Saturday, 1 April 2017

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 32 .............. my first gig

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

I was still rehearsing with the skiffle group and we had moved to the canteen of OPC one evening a week.

One night a delegation of managers from OPC came to see us and asked us if we could be booked to play at the forthcoming annual dinner and dance to be held at the Welcome Inn pub Eltham.

We did not have a name and had no idea as to how much to charge. We convened a quick meeting and decided to charge them the sum of £2 for the whole group. We were to play during the interval when the dance band was off having their break.

I went to the evening meal as a member of staff and the other group members showed up at the appointed time. We decided to call ourselves “The Ramblers Skiffle Group” and the name were printed in the menu leaflet as the cabaret for the evening.

All this was a bit scary as we only had about four tunes we could actually play reasonably well. We rehearsed but had no idea how to present ourselves on stage. We were very apprehensive and as the time approached for us to go on, the dance band drummer asked me if I would like to set my one and only drum with his kit and for the first time in my life, I was behind a full drum kit.

Steve Searl had his tea chest bass and Ron Devlin and Bob Taylor playing guitars had to do their stuff. We made a fatal error and started with our best number first and by the time we got to our last number we were struggling badly.

However we made it to the end of our show and to a mild appreciation from the audience, we took our bows and got off. The big payoff moment came when we got paid 10 shillings each (50pence). My first paid gig and I decided I must get a bass drum and a high hat to go with what I already had to make up a proper drum kit.

I managed to get dad to take me to a musical shop Len Styles in Catford where I selected a second-hand bass drum a new Premier hi-hat stand and a bass drum pedal. Ron Hawes sold me a pair of cymbals I could use as a hi-hat.

These are the cymbals that are worked by the left foot and make a clicking sound that is played on the off beat.

Now I was all set up to play a proper drum kit. I still needed some tom-toms to go with it but I had the basics to start with. Later on, a new member joined our group and we had progressed to playing more rock and roll. At that time a hit song that was topping the charts was Cliff Richard with his song “Move It” and we would try and play our version of it.

The new guy (I have forgotten his name) had an electric guitar and an amplifier which gave the group a bigger sound. Soon all the guitars had a pickup attached to the guitars and amplifiers were bought and guitar playing became a serious thing.

Ron and Bob dropped out and I carried on with some other guys. I got involved with a rehearsal group in Welling and as I did not have any transport. I loaded my kit onto Geoffrey’s old pushchair and took it to Kidbrooke station and put it into the guards van and got off at Welling station.

Pushing it to the group member’s house, playing in his front room and going home the way I came.

All this was a good experience for me and I could call myself a drummer. At one time I got my drum kit with the help of dad’s motorbike and sidecar to Tim’s house we played a primitive form of jazz in his garage. Nothing was coming together as a proper band and we were not doing any paid gigs, but the experience was very valuable.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures; courtesy of  Eddy Newport

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