BOYS IN THE BANDS with writer Chris Scott Wilson

Chris Scott Wilson

Yorkshire born Chris has authored eleven books, collaborated on two others, contributed to newspapers and magazines and written promotional material for local and international musicians.

Two of his books highlighted here are Boys in the Bands: Teesside’s Groups 1960-70 and Backstage Pass: Redcar Jazz Club.

“I felt those 1960s needed to be documented, the musical history needs preserving because once it’s gone, it’ll be lost forever” said Chris.

Saltburn born International rock star David Coverdale (Deep Purple/Whitesnake) added…

“Christopher Wilson has written and collated a genuinely touching and refreshing stroll down Memory Lane with this fabulous book. It opens so many joy filled memories of evenings spent in the breath taking company of the original Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Joe Cocker… many of whom I had the extraordinary pleasure of opening for when I was in local bands. A must have and a must read”.  

What inspired you to research and put the books together ?

After writing five westerns, five local history books and a couple of historical fiction books, I wrote a piece about the band Cream in response to a request from an Australian website called Those Were The Days.

Also, two photographers who had covered Redcar Jazz Club were interested, one of them, Dennis Weller, read my piece on Cream and contacted me and proposed working together.

My initial interest in the Redcar Jazz club was ignited one night in 1966 when I sneaked in to watch a band I’d never heard of, they were billed as The Cream. That night changed my life.

I’d seen many acts at the Jazz Club so I set out to create a book I wanted to read, incorporating the club’s story, a full timeline of dates, what the headliners and support acts got paid, photographs, vignettes of the artists and ticket buyers – as many quotes as I could get.

For the designer I had a few ideas about layout and mocked up a few pages to help explain what sort of format we wanted. It was very primitive, I was flying by the seat of my pants. Eventually it was pasted up for the printer and became Backstage Pass : Redcar Jazz Club.

After publication, a big surprise was an unsolicited email out of the blue from Ed Bicknell who managed Dire Straits, Gerry Rafferty, Bryan Ferry and Scott Walker among others, and his email was headed FOREWORD (for the next edition). That in itself was proof he liked the book enough to have his name on it.

In Boys in the Band I look at the 1960’s where many pubs and workingmen’s clubs provided venues for bands who played most nights, a day off was a luxury. Most musicians were content in earning an extra few quid on their day job and having a laugh – others were more ambitious wanting to take it further. But they all started on Teesside honing their musical chops.

Chris drew on his experience as a drummer in the 1960s playing for local bands…

Yes I started playing drums in a band at school then switched to guitar, but after seeing Hendrix live at the Kirklevington Country Club and Cream twice I went back to playing drums and The Wheel played all over Teesside and North Yorkshire and as far south as Birmingham, we also played Annabel’s in Sunderland, the Quay Club in Newcastle and up to Ashington.

Late 60s early 70s I was in Candy Factory a professional club band who played workingmen’s clubs, including the infamous Downhill Social in Sunderland. Also the Bailey nightclub circuit including Change Is and La Dolce Vita in Newcastle, Latinos in South Shields and Wetherells in Sunderland when John Miles and Toby Twirl were on the circuit. We were offered work in South Africa and France but it didn’t feel right.

With a couple of line-up changes Candy Factory morphed into Pretty Like Me with a less friendly club repertoire and we were working from the Mayfair in Newcastle down to London, and picking up university gigs. But the mid-week gig staples were always those kids’ nights in the County Durham clubs when you could play heavy stuff. The mantra there was always, “Can you play The ‘unter or Born To be Wild?” Didn’t matter what else we played, we always played those.

Did you record any of your songs ?

We did cut a couple of demos of self-penned material. First was in a studio in a basement in Newcastle and another in Redcar, but we weren’t satisfied with them. They never seemed to capture what we thought we had. No cassettes then or CDs to bombard A&R guys with, we got a few expensive acetates which all seem to have disappeared now.

When the band later imploded I had to get a ‘proper job’ and working shifts in heavy industry, albeit mostly in laboratories, not conducive to a musical lifestyle. With not playing I needed a creative output and started writing, short stories at first, then books.

Where you surprised about the feedback for Backstage Pass and Boys in the Bands ?

I worried how many people were interested enough to buy a copy of Backstage Pass. In fact I was astonished at how well received it was. There is something to be said for timing, maybe we hit the right moment – after seven years it’s still selling.

It was launched at Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum and the photographers – Dennis Weller, Graham Lowe and I did signing sessions at bookshops. That book had been built around the photographs, which were extraordinary, but there were no images of the support bands except one, who had been personal friends of Graham. I insisted on including a few pages explaining who the support acts were and including them on the gig timeline.

After Backstage Pass was published, several local musicians hinted there had never been anything produced specifically about them, and although many of them had settled for a steady working lifestyle, their playing years, often only a handful, had been a big part of their lives – a big adventure.

I felt exactly like them. I had told stories of how it was – both the good and the bad, and the more I thought about it, more memories came back. I wanted to kick-start their memories too. Since Boys In The Bands has been released…well the comments from local musicians on my website reveal what they thought of it.

What are you working on now ?

I’m putting together a book about the Redcar Coatham Bowl which was open 1973 – 2014. Information and gig records are patchy, especially support bands, I think it’s important to include local musicians who worked just as hard as the headliners, and for a lot less.

At present I’m trying to confirm dates – and as a support bands’ name get mentioned I’m trying to contact them to confirm they played, and if they played other dates in the Bowl as yet unrecorded. This becomes especially difficult when bands are long disbanded and don’t maintain social media pages or websites.

If you have any information that will help Chris in his research or would like to buy his books contact him at his official website: http://www.chrisscottwilson.co.uk

Alikivi    June 2022

SUNDERLAND MUSIC with Ray Dobson & Trevor Thorne

Ray Dobson & Trevor Thorne with their book ‘Music in Sunderland’. (Alikivi collection May 2022)

“Don Airey was in my year at Bede Grammar school and each year there was a concert with the highlight being a band playing pop songs. I remember being impressed with Don playing the school organ on ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Little did we know he would go on to play with Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Black Sabbath while also playing on over 300 albums” said Trevor.

An excerpt taken from a book produced in Sunderland by retired teacher Ray Dobson and semi-retired accountant Trevor Thorne. Ray also brought his background as a local music photographer while Trevor has written several local history books.

They hit on a method of working with one taking the lead on a subject and the other chipping in with their own knowledge of different genres from skiffle to rock to punk and bringing it up to date with Sunderland bands Field Music, The Futureheads and The Lake Poets.

Geoff Docherty with his book ‘A Promoters Tale’.

The book also highlights the work of Geoff Docherty “Geoff’s forthright and honest manner endeared him to his audiences and the performers. He is today, remembered for his huge contribution to the musical culture of the North East”.

Ray added “Geoff is primarily known as the most successful rock music promoter in the North East. He was determined to bring quality live music to the area and his first venue was the Bay Hotel in Sunderland where he began by booking Family for the huge fee of £150”.

”The gig was a success and was followed the next week by an unknown band called Free – Geoff remembers people arriving under the illusion that they wouldn’t have to pay an entry fee”.

The Who at the Locarno 1969.

The Bay continued to attract huge stars including Pink Floyd, Tyrannosaurus Rex and The Who. In 1969 Docherty moved to a larger venue and a who’s who of legendary rock bands such as Mott the Hoople, The Kinks and Bowie followed.

“Perhaps Geoff’s greatest achievement was to bring one of the world’s top bands to town. He used his powers of persuasion to talk the rather daunting Peter Grant (manager) around to allow Led Zeppelin to perform at the venue, but on the eve of the event he was told the band would not be coming”.

“This only served to increase his determination and after numerous attempts to impress on Grant that he owed him a gig, it was eventually agreed he could have Zeppelin – twice”.

“Geoff also had a secondary career in band management. The best known of which was Beckett which included Terry Slesser – who later formed Back Street Crawler along with Paul Kossoff. Kossoff even lived with Geoff, under his care, while recovering from addiction”.

“Beckett performed on the Old Grey Whistle Test and had an acclaimed, though not commercially successful album, to their name. Unfortunately, they parted ways on the eve of an American tour and the chance of stardom faded away”.

Trevor added “One of the most intriguing bands we came across was Juice. From posters and online information, they seemed to be everywhere. The band supported Pink Floyd, Free, Blondie, Deep Purple, The Faces, Terry Reid, and Black Sabbath as well as many others. We eventually tracked down the drummer Kelly Davis, who had a fund of tales to tell”.

“It seems they were the go-to support band during the 1970s. Kelly was particularly complimentary about Ian Paice, the Deep Purple sticksman. While they were waiting for their gig to start, Paice went through the drumming routine for ‘Black Night’ with Kelly, taking up an hour and a half of his time to pass on tips on that and other songs. In 2011 Juice got together again and still record songs”.

Kiss album ‘Rock & Roll Over’ released in 1976.

Ray recalls a story about American born songwriter & musician Sean Delaney who is often referred to as ‘The Fifth member of rock band Kiss’ and “had worked with the likes of John Lennon, Cher, Clive Davis and many others. He played a key part in designing the Kiss stage make-up, choreography and pyrotechnics”.

“Sean was raised in Utah but moved to New York where he became involved in the music scene. An accomplished musician in his own right, Sean met producer Bill Aucoin in Max’s Kansas City, it was here the two spotted a new band and, took them under their wing. Under their guidance the band were to become one of the most famous rock bands in the world – Kiss”.

“Several successful years later, having personally produced and co-written songs for both the band and their solo recordings, Sean moved to Arizona. There he was impressed by an English/American band named Smith and Jackson. When the English contingent returned to the UK, Sean resolved to follow them and manage the band”.

“Much to everyone’s amazement, he arrived in Sunderland a few weeks later where he lived with singer Paul Jackson and his family. He became a great friend to many locals and would often stay with my wife Sue and I. Sean fell in love with the local pubs and became a popular figure on the local music scene, where his outrageous eccentricity endeared him to everyone”.

“While in town, Sean produced an excellent album for Smith and Jackson to which he contributed two of his songs. The album was released on RGF Records and was intended for the ears of Gene Simmons (Kiss)”.

“I remember on Christmas Day 2002, at about 4 am, my wife Sue woke me up to ask if I could hear singing downstairs. On closer listening, we realised that it was Sean, who was sleeping on the sofa. Next morning after he left, we found an empty chocolate box with some lyrics scribbled on it. This was probably Sean’s last attempt at song-writing.”

“Sean flew back to the US with some demos of the album but, within a day or so he had a stroke. On 13th April we received a call from Sean’s nephew to say he had passed away. Paul Jackson went home and wrote a song called ‘Ballad of Sean Delaney”.

“Sean left an indelible mark on those lucky enough to be his friends during that last period of his life spent in Sunderland. His funeral took place in Utah and written on the bottom of the gravestone are the four names of Kiss members – Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter”.

More stories and features in ‘Music in Sunderland – Past, Present & Futureheads’  is out now (£9.99 plus £2.80 UK postage) and available at Waterstones (Sunderland), Clays Nursery (Washington), Sunderland Museum, also from Trevor direct at jandmthorne@btinternet.com

Alikivi   June 2022

VAN HALEN RISING with author & historian Greg Renoff

Greg was brought up in New Jersey, USA “I grew up loving history, and eventually got a PhD in the discipline. I spent about two decades in academia, and was a college professor for over a decade. All that time, my childhood love for rock music remained strong”. 

In 2020, Greg released the authorized autobiography of Grammy winning record producer Ted Templeman (Van Halen, Van Morrison, Doobie Brothers, Little Feat). His latest book is ‘Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal’.

Van Halen toured the UK in 1978 opening for Black Sabbath did you come across any stories from that tour?

“I write about the VH/Sabbath UK tour a lot in Van Halen Rising. One of the main reasons I wrote the book and looked at Van Halen’s ‘pre-fame’ years was I wanted to know – how did Van Halen become a band good enough to blow Black Sabbath off the stage? Those questions couldn’t be answered by focusing on 1981 or 1982. It had to be focusing on earlier years”.

Van Halen debut album released 1978.

What inspired you to write Van Halen Rising?

“I grew up a big Van Halen fan, and by the time I became a historian, I was struck by how little info was available about their early beginnings. There hadn’t been a book that had looked at those years”.

“If I wanted to learn the details of how The Detours became the Who, I could read that story in any number of books, if I wanted to learn the details of how the New Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin, a group that stormed the globe and released some of the best albums in rock history, I could read that story in any number of books”.

“But if I wanted to learn about how Van Halen, a band that recorded one of the most successful debuts in rock history, wowed stadium crowds in 1978, and became giants, I couldn’t read that story anywhere”.

Where and when did you first hear Van Halen ?

“I was 14 in 1984 and for me once I heard ‘Jump’ that was it. Then I was able to see Van Halen on the ‘1984’ album tour – a guy in my homeroom class had scalped a ticket. I paid 50 bucks for it in ’84, but was just so desperate to go. And that was it. I became a big fan”.

“So, I saw Van Halen on a Monday night, April 2, 1984. That night, the band was just so larger than life. I’d seen a couple of concerts but the stage was so much bigger, the lights were brighter, it was louder and it was so much more energetic and just a spectacle”.

“Roth jumping off the drum riser and the other thing I remember he stood on the edge of the stage and said “F— the rest of the concert. Let’s go to the bar across the street and get drunk”.

“He was just doing whatever he wanted and I thought it was amazing. And of course Eddie’s guitar playing. You left with your ears ringing and you were so overwhelmed by the whole sensation of the band”.

Researching for the book did you come across any funny or surprising stories ?

“So many, but one comes to mind. There was a huge backyard party in November 1974 in Pasadena. The kids who threw the party went to high school with the Van Halen brothers and they just loved the band”.

“Their parents went off to Mexico so they threw this massive party at their home that Van Halen played at. There were hundreds of kids in attendance. It ended up that the riot police from one of the sheriff’s departments broke up the party!”

‘Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal’ out now.

For more information contact Greg at the official website:

Van Halen Rising – How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal | Greg Renoff | ECW Press

Alikivi  June 2022