Tuesday, 1 September 2015


Hi Brummies at home and abroad,

Well great to see the country doing so well at the World Championships and the Womens Hockey, and of course the Ashes, and on top of that, it looks like the Mighty Villa have the makings of a great team this season.   Look at me, I've gone sports mad, Mrs Bob is rummaging through her stuff looking for her leotard, I thought it wise not to tell her that it's in the shed, I've used it to hang my marrows in and it works a treat, holds 4. 

The great thing is, she'll be happy for hours searching the house?

Well, in dribs and drabs, I seem to be getting some more interior shots of the Bulls Head, Coventry Road.  This time with my thanks again to Pete Trickett for sending me some photos of Formula 1 performing there.  

The first photo shows Pete Trickett, drums, Mel Stanton, Bass and 
Paul Stevens, rhythm guitar.
These photos were of Formula 1's last gig together at the shrine of Brumbeat, The Bulls Head.

It is pertinent to note the hairstyles of the band compared to those of the guys visible in the audience, still with sideburns and slicked back, so this would have been early Beatles days.

There's some really nice kit on stage there.
After this gig the band broke up with Pete and 
Mel joining up with Richard Tandy, in his guitar playing days, and Derry Ryan to form the band Stacks who used be regulars on stage at The Rum Runner.   Interestingly Richard bought Paul Stevens black telecaster from him for 50 quid, how much would you pay these days for a 1964/5 Telecaster????

Pictured Right, but on the left hand side of the stage is lead guitarist Keith Hughes with his very nice, and very early Stratocaster, looks like a red one too, tight trousers, winklepickers and roll neck sweater, all the rage then.

I can't thank you enough Pete, hopefully there are some more Photos out there of this iconic place.  Maybe you've got a couple?


Between 1963 and 64 Burns made the very nice, albeit bulky, TR2 , I wouldn't say that it was warmly liked by guitarists, perhaps because of it's large body size, but it was a model I liked a lot. I particularly liked the hidden controls under the scratchplate. A nice touch of style.

At the same time a New York department store called 
St George started selling it's own brand of 'St George' guitars, they were all Japanese imports of the Shiro Musical Instrument Manufacturing Factory, much like the guitars of Fenton Weill and EKO etc and they produced several guitars for St George including the "Ernani St George" which bears a remarkable resemblance to the TR2.

This very rare 1965 guitar was recently sold on EBay and on closer inspection it really does seem to be made from a selection of odds and sods from the Japanese factory, the neck looks like those fitted to the old futuramas and the pick ups, whilst not the same as the TR2, do bear a resemblance to the Burms Sonic and as there was no other guitar body of this shape about then I have to assume that it was a straight design copy.  

The body is an absolute clone of the TR2 and it too, had its controls under the scratchplate.

A couple of months back I announced the passing of old mate Mac Poole and now a sad start to this month too with the news that great all round Walsall musician, Bill Bonham who passed away last week.    I thought that it would be a good time for us to revisit the piece I did on Bill a year or so ago, right from his start in the world of music.  So with no apologies for repeating myself:


copyright (B Bonham)
It looks like any other early sixties designed pub, with it's country-cottage style chimney and all very angular and G Plan.   There was a ballroom on the left of the building that had not been added at the time of this photo.   This boozer was as important to Walsall as The Bulls Head, on the Coventry Road was, in Birmingham.   All the midlands great bands played here.   The pub in question is The "3 Men in a Boat" and for historically excellent bands like The Redcaps and The N'Betweens this was 'Home territory". 

If you were a very young aspiring musician it would have been the perfect place to grow up in and learn from the 'bigger boys'.   Therefore, it was not surprising that the young man who actually lived at this pub from the age of 10, and had the opportunity to absorb all that melting pot of music, became one of the midlands premier musicians. I talk about Bill Bonham, organist and pianist.   Bill had received classical musical training from the age of 6 and by his teenage years was '"the hot kid on the block", his playing being influenced by the jazz greats, the classics and acts like Graham Bond with his growling R&B.

"My Father always had different types of bands and combos at the pub and I could always talk to them about music and they would be very generous towards me.   I used to hang around whilst the various bands were setting up and I walked in one day when the Redcaps just started a soundcheck ........I was mesmerised and I think I closed my open mouth about twenty seconds after they had stopped playing, "I wanna do that" flashed through my head!!
"A jazz combo pointed me in the direction of Charlie Parker and I remember when I first heard him play I thought he was God"

Bill Bonham (right)
From his early teen years Bill went through the normal course of joining and forming groups, playing saxophone with the first band then moving on to a Hohner electric piano/Farfisa organ with a Selmer Twin Thunderbird 50 and finally a Hammond L100 with a Vox T60, his reputation as a good musician going before him.  It came as no surprise that by the tender age of 17 he was in one of the best bands on the planet at that time and that was the Terry Reid Group.   It is well known that Terry Reid was the first choice as vocalist for the soon to be, Led Zeppelin but due to other commitments he turned it down and referred Jimmy Page to Robert Plant, who at that time, was in the band Obs Tweedle with Bill.   Plant returned the favour to Reid by recommending Bill for his own group and the die was cast.

The great sound of Reid's 3 piece band, his amazing voice apart, was built on the same structure as The Doors, that is with dominant keyboards and no bass player, "I used a Fender Rhodes Bass piano or the Hammond organ foot pedals to provide the bass lines". 

The Terry Reid band were signed to Mickie Most and when Reid became ill,
Most wasted no time in utilising Bill's great musicianship in the recording studio with the likes of The Hollies and Donovan.   "I did a tour of GB with Donovan which was a nightmare, we had rehearsed his set for a couple of weeks before going out on the tour and on the opening night at the Hammersmith Odeon we played the first song and then he started playing songs I'd never heard before for the rest of the set!!, luckily I have a good ear and was able to follow him but really had no idea what was coming next.   Mickie Most was horrified"

Following his time with Terry Reid, Bill returned to Birmingham and played with a resident band in the Rum Runner and some others, eventually going to RADA to complete his musical training before moving to the USA. 

There is one final thing that I should make clear.  It is not unreasonable to think that he was related to John Bonham given that they are both Brummies but in fact they were not related at all, it was simply a bit of fun on both their parts to tell people they were cousins.  John Woodhouse has already done a more detailed feature on Bill Click Here and unfortunately succumbed to the Bonham dynasty in-joke, never mind John, you had to be there to know it!!

On the face of it, it appears that Bill made some cool and groovy decisions during his playing days but we all make the occasional mistake and he is no exception:
(Bill Bonham top right with Fairfield Ski - copyright B Bonham)
Complete with the RickWakeman cloak...No wonder he buggered off to the States!!  

Bill was a serious and massively talented musician and went on to make a successful career for himself in the US with the Disney Corporation.   I'm sure that those of us who knew him will keep him in our thoughts for a long time.
Anyway, Ladies and Gents I give you, Bill Bonham......one of the best, God Bless. 

Just to remind you of how good he was here's a clip of Bill jamming with a California band....click below

Recently on 'Midlands TV Today' there was a clip of Moody Blues bassist John Lodge re-visiting his old family home before playing a gig somewhere in Brum.   He talked about buying his first guitar from a guy who lived nearby called Brian Nicholls for 2 pounds 10 shillings.

Now the Brian Nicholls ex 'Varsity Rag' who has featured here on the blog several times has been inundated with phone calls and e mails asking him about it and though Brian was raised in Perry Bar and John Lodge in Erdington he said "I have not actually confirmed or denied it so, why spoil a good story with the truth?"........plausible deniability but with a possibility that it might be true if John Lodge had got it wrong?

Take Care you lovely people....


Copyright: Bullsheadbob
Contact:    Bobsbullocks@mail.com

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