Friends Reunited

After moving away from the North East in 1973 I gradually lost contact with the people I played alongside in bands in the late sixties and early seventies. Now, thanks to Ready Steady Gone, a lot of my old friends have contacted me and we’re back in touch again. I’ve also heard from a lot of people who were in or connected with North east bands at the same time as me in the sixties; some I knew at the time and some I didn’t.

Here are some of the people that have contacted me over the past year or so: –

Brian Short, vocalist with the Sect, got in touch a while ago regarding the old Cellar Club in South Shields. As well as sending me some pictures of that venue (which can be seen on the ‘Cellar, South Shields’ page), Brian sent me this picture of the Sect from around 1966.

(l to r) Steve Gatiss – lead guitar, Tom Duffy – bass, Brian Short – lead vocals, Alan Atkinson – rhythm guitar and Dave Corker – drums
The Sect was one of the top Newcastle bands during the mid to late sixties with a huge fan base. I still remember their excellent version of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”.

Nick Thorburn, the guitarist with Toby Twirl contacted me recently after seeing a link to Ready Steady Gone on the Vintage Sixties Live web site. Nick and I used to work together at the MPNI, Longbenton in 1966. I was playing in the Jazzboard at the time and he was with a band called Shades of Blue, later to become Toby Twirl who were subsequently signed by Decca. In 1966 Nick embarked on a career as a professional musician which lasted until 1984.

Toby Twirl with Nick – second right
More recently I was contacted by an ex-north east drummer called Dougie Vickers who now lives in Devon. Dougie is a veteran from the golden days of the Club A’Gogo, Newcastle and played in a band called the Invaders who, alongside the Animals were resident at the Gogo in 1963 and 1964. Here’s a picture of Dougie with the Invaders in 1963 – (there’s more on the Club A’Gogo page).

Dougie with the Invaders
8 Colin HartSome non-musicians who have been in touch are – Eric Punshon who ran the el Cubana and La Cubana clubs in Sunderland; Dave Wood, proprietor of Impulse Studios in Wallsend and Colin Hart, ex-tour manager with the legendary rock band Deep Purple. Colin (pictured) now lives in Orlando, Florida and works in the Greg Rike Productions Studio. He started his musical career as a roadie, driving an old ambulance for the Jazzboard in 1967. He then went on to work as a roadie for Toby Twirl, Vanity Fare before touring in the USA and securing the gig with Deep Purple.

Finally, the most surprising email I received took me way back to my schooldays in 1962 when I was learning to play the sax. At that time I was listening to my dad’s collection of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey records and I was convinced my future was as part of a saxophone section in a big band. Dance orchestras, such as Joe Loss, David Rose, Frank Chacksfield and Mantovani were still quite popular in the early sixties and even charted from time to time. A group of school friends and I got the chance to play for ten minutes at a dance in South Hylton near Sunderland while the proper band were taking their break. We had a couple of saxes in our line up and opted to play “Must Be Madison” by Joe Loss and a few similar tunes. The band appearing that night were Paul Ryan and the Streaks, the first rock band I’d ever heard playing live music. What’s more, they had a terrific tenor sax player called Bernie. The combination of Bernie’s playing and the sound of the amplified sax made me revise my plans to join a dance band. From the first moment I heard Bernie I knew I wanted to play in rock bands and began practicing non-stop so I could be as good as him. Not too long after I began playing in local rock bands.

Bernie at the el Cubana in 1962
A few weeks ago I got an email from the very man who changed my musical direction back in 1963 – Bernie Walsh. It was great to hear from him and the good thing is that he has sent me lots of material from the days when he was with the Streaks (see Roger’s First Bands).

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