Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Legay – a very few new bits from Mick Reynolds and a lot more from me

Having read my article Old Bones put Leicester on the World Map the only person featured to get in contact, was an old classmate, Mick Reynolds.

My initial memories of Mick weren’t the best. On my way home from school, I used have to run the gauntlet of newspaper delivery lads hanging about outside Goadby’s for their sacks of Mercurys and Evening Mails. Mick was among them. The newsagent stood on Leicester Road, across the road from the Assembly Hall next to the East Midland Egg Packing Warehouse in Syston.

Mick led his mates in taunting me. I was at Mill Hill School in Leicester at the time, a pretentious, little private school not worth the fees my prententious father resented so much paying, and made me suffer for. Mick was small like I was, and we both had something to prove. It was partly rough kids like Mick made me realise where I really belonged, and that wasn’t with the kids who had parents with far more money than my dad. Fed up with his abusive, alcoholic and ridiculous pretentions, I told him I wanted to leave shortly before my fifteenth birthday to stop his continued moaning about the fees I paid by working for him on his market stall on Saturdays and throughout school holidays. We left the house for Coventry at seven and didn’t get home until after seven in the evening.

Mick was already at Longslade Comprehensive in Birstall when I started, so our paths no longer crossed in the way we had before. Mick had his mates at Longslade, and I had mine.

One of Mick’s mates was another Syston lad, Robin Pizer, founder of 1960s band Legay; later changing its name to Gypsy, following the tragic death of drummer, Legay Rogers. Mick became heavily involved acting as their roadie among other things. Gypsy just missed out on breaking into the big time. In that role Mick and I met more often, on much friendlier terms than when he was still a paper boy, as I attended most of Legay’s early gigs, including their very first at The Casino on London Road in Leicester. I also saw them play at Longslade School.

Life went on. I moved to London and Gypsy faded away, as did far too many other provincial bands that initially showed such great potential.

Mick posted his comment not long after I posted the article on Leicester bands from the 1960s. Having had friends among so many Leicester bands of the time, with whom I had lost contact, Mick was almost the last person I expected to hear from. But, then again, he had become almost a neighbour in ex-pat terms, having bought a holiday home in Marbella – since which time he’s sold – not so far from where I now live. After forty years it was great to see him and to meet his wife.

Small as we were in childhood days we’d both put on a few inches in height, as opposed to girth. We recognised each other almost immediately. Nearing half a century, and almost a thousand miles from Syston, outside an Andalucian bar things didn’t seem so strange as you might think. Sitting outside the Pasaje on the seafront, we could’ve just as easily been outside Goadby’s, only without Mick taking the mick, so to speak. We began chatting about Legay and Gypsy within minutes. Mick told of his involvement in a project to publish a book on the band with Shaun Knapp. Shaun is Legay and Gypsy member, John Knapp’s younger brother. Due to personal reasons, I have had to withdraw my own small contribution to the project.

I gained a few more titibits about earlier times with Robin Pizer. Mick reminded me of Route 5, Robin’s first band. The little-known and short-lived, outfit from Syston, featured another old mate of mine, Mick Kouzaris, on drums. Though Mick flourished the sticks and bashed the skins for all he was worth, it wasn’t good enough for Robin. However, some years later, one of Thurnby’s sons, Dave Thurbon, and myself were lucky enough to witness Syston’s maestro of percussion guesting at one of his few live gigs before a well-oiled audience in a little hall near the small Norwegian village of Svelvik, on Oslofjord, one balmy summer night in 1968.

A few days previously, Thurbon, who toured Vestfold with Mick and I that year, had suddenly revealed himself to be an ace on keyboards during a long session of drinking in a bar with an unknown Norwegian composer, who was hoping we might show some interest in a pop song he had penned called The World is A Pin. Though I can’t remember the exact words, the title will remain with me to the grave. Kouzaris composed his own lyrics and tune to the title, with which he entertained Dave and I on many subsequent evenings, lengthening them considerably in the process.

Despite having endured a friendship with Dave for some years, modest as always, he had hidden his proficiency with the electronic ivories from Mick and I right up till that point. Unfortunately, the same modesty prevented him from proving it, when he turned down the opportunty to gig on that occasion. He’d probably injured his thumb while exercising it the previous night beneath the bedsheets. Something at which he also seemed to be very proficient. He proved not to be nearly so shy when assisting me to encourage a less than eager Kouzaris towards the stage with firm palms placed in the small of his back. In that manner, Mick heeded the call, taking up the challenge of pounding his way into Norwegian rock history in his his own, very small, and very special way. I’m sure the locals still talk about that night with a reverence usually reserved for other rock legends.

I live in the hope Mick Kouzaris will supply me with more details of his moments with Route 5 in the near future, if we take up exchanging the odd – and very odd indeed – emails once more.

Click here for more of Syston’s role in rock history.

I am only too pleased to receive comments, additions and corrections to this site, so pleased feel welcome to contact me through the comments section specifying whether you want them to be published or not under your own name.

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4 comments on “Legay – a very few new bits from Mick Reynolds and a lot more from me

  1. Brien Smith
    August 21, 2016

    Enjoyed this article as it brought back great memories as a Legay and Gypsy follower. Speaking of Mick Reynolds, he was good enough to let me and a mate Denis Gilbert into the gig at the old Walkers crisps premises at Thurmaston where headline acts were Fairport Convention, John Mayall Alan Bown. Mick Kouzaris I knew as a friend and it reminds me of the time he drove me to a Black Widow gig at Scraptoft college. Finally, you talk about Dave Thurbon who I think is probably a guy who used to play football for Stoughton and Thurnby back in 1968, nice guy.

    Like

    • Bryan Hemming
      August 24, 2016

      Thanks, Brien. I’m always pleased to hear from another person who revelled in those times. I can’t think why we didn’t run into each other. We probably did. Mick, Dave and I were I were also at the Walkers crisp gig In Thurmaston. An empty warehouse, the building was owned by Murphy’s, a company that hired heavy earth moving machinery. My father said he used to drink with the Murphy brothers when they were just a couple of poorish Irish immigrants running a scrapyard on the site. Then again, that was probably envy on his part, due to the Roller parked in the courtyard during the 60s. Thinking about it, Soft Machine also played that gig.

      I shared some great times with Mick Kouzaris and Dave Thurbon. That trip to Norway – I mention in the article – ended up with us staying in an outhouse on a mink farm by a fjord. With fields and a cherry orchard, at cherry-picking time we were put to work with a gang of old ladies and young children instead of paying for our board. It came in handy for beer and fags, as we’d literally run out of money. After picking cherries all day we had to be dragged around helping a farmhand feed the mink from a big barrel stinking fish offal on a trailer at the back of a tractor. Mink are nasty little creatures. Needless to say, we were on the trailer. Not only did the mink like the fish offal, but the wasps seemed to prefer it to the cherries. With his pockmarked and weathered face the farmhand wasn’t exactly much to look at. Named Hanson, Mick was quick to re-name him Handsome. Though his humour had me in stitches, he could be so cruel. And then there was the summer we hitch-hiked to San Tropez in the vain hope we might get a glimpse of Brigitte Bardot …

      I hope to write some more about the old days. Meanwhile, you might like to take a look at two more sites of mine. One records my last set of travels in Norway back in 2000, the other contains short stories giving a romantic version of life here in Spain.

      Missives from Santa Catalina

      Pedersen’s Last Dream

      If you don’t like them, pass them on to your enemies, if you love them pass them on to your friends.

      While I’m pushing my work, here’s a link to the Spalding festival of ’67, featuring Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd and Move as well as Geno Washington.

      “Geno, Geno, Geno!” You were probably there too.

      The Very First Rock Festival in the World

      Cheers, Bryan.

      Like

  2. brian
    September 5, 2015

    There seems a lot of confusion between Gypsy Leicester and Gypsy USA: was it not the last-named at IOW69 and UArtists? Am I right that Gypsy Leicester continue as Bad Habits? I saw Gypsy UK in either the old Marquee or Greyhound Fulham, and were superb. Interesting blog cheers! Brian

    Like

    • Bryan Hemming
      September 6, 2015

      I’m not to sure about the history of the U.S. Gypsy. As to your other query, having just listened to a few Bad Habits tracks, I hope not, as it would taint a few great memories. The band is awful, and I get the impression it is some sort of spoof. Thanks for your comment!

      Like

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2013 by in Articles, Music and tagged , , , , .

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