David Bowker - ''I Was Born To Do This Left Handed'
For up to date info, please check out David's websites
Also, look at his videos Mr David Booker Youtube channel
After all these years, as of this writing Sept 2007, I am still playing music full time. I moved to Denver Colorado, USA in 1981 from London, where I had been involved with the music scene since 1970.
I went through the whole pub rock thing in London. My activities included playing in folk-rock band Eclection, putting out two singles on Polydor with a band called Swampfox (lots of BBC airplay on those), getting an album deal with Limey on RCA, working with TS Tony McPhee as his bass player for a while, auditioning for Badfinger (they told me I had the gig, - one more guy to see, it was Joey Molland), Manfred Mann's Earthband (Manfred asked me back to play 3 times with him but I did not get the gig) and finally working 3 gigs a week on the pub scene and doing a day job in advertising.
I spent 10 years in London, mostly living in a one room, cold water flat. Ten years of sex, booze and rock ’n’ roll with a little cocaine on the side. It was time to move on - to the USA. But first, let's go back to the beginning.
I was born to Denton based parents. My dad, Tom Bowker, was captain of Denton St Lawrence Cricket Club and had played with Sir Leary Constantine’s team in friendlies with the England players in the 30's.
Mum and Dad (in his Cricket blazer!) while they were still courting in the mid '30s
In 1949, I was 15 months old and my brother was 4 - suddenly my dad was dead (mastoid in ear punctured). My Mum moved us all to Prestwich and bought a big house at 203 Heywood Rd. - that's where my first memories appear.
Mum moved all the family, aunt and grandparents, in together but it did not work out, so back to Denton and a house opposite where we used to live on Sunningdale Rd.
Denton Central School Shot age 6 1953/54.
When I was about 8, I heard Lonnie Donegan doing Rock Island Line on the radio and then Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel. It must have been 1955 or 56.
The next thing I know I'm told we are moving to America to be with my Aunt Peggy, who had married a GI in the war and was living in Connecticut.
Bridgeport, Connecticut was like a mixture of Grease and The Fonz - very surreal but I loved it over there. The radio was nothing like the BBC - it played Chuck Berry, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins , the Coasters , Dell Vikings, Bo Diddley and Elvis, day and night - you name it, I heard it.
On a Madison Sq Garden Circus trip to New York with my friend Carl Nielsen, and his dad Arthur. My brother Tom is behind me. We are emerging from the subway - 1957.
After two years of this we moved back to UK. By now I had a step dad and this time it was Wilmslow, Cheshire where I grew up from age 11 to the time I left for Beirut, age 21, in 1968.
From there I started discovering blues artists by myself. Pretty soon I had several 45s on the Pye R‘n’B label by Howlin’ Wolf, and other Chess artists. I found an LP called Authentic R ‘n’ B with names like Slim Harpo, Lightnin Slim and Lazy Lester. This kind of stuff really got me excited. The beat, the swamp grooves, ethereal harmonicas - I was hooked for life.
By 1958, my brother, Tom, started buying Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee Lewis 45s and Little Richard EPs - I remember saving up 5/6d to buy my first ever single - Buddy Holly's Think it over.Shortly after enrolling at Manchester Royal College of Art, Tom was now bringing home LPs of Chuck, Bo, and Carl Perkins; he was also bringing home EPs of Muddy Waters.
I was getting bored with Boy Scouts. Opposite the Scout hall lived a guy called Mick Rhodes who played guitar. My brother and I had dabbled in guitar playing; we knew E, A, D, and B, and had jammed on 'Blue Suede Shoes’ continuously in the house. My brother by now had his own electric guitar with a Selmer amp and was gigging around Manchester with one of his art school buddies.
I decided to play with Mick Rhodes. He had a drummer friend Derek Chadwick who was older than me ... everybody was older than me at this point! We started playing regularly in Mick's front room, doing Shadows tunes and Walk Don't Run and Perfidia by The Ventures. We called ourselves The Echoes'. It was 1961 or 62.
A school dance was coming up and I was allowed to take The Echoes to play at my school, Wilmslow Secondary Modern. It was my first gig! I sang and played rhythm on a borrowed Lucky 7 guitar, with Derek and Mick.
We did really well as I recall. I think we put everything, including vocals, through Mick’s Vox amp!
Shortly after that Mick said we should try out Cliff Bowes on vocals and Joe Henshall on bass - then we would have a real band.
It came together fast; Cliff had standards and charisma that rubbed off on me, he had experience in live gigs and booking and instinctively I picked up a lot from him at a very young age.
He was a very special guy, may he rest in peace.
The Echoes first gig - Wilmslow Sec Modern School dance 1962 - Derek Chadwick (drums), David Bowker (Rhythm), Mick Rhodes (Guitar)
Cliff was doing Gene Vincent, and more Gene Vincent, which I liked but I wanted to get raw and rockin’ with some of those Bo Diddley beats. I recruited two school friends and a grammar school kid Gordon Thornton on drums and announced I was forming my own band - at age 16. The Drifting Hearts were born!
The years 1963, 64 and 65 proved to be quite interesting years. The Drifting Hearts were playing regularly at local youth clubs, and had supported The Four Pennies and Herman’s Hermit’s. One evening at the Jungfrau, we opened for Ivan’s Meads.
The rest of the guys were not paying attention, because I was floored with the Meads’ performance that night. Their interpretations of material by Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Witherspoon and John Lee Hooker inspired me to go up to one of them and let it be known if they ever needed anyone, they should ring me.
Three weeks later, I am working as a junior production guy in an ad agency in Manchester (Wilson Advertising) when my Mum calls me and says Ivan’s Meads want you, on bass. Within days, I was a Mead.
The Meads were based out of Middleton, miles from Wilmslow and it was a tough haul, day job, rehearse after work, last train home from Piccadilly station to Wilmslow, then walk home from the station about a mile or two. This was 3 or 4 times a week, plus gigs all over the place in places like Bury Palais. We added Alan Powell on drums and Rod Mayall on Farfisa Organ.
Shortly after this I began to realise that these guys intended to go pro any minute. I was exhausted by this double life I was leading and decided to call it quits with the band. It was an amicable parting and I decided to form something a little closer to home.
I called the new band The Big City Blues after the recent Howlin Wolf mini tour with Chris Barber and Long John Baldry that came to Manchester.
Taking a leaf out of the Cliff Bowes’ playbook, I decided to become lead singer which would give me more time to book and promote things more efficiently.
I started picking up the phone and hassling the Abadi Bros at the Twisted Wheel for gigs. It paid off. After playing a few off nights at the Wheel, we were awarded the honour of backing Champion Jack Dupree at the Blackpool and Manchester Wheel Venues. The guitar player, Ron Walker, was still only 15!
We did a great job, and backed Jack again at the Manchester Sports Guild, about a year or two later.
I started to get interested in playing sax after we added a great sax player to the line-up, Dave Moss. He played me some Sonny Rollins which I thought was amazing.
We were doing some stuff by Mose Allison and Jimmy Witherspoon and I loved James Brown and Jr Walker. I wanted to get funky ... I bought my own sax.
I always have had an instinct for when something has played itself out and to make a move onward, over, under sideways or down.
By 1966 The Big City Blues were on the ropes, nothing was happening; even the name ‘blues’ had a dated ring to it. The future lay in funky R ‘n’ B as being laid down by James Brown and Otis Redding.
Stax and Motown sounds ruled in Manchester now. I must have driven my mother crazy as I attempted to learn every soul lick in the book from records played repeatedly over and over again in the kitchen, while my Mum was trying to watch TV.
Enter Roger Eagle, the famous Wheel DJ, and his partner Laurence Selcoe, who approached us with the idea of backing Milton James , ‘The Boy From New York City’. Milton was young, gifted and black. He was sensational, so we changed our name to Milton James and the Milton James Band.
We played all over Lancashire, Yorkshire and down to Nottingham. Wherever we went, we wowed ‘em and got booked back immediately. Milton did an amazing Alvin Cash style dance routine and knocked ‘em dead everywhere we went.
I had a Selmer Mk6 tenor sax screeching all over the house for hours on end. Finally, I actually got it down and within 6 months I was in The Gin House run by Kevin Bowden, the keyboard player. Kevin had a Vox continental which was the next best thing to a Hammond in those days!
I was hired as a second horn player. A guy called Phil was the main tenor sax man and soon the two tenors were sounding great as a section in this funky Gin House band.
One by one members of The Big City Blues were recruited, and one day after drunkenly hitting an old age pensioners’ bus on the way to the Blackpool Wheel while driving the band, Phil was fired and suddenly I was the singing sax player/front man.
For the first time in music, I felt we were creating a 'buzz' in the business; Eagle and Selcoe were delivering the goods, and the gigs. I'll never know quite where Milton was from, but it sure wasn't New York City! We played along with it though, even adopting fake American accents onstage to impress the girls. It worked!
It all ended rather suddenly when we demanded more money and refused to cart Milton's PA around any more! Rather childish when you think about it now, but it was a big deal back then!
I went back to my day job in advertising, by this time I was with another agency, Ingham Butterworth. It was 1967 I took a break from playing ... until the phone rang.
I had been put into a production department at Ingham Butterworth with two ignorant twits who kinda got on my nerves every day so I was not a happy camper at this job. Picking up the phone I heard Alan Powell’s voice on the line. ‘Daydo (that's what he called me) I just joined The Richard Kent Style. Their sax player is leaving, we are going to Germany and then we are backing Del Shannon for 3 weeks. After that it's Paul Jones and Dave Berry. It's time to quit your job.’
I took one look around me and within 2 days I was a member of The Richard Kent Style on tenor.
I played on the last 45 release A Little Bit O' Soul on Mercury, which had been a USA hit for a band called The Music Explosion but it flopped miserably when we covered it. I was not looking forward to another extended stream of chicken-in-a-basket gigs. It all panned out nicely for a while - I enjoyed Germany, Del was great to work with and so were Paul and Dave Berry.
We recorded a single for MCA, Love Will Shake the World Awake, which was abysmal, though the 'B' side Crocodile Tears rocked nicely with John Verity’s guitar and reasonable harp from me.
We did some nice BBC sessions in London, went to Belgium with Dave Berry and did 5 weeks in Portugal at Estoril, but there was something missing.
I was not making much money, I had just turned 21 and there seemed to be endless cabaret up in Newcastle and Sunderland and Sheffield and Stockton on Tees and Middlesborough - it just did not seem we were going anywhere.
A chance meeting with the Fagin-like Kirk St James helped me to see a way out of this situation.
My Mum once told me ‘Never trust a Brummie' and she was right in two cases; my dealings with Kirk St James and later, the girl I married then divorced were from Birmingham. Both were bad choices for me. Let’s deal with Roland Alex Boyce aka Kirk St James - Roland - Kirk get it?
The man could sing like Jimmy Witherspoon or Johnny Taylor. He had a magnificent voice and some may remember him winning New Faces on the Beeb in the 70s and also in a cameo role in John Goodman’s movie King Ralph.
He had a thick Birmingham accent and was a member of a Birmingham band The Nomads’ in the early 60s. He appeared on the Manchester scene quite suddenly and was holding down a house gig at Bredbury Hall in Stockport with ' Studio One', a horn/Hammond organ band comprising of mainly old Big City Blues/Gin House band members.
I used to go down to see him as often as I could whenever I was not gigging with The Richard Kent Style. I'm not sure how I was offered this very shaky gig to go to Beirut, Lebanon for 3 months but he must have got me at the right time as I was disgruntled with the way things were working out for me in The Richard Kent Style.
I had recently started seriously dating Davina Goldstein, a singer who had just left The Dollies female singing group. We spent a lot of time listening to Paul Butterfield’s Pigboy Crabshaw and Electric Flag's (featuring Mike Bloomfield) Long Time Comin albums together. I was thinking ‘This is the gal for me’ but it was not to be.
The offer of a trip to Beirut was too tempting to pass up; Davina said she could handle waiting 3 months. So off I went into one of the biggest disaster gigs of my life ... but you know, I would not have missed it for the world.
Kirk had assembled quite possibly the strangest ensemble known to man.
Les Crompton (lead) and Ray Gibson (drums) were a couple of lovable 'eee by gummies’ from the Glossop/Stockport area; and Pete Marsh on Hammond was a posh, nervous, cigarette smoking guy. They all could play but we had not played together - in fact we did not get to rehearse till we got to Beirut. Fortunately we gelled rather well; I was on bass and vocals.
We had been scheduled to include two go-go dancers for this strange soul revue, via our agent Ted Lemon (yes he was called that, you can't make stuff like this up) in London; we met them on the plane as we left on our flight from Heathrow.
The girls actually were Soho strippers, Penny Blue and Helen (second name eludes me). After awhile I got into a raging affair with Helen and upon returning to London was knocking off Penny too - but that's another story!
Upon arriving in Beirut we were met by a grinning cocky disco looking guy in an orange shirt, white bell bottoms and white boots; his name was Tony Coe, former roadie for Geno Washington and he was the club DJ at Rasputin’s or Raspoutine as some called it .
Once we got our gear set up, we underwent rapid rehearsals to knock the band into shape before we started our ‘engagement’. Initially I did not like Tony at all but eventually we got to be great friends. He lives in Ipswich now and we call/email each other every week 40 years later. He is my brother.
Our accommodations were cramped but later we got separate roomier apartments. Unfortunately everything is next to a Mosque in Beirut, so we were awakened repeatedly by loud calls to Allah day and night. We got used to it.
The club Rasputin was owned by an upscale French hooker - a real hard-assed bitch. We had to use transformers to equalise the voltage in our amps.
One night they over-heated and the one that was attached to the organ amp set on fire while we were playing; the fire spread to the stage backdrop. We extinguished it with seltzer bottles but it made a hell of a lot of smoke.
The owner came in and in a typically arrogant French accent said, ‘Vot is dis? Dis smoke? I do not pay you to make smoke!’
I said ‘Lady your club was on fire we just put it out’.
She just turned and walked away. Amazing.
Beirut is famous for its American University and back in 68 there was little or no violence. It was known as the Paris of the East, which it was. There were gorgeous Arab girls in mini skirts everywhere and I met a girl named Janet McRobert. Her Dad was Scottish, a pilot for Middle East Airlines, liked jazz and used to drink a lot. Janet spoke fluent Arabic and had a friend called Hodda, who was gorgeous. Both girls fancied me but I opted for Janet, as the idea of confronting Janet's drunken Dad appealed to me more than getting tied to a camel and butt fucked by a bunch of angry Arabs should anything go wrong!
When I left Kirk, with Pete Marsh to play Barbarellas they got the DJ at the club to play bass. It's Tony Coe - he was a roadie with Geno Washington and a London club DJ
Upstairs at Rasputin we ate in the restaurant carte blanche, pigging-out day after day. One day I recall in conversation around a meal someone saying this place will be a bloodbath soon. We kept on gigging and never thought anything about it until one night the Israelis decided to lay a commando raid on the airport and actually blew up 6 Middle East Airline jets.
Things started to deteriorate after that, especially the regular money became rather irregular in arriving in our pockets.
Pete Marsh and I had decided to leave Kirk’s little set-up (some argument about PA rental that Kirk was charging the band for ... it was not even his own PA) and we started working a rival club called Barbarellas as a Brian Auger/Crazy World Of Arthur Brown-style organ trio using a talented Iranian student guy on drums, Abi.
One early morning taxi ride home after the gig, we were stopped by the Lebanese police. They were bummed about their airport being violated and were looking for Israeli ‘spies’. Pete Marsh and I were with some student friends and both of us were singled out for arrest. After the cops had checked our passports, we were asked to get out of the taxi and get in a jeep. We had machine guns trained on us, so we quickly obliged! We could not read Arabic and had missed the fact that our visas had run out, so the club owner was called to bail us out.
We got out of jail about 7 a.m., quite a night! I remember the cops brandishing their guns in an intimidating way while we were inside.. Pete was shaking, but I said, ‘Don't show them you are scared, I am too, but keep smiling!’
Next day we got our passports updated and at the end of the week the bail/bribe money to the cops that had been paid by the club owner was deducted from our pay!
The Go Go Girls were allowed to leave after 3 months but the club took up their option of a further 3 months with the band, so we were trapped to say the least, thanks to Ted Lemon.
We took to smoking Lebanese Gold, the best hashish in the world; it was smoked through a water device , a hookah or hubbly bubbly as they called it - it knocked me out every night as we listened to The Beatles’ White Album and Supersession by Bloomfield and Al Kooper. God, were we hip or what? One day Tony and I, who were roommates by now, heard a shuffling in the oven. We called in some of the guys to investigate and found a rat had been living in our oven, for how long we did not know (must have been the hashish!)
Any way we lit some paper to flush him out and it did! It darted out, ran across the kitchen through the living room, bedroom and down the shower hole in the bathroom. When we looked up there were five guys standing on chairs screaming - I was one of them! The darn thing was HUGE!
Eventually the day came when we were due to finally leave for home - our apartment rent was in arrears and no one seemed to be responsible. Club Rasputine was practically bankrupt, so no help from there. Our ‘representative’ link guy to the infamous Ted Lemon, a character called Remi, could not be found, and the cops (summoned by the landlord) said that we were not leaving until it had been paid.
After a whip round all was OK but our funds were severely depleted. We just wanted to get out of there, so we embarked on a plane to Sofia Bulgaria where we were laid up for 3 days until we could board our connecting flight on our twin prop Bulgarian Airlines plane to London. It was February in Bulgaria - snowy and cold. It was still a Communist country back then; I recall that everything was grey, damp, and miserable. There was nothing edible - we ate dry bread and drank vodka - but drummer Ray got laid for the first time in six months!
The word got out that there was a British band in town. We were invited to play a student dance which I learned later was illegal; the Communist authorities did not allow rock performances. The kids went crazy!
We had some amps and drums supplied but no PA so we played Spoonful for half an hour plus a couple of other blues tunes. We were so caught up in being literally carried offstage by these ecstatic kids that I failed to notice all my albums and tapes that I was carrying round (we carted our stuff everywhere so it wouldn't get swiped ) had disappeared after we finished!
As we got off the plane at Heathrow, after a hair-raising flight full of turbulence (we had to walk to the terminal) I remember getting on my knees and kissing the cold wet tarmac. We were back in England!
I had returned home to Wilmslow with the proverbial tail between my legs. Davina had moved on and we were no longer an item; I didn't blame her one bit. I had struck up a relationship with Janet in Beirut and I remember her visiting Wilmslow for a few days. We hooked up in London a couple of years later, when she moved finally with her parents to Ilford, Essex but it fizzled out eventually and I often wonder - she was really more Arab than British , so I imagine she may still be in the Middle East.
I joined a band called Money’ for a very short time almost immediately on my return from the Beirut experience. Martin Tetlow, organist for The Big City Blues and Studio One Band, was in the band, which was led by a superb guitarist, Alan Faulkner, and they were looking for a singer. I jumped in, eventually becoming bassist/singer, but sadly after 2 months the money finally ran out and just when all was seemingly lost once again the phone rang.
It was guitarist Barry 'Taz' Reynolds from one of the last Ivan’s Meads line –ups - they were just called Mead after Ivan left. He was now in a band called Sponge, being handled by our old friends Kennedy Street Artists.
It appeared that sax man Jack Lancaster had left to join Blodwyn Pig and I was asked if I would be interested in a gig in the Bahamas doubling on bass and sax and recording an album for Deram when we got back. I thought about it, for a nano second, then said ‘yes’.
Within days I was on a plane to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island for 2 months of sun, sea, sex and ego-tripping from this would be rock-star band who were sooo serious about, quote ‘writing’. It was May 1969. After a short stop in Bermuda we landed in Freeport, where we started shagging almost as we got off the plane. It was outrageous; we all were. Our behaviour was, to say the least, unsavoury.
Drinking was the main problem; we discovered a cocktail called a 'Zombie ' which is what it literally turned you into. Our stage antics were outrageous; we had falling down competitions.
One night I fell, and ripped my velvet bellbottoms from the arse to the flyhole. I was wearing no underwear they were that tight, so I was kneeling onstage playing bass with my 'knob' exposed to the audience. I heard a crash behind me. Drummer Larry was laughing so hard he had fallen backwards off his drum stool, legs in the air was all I could see. I rushed offstage and changed into my jeans pretty sharpish.
The club we played was called the Jokers Wild and it was appropriately named for Sponge.
Offstage things were not so good. I did not get along with any of the guys and it was just a matter of time, waiting out the gig, till I got back to UK to decide what to do. Meanwhile I had a lot of fun while I was there and old friends from Beirut, showed up. The Rebel Rousers (of Cliff Bennett fame) who I had met in Beirut arrived and we hung out quite a lot.
Back in 69 the Bahamas were beautiful and I would like to go back there one day. At that time they were still flying the British flag but now they are independent and I imagine a lot has changed.
I remember one girl I was seeing; her Dad had a plane and business in Nassau, so it was arranged for me to experience a great day trip over to Nassau which was absolutely beautiful. The plane flew low over clear sky blue ocean, white sand bars, and the island of Nassau, though touristy was exquisite in every way. Those Pirates in days of yore sure could find great places to hide out!
The Bahamas trip was a journey of a lifetime but after 2 months it was time to get on that plane and go ... back to London.
This time I was not going back to Manchester.
Once back in the UK, the band scattered for home. Most of them went back to Manchester and they did eventually record that LP, as Pacific Drift. The album sank without trace.
Barry Reynolds went on to work with Joe Cocker and Marianne Faithfull, write material for Grace Jones and later produced an album of his own in 1981. He covered Dan Hicks' I Scare Myself, which was the title of his 1981 release.
I had decided to try my luck in London; a girl I had met in The Bahamas told me to look her up, so I did. Her sister was married to Tony Brown who managed Deep Purple. They were about to do a concert with the Royal Philharmonic at the Albert Hall. Would I like to go? Sure. Well, it was a spectacular show, blending classical with rock and they released an album shortly after the event. Tony Brown said to me ‘Roger Glover has health problems and might have to leave. Could you do the job?’ Well I said ‘Yes I could’ but I guess he must have made a miraculous recovery as it did not go any further than that!
In my determination to stay in London, I was blowing my Bahamas money very rapidly on hotel bills.
I joined a band called Jo Jo Gunn. Dave Wendells, an ex Rebel Rouser, was the lead guitarist. They seemed to be unaware that there was an American band of the same name. After playing a few London gigs, we went to Germany for a while. The club owner refused to pay us, pulling a gun on Wendells, so we split back to London.
By this time I was sleeping rough; sometimes in the band’s transit and sometimes under an organ cover at Orange studios - I knew the engineer who would let me in at night but I had to skedaddle in the morning. I even spent one night in Hyde Park with my bass - now that was scary.
I also recall one or two nights at the bottom of a roadie friend’s bed. He insisted I leave by the window every morning so his room mates would not complain.
I got some demos recorded at Orange with a band called ‘Valhalla’; Mick Hodgkinson , on organ , and a guy called Simon Fox on drums. The situation fizzled out , and frustration was mounting. Wendells got me a gig at Batley variety club for a week backing Billy J Kramer. I think Mick H was on keyboard on that one. After that I traded my Vox pearl shaped bass in for a Fender precision. I had made a little money on this gig, now I was set for an audition with The Iveys.
Audition for The Iveys
The Iveys were a Liverpool band; their bass player had left when they all decided to come to London to sign with Apple, The Beatles’ label. My audition went well and they said, ‘You are the only bass player who can sing harmonies. Looks like you got the gig’. They played me a song called Come And Get It - a catchy pop tune.
They said, ‘We have a guaranteed hit here; we have one more guy to check out’. His name happened to be Joey Molland, a McCartney look-alike. So that was that, no gig for yours truly. Within weeks, the record was a huge hit and the band now was known as Badfinger.
As the 60s were coming to a close, my next audition was with O'Hara's Playboys another band I had met in Beirut. The difference was they got paid and left before anyone was blowing anything up.
I went up to Seven Sisters Bingo Hall to audition. Tony Coe came with me; we had hooked up somehow after he finally got back from Beirut.
It would appear that after we left, someone had slipped Tony a ‘mickey’; he was arrested and woke up in jail. After he got out, he luckily joined a band that was going to Dubai, as their bass player. After getting the bread together, e finally made it back on his own several months after we did.
Tony had hooked up (pardon the expression) with Penny and Helen, the go-go chicks that were stripping and living in Soho. Tony had moved in with the girls (nice) and was DJ at The Bag 'O' Nails, Scotch of St James and Die Fledermous. After Tony bent John O'Hara's ear to my advantage, I got the gig and had no choice but to move to Sheffield for a life of chicken-in-a-basket gigs again.
I had come full circle. The money was good though and once more I plunged into a life of drinking and getting as many chicks as I could handle. I was allowed to do two lead vocals Come Together by The Beatles and Let's Work Together by Canned Heat, who had the hit at the time.
Audition with Jeff Beck
While I was in O'Hara's Playboys, Jack Barrie, the manager of the Marquee Club, got me an audition with, of all people, Jeff Beck. I got a train down to London, then another one to Ashford, Kent, where I was picked up by Jeff and Cozy Powell in a red Mustang. They had an 8 track in the player. They asked me if I knew who it was and I replied ‘Yes, it’s Buddy Guy’. They looked at each other ... maybe?
Our destination was Noel Redding’s house (sorry about the name dropping here) - it was like a dream sequence. We went into a room full of Marshall stacks. Beck said, ‘Pick one and plug in’ - so I did.
By this time I was a nervous wreck. It gets a bit blurry from here ; I think we did some Howlin Wolf stuff like I Ain’t Superstitious, maybe a shuffle or two , I was completely intimidated, and I just know I made a fool of myself.
Within 45 minutes I was back on the train - Sheffield bound. End of that story! The album that came out several months later was Rough And Ready with Clive Chaman just kicking arse on bass.
Back to O’Haras. One night there was a knock on the door it was Tony Coe - the DJ life was not going too well. I convinced John O'Hara that he was the roadie we were looking for so he hired Tony on the spot. Next day, Tony's first day driving the van, he backed into a parked car in the petrol station while we were getting gas for the gig!
O'Hara turned round to me in his heavy Scottish brogue and said, ‘I thut' yu sid he cuid dreeve’. Oh Lord! Anyway, Tony roadied with us as the situation in the Playboys began to decline. I told Tony I was going back to London for another try - I was a glutton for punishment in those days!
After I left, I did not see Tony for another eight years. He went back to Ipswich and I went to London. Again. It was 1970. I had a Marshall stack and money in the bank. I went to London, got a flat with some pals and got a day job operating a folding machine in a Xerox shop. From there I went to Harrods, selling ladies’ shoes and after that selling stereo gear in Soho.
I joined folk singer Dorris Henderson’s Eclection on bass and toured with The Faces on a short tour. While in Birmingham, I met the other Brummie, my future wife Pauline!
I recorded two singles for Polydor with a band called Swampfox. I knew two of the guys through the Beirut experience - they were in the band that had been there before us. We covered Tony Joe White’s I Got A Thing About You Baby, which was produced by The Beatles' Tony Bramwell and got a lot of daytime airplay on the BBC.
One of Elton John’s backing singers, Leslie Duncan, sang some harmonies and Allan Clarke of The Hollies played harmonica! It was what you might call a turntable 'hit' but no chart action on that. The follow up, Miss America flopped miserably!
After answering an ad in the Melody Maker, I met my buddy Ric Adams and we played in a country trio Western Union for a while and that took us to the Seychelles, just in time to recover from my divorce from Pauline.
I took another more rockin' outfit back to the Seychelles for a few weeks then formed pub rock band Grand Slam with Ric Adams.
Our friend Tony Owens was in the band for a while and we did the usual rounds of playing the clubs like the Marquee, etc. Grand Slam were getting a lot of encores all around greater London, but not much interest from anywhere else. I was booking gigs from the telephone booth across the street from my flat in Muswell Hill! I didn't even have a phone back then!
Constantly shifting personnel became our eventual downfall, coupled with an offer to me from RCA to join a band called Limey.
The single and album were released and we toured with Andy Fairweather Lowe ... but the music scene was changing; the punk scene was emerging. I began working in sales again, selling jeans this time.
Tony TS McPhee
Tony TS McPhee asked me to join him for a while in Terraplane. We gigged a little, with Rory Gallagher’s drummer Wilgar Campbell on drums. I had been playing every Sunday at the Spurs in Tottenham; there wasn't a week went by that I wasn't in some new line-up or project.
A line-up called ABC – Adams, Bowker and Cook - got a track on the famous Honky Tonk Demos LP released by Charlie Gillett, now a famous BBC announcer. I was then asked to audition for Manfred Mann's Earthband. Manfred asked me back to rehearse several times but again no luck.
The pop band Kenny tried a musical come back; I was in Kenny for a while. We went to Germany for 4 fun days of TV and bad lip synching to our new demos! The picture includes Ian Kewley (Manchester’s Big City Soul Band, Samson, Q-Tips) and Paul Young (Q-Tips/UK hits)
Back to 9 -5
Shortly after this, I took a holiday to the USA for 8 weeks. I came back to the UK and got a job in an Ad Agency - Doyle Dane Bernbach on Baker St.
Tony Coe and I had recently found each other again and we put a nice little band, The Regulars, together which gigged every weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sundays – and I was booking gigs from my office in the agency. It was a very happy time.
But the memories of my amazing trip to the States were luring me back ... haunting me and it was getting too much.
I needed to get out of England.
Everybody thought I was nuts to quit my job and just leave but I had that lemming-like urge that we all get from time to time.
Part 2: The final goodbye to the UK
Mal and Boiler were two infamous roadies who had roadied for everyone including Limey, Strider, The Faces and many more ‘name acts’. They were actually working with Rod Stewart when I ran into them in the Marquee bar in London in 1980.
I told them I was thinking about coming over to the USA for a trip, so they gave me their hotel address in LA and of course when I went over for my “looking around” holiday I looked them up.
We went to Disneyland, ate at Barney’s Beanery and got pretty drunk. All in all, my 8 week vacation in the USA had a mind blowing effect on me. I visited Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, St Louis, New York and all points inbetween! I returned to England determined to move back permanently one day.
Once back in England I took up the option of a job I was offered prior to my trip by Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, an Ad Agency on Baker Street. I think I only got the job because I was willing to join the agency football team which needed beefing up a bit - I was hired as soon as I mentioned I played any left position and had a strong left foot! Pretty soon I had been promoted to the position of production guy in charge of the Volkswagen account - responsible for 400 dealership ads appearing on time every week in papers throughout the British Isles. After meeting deadline or as near as I could on Fridays, I was out the door to gig with my band The Regulars with my buddy Tony Coe, who would come in from Ipswich every weekend.
I would return to DDB knackered on Monday morning after playing hard Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I was doing OK; I had a job, money, a good band, and a beautiful Armenian girlfriend, Markrid. Sunday afternoons were spent with Tony browsing record stores in Camden Town before going to our night gig. We had recorded some powerful demos of my originals which sounded great. These were pretty darned happy times for me but something was missing.
Off to the USA
The lure of the States was calling me and in the end it was too much for my brain to handle.
By 1981 I had quit my job, got a six month visa, sold everything and moved to the United States to a place in Denver, Colorado: a basement of a house of a guy I had met on my travels who said I could stay at his pad as long as I maintained the house, a pretty fair deal.
Markrid was upset by this move and came over to try to stay with me. She had relatives and could have gotten residency very easily but again, idiot that I was, I said no. I wanted to go it alone and had to end the relationship. To this day I feel it was regrettably a big mistake. I felt at that time I had to be able to move fast and travel unburdened to find what I was looking for … whatever that was!
Denver Colorado in 1981 was a booming oil town: there were lots of country bands and live music was everywhere, largely due to the ‘Urban Cowboy’ craze that was in full swing at that time. My first thoughts were to get a job. I began exploring the possibilities of me working for an ad agency but on a 6 month visa, that was out of the question.
I found a vintage left-hand Telecaster bass in Wedgles pawn shop on Broadway in Denver, in mint condition, and I bought a Peavey bass Amp. I would try my luck on the thriving country music scene. I had been in Denver a good couple of months and nothing was happening, the words of the Regulars’ drummer, Andy ‘arsehole supreme’ Walton back in London, were ringing in my ears ‘You’ll be back within 6 months with your tail between your legs.’
I decided to make another round of the music stores and look for something yet again ... the owner of one of the guitar shops told me a Western Swing band were looking for a bass player, their name was Rage Of The Sage. They were a very talented bunch, the guitar player Bob was really a jazz freak/Joe Pass type genius and the steel player Jim Stahlhut had a penchant for playing John Coltranes Giant Steps on steel guitar! The break tune was Cherokee done Charlie Parker style. I managed a few gigs with them, and they were my first American gigs. I remember we played Dillon and Granby Colorado, which were mountain gigs, and a couple of other places.
I was delighted to be playing and I liked the material, which was Bob Wills /Asleep At The Wheel styled stuff with some nice R&B overtones to the music. I found out soon after I joined that the band had cancelled work in Wyoming and had basically split up. So I was back to square one!
Shortly after this, I met a guy called Brett, who sang and played guitar. We assembled a trio and rented a trailer for the gear, along with a drummer (who was really the bass player in a band called Oak Creek who had a cancellation that weekend) and we were off on a three nighter in Twin Forks, Colorado.
It went well and led to me meeting drummer John Homerski who suggested we get a permanent project together. He sent for his old army buddy from Pennsylvania, Jeff Michel, on guitar, as we just could not find a dedicated proficient country guitarist locally. Within weeks we had a string of gigs booked and were up and running.
This band was called Payday - we were a real hot little trio. We all sang and did three-part harmonies; we rehearsed hard to get a big sound. John was an expert booker and I learned a few things from him about ‘how to do it’.
We had all the work we could handle but I was getting worried as my 6 month visa was getting close to expiring and I would soon have to make the decision on either going back to UK to get a renewal or becoming illegal and trapped in the USA pretty much without being able to return to visit my Mum in the UK.
Once your visa runs out , they don’t let you back in if you venture out of the country.
Our next gig was in Wheatland, Wyoming - a large country dance–hall on the edge of town.
I ran into a buxom gal called Sheri and we hit it off immediately; she was divorced and had a cute young son, Chad. Very soon we struck up a relationship and she offered me legality by saying she was willing to marry me in order that I could stay in the USA as a permanent resident, also she offered with an option for me to go my own way any time I wanted to should it not work out.
This was all very sudden but after a few days thinking about it I decided to get legal and see how things turned out with this remarkably honest and genuine woman.
We incorporated our first few days together as man and wife with a band trip down to Portales New Mexico; a town virtually next door to Clovis. Clovis, as any Rock’n’Roll fan knows is the place where Buddy Holly recorded most of his hits back in the 50s, under the supervision/production of Norman Petty.
The Payday band were booked for a couple of weeks in the Portales gig and Sheri and I scouted out Clovis and found the studio where this historical stuff took place. I was surprised to see the original sign still on the studio and we took photographs. Sheri had to get back to work, so after she left for Wyoming, I went back to Clovis to track down Norman Petty.
Main Street in Clovis had an old cinema/movie house frontage, with the words ‘Church Meetings Every Wednesday‘on the awning, a window near the old box office said ‘Norman Petty Productions’ and next to it, a door with a bell which I boldly rang. A moment later a grey haired Norman opened the door.
I said I was from England and playing around the area. Without hesitation he let me in and we shook hands; within moments he ushered me into his office.
‘Welcome to my mortgage mountain‘ he said cheerfully, ‘Let me show you around’ The Church notice on the frontage of the building was clearly camouflage for what I was about to see. Inside the cinema was a state of the art recording studio sound stage, the seating area had beautiful red upholstered cinema seats and upstairs in the old film /projection area was a control room resembling the best that Star Wars had to offer; all top of the line stuff. Flanking the control room, acoustic custom built separation booths were up there too!
During the tour of the building, he said Paul McCartney was here about a month ago and no one in town even knew. I found out later that McCartney owns all the publishing to Buddy’s catalogue; maybe the deal was done right here? Linda Ronstadt was just here last week too!
Back in the office we chatted while he listened to my demos that I had recorded in the UK; my first songwriting attempts. I expected him to be dismissive about them but he let me down easy - very diplomatic!
We chatted about the recent Gary Busey Movie The Buddy Holly Story and he said he did not like it one bit. Hollywood had again distorted the facts but I guess he did not tell me at the time that Buddy only went out on that last tour because he needed the money that Norman was withholding from him to the tune of about $100,000!
I spent about 3 hours with Norman and it was truly a memorable experience.
He gave me his business card and I had it in my file for many years but somehow it went astray and of course Norman and his wife Vi Petty who played keyboards on Buddy’s records, notably Everyday and Rave On are both now deceased.
After our Clovis gig, it was decided by John our bandleader to add a fourth piece to the trio - a guy who played steel, fiddle and guitar, all badly! On top of that he was a pain in the ass and Jeff and I did not like him; or the fact that we were sacrificing our money to pay for this extra guy.
Jeff and I decided to split and we bought a PA system and a drum machine.
Now we were a duo; hooking up with an agent, we found ourselves out on the road for a 7 month stint, 6 nights a week all over the South, and Southwest United States playing all the Waylon, Willie and Merle tunes you would ever want to hear at Holiday Inns and Best Western Hotels in places like Lake Jackson Texas, Grant’s New Mexico Gallup, Albuquerque and Sedona Arizona.
We spent 5 weeks in Guymon, Oklahoma and also a pretty good stay in Flagstaff Arizona at the Little America Hotel, where we ran into Chevy Chase.
Jeff tried to get him to sing with us but he declined!
It got to the point where Jeff and I were leading separate lives and we decided we needed a break. He went back to Pennsylvania never to return though we are still in touch at holiday times occasionally. I split back to Wheatland Wyoming, and after a short holiday in Wyoming and South Dakota sightseeing, we considered a move to Nashvillle.
Pat McInerney, drummer with Limey in the UK, had been there for several years as a part of Don Williams’ band and we decided to visit not only to see the sights but to see if it would be for us.
It was fun visiting the Country Music Hall Of Fame and especially the old Ryman Auditorium, to stand where Hank Sr , and all the other country music legends had once stood, but in the end we felt it was not for us.
I played a couple of solo gigs up in S.Dakota as ‘Dave Andrew‘ (my middle name ) which did not pan out quite the way I wanted them to, so Sheri, Chad and I left Wyoming and moved to Denver and rented a house. I found myself ‘between engagements’ and Sheri went to work for a glass company in the administration offices.
A new experience and I become The Captain
One day while flipping the radio dial in the car, I came across an AM station playing jazz ,and a little blues; very unusual for Denver. I listened hard; the station was KJJZ Am 1390.
Next thing I knew I was in the office - a trailer house converted into an office right next to the radio mast. I walked into the owner’s office and said ‘I think I would be good on your radio station’
He asked ‘Have you ever had any experience in broadcasting?’
I was honest and told him ‘no’.
He replied ‘Well, I like your voice (English accent) - you start tomorrow’.
My wage was $850 a month not bad for 1982, and now I was in radio. Next day I went on the air. I juggled with 2 turntables (all LP’s back then ) and learned real fast how to cue up tracks and within the first break, the station had many calls - all positive - I was in!
I was the morning man, 6am till 10 am, then on Saturdays I did a blues show. My boss said ‘Play what you like, there’s the library you seem to know a lot about the blues’ - an understatement, I feel.
Before long The Captain’s Red Hot Blues Show was racking up Arbitron ratings. My boss, Denny, had nicknamed me the ‘Captain’ as it sounded English (to him).
I relished my blues shows and got many, many calls while I was on the air, I had advertisers calling to request time on my show , so I was selling a little advertising too! The show was approaching cult status locally, and back then there was little or no blues on the radio or to be seen live in Denver. My birthday was rapidly approaching; I had an idea. Straight Johnsons was a club advertising blues shows on my show, they had successfully brought in The Legendary Blues Band (Muddy Waters’ band) for a first shot at featuring some true name acts.
Denny Sheneman was the owner of the club; I approached him about forming a special band to celebrate my birthday, in conjunction with the Red Hot Blues Radio Show. He agreed.
I mentioned on-air what was going down and I was looking for players. Trombonist JD Kelly called and said he had a complete band, with horns, waiting and ready to go.
I checked em’ out; they will do, I thought. The only thing was, we had two bass players - me and this amazing character called Ludwig, who sported a large waxed moustache.
I decided to retain Mr. Ludwig on bass and fake it on guitar with the three chords and two Chuck Berry licks that I knew. I was now a lead guitarist and a bandleader of a 7 piece blues band!
On the evening Of June 13th (my birthday gig night) I arrived early at the club and took a nap in the basement. One by one the band members arrived with all their stage gear - we had decided to dress the part as well as play the music, so we were togged up to the max.
I sleepily went upstairs to the club and my jaw dropped, the place was packed with folks waiting to see this ‘Captain’ guy, and there were lines down the street! My show had a bigger audience than I bargained for! My boss Denny had declined my suggestion that we put up the radio station banner behind the band to promote said radio station. Denny’s secretary, Susan called him up ‘You’d better get down here and bring that banner - the place is packed!’
As soon as we hit the stage the energy was electric. Our first gig could not have gone better! I decided to keep this band intact and before you know it we were gigging 7 nights a week, all over the front range with our new manager, Brad Miller, taking care of our business, our bookings and stealing agency commission to pay for his drug habit. We had a great agent; Paige Fraley, but after Brad Miller suddenly left town we found he had not paid Paige and we owed thousands in back commission.
This was resolved by gigging harder and paying double commission till we were all squared away. The press were our best friend at this point; we were everywhere. The Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post did regular features on us and the weekly Westword Magazine gave updates on the ‘Captain’s’ activities in most every issue. Eventually, I could not get to work at 6 am to be on –air in the morning as I was finishing gigs and driving back from 6-nighter mountain jobs every night and getting about 45 minutes sleep before going on the radio each weekday.
The gigs were flying in; we cut back to 6 members and we were packing them in everywhere we went. My boss at the radio station had become very hostile since the bands success and he was very patronizing intolerable to work for.
I got my last paycheck, cashed it , then left the airwaves …but not forever. Twenty-three years later I would be back on the radio!
The next three years were a haze of craziness.
The Captain’s Red Hot Blues Band were to get really popular in the ski areas of Colorado.
On any given night, say, at the Red Lion in Vale, you would see celebrities like Tom Cruise hanging out. One night I got off stage, a blonde guy with long hair and a beard in a Southern accent said 'Ya’ll sounding good up there. I’m Greg' It was Greg Allman shaking my hand.
One night Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna & Jefferson Airplane/Starship fame got up to jam with us. Someone had provided a guitar and an amp. He was pretty well high on the booze. He said to me 'What shall we do?'
I said 'How about, I Wish You Would' (from one of the Hot Tuna Albums).
He said 'You sing it' so I did.
Dan Fogelberg & Joe Vitale the drummer & Kenny Passarelli (bass) kept showing up everywhere we played. Fogelberg insisted on playing Crossroads with us on his Les Paul. Fogelberg doing Crossroads? It sounded pretty darn good! My bass player needed some time off, so I asked Kenny Passarelli to stand in with us for a week. (He was Crosby Stills & Nash, Elton John’s & Joe Walsh’s bass player at that time.) He said, 'I’ll do it', but insisted on playing upright bass. Kenny is about 5’1” tall. It was quite a site to see him banging on this huge bass. He worked for our pay scale and did the whole week. We had a ball!
One night, I noticed a guy in line at the door of Linden’s club in Fort Collins. The doorman said no one can come in, we’re full. It was Leon Redbone with his huge nose pressed against the glass waiting to get in. The doorman, of course, did not know who he was.
Albert King was also at Linden’s one night, checking out the band. He was, of course, dressed to the nines in a light blue, shark skin suit, with the signature pipe sticking out of his mouth. He said, 'Ya’ll sound great, but you need to slow it down.'
We picked up a new manager, Charlie Dee, a full blooded Native American with a gammy leg (he claimed a bull fell on him). He was an ex-Marine and on his first night with the band beat up 3 college kids in the parking lot who made the bad judgement of trying to touch his pigtails!
We backed Solomon Burke , Bo Diddley (on several occasions) , Rufus Thomas, opened for Dr John, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Big Twist And The Mellow Fellows, and many other name blues acts of the day.
David and his band backed Bo Diddley many times in Denver area in 85, 86. In the above shot, we were clowning by some leftovers in the restaurant. Me and Bo were concentrating on drinking that night. His fave drink was Grand Marnier - until he got diabetes!
By now the party lifestyle and the overall success of this band had spawned an elevation of egos which were beginning to take it’s toll. JD was vying for leadership of the band; I decided to draw an imaginary line in the hotel room ‘Alamo style ‘ on the floor at the Copper Mountain resort to get it settled once and for all.
‘Those who want to go with JD stay on this side those with me cross over’ - all but the drummer sided with me. I replaced the drummer and JD and Paul Benkelman aka ’ Mandrake’comes in on trumpet and keyboards. Charlie Dee is long gone and we are a nice stripped down 5 piece, now named The Captain And The Red Hot Flames (after James Brown’s group).
The music is a lot funkier than the blues band and we still constantly ‘tear it up’ on an even higher level than before. We release a red vinyl EP Can Your Monkey Do The Dog followed by a live cassette-only release Housewreckin Live (cassettes sold pretty good on gigs ).
One Wintry day in the mid 80’s probably 86, I get a call from one of the guys (Keith Murdoch) from a local band called The Rockin’ Rudolphs. They are a Santa themed band and formed only to play national holidays.
They have a Christmas record out with a variety of artists contributing tracks.
Paul Butterfield is featured on the album doing Merry Xmas Baby the old Charles Brown classic. The man behind this is Lon Van Eaton , who ‘s claim to fame was having 2 records released on the Beatles’ Apple label years before. Van Eaton is bringing in Butterfield for a couple of shows, would I be into augmenting some of my players with 2 of the Rudolphs guys to back him up? Yes!
I was very enthused. We rehearsed for about a week; a list of Butterfields tunes was given to us and I remember driving every day through snow and ice to get to the rehearsal place.
Finally the big day arrives and we assemble at Boulders Coast - a real nice big room off Baseline Road in Boulder (it is now a fitness center I believe).
Enter Paul Butterfield clasping a large tumbler of brandy in his hand, staggering onstage to do the soundcheck.
He immediately fires Mark Bliesener, the drummer. Mark was the guy we were counting on to do all the count in’s and cues for the show.
As Mark is packing up his kit, Butterfield wanders off stage and I go over to Van Eaton to tell him to get Butterfield to stop drinking and ask himwhere are we going to find a drummer?
People are beginning to arrive for the show. The next thing I know Butterfield walks up to me and gets in my face.
'I hear you say that I’m DRUNK?'
I took a step back. I said 'Well?'
'YOU COCKSUCKER' said ol’ Butters.
I turned to the stage got up there and told my guys to pack up - we are gone.
It was quite a sight to see the band leaving the venue as people were arriving for a show. I hear later that they sent down to the local music store and the staff had formed some kind of band to back him; it was a disaster.
Three months later, Butterfield is dead. At that time I thought there was something wrong with him, his complexion was kind of olive green. It was no surprise that he passed soon after. I heard later that after he lost his wife and was having a hard time coping with it, that is when his detioration began to set in.
He is still a hero and I still listen to his wonderful stuff to this day. He had a real unique approach to the harp. I learned recently from another harp player more knowledgeable than I, that he was originally a flautist, which may account for his way of phrasing things and his fat tone
It is 1988, Sheri and I have split up; my Mother suddenly passes about two weeks before I’m due to visit her, which results in a 4 day whistle stop visit to UK for the funeral . There are some more personnel problems in the band.
This is a very sad time for me indeed but I feel that my Mum wants the show to go on. I experiment with all sizes of line –ups; at one point we tour the mid west as a 6 piece, a two guitar line–up Myself and Kelvin Daley along with Larry Lorraine on bass , Travis Lorraine on drums and Washboard Chaz, with Sonny Gunn on sax, the only survivor from the Red Hot Blues Band. A definite New Orleans feel has crept into the band and I decide to pare down to a 4 piece. We release one more 45 as The Captain And The Red Hot Flames, a Tony Joe White tune Garter Belt and a Rockin Sydney tune They Call Me Rockin.
I changed the name yet again to just Captain for a while; it appears the name Captain is played out. Utilizing the Louisiana feel that has developed, I come up with the name the Alleygators. It seems to do the trick.
We are just making a name as the Alleygators when on a night off, I go to see the Dynatones who are passing through town. The Dynatones are a Warner Bros recording band and they sound great.
I get to talking to Walter Salwitz, the drummer/bandleader and mention we are playing at Regis College the next afternoon; they all come out to see me. I am offered the job of guitarist with the Dynatones which means I would have to move to San Francisco.
I am not to happy the way things are going with the Gators and not too happy with my current girlfriend Alita. I see this as an opportunity to ‘Get Out Of Denver’ so to speak and elect to move . Alita says ‘I know things are not great ,between us , but I want to move to San Francisco too’ ... so we both go.
San Francisco is totally different to Denver, the sea air is great but I find it very cramped and expensive to live. The Dynatones schedule is grueling as we criss-cross the US and Salwitz turns in to a Hitler figure.
I play Buddy Guy’s ‘Legends’ in Chicago (Buddy is there watching me at the edge of the stage, oh my God!), Milwaukee Fest with Robert Cray with The Memphis Horns, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
After recording several tracks for their new CD, Chopped and Channelled and also several tracks as back up for Sir Mack Rice’s CD Right Now (Mack wrote Mustang Sally and Respect Yourself plus many others ). I am unceremoniously fired.
The Alleygators ... again.
Snappy Rock ’n’ Roll, with a swamp chomp!
I stayed in San Francisco for a few months gigging and scraping a living with pick up bands on North Beach, mainly led by an amazing character called Perry Welsh, a former Elvin Bishop sideman. I then decided to move back to Denver. In the 18 months I’ve been away I have driven across nearly every state in North America!
1991 sees me back in Denver, my tiny house on Pearl Street has been rented while I was away and my tenant of course has trashed the place. I scramble 5 grand together and assume a loan on a house on S. Franklin St. where I will live up until 2003.
I finally evict said tenant, clean up the place and try another tenant on S. Pearl Street. It works ... for now. Back on the music scene I hook up with Sonny Gunn and decide to give the Gators another go, both as a duo and a band when there is a budget for a 4 piece.
We record some hot band demos, which get us accepted as semi finalists in the KLON talent search in Los Angeles. We fly out to LA and come in as runners –up; a guy called Kevin Moore wins. He is now known as Keb Mo.
This leads us to release an Alleygators CD (pictured right) as a duo with guests, called Rockin Rhythm And Blues.
We release it in 1993 and are pretty busy as a guitar /sax duo, with occasional trio/four piece gigs. I coin the phrase Snappy Rock ’n’ Roll, with a swamp chomp to describe the Gators’ music.
I had been dating a girl called Vera since I got back from San Francisco, meeting her through Alita who had elected to stay in San Francisco. We decide to take a vacation down to Memphis, New Orleans and all points in between, including the Sun Studio, Graceland in Memphis and all the spots in the French quarter in New Orleans.
Our relationship, which had been strained to say the least up to this point, was not enhanced by this trip. We were engaged at this point to be married but in one blazing argument in an Indianola Mississippi hotel room, rings were taken off fingers and thrown around!
There is an existing picture on our trip, of me standing by the graveside of my hero, Sonny Boy Williamson. I am clearly not a happy camper due to an exchange of words just before the picture was taken! It was that kind of vacation!
Shortly after we got back to Denver, Vera and I part company; I get an offer to go down to Florida with Sonny as a duo, so we go down for a few weeks in February.
The OJ Simpson trials are on the telly and it is cold in Florida - even the pelicans are wearing wooly hats! We look at the weather in Denver, 70 degrees, and laugh at the fact we came to Florida and froze our asses off!
We play mainly on Marco Island at the Snook Inn but also do gigs up the West Coast of the State. Back in Denver, I was living quite happily alone for the next two years. As 1995 approaches we decide to do a second CD, with Eugene Smith on Cocktail Kit and Mark Diamond on Upright Bass, mainly original stuff. It is called Mojo Alley after my beloved dog Mojo who I had picked up in California; it turns out great. The Best tracks from these two cds are available from my website (www.davidbooker.com) as Chomp, the Best of The Alleygators.
I acquire an address in Holland of an agent from drummer Tony Black, and send over promo and music samples. The agent loves it and sets up a tour for me and Sonny as a duo. Also, my old pal Rod Mayall (from the Ivans Meads days in Manchester) has been in contact.
He brings his family over for a ski trip, sits in on a couple of gigs with us and before you know it, Sonny and I are gigging in the UK with Rod’s rhythm section, then on to Holland for our first tour which is a big success.
This is followed by another tour of Holland with Sonny in 96. After we get back, I decide to go it alone for a while, as I felt Sonny and I had played as far as we could go. I retained the name Alleygators and start playing as a trio with Dave ‘Snakebone’ Martin on bass and Ben Makinen, or Eugene Smith on drums.
The call comes in for another trip to Holland, so I take Washboard Chaz with me as a duo; we have a lot of fun. This becomes the most enjoyable trip of them all, even more so than the next one, which I play with Steve, an American living in Holland - who sets up a couple of nice additional band gigs on my fourth and final trip in Dec 1997.
I had again gotten myself involved with another girlfriend/woman, Julie Reynolds, later she would take me for thousands of dollars in the common law wife trap that I unwittingly let happen to me.
I start to record again and book four hours at Steve Weist’s studio, with Ben Makinen on percussion. We had been doing some duo gigs and it sounded good; I wanted to capture what we had.
We set up facing each other and the tape rolled; four hours later we had more than enough tunes - all done live on my acoustic with live vocals, no overdubs except for Steve’s trumpet on one track. Next day we mix it in another four hours. It comes out on a limited edition cassette, and is the best thing I have ever done. It is now available as O’ Brother I’m Here on CD and I can’t give em’ away! This is a strange business.
Two cool things happened over the 96/97 period; an Alleygators line–up opened for John Mayall at the Boulder Theatre and a hastily assembled 4 piece wowed the crowd at the Ogden Theatre in Denver as we opened for Los Lobos ...quite a memorable night. We got paid $75 for all of us on this one! Round about this time, Steve Weist moves his studio into bigger premises; more recording, a solo CD this time - Take Out Your False Teeth Mama had a Folksy Americana/acoustic flavour to it and had special guests Mary Flower(dobro) and Charlie Provenza (mandolin), among others. I played kick drum one-man-band style on a few tracks and overall it comes out pretty good. While in the middle of the sessions my old pal Ric Adams from Grand Slam and my Muswell Hill London days in UK calls me, and says he’s coming over for a holiday. I said ‘fine, .you can mix my album!
A couple of the tracks on the CD are in the swing mode; The Neo Swing Scene literally explodes within the next few months. I see a musical similarity to the old Red Hot Blues Band and hastily assemble The Swingtet. I assume the name Mr David Booker And The Swingtet to give it a more old timey/George Melly feel and the gigs start pouring in. The trend leans to having a swing wedding and we become the darlings of the wedding AND club circuit . I enter into one of the most productive and busiest periods of my career thus far.
The band is decked out permanently in vintage zoot suit style gear and life is good; we play a concert with the Woody Herman Alumni Orchestra in downtown Denver, and the Blues And Bones Festival in Denver 2 years in a row, we record a live CD at Trios Enoteca on the Colorado Sound Mobile in 1998.
Cowtown Jive is released in mono after a really bad stereo mix down by the Colorado Sound people, overall not a bad CD, though now long out of print!
The Swingtet start gigging all over the place, almost like the old Red Hot Blues Band/Flames days we open at the Fox Theater in Boulder for the New Morty Show; a name act from the West Coast.
9th Avenue West is a trendy swing club, and we are featured there often.
I buy a tenor sax and start playing sax again on a couple of tunes, during each set with the other sax man. Due to work being so plentiful I find I have a budget to start advertising in glossy wedding magazines, like Modern Bride, which brings in more business.
Suddenly the infamous and fabulous 9th Ave West closes and re–opens as a Salsa disco but the trend shows no sign of slowing down, especially on the wedding and corporate scene. There are one or two setbacks; Snakebone Martin proves totally unreliable due to a drug habit, and I decide to play bass and pare down to a 4 piece. - tenor sax, piano, bass (me) and drums; we record a neat little CD called Now Booking.
I manage to play guitar on three cuts, and we release it. I start playing upright bass and doubling on bass guitar, but a lot of folks tell me to go back on guitar.The sax player was drinking so heavily that he could not play the heads, so I find another upright player and get back on guitar again.
My main income now is corporate stuff and weddings and my life with the aforementioned Julie Reynolds is not working out.
I had made the bad decision to let her move in my house with her teenage daughters and it was not a happy arrangement after a couple of years; I felt I had to get her out of my life. Our lifestyle includes us not talking for up to 20 days at a time and it is a tough existence.
About this time I meet a swing dancer, Danielle, and it is obvious we are both having experiences with the wrong partners. After getting to know her just a little bit, I fall madly for this beautiful woman. I finally get down to the nitty gritty with the Reynolds and, of course, it is deemed I am in a common law marriage situation according to Colorado Law. I had never heard of this, do we have this in England? In order to get this over with, I had to cough up the dough, $27,500 (plus $10, 000 for a lawyer ) and pay up as if we had been really married, though not before a couple of days in jail (me) and lots of lying (her) to the Police, plus at least two temporary restraining orders against me going into my own house. That’s American justice folks!
It was a bitter blow, especially as she had asked me to let HER move in my house with HER kids as HER landlord was doubling HER rent. Boy have we heard that one before or what! But this was not the last time I was to be taken for a sap; read on.
The swing scene at this time was getting quieter, although the Mercury Café in Denver - a bastion of freedom of expression, art, poetry, and music - was still doing two nights a week of swing with a DJ on Tuesdays and live bands on Sundays (thankfully I’m still on the roster in 2007). I watched closely as the swing trend declined and I decided it was time to do more variety stuff again, along with the swing stuff , and this proved to be a good move.
The World was shaken by the attack on the New York Twin Towers and since then the whole scene has been affected. Gone are the big budget weddings and the corporate scene for me is non-existent right now.
I am back in the clubs and restaurant scene again doing solo, duo and trio gigs; occasionally there is a budget for a 4 piece , but it is definitely a mix and match situation with personnel these days.
Without getting too political, a six year war in Iraq has not helped the nation’s economy and while we continue this expensive Government decision , the arts and music are suffering.
Danielle and I had our first daughter Athena 6 years ago and our second, Jasmine, 4 years ago. We have been married for 6 years as of 2007 and been together for almost 8 years. Like I said I was hoping that this would be a ‘They Lived Happily Ever’ after ending but not for David Bowker. Like I previously mentioned, I have been taken for a sap once again.
Thank God for my ability to improvise both in music and in life.
- David Bowker and Jeff Michel David Bowker and Jeff Michel
- David David
- David David
- David David
- David David
- David David
- David David
- David David
- The Seychelles The Seychelles
- David David
- Capt's Red Hot Blues Band Capt's Red Hot Blues Band
- Capt's Red Hot Blues Band Capt's Red Hot Blues Band
- Chicago 2012 Chicago 2012
- Chicago 2012 - jamming with my pal Billy Branch at Rosas Lounge Chicago 2012 - jamming with my pal Billy Branch at Rosas Lounge
- David David
- Newspaper article Newspaper article
- Georgetown and Idaho Springs 2012 Georgetown and Idaho Springs 2012
- David David
- Big City Blues demo Big City Blues demo
- Allegators first CD Allegators first CD
- Alleygators Alleygators
- David and his band backed Bo Diddley many times in Denver area in 85, 86. David and his band backed Bo Diddley many times in Denver area in 85, 86.
- In this shot, Bo Diddley and myself were clowning by some leftovers in the restaurant. Me and Bo were concentrating on drinking that night. His fave drink was Grand Marnier - until he got diabetes! In this shot, Bo Diddley and myself were clowning by some leftovers in the restaurant. Me and Bo were concentrating on drinking that night. His fave drink was Grand Marnier - until he got diabetes!
- Booker Band Booker Band
- Visiting Buddy .. Passing thru Lubbock Texas with Jeff (my duo partner) 1981.about 6am in the morning .. We drove a lot back then ! Visiting Buddy .. Passing thru Lubbock Texas with Jeff (my duo partner) 1981.about 6am in the morning .. We drove a lot back then !
- The Captin The Captin
- Capt's Red Hot Blues Band Capt's Red Hot Blues Band
- Title Title
- All acoustic .. has some great stuff Blow Me (a Kiss ) and Please Warm My Weiner are but two of the tunes from this splendid acoustic collection. All acoustic .. has some great stuff Blow Me (a Kiss ) and Please Warm My Weiner are but two of the tunes from this splendid acoustic collection.
- The Dynatones The Dynatones
- Dorris Henderson and Eclection. Dorris Henderson and Eclection.
- Wilmslow, Cheshire where I grew up from age 11 to the time I left for Beirut, age 21, in 1968. Wilmslow, Cheshire where I grew up from age 11 to the time I left for Beirut, age 21, in 1968.
- CD cover CD cover
- Kenny Kenny
- All dressed up for the USA All dressed up for the USA
- Denton Central School Shot age 6 1953/54. Denton Central School Shot age 6 1953/54.
- When I left Kirk, with Pete Marsh to play Barbarellas they got the DJ at the club to play bass. It's Tony Coe - he was a roadie with Geno Washington and a London club DJ When I left Kirk, with Pete Marsh to play Barbarellas they got the DJ at the club to play bass. It's Tony Coe - he was a roadie with Geno Washington and a London club DJ
- Limey Limey
- Limey album Limey album
- When I was about 8, I heard Lonnie Donegan doing Rock Island Line on the radio and then Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel. It must have been 1955 or 56. When I was about 8, I heard Lonnie Donegan doing Rock Island Line on the radio and then Elvis' Heartbreak Hotel. It must have been 1955 or 56.
- Title Title
- Mum and Dad (in his Cricket blazer!) while they were still courting in the mid '30s Mum and Dad (in his Cricket blazer!) while they were still courting in the mid '30s
- Title Title
- Title Title
- Payday - A HOT Country rock trio with spot -on 3 part harmonies Payday - A HOT Country rock trio with spot -on 3 part harmonies
- Title Title
- David David
- David David
- David David
- A recent shot (with my LH Burns!). A recent shot (with my LH Burns!).
- The Regulars The Regulars
- First with Gin House, then onto Richard Kent Style on sax .this pic taken outside Regal Ballroon Alderley Edge. First with Gin House, then onto Richard Kent Style on sax .this pic taken outside Regal Ballroon Alderley Edge.
- Taken out back of band house Freeport Bahamas 1969 . Taken out back of band house Freeport Bahamas 1969 .
- Swampfox Swampfox
- David David
- Terraplane. with Tony TS McPhee Terraplane. with Tony TS McPhee
- David David