My cluttered office at home is a veritable museum to the past, a Pandora’s Box of books, records, files, a pike’s jawbones (yes, really), several fossils… and endless piles of cuttings.
Most of them relate to my work for many newspapers and magazines in the years since I left Rugby. But the other day, I came across a tattered envelope that was full of snippets from my days on the Advertiser.
And what a treasure chest this proved to be. Faded and yellowing they may be, but what a glorious glimpse into the vibrant life of the town during the 1960s. And I’d like to share a few with you…
The first one to emerge is a story about Sam Kemp leaving Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours, headlined ‘Sam quits pop world limelight.’
Unfortunately, I don’t have the precise dates for any of these, but this one was definitely some time in 1969.
Sam was, of course, the talented vocalist and autoharp player for the band that reached number eight in the charts in the spring of 1966 with guitarist Tony Newman’s song Mirror, Mirror.
That same year, I managed to get press tickets for the Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park. The Stones had appeared twice at Rugby’s Granada cinema, first in February 1964, and then a year later early in 1965.
Anyway, I wrote a review about seeing the future ‘greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world’ which duly appeared in that week’s ‘Tiser.
Here’s another blast from the past, this one relating to the Cataracts signing up ex-Liberators drummer Graham Thompson as a replacement for Rex Burton.
I reported that my old friend Big Idea sticks man Brian Meredith sat in with the band at the Woolpack Beat Club before going off to college.
That same year, drummer Mick Bradley wrote to me from Italy, where he was touring with Coventry outfit The Sorrows, saying that he’d joined London band Methuselah.
Tragically, Mick’s time in the sun did not last long. He was destined to die from undiagnosed leukaemia.
The next few cuttings are reviews of bands appearing at the Benn Memorial Hall. Once again, there are no dates, but I vividly recall seeing top Mod group The Action, blues band Ten Years After, Status Quo, The Small Faces, and The Artwoods, featuring Keef Hartley on drums.
Still in 1969, I interviewed Rugby guitarist Tom Long, who announced he was quitting Pinkerton’s for pastures new. He will be replaced by Steve Jones, lead axeman for Coventry band The Peeps.
The next cutting to be unearthed is a story about Brian Meredith and the formation of Big Idea, formerly The Reprobates. This new band was to feature guitar player Phil Clough, also soon to be subjected to the famous Phillpott interview technique.
Brian told me that the new band would base its music on the Atlantic label and include a dash of Tamla Motown. They certainly kept their promise, and soon found plenty of work around Rugby and beyond.
Meanwhile, something new arrived at The Woolpack… the discotheque. A Saturday night session run by Alan Longstaff and Bill Maggs would prove to be an instant success.
However, live music still had a huge future in the town, as evidenced by the report of my chat with sax player Tony Britnell of top band Jigsaw.
And hot on the heels of this came the news that Mick Bradley had now joined Steamhammer and was enjoying success with their second single, Autumn Song.
Folk music, too, was booming. The Clifton Inn had started running weekly sessions, and over at Monks Kirby, Ray Atkinson, landlord of the Denbigh Arms, decided to start a club in the pub’s top room. The Gaels became the resident group.
At the same time, Rugby Theatre was going from strength to strength, and a review of Ladies in Retirement appeared on my show page. I wrote that ‘Olive Matthews excellently sustains the part of Louisa.’
This was followed by a write-up of Oklahoma, produced by Rugby’s legendary band leader Tom Ward, back then licensee of the Alexandra Arms in James Street.
Elsewhere, local DJ Tony ‘Big’ Fry had begun to wear increasingly eccentric gear, and told his legions of fans that from now on, he will be known as ‘Lord Tony’.
I stood in for him as disc jockey at the Raglan Arms in Dunchurch Road, wearing a military tunic just acquired in London’s Carnaby Street.
The Twilights had become one of the town’s most popular bands, and I therefore wasted no time in interviewing guitarist Bob O’Donnell. The Rugby Theatre staged ‘Swingalong’, introduced by theatre stalwart Mick Allen.
The Troubadours stole the show.
By now, the theatre’s on a roll, and I spoke to actor Bill Watts, who had chosen to play the part of Fagin in the hit musical Oliver. Not to be outdone, the Barby Players celebrated their 21 st anniversary.
And back at the Clifton, folk icon Alex Campbell – clearly blind drunk and so probably not meaning it – announces to a shocked crowd that he’s quitting the road. Our reporter scribbles away madly and the next day flogs the story to any publication that will take it.
Yes, folks, as the late great John Lennon once so memorably said… I read the news today.
John Phillpott’s third book Go and Make the Tea, Boy! is available from bookshops and also on the internet.