Perhaps my background was slightly different from other Manchester Agents when I started my own agency in the sixties. I had been a jazz musician with many bands at US Army bases and nightclubs in Germany, France and Spain, backing magicians, dancers (with and without ), and so on, where I made many good contacts and learned to speak several languages , all becoming very useful when I began finding overseas gigs for BriItsh groups.
The reason why someone once said they rarely ever saw me was because I had a pretty good idea what the clubs were looking for and I spend much of my time travelling abroad finding new clubs. It was more difficult to find new clubs than groups at the time. However, it might sound funny, but rather than groups playing well, it was even more important that youngsters who sometimes did no more than just a few gigs per week at home could adjust to doing so fulltime and under very demanding circumstances, such as 5-7 hours each night, and each day, often non-stop and from the first It will the last day of the month.
It often turned out much less glamorous than they had imagined, because it required a very tough no-nonsense professional attitude. Sleeping all day, working all night, especially when the club was empty to bring in the crowds.
Club managers expected value for money and would not hesitate to sack groups within the first few days if they were beginning to slow down. I never got much sleep and peace during the first few days of the month, when I slept with the telephone beside me because it often rang towards 3 or 4 am. Sometimes it was groups complaining, sometimes club managers complaining! My commission did not exactly come easy those days, if at all. Everybody demanded instant action in Manchester South! No politician could have done a better job of it, because when gaining more experience, I usually had a B plan , i.e. other groups in reserve ready to cross the Channel within 24 hours to take over from bands that were dismissed whilst trying to find other work for them as well!
I did not have much change from the usual 1O%. Not even twice as much might have been enough, because telephone and telegram expenses were very, very considerable !
I often envy agents nowadays for having mobiles, emails, downloading promotional material and all that within minutes.
In the old days it often took two or more weeks to arrange contracts, etc. It was also necessary to apply for work permits and special permits for those not quite 18 yet. No such problems these days with the Common Market.
There was however, one type of band everybody always and desperately wanted! Namely all-girl groups (all playing instruments as well as singing) unlike so called girl bands these days). So I thought my day had come when one lovely morning a young lady rang , wondering if I was interested in finding her all girl band a few gigs abroad.
I nearly choked over my bacon sandwich and paused for a few moments before I heard myself saying ‘Well, I don’t know! You see it is not easy in this time and age.’
It suddenly dawned on me that I was playing with fire when she seemed disappointed and offered her excuses for wasting my time! Before the day was over, I had invested some of my savings in becoming the manager of five pretty young ladies, playing drums, saxophone, keyboard, and guitars and singing at the same time whenever possible ! A 1OO% class act !
On the credit side they were very ambitious and wonderful performers. On he debit side I soon learned that especially in places like Italy and Spain one never quite knew if they would all be turning up next morning for the next venue but perhaps that is indeed another story!
All the same, it was a milestone in my life with television, records, and so on. Opening up a new world from the shabby old nightclubs.
Ah well, such is showbusiness!
"My Hampshire based band, formed in 1967, secured two month long residencies with Paul Vonk in West Germany in 1972.
The first, in April, was at the Hilly-Billy Tanzbar in a town called Kitzingen, near Wurzburg. The second, in August, was in Frankfurt at the Maxim Bar, 8pm-3am every night.
After the second engagement we changed our name from ' Technicolour Dream' to SHOP (our surnames were Syrad Hewson Owens Parks), and returned to England and auditioned successfully for the Barry Collins agency in Southend. We toured the country, including supporting Billy J. Kramer at the Yarborough Club in Doncaster, from September '72 until Jan '73 when equipment stolen from our van after a gig at the Grey Topper Club in Nottingham speeded up our demise.
We never met Paul Vonk, or even spoke by phone, but I still have letters and telegrams from him relating to the work we did for him. We re-formed in 1987, and have been performing ever since as Beat Route, mainly in Hampshire and Surrey. The beat does, indeed, go on!!"
Black Light was formed in Oxford in the early 1970’s playing a mix of rockpop covers and their own material. At the time, the band was unique as the lead vocalist, Jim Lord, was also the drummer playing alongside Brian Durbridge (Bass), Dave Wilkins (Keyboards), and Richard Harris (Lead Guitar). The bands first contact with the Paul Vonk Agency was in November 1972 with a contract of a month’s residency at the Maxim Bar in Frankfurt. This was followed by another contract in March 73 at the same venue. We were also booked to play in Spain, but the work permits could not be processed in time.
This was an exciting experience for a young band to play and be paid to work in a foreign country. We played long hour’s of 8pm – 3pm and gained immense musical skills in playing and communication with the audience.
Brian Durbridge 20/4/12