22.6.06

Helix


Helix, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I did promise, on my British Blues page, a history of Helix, the poetry and jazz band (don't laugh!), starring Yours Truly on harmonica and poems, Rick Welton, also on poems, Chris Brunt on flute, alto sax, clarinet and guitar, Peter Panayi on bass, Peter Jackson on guitar and Terry Raven on drums. I'm off to a Physics Dept reunion at the University of Surrey in Guildford tomorrow and, rooting through some ephemera, found a cutting of an ad in NME (or was it Melody Maker?) showing us supporting Joe Cocker on 24 January 1969, our greatest achievement!

It all started in the folk club at UoS (then Battersea College of Advanced Technology) where me and Chris did a double act: he (Blind Willie Brunt?) on guitar and me (Whistlin' Walshaw Fred) on harmonica, singing the blues. Also playing regularly were duo Pete Panayi and Ronnie Hicks (wife of Rick Welton). Eventually we all got together to perform Dylan songs with Ronnie as vocalist. Rick was the roadie (he had a van) but started adding his poetry to the mix. Then Ronnie left and we decided to go electric. An ad in NME (or was it Melody Maker?) produced Peter Jackson, who'd been playing the US bases in Germany, and part-time Horror film actor Terry Raven. By now we were doing poems (me funny; Rick serious) and the odd Mose Allison song (plus 'Scarborough Fair' I think!). There is one recording extant, made at All Saints Hall in Notting Hill, recorded by Ronnie's new bloke, film sound man Tony Jackson, but we never made any records.

We were represented by Pete Jenner of the Blackhill agency (who'd managed Pink Floyd before Syd left) - Lynne, a booker there, was married to my friend Adrian Boot, who went on to famously photograph Bob Marley and others. We did gigs at Canterbury (supporting Third Ear Band), Bradford (with Liverpool Scene), Chelsea Town Hall, somewhere in south Wales, in Battersea's Courland Grove halls of residence where I met an American girl called Claire, and in Guildford, at the university with Roy Harper, and the Stoke Hotel where I met Jenny Parsons and was introduced to Guildford Arts Lab. Two notable concerts were the Jazz Poetry Song Package at Battersea Town Hall on 28 November 1968 and Guildford Civic Hall on 8 December, both with the Michael Garrick Quintet featuring Don Rendell and Ian Carr with various poets, including Jeremy Robson and Vernon Scannell, and Pete Brown (of Cream lyrics fame) and his Battered Ornaments (inc Chris Spedding and Dick Heckstall-Smith).

The Stoke Hotel gig may have been our last. Rick moved to Guildford to run the first Guildford Festival, and I followed some time later. Chris teamed up with Ronnie and Eric Johns (brother of Dorris Henderson) to form Gallerie, who played with Roy Harper and Michael Chapman in the 1971 Guildford Festival, the one I directed. By now I was reading poetry with the Arts Lab and about to get married. To be continued dot dot dot

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