My Life In Music

Secondary School and the 1960s

Having failed the 11+ I went to Lancaster Boys School, Leicester in 1962. I didn’t feel like a failure though, in fact I was glad to be going there. It was a new school in nice grounds and there was a girls school next door that proved significant in later years! At that time the role of Secondary Modern schools was changing. In the 1950s they were a bit of a dumping ground for those who were incapable of rising to the academic rigour of the Grammar Schools (Yes, I am being sarcastic!). Unfortunately, this accounted for about eighty per cent of the population and it was gradually becoming obvious that these pupils were capable of a lot more. Lancaster Boys was given the remit to get kids to pass exams and, perhaps ironically, they had one of the highest pass rates in the city by the mid 60s including the grammar schools. The official school leaving age at that time was fifteen and passing the 11+ didn’t guarantee success. Lancaster Boys was seen as a good school and I enjoyed being there.

In the first week or so of being there we were given the opportunity to play a musical instrument if we wanted to. Those interested had time out of lessons to try a variety of wind instruments. There was a school wind band run by a visiting band master named Mr. J.Ord Hume. He was the relative of a famous military band composer. We could try all sorts of instruments: trombones, cornets, clarinets, euphonium. It was great fun. I decided on clarinet because at that time there was a big hit by Acker Bilk called “Stranger on the Shore”. I was still heavily influenced by light orchestral music! We didn’t have actual lessons but he showed us the basics and then we just learnt on the job. He showed us the music and we learnt the notes and he shouted at us if we got it wrong! It’s amazing how quickly you can pick things up. He did his own arrangements with some really easy parts so anyone could be part of the band right from the start. Then there were more difficult parts as you got better. It actually sounded very good and set me on my path as a musician.

We also had singing once a week which was still my favourite activity and every Monday morning all the first years had hymn practice. The headmaster Mr. Dickson was often there ensuring that the boys sang up, at risk of a whack round the head if you didn’t. This was a time when corporal punishment was used extensively not just for misbehaviour but as a teaching method! It included hitting, hair pulling, ridicule and a whole range of methods of torture. Didn’t do me any harm though!(Yes, the old cliches are the best!). To be fair, it was often done accompanied by a sarcastic sense of humour which made it a bit more bearable. Mind you, if teachers employed these methods now they would probably all be arrested!

There were assemblies every morning where we sang at least two hymns, it was like a mini service including a lesson for the day and a prayer. On Fridays the wind band would play for the hymns and sometimes play an instrumental. My first real experience as a performer.

Things were moving fast though and my interests were expanding.

Beatlemania!! She loves you yeah, yeah,yeah!

In 1963 Beatlemania struck and things were never the same again. This was the watershed, it opened up the floodgates of new possibilities. This was when youth was liberated from the conformity of the past and I lost interest in light orchestral music. Even at that age I could come out with a convincing rendition of “Twist and Shout” and “Please Please Me” and my future as a vocalist was assured, or so I thought. With the emergence of The Rolling Stones shortly afterwards I became a total convert and spent most of my time singing or playing records over and over in my mind until they actually became a part of me. I wasn’t a passive consumer, I was living it!

I had a problem though. Although intuitively I understood perfectly what was happening I didn’t know how it was done. I had no access to the instruments used in pop music and my music theory was poor. When I discovered how chords worked it was an epiphany! Yes!!, that’s how you do it!! You play chords and sing along to it!! Once I worked that out there was no looking back!! It took quite a while to reach that point though.

1965 was one of the best years for music ever what with “Rubber Soul”,”Highway 61 Revisted” and a whole string of brilliant Rolling Stones singles (albums not so good though apart from “Aftermath”). It was also one of the most significant years of my life. I was a real teenager now and part of a wider sub-culture. This was the time of the mods and rockers both of which I was on the periphery of although I tended towards the mods. The rocker connection was that I attended the Avenue Road Youth Club, which was a rocker stronghold. They were quite impressive with their powerful bikes and reckless ways. I can remember them doing speed trials around Avenue Road and Bulwer Road where occasionally one them would crash into a wall. They were a bit moronic. I liked their macho swagger and the leather jackets and studded belts though.

Avenue Road School as it is now. This was the entrance to the youth club and the wall that several maniac motorcyclists crashed into.

The mod connection was more by association. Although my friends and I were aware of what was happening we were too young to go to the clubs and coffee bars frequented by the mods. The mother of my best friend at the time had a hair salon on Queens Road. She had an apprentice who was a fully fledged mod with a real scooter and he became a source of information about what was happening and where the best places were even in London. These stories were passed on with a sense of awe and wonder that was virtually religious.

Our time was spent mainly hanging around in parks and town and getting up to all kinds of mischief. This included things like casual shoplifting, illegally travelling on trains and performing ridiculously dangerous dares mainly on building sites and railway lines. I was surprised to learn much later that John Lennon and his pals got up to very similar things in Liverpool ten years earlier. It was perhaps a rite of passage for boys in the immediate post-war period. We were like a bunch of trainee “rebels without a cause”. We also developed our skills at chatting up girls. Bizarrely, one of the main weekly meeting points for people of our age was the Museum on New Walk on Sunday afternoons. I had many an assignation there. By the end of 1965 I think I was probably lucky to still be alive! I also had a criminal record but , fortunately as I was a juvenile, it didn’t affect my later career.

On a more positive note we were all really into music and listened to each other’s records. This was a fantastic year what with The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”, The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man”, The Who’s “My Generation” and perhaps, for me, the most significant song I have ever heard Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. There was also a remarkable string of Beatles hits. I internalised many of the songs at this time to such an extent they have effectively become a part of what I am and I still perform them now. At this time singles were the most important format and they were all we could really afford. We listened to the top 40 on the radio and juke boxes were an important outlet for music that could be found in many cafes. We also often went roller skating at the Granby Halls on Saturday afternoon where the latest hits were played on a loud PA system.

Positively 4th Street! In May 2012 I was staying just around the corner from 4th Street, where Dylan lived in the mid 60s, at the Jane Hotel, Greenwich Village.

This was where I first heard Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” which made an enormous impact on me. I realised that songs could be about anything you wanted or even about nothing at all. It was an epiphany.You could also listen to records in booths at the record shops. The main stores in Leicester were Brees on Churchgate and Cowlings on Belvoir Street.

In 1966 I became bored with being a delinquent and decided to become an intellectual (sorry if I sound a bit like Adrian Mole!). I wasn’t exactly sure what this entailed but I realised that knowledge is power and that if I continued following the path I was on I would end up either in borstal or some boring job at the age of fifteen. I was in the exam class now and became separated from the retrobates I’d been hanging around with. I started going to the Phoenix Theatre which had recently opened that was staging fairly avant garde plays. I was particularly impressed by “Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs” which I saw several times. I related to Malcolm’s rage against normality and mediocrity and yearning for freedom. I also quite fancied one of the actresses in it although I was too shy to speak to her in the bar afterwards.

I also went to the De Montfort Hall to the classical and jazz concerts. You could get a cheap ticket if you stood at the side. I saw some remarkable performances and events like The Modern Jazz Quartet, the Duke Ellington Orchestra and Dave Brubeck who I watched sitting on the stage just behind where he was playing. Fantastic!

Site of the Casino Ballroom London Road. Now a Chinese restaurant.

I was becoming very interested in jazz and bought several records that were sold cheaply on a market stall. I particularly liked Bix Beiderbecke and still play the records now. I also developed a life long love of Louis Armstrong who I think is the greatest jazz player of all time. I saw Jacques Loussier at the De Montfort Hall and found his jazz treatments of Bach pieces quite compelling. All in all, it was a time of growth and awareness for me. I was breaking away from the conformity of the working/lower middle class attitudes around me that I found so stifling. I was also beginning to reject the macho posturing of the youth scene that I had found myself in. I was discovering my creative side!

I had a new set of friends and we were old enough to start going out at night. The mod thing was still happening and we bought made to measure suits from John Collier and fancy shirts and shoes. At this time I was doing three paper rounds so I had a bit of money to spend.

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This is the site of the Green Bowler on Churchgate. Now a pet shop!

The main places we went to were The Green Bowler (a coffee bar on Churchgate) and the Casino Ballroom on London Road. This is where I first encountered the local live music scene. Several bands played there but the standouts were definitely Legay. The lead singer, Rod Read, was incredibly charismatic and they had a huge fan following of mainly attractive girls. As you can understand, this helped serve as an inspiration for me to follow a musical career! They also had their own style that included rocked up versions of Motown hits (Motown was hitting it’s peak at this time). When the bands weren’t playing there was a disco. Contrary to what many think is mod music the majority of records played were Soul and Bluebeat (a name taken from one of the main record labels. People call it Ska now). This love of Black Music persisted into the later Skinhead subculture (and what became known as Northern Soul) but not so much the Hippies with some notable exceptions like Otis Redding. Motown was seen as too “pop” and watered down for the main stream but that changed in the 1970s with artists like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

Leicester Mercury ads for the Casino and the Latin Quarter 1966
Leicester Mercury ads for the Casino and the Latin Quarter 1966

By 1967 I was really in the groove. “Strawberry Fields Forever” became my favourite song as I worked towards taking my ‘O’ Levels. The Green Bowler was still the main place we went to and they started putting live bands on in an upstairs room there. They also had a really good, loud juke box where I first heard the song “Happy Jack” by the Who which became a firm favourite.

Ad for the Nite Owl, Newarke Street.

As well as the Green Bowler we went to the Nite Owl, a large coffee bar on Newarke Street. They had all-nighters and featured some of the top groups at the time like Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and Geno Washington and his Ram Jam Band. Another brilliant group who played there was the Graham Bond Organisation who had Jack Bruce as their bass player. Legay were also a regular feature who I saw quite often on Sunday afternoons and were fantastic as usual. They also featured many American soul stars there. A very good place until it burned down and I’m not speaking metaphorically!!

Burlesque Leicester
Some recently discovered pictures of the Burlesque Club on Humberstone Road. I never went there but it was very popular and is commemorated in Family’s big hit “Burlesque”
My school friend Rob Keeber when we went on a school trip to Tarragona, Spain in 1967. What a time we had!!
My school friend and comrade in arms Rob Keeber when we went on a school trip to Tarragona, Spain in 1967. What a time we had!!

1967 was the “Summer of Love” and the new phenomenon of Hippies took hold. This started in San Francisco and the song “San Francisco (wear some flowers in your hair)” by Scott Mackenzie became an anthem that summer. I welcomed this with open arms, it beat the pants off the kind of casual violence that epitomised the Mods and Rockers! It also felt incredibly liberated. Later that summer Leicester had it’s own Love-in on Victoria Park.

Local poet Terry Wilford read his poems, people strummed guitars and we all felt very clever as the police looked on. I wasn’t really involved yet but that was about to change very soon!

Picture of the Victoria Park Lve-in with Annie Williams facing Rog playing the guitar. Next to him is Mick Pini and behind, looking very dapper is Terry Wilford.
Picture of the Victoria Park Love-in with Annie Williams facing Rog playing the guitar. Next to him is Mick Pini and behind, looking very dapper, is Terry Wilford.

For many the Hippie Explosion was seen as a commercial thing and, certainly at the time, many people cashed in on it. Club owner Alex Barrow closed his “Bluebeat Club” and opened up the “House of Happiness”on Campbell Street. The Chicane Club on the other side of town, which I never went to, advertised “Flower Power”. A new club opened called the “Fifth Dimension”.

07 02 2017 12 39 Office Lens
Hilarious Leicester Mercury report of the demolition of Alex Barrow’s first club on Conduit Street. A lot of very nice buildings were demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Waterloo Way.
Photo sent to me by Annie Williams of Pink Floyd in the dressing room at 5th Dimension in Leicester September 1967. I meant to go but never quite got there! Saw them at the Queens Hall, Leicester University though.
Photo sent to me by Annie Williams of Pink Floyd in the dressing room at 5th Dimension Club in Leicester, September 1967. I meant to go but never quite got there! Saw them at the Queens Hall, Leicester University later  though.

There were plenty of people who became known as “weekend hippies”, “straight” job’s during the week and “freaking out” at the weekend! But all this misses the point that something actually was happening. Attitudes were changing. There was a new autonomy amongst the young and their older sympathisers. Home grown businesses started emerging selling alternative clothes and other paraphernalia. The area around Silver Street became a hive of enterprise of alternative culture. An “underground” press emerged on a national level most notably with the new paper “International Times” which was distributed clandestinely. Later on there was “Oz” magazine where the editors ended up in jail for obscenity! At this time the established record companies briefly lost control of their product. The fans and the musicians were calling the tunes and were in control of their own culture. It was a liberating time where, for once, what was best was also the most popular!

Mick Pini

I left Lancaster Boys and went to Charles Keene College to do my ‘A’ Levels. This was the beginning of a whole new life. In the first few weeks I met Mick Pini who was a fellow student. He’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met and one of the best musicians. We became friends and had many interesting times together over the next few years but the most significant one was 1968.

80 thoughts on “My Life In Music

  1. Your’s is a great story; I’m enjoying reading.

    Your path and mine crossed briefly during the John Cusack era in Leicester. You must remember ‘Rock at the Phoenix. And we did a gig at Mallory Park where you did your solo set and we (Rhinestone) did ours. There’s much more even in that small chapter of your marvellously compelling tale of your life in music.

    Good luck. I’m following your blog. Hope to see you fairly soon.

    Al Owens

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    • Hi Al yes I certainly remember that. I think my job was to be a pretend American country star. I laid on a particularly unconvincing Texan accent but I think I got away with it!

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    • Lol I remember the art bar movies at the phoenix and maurice coleman playing when I was on the Leicester band scene

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  2. Excellent, I really enjoyed reading this, bought back good memories of a period when life was changing quickly.

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  3. Fascinating. Brought back memories and especially the Jaques Loussier concert in De Monfort Hall which you dragged me along to, but loved it. Is my memory faulty but did we also see the Swingle Singers together? Anyway loved the references to the Town Hall which I thought I lived in for a few years, but never aware of Alan Bates and the Kray brother connections. Anyway fascinating. Come and do some busking in Liverpool. I go to a folk club every now and again. Google “Radical Liverpool” Try and do a performance at one of their shows which is about once a month.

    Bye the way I know a John Cusak, who died recently and was at Liverpool University. Architect.

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    • Nice to hear from you Nev. I think you mean Town ARMS. Town Hall was the criminal courts! We did see the Swingle Singers. I should have also perhaps mentioned going to see Roland Kirk in Nottingham after which we attempted to walk back to Leicester and ended up sleeping in a launderette in Loughborough. Will definitely come to Liverpool.

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      • I should also have mentioned the time we went to the American Blues concert at the De Mont in 1967 I think. We went backstage and were introduced by Kokomo Taylor to some of the greatest names in American blues like Son House and Willie Dixon. Legendary

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  4. My god, how you have signposted the route through my own teenage years in Leicester…was Boyd’s band called Soop? I was in One Hand Clapping, and ran the two free concerts on Welford Rd Recce…and my dear friend Mick Pini played for us…Ned Ludd…as did Pesky Gee…and again as Black Widow by the second event…Grizelda…I’m in touch with bass player Paul Witherspoon…as well as Roger Chapman and other local starts…then we had Jody Grind, Battered Ornaments and Bridget St John…all powered by a petrol-leaking Honda generator. I knew a great guy called Pete Gumley who ran blues clubs…in fact just met him again after all those years…and I remember the Chameleon and Circa Design next door…Pete Josephs owned the Chameleon didn’t he? I’d love to get in touch with Mike Prudens, a fine guitar player with his band Phase of Reality…as well as the towering Tony Shipman of Arnhem Bloo and Spring. I remember Terry…memphis…the lightshow bloke…and actually I always thought I was a bit well-known myself in Leicester for while because I helped set up Leicester Arts Lab…poetry, guitar…events. And I paid Led Zep in cash for their Leicester debut…£175 for three hours!! Ask me anything, I remember most of it!

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    • Thanks for the comment. Mike Pruden is still in Leicester and doing regular gigs.It was Pete Josephs who ran the Chameleon. I’m sure Shaun Knapp would like to speak to you. You can find him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HighFlyingAround
      It sounds like you’ve got a great story to tell. I remember the free concerts and also the arts lab. It was at St. Michael’s Church Rooms I think (Now a block of flats) courtesy of Derek Sawyer, the hippy vicar. Cheers!

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    • Welford Rd free concert also had Edgar Broughton Band as well as the leaky honda generator; sadly “Electricity” was in pretty short supply for them to do their best with the underpowered P.A. system but hey; it was free! Give my regards to Pete Gumley; I wonder if he remembers me?

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      • I organised, MC’d and ran both of those two free concerts and sadly Edgar Broughton never played for us. The first was all local bands, Pesky Gee, with Roger Chapman on vocals for two songs…Ned Ludd of course, the amazing Spring…who became Arnhem Bloo…of the other way round…and one or two other locals…the second concert was supported by Blackhill, who kindly sent Jody Grind, Pete Browns Battered Ornaments and Bridgett St John to play for free.

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      • Thanks for your comments Stuart. It was a magical time and so much happened then. It would be good to have some kind of reunion!!

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  5. Great blog and great memory – very useful for those that forget details like me. I was in the Hydro Elastic Blues Band and ran a blues club in Raynors. I’m in the front of the picture at the Welford Road Rec free concert which was my first ever job as a roady (for Mick Pruden and Kath of Phase or Faze of Reality – great blues band), a career which lasted 18 years and took me to some great places. I have fond memories of Chris the Floor and the Chameleon and Nautique etc.

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    • Nice to hear from you. I played/jammed with you a few times. Can remember a weird gig in Coalville where I couldn’t seem to play anything at all (out of my comfort zone!), Keep in touch.

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    • Hiya Pete, I have many fond memories of Raynors Club etc. Even your hippy pad off London Rd with the amazing starburst lamp effect on the wall! I used to date Kath’s sister in those days! Great to see you’re still out there pal.

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  6. Hi Kenny. Really enjoyed our chat last night after your Rose and Crown gig. Reading your blog has certainly stirred a few great memories…… The Chameleon was one of my lunchtime retreats in about 1966. Getting away from the most boring job of my life, at the Eagle Star, we got 1 and 1/2 hours lunchbreak which was incredible. I still bump into Peter Josephs from time to time and remind him of his Spag Bol and Spanish Omelettes on the menu……ground breaking stuff at the time – at least it was for me!!
    Hope your lift eventually turned up last night and look forward to sharing a pint next time.
    Jim Funnell

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    • Thanks Jim
      Yes the Spag Bol and Spanish Omelettes were Revolutionary as were the exotic egg mayonnaise sandwiches. Real filter coffee was also fairly new at the time. Great speaking to you!
      Kenny

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      • Hi Ken I can remember Mr Dickson one morning ranting on about the evil drugs that were being taken at the nite owl and half the pupils had nite owl stickers on there school bags and any pupil seen there would be in big trouble big ouch !!!.great nights in the old crows nest on Tuesday nights with you and Ric many good times thanks.

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  7. Pingback: The Decline of the 1960s Counterculture and the Rise of Thatcherism | Kenny Wilson's Blog

  8. Another funny story about the nite owl a friend of ours Penny climbed out of her bedroom window got the bus into town went to go into the nite owl only to find out that her dad Pat was the doorman

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  9. Oh, Wow! Kenny, i don’t think we met but I’m loving your blog. I became a huge Mick Pini fan after i saw his band Ned Ludd play at Welford road in 1969 with… yes, Litchfield reciting poems and chanting his own take on Hare Krishna. The Spring also played and a drum solo was given by a twelve year old Mark Stuart with whom I played at Il Rondo in 1973. Great days, The Chameleon, The Arts Centre and Pat’s Pantry were places I knew and lament the passing of, you though I was at the time [13/14] I bought my joss sticks at Bric-a-Brac in New walk. Hotcha! Great work, Kenny…

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    • Thanks for that David, I’m sure our paths must have crossed. I was only 16/17 at the time! Pat’s Pantry sounds familiar but I’m not sure I ever went there. There were a few top places I never went to like The Burlesque and The Chicane Club. In fact, I only went to the House of Happiness once, I think, before it closed. There were other places like the Costa Rica near the railway station which was only open for a short while and, of course, The Churchill on Silver Street which was quite a trendy place at the time, with a good jukebox. Maybe I should also mention the Hind which still has it’s 60s basement relatively intact (though not in use), the Fuddyduddy (previously Kenco Coffee House) on Granby Street which opened late and latterly had disco nights, and also the Student Chaplaincy Centre on Newarke Street which opened really late at the weekends and you could just hang out or play the piano on the top floor. There were also some top jam sessions there in the basement!

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  10. Kenny, I meant to mention that I’d seen a band called Grizelda [featuring Wes mcGhee and Paul Witherspoon] at The Phoenix around 1970/71 who were on the Leicester circuit with Pesky Gee aka Black Widow, Gyspy, Ned Ludd and others. I was working at the National in 2001 in My Fair Lady and who should be doing the rock music for Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale along with Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake but Wes McGhee who was initially a bit freaked at having some actor come up to him and compliment him on his very distant past. Wes now has his own studio in Hertfordshire…

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  11. And I was Grizelda’s roadie at the time, I remember the Phoenix well, as I was at college along the road and used to help with the lunchtime gigs and event there quite a bit…I remember Alan as being the head electrician, who helped me understand stage lighting, and I aslo recall hearing Jethro Tull LPs through the theatres big PA, as Robin Anderson was the then director, and must have got all the albums early. I’m in touch with Paul Witherspoon who is in New Zealand, but haven’t seen Wes for years since he played a gig in Sunderland. I heard he had a stido in Bishops Stortford, but when I was working there a few years back I couldn’t find out where it was…back there in August for a night if Wes wants a beer…or a port and brandy which is what he used to sip for his voice. I am good friends with Mick Pini of Ned Ludd who now lives in Germany, but is playing The Musician in Leicester next month…do go and see him. He always was, and still is, a terrific guitar player.

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  12. Hi again Kenny…I just read your life in music again…I see you did teacher training at Middleton St George… i once did some work at the training college by the airprot, and at Dinsdale Park/Hall Special School…I live in Durham and was at college in Sunderland…another coincidence, another reason for a reunion!

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  13. Hi Kenny I was at MSG at the same time as you. I was part of the Phys Ed crew but always envied musical talent. Ironically I now work in Leicester (and live in Barrow) and am an expert at cleaning carpets upholstery etc. I loved PE teaching but love more what I do now.
    Love your blog and the history attached

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    • Hi Stuart
      Thanks for the comments. MSG was a long time ago but it left a deep impression on the people who went there. I’m amazed how many ex students I’ve come across over the years considering how short it’s existence was. The music scene was amazing then and there were some great local bands who played at the college! I spent most of my life trying to “make it” as a musician but actually spent most of the time being a teacher so my training came in useful. I’m retired from teaching now and am having an amazing time without all the pressure and aggravation! Music is still the most important thing to me though and I’m still working on it!

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  14. Weird…I’m from Leicester, did a project at MSG years ago, and was in Barrow on Friday night to see…Leicester boy from ned Ludd…Mick Pini…talk about joined-up thinking…

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    • Well, to add to that I saw Mick Pini last night at the Musician in Leicester! There are certainly a few coincidences there!

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  15. I couldn’t get to Leicester this weekend, so Barrow…just 130 miles from us…was the nearest! How was the gig?

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  16. Love Pete G’s comment on Chris The Floor Still with us?.Complements to Kenny on rich tapestry of bygone but not forgotten times. Seems just like yesterday or was it a dream.Good luck with the gigs brother. Was George Parker involved with Nite Owl.,seems to ring a bell?

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    • Don’t know which Chris you are but my name back then was Chris the floor. I can be contacted on Facebook under my name Chris Angus.Have been clean and sober now for 32 years otherwise I would be long gone like so many old friends.
      Great blog Kenny brought up many memories for me ,thankyou.

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  18. Just read this having read the piece about the “Mods in Leicester” Great memories. I used to DJ (or present records as it was called then) at The Ilrondo and then went on to DJ at The Palais.

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    • Hi Jim, i used to go to Il Rondo 1966 / 67 time and i am trying to date when Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee played there. Do you have any recollection of this ? Thanks

      nick hairs

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  19. Kenny, this is all just wonderful. Whenever I visit my mother in Leicester, I make a point of walking back to the station via Pocklington’s Walk in the hope that The Chameleon might suddenly spring back to life. I remember that Ned Ludd did stunning versions of Walk in My Shadow and Rock Me, Baby. Your blog is brilliant; keep posting!

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  20. Hi, I was a member of Ned Ludd with Mick, Arthur, Romeo and Tom in the 60’s. Loved the article and of course the references to local bands around at that time. Yes, they were great times! I’ve often wondered what happened to Pete Gumley. Pete will recall that we met on a bus to London, as a result of which he joined my band at the time called Hydro Elastic Blues Band, which evolved into Ned Ludd. Three of us got together in 1990 to form Behind the Bikesheds. Sadly Romeo was too busy playing with Showaddywaddy to join us.
    Just like to say ‘hi’ to everyone who remembers us and supported us at some great gigs around Leicester and beyond. Our highlight was probably playing the Cavern in Liverpool on 14.2.70. Let me know if you’d like any more memories! Regards, Nigel Payne.

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    • Hi Nigel
      Great to hear from you and thanks for the kind comment. Yes, I actually jammed with you on my clarinet a few times! A remarkable period when everything seemed possible!

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      • Forgot to say. Do you have any photos of the period? There seems to be precious few of them!

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  21. Nigel; just to let you know Pete Gumley is alive and rocking still. We sat and enjoyed a pint or three at the fabulous Esplanade Club in Watchet a couple of weeks ago while watching The Lewis Creaven Band; an outstanding act if you ever get the chance to see them 🙂

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  22. I remember you well Nigel, and didn’t you play through a Bell amp? I’m in touch with Paul Witherspoon from the Hydroelastic Blues Band, and we’ve just designed Mick Pini’s latest CD cover for him. I met up with Pete Gumley in Leicester a couple of years ago, maybe three, to see Mick at the Musician…Pete lives in Leicestershire, a very good man to know, he’s on Facebook, as am I ..Stuart Langford

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  23. Hi Stuart. Ha ha, yes indeed – a Bell amp! The only other person I saw with the same amp was John Mayall who was playing his organ through one. Must have been very painful! His guitarist was a certain Eric Clapton who one night at the Il Rondo took the time to sit on the edge of the stage and show my mate and I some chords etc. I saw Mick Pini about 5 years ago at the Musician. He spotted me in the crowd, got me upon stage, handed be his old Strat and left me to carry on where he’d left off! As for Pete, it must be almost 45 years since I last saw him. I see Romeo from time to time at the Wheatsheaf in Woodhouse. Ned Ludd singer Arthur died on the golf course about 10 years ago. So sad. I’m still doing the odd gig and treated myself to a Gibson 335 earlier this year. If only I’d bought one in the 60’s! Keep in touch mate. Regards, NP.

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    • Hey there Nigel – Heatwave – Payne – good to know all these people are still alive and kicking. I’ve left an email address which you should be able to get from Kenny. I left a message earlier in the year – Kenny, can you forward a message to Nige’s email please?

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  24. Hi Glad to hear that Pete is alive and kicking. Please pass on my best to him if you see him soon. KRs, Nigel P

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    • Dear Nig, regards duly received as I get email updates on Kenny’s excellent blog – I left an email address somewhere there and can be easily found on facebook

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  25. Hi Kenny, got a few acetates somewhere but only one or two photos. I’ll test out my scanning skills and send you a band picture from 1969. KRs,
    Nigel

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  26. yes, I do remember that. The newspaper cutting from that time reminded about John McKitrick who was a very good harp player. I was gutted when he emigrated to Australia..

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  27. Hi Nigel heatwave Payne, long time no see, would love to catch up with you somewhere. I’m in Derbyshire and on facebook. If you’re not on facebook we will have to trade email addresses and I’m not sure this blog is the right place for that. so.. are you on fb or linked in? Peter Gumley is easy to find on either

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  28. Ned Ludd! I genuflect with deep respect. I saw your band, Nigel, at the Welford Road Recreation Ground in 1969 and at the Leicester Poly. I was and remain a fan. Tom was the bass player. wasn’t he? I remember the version of Walk in my Shadow you used to do and Mick Pini’s solo. Romeo Challenger is a great drummer and I had the lucky experience of having a jam with him at a huge house party in Evington in about 1970/71. Ned Ludd receive a mention – for what it’s worth (a lot to me, actually) – in my book about Van der Graaf Generator. Please excuse me, even at 60, I remain a star-stricken school-kid and Ned Ludd will always be right up there in the firmament…Kenny, your blog is terrific.

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    • I hope David is reading this…Mick Pini of Ned Ludd fame is of course still playing the blues, and will be at The Musician in Leicester in April 2016…I have the pleasure and pride of calling Mick my friend, and we have designed two recent CD sleeves for him, including his newest release Happy with the Blues. He was, is, and remains one of the finest guitarists we have, a man totally devoted to his music, and completely accessible to his fans and admirers, of whom there are many thousands. David, go and say hello when he’s at The Musician, mention my name too, and enjoy a night of greta live music. Stuart Langford stuart.langford@gmail.com

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  29. Hi, Kenny, I loved reading this detailed, inspirational and evocative piece which, having been born in 1950, relates so much to my own experience of music – from those early radio favourites to the Beatles to Velvet Underground/Leonard Cohen- and, apart from the Jazz, practically everything else. I also loved your philosophical approach and completely identified with your notion of looking for a sense of personal destiny and purpose. Having grown up in the dull and stifling town of Coalville, and then later going into a hum-drum job, I felt lifeless and without a means of expression – although I didn’t know that at the time! But, even in Coalville, you could see live bands 3 -4 times a week – at the Grand Ballroom, the West End Club (I remember the Move when I was 15) and 2 or 3 pubs. There is nothing as exciting as live music.
    So the changes and excitement in music,during those first two decades of my life, kept me going – I think that music saved my life! It was – and still is – the mainstay of my life.
    I did, in later life, find a channel for my own creatively – in literature, poetry and drama – and found great expression in teaching for a while. But I guess I’d really love to write – you have inspired me – at least, to comment here.
    Anyway, a great piece and don’t forget the George at Hinckley in the 60s – the Who, Small Faces, Georgie Fame and many more!

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    • Yes, we shared a similar time and what a time it was. I know that Coalville was on the live music map and I played there a couple of times but I don’t remember the George I’m afraid. You’ll have to write your story. Apart from being worthwhile in itself it’s also very therapeutic experience I think.

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  30. Started your blog Kenny got as far as 1971, I’ll read the rest later. Enjoying it, my era and time ( I was born 1949), but my experience lacks the music, though did see Wilson Picket at the Nite Owl.

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  31. Found your blog in a search for Pink Fairies Il Rondo 1973 to link to a poem Ive just written having re-connected with Mick Pini & Rick Martinez (the wonders of facebook!). I used to come over to Leicester to go to the Churchill and occasionaly Il Rondo & the Uni & Poly for bands despite being officially too young for pubs. Lovely to read such a comprehensive memory of these happy times ;-D Josephine

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  32. Whilst reading your blog and seeing the black&white photo of Mick Pini, it reminded me that he used to be in a four piece band with Johnny Butler (of Diesel Park West)…..I think they were called Baby. The photo has one of the other members of the band (bass player I think) standing to Micks left.
    God knows how I remember this stuff when I cant remember where I left my glasses!

    Great blog…..and thanks for the memories.

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  33. Your article has made me weep. I was there but too young and too excitable to join in. Legay, Mick Pini, Ned Ludd, Boyd Litchfield, The Chamelion on New Walk, Griselda, The Spring, Gyspy thank You, thank you , thank you for re-affirming the truth of that time for an underground music smitten young man…

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  34. Hi, I’ve just read your blog. having found it looking up the Il Rondo. I was spellbound reading this! Although 7 years younger, I used to hang around many of the places you described…oh the memories! Being a bit of a misfit, loving music and motorbikes, I spent a lot of time skiving off school at 15 in The Churchill, Il Rondo and the arty cafe on Cank street, (I hung around for a while with Mick Pini), and the record shop on Silver Street. Our paths maybe crossed in those magical days of the early 70’s. I’m still a misfit, into music and motorbikes….

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    • Hi Suzanne and thanks for your comments. I’m sure we must have come across each other as the Silver Street record shop was virtually my second home. I was involved in organising all kinds of gigs with Mick Pini and Terry Tilley, the shop owner. What happens when you are young is so important. I know it is what made me what I am today. Thanks, and drop by again. I will be moving into the 70s soon!

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  35. Though I left Leicester in !969, coming back for a brief spell or two afterwards, you have stimulated some of my memories of the time leading up to then. I did my time at Loughborough Art College, more or less for the same reasons you studied music, I didn’t really want to do any of the jobs on offer. You keep on reminding me of places I went and you write in a very readable way.

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    • Thanks for the comment Bryan. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading your blog and your memories of Leicester. I haven’t written much on this page for a while but I feel motivated now to continue the story. Come back soon when there should be more.

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  36. Slightly tiddly now.
    Anyway, all my late teenage memories rekindled.
    Re the Chameleon, I was in there one night when arseoles from the National Front decided to work it over.
    The Friday before I was in the Rutland and Derby (superb hosts Don and Betty) when the same wankers decided to smash it up because it was full of commies and lefties.
    I’d not been long in the army, very unfashionable at the time, and was quite aggressive. In the Chameleon, I had a good go at them cos Pete Joseph’s was a star.
    The Phoenix Theatre sparky Steve Thackeray joined in against them although be was weedy, congrats.
    Re music, you never mentioned Pete Metcalf’s and Livvie Julian Linwood Wright, fab blokes.
    And JLW wrote the telling graffiti in the bogs of The Magazine, Void K. Litchfield!

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    • Amazing. I was there that night as well. I was a witness when the police came. About ten years later I had to go to court but he pleaded guilty and I didn’t have to take the stand. Forget the guy’s name now but it will come to me. Was one of the founders of the British Movement and associate of National Front founder Colin Jordan. Horrible people! They used to meet in the upstairs room of the Princess Charlotte.
      I am still in touch with both Pete Metcalfe and Julian. Wonderful people. Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Wow! Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. For many reasons….I was also born and bred in Leicester….lived in Clarendon Park (which my mother often delighted in referring to as Knighton; as you say, the then posh area!) just off the Queens Road. Often used to play at the Washbrook. Remember the derelict thatched cottage soooo well. Fell in love with it and have never looked back with my love of old and characteristic properties. I seem to remember it having a sign outside saying ‘Danger! High Voltage!’ I went to Jonathan North Girls School a year before you went to Lancaster Boys. My younger brother attended Lancaster Boys. I also went to Charles Keene College…again a year before you. And so it goes on. So many similarities. Which brings me to the music. Both my brothers were drummers and I recognise so many of the names you refer to. Oh, and forgot to say, I also played clarinet by choice, at school… I know George and Thaddeus Kaye very well. My now husband played banjo with them and I lived in a flat with Thad’s girlfriend. Unfortunately, Thad died 15 years ago. A very sad moment. Such an individual and so talented. I have many happy memories of the Town Arms and I remember sitting in the bar downstairs whilst they were picking. Don’t like it’s new name by the way. Anyway, Terry (my husband) and I played much bluegrass back in the day. I play double bass. And a few years ago, we got back into it and play to this day…. Thank you so much for your blog. Wonderful memories.

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  38. Well, I think we must have come across each other. The Town Arms is called Duffy’s Bar now and is better than the Pirates Bar but it is not the same as the old days in the Town Arms. There was a really vibrant folk and jazz scene then. Anyway, things are still happening and I hope to run into you sometime!

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  39. Lots of names here that I remember, particularly Mick Pini and Boyd Litchfield. I left Leicester a few times, and then for good in 1975. I used to hang out in the Chameleon, and I worked behind the bar in the Rutland and Derby for a couple of years too. I wonder, is the Tony Moore who has written above the Tony Moore who lived in Clarendon Park and who went on to become a postman in Canada?

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    • Yes, Martyn.
      I remember well us a having a weird kind of party when a select group came round to 55 (?) Richmond Rd. to ceremoniously wash your Levi’s.
      Tony Moore

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      • Yes, it was No. 55. You have a good memory, better than mine indeed for I can’t remember anything at all about my Levis. Except that, in those days, they almost certainly came from Irish in Silver Arcade along with my beloved Ben Sherman shirts. I hope we didn’t wash the jeans in the recommended way! That would have been embarrassing if there were girls present.

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