Music began very early in my life as my mother listened to the radio and recordings very often. However it was because of my refusal to be dictated to by my father, all aspects of music and art became my triumph over adversity.
As suggested by my teacher at the Junior School, I sat for the entrance examination for the Art School in Birmingham (Moseley School of Art). I passed the exam with flying colours, which thrilled me to bits.
During my time at the Art School I became friends with two pupils who were also musical minded like myself. One day we discussed the possibility of the three of us getting together to record two songs on a vinyl record titled “Love is Just Around the Corner”. I’d been taking some drum lessons at this point so I played drums on the recording. Once I left the Art School I started playing in bands as a semi-professional musician. I kept in touch with one of my friends and his partner who was a professional act who during the summer played Sumer Seasons at Rhyl, as well as playing for other shows and clubs in between Summer Seasons. When I took my holidays from a daytime job I was working at I spent my holidays with my friends in Rhyl with them. I also travelled to Ireland and Paris at American base camps which confirmed to me that this what I wanted to become, a professional musician.
A year or two later my friend rang me to say that he had read in the Stage (a newspaper for Actors, dancers and musicians) that a drummer was required for a summer season in Plymouth, Devon and suggested I apply. Apparently, the original drummer had become homesick so left the show! I then took the gamble and left home for the show taking all my drums with me on the train…needless to say – I got the job!!!
Olivia Denham – my singing teacher and later my theory of music teacher.
About half–way through my career from around about the time I had finished working a summer season with Engelbert Humperdinck, I wanted to move into a new direction, so I decided to take some singing lessons from Olivia Denham to start off with. After a few months of this I invited Olivia to see me perform in the orchestra of the Ivor Novello Operetta titled, ‘The Dancing Years’ at the Alexander Theatre in Birmingham.
After Olivia’s visit, she thought it would be a good idea for me to become a Theatre Musical Director. I had to tell her that I didn’t think I could consider this until I’ve learned more about music in general, as at that time I was only knowledgeable with reading drum kit and orchestral percussion music. She then suggested that I start studying and taking the ABRSM for theory lessons Grades 1 to 8 so that I would have more knowledge of music.
It was during taking some ‘mock’ theory exams with Olivia, I found that I really enjoyed setting music to lyrics in the grades as well as composing musical phrases of my own after being given the first 2 or 4 bars of the phrase. Olivia too could see that I was enjoying this section of the theory exams, which later she told me that it looks as if we have found my niche, which is composing music, telling me that I was good at it!
‘Shepherd by the Valley’
After Olivia’s visit to see me perform in the orchestra for an Ivor Novello Operetta called ‘The Dancing Years’ at the Alexander Theatre Birmingham, she thought it would be a good idea for me to become a Theatre Musical Director. I replied and said ‘I don’t think I can consider this until I’ve learn more about music in general’, as at that time I was only knowledgeable with drum kit and orchestral percussion music. She then suggested that I start taking my ABRSM for theory lessons Grades 1 to 8 so that I would have more knowledge about music in general.
It was during taking some ‘mock’ theory exams with Olivia, I found that I really enjoyed setting music to lyrics in the grades as well as composing musical phrases of my own after been given the first 2 or 4 bars. Olivia too could see that I was enjoying this section of the theory exams, which later she says that it looks as if we have found your niche, which is composing music saying I was good at it. One day whilst I was setting some music to a Hymn, that she suggested I write a Hymn myself including writing my own lyrics! This is when ‘Shepherd by the Valley’ was born as I wrote the music and lyrics to this. Later the piece was recorded and sung by a pupil of Olivia’s in a Church near to where I lived at that time in Sutton Coldfield. The organist of the church volunteered to play and accompany the music for me as Olivia’s pupil sang the hymn. Once I had the recording on tape I travelled to the Granada Television Studios in Manchester to give the presenter the copy to listen to it to consider using the music on his show.
The ‘Broad Highway’ Musical
Later during my lessons Olivia Denham presented me with a musical she had written OF a stage version of the book ‘The Broad Highway’. She offered me the job of writing all the music for this show, which of course I was delighted too. Once we’d finished the musical the performance at the ‘Old Repertory Theatre’ in Birmingham.
Combined Services Entertainment Shows: Middle East, Far East, Malta & Cyprus and Northern Ireland.
While I was working in Great Yarmouth on a summer season with Engelbert Humperdinck I received a call at the theatre from George Michie (whom I’d worked with on the Val Doonican Tour in the UK). Anyway, George had left a message at the stage door for asking me to ring him back.
After the show I rang George who asked me if I would be interested in doing a CSE show of the Persian Gulf. Without any hesitation whatsoever I took the job, as it was to be in November of that same year, (unknown to me this was the first of many CSE shows I did later on in my career!). The CSE was run by the Ministry Of Defence in London where we had a band call with the artists before the tour of the Persian Gulf. The stars included; Jimmy Logan; Bert Weedon and some other unknowns. We travelled our separate ways to get to London by First Class Rail which we were given vouchers for. After our rehearsal, the signing of contracts and travel insurance – all paid by the government. We had a week or so then had to travel back to London again and all meet up at Kings Cross to continue to travel onto RAF Brize Norton where we stayed for just one night before boarding a VC10 to Bahrain. All this was very exciting, as I had never travelled further than Berlin in Germany. Anyway we were put up in a very nice hotel in Bahrain and later we toured the whole of the dessert regions down there.
Evelyn Glennie Percussion Composition Workshop.
A reviewer Paul Cameron of both my LAYP Drums & LAYP Tuned Percussion and Timpani book who gave me favourable reviews contacted me to ask me if I would be interested and if I was available in giving a talk at Kneller Hall for the Evelyn Glennie Percussion Composition Awards. I took this on which my publishers Boosey & Hawkes paid expenses towards travelling and hotel bills. I took this on even though I’d never talked about percussion composition before. My spot was the first one of the day too. There were quite a few in attendances. In the Q & A I gave at the end of my talk, I received all sorts of interesting questions and even one from Evelyn Glennie herself. Overall the day went very well and I was pleased.
‘Shut That Door’ released as a single, which I wrote for Larry:
I was working in a summer season at Paignton in Devon with Leslie Crowther, Basil Brush, John Hanson and then the unknown Larry Grayson. Once we were all settled in with the show after a week or so, I noticed that Larry was going down a storm especially with his catch phrases, especially ‘Shut That Door’! I also noticed that he had only one theme tune to play him on and off. As I’d not long started writing songs I started to write something around his ‘Shut That Door’ theme. With the lyrics a friend of mine arrived for a few days holiday. Because this friend wrote lyrics, he helped me with some lyrics. Anyway after the Summer Season and arriving back home I proceeded to record ‘Shut that Door’ on a cassette tape and recorder. At that time I was living in Tamworth and Larry only lived down the road in Nuneaton. I rang Larry one day and told him I’d written a song for him so would he like to hear it on my cassette recorder. His reply was yes so off I went to visit Larry. At that time, Larry lived in a terraced house in Clifton Road. Larry being very popular with neighbours and friends, his house was full of people, which I found quite overwhelming. After being there for just over one hour I said to Larry I must leave now as I had to cook something to eat. As I walked out of his front door with Larry he noticed I had my cassette recorder in my hand and realized he hadn’t listened to my song for him. He asked me to press the play button as we walked to my car. After about one minute, he told me he liked the song, so asked me to go back into his house to see what the reaction was of all his friends. They were all raving about the song after listening to it. So, Larry told me that the next day he was travelling to London to have a meeting with his manager, Peter Dulay. So would I like Larry to play the song to him as Peter Dulay had had some success with a song titled ‘Grandad’ sung by Clive Dunn and Children.
Later on in the afternoon of the following day, I received a call from Larry himself informing me that Peter Dulay was ‘over the moon’ with the song, so would like to take Larry into the studios to record it on a single for release. I was so excited with this new of course and couldn’t sleep at night through all the excitement. Some months later, it was decided that Larry Grayson’s scriptwriter, Bernie Sharpe would write some of the lyrics to the song to add some ‘humour’. The song was later released as a single and entered the charts. The music to the song was later used as the theme tune to Larry Grayson’s show on television titled ‘Shut That Door’ which made Larry into a huge star – taking me along with him on his roller-coaster of a ride!
‘What a Gay Day’ title track of a LP I wrote for Larry (Shut That Door included on this LP)
After writing ‘Shut That Door’ for Larry (which was used for Larry’s television show on ATV titled ‘Shut That Door’), his manager and record company wanted him to record an LP. (A long-playing vinyl record) Larry asked me to get my thinking cap on to think of some song ideas for him. At that time I had already booked a two week holiday in Greece, so whilst relaxing sunbathing one day by the hotel pool an idea came to me for a song titled ‘What a Gay Day’ Larry’s next catch phrase he used in his act. The meter and rhythm of the song fitted perfectly with the Greek music influence I had all around me. So at that time of inspiration, I immediately ran up to my room in the hotel and sang and recorded the song into my portable cassette tape recorder I’d taken with me. During the rest of my holiday I wrote down some other ideas for more songs using more of Larry’s catch phrases he used, such as Apricot Lil and Everard etc.
When I arrived back in the UK from Greece, I got down to recording these songs as demos. When I’d finished them I drove down to London and took the demo tapes with me to play to Peter Dulay, Larry’s manager at that time.
After listening to my songs, Peter told me that ‘Gay Day’ would be great for Larry so I gave him a copy of the song. He wasn’t too sure about my other songs but asked me to leave him copies of them.
After a month or so, Larry told me that he was going down to the recording studio in London to start recording some songs for the LP. Imagine my delight when it was announced that the title of the LP would be ‘What a Gay Day’ the title of my song! Also they where putting ‘Shut That Door’ on the LP too. My other songs didn’t get mentioned but anyhow I was more than pleased with having my song ‘What a Gay Day’ as the title of the LP and being the first song on the LP!
On one of Larry’s TV shows ‘Shut That Door’, Larry was singing the song ‘What a Gay Day’. I remember quite vividly him singing the song with the vocal backing of the Kay Sisters!
Larry Grayson (Reg, Penny and Sally)
One day at Larry’s house, Larry introduced me to Reg; Penny his daughter and Sally his granddaughter. Apparently, Sally wanted to ‘make it’ as a pop singer in the business, so this is why Larry introduced the family to me as Larry said I had more knowledge of the music business than him. I took this on as Sally’s Musical Director so I had to arrange some songs she was singing in her act. I also was invited to most of Sally’s gigs to give her advice etc. What was a good contact for me was occasionally attending some of her recording sessions in Worcester. Happy Face Music formed by Muff Murfin.
Through getting to know Muff, I was then able to demo some of my songs and record albums for Chappell’s and Boosey & Hawkes Music Library at his studio. Three of my songs titled ‘Making Tracks’, ‘One, Two, Three’ and ‘Heartache’ were later published by December Songs on 1st December 1979. The title ‘One, Two, Three’ was entered for the Eurovision Song Contest but it didn’t get anywhere. Later another song of mine ‘Evening Thoughts of You’ recorded at Muff’s studio was picked up and published by Pheony Music on 20th November 1978.
‘Sunday Morning Sun’
The first song I wrote and performed with David Miller was the first ever song we had published, which was by Plexium Music Co. and recorded at ‘Zella’ recording studios in Birmingham, (which was originally an old Church Hal!).
‘My Home’ another song I wrote for Larry Grayson
This song I wrote for Larry Grayson was titled ‘My Home’ of many songs I wrote for Larry – also recorded at the Zella Studios
Meeting two Musical Directors at Larry Grayson’s television shows:
Going back to the period I was also having singing lessons from Olivia Denham. One day I mentioned to her that I wasn’t happy travelling with Larry to his TV Shows and meeting various well-known people there, as I found most of them to be rather shallow and some of them were ‘hangers on!’ However, Olivia strongly advised me to go with him, as it would be a good opportunity to meet some influential people and maybe Musical Directors who could perhaps further my career. Olivia suggested to me that I should simply introduce myself to these Musical Directors and mention to them that it was myself who had written ‘Shut That Door’ and ‘What a Gay Day’ for Larry.
This I did when I was with Larry on a rehearsal he was at for one of his shows. I tentatively introduced myself to Harry Rabinowitz explaining that I was the person who had written ‘Shut that Door’ and ‘What a Gay Day’ for Larry Grayson. During the time I knew him he gave me lots of guidance and support regarding my work as a composer. He suggested I bring along some of my compositions to show him to see how I was progressing.
While all this was going on, I was studying for an Arranging & Composer course called ‘The Modern School of Contemporary Pop & Jazz. Near the end of this course for one of my lessons, I was asked to compose a piece of music. This turned out to what I titled ‘Journey Into Love’. When I was next in London with Larry, I took the liberty of showing the music to Harry Rabinowitz who told me it was my best composition so far! He didn’t make any promises, but told he may record this piece for me at one of his recording sessions.
Eventually Harry Rabinowitz rang me to mention that he had recorded my piece of music at the end of one of his recording sessions. He told me he would send the tape of the recording in the post.
He also suggested that I take along the tape to Standard Music, (his publishers) when I was next in London as they may be able to use the music on one of their library albums. This I did after meeting Brian Plews and Skip Humphries. Standard Music published the piece on 10th February 1977. Later, at another meeting I had with them I asked them if there was a possibility I could write and record an album for them of short pieces of music. To my amazement they agreed. The finished product was titled ‘Stings and Things’. Standard Music purchased my recording and put it on a Library Album. I’m pleased to say the album is still earning me some Royalties to this day!
Standard Music/Chappell Music and ‘Supermousse’
There was something else going on at the time with Standard Music. Their catalogue of music was being sold on licence to Chappell Music. It was there that I met Nick Farris the head of Library Music. Once the album ‘Stings and Things’ was released via Chappell Music, I was told during a meeting with Nick Farris he mentioned that a magazine company, named Cavendish Books who advertised and sold cookery books, had picked up a title from the album. The title of the piece of music he told me about was a short piece titled ‘Supermousse’. To this day we are not sure whether they chose the piece because it was food related or for some other reason. As my piece was only 30 seconds long they decided to ‘loop’ the piece together thus making it into 1 minute long, which was exactly what Cavendish Books required.
To cut a long story short, my music was used for a series of TV and radio adverts in the USA from coast to coast, which earned me quite a bit of royalties. After I’d received my royalty statement I was quite surprised by the some of money for such a short piece of music. As I was concerned that I’d have to pay quite a bit of Income Tax on these royalties I immediately rang my Income Tax Accountant. My accountant suggested that I go and spend most of the royalties on something that would benefit my work. I knew I’d like a new upright piano to compose my music on so I ordered a new upright Yamaha piano.
Boosey & Hawkes
My relationship with Boosey & Hawkes started not too long after my success with Chappell/Standard Music. It was at Boosey & Hawkes where I met a song plugger named Gordon Reed. Eventually he published 3 Bossa Nova pieces of mine, titled ‘June Bossa Nova’, ‘Fresco Bossa Nova’ and ‘Island of Gan Bossa Nova’ all published on 15th July 1975. Sadly these were never recorded as Gordon Reed left Boosey & Hawkes to go and work for another company. After a while, I decided to visit Boosey & Hawkes again where I met the Head of Library Music, Terry Moss. At that time, Terry was more interested in me handing over some of his demos to Larry Grayson. This was after he had heard I’d written ‘Shut That Door’. Nothing came of this, as Larry wasn’t interested in recording any more songs.
‘Animals’ – an album of my music recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, published by Boosey & Hawkes
Because of Larry’s lack of interest in recording any new songs, things became a little quiet for me with Boosey & Hawkes. However, approximately 12 months later after I’d been visiting some other Music Publishers, I had some spare time so I decided to pop into Boosey & Hawkes to let Terry know more about the Library Music Album I’d recorded for Chappell/Standard Music. Terry said to me “where have you been for all this time as he would like some music from me”! It was after we’d had a little chat that Terry then promised me that he would commission me to write some music for their next album. I didn’t hold my breath at the time, as I didn’t think anything would come of it! However, sometime later, Terry rang me to tell me that they were going to record an ‘Animals’ album, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Terry asked me if I would be interested in composing some music for one side of the album (6 compositions). Terry then told me that another composer of his named Gareth Wood would be writing the other 6 compositions. After I’d told Terry that I would be really delighted to write for the album he had in mind, he decided to set up a meeting with the three of us. At the meeting it was decided between us to name 12 different types of animals, which were then written on separate pieces of paper; placed into a hat then drawn out of the hat one at a time between Gareth Wood and myself. Once this was done Terry told Gareth and myself the Album would be recorded at Wembley Studios in London.
The recording session went very well and I’m pleased to say the album was a great success. For me, the most popular piece on the album is titled ‘Butterflies’. This piece is still being played around the world to this day.
More recorded Music Albums for Boosey & Hawkes.
After this album was recorded and completed, I was commissioned to write another Library Album for Boosey & Hawkes titled ‘Short Themes’. About 12 months later, they asked me to write a Percussion album encompassing all genes of percussion music. The album was simply titled “Percussion’ !
‘First Repertoire for Saxophone’, published by Boosey & Hawkes
‘A Lady in Blue’
I was taken on another direction after recording these albums as one day Terry rang me to ask if I could write some music for a Saxophone. This was because he’d received a call from the Printed Music division of Boosey & Hawkes over at Hendon in North London asking him if he knew of a composer who could write a ‘blues’ type of music. This was for a printed album they were producing, edited by Peter Wastall and titled ‘First Repertoire Pieces for Saxophone’. I didn’t refuse this commission of course. After working on a suitable piece I then asked a friend of mine who was a saxophone player to check it out for me to see if it worked out ok and that there were no awkward leaps in the music. The piece of music was fine and eventually published and printed in the book. The music I titled: ‘A Lady in Blue’.
‘Session Time’ for Woodwind, published by Boosey & Hawkes
‘Butterflies’ and ‘Santis’
Sometime later, the editor of the saxophone book mentioned to me that he had been listening to my ‘Butterflies’ piece of music on the recorded album and told me how much he liked it. He said that the piece would fit nicely in a new series of books he was editing titled: ‘Session Time’. I told him I would be delighted and honoured to have my piece included. Of course I had to re-arrange the piece for solo and duo woodwind for what was then called ‘Flexi-Stave’. Peter Wastall also mentioned that if I had another similar ‘lyrical’ piece I could write for the series, he would be delighted to include this piece of mine too. I thought I wouldn’t like to miss this opportunity, so I sat down at my piano and came up with a piece I titled ‘Santis’. The inspiration for this piece came about after a visit I’d made the year before to the top of a mountain in Switzerland named Santis. After I had sent the piece to Peter he was delighted with it so he included that composition too into his new series of books.
‘Practice Sessons for Flute’
‘A Lady in Blue’
My work as a Peripatetic Percussion Teacher for the City of Coventry and Warwickshire County Council
As well as my work as a composer, I also worked full time as a musician and a Peripatetic Percussion Teacher for the Schools and the Centre for the Performing Arts in Coventry. I also for some Schools in the County of Warwickshire too, for the Head of Music David Jones. One day he asked me if I’d like to give some music teacher’s courses in Leamington Spa via the Guibenkin Scheme, so I took on this challenge. This turned out to be successful. At one of the sessions on the course I teacher asked me if I would like to give some similar percussion workshops for the Rugby High School for Girls, which he was Head of Music of. It was at this particular school that I started using my ‘cross-in-a-square’ idea, which developed into a useful teaching method for me as the pupils found it easy to follow.
Occasionally David Jones also asked me if I’d like to give some help to the percussion section of the Warwickshire Youth Orchestra in rehearsals before they were about to give some concerts.
‘Coventry Impressions’ performed by the Coventry Youth Orchestra
I was also approached by the head of Music for Coventry, Peter Isherwood, who asked me to write a piece for the Coventry Youth Orchestra. He told me there would be no guidelines: the music could be about any subject as long as the music didn’t last any longer than approximately 20 minutes.
So again I went ahead and composed a piece of music I entitled: ‘Coventry Impressions’: which was a suite in four parts titled: ‘The City Awakes’ an orchestral percussion piece; ‘Learfric Waltz’; ‘Cathedral by Night’ and ‘Broadgate March’ (in the style of Elgar). The first performance at Caludon Castle School in Coventry was a success, which was great for me as Terry Moss, from Boosey & Hawkes the Head of Recorded Music and his assistant travelled up from London to the concert to give me some support. After the concert we had a little cerebration at my house.
‘Yuletide in Solothurn’ performed by the Coventry Youth Orchestra. Performed in Coventry Cathedral for their Christmas Carol Concert
Because of the success of Coventry Impressions, a year or so later I was approached again by Peter Isherwood as he wanted to know if I would like to write another piece of music for the Coventry Youth Orchestra, this time to be performed at the Coventry Cathedral for their Christmas Carol Concert they perform at every year. He also mentioned he would like the music to be a Christmas style piece, similar to the Leroy Anderson’s composition, ‘Sleigh Ride’. This was a perfect commission for me as the previous year, a friend of mine and myself spent Christmas in Switzerland with some friends.
I remember how beautiful it was as there had been a snowfall one night and the following day we’d spent quite a bit of time sledging. Once Christmas Eve arrived, we all opened our Christmas presents around a candle lit tree, (a custom in Switzerland). After opening out presents our Swiss friends invited us to a Midnight Mass being held in a town named Solothurn. It was absolutely wonderful there, as the old streetlights and the pretty houses were lit up like a picture postcard. Whilst travelling to the local Church it had started to snow. Then on entering the Church the whole atmosphere changed as the Church was full to the brim with hardly any space to sit down! Needless to say the Midnight Mass was very moving and colourful. On leaving the Church we found that outside it had began to snow more heavily.
When I sat down to write the piece I began thinking of that wonderful experience I had in Switzerland the previous Christmas. So it was perfectly obvious for me to write about my experience and so titled the piece ‘Yuletide in Solothurn’ painting a picture of that wonderful setting of Christmas spent in Switzerland. Once I had finished the piece and spending some time in the Coventry Cathedral rehearsing it began to sound just as I’d envisaged it to be. It was a wonderful evening at the Christmas Carol Concert in Coventry Cathedral hearing my music being performed by the Coventry Youth Orchestra and having my friend Larry Grayson, some of my family and a few close friends. To top all this the whole service was broadcast ‘live’ on the local radio ‘Mercia Sound’.
The ‘Learn As You Play’ Series for Percussion, published by Boosey & Hawkes
‘Learn As You Play Drums’ and ‘Learn As You Play Tuned Percussion & Timpani’ Tutor Books and ‘Learn As You Play Drums Cassette’
During my work as peripatetic percussion teacher for Coventry and Warwickshire, I found myself carrying with me a very heavy case containing various drum and percussion tutors. These I needed for all the schools and colleges I visited. I often thought to myself wouldn’t it be a great idea if most of the information I was carrying around with me could be incorporated into one tutor book alone covering most styles of drum/percussion music; including modern drum kit; Orchestral Percussion including Snare drum, and Tuned Percussion and Timpani. So in my spare time and in between teaching I tried to write some of my ideas into one tutor/book in a book I titled ‘The All Round Drummer’. I was able to test these ideas on my students before I entered into my book. Once I’d got a rough copy of how I would approach writing this book i.e. in graded form (e.g. beginner to intermediate). I mentioned my idea to Terry Moss at Boosey & Hawkes. He thought it was a wonderful idea as at that particular time Boosey & Hawkes only had a Drum Book written by Jack Parnell (who incidentally was the drummer, bandleader and MD for Larry Grayson’s ‘Shut That Door’ TV Show). Terry Moss spoke about my idea to the Boosey & Hawkes Printed Music Department at the Hyde, in London. Terry mention to me later they liked my idea so advised me to write a synopsis of my book and forward this onto them when I’d finished. This I did and the response that came back was quite good. However, time seemed to go on forever before I had a response from them asking me if it would be possible to have the head of Printed Music and her Assistant travel around with me for a couple of days to the various schools I taught at. They also added could I try to cover a variety of schools I taught at as possible.
This I arranged after consulting various Heads of Music and Head Masters from Junior Schools upwards to Grammar Schools. Then I arranged for the head of Boosey & Hawkes Printed Music Department Catherine Duncan and her assistant Judith Harris to travel around with me at a selection of schools I taught in which they both enjoyed. A while later they gave me the thumbs up and said that if I could capture my teaching skills and my ideas within my book they would have a ‘hit’ on their hands! Terry Moss also told me he received very positive feed back from them! Unfortunately, I didn’t hear anything from them and worse still after 12 months had gone I heard that Catherine Duncan had left the company!
Terry Moss could see my frustration after I asked him for his advice on what would be the best thing to do now! He suggested that I either write or telephone them to give them an alternation to say that if I hadn’t heard anything from them within 14 days I would past my idea onto another publisher. Well this did the trick as I received a telephone call a few days later from the new head of printed music Steven Richards who told me that they liked my idea and that I would receive a contract from them in the post quite soon. Needless to say I was over the moon. It took me about 6 months (the time limit they gave me) to complete this mammoth task including many journeys to and from London to have meetings with the editors and various proof reading sessions. It was decided during the meetings I had that my original ‘All Round Drummer’ book would be released as two separate books within their award winning Learn As You Play Series.
The ‘Generation Game’ for BBC1 Television
A few years after the ‘Shut That Door’ TV Show, the BBC to approached Larry Grayson if he would front the Generation Game, as Bruce Forsythe was leaving the show. I remember quite clearly Larry ringing me, as well as his other friends, asking me if I thought it would be a good idea for him to take this on. I immediately said that he should do it, as he would make a good job of it as he would make the show into his own unique way. As I did for the ‘Shut That Door’ TV Show, I travelled with Larry to the rehearsals and recording which was always made on a Thursday, one full long day of recording before the show went out every Saturday evening.
After a while, I took the opportunity of introducing myself to Ronnie Hazlehurst, the Head of Music for the BBC TV and Musical Director for the Generation. After I’d introduce myself to him I told him a little about myself and my songs I’d written for Larry, I asked him if I could have a shot at writing some theme music for another TV show the BBC was thinking of putting on. He explained that it maybe a little difficult, as most TV & Radio producers like to commission composers who they already knew and worked with. However, Ronnie mentioned that sometimes producers like to ask a number of composers all at the same time so that each composer can send in some samples of their compositions for a particular show. The various composers when submitting examples were to make sure their names weren’t written on the top of the music so that the producer wouldn’t be influenced by say a well-known composers entry. Ronnie Hazlehurst then asked me if I’d like him to add my name to this list. I accepted his offer with no hesitation, as it would be a wonderful opportunity for me.
‘Where Are They Now’, the theme music I wrote for BBC1 Television, published by BBC/EMI Music on 15th April 1979.
After about 12 months or so later, I was sent a brief from the BBC with information about a new TV show they were going to produce titled ‘Where Are They Now’. The brief gave details of the show and what it was about. Basically, it was about ordinary people or stars that were once in the public eye, but were no longer around through no fault of their own. The TV Show was going to be presented by the renowned David Jacobs.
Myself and about 90 or so composers were asked to send in a 30 seconds piece of music for the ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ part of the show. As well as this we were asked to send shorter versions of the same music so these could be used as links etc. We could send in no more than about 3 ideas if we wanted to and the music had to be written out for a small group of musicians no larger than 6 musicians. I sent in 3 examples of which my first and second choice I wrote as Pop/Sequencer versions, which I believe most other composers sent in too. However, for my third example I chose a ‘street buskers’ type of band comprising of drums, tuba, banjo, mouth organ and vocals. This idea came to me whilst I was playing in a similar band at ‘Bogart’s’ Bierkeller in Birmingham. I thought that this sound would be ideal as it would encompass a nostalgic type of feel which was exactly what the TV show was about.
Imagine my surprise when after a few weeks I received a telephone call from the man himself Ronnie Hazlehurst informing me that amongst all the 90 versions sent in, my piece number 36 had been chosen by the producer of the show: Peter Morpurgo as he liked it. Ronnie Hazlehurst even asked me if I wanted to use my own choice of musicians or his choice, but to save time I thought his choice of musicians would be best. The recording session I was told would be at the Shepherds Bush BBC Studios. It was only when I arrived at the session that I was told by Ronnie Hazlehurst he wanted me to conduct the musicians. I managed to get through the recording session but I was very nervous, as this was the first time I did this and didn’t know what to expect. The TV show itself was ‘aired’ on BBC1 for two years running, for about a 6 weekly series of programmes.
Some awkward and funny theatre moments in my career as a ‘pit’ drummer/percussionist
One funny moment, if you can call it that, was at rehearsals for the Noel Coward Show ‘Perchance to Dream’ at the Birmingham Hippodrome. One day during rehearsals the producer of the show became very angry with someone on the stage, so came running up the steps to the stage, which were behind me, (for these type of shows the drummer/percussionist always sat at the far end of the pit). The producer, lady wanted to direct a member of the cast but as she rushed up the steps to the stage she slipped and fell on top of me and my drums too (imagine all the clanging noise from my cymbals etc. when this happened!!). This piece of news even made a story in the local Newspaper. However, I was very pleased to hear that the producer I didn’t suffer any major injuries or broken bones except for a sprained ankle…and I came out of it all in one piece too!
Another incident happened during a performance of the show ‘Cinderella’ with Des O’Connor at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Whilst I was striking the 12 o’clock chimes on a single tubular bell hanging by a piece of sting for Cinderella to leave the ball as the slipper wouldn’t fit, the piece of sting attached to the top of the bell I was holding suddenly broke and the bell fell onto the floor making a heavy clanging noise. The audience and even the cast on the stage all rocked with laughter. Then Des O’Connor shouted across to me from the stage ‘we must keep this in as the audience thought this was part of the show’.
During another performance in this same show, a roar came from the audience as one of the ponies drawing Cinderella’s carriage across the stage decided to relive himself, as he must have drank too much water! His urine came rolling down the stage onto the brass and wind section in the pit and ‘soiled’ all their music. Luckily this incident happened at the end of the first act so the band was able to dry out the music and salvage it in some way. Of course a copyist had to be employed the next day to write out all the musicians parts.
During a performance on stage of the Englebert Humperdinck Summer Season Show at the ABC Great Yarmouth another funny incident happened. It was as I was playing a Timpani roll at the end of one of Englebert Humperdinck’s numbers; the ball at the end of my timpani stick suddenly flew off into the audience. Everyone laughed and again Englebert Humperdinck asked me to keep this in as it bought a little funny moment to his act!
One awkward moment during a show was when my music stand and music fell over all over the place! As it happened so quickly I had to try to remember all the music off the top of my head! It just goes to show how unaware you are of remembering the music in a show when this type of unfortunate incident happens.
‘Vennini Music’- various recorded compositions of mine for the label.
One day I received a telephone call from Boosey & Hawkes asking me if I would mind Santis being written for Violin and Flute. I told them that I would be delighted for this to happen. Boosey & Hawkes gave me the person and details of the person who was arranging everything. The first performance of the new musical arrangement for Violin and Flute was performed in Brighton, which I attended. The audience enjoyed this performance and was a success. Later I was asked to write some more music for Vennini to be recorded onto a CD. The titles I wrote were: ‘Midsummer Meadow’, ‘Passage of Time Suite’ (consisting of six pieces) etc.
CDs for Vennini Music
‘Passage of Time Suite’ (in 6 parts) – Electric Violins, Viola and Orchestra
‘Midsummer Meadow’ – Clarinet and Violin Duo
‘Santis’ – Electric Intermezzo, Duet for Violins and Orchestra
Drum Styles published by Boosey & Hawkes first published in 2009. First reprint came later in 2011.
This book came about by comprising all my teaching methods for all styles of music I taught.