Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Watcha Brummies,

Well the old 'cyber box thing' has been repaired and although I lost a load of stuff I am now able to re-enter my man cave and dive, delve and rummage about once more into the grubby little world of the Brumbeat days when men were men, women hadn't burned their bras' and thousands of spotty youths congregated in garages and front rooms to get together with their new-fangled electric guitars, guaranteed to annoy the neighbours.    Those were the days when there were thousands of jobs available and only a few people had a car, most of which were manufactured in Birmingham, but now we seem to have gone from one extreme to another.  No jobs, millions of cars, and only a handful made in Brum.    

Electric guitars still exist but fewer spotty youths are playing them, probably because the garages are full of cars.

Longbridge, the home of Brminghams automotive industry has now
disappeared and has been replaced with some more attractive buildings and restaurants and the area is being landscaped to include a large leisure park.   I was there the other night and I have to say that although I bemoan the loss of all Birminghams industry and jobs, the Longbridge plant that echoed to the sounds of Red Rob encouraging everyone to strike was a real eyesore.

One highlight of my 'spotty youth' days was the opening of a small music shop on Colmore Circus called Ringway Music.   The shop had been opened by a group of musicians who were the 'trio' accompanying organist, Jerry Allen. They were drummer Lionel Rubin, bassist Ken Ingarfield and Vibraphone player, Alan Grahame and they were the resident band on ATV's daily show 'Lunch Box' and were the first TV celebrities I had met, there was also a flautist named George, whose surname I can't remember,who had a natural sense of pitch and you could ask him to give you an E for example and he would simply hum it, quite a trick .   They were all real nice guys and were very generous towards us all, not only with advice.   With this kind of attitude the shop soon became  the focus of attention and it wasn't too long before they moved to much larger premises further down the road.       
LtoR Jerry Allen, Alan Grahame, Lionel Rubin, Ken Ingarfield
The above picture taken at the ATV studio on Broad Street portrayed them like old fashioned, regimented cabaret musos to us young budding musicians who were just beginning to listen to the Blues and thinking we had it all and the music we played was radical, how naive we were.   However, during my very early youth I had listened to all the great 'Big Bands' on the radio, one of my favourites and certainly one of my Mothers, was Nat Gonella and his Georgians who had first been formed way back in 1937 but had been through many transformations by the time I got to hear them as
The Nat Gonella Band and subconciously, this band influenced my musical direction performing songs like Hesitation Blues.  

The outstanding song though that, above all others, made me like them was 'Georgia on My Mind', still one of my favourites and I was blown away to discover that Lionel Rubin had been Gonellas drummer.  I held him in high esteem, he was truly brilliant.

At the time of the opening I was in a group that was playing all the well known venues and everyone who came into the shop on the opening day signed the ceiling and we were one of those, quite an honour back then, I thought.

Of course the 'Godfather of  Brummie 60's Guitarists' the
Pete Oliver (second from left)
brilliant Pete Oliver worked there also.   I had a great relationship with Pete over the ensuing years and, although no longer with us, I think of him often.
I'm glad he turned Jeff Lynne down when asked to join ELO, it would have been a waste of his considerable talent.   
Last month I mentioned my small part in the getting together of Johnny Neal and Paul Carter but John Woodhouse, Editor of BRUMBEAT, has also helped to cybernetically reunite Norm Crandles, a regular on this blogs 'Brummies Abroad' slot and a friend he met from Newcastle many moons ago.

In the early 60's Norm, was better known as Lee Stevens
Lee and Satellites
with his band The Satellites and he received a letter simply addressed to The Satellites, Birmingham. In those days the post office would actually get letters to people with such a sparse address as this.   There was only one thing wrong, this letter was from the girlfriend of a guy called Peter Johnson who was the bass guitarist with The Satelites, with one 'L' from Newcastle and happened to be on tour in Birmingham at the same time!

Geordie Satelites Peter Johnson far right

Norm opened the letter to get a return address which started a chain of correspondence, he then sent Peter and Pat  a copy of Midland Beat which featured his version of The Satellites. 
Pat with Maggie Crandles at The Elbow Room
This resulted in Norm inviting Peter and his girlfriend Pat down to Brum for a week and he took them out to see the sights and also to see some of the many bands 
at places such as Chateau Impney including Danny King and the Mayfair Set.
So impressed was Peter with the Brummie scene that he considered moving to Brum permanently and when he married his girlfriend Pat they ended up having their honeymoon at Norms place!!

Norm and Peter last saw each other in 1966 at New Street Railway Station, (co-incidentally the place where J Neal and P Carter recently met up)
New Street Farewell 1966
when he waved them off back to Newcastle and later that same year Norm and his wife Maggie moved out to Canada. 

Fast forward to 2013, Peter who now lives in Portugal found himself in the company of some old Brummie musicians who got around to talking about some of the early Brummie bands i.e Danny King and The Mayfair Set, Chris Kefford etc etc.   A day on the internet brought up BRUMBEAT.Net and with a Dear John email to John Woodhouse he managed to get hold of Norm and sent him a surprise New Years Greeting EMail on 1 Jan 2014. 

They are now in contact and, although they are much farther apart than when they first made contact, they are looking forward to meeting up one day to reminisce about their good old days.... it really does show what a brilliant thing the Internet is and also what a valued service John Woodhouse provides for us 'old and bold' Brumbeat musos and music aficionados.  So thanks John.  

Norm Crandles "It was a great start to 2014 for me, getting back in touch with Geordie Pete has really squared the circle for me, if only by EMail" 

A brilliant little R&B band of the 60's, The Yamps featured heavily on the circuits of Birmingham, The Black Country and The Potteries and had a great following.

The last 'Brummie Abroad', Will Hammond, recently made a flying visit to Brum to re-unite with his old Yamps and Traction cohorts Bob Styler and Malcolm Palmer.    "I hadn't seen these guys for around 50 years and although it was just an overnight stop we met up for dinner and managed to cram in many happy stories of our beginnings and the various gigs we did" said Will.
THE YAMPS CIRCA 1964  L to R Leigh Higgnson, Tony Walters, Bob Styler, Will Hammond, Malcolm Palmer

The Yamps  2014.  L to R Malcolm Palmer, Bob Styler, Will Hammond

"In fact, it was such a nice experience, we met up again the day after for lunch out at The Bluebell at Earlswood before I had to leave, we had some great food and got to relate a few more war stories. To be back in each others company was a fabulous experience for us all, it was so successful that Bob bought all the beers!!  I was last in the UK in 2004 for The Uglys re-union and never managed to get to see these two marvellous guys at that time, I'm really happy I got to see them this time around."   Bob and Malcolm are still active on the Birmingham music scene and Will is playing out in Spain.

So there we are, full of coal and with a good head of steam now pouring out of the Cyber Box Thing, the Bulls Head Bob Blog is back on the rails.  

So, see you next month.


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