|23.03.01 e-mail from email@example.com|
Barry Smale here, Ex Boll-Weevils and Bo -Weevils Bass Guitarist 1963-65 (not 64).
Just found your Web site, its fascinating, how in earth did you remember all that information.
I actually started to scan the Internet looking for information on the Coventry Sounds of the Sixty's, after my Son-in-Law, who currently plays in a Rock/Punk/Pop group?, mentioned a article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph called "Rations to Passions". Saturday, March 17, 2001. He suggested, I write to Nick Maddocks at Testimony Films (e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org) on the 60's music scene in Coventry, as I seem to have some very fond memories of being part of that scene.
I did speak to you at a gig you did at the Hope and Anchor some 2 years ago, but you did seem to be a little spaced out at the time, so I bet you will not recall it.
Reading your Web page which brought back memories of my brief but enjoyable part in the music scene, of old friends and some of the experiences of life at that time
Here as some memories I have of our musical experience together
I started my original interest in playing the guitar, when I went to Cardinal Wiseman School, were I and two other school chums (brother's called Peter and Graham ?) formed a trio, which played mostly Cliff Richard and The Shadows music of the time.
We played a few gigs at Church Youth Clubs, and at one of these I met, through a friend called Dennis Morgan (ex Henry VIII Grammar School friend of yours?) Steve Bentham and Joe Craner.
Steve as you described him in your Web page, was a big lad, long sideboards, a gently giant with a heart of gold. Joe, a skinny lad with a big nose, a bit like a young Ringo Starr.
I think they were impressed that I played in a group, which actually played gigs in front of audiences, although the music was a bit naff. After some discussion, they asked if I would consider joining the band they were forming, which would play some Rhythm and Blues music, which was more to my liking.
I recall we started to practice in each others homes, but, as parents do, they started to complain when they couldn't hear their Black and White Television sets, which were showing shows such as Double your Money or Take Your Pick
Steve and Joe came up with a solution, they knew a kid at their school who was keen to join the band, and who's parents would allow us to use their garage to practice in. So, along came Andy (Andrew) Williams (not the American singer), who's father I believe was the assistant Provost of Coventry at the time, no less.
We needed a name for the band and for some reason we came up with Orthus and the Underworlds, were we got that I have no idea and who Orthus was in the band I haven't a clue. So the line up was Steve Bentham - lead guitar, Joe (John) Craner - drums, Andy (Andrew) Williams - rhythm guitar, and myself, Barry Smale - bass guitar.
We had our first gig at the Holy Family Youth Club in Holbrooks, we must of impressed (or was it because we didn't ask for any money??) because we were asked to appear again. We gained a few female fans, who became girl friends, who attended the Odd Fellows Club in Little Parks Street, who got us our next gig at this venue. From here we appeared in the Coventry Carnival, on a float for the Odd Fellows Society, with the theme of Orthus and the Underworlds, with our girl friends and my future wife Brenda Payne, dressed up as devils, how's that for showbiz?
Steve, Joe, along with Dennis Morgan and Graham Allsop started to introduce me to a new set of people, (why were they all from Henry VIII Grammar School?) who were not only going to become friends and follow the band, but also influence the future musical path that this band would be following, Colin Towe, Dave Taylor, the infamous Fred Liggins and of course yourself, Tim James.
I do not recall exactly where or when we first met, but I do remember being around Joe's flat above his Mum and Dad's off-licence in Willenhall, with our girlfriends and Joe putting a record on called "Countryline Special" by Cyril Davis, which totally knocked me out (or it could of been the free booze from the offey). I loved its upbeat tempo and especially the harmonica lead, Joe informed me that he knew a guy who could play this track, sing a little blues and who also had his own harmonica and PA equipment. Enter Tim James.
I recall we used to practice in the Willenhall Community Church Hall, a matter of yards from Joe's place, the Vicar didn't charge for its use in return for us playing at the Youth Club. By this time we had lost the services of Andy (Andrew) Williams, who wasn't happy with the style of music we were heading for, plus he fell out with Steve, Joe and myself on his ability to play a guitar.
If you recall, bands like the Stones, Beatles Kinks, Pretty Things etc, started to do cover versions of Blues artist in the States on their albums, which started to make people sit up and listen. With your introduction into the band, our music range started to expand, and have a more Blues'y feel to it. A change of name was required to go along with that change of image, The Boll Weevils were born with the line up of Steve Bentham - lead guitar, Joe (John) Craner - drums, Barry Smale - bass guitar and Tim James lead singer and harmonica player.
I recall with interest the list of early venues that the Boll Weevils played in your page, and think you may of missed out one or two, I recall playing at a Irish Club called The Finbarrs in Stoney Stanton Road were we had several request for "Danny Boy" along with shouts of "who the hell is Rufas Thomas and his dog anyway". I believe we also played a venue in Birmingham called the Rum Runner which was also to become a future prestige venue.
It was about this time when Colin Towe and Dave Taylor decided that we, needed them, to be our managers. They informed us that they had studied the USA and London scene's and decided that we needed to introduce some brass to increase and expand our repertoire for the increasingly popular Soul Sounds. Enter the infamous Fred Liggins.
Fred, I recall was a Insurance salesman based in an office on Ball Hill, never did see him sell any insurance, but it was a good venue to discuss our music and the next gigs over a free cup of tea. Yes, I also recall very well, the "Van", which was possibly on the most expensive never never deal in history of HP.
The Line for the Boll Weevils now Steve Bentham - lead guitar, Joe (John) Craner - drums, Barry Smale - bass guitar, Tim James lead singer and harmonica player, Fred Liggins - Saxophone.
Musically we now had a mixture of Raw Blues, R&B and Soul and we had quite a following, which started to get us more gigs. I recall on many occasion you would improvise, the middle section of a particular number you disliked, with your own interpretation of how it should sound. Much to the disapproval of our co-managers Colin Towe and Dave Taylor.
Reading your recollection on our many gigs at the Hotel Leofric, the one I remember well is when we played support to The Steam Packet. This was a super group of the time, made up of the lovely Julie Driscoll, Long John Baldrey, Elton John, Rod Stewart and The Brian Auger Trinity, what a line up. As we were playing with one of our hero's at the time, Mr Long John Baldrey, we did for our last number before they came on, a version of his Hoochie Coochie Man. When he came on to the stage he made some very sarcastic remarks about our version, and opened up with his own. At the end of the number the audience sat in silence, no one clapped, Mr Baldrey had died a death with a audience who had become very partisan to the Boll-Weevils.
One of my own most memorable musical moment's, had to be when we played one of our many gigs at the Marquee/Whiskey Go Go in Birmingham, playing support to The Graham Bond Organisation. Jack Bruce failed to appear for their first session and I was asked to stand in for him. Very nervous of the prospect of playing with these idols of mine, and worried about making a complete fool of myself, Ginger Baker, after injecting himself with some clear fluid (I wonder what that was?), growled at me "Its simple 12 bar blues man, just pluck (I think that's what he said) the thing". I must of got through the session Ok, because Graham Bond stood us all a round of drinks. I am still not quite sure how the rest of you came to benefit out of it, but at the time I didn't care, I was still shaking from the experience.
It was around this time when we started to have changes not only in our line-ups, but in name as well. Joe (John) Craner was the first to go, replaced by Kevin Dempsey, followed by Steve Bentham replaced by Roy Butterfield and the introduction of Greg Taylor. I was very unhappy losing my two good friends and the driving force of the original members of the band, and made my feelings known of this at the time, but Colin Towe and Dave Taylor had decided that the band needed to be tighter musically with a more American Soul Band look about it.
I stayed on for a few months more, playing gigs under our new line up and name, until we started having problems with our lead guitarist. First, Roy Butterfield, not happy with our type of music, kept missing rehearsals (and a gig if I remember correctly). His replacement, who's name I can't recall, started to criticising numbers and style in which we played, and this lead to more arguments. I left around the middle of 1965, after a row with Dave Taylor, who we would never see from week to week, but always seemed to have idea's on how the band should sound, and who should be in or out.
I carried on playing with various bands more or less as a session player, but mainly with a group called The Fifth Dimension. This was a group made up of various members of other bands from around the Coventry/Birmingham areas who came together to play one off gigs. The music was across the board, with R&B and Rock, I didn't sell my soul to the Pop scene. The majority of this work was in the Birmingham/Luton/Northampton areas and was the most profitable time I had as a musician.
I finished playing around early 1966, the year I settled down with Brenda Payne and asked her to become Mrs Smale. We are still together, with three children (two girls and a boy), who have made us into Grandparents four times too date, not quite the hundreds you stated.
I still enjoy Blues and Soul music, and have enjoyed a regular attendance in August each year, to Colne near Blackburn, for the British Rhythm and Blues festival which is held each year. I have likened a John Crampton, to you on many occasion, as he has a very similar style of music, and plays a mean Horn.
Well Tim I started to just put a little note together after discovering your Web Page and its now turned into a novel, sorry about that, but I hope you enjoyed the memories as much as I have.
Let me know when and where your next gig is, I enjoyed your session at the Hope and Anchor (which is closed now I understand) and would love to hear you play again.
Have you heard any whereabouts of Steve Bentham? I bumped into him some 10 to 12 years ago at a Coventry City game, and he gave me a lift home. He told me he had a small holding with Pigs, which he transported around in the car he was now driving, I checked my pants after he dropped me off.
What about Joe (John) Craner where is he now?
Have you any knowledge of Dennis Morgan?
Graham Allsop emigrated to New Zealand some 20 years ago.
Any one else?