50 Years Ago

 

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 10.14.21RnB tour 1964RnB incomplete

It was great to bump into some old faces, particularly Animal drummer John Steel, after he kindly left me tickets on the door of the Tivoli Theatre, Wimbourne. Fifty years ago on that night (31 October), we would’ve been playing The Bradford Gaumont, on the RnB ’64 tour.

See the above map of most tour venues.  The tour bus carried everyone; as well as the Animals, the Quotations, Nashville Teens, Tommy Tucker, Elkie Brooks,  Barry St John, The Plebs, Carl Perkins and the compare, Ray Cameron.  The longest journey was probably the Lyceum in Dumfries to the Essoldo in Stockport – some 16-odd miles; and that was with the M6!

While The Animals were building on the success of House Of The Rising Sun, Elkie was doing the same with the soul classic Nothing Left To Do But Cry, released a month before the tour started. She had a fair bit of brandy before she went on stage, although it didn’t do her voice much harm!

Surprise, Surprise on Cilla

 

Cilla Black

In 1964, Graham and The Quotations got back from a gig at the Starlight Ballroom in Wembley where they had been backing The Drifters. They went straight on to another gig at the Starlight Club in Stratford Place, opposite Polydor Records. It was a private surprise birthday party for Cilla Black.  Many of her friends had turned up for the event including Tom Jones, John Lennon, Steve Marriott, Twinkle, Elkie Brooks and Phil May and The Pretty Things.

It was a small club and the stage was tiny but, musicians being musicians, as the evening went they couldn’t stop themselves from making music. Eventually, several had crowded onto the stage for a jam session. Graham vaguely remembers Tom Jones on vocals with Johnny B Great on piano – the rest is lost in the mists of time. The upshot was that everyone had a great time. But the sad part is that Cilla never did turn up for her surprise party!

cilla 2

 

 

 

 

Remembering Elvis

Elvis

In commemoration of the recording, 60 years ago, of Elvis’ first single, ‘That’s All Right’, on July 5th 1954, we thought we’d put on this little story.

It was an evening in the late 70s in North Hollywood and Graham had been invited to the Gibb Senior household through Janet Gross - ”A ’terrific lady’ who became a lifelong friend”. Graham originally met her at United Artists but she was now working for The Robert Stigwood Organisation. It was a small gathering to celebrate the birthday of the Bee Gees’ sister. Andy Gibb was the brother who was most known to Graham, and he was there with his partner Victoria Principal. There was also Martin Sheen, Mark Hulett, Andy’s manager. Jerry Shilling formerly of Elvis’ entourage and an ex-Elvis backing singer, Mirna Smith of ‘Sweet Inspiration’.

Andy Gibb and Victoria

“Andy was sitting on his father’s organ stool singing and Mirna and I were sitting on the floor on backing vocals.We went on to sing some Elvis songs and then Lulu arrived with her new husband John Frieda and joined in with the harmonies. Another guest, Colonel Tom Parker, the late Elvis’ manager sat across the room in a corner. Andy launched into ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ and I noticed Janet Gross gesturing to me from across the room. She nodded in the direction of Colonel Tom and as I looked over at him I saw a couple of tears rolling down the side of his cheek. I guess the song had stirred up some memories”.

Colonel Tom Parker

 

 

Dark Knight

I can vividly remember the day that Graham came up to me, guitar in hand, and said. ‘I’ve been playing around with this melody, tell me what you think of it. It’s called Dark Knight. He sat down and played the song on acoustic guitar. The lyrics were not complete, but the message was very clear.

Wow! I love its foot-tapping Southern Rock style’, I said. ‘It’s great, and of course, it’s about your dog Jack’. Graham nodded and smiled.

Dark Knight eventually became the fifth track on Graham’s new album ‘The Thirteenth Man.’ During a studio recording session in London, Priscilla Jones and Michelle John, the album’s vocal backing singers, added a truly atmospheric gospel feel to the number, which both girls seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

Sampaguita rehearsal 1979

With the Brazilian World Cup currently in vogue and that country’s latin rhythms ringing in our ears, we thought we’d put on this recently ‘dug up’ recording (circa 1979) of Graham and friends: Godfrey Wang on keyboards, Colin Pincott on guitar, Rob Tate on drums and Graham on vocals and guitar rehearsing Sampaguita at the ATV Music Studios in Bruton Street, London. The song was to be included on an album called ‘Carrie’ which, unfortunately  was never released. Its upbeat latin rhythm reflects the strong musical influence on Graham of his favourite Brazilian composer, Carlos Jobim.

Originally written in the Philippines, where he was inspired by the beauty and intoxicating aroma of the country’s national flower, he later completed the song with Jack Keller in 1975. That same year, it was included on an album by Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist, Moacir Santos called ‘Carnival of the Spirits’ at The Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, and soon became a favourite on the London jazz scene.

In a later tracking session for the album ‘Carrie’  at Pye Studios, Stan Getz who had been recording in another studio, (see blog http://www.graham-dee.com/sampaguita-pretty-little-sampaguita/) reportedly came in to have a listen and voiced his appreciation of the track. Hope you like this little bit of nostalgia!

 

Gigging with Them

Them 1

The first time that Graham played with Them (pictured far right) was in the mid 60s. He’d had a call from the Phil Solomon Agency in New Oxford Street saying the band needed a guitarist to cover for Billy Harrison until they found a replacement. Graham stayed with the band for a few months then left to work with Steve Marriott. “In those days everything tended to be last minute - rushing from session to session. I’d get a call from the agency, and jump onto a train, or race across town. Sometimes the guys were already on stage. Then through the stage door and someone would help me on with a jacket, grab my guitar and straight on. I’d do the gig then learn the songs properly later”. The next time Graham played with Them, two more members had left and their replacements were guys he already knew – Terry Noon, on drums who went on to manage ‘Honeybus’ and Pete Bardens on keyboards who formed ‘Peter Bs Looners’.

On one occasion, when touring with Them, Graham was having a post-gig drink with Van Morrison at The Dungeon Club in Nottingham. People always came over to chat with members of the band and one guy came up and shook hands with Van and Graham – except he wouldn’t let go of Graham’s hand. Instead he smashed it against a metal post – a serious matter for a guitarist. Graham was in agony and set about the guy. Then the guy’s mates appeared and Graham, looking around and finding himself alone, took them all on. A bouncer arrived and Graham duly punched him, then the club manager came and met with the same. Finally, a policeman joined the group, all trying to hold him down. ‘I was a punchy guy in those days’, admits Graham. When he got back to London there was a call from the Agency boss telling him, ‘we can’t book you again if you go around punching club managers’. Anyway, seems as if he was forgiven because the gigs still kept rolling in.

 

Duckin n Divin

Graham Dee is back with his latest project, a brand new album called ‘The Thirteenth Man’ released through Tin-Kan Records on June 2nd  on vinyl, CD and download.

RECORD STORE DAY

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Especially for Record Store Day he’s taken a song from the album called ‘Duckin n Divin’ and pressed it as a 45rpm 10” single available at independent record stores as a limited edition on April 19th and on download the following week.

STUDIO 26

The recording process for Duckin n Divin was, to say the least, unconventional.  “I’ve produced a lot of records in my time, but this was definitely a one-off experience”.  The album began its life at a recording studio about a hundred miles from Graham’s home. All was going well. Graham had put on some guitar and basic vocals to establish the feel and he had begun putting on drums and guitar solos. Then, due to unforeseen circumstances, the studio closed down. Graham was faced with a dilemma. He didn’t want to go to another studio because he had built up a good working relationship with the engineer, Martin Smith, and wanted to continue to record the album with him. There seemed nothing else for it, Martin and all the studio equipment including the mixing desk would have to be, back-breakingly, transferred to where else? Graham’s apartment, of course!

What followed during the next few months was a period of chaos, creativity, a lot of frustration and a lot of laughs. The final vocal tracks were put on in the toilet whilst guitar solos pounded out from the bedroom, endured by an ever-patient band of neighbours. Simon and Ellen, Graham’s stalwart friends, were kept busy in the kitchen feeding producer, engineer and musicians whilst Jack the dog occupied himself by getting under everyone’s feet. Miraculously, the recording and mixing of the album was finally completed and everyone gave a great sigh of relief. But, when it came time for the great mixing desk and it’s entourage to go, all of those present felt an unexpected pang of sadness. Somehow it felt like an era had come to an end. But, as the words of the song say, we’ve gotta, ‘Keep pushin on, no more turning around’

Driving with Philip Mitchell in Muscle Shoals

 

MS Rhythm SectionI

In 1971, Graham was working in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as a session musician and songwriter. He’d travelled there from Macon, Georgia, with Roger Cowles, an old friend from London. Roger introduced him to the guys at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (pictured top left), they were David Hood, Roger Hawkins, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Beckett. Says Graham, “I always thought that the ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’ was black but found that they were all white guys”. Whilst backing Prince Philip Mitchell (bottom right)in the studio, Graham got to know him well and wrote some songs with him including ‘Gotta Tell 1Daddy’ (pictured right) and ‘Me, Myself and I’. “Philip was from Louisville, Kentucky and was an ex-boxer who had trained in the same stable as Mohammed Ali. He drove a big car and liked to wear colourful clothes and shades. It must have been quite a picture as we drove around town with Philip all sharp and flashy and me dishevelled and bearded beside him in the car”. Racial tension was still in evidence at that time in Alabama and it was risky for blacks and whites to be seen together. Luckily, Graham had found a room at a motel out of town where the owner, bravely, allowed them to write in the room, “Just so long as they were discreet”.Philip Mitchell

‘Sampaguita, Pretty Flower Sampaguita’

sampaguita flower 2

It was 1978 in London and Graham was doing an album at Pye Studios. In the studio were: Godfrey Wang on piano, Nigel Martinez on percussion, Colin Pincott, guitar, Robbie Tate on drums, Yusuf Allie also on guitar and Delisle Harper on bass guitar. Says Graham, “They were all top musos”. They’d spent two days recording and were now mixing and tracking solos. Howard Barrow, who ran the studio department at Pye, came into the control room and said, “Got someone recording in the other studio, do you mind if he comes in and listens to your music”? Graham indicated, ‘no problem’ and the guy, an American, came in and sat down unobtrusively in the corner. They were doing a latin number written by Graham and Jack Keller called ‘Sampaguita, Pretty Flower Sampaguita’, named after the Philipino national flower. It had already been recorded by Moacir Santos – a Brazilian jazzman – on his album ‘Carnival of the Spirits’ in March 1975 and featured Jerome Richardson, Harvey Mason and Dean Parks amongst others. The album became popular on the London jazz scene, which was where Godfrey Wang, a top jazz pianist, heard it. Says Graham, “As my friend Godfrey knew it, we decided to include it on the session in 1978″. The ‘unobtrusive’ American guy stayed for about twenty minutes or so , then said, “Like the track very much, thanks for letting me listen”, then left the studio. Godfrey, cool as ever, leaned over to Graham and said, “Don’t you know who that is”? Graham shrugged. “That’s Stan Getz”, he added. “Stan Getz, no”! Graham said in disbelief. Then it occurred to him that Stan might like to put a solo on the track. He took off to Howard Barrow’s office. “Don’t even think about it”, Howard’s voice was heard shouting adamantly. “Or you’ll never use this studio again”. So that was that. Back in the control room Godfrey mused, “These jazzers, you know, if they like it, they’ll do it” and he and Graham were left to ponder over how good it would have been to have Stan Getz on the track.

A decade later in Malibu, California, Graham was working on a place that had Arab stallions, run by a woman who was into healing horses. Says Graham, “One day she said, ‘I’ve got a neighbour who’s very sick. I’m going to see if I can help him at all’. We went round there and it was Stan Getz who opened the door. He looked rather frail – so I didn’t mention the incident in the studio”.

stan getz

 

 

The Screamable Walker Brothers

Screamable Walker BrothersGraham’s band, The Quotations, often backed The Walker Brothers when they toured the UK in the 60s. At that time, screaming fans were an integral part of the music scene and the most ‘screamable’ group was The Walker Brothers. Says Graham, “I’ve been in the wings when The Beatles were playing gigs and the fans were pretty bad but at least they got through the show. But, with The Walker Brothers, at times, we couldn’t get through more than two or three songs before the fans stormed the stage and the show was brought to a standstill. It was phenomenal! There would be Johnny Goodison on keyboards, Pete ‘Greg’ McGregor and Barry Martin on sax, Graham Alexander on bass guitar, Tony Mabbett on trumpet, myself on guitar and Jimmy Buchard on drums. Gary Leeds also got on drums when he came on stage. It was usually an eight to nine piece band . We played the James Bond theme as an intro and the screams built up as each ‘brother’ was announced. First Gary Leeds came on and the momentum got going as he took his place on drums. Then, John Maus appeared and volume increased and finally, Scott Engel walked on and the whole place erupted. Pandemonium broke out and the bouncers ran up and down the stage throwing girls off only to have another take her place. The Walkers went into their first number as their fans fought to get hold of them.

Walker Bros

They regularly had their clothes ripped to pieces. Then the guys in the audience would get onto the stage and things sometimes got nasty. At a gig in Nottingham, scaffolding had been put up between the stage and the audience to protect the group. It was the first time I’d seen that and it appears things got worse after I left the band. I believe one night the girls stormed the stage at a gig and the manager turned a power hose on them. Greg McGregor was so incensed that he put his sax down, grabbed the hose, pushed the guy away and turned it on him”.