The year before I had asked a schoolmate if I could set up my drum
kit in his dad’s shed, which was in his paddock in Iron Walls lane in Tutbury. I spent every moment in that shed through the winter of 1985, even on my dinner break at Nestle I would pop up for 20 mins practice and be back there at 6. There was no heat in there but I practiced and practiced playing along to songs. . Determination and dedication saw me through those days and now it had paid off. I had answered an advert in Norman’s music shop from a Winshill band looking for a drummer.
|Assimil Dutch @ Berry Hedge Lane|
I had met Steve Lawrie & Rob Brooks in the cafe D’amore in Bargates and the next day I moved my drum kit up to Steve mum’s garage in Winshill and that’s where it stayed. There was something about Steve that at the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but now I realise it was charisma. I sat & watched him sing his new song, which was a mini-opera.called ‘A Ballad For Casey Joe’. Steve had hair like Robert Smith from The Cure. He fast became a sort of hero of mine and was a major influence for me to start songwriting. I wrote a couple with him, but being a drummer I relied on just coming out with lyrics.
Steve and Rob changed the name to ‘The Sensitive Children’ then to 'The Telescopes’ they got signed to a label and released material. A nice chap called Dominic Dillion took the drum stool, last I heard he was drumming for‘The Roz Bruce Band’
As the months rolled on I joined a few bands that never had that spark, but by accident, I fell into pub and club work when I joined ‘Stoney Ground’ in 1987. This is where I met Keith Wheeldon who was playing bass and doing backing vocals. He was the only member I really warmed to and got to know. Stoney Ground would do rock n roll covers and do the pubs and clubs, but the gigs were few so I joined another rock n roll band called 'Shooter’ who were based in Abbots Bromley.
We were so loud we didn’t get booked back anywhere and by 1990 the band folded.
The one thing I did take from ‘Shooter’ was vocals. We would practice three-part harmonies, working on one song a week and then while we had a coffee we would all start again and break into the three-part acapella. It was quite magical in that kitchen but time was moving on and quite by chance I had a conversation about my cousin's then boyfriend, Jason Fletcher, who was in a band and were looking for a singer. I was confident so I said I was interested in having a go.
The band were called ‘Third Wish’ and practiced at High Field Lane Stretton. I walked into the practice room and they were already set up. Jason sat behind his black drum kit with Martyn Stretton on his left. A tall skinny lad with short blonde hair, who was just learning the bass. He looked up and came over and shook my hand, Jason said that everyone called him Stret. He seemed a laid back kinda guy and I liked him instantly.. Jason then introduced me to Joe. Joe's real name is Lee and I had met him in 1986 at Tutbury Crystal, three weeks before I joined Assimil Dutch. I had jammed with him and his cousin Jasper.
Joe grew up in Park Lane Tutbury overlooking the beautiful fields near the Castle looking out to Hanbury. He had gone to the Forest Of Needwwod school and fell in love with the blues along the way. Joe had a small attic room where he would play his blues records whilst playing along with the guitar. Joe has been a big fan of Eric Clapton's music for as long as I have known him and through this, he got to know Anthony Eden who is better known to many people as Gosher, he was in a band in the sixties called ‘The Electric Farmyard’
Gosher would make his way to Joe’s house and both of them would play the guitar together, with Joe learning parts from him. Whilst playing guitar Gosher would band his foot on the floor which sent a huge thud throughout the house which got Joe’s mum shouting up the stairs, so a curfew had to be put in place.
Joe’s attic was quite a place to visit. He would do his homebrew in there and pour some dark beer which was so strong we named it 'Don’t Wanna Leave'! He never knew the percentage of it but he got through some and we would sit and listen to the many blues albums he had. I had found a kindred soul.
So here I was singing in a practice room, without my drum kit, to 3 guys who I had just met.
I sang Free’s Alright Now which I kind of knew and some Elvis. At least I was singing in tune and with a bit of power, it felt right. Over the coming weeks, we began to build up a set list and hang out together, which was great. We added another guitar player on rhythm called Phil Johnson and in no time we had a full set.
|Turn To Red 1992|
I had written a song called ‘When Colours Turn To Red’ so I suggested ‘Turn To Red’ as the band name and it stuck. We began to get gigs locally and started going down well.
Then out the blue, I got a phone call from the old bass player from ‘Shooter’ who gave me a gig at Barnsdale Country Club in Rutland Water. We all travelled in convoy down to the venue, how 6'2 Big Stret ever fitted in that small green mini with a dodgy bonnet, I will never know but we all made it in the end! All the equipment was set up and we did a sound check which the DJ loved. We had a chalet to ourselves and everyone jumped on the bed nearly taking out Phil’s eye with a coat hanger! The gig was brilliant, the place was packed and we went down really well. After the gig the DJ told us that his name was Gary Wayne and he was an agent and would like to book us regularly for gigs over in the Peterborough area.
So Jason’s Dad became our manager and he would take the bookings off Gary and soon we were hiring vans and getting on the road to Peterborough. Things had changed for the better. One minute I was in a freezing shed in Tutbury, next minute I am with a bunch of guys in a van going somewhere down the A46. I would often think of Steve Lawrie and hoped he was well and hum ‘The Song For Casey Joe’ well, just for a minute or two anyway.....