16.9.10

Can blue men sing the whites? Part 1 Bury

[This recollection was first published on my Geocities website in 2006 - but as the future of Geocities is uncertain, I thought I'd re-publish it here with a few tiny amendments.]

Every harmonica player wanted to play 'Country line special' like Cyril! Recorded 1963; Cyril died in 1964

I just watched Mike Figgis's contribution Red, white and blues (what on earth were Tom Jones and Lulu doing in there?) to Martin Scorsese's The Blues and thought I'd add my recollections to the debate.

I was born and brought up in the northern town of Bury, Lancs (now part of Greater Manchester). My earliest memories of pop music were hearing The Shadows play Apache on a tannoy at Tranmere Rovers football ground (Bury beat them 7-1!), and Del Shannon, Dion and Johnny and the Hurricanes while watching the girls on the waltzers at Bury fair. My dad played double bass in a dance band at Alma Lodge and had a few jazz records‚ light stuff mainly, like Oscar Peterson. He got talked into playing with a rock'n'roll singer once (I went to a rehearsal) but he thought it was rubbish and never went again. My first LP was a 10-inch 'The Duke wore jeans' by Tommy Steel; my first single was Tom Dooley by The Kingston Trio (not the Lonnie Donegan cover!). The first concert I attended was Adam Faith at the Royal cinema (14 November 1960). It was more like a variety show, with the John Barry Seven and other acts.
Found this poster on the Bury Olden Days
Facebook page
Me and my friend Roy Henshall used to listen to Radio Luxemburg – he'd tape all the distant sounds on his reel-to-reel. I remember hearing 'Love me do' for the first time and thought Wow! this band will go far! We eventually formed a band, with Michael Brawn on drum (yes, he only had a snare!), called The Roadsweepers. Later Roy learnt some chords and ended up with Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas (after they were famous). He's now living in Tenerife.

I also bought Volume 2. These were recorded in 1962 and featured Alexis Korner on guitar and Keith Scott on piano
There weren't any blues records to buy in Bury. I read a rave review of Alexis Korner's R&B from the Marquee (1962) and ordered it from Boots on the Rock ( I later lent it to John 'Faff' White in Guildford and never got it back!). In other record shops I also found a couple of EPs with Alexis Korner on guitar called 'Chris Barber presents Jimmy Cotton' in the jazz section, and an LP called 'Murderers' Home' on Golden Guinea – recordings of prisoners' work songs by Alan Lomax.

'Early in the morning' was covered by Alexis Korner and Graham Bond amongst others 
Eventually I found the classic blues EP 'The sound of Cyril Davies' with the amazing 'Country line special' – there's no line-up listed on the sleeve. I bought Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated at the Cavern and also found an old Alexis Korner Skiffle Group EP in a bargain bin, called Blues From The Roundhouse Volume 1 (I found out later that there was also a volume 2!) also starring Cyril Davies.

Recorded 1957 and featuring Cyril Davies on 12-string guitar and harmonica and Mike Collins on washboard!

Other reminiscences:
Prologue
British Blues: part 2 Manchester
British Blues: part 3 London
Helix
Glad Day and Guildford Arts Lab
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