to the most fabulous places. I think that we visited 42 different countries. The musicians were treated very well, living and dining in passenger accommodation and being paid for it…. I don’t know why I left the boats, but I came back and joined the Pete James Big Band at the Top Rank. Tony Averne and I fronted the band with Janice Ross being the female vocalist……
This is the time that I got a phone call from Kevin, who asked me if I would be interested in joining “Wishful Thinking”. They had a fantastic reputation and nobody could have held me back..They were a fabulous vocal band and I was so thrilled to be given the chance of teaming up with them. Of course, I knew Kev from the early Southampton music days when he was with ‘THE KINSMEN ‘ and ‘THE TIME’ and of course, we had the same manager, Len Canham. I also slightly knew Brian from his days in ‘THE EMERALDS’ when we all used to meet in The Café on the A30 at Camberley after the gigs. ….
The time that I had in WT, was without doubt the most enjoyable musical interlude of my career. It was fabulous, not only for the vocals and music, but we also had such a similar style of humour. We all seemed to like, or do the same things, and fortunately, we liked the same kind of music, so choosing new material was very easy.
When Brian left the band, we were lucky enough to get a great drummer called Pete Ridley, coincidently also from Southampton. During our time together, we released loads of singles and a couple of albums, but alas, no hits in England. Touring with the band was fantastic. We all had such a good time and we were always well received. It was also great doing cabaret. I particularly remember doing cabaret with Frankie Howerd at Webbington Country Club. Having just joined the band, obviously some of the songs were more difficult than others. We were doing a classical piece called ‘Bouree’ which just had our vocals and me playing bass. I’m surprised that I wasn’t asked to leave the band… I think that I played all the right notes, but certainly not in the right order.
Touring Scandinavia with WT was great fun. We did some fantastic gigs, and visited some lovely places which were really enjoyable and the scenery just unforgettable. We had some really good friends in Norway. I particularly remember Puss and Siggy. If you guys ever read this, please get in touch!!!
During the whole time I was with Wishful, we had ‘Big Al’ as our roadie and sound engineer. Strangely enough, I knew Alan from earlier times because he was also from Southampton. In fact, he was our roadie whilst we were in Spain with ‘The Strangers’. Unfortunately, all good things seem to come to a temporary end, and for various reasons I decided to leave the band.
After Wishful, I worked in a residency down near Southampton with John Baker and Simon the keyboard player from the Top Rank band. Now that was a residency! We played there 7 nights a week, although it got a bit boring after a year. In fact, it got a bit boring after the first set……
In 1975, I married my wife Sue, who is just fantastic. We have two terrific boys, Andy and Chris and two fabulous grandchildren. Andy is a rep for a golf related company and Chris is in the British forces. How lucky am I?
It was about this time, we formed “Crystal” with Mick Dubiel, Lynn Barber and Brian Wright. They were a really popular ‘Middle of the road’ band. This was a band that was always working the club circuit in and around the South Coast. Again, funnily enough, Mick the bass player was in Kev’s band ‘The Time’.
Moving on, I have always been a very very keen photographer, and around 1977, I went to work for BBC Television in Southampton and started the Photographic department there. I worked there for 6 years before moving on to Southern Television as a freelancer. From there I moved to a staff job with TVS in Southampton until their demise in 1992. After that, I decided to work for myself and have done so ever since. The good thing is, that John, Kevin and I can manage to get enough time together, as often as possible to write and record a lot of our new material.
Just going back to 1978, whilst at the BBC, I got a call from Peter Kirsten, who headed ‘Global Music’ in Germany. He told me that ‘Hiroshima’ had re-entered the German charts for the third or fourth time and was selling fast. He asked me if it was possible to re form Wishful Thinking so that we could return to Germany and do a promotional tour…. I told him that I didn’t think that it was likely because of John and Kevin’s involvement with ‘The New Seekers’, but as it happened, they were about to part company with the band so everything seemed to fall into place very nicely. We got back together again and rehearsed with John Redpath, the drummer that they had been working with.
When we were in Germany, we did some fantastic gigs, TV and Radio programmes promoting the record, but I think that we made the mistake of coming back to England a bit too early, when we should have stayed over there for a while to see just what might have developed.
Whilst WT. was together, we recorded a lot of material for other people. I recollect recording some material for Lionel Bart, which I won’t forget, because for some reason I never did get paid for the session ! Funny how things like that stick in your throat! We also recorded a lot of material for Danny Beckerman, notably the soundtrack of Gulliver’s Travels’, which he wrote and arranged….Also on that session was Eve Graham from ‘THE NEW SEEKERS’ She has a fantastic voice. Of course, Eve is married to Kevin. (Who also has a great voice), but not married to John, who also has a terrific voice. They all paid me for saying that!!! Fortunately, Kevin, John and I have always stayed in touch with each other.
Musically during that time, I also worked in a few more bands. I linked up with a bass player called Bob Phillips to form a duo called ‘BILLY WHIZZ’. I think that we were one of the first duo’s using our own backing tracks. Some time later, Bob and I teamed up with two other friends, Chris ‘Bernsy’ Brown and Spike Walters and formed a band called ‘GUVNOR’. It was a really tight band with great harmonies. (Lessons learned from the Wishful days.) For some reason, and I really can’t think why, we split, as lots of good groups do.
I followed this up by joining ‘GOLDRUSH’. Roy, Mick and Gerry being the other three guys in the band..
Again strangely, Roy was in Kevs’ band, The Whirlwinds’…. After quite a few years, Bob and I got back together again to re-form ‘BILLYWHIZZ ‘, which was my last band. We folded in about 2005.
That brings me right up to the present again. The guys and our wives decided to meet up in ‘The Villa’, in Central France to discuss the possibilities of working together again.
We had a fantastic time there and the positive outcome is the production of ”BELIEVING IN DREAMS” our ”NEW CD” , which is available on this website… With lots more ideas in the pipeline, I feel sure that the future won’t just be “Wishf… (You know what comes next).
Thanks for reading.