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My heart skipped a beat, and my chest swelled with pride, as Leicester took the world stage with the discovery of King Richard III’s rickety, old skeleton in a council car park bang in the centre of the city, just the other week.
Even though the bones were discovered in a car park, the tragic death is not thought to be the result of a motoring accident. He is believed to have been killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, quite some time before the invention of the motor car, which was invented almost exactly four hundred years later by Karl Benz in 1886 (funny that, isn’t it?) Nobody has turned up to claim the bones so far.
I was born just a few miles from Leicester, so took huge pride in the opportunity to bathe in such an historical moment of great glory.
Global recognition at last. No matter the great bard, Will Shakespeare, cast the last Plantagenet king as a murderous, cruel, hunchback with a withered arm. To people with Leicester’s rich blood coursing through their veins, he’s our very own murderous, cruel, hunchback with a withered arm. Every city needs someone to look up to.
My very first visit into the city itself – my first visit to any city in fact – and I knew Leicester had to be the most magnificent metropolis in the world. There again, I was only four-years-old and knew not one other with which to compare it. One of the most magnificent things about it was the flashing neon Bovril sign above Timothy White’s, by the Clock Tower. Alas, no longer flashing. Alack, no longer there. And then, at the age of five, I heard about neighbouring Nottingham and its Robin Hood. That was a bitter blow, knowing Robin Hood and his Merry Men had their own telly series on ITV.
From that moment, I endured an entire boyhood in the shadow of Nottingham, one of the most recognised and luckiest cities in the world. You cannot imagine how it feels to see Leicester getting one over its eternal rival. At last! At last! Gloating day is here. Not to mention Coventry, the naked Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom. I said not to mention them.
Sherwood Foresters can stuff Robin Hood and Little John up their collective tradesman’s entrance. From now on, the world’s historical spotlights are focussed on Leicester. Everybody in the world may think they know how dastardly the Sheriff of Nottingham was, but King Richard III was even dastardlier. He murdered his two, poor, tiny, innocent, little nephews. How much more dastardly can you get than that? And we’ve got his bones. Then there’s the small matter of Robin Hood being killed at Ashby-de-la Zouch. In Leicestershire, I might add. Probably by a Leicester man. But you don’t hear so much about that.
And that’s not all. When it come to someone really big to brag about, we Leicestercians win hand over fist. That Friar Tuck was fairly fat is little more than Nottingham Goose Fair tittle tattle, Leicester’s Daniel Lambert was much, much, much fatter.
At the time of his death in 1809 he weighed 52 stone (330kg). So fat was he that six normal sized men could all fit inside his waistcoat. By the look of the picture, six or seven could probably fit into his underpants. I bet all the Merry Men put together, including Little John and Friar Tuck, never weighed nearly as much. And I bet they would all have died to get into Daniel Lambert’s underpants. Typical Nottingham. Especially Wil O’ Scarlet. As for Friar Tuck, he would’ve got lost in Lambert’s underpants. Not that a Nottingham monk would’ve been given the chance to try. Unsurprisingly, he became a goalkeeper. Not Friar Tuck, Daniel Lambert. I bet not too many balls got by him. Or was that a gaol keeper? Must take another look at Wikipedia.
Anyway, Leicester’s new claim to fame has led to the city fathers anticipating a boom in tourism, so I thought I might take this opportunity to list a few more of the East Midland metropolis’ famous sons. Rather than for their royal connections, I chose them for their contributions to the world of popular music. So visitors have something to show off when engaging the locals in chit-chat.
So Leicester’s not all about sitting round tables in gloomy pubs, during never-ending winters, crunching Walkers’ salt n’ vinegar crisps and swilling back pints of Everard’s Original to make thing seem ‘not ’alf so bad, after all’.
And just to add to all the excitement Robin Pizer, formerly of Leicester bands Legay and Gypsy (scroll down), has just recorded this tribute to the event entitlted King Richard III Song Well, not quite so good as the ones you did with Legay and Gypsy, Robin, and a little opportunist. But I like it. Then again, my article is quite opportunist.
Arguably the first ever boy band in the whole wide world, The Dallas Boys were famous all over the place in the late 1950s. They came from Leicester.
Hardly out of my nappies I clearly remember seeing them on ABC’s pop programme Oh Boy! a couple of times at the very least. To know they came from Leicester allowed me to bathe in their glory wherever I went, even though I hardly ever left the county.
To get a taste of one of their smashing tunes click here.
I mustn’t forget Leicester’s Engelbert Humperdinck. This is a clip of the old crooner singing his cringeworthy Please Release Me back in his heyday. Gives a clue as to why housewives used to throw their panties at him during performances. According to legend, well, according to what my mam said, Engelbert’s mother-in-law used to buy her stockings and tights from our shop in Syston’s High Street called The Stocking Box. Living in a small place like Syston that almost felt like getting a Royal Warrant from the Queen. And talking about Royalty, the day after Princess Alexandra opened Coventry Market on Nove 4th 1958 a photo of my mam and dad’s legs appeared on the front page of the long defunct Daily Sketch. They were sitting on top of dad’s stall by the entrance as Princess Alexandra walked by. Although nobody else knew who those four knees, calves, ankles and feet belonged to, my three sisters and I did. We glowed with ill-concealed pride for days. Another bit of fascinating, hard-to-believe trivia is that Jimi Hendrix once played for Engelbert Humperdink after his lead guitarist failed to turn up.
Then there was Family, Leicester’s contribution to 1960s underground music. Lead guitarist, Charlie Whitney was an old whisky mate of mine. We were at the Blind Faith Hyde Park free concert together on June 7th 1969. More of that another day. I often saw Family play live. Singer, Roger Chapman, had a bit of a hard man image in those days. It was helped by ex-boxer, and club owner, Alex Barrow, who used to turn up at their gigs to play bongos, whenever he felt like it. Alex’s short-lived club, near London Road Station, was called The Roaring Forties. Here’s The Breeze from Family’s groundbreaking, debut album Music in Doll’s House released in July 1968.
Family started off as The Farinas. In 1962 they recorded this demo All you gotta do under the original name. It’s awful. For a short while in the mid 1960s they called themselves The Roaring Sixties. The film Bonnie and Clyde had been released and 1920s fashions became all the rage. The band all wore gangster Zoot suits for a while. My favourite Family gigs occurred at Wednesday night’s Jazz Club at Loughborough University’s Edward Herbert Building. Followed by greasy hamburgers at the Green Onions café on campus.This little clip of Family playing How Many More Years (You Gonna Wreck My Life) at the Speakeasy in London gives a flavour of just how brilliant they were.
Charlie’s girlfriend at the time, Jill Eisner, a fashion design student at Loughborough College of Art, was crowned Rag Queen in the university Union Building in 1967. Along with the honour she got to appear on Top of the Pops. As the BBC link hasn’t been updated since 2006 the face of disgraced Jimmy Savile still appears on the main page. Don’t think I’ll bother to tell them.
Rob Dickens, now Rob Dickens CBE, who went on to become a big noise (the biggest) in Warner Music UK, was also a mate of mine then. He ran the Entertainments Committee at Loughborough University and I got to help him choose bands some times.
Black Widow were another Leicester band I knew well. Or, at least I knew a few of the personnel in the early days before they were widowed. Bass player and vocalist, Geoff Griffiths studied graphic design at Loughborough Art College at the same time I did. One of Geoff’s bands, Arnhem Bloo, featured Jim Gannon on lead guitar and Mickey Suart on drums. Mickey lived just down the road from me in Syston, and used to give me a lift into Leicester each morning in his Anglia van when I worked as a graphic designer at HJB Plastics in Abbey Park Road. We went to the same junior school.
Arnhem Bloo mostly did Cream covers, and did them brilliantly. Geoff once asked me to audition for the band. Losing my nerve, I never turned up. Geoff and Jim were reuinted in Black Widow, which Jim had joined under its previous name of Pesky Gee! after the departures of sax player, Alan Hornsby and guitarist, Chris Dredge. They recorded an excellent cover of Vanilla Fudge’s Where is my Mind. They also did a mean version of Peace of Mind from Family’s album Music in a Doll’s House. The sax opening is pure ska, pity there wasn’t a bit more. Hear Family’s original here: Peace of Mind.
I saw Jim some years later on London’s Hampstead Heath. It was the blistering summer of 1976. Ironically, he told me he had left Black Widow and joined some weird New Born Christian sect type thingamagig, as far as I could make out. Jim also played with Broodly Hoo, another 1960s Leicester band.
It appears Jim left the sect not so long after I saw him. Nothing to do with me. He now seems to live as far away from them as possible in Sydney, Australia. I read that he still gigs and does lots of sessions. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a fantastically talented guitarist, probably one of the most underrated of the 60s. One of Black Widow’s most popular tracks was Come to the Sabbat. Even though they probably became one of Leicester’s most commercial successes of the 1970s, I never rated that hocus-pocus stuff.
What odd names some Leicester Bands had Broodly Hoo, Pesky Gee! and Arnhem Bloo. If you added the Oodly-Boodly to them – which was the actual name of a Leicester club – you’d have the making of a poem. Not a very good one, admittedly.
Perhaps there was a band that had more commercial success than Black Widow in the 70s, though of a much different type. Dave Bartram was another musician hailing from Syston Parochial Junior School. He went on to become hearthrob lead singer of Rock n’ Roll revivalists, Showaddwaddy. My youngest sister was in the same class. Here’s Dave and the band doing their thing. I only got to be a classmate of his older brother. It’s not the same. David, who was still singing with the band up until 2011, now acts as their manager.
Legay, later to become Gypsy, had that almost undefinable quality that most times makes the crucial difference. In a parallel universe, somewhere, things probably turned out a lot better for them. And I’m probably a successful novelist. In this universe none of us were quite so lucky. Sometimes, there are moments I feel it’s all my fault.
To my mind, they could have been one of the biggst bands in Britain. Looks, style and music, like David Bowie, they had virtually everything. All they lacked was that final, tiny bit of musical polish, and a really good producer.
Guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and founder of the band, Robin Pizer,was in my class at Syston Parochial Juniors. Apart from a small interlude, when I was committed to a school in Leicester, we attended the same schools for most of the rest of our school lives. Though we were never what you could call best of friends we communicated at times. We were probably also at the Infants’ school in Syston’s High Street by Walker’s woodyard together.
Robin once got shamed in front of morning assembly with Billy Walker, who used to sit at the desk in front of mine. They were caught after throwing stones at a lamp outside St Peter and St Paul Church and breaking it. He was Jack the Lad personified. He told me his uncle was teaching him to play guitar when he was about ten. Was I jealous. Robin once dissected a stickleback in front of my eyes with a pen knife under the bridge at Syston brook, when we were nippers. He definitely made an impression, I was horrified.
We were in the same year Longslade Comprehensive School. Most of the rest of Gypsy went there too. The band was called Legay after their first drummer, Legay Rogers. Unfortunately, Legay died young.
For a virtually unknown band outside Leicestershire, Legay had huge female following. Girls loved them. Even their roadies were sexy. Well, at least Ray, Rod Read’s brother was, I don’t know about Mick Reynolds so much. And talking of Mick reminds me of Keep on Trying from Gypsy’s first album.
Well, since writing that and having had Mick Reynolds track me all the way down to my manor down on the Costa de la Luz this year, I suppose I better be a bit nicer to him. I can’t be sure he still doesn’t have that rabid gang of newspaper delivery lads from Goadby’s hiding somwhere. He now owns a gaff got not to so far away from me in Andalucia.
Truth is, Mick, his wife, and I spent a great time by the beach, talking about Legay over a beer. I got the feeling he never really got the credit he deserved for the devotion and inspiration he put into the band. I could see by his eyes how much he loved reflecting on those times. So do I.
Mick was very aware of what might have been their greatest failings, management and production being two of them. The third might have been Robin, his own greatest enemy. I always thought of Robin as being the real powerhouse behind the band. But his flawed genius probably led to him not listening to advice as much as he should. According to Mick, Robin taught nearly all the other band members to play their instruments, that done, maybe he probably should’ve let them get on with it.
From village paperboy hoodlum to executive with houses in both England and Spain, Mick seems to have become quite the diplomat with age. Overall, he might not have been as appreciated by the band as much as he might’ve been, from what I could gather. His career successes since those heady days seem to have proven he had all the qualities of making an excellent manager. All in all, it was good to see the philosophical side of Mick. He shows no bitterness at all. I got the feeling he still wants Legay to achieve some recognition, even after all these years, and is helping Shaun Knapp with his book with that end in mind.
With Another Mick, my best mate, Mick Kouzaris, I saw Legay play their very first gig at the Casino on Leicester’s London Road in 1966. Mick had drummed with Robin a couple of times in the short-lived Route 66 and was keen to see them. That first Legay gig, Robin strummed his guitar so hard the strings broke and he finished with fingers bleeding.
I once asked Family lead guitartist Charlie Whitney what he thought of Legay. He told me he’d offered to manage them but they turned him down. It surprised me, Family were doing vey well at the time with Weaver’s Answer in the charts (fantastic live version) and appearances The Old Grey Whistle Test as well as Top of the Pops. There again, Charlie wasn’t in the management business, as far as I knew. But apparently he was, recent information gleaned from the internet by Rob Townsend, who drummed for Legay at one time, reveals he managed Broodly Hoo.
Legay’s 1968 New Year’s Eve gig at The County Arms in Blaby, will never escape my memory, though it appears some details (like the location, which I’d come to thing was Braunstone) did. Mick Kouzaris, Dave Thurbon, Stuart Milton and I went to see the band. Along with the legendary singer, Paul Bell, Stuart played with Broodly Hoo. Paul Bell was also another whisky mate, who knew Charlie Whitney too.
As midnight approached at The County Arms in ’68, I tried to get a little nearer Julie Bainbridge. Julie was Rod Read’s girlfriend. And, like virtually every, young red-blooded male in Leicester I’d harboured a secret crush on her for ages. I thought we might just, well, just like see each other, and fall into each other’s arms on the stroke of midnight for a New Year’s snog. It didn’t happen. I was trying to recover from the disappointment when Stu, started to take the piss out of a local’s suede, Levi-style jacket. I knew it wasn’t a good idea.
Stu thought the matter settled, when the guy said it was okay, I wasn’t convinced. As we got outside, we heard a shout, only to see what looked like a gang of Teddy boys rolling up their shirt sleeves, literally. When they ran at us I realised the best thing to was to fall down at the first punch and curl up like a hedgehog in the hope the kicking wouldn’t be too bad, or I would die swiftly. It wasn’t and I didn’t. Yet I can still feel the remains of a lump at the back of my head where one boot hit home. Rod, Robin, Dave, John, and the rest of the lads, seemed almost more upset than I was. My view was that you don’t go to places so near the Saffron Estate and laugh at their kit however dopey it looks.
Almost forgot a night at The Latin Quarter. A tiny, cellar club in Belgrave Road it was one of Legay’s early gigs. Before they even went on, they discovered their manager, a Scotsman, if I remember rightly, had run off with the takings never to be seen again. Obviously, he didn’t have the confidence of a Brain Epstein or Andrew Oldham to hang around and wait for a bigger payday.
And while I’m at this Leicester music scene thing, have a look at this Pretty Things video Come See Me bearing in mind drummer, Viv Prince came from Loughborough, Leicestershire. He’s pissed out of his brain in it. The Pretty Things were great. I saw them at London’s Roundhouse in the mid-1970s on a bill that included Reg Presley. I’d never been a fan of the Troggs as such but Reg was a fantastic live performer.
Anyway, a little bit more research, while desperately looking for Legay’s The Fantastic Story of the Steam Driven Banana (well you have to with a title like that) I found the single No-one on Youtube. There´s more than a hint of the Tomorrow Never Knows from the Beatles Revolver about it, and it ain’t tooo bad at all. Love the pounding drums. And here’s something on the band from the Leicester Mercury: It’s the hippy hippy shakes. I would love a link to Steam Driven Banana if anyone has one.
And talking of Daniel Lambert, as I was a whole lot of paragraphs ago, there was Mick Pini, who I’ve been trying to Google for ages. In about 1962, Mick Pini was also sentenced to a couple of years schooling at Mill Hill in London Road, Leicester. Another one of my old schools. At more than 13 stone (almost 83kg), Mick was the fattest boy in class. And in the whole school, most likely. Back in the days when I thought McDonalds was something to do with Old MacDonald Duck, we English were rather thin for lack of hamburger. English hamburgers were actually sold under the brand name ‘Wimpy’, so you can imagine how weak and wizened most of us looked from a very early age. With the nicknames Tiny and Titch, as you can imagine, I was smallest in the class. For some horribly weird, bullying, small boy reason, I used to punch Mick, who was incredibly friendly. It used to make him giggle and laugh to my immense annoyance.
It wasn’t until a decade later, the early 1970s I recognised him in Camden High Street. Maybe it was in a queue outside the Roundhouse. It was probably a Taste gig. We didn’t have much to say one another. Though big, he wasn’t fat anymore. His hair was frizzed out so much it resembled one of those great tumbleweed bushes you see blowing down Main Street in Westerns, after the townfolk have been slaughtered, or the gold at the mine has long run out. He told me he was in a band.
And then I never saw him again until today, when I came across this youtube video of him playing the blues. Excellent! Even if a good deal of that tumbleweed has whitened, or blown off to another town:
And, what can I say? Kasabian, maybe the most famous of Leicester’s rock ’n roll global sucesses ever. I leave you with Man of Simple Pleasures. Is this the best Leicester can do? Is this really what today’s rebels round the world want? Christ alive!
Perhaps I should’ve turned up for that audition with Arnhem Bloo, after all. Geoff, if your still out there, here’s me singing a song called Don’t go out tonight on Spanish telly. It’s a blinder. Mind you, you have to get your head really close to the speakers to hear me properly. What with that woman an’ all, talking over my music all the time, I don’t think the camera crew could hear too well. So what does she know about really good music? I mean, who wants to listen to her gabbling on in Spanish when I’m doing one of my songs? I bet Englebert Humperdinck never had that problem.
To finish up, another famous son of Leicester that nobody’s heard about was Simon De Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. Though he wasn’t in a band, or known for robbing very rich people – which everybody would like to do today – he invented parliament. What could be more boring than that?
If you got to the end of that, you might like to read this The Very First Rock Festival in The World. And, despite what you might believe, it was a lot closer to Leicester than it was to San Francisco.
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great stuff Bryan.I was Mick Suarts drums roadie in Arnhem Bloo,still my oldest and best friend.Always love to hear of the old days. stay safe.
Remember you well, John. I was at junior school with Mick in Syston, and at art college with Geoff Griffith. Mick used to pick me up in his blue Anglia van each morning to take me to work. I lived up the road from him. I’m pretty sure he picked you up in Thurmaston too. You got a job at the bookies in Churchgate, didn’t you? I saw Arnhem Bloo a few times. In fact I even got a few lifts back to Syston in the van with you and the other roadie. What was his name? Great to hear from you again. Hope all is well. All the best.
Reblogged this on Kenny Wilson's Blog.
The last time I recall seeing you was at Dave Thurbon’s wedding in Oxford; in fact we shared the train there from London.
You’ve sparked some interesting memories, I remember hearing all about the Blaby fight with Stu Milton at the time. I lived near Dave Thurbon in Thurnby, so met you and Micky Kouzaris through him.
Do you keep in touch with either of them?
I’d say I lost touch with Dave 5 or 6 years after after the wedding and the last time I saw Mickey was in Oxford following his Best Man speech.
It sounds like you’ve got an interesting lifestyle out there in Spain. I’m still in London.
Hi Neil, I just emailed you.
I discovered your blog (and this post) whilst searching for a band I had seen at Loughborough Uni 50 years ago today – Arnhem Bloo. I have a poster for the gig – Loughborough Uniart Party featuring Marmalade, Alan Brown, Ten Years After, Elmer Gantry, Jethro Toole (sic) and Arnhem Bloo. I shared a house in Loughborough about 10 minutes walk from the Uni. I was there from Sept 1967 to July 1968 and spent many Wednesday and Saturday evenings up at the Students Union and consequently saw many of the local bands that you mention. You say that you helped out in booking some of the bands, I wonder if you also had a hand in designing the poster. I was a student of Nottingham University studying Soil Chemistry at the Sutton Bonington campus so paid a few visits to Loughborough Uni during early ‘67 and again during 68/9 whilst a postgrad student at the main campus in Nottingham. I still have one or two tickets and posters from that time. Unfortunately I am not able to upload a photo of the poster on here. Thank you for an interesting post and the memories of such a vibrant music scene. One final point – I spent my last two Nottingham University days at Loughborough! Friday night at Holt barbecue and Saturday night at the Union watching Thunderclap Newman (27/28 June 1969).
Hi Pete, I’m almost certain George Blynd would’ve designed that poster. A friend and fellow student studying graphic design at Loughborough Art College, George was chairman of the college Entertainments Committee. Rob Dickens, president of the Uni Ents Committee, who later went on to to head the UK branch of Warner Music, had asked George and I to assist him in finding bands for the Student Union gigs in the Edward Herbert Building. We helped arrange a few. Freddie Mack was one, The Who most likely, and I’m pretty sure we were responsible for Tyrannosaurus Rex being booked.
I seem to remember several of us taking the urine out of George for being a bit of a ‘Toole’ for that slip up on the poster. If it was George, the design would have had an art nouveau feel to it; he used to nick them from books. It would’ve been silkscreen printed on a roughish, coloured paper in one colour, maybe two. Was that the spring half term gig where french sticks and cheese were served free? I think the admission fee was ten bob for that, a hefty sum back then. We weren’t too confident about people turning up because of it, but the line-up was extensive for a student gig and expensive because of it. And we were right, but the admission charge wasn’t the cause of the sparse attendance, most students from the colleges and uni had gone home for the break.
About Arnhem Bloo. Geoff Griffiths the bass player, was studying graphics in the year beneath ours. Jim Gannon, who I’m sure also played with The Broodly Hoo and maybe even Pesky Gee (I should check my own article) played an amazing lead, and Mick Suart on drums. They did Cream covers with Geoff acting as lead singer. Mick and I were at junior school together in Syston. Jim and Geoff went on to form Black Widow. I often used to get a ride back with the band. after gigs. Most of their gigs at Loughborough were at the Wednesday night Jazz Club.
I’d be really interested in seeing the poster and the other stuff. You can contact me through Facebook. Alternatively, I can contact your through you email account, as the address appears on my comments section, invisible to all but me.
PS, Though I’d left college by then, I was at the Thunderclap Newman gig, it was held in the smaller hall. Some years later I met Speedy, the writer of ‘There’s Something in the Air” in London. Really nice guy.
Hi Bryan, sorry I assumed this would appear on your public page and I put the comment re Leicester’s musician, to embrace everyone reading your page. I intended to then continue on about his old band Vfranie, who you may recall from the mid 60’s in and around Leicester. They used to play a regular session in a club down Churchgate, a place I can’t remember the name of.
No problem, Burnie, I love the information, as I’m sure others will, I’d just rather have more personal exchanges kept to things like emails, once contact has been established. Otherwise, I’m only too happy for people to hook up here and use it share their experiences with us all.
Hi Bryan,I no longer live in Leicestershire, so only found out about this today. I was in and out of the Leicester music scene from about 1968 through till 1973ish. After trying to get a singing job with Wigston band “The Pylons” whilst at Guthlaxton in 1965, I ended up as a roadie for “Moth” a ’60’s Leicester based band who had a fusion of jazz and folk rock that saw them offered a record deal with Island records, but they decided to turn them down. With a couple of lads from Braunstone who had been in Vfranie,I went to London seeking fame and fortune with a band called Jackal, gigging back in Leicester a couple of times at Croft Club and supporting Gypsy at the Il Rondo one Christmas. Living in London and travelling between there and Leicester had you mixing with all sorts of Leicester lads, Mick Double was an old mate who was a roadie with the Who, as well as musicians like Roger Chapman, Lynton Guest(who was in the Love Affair and his own band English Rose). Leicester had a lot of musicians mixed into the business, the Martinez brothers were in several bands, Ray was in the last incarnation of Gypsy on the Brenda and the Rattlesnakes album and is now I believe still with Showaddywaddy(he replaced Russ Field who was also in Jackal along with Rod Deas from Showaddywaddy) I saw one of the brothers playing Bass with Led Zepplin somewhere in the ’80’s I think it was.
Just to fill in another gap for you, The Foursights were another Leicester band in the early ’60’s who had a brief flirt with fame, I remember hearing their single being played on Radio Luxembourg.
A few others I remember in and around Leicester in the ’60’s and early ’70’s included regulars at the “Pit” on New Bond street “Makin’ Sound and the “Parchmen”(who included “Zoot” who ended up in Black Widow). I remember seeing Gerry Dorsey(Englebert) at a working mens club too. I lived near the County Alms(even worked behind the bar in the late ’60’s to supplement my wages when I was an apprentice engineer on Blackbird Road), I recall seeing John Lee Hooker there amongst others. The DeMonfort Hall was the main gig in the town, but the Poly(as it was then)and the Uni’s at Leicester and Loughborough were places where a lot of local bands used to play, supporting touring “big acts”. Friday nights at the Rondo or the “all nighters” on Newark Street at “The Night Owl” along with the “Burlesque”(sung about by Chappo in a Family song) are some of the dim and distant memories of growing up in and around the County.
Thanks for such great stuff Burnie. I left Leicester for London in 1969, so most of my information is based on my experiences before then. I’m sure we must have haunted some the same gigs, though you seem to have gigged at some of the same haunts.
I was a regular at Il Rondo most Friday nights and caught some fantastic acts there, including John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers – with Peter Green – Cream, Taste, King Crimson, Jimmy James & The Vagabonds and a ton more. There were also a few other smaller venues dotted about town with live music, such as 5th Dimension and The Latin Quarter. Most got closed down on so-called safety grounds, though I believe it had as much to do with a deep-seated paranoia of hippies and rock music as it did with safety.
If you ever feel like writing down some of your experiences on the Leicester scene of the 1960s and 70s I’d be only too happy to include them on my blog.
You’re welcome Bryan, we certainly would have been at the same places, indeed I was at the County Alms that night with a girl I used to work with, when I came out all the trouble was over. I recall one of the roadies having a bloody nose when I was talking to him, that was par for the course at a lot of venues in Leicester, fighting got more than one closed down.
Do you remember Gypsy being on TOTP? they were due to go on a world tour with The Who, they just had to get the excellent single “Change is coming” to chart and they were off, sadly it didn’t and Sutherland Brothers & Quiver got the gig instead.
I was more of a Blues fan in the ’60’s and remember both the Il Rondo (do remember it when it was called the Beehive?) and the Pit for gigs by the likes of Howling Wolf, Champion Jack Dupree and John Lee Hooker(backed by Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs), also I remember going to the DeMont to see The American Blues and Folk tours run by Chris Barber that had the likes of Sonny Terry and Brownie Maghee, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon amongst others.
Going back to the Spalding “Festival” my mates from Moth went, but back then I rode in the Kamikaze motor cycle stunt team and I recall it clashed with one of their gigs so I missed it. I do remember however seeing Geno Washington at the Queens Street Odeon cinema along with the Paul Butterfield Blues band, I think that gig was run by the NME and Radio London.
You could also add Diesel Park West to the list of Leicester bands that nearly made it, they Gypsy drummer Moth Smith and I think Johnny Butler was also in the band.
Now who was the band that won one of the tv talent shows(was it New Faces) and were due to go touring nationwide, but fell victim to a Sunday Newspaper article that tried to make a scandal out of nothing, because they had been on another talent show(which they wrote down in their application form, I was told this when I was offered the job as their sound engineer).
This has certainly stirred some fond memories of the Leicester live music scene back in the ’60’s and early 70’s.
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Just read Bowie played at the Latin Quarter in August 1966 with a band called The Buzz. I was a member then and might even have seen him, as I was often there. I don’t remember, but the stuff he was playing in ’66 bears no relation to the stuff he started playing a couple of years later. Sad to see him go.
The TV talent show scandal must have happened during the early to mid 1970s, when I was out to lunch for a good part of the time.
You’re certainly getting my brain juices working overtime with all sort of things coming back, some of them not as welcome as others.
I’ve only just come across your blog!
Your recollection of events on that New Year’s Eve was clearly affected by the bump on your head! I recall that it was you that picked the argument with the locals in Blaby and it was me that came off worst! Still our late night visit to the Leicester Royal Infirmary was a good bonding stuff.
To further jog your memory the line up of Broodly Hoo was Zoot (organ) Rob Townsend (drums) Jim Gannon (guitar) Paul Bell (vocals) Stuart Milton (bass) Phil Wright (guitar, sax, harmonica and vocals).
I left Leicester in 1969 with Julie, and shared a flat with Charlie Whitney in Southwell Gardens, London for a short while. We now live in Surrey and Portugal.
Send me your email address and I’ll fill you in on the details.
Like, I knew a girl that went out with Stu Milton from Broodly Hoo, Julie something, do you know if they stayed together? Loved reading your essay, I saw all those bands lived in Leicester then but now live in Tasmania, Aust. Thanks for all that info sounds like Syston bred some good musos:-)
I lost contact with Stu and almost everyone else I knew, a few years after I left the area for good in 1971. I visited my parents a few times up until they went off to live in Norway in the mid-1970s.
I did run into a couple of mates when visiting my parents, after they returned to Syston some years later. But I never stayed long enough to pick up old friendships, and many of my closest friends had also moved away by then.
We Leicester folk do get about a bit, look at you.
You might like to click onto The First Rock Festival in the World, which you could even have attended. I won’t give away where it was, you’ll have to take a look to find out, but I will say that the largest contingent of festival goers was probably from Leicester and its county.
Hi Mary, is that Mary O’Hare?
Julie something is Julie Mills…….and we’re still together nearly 50 years later, with two daughters and two granddaughters. We now live in Surrey and Portugal. We’ d love to hear from you xx
Please reply if this ever reaches you👍Mary
Great to see your posts. I’m pretty sure I used to cut your hair. First at Ron’s and then, when I left, you came to my house in Whetstone on a Saturday when you were up from London. You had a Mini Cooper S at he time.
Forgive me if this is all fiction.
Found this post while searching for Jill Eisner. She was a girlfriend of mine for a few weeks at South Wigston High School around 1960 until we moved on to Guthlaxton Grammar. I knew that she went out with Charlie for a while. With regard to Family, I worked at Ron’s Hair Stylist from 1963 on leaving school until 1968. I used to cut Jim King’s hair and also Rick Grech and went to most of the gigs when they were James King and The Farinas. You also mentioned The Broodly Hoo. I cut one of the band members hair whose name I have forgotten. He came to me at Rons and then when I left he came to my house. He lived in Oadby I believe but worked in London and came to me on a Saturday when he was home for the weekend. In the 60’s the music scene in Leicester was pretty good for live bands. I remember seeing The Farinas at the fire station in London Road. You mention The County Arms, which is just up the road from where I live. It is now be turned into a retirement complex. No doubt those of us who saw the likes of Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, Fearns Brass Foundry, Pogles Wood etc will all sit in our incontinence pads reminiscing. Thanks for memories Bryan.
Great to hear from you, Dave. You may have cut my hair a few times. I used to go to Ron’s around the mid-1960s. Unless I remember wrongly, it was the favourite shearing shed of mods, just up from the ABC cinema, where the Haymarket becomes Belgrave Gate, wasn’t it? On the first floor.
Jill Eisner used to travel to Loughborough Art College by train. We often travelled together, as I got on at Syston. There was Jill, Nick Chapman, Joanna somebody, and Cathy Redfern, who also got on at Syston. They made me feel a bit ordinary, as they were in the fashion department and always wearing the latest stuff.
I was supposed to be with Jill at the Rag Ball the week she became Rag Queen, but meandered off to the bar and got drunk. She was a lovely girl and very striking.
If you have more memories you’d like to share, I’ll be only to happy to publish them. I’d like to have a little corner for contributors from Leicester and Leicestershire. Mainly featuring memories of the city as I knew it in the 1950s and 60s, but memories of other decades would also be welcome. Photos would be especially well received, and credits will always be given.
By the way, I think Stu Milton from Broodly Hoo lived in Oadby. But I may have got the name wrong. I also seem to remember he drove a Triumph TR6 around the late 60s. I know he always had very tidy hair! Hm, well done.
Thanks for your reply Bryan. You are correct; Ron’s was just off the Clock Tower in Belgrave Gate. Steep stairs led up to the famous fifteen chair salon. I started there in 1963, coincident with beginnings of the Mod style. It was the only place in town where contemporary cuts could be obtained. Some more connections to your piece above: I was a class mate of a girl called Julie Bainbridge at Guthlaxton Grammar. She lived in Pullman Road Wigston. I would not claim that We dated but I often walked her home after school and we met up at the Granby Halls on a Saurday for roller skating. She was a lovely girl. I left Ron’s in1968 and started at Jones & Shipman on Narborough Road as a trainee fitter. The course was government sponsored to encourage workers out of service trades into manufacturing. I am pretty sure that Mick Pini worked there too, but I may be wrong. It was when I started at J&S that Stuart came for a haircut; no TR6 but a smart Mini Cooper S. Finally, my son is a drummer in a Leicester band called Ferris. The lead singer’s dad is Dave Grocock who was lead singer with Pogles Wood who were another successful Leicester band of the 60’s.
Who says nostalgia is thing of the past!
Certainly, I didn’t say it! But they don’t make nostalgia like they did back in the olden days, I do know that.
Your reply prompted a few meaningless memories, like the Fine Fare supermarket in Belgrave Gate, which I’d almost forgotten about. Who wouldn’t? I only remember it because I used to have to buy a frozen Buxted chicken there on my way home from school most Fridays. That weighed down my duffel bag, as I rarely had many books in it.
You also made me recall doing a photo shoot using Jill Eisner and Julie Bainbridge as models in the late 1960s. I was with a bloke called Stuart Weston. He later designed the sleeve for Family’s compilation album Anyway. We did the shoot round the back of Mountsorrel somewhere, thinking we were going to end up as Leicester’s David Baileys, and getting the girls to pose like Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy. I still have the photos back in England. They were awful, not Jill and Julie, they were wonderful, but the photos. I met Twiggy in 1975. Not only did she look great, but she was incredibly nice and down to earth.
And that prompted me to remember a later meeting I had with Jill Eisner in the late 1970s. She came into an antique shop I was working at in London, with the Joanna I mentioned before. I’d almost forgotten, though I may have written something about it in a previous reply to someone else, who knew Jill. A very popular lady, it seems. It was at that meeting Jill told me she was married to a French writer and living in the South of France. I didn’t get his name.
As for Jones & Shipman, a brother of one of my best mates, Dave Thurbon, worked there. I can’t remember his first name, but the family lived at Thurnby.
By the way Dave, if you want to put a link to a Ferris number, don’t be shy.
Here’s a link to a photo of The Broodly Hoo. Unfortunately, despite the photographer giving his own name, and Getty Images pushing themselves, neither have the decency or respect to put names to the members of the band. Obviously, it wasn’t worth their time. I’ll try my best to name some of them.
Stuart Milton is second from the right. Paul (though he was a pretty good friend of mine at the time, for the life of me I can’t remember his surname) was the singer, and is in the middle at the front. He had a gravelly blues voice honed on whisky and nicotine. I helped him do that bit. His father was a pub landlord, who moved from Leicester to Loughborough to take up the tenancy, of what I think used to be, The Town Arms in Market Street. Third from the left at the back is Jim Gannon. Jim also played lead guitar for Pesky Gee before forming Arnhem Bloo with Geoff Griffiths on bass and Mickey Stuart on drums. Geoff and Jim winded up founding Black Widow.
I hope someone can fill me in with the other names in the Broodly Hoo line-up.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading about our sainted city but…Daniel Lambert was born in 1770 and died in 1806.
Thanks for that, I missed it in editing. I’m always happy for readers to point out any errors in my work, or to add any information they think pertinent. I hope to post more stories on Leicester and Leicestershire, as I remember it from my youth, in the coming year. Most of my childhood was spent in Syston. My family spent a couple of years in the 1950s living in Walton on the Wolds. In the mid to late 1960s I went to Loughborough Art College. After graduating I worked at HJB Plastic for a short time as a graphic designer, but felt the need to move to London in search of better opportunities. Life happens, and the idea returning to Syston fell from the drawing board. Now I live in Spain with the painter and portrait artist Angelica Westerhoff.
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Actually, in my haste to point out the correct date, I made the grievous error of siting Lambert’s death as 1806 instead of 1809…so apologies for that lol!!! I am a product of Leicestershire myself and must sadly report that the city today is a jaded and unimpressive shadow of its former self, so it’ll be very interesting to read your upcoming blogs as I’m sure they’ll jog my memory and return me to the Leicester of my youth. Take care and have a great day both.
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No problem, it was good to look at it again, as I found a whole lot of typos, and a couple more bleedin’ obvious corrections to make. Thanks!
In edition to my last reply, you might like to read another story with a hint of the 1960s Leicestershire I knew so well: The Very First Rock Festival in The World
Thank you Bryan , you´ve summed up a lot of the high points in my life with a writting eloquence I could´nt compete with .I would loved to have written what
you have written but unfortunately am not able enough . The Bovril sign at the clock tower was for me `the hammer´, what memories , I loved the flashing neon lights as a small boy and for me Leicester city was a metropolis full of excitement.
Then there was the incredible musik scene and everything that was happening
in Leicester at that time , I lived in New parks but had friends in the Systen Thurmaston area , I wonder if the names Clive Birks and Johney Ford ring a bell
with you , we were all music mates of Mick Stuart, Geof Griffiths and Jim Gannon
in the Arhnem Bloo days , what world class music they delivered as did LeGay and Family who we also knew . The ` Il rondo´ , the Casino on London road and DJ Owling Robin , what a world it was great then, great memories
All the BEST to you , and keep writting
My memory seems to recall that Clive and Johnny may have roadied for Arnhem Bloo for a while. And if it´s who I´m thinking of, Johnny went off to become manager of a betting shop in Churchgate.
Love it if you could put me right on that.
Keep on trucking, as some people used to say back then,
Yes, I really enjoyed reading this. I’ve also been ploughing a similar field. Do you have any photos of the period, they seem quite scarce!
Thanks, for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos, but there may be some in Shaun Knapp’s book on Leicester bands of the period, which is due out very soon. I’ll keep readers posted.
I went to school with Jill eisner – any idea what she’s doing today?
Not really, but at some period in the 1970s early 80s I did run into her in London. By that time she´d married a Frenchman. If I remember rightly he was a novelist, and they were living in the South of France. Unfortunately, I didn’t ask her for his name, so don’t know her married name for you to Google.
Hey this is weird, Bryan. I clicked a link from what WordPress sent me, saying you’ve a new post (about a comment in a newspaper you’d made) – but the post link didn’t work. Can’t see it in your recents either, so don’t really know what…
Can´t really explain that. But then there´s a lot of stuff I can´t explain about the computer world. I mean, how can they get these pictures right round the world and on your telly-typewriter thingummy without you having to even plug the bloody thing in? Beats me. But your thing might have been a ping back do-dah.
As for your messages – which I love to read, Google are now sending every bloody answer you get from anybody, which I really don´t have time for, and feeel so guilty about trashing, I let them build up.
But keep on sending your own input, it really makes a difference you couldn´t imagine.
Hi Bryan, enjoyed reading your additional comments, lets hope that the book lives up to expectations.
It was really good to see you again the other week and to know that you are flourishing in your new environment, enjoyed our chat over a couple of beers, we’ll have to meet up again when we are next in Spain. Take care, Mick
I enjoyed our meeting very much too, especially when you didn’t whack me round the head with a copy of the Leicester Mercury.
To be honest, the project Shaun is attempting is very difficult indeed. Having said that, I would do everything posssible to help you both succeed.
Walking about Conil I often find myself racking my brain to remember stuff that might help.
And although I can´t promise anything, I could maybe lend a few pointers rearding construction and general style of wirting, if that doesn’t sound too arrogant. I know it´s been more a task of love rather than money, and has probably already cost a lot, so wouldn’t expect anything in that regard.
All the best with it.
Hi Bryan, that was a swift response.
I’ve only just realised that you have a number of stories, recollections and/or comments going on here, I came across it by accident really whilst looking up some Legay stuff on the internet, saw the name ‘Bryan Hemming’ and thought, no it can’t be, but after reading your piece about Leicester I realised, yes, it is the one and only. 50 years since our Longslade days, how scary is that and where has the time gone?
What are you up to these days Bryan, I see that you appear to be living in Spain and on the Costa de la Luz, a beautiful part of Spain, is that permanent? Did you spend most of your working years in London?
I live in Cornwall now, though I am still up and down to Leicester every week, still involved in the family business so I also keep a house in Quorn. Coincidentally I occasionally see Stuart Milton in The Manor in Quorn, I didn’t know that he actually played in Broodly Hoo!
Be nice to hear from you again though now I know its there I’ll keep up to date with your blog.
Take care Bryan, Mick
Hi Mick, I was doing some editing, as you were commenting, and was so pleased to see you had written, I got back to you straightaway.
Seems as though things have worked out well for you, and it must be great living in Cornwall. Also to have a house in Quorn. In the 1950s we lived in nearby Walton-on-the-Wolds for a few years.
To answer your questions. After spending almost 30 years in London, dealing in antique rugs and textiles in a small way, it was time to move on. I stumbled across Conil de la Frontera while looking for somewhere cheapish to live, so I could write. I’ve been here almost ten years now.
I’m pretty sure it was Broodly Hoo Stu played with, as I seem remember him telling me how the band got a season playing at London’s Flamingo. If I’m wrong, I’d really appreciate you letting me know. Though I have a fairly good memory, it’s all a long time ago, and I want to be as accurate as possible..
Fifty years puts things into perspective, but when I think of it as half a century it sounds impossible.
Longslade was virtually new at the time. I suppose it’s regarded as some sort of ancient monument, like Stonehenge, by the kids who go there now. Or maybe I’m thinking of Stonehill, next door,
It’s really a pleasure to hear from you. Mick, and to see how things turned out. I look forward to reading any stuff you might want to mention on the blog, And you can even send me articles or snippets on Syston and Leicester to publish, if the mood takes you.
Great you took the time to write, keep in touch, Mick, Bryan
Hi Bryan, I actually rather enjoyed reading this even with the somewhat uncomplimentary mention of me! Where have the years gone, hope that life has been and indeed continues to treat you well. Kind regards, Mick
Well, Mick, thanks for the compliment. Believe it or not, there´s a little bit of a hidden compliment for you beneath that vicious and cruel swipe.
I harboured some envy for you during those days. I really wished I was one of the roadies for Legay, with all those women hanging round.
Deep down, there was probably a lust for revenge in my mention of you. Some childish little thing pushing up and out of my subconscious memory. Okay, I admit it, maybe I was trying to get back at you for those days you used to hang round the newsagents opposite the egg packing factory, waitng to fill your bag with Leicester Mercurys for the evening round. Or waiting for me, as I saw it. I had to pass you by on my way home from school and face your vitriolic swipes most days. You were always looking for a dig, and it was a bit of a trial at the time for me. Nevertheless, there was no way I was ever going to try and avoid you by going through the park. Well, maybe once or twice I did.
We were both about twelve, and both smaller than average. That´s before I went to Longslade and got to know you a bit better.
Glad my post has brought some contact, at the very least, and really pleased to hear from you. Thanks.
So I win this one!
All the best, Mick,
This is a great post, Bryan. At once informative and so readable. Thoroughly enjoyed, thanks
Thanks so much for popping by and leaving such an encouraging comment,
Love your style, Bryan – so friendly to read 🙂
What an awesome load of history that was! Enjoyed it heaps. That ‘Fattest Man in the World” … far out…