It started with a harmonica
1966 – 1968
The lovely melody of “Pretty Flamingo” sung by Paul Jones, was the very first song I performed in public. Well, I didn’t sing it, I was far too nervous to do that, no, I played it on the harmonica – I even got a solo!
I remember being really nervous beforehand, and I wasn’t even sure that I would do it, but I did and that was the start of it all for me.
This all happened at a youth club in Paignton, Devon, in May 1966 – I was just 15 at the time and a few of us decided we would form a group. Actually they did that, I just played harmonica on that one song.
l-r – Phil, Ray, Joe, Graham, Paul and Grumpy (Ray & Joe were the roadies)
It must have been OK though as they asked me if I could sing afterwards. I said that I could (and then panicked as I had no real idea if I could sing or not!).
It turned out I could sing in tune, so I became the singer in the band. I can’t remember the name but we did have some fun.
We became the resident band at Paignton’s YMCA, based at that time in Palace Avenue, Paignton. We used to play at a regular monthly dance in the main hall.
The other members of the band were Graham on drums, Phil on rhythm guitar and bass, and Paul on lead guitar.
After a while, a new YMCA was built at Clennon Valley in Paignton and we were asked to perform at the opening – in the evening. It was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother during the morning.
When we turned up to set up, the queue went right back to the car park (around a quarter of a mile!), we thought we had arrived!
We carried on the monthly dances for a while, and then I met a guy called Steve……….
1968 – 1970
Steve was to become one of my dearest friends, but at the time it was all new.
Steve had a band, with him on lead guitar, Jim on drums and Kim on bass. They had apparently seen me singing with the other band and wanted me to sing with them. I much preferred the sounds they were making so I left the others and joined up with Steve and crew.
We used to rehearse in Jims parents house which eventually was put up for sale. Jim has become attached to a girl by then and decided he would give the idea of being a rock star up. So the rest of us had to find a new (and free!) place to rehearse preferably that included a drummer! Unlikely you say, but that’s how we found Pete….
So the new band was Pete on drums, Kim on bass, Steve on guitar and there was also a keyboard player who stayed for a while. We were known as ‘Everything’ and everything was fine for a while and then Kim decided that he needed to focus on his job and so he left. Steve said to me “you could play bass if you tried”, and so I tried and found that I could. The first gig was in Plymouth Guildhall and I knew the set we played and that was it so when we got an encore we had to play one of the earlier songs again!
After a while, Pete left and Nick joined us…….
A really blurred photo of Ezra Pound in action c.1970
1970 – 1974
By the time Nick joined us, we were rehearsing at Swan St. studios in Torquay. The studios were owned by Tony, himself an accomplished musician who wanted to manage us.
Around that time, we also signed up with an agent in Cornwall which meant travelling to Cornwall every weekend – lots of late nights! Occasionally, we would get two nights on the trot and so Steves Mum would pack us up a big box of food to take with us.
We had a roadie by the name of Ant who was always hungry. After the gig we would pack the van so that we could sleep in it and I will always remember waking up at about 5 o’clock one morning to the sound of Ant munching away on a huge pork pie Steves Mum had packed for us. He became known as ‘Pig Pie’ ever since!
One of the benefits of regular gigs is that your profile is higher and because of that, we met some people who presented a television show on Westward TV. The upshot of this was that we were invited to perform on the show. We had been toying with the idea of changing our name and so “Ezra Pound” was born.
We even got paid, and I remember sitting down and negotiating with Angela Rippon who was working at Westward TV at the time!
One thing led to another and we were invited to top the bill at a Cornish festival at Watergate Bay which involved us sleeping on the beach after the gig!
As our profile grew, so did the size of the gigs. The youth clubs went and in their place came concerts. We were asked to play some larger venues as well, and we turned up to one of them in Penzance to see a ten ton truck and a Bentley parked outside! We established we were in the right place and found we were there to support Status Quo! We even shared the same dressing room – what a night!
The following year we supported Status Quo again, this time in Torquay and according to Francis Rossi, we were the only support on the tour that got an encore.
By 1974 I had begun to get disillusioned with rock music and started listening to folk music. Coincidentally, our manager Tony, also managed a professional folk group by the name of ‘The Faraway Folk’. I did a couple of local gigs with them and was hooked.
Their bass player decided to leave and so following an audition, I got myself a full time music job.
1975 – 1979 The Faraway Folk years
My first year with The Faraway Folk was in 1975 and we did a summer season at the ‘Spanish Barn’ in Torquay (It was called the Spanish Barn because it housed prisoners from the Spanish Armada so you can see how old it was!)
Three completely different shows each week needed lots of rehearsal beforehand!
During the run at the ‘Barn’ we got to meet and work with many household names at the time – Eric Sykes, Hattie Jaques, Derek Guyler, Larry Grayson to name a few!
We also did a TV show with Larry Grayson (hilarious!)
At the end of the first season we were straight in the studio to record a series of Christmas carols For a TV special we were doing that year.
The filming for the TV show took place at Cockington, and the BBC were given the whole place to use for a maximum of three days before the public were allowed back in.
We managed to complete the filming in one (very long) day so everyone was pleased.
The show was transmitted at 8:00pm on Christmas evening on BBC2.
The Faraway Folk at Galmpton Fayre
The Battle of the Dragons at the Spanish Barn, Torquay
Faraway Folk l-r Shirley, Adrian, John & Grumpy
That first year involved numerous radio shows, two TV shows and a busy summer season, and on top of this I was helping to plan a wedding!
The following year was also manic as we were doing six nights at the Spanish Barn each week. So lots of rehearsal and we took a week off before the season started. My girlfriend and I decided to go camping in Cornwall. It blew a gale and pissed down with rain on the first night, so that was that! From the next day onwards it was hot and sunny – that was the beginning of the long hot summer of 1976. All the theatres had to work really hard to encourage people to come in because of the heat. Fortunately due to the thick walls, the barn remained cooler but by the end of each evening we were dripping so we spent an hour each night having a swim in the sea to cool off!
I got married in September, we played at the reception and we had to leave early the next morning as we had a live radio show to do in Plymouth so no honeymoon for us!
The last year of the Faraway Folk was 1979. Half of the band didn’t want to tour anymore and so long term expectations of major success were limited. We did a summer season at Paigntons Festival Theatre (now a cinema) in an unusual format. An early show starring the wonderful Norman Wisdom (which we were in), and a later one starring Des O’Connor. It was a really lovely season and we had a ball.
I seem to remember also doing a short Sunday season with the Wurzels at the Princess Theatre in Torquay (3 or 4 I think) as well.
There were a number of parties that used to start at about midnight and go on most of the night. We got to meet such a lot of household names (at the time) some of them were really lovely and some………
Here’s a list of some of the people we met and worked with that year:
Norman Wisdom, Terry Hall & Lennie the Lion, Des O’Connor, Roger De Courcey Peters and Lee, Jim Davidson, The Wurzels, plus loads more who I can’t think of!
At the end of 1979 we decided to go our separate ways. John and Shirley formed Cream County and played country music, whilst Adrian and I formed Sharp Practice and played mainly folk music.