Was music in the family ? The music thing probably started long before I was born. Both parents served in the R.A.F. and shared a musical interest in big band music like Glenn Miller. After the war my father left the R.A.F and started playing drums at various places around Sunderland. Farringdon social club committee said go and choose a kit at Saville’s music shop. So off he went and ordered a brand new Premier drum kit.
He never read music and just played by ear and when one act turned up, Dorothy Squires, she gave him some dots to follow. He said I don’t follow sheet music, she nearly passed out and said my reputation is at stake here. At the end of the evening Dorothy came over and said You’re one of the best drummers I have ever played with and I’ve played with quite a few.
In 1967 a little known guy by the name of Gerry Dorsey came to the club with no money and said to my dad I have a single coming out next week and if it doesn’t make it I’m packing in. My dad felt sorry for him, bought him a pint and said best of luck for the future. Gerry Dorsey changed his name to Engelbert Humperdinck and his single Release Me went to number one, the rest is history.
Who were your influences ? Growing up we always had music in our home The Beatles, Cliff Richard and the Mersey Sound were big players on the Dansette. At the age of 10 I asked for a guitar for Christmas but found it difficult to play so my brother took hold of it and quickly picked it up. He started singing and playing along to folk music like The Spinners, The Dubliners and old sea shanties on vinyl.
As he came in from work he would go straight upstairs practising guitar until his hands froze, literally, as we didn’t have central heating just a coal fire so the ice formed on the inside of the windows.
Shortly after leaving school at 14 I was travelling to my first job and a song came on the radio. I said Turn that up it was totally different to what I’d heard before. It was All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix.
I developed a liking for drums and started playing along to tracks by Free and Led Zeppelin. I would take the record player into the coal shed and play on my dad’s old kit. As I became more confident I would take the kit into the house and played along with my brother on guitar, what a noise!
When did you first join a band ? After going to the The Bay Hotel and Locarno Club in Sunderland we met people who had the same interests. It was 1971 and were ready to rock. We just needed extra equipment to play with. We got an old Rediffusion speaker and an old amp off the guy over the road. Then an unexpected thing happened, my dad had a heart attack and his job at Sunderland Catholic Club was in jeopardy. So I stood in for him playing with the resident organist, what an eye-opener.
But it helped me to become more disciplined as a drummer. I formed a band called The Virgins with my brother John, Rob Walker from Herrington and Ken Vardy from Sunderland. Soon after Rob went to London to seek fame and fortune and Ken went on to form another band. We went to the local music shops meeting people and finding out who’s who in the area. We met two guy’s from the Redhouse area of Sunderland, Dave Taggart and Tony McAnnaney. They were looking to start a band but unfortunately nothing transpired. My brother and I eventually formed Northern Rock Band with local musicians Mick Thompson, Ev Colgan and Barry Cameron.
During this time we had been going to see bands like Zeppelin, Free, Purple, Sabbath, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd playing at venues in the North East like The Mecca in Sunderland, Newcastle City Hall and Newcastle Mayfair.
Where was your first gig ? The Londonderry pub in Sunderland. NRB had been rehearsing for 3 months and people were waiting in anticipation to see what we were like. A full house on a Saturday night, a fee of £10… this was the big time. The lights were dimmed and with all our energy and enthusiasm we let the music flow. My brother John took on lead vocals and bass. What a night, I remember coming off stage absolutely sweating but really pleased to have played our first live gig.
We went on to play a few more gigs around the North East playing our own songs and covers. We even got a support with Fusion Orchestra who were an up and coming rock band. We went to record a demo in Multichord Studios run by Ken McKenzie in Sunderland around ‘72. Things were really moving for this band. Now when I listen back to the recordings I cringe.
What other musicians and bands were around then ? In 1973 a guitarist called Les Dodd came knocking on my door and asked if I would like to join the band he was in. Glider was a working band which meant regular work and extra money. I went for the audition, got the job and the work just kept on coming. Eventually the bass player left and my brother was drafted in. We played quite a few workingmen’s clubs doing covers by David Bowie, Taste, Free and The Doobies.
Playing in clubs was good to learn what you wanted to do in music and get experience playing week in week out in front of a live audience…notice the word live as some of the crowd were half dead. We even got to support The Bay City Rollers at The Viking in Seahouses, Northumberland. But you know how bands are, we eventually split up.
What year was this ? It was 1975 and we formed a band called Stampede with Cliff Stoddart, Steve Reay and Steve Daggett, who went on to play with Lindisfarne. This band did the same as Glider, playing clubs around the North East. One night on our rare night off from playing we went to a club in Washington, Tyne and Wear to see a band, they were called Southbound. We thought they were reasonable but little did I know that in a few months time I would be auditioning for them.
What happened with Stampede ? They folded in ‘76 and I got the job with Southbound soon after. At the audition I was asked to play along to one of their own songs, High Time, which was a real good song and I thought if they could write songs like this I would like to be in. I passed the audition and started rehearsing straight away. They were already established so immediately we were playing 3 to 4 gig’s a week.
My brother went on to form a band with some guy’s from Sunderland called the JPM band. A guy called Mark Taylor was in them, he eventually went on to play with Simple Minds. Southbound line up was me on drums, Alan Burke on lead guitar/vocals, Malcolm Troughton lead vocals, George Lamb lead guitar/vocals, and Davey Giles bass guitar.
What venues did Southbound play ? Southbound played North East workingmen’s clubs but their real intention was to write and perform their own songs then make a push to recording them. They began to explore and develop their songs which were starting to come thick and fast.
We tried hard to get as much work as possible with the help of agents such as Birchall Entertainments Agency in Newcastle. We also had the chance of playing the pub rock circuit in Newcastle with other bands in the area. Summer ‘77 we won The Melody Maker Folk/Rock competition at Durham and a festival that was becoming popular was Dome Fest in Durham which we played several times.
It was becoming very vibrant as the music scene was developing quickly not only up here but the rest of the country.
What other bands were around ? White Heat, Sabre Jets, Neon, The Pirhana Brothers, Arbre, Punishment of Luxury, The Squad, Oasis and many more were making things happen for themselves. This was an exciting time for any band playing, the buzz was real.
Did you appear on tv or radio ? Southbound were becoming very popular and after taking over the residency from Last Exit and East Coast at The Gosforth Hotel in 1977 word soon got around to the guy’s from Newcastle Radio. The chance also came to record a track, High Time, for the Bedrock album All Together. This was to be recorded at Impulse studio in Wallsend.
The studio was owned by a chap called Dave Wood and the engineer was Mick Sweeney. Some of the bands who featured on the Bedrock album were Kip, Sidekick, Young Bucks, Hot Snax, East Coast and Junco Partners.
What was your experience of recording ? We recorded some songs at Impulse Studio’s in Wallsend with the help of producer Steve Thompson and engineer Mick Sweeney. We done several tracks to send to record companies also arranged to go to London, appointments had been made to approach Virgin, Rocket, A&M, Decca, Island, WEA and others. We thought that someone must take a liking to us.
I remember going into one record company’s office and I Feel Love by Donna Summer was playing and another office was playing Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello. This doesn’t sound like us as we were playing AOR music. After days of stumbling around the streets of London we headed home with hope that someone might pick up on what we left them.
When we got back to the North East we were offered an interview on Radio Newcastle. I went with Malcolm Troughton to Archbold Terrace in Newcastle to do the interview which was filled with jabs about New Wave/Punk taking over from normal rock music. I must have had blinkers on because we were in the middle of a musical revolution that was sweeping across the country. Our music was becoming old hat and as one record company said…You’re 2 years out.
Did the band feel maybe time’s up ? No we decided to keep going regardless as AOR was still going strong with bands like Foreigner, Doobies, Eagles and Lynyrd Skynryd.
Some band members were showing concerns about the lead singer so we looked at adding another vocalist to the group, a guy called Bill Sharpe from Sidekick. We even acquired a lighting guy by the name of Kev Cain from South Shields who had been working with other local bands in the area. Kev stayed with us for quite a while before establishing himself as a professional lighting engineer and today touring with many well known artists. He’s built a good reputation in the entertainment business. Check out his work portfolio http://www.kclighting.co.uk/
Were the band still playing around the North East ? Yes, this line up lasted a few months and Southbound went from a 6 piece to a 4 piece band with Malcolm Troughton and Bill Sharpe leaving. Bill Sharpe went on to become a really great blues and harp player and Malcolm Troughton went on to perform with different bands around the North East.
Auditions were held in Sunderland for a new singer but after hearing from over 30 singers it was decided that the singing would be covered by George Lamb and Alan Burke. The band felt a new resurgence and with new songs tailored to suit Alan and George’s vocal style, things felt more compact. The work didn’t stop in fact it increased as we started to feel confident and happy with the set up that we had.
We continued to have some great support gig’s with Babe Ruth, Tygers of Pan Tang, Raven, The Junco’s and many more. With headline gigs such as The Mayfair in Newcastle and University gig’s, these helped raise the profile of the band. We decided to go back into the studio and again contacted Steve Thompson to see if he could help with three tracks which we felt were really strong songs. George Lamb and Alan Burke were finding new idea’s for songs and their confidence was obvious with songs like Keep on Winding, Pretty Girl and Don’t Deny Me Your Love.
Did you plan to send the new songs to record companies ? When the songs were finished we decided to approach some record companies and push our style of music. Now that new wave/punk was starting to settle we felt that all kinds of music was now being listened to and accepted. More live work came in and this time we contacted numerous record companies to come and see the band live.
A chance turned up in the form of Brian Oliver, an A&R guy from State Records. He showed some interest in one of our tapes so he arranged to come and see one of our gigs at The Gosforth Hotel and gave us some positive feedback.
It was about this time that Neon Records got involved with Southbound and it was through Steve Thompson a suggestion came up for us to maybe have a go at one of his songs which was co-written with Gary Maughan.
This was shelved as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands were coming through the studio and the attention was switched. Unfortunately interest from State Records and Neon Records faded but we kept on pushing our songs. We had lots of replies from other record companies with comments like …We have to pass on this…or Our label has its full quota of artists. It was very frustrating.
Was this the end for Southbound ? In 1983 I left the band as I was feeling a bit despondent as the direction had changed. But before I left we entered a Battle of the Bands competition run by RCA held at The Mayfair in Newcastle. Another well known band from the North East was in the competition, The Eastside Torpedoes, so we thought we had no chance, but somehow we won.
We had lots of regular live work including our residency, but we somehow drifted and ended up doing covers more than original material. We enlisted another singer from a band called Big Picture. He was a good singer but we ended up playing songs from his old band. Southbound folded about a year after I left. I went on to play with several local bands. One was B15 whose members included Bob Andrews from Raw Spirit and ex-Burlesque guitarist/sax player Eddie Martin.
What does music mean to you and what has it given you ? Music still carries within my family. All of my children have played an instrument at some time or other. From trumpets to violins, saxophones, guitars, piano and flute. One of my boys, went on to play with Richard John Thompson (RJT band) from the North East, who has supported Midge Ure and Jules Holland.
My daughter Rachel recorded some songs of her own. She plays guitar, piano, saxophone and sings. Listening to my family play has given me lots of enjoyment. If they can, I think every family should give their child a chance to play an instrument.
As you get older your music tastes tend to vary a lot more. Having said that I still find myself listening to some old West Coast music, Pink Floyd and other prog rock. I also have some old Southbound stuff recorded from times gone by.
Music has given me enjoyment of playing drums for years, and still have the kit bought in ‘73, a Pearl export with Paiste and Zildjian cymbals.
Interview by Gary Alikivi March 2019.
East Side Torpedoes 10th March 2019
Nod the Geordie Poet 7th March 2019
Toby Twirl 4th March 2019
Fist 1st March 2019
Dave Ditchburn 1st February 2018
Bob Smeaton 5th November 2018
Dave Taggart 15th April 2018
Beckett 9th April 2018