Rockabilly Hall of FameŽ Archives
Welcome to our Internet hall of fame web site. A place where you will find educational and historical information about the performers who gave us the true beginning of American rockin' music ... sounds that sprang from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Read about Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley ("Rock Around the Clock"), Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Ricky Nelson and their peers. Dream about the days of Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, vintage clothing, hot rods, retro hair styles, poodle skirts, hula hoops and Leave it to Beaver. We also feature modern authentic rockers like the Stray Cats. You'll quickly discover that The Beatles and Rolling Stones did not create rock n roll. Our office is located in Burns, Tennessee. E-mail: email@example.com. Opening page: www.rockabillyhall.com.
27, October, 1997 -
A DAY WITH THE COMETS (UK) -Rod Pyke, HOF UK correspondent
I set the alarm for 6am so I had plenty of time to prepare for a day of a lifetime. I along with Barry Dixon (photographer) had been invited down to witness the last day of the Comets recording session at Chigwell School in Chigwell Village, Essex, England.
After a shower and a hearty breakfast this RAB HOF UK Correspondent had to prepare for what was going to be a long day. First of all the Video Camera batteries had to be charged, 1,000 assorted flyers had to be prepared, new film had to be put in the Canon camera. Make sure an ample supply of HOF business cards are taken. Get all my RAB HOF publicity material ready, get all my Comets/Jodimars memorabilia together for signatures. Then ponder over whether I had forgotten anything. I finally set out at 8am and headed from my Hertfordshire home into the West End of London to meet Barry Dixon outside the American Embassy. Barry had a long journey from Oxford by coach and therefore, was also an early riser. Barry's coach got into London at 9.30am and he met me as arranged at 9.45am. We then headed East through London only stopping for Barry to restock with film. We arrived at Chigwell at 10.45am and after about 10 minutes riding around looking for it we found it in Chigwell Village. As we drove into the school and around to the back of the building we were greeted with signs saying 'Quiet Please Recording Session In Progress', then we greeted to our first sounds of the Comets as their sound could be heard coming from the School Hall and drifting across the playing fields that surrounded it. Outside the Hall was a large van which had been turned into a 50's type recording studio, with leads that lead into the Hall itself for all the microphones and amplification and things far to technical for the likes of myself to know about.
I parked the Car and Barry and I went to the entrance and waited outside until the Comets had finished the number they were playing. Once ended Barry and I went through into the Hall. Having already met the Comets in Swindon last Saturday there was no need for lengthy introduction just friendly hellos from the guys and words of thanks for sparing our time to come and see them. They were thanking us. It should of been us thanking them for letting us in on their recording session. They had not actually started recording for the day, they were just warming up and practicing a new number. This gave Barry and I a chance to get some photos of them individually. Barry was asked to get some photos taken that hopefully could be used on the CD Sleeve.
Why were the Comets recording in a studio in an Ancient School Hall in Essex? This School established in 1629 has a connection with Pennsylvania in the USA and all of the original Comets came from that area. They also recorded on the Essex label. The School Hall is almost an exact replica of where their first record was made and the idea was to try and capture that original sound. Once recording was about to commence we were asked not to take anymore shots as the very sensitive microphones would pick up even the quietest sound. Barry and I sat at the back of the hall while they ran through the first number. The trouble with this early equipment is that if anybody makes a mistake or the sound levels are not quite right the whole number has to be redone. But being professional not many takes were necessary. After the first song was recorded everyone was invited outside to the van to here the finished article. It was a gorgeous English Autumn day, bright sunshine, no clouds or breeze and felt pleasantly warm. Everybody was agreed that this was a good sound and no more takes were needed. Barry then asked the Comets to go to the end of the School building where there was an ideal spot for a photo. An Entrance door to the hall with curved steps leading up to it and above the door a School crest and Coat of Arms. A perfect setting, even the sun was in the correct place.
While the Comets returned inside the hall for a break and a coffee. Barry and I were invited into the van by the CD producer to look around. It was fascinating to see we sat asking questions and educating ourselves on recording techniques. The producer was saying how he had just come back from the USA after a three week tour. It turns out he is the drummer with BIG SIX. Marshall has told me all about Big Six, I said. He told me to contact Ricky Brawn. I am Ricky Brawn, he said. This got us into a lengthy discussion about the RAB HOF and I showed him the bits I had printed off. He is going to get some some items together for inclusion on the RAB HOF site relating to BIG SIX.
After finishing our discussion Ricky Brawn prepared for the final track to be recorded. At this moment Tony Barrett of Rockstar records arrived. It was Tony's phone call late on Friday that had made this possible for us to attend. He thanked us for coming and checked on the progress of the session. Tony then had to speed off to Southend to collect a new batch of Jodimar CD's for selling and signing at the gig that night. We first had to get the Electric Piano loaded into an estate car for Johnny Grand to use at the Tennessee Club that night. When this was completed we returned to the hall for the finale. Joey Ambrose was singing on this it took just two takes. The second take was perfect even to an amateur like me you could feel it was correct, everything sounded just perfect. All that was left now was some overdubbing. This took about an hour and finally the recording session was over. Twenty tracks had been completed the majority of the material was new. At this stage I cannot disclose the details. The RAB HOF will display them when permission is given. It was only left now for another photo session. Everybody got their cameras out for photos to be taken of them with the Comets. It was now 3.30pm and Tony Barrett had returned. It was now time to disassemble all the equipment and everybody lent a hand, this took about 30 minutes. One thing that stood out today was the camaraderie between everyone. At 4pm the next item on the agenda was the sound check at the Tennessee Club to prepare for the night's performance. This was about an hours journey to North London.
Eventually we arrived at the Tennessee Club after the long drive through London's heavy traffic. We parked up and went in through the back door and up the stairs to the Club. There we were greeted by the R & R Club owner Ritchie Gee. He told us they were running a bit late. Barry and I found a seat and got ourselves a nice long cold drink we needed it. We got talking to a group of people from Liverpool who had come down from Liverpool to see their son play in the Western Bops.
At 5.30pm the Comets arrived and were swarmed for autographs and photos by the 30 or so people that were there. The Western Bops did their sound check and then it was the turn of the Rockabeats, who I will mention later. Then the Comets took the stage and rattled off 'Eat Your Heart Out Baby'. This ended with a great roar of approval from those in attendance. It was now 6.15pm and all the sound checks were complete. It had been a long day for the Comets and they were going back to their Hotel for some food, a rest and a few hours sleep. Barry and I had not eaten since about 7am that morning so we went off to Wood Green Shopping Centre for some food.
We returned to the Tennessee at 7.30pm and already there was a long queue waiting for it to open. The Club is above a Public House, so we decided to go in the Bar for a drink. Inside we were reacquainted with the organisers of Swindon's Rock & Roll Club and stood talking to them for about twenty minutes. By the time we went outside again the Club had opened and we ventured inside. The Club is quite large with a long dance area with seating on both sides. One sides seating area is raised a few feet above the dance floor, a good viewing area. At the back of the hall is another large area with a large Bar and an area for traders selling clothes, records and memorabilia etc. The stage is about two feet above ground level with an area for DJ's to the left hand side. The stage lighting was very good and the entire area of the club had a reflective ceiling. On the right hand side of the stage is a large photo of Gene Vincent in his white leathers.
We took a seat and waited for the entertainment to begin. Rob James was playing all the right sounds and soon had the dancers up and boppin'. At 9pm we were treated to the first band of the night the Western Bops a local 4 piece band from London. They had a really good rockin' sound and put plenty of energy into their act. The lead vocalist/Rhythm Guitarist was always on the move Cochran/Presley style. A very good Lead Guitarist who could also sing and played with great authority. The drummer kept the rhythm going and the crowd jumping and an excellent Bassist who did a grand job as he was standing in for the bands regular one. There 40 minute set went down very well and was an ideal opening act, well appreciated by the audience. While the stage was being prepared for the next band DJ Wildcat Pete was spinning his platters, everything from Vincent to modern R & R bands.
At 10.10pm it was time for the next group the Rockabeats, the youngest Rock 'n' Roll band in the world. Drummer/Vocals 15 years old, Double Bass/Vocals 14 years old, Rhythm Guitarist/Backing Vocals 8 years of age. Supplemented by an excellent lead guitarist of older years. This band from Leeds has already made big headlines in the UK with appearances on national TV, Radio and in newspapers. You may think that this band would be a novelty act but believe me this band can play and what a great sound. There is no fear of Rock and Roll dying why there is young talent like this around. The lead vocal on Bass reminded me of a young Ronnie Dawson/Eddie Cochran and oozed confidence. He duetted excellently with the drummer who also had a voice made for this type of music. Add to these the baby faced ginger haired rhythm guitarist and you have a crowd pleasing band. No wonder the Comets have been raving about them. Be ready for them USA, don't miss them when they reach your shores. Their first CD will be available in January. They played a great range of numbers from Shim Sham Shimmy to 20 Flight Rock, from Elvis to Johnny Cash. The audience really took to them and everybody massed to the front of the hall to watch. A full hour set by a group so young which had the crowd chanting for more can only demonstrate which way this band is going, right to the top. When they finally managed to get off stage it was time for DJ Rob James again who filled in the last record session before the Comets.
Barry and I had moved ourselves by now to the front/centre of the stage to try and get some got live photos. Everybody else was also moving to the front to get a good vantage point. The wait until Midnight, when the Comets were due on seemed an eternity. Eventually the time arrived and Rob James came centre stage to introduce them and the noise was deafening as they appeared. They all waved to their fans and shook the hands of the people at the front. Soon they were into Razzle Dazzle and everybody around us was singing along and jumping up and down. It was going to be hard to take photos with all this activity around. The Comets were dressed in their green tartan jackets this time as opposed to their red ones in Swindon. The crowd this time was much larger than Swindon and seemed twice as noisy. The guys played with the same energy as last week and went through all the same numbers, each one being accompanied by a packed out Tennessee Club vocal backing group. An amazing atmosphere. I won't run through all the song routines again as they are all listed in the preceding review of the Comets in Swindon. The only difference being that for the last number Marshall Lytle called for Ricky Brawn to come on stage and play drums and The Rockabeats to come and join them on stage the Bassist took over from Marshall who along with Dick Richards did the Vocals to Rock This Joint. A loud cheer went up when Marshall raised the 8 year old Rhythm player above his head for a full minute in one of the solos. When again will I see a band with a lead guitarist 76 (Franny Beacher) and a rhythm guitarist of 8 playing together, the answer, never. The old and the new of R & R all in one night, amazing. The sight of the Bassist and Marshall hugging each other at the end had the tears flowing down many a fans cheeks. An emotional ending. This young bassist has so much confidence he grabbed the mike and asked everybody to thank the Comets who started R & R and if it wasn't for them none of us would be here watching today.
The Comets finally got back to the dressing room to change and get ready to come out to sign autographs and meet their fans. It was approaching 2am when I managed to say my good-byes to Marshall, Franny, Joey, Dick and Johnny and not to be forgotten Jacko. A truly great bunch of guys that you Americans can be proud of they served your country well. I do not know what time they finally got away from the Tennessee Club but it must have been very late. They had to catch a plane from Gatwick Airport the same morning at 9.45am for Atlanta. I now had to drive Barry across London to Victoria to catch his coach back to Oxford. All we could talk about throughout the 30 minute journey was how lucky we were to have been able to spend a whole day in the presence of the greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band ever.
I finally arrived back home at 4am for the third Saturday running after Hemsby, Swindon and the Tennessee Club. You don't get much sleep being a RAB HOF Correspondent, I'm not complaining I love every minute of it. I have found since I started doing this that you get to meet so many really nice people and I would like to thank a few that I met on Saturday some of whom I do not know their name. First of all the Comets, nothing was too much trouble for them, they did everything we asked of them. Tony Barrett (Rockstar Records), Ricky Brawn & partner, The Chef at the Chigwell School, The Bass player from Harlow, Barry Dixon (Photographer), Ritchie Gee (Tennessee Club), Ritchies assistant and right hand man, Chigwell School, Alison and the other organisers from the Swindon R & R Club. All the staff at the Tennessee Club and the DJ's, The Western Bops and the Rockabeats, my wife Kathy and my good friends Bob and Sonja Timmers.
My next review will probably be Dale Hawkins at the Tennessee Club on November 30th. -Rod