Dave Baxter - a tribute
We first met Dave in 1964 after he'd placed an advertisement in the Manchester Evening News, for his Northern Sounds recording studio. I think the advert also mentioned that he was looking for groups with a view to managing them.
Our singer Geoff Kirk cycled from Dukinfield to Audenshaw and knocked on Dave's door to tell him about our group The Pathfinders; I can't remember why Geoff got on his bike instead of phoning but it could have been that neither had a phone.
Later that week we all went down to Northern Sounds recording studio for a meeting, and it was mutually agreed that Dave should be our manager.
At the time we were playing local pubs and clubs, rarely venturing outside the local area, and Dave would come with us to the venues, take notes and give advice on our playing and performances.
We were only getting about £10 a night between the five of us, and probably only playing a maximum of three time as a week, so Dave set out to broaden The Pathfinder's profile.
He got us onto the books of several agents around Manchester, and I remember going out with Dave driving the van, on midweek nights when we weren't playing, to places like the Mecca ballrooms and Top Rank clubs around Blackburn, Rochdale and Preston, even Leeds and Bradford. These were the days before motorways, and to be honest our van was rather clapped out.
Bold as brass Dave would march into the places, ask for the manager and literally sell the group there and then, and return to the van half an hour later with a secured booking in the diary.
After a few months, Dave realised that the music scene was changing and through his love of big bands, suggested that we should thing about taking on a sax player.
He was so enthusiastic, he would phone me at work if he heard a record on the radio he thought we should be doing. Invariably, these were songs, which featured front line brass by people such as James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding to name but a few.
So, we advertised for a sax player and we found two. Rodney Symons & Bernie Brown, later to be replaced by Geoff Peach & Phill Ramsbottom.
The sound of The Pathfinders changed overnight, and Dave referred to it as a Fat sound, and that's what the name was changed to, The Fat Sound.
He then found us a trumpet player called Rod Dunford and the sound got even fatter, and as we could now play all this new stuff we got more work and became quite a cool group.
When Dave took over the Albion pub in Stalybridge, we had somewhere decent to rehearse and the band got tighter and better, thanks to Dave's dedication.
He would virtually conduct the band every time we rehearsed a new number, and when it all came together his face would light up and he would be wonderfully excited, and couldn't wait to see us do the number for the first time at the next live gig.
Towards the end of 1965 our drummer (Brian, but I can't remember his second name) decided to leave the band, as it happened he wasn't as dedicated as the rest of us and wanted to concentrate on his career in insurance.
Dave mentioned that the chap who cleaned the pub's windows was a drummer, and suggested that we give him an audition.
He was called Graham Evans, and was a great drummer, much better than the one who'd left. Graham had been with Fitz n Startz who had just split.
A few weeks later the bass player Colin Powell left for personal reasons, and Graham Evans our new drummer asked if we would try out his friend called Mick, who was also a good singer as well as a bass player and had been with The Hornets.
Mick was such a good singer, which was a blessing as Geoff, our existing singer had decided to leave the band.
Dave was suggesting new songs and loving every minute of what we were doing, perhaps to the point of neglecting other things.
He got us a three night a week residency at Bernard Manning's Embassy and Palladium Clubs. The early spot was at the Embassy, followed by a late spot at Manning's Palladium Club. This gave us the weekdays to play other clubs and venues around the north.
In February 1966, Dave told us that he'd been contacted by one of the agencies (Ian Hamilton, I think), about a girl singer from London called Karol Keyes who was looking for a backing group, and that it may be an opportunity to turn professional with a possible recording contract.
We pointed out that if we got the job, she would have her own manager who might want to manage us.
He said that if that happened he wouldn't stand in our way. That's exactly what happened.
Karol Keyes and her manager Joan Lewis, sister of Four Pennies manager Alan Lewis, came to see us at Manning's Palladium Club and we got the job as her backing group and left our day jobs.
A couple of weeks later, Dave drove us in the van to London, and proudly watched as we made our first recording at the famous Abbey Road studio.
Joan Lewis wanted us to move to London, so our trumpet player left us, as he didn't want to turn professional.
Dave gave us his blessing when we went on our way. It was like fledglings leaving the nest for the big wide world. He had nurtured and encouraged us, and made us what we had become, a great band.
The name was changed to The Big Sound as Karol didn't want to be associated with "Fat".
The Big Sound were Graham Evans (drums), Geoff Peach (tenor sax), Phill Ramsbottom (baritone sax), Mick Coleman (bass & vocals), and myself (Kevin Parrott) Guitar.
The association with the Karol Keyes only lasted six months.
We were then booked to back Liverpool singer "Tiffany" during July '66 at the Frankfurt Storyville Club, and sister club in Colgne.
After that we went on to tour Germany on our own during the rest of the summer of 1966. From there we settled in Denmark where we became very popular and well known, worked all over Scandinavia, and toured Israel.
Mick & Graham left the Big Sound towards the end of '67, and were replace by Ian Wallace (drums) & Dave Walters (bass) from The Warriors who wre mates of ours we had worked with in Germany & Denmark. We finally went our separate ways in 1968.
Although we all went on to do different things, everyone agrees that the Fat Sound/Big Sound years were the best.
While we were with Dave and he was running the Albion pub in Stalybridge, a drummer (nicknamed "Hector") from a local group called The Motown Sect asked him if they could borrow our van, they were playing in North Wales and had no transport.
As they wouldn't have been insured, Dave being Dave volunteered to drive them and I went along for the ride, as we weren't working that night. On the way back, we were going around a roundabout just outside Chester, and the front nearside wheel came off the van.
I remember the front of the van going down, and the wheel merrily rolling along in front and landing in a ditch.
We saw that the bolts that held it in place on the hub had totally sheared.
Dave jacked up the van, got out the tool box and somehow found something in there to fix the wheel back and get us home. How he managed this I do not know, it was an amazing feat of engineering.
One of the boys in that group was called Ian, who I remember looking a bit different to the others. A few months later another group we knew called the Rockin' Vicars had lost a guitar player and their manager Jack Venet me asked if I knew of someone who would fit in with them.
I thought of Ian from the Motown Sect, I knew they had broken up and Dave agreed with me that this Ian chap was perhaps had right image for the Rockin' Vicars, and Dave went to some length to tracked him down. Ian got the job.
These days Ian Kilmister is better known as Lemmy, and perhaps without Dave there wouldn't have been a Motorhead.
Everyone in the Big Sound is still in touch, and last August we had a reunion as Phill Ramsbottom was visiting Manchester from his home in Melbourne. I invited Dave who unfortunately couldn't make it.
This was the first time we had all been together in 41 years and Dave was foremost in our memories and that night we reminded each other of all the stories.
As most people are aware, Mick Coleman & I had a number one hit record with the song Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats & Dogs. Mick wrote the song, I produced the record and we recorded it together as Brian & Michael and we still perform today.
It's safe to say that it probably wouldn't have happened if Dave hadn't brought us together all those years ago.
All the boys (yes, I still say boys even though we're now in our sixties) send their sincere condolences, and remember Dave with great fondness and affection.
We all agree that he was a very special and important person to us, and without him we would never have had our wonderful adventures and experiences, and the paths our lives have taken would have been very different indeed.
Kevin Parrott - On behalf of Mick Coleman, Graham Evans, Geoff Peach & Phill Ramsbottom.
Very intresting about Lem. I was also in that van on that night, in fact the van picked me up outside work as only Lem was rich enough to be pro thoes days, he had digs for while in D/field.
Les - ex Motown Sect - 29/12/09