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Allan Stainer founder member, (Rhythm guitar/Bass ) late 1957 – mid 1960.

The Hi-Fi’s have not had contact with Allan Stainer since they parted company back in mid 1960 when Frank Jackson replaced him.  As a result of Monica Porters Lost and Found column in the Daily Mail and his brother Dennis we were re-united. Allan is alive and well living in Brisbane, Australia. Here now is his story.

I started learning to play the guitar around this time and went to a teacher who lived in nearby Stockwell. To me at the time he was quite old and had the annoying habit of eating Strawberry jam sandwiches whilst he was teaching me and of course the jam would drip onto my guitar. Luckily it was a cheap acoustic that my parents had bought for me.

Born 18thJuly 1942 in Clapham, London SW4. Lived at 95 Gauden Road, Clapham North with mum (Doris), dad (Ernie) and brother Dennis. It was next to Clapham North railway station. As a kid I used to play cricket using the station wall as a wicket and remember vividly watching the Golden Arrow Pullman Express pass by on its way to the channel ferry and France.

I went to Hasselriggs primary school, which was just around the corner from our house.  As I not fully pass my 11 plus exams, I then went to an ordinary school off the main Clapham North/Clapham Common road the name of which escapes me.

We lived there until 1954 when we moved to 34, Windsor Road, Thornton Heath, near Croydon, Surrey.  Aged 12 I had to go to a new school, not a secondary modern for me. With the help of my mother, we conned a place at Aristotle Grammar School part of Archbishop Tenison in Selborne Road, South Croydon. The problem with that was I got held back a year and had to re-do my 1st year lessons again.

It was while I was living in Thornton Hearth that my interest in music greatly increased, with the birth of rock-n-roll and buying a 78 rpm record of “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and The Comets. I played it over and over again driving my parents and brother insane.

During this time was when I first met Ian Duncombe at a youth club at a church hall in Beulah Crescent, Thornton Heath.  He had made his own solid electric Les Paul lookalike guitar, he played it very well and we all thought he was good.

This inspired me to buy a better guitar with money that I earned doing a daily paper round and a Saturday morning butchers delivery round. This involved riding one of those bikes like Granville (David Jason) had to use in Arkwright’s (Ronnie Barker) TV comedy series “Open All Hours”. So I became the proud owner of a Hofner President acoustic guitar a sort of burnt orange colour. Later I added a pickup to make it electric.

Around late 1957 I joined a small group that Ian Duncombe (lead guitar) and Malcolm Wright (drums) had started with me as Rhythm guitar/vocals. Going to the first gig I remember on a bus, was at Brixton Roller Skating Rink, we were pretty ordinary and a tune that we did play “Raunchy” sounded nothing like the record at all. I was commissioned to be the singer with songs such as “Rip It Up”-Rock Around The Clock”-Shake Rattle and Roll” and probably “Boney Maronie”. Another song I tried to sing being “Jailhouse Rock” this didn’t last long as I was pretty hopeless.

It was around this time that Len Ford and Brian Bennett joined the band. I was at school with Brian, same year, same class, we also got another singer, Keith Bennett (no relation to Brian), who sang songs like “Be Bop A Lula” and “Honey Hush” he liked blues and skiffle, he left fairly soon as he was not keen to be in a band. Ian decided he must have a more powerful amp, so I bought his old one and he I think got a new “Vox”.  I used to the get the bus to Brian’s house in Newark road, South Croydon, for practice and remember that whenever anyone passed by the window we would play “Rock Island Line” as loudly as possible, a showman entertainer at such a young age. Events are a bit blurred as to when and how Roger Newell came on the scene, but I do recall us all practising in Malcolm Wright’s house in Osborne Road, Thornton Heath. It was during this time that I started to play bass, but could not afford one (they were very expensive in those days), so I used the ordinary guitar 4-5 and 6th strings detuned to sound like a bass.

By this time I had left school in the 4th year and was working for The Clyde Shipping Company in the City of London as an office boy. The band were a getting a few paid gigs around £10-12. I remember one big gig at Cheam Baths 17th Jan 1959, near Sutton, Surrey. Cliff Richard and The Drifters were top of the bill as they were number one in the charts with “Move It”. We followed a big band act, so we were middle of the bill. Hank Marvin asked if he could borrow Ian’s new amp, as his had gone on the blink. This was before The Drifters/Shadows had “Fender” guitars and Hank was using an “Antoria” the same as Len Ford was playing.

Cliff was wearing a pink jacket similar to the ones we had. Another memory was a gig on the MV Royal Daffodil steamer 12th June 1960 a trip from London to Margate and back, which had some big name stars performing also. None of these gigs compared to the biggest one of all when we played the Old Greyhound off George Street, East Croydon, 6th May 1959. (this got demolished along with the Park Lane Ballroom, which was next door when they built the new underpass, Nestlé’s office skyscraper and the Fairfield Halls complex). The gig was for Sainsbury’s (a specialised food chain before supermarkets) staff party.

A big band was the main act and we were the intermission after the buffet playing about an hour, after which Roger and me went to have a dance (not with Roger I must add). It was then that I met my future wife to be, Ruby Bacon, her sister Sylvia used to work for Sainsbury’s. Roger danced with Joyce Mottershead , Ruby’s cousin and they went out together for about a year. While I was dancing with Ruby I asked her for a date and the rest as they say is now history. Roger and Joyce ended for some unknown reason, I made friends with her new boyfriend Bill Pettie, whom she married and I still keep in contact them.

Ruby and me had decided we would get married,  and early 1960 we had £60 saved up for this (£12 was an average weekly wage then), but I persuaded her to let me blow the lot on a new Framus Bass Guitar(the same model that Jet Harris played before the Fender) what a woman yeah ! you can see it in the picture taken on The MV Royal Daffodil. (Top right - Allan was very committed to his dedicated girl friend Ruby. This cropped picture shows Allan playing on the MV Royal Daffodil Ruby close to him as possible, behind with a headscarf on. Sometimes she would sit on the front edge of the stage, just to be close.)

It was not long after the boat trip that I left The Hi-Fi’s. I recall that the reason for leaving, I was not getting on that well with Roger.  Rodney Lyward had approached me to join his reformed group The Hot Rods and his then bass player Frank Jackson joined The Hi-Fi’s.

Leaving The Hi-Fi’s, joining The Hot Rods and emigrating to Australia

The last gig I did with The Hi-Fi’s was in Winchester and because we had the home made 4 foot square cabinet with 4 x 12” Goodman’s  speakers for the bass we hired a van and driver (this would have been Tony Smith a friend of singer Vern Rogers, he’d bought a Dormobile and became The Hi-Fi’s roadie). I remember that my amplifier wouldn’t work when we set up and I ended up having to borrow one from the support group. Roger got quite nasty and cracked the shits, because a valve had packed up and that I did not have a spare one. This really pissed me off, as valves were quite expensive and he being a singer had not paid out any money on equipment like the rest of the group had. The group even owned the PA. This was the last straw for me, as for some reason he used to niggle at me on other things before that and as I’d had the offer to join the Hot Rods I left the Hi-Fi’s.

Whilst in The Hi-Fi’s I managed quite easily to get Ruby pregnant in May 1960, but we just did not tell anybody. The Hi-Fi’s never knew about this as I did not keep in touch with anyone. We took a one bedroom flat (we was poor those days) in a big old 6 flats converted house in Chatsworth road, South Croydon, our first son Adrian was born in January 1961.Ruby and I were married at East Croydon Registry Office on 11th march 1961 (Len Ford’s birthday) but sadly we found little Adrian dead of Sudden Infant Cot Syndrome in June that year. The Hot Rods played at our wedding and I left them in the summer 1962 when Ruby and I went to Jersey for a holiday.

I put my amp and bass guitar up for sale in a music shop by Thornton Heath Pond. When I came back from Jersey it had been sold and I bought my first car a 1957 Ford Consul. I never played in a group again until I was 60 years old in the year 2000.

As I said in part 1 Rodney Lyward asked me to join as he wanted to reform the group and the first gig I did was on a Sunday afternoon at a hall in New Addington near Croydon, we went on to play regularly once a month there, this would have been in the autumn of 1960.

The line up that I played with was;-

Ian Hudson, lead guitar, he taught guitar playing in Potter ‘s Music Shop, South Croydon and also owned one of the first Watkins echo machines.

Another guitarist, Bob Nichols a tall thin fair haired guy played rhythm. Johnny someone played saxophone, he rode a BSA Golden Flash motor bike and a no name drummer with glasses. There was a line up changed whilst I was with The Hot Rods. Johnny the sax player bought a house on the Rushdean estate down at Strood in Kent and moved. Willie White a piano player took his place and he worked as a postman.The drummer with glasses was replaced by another thin guy I think his name was Harry McKlusky.

This picture taken at Allan & Ruby Stainer’s wedding 11 March 1961, at a church hall in Kellino Street, Tooting, SW17.

Allan Stainer(bass) Bob Nichols (rhythm guitar) Rod Lyward (vocals) Ian Hudson(lead guitar). The older fella at the back is Allan’s uncle Frank

In 1966 ruby and I went on a camping holiday in Cornwall, August was supposed to be a hot summer month, but it was cold and rained  all the time, being all rugged up in fleece lined car coats. I said to Ruby I’m fed up with this bad weather lets emigrate to Australia for some sunshine. We boarded a Quanta’s 707 jumbo jet from Heathrow and landed in Brisbane, November 1966. We even had to pay the full fare as the assisted passage package that was available to everyone was refused me, because I had a black mark against my name. I cannot tell a lie, but I got up to some petty mischief whilst in Borstal (the town not the detention system).

Australia has been very good to us and we have 3 Australian born sons; Graham 1967- Nigel 1969 and Damian 1973, all now married and have given us, 2 grandsons and 4 grand daughters.

After leaving the migrants hostel we bought a house in Elizabeth a large town built in the early fifties (classed as a city) about 20 miles North of Adelaide. Ruby’s mum and dad had a house there having emigrated to (Aus/Oz) with Ruby’s brothers and sisters back in 1965.

My mum (Doris) and dad (Ernie) also bought a house there in 1967, leaving my brother Dennis and his wife Susan behind in England. They had recently got married and had a baby so they decided to stay near her mum and dad for family comfort.

General Motors had set up a factory there to take advantage of the immigrant workers skills. I worked there for 16 years, on a car called a Holden (same as Vauxhall in the UK and Opel cars in Germany) being built there. During my time working for General Motors I saved enough money to buy a 6 acre smallholding, 3 miles outside a small country town called Kapunda in the Barossa Valley, South Australia State.

I used to travel the 40 miles each day to Elizabeth. We started a small farm of Pigs, cows, chickens and goats and I used to sell the produce at the G. M. Holden factory.

This helped Ruby earn some money whilst staying at home and looking after the kids, then she would come down every Thursday with a refrigerated trailer and would mainly sell processed chickens. It started to get fairly big, so in 1980, I put in a chicken processing line and stopped working at General Motors to expand the business full time. By 1984 we decided to have a change and sold the business and at that time we processed 20,000 chickens every week.

As we did not stay long in Brisbane when we immigrated, we moved back there and had a house built in 1988 for $200,000(£120,000) on one acre of land in the suburb of Alexander Hill about 24 miles from Brisbane centre and I bought a small truck delivery company called the Capalaba Carrying Service at the town of Carindale some 15 miles from Brisbane centre. Ruby went to work in the Carindale Woolworths store as manager of the delicatessen; the events that happened next dramatically change our lives.

We were comfortable (not rich) when it came to money having only a $50,000(£30,000) mortgage. Woolworths asked Ruby to trial a new product called Mum Lee’s Marinades to go on the cooked chickens they sold. The Chinese owner Mr Lee was looking for partners to get the business off the ground. As the product was really good, myself and our oldest son Graham each put in $60,000 (£36,000). If you have heard the saying “it’s too good to be true”, then it is. It turned out that Mr Lee was an ex bankrupt and so the business floundered, as he used all our money on getting himself out of debt.

But an ill wind does blow someone some good as when we were looking for a food factory to make these marinades in, the place we choose had some equipment like conveyors and cold stores that we could use and as the landlord had confiscated these from the previous tenant we got it all for a good price. There was one piece of machinery that I did not know it’s use, it said manual garlic bread machine, which I thought was some sort of Scottish bread, so it was  a good job that son Graham knew exactly what it was.

After working out how to use it and cut a longer story a bit short we started up the business in 1993 as a partnership of me Ruby and Graham, called the Australian Garlic Bread Company. Between then and when we sold the business in 2007 to George Weston Foods (Tip Top Bakeries/Associated British Foods in the UK) we went from zero to 1,100,000 garlic bread rolls per week, supplying the entire supermarket house brands and pizza chains nationally as well as our own brand.

In the year 2000 we dissolved the partnership and changed the name to AGB Pty Limited and became a registered company, which meant it was much more favourable than a partnership with regards to tax requirements. At this time we had the largest single line bakery in Australia, which we purchased from the French company Mecatherm near Strasbourge. We had 7 fully automatic machines running, employed over 100 people and by 2007 supplied 75% of the garlic bread market in Australia.

George Weston foods approached us to buy the business. We said it’s not for sale as we were confident that after a couple more years, we would have the whole garlic bread market. However we said if you want to put enough bread (money) on the table you can have it, they did and now my whole family are multi millionaires (how many millions cannot be divulged as it was a confidentiality clause within the contract) They are still trading today as AGB Pty Ltd. As we had built and still own the factory George Weston Foods now lease this from us. The money just keeps rolling in.

As I said at the start of my part 2 story “Australia has been good to us”

Let’s get back to the music;-

I have always loved the saxophone in the bands that I loved and grew up with such as Billy Haley & the Comets/ Little Richard/ Fats Domino etc, so when I was 60 I thought that I would love to play the sax in a rock-n-roll band , so I bought my first student model sax for a $1000(£600).

Now I thought playing the sax was going to be easy, after all it’s only one note at a time like playing 1 finger piano. Well how wrong was I, it was hard, so many things to do, you do not just press a button and blow. After thinking I should leave it behind the rear wheels of my 4 wheel drive and squash it I kept at it and far from being anywhere near brilliant I can honk out a rock-n-roll tune. Now I know why there are 10 million guitar and bass players out there and not many saxophone players.

So in 2009 I joined a band called The RockinBodgies. It was great for me, but in January 2013 after 4 years and playing most Friday/Saturday/Sunday nights I left the band, because it took up so much time at weekends I could not do all the other things I wanted to.

I really miss playing with the boys, maybe a couple gigs a month would satisfy my enjoyment as I do not need the money, any offers gladly considered.

I had 4 Saxes when I was playing, but sold the Yamaha YA62 Baritone keeping the 3 tenor models;

2 x Selmer old Gold ref 54 (nearest thing to a Mark 6 they reckon) and a Selmer Super Action 80.

I used a WI 5 Roam Elite Radio Mic and a Shure in ear monitor (those pesky guitar players are always too loud)

Well that’s all from me, best wishes to all Allan July 2014.

The  factory at Archerfield (Suburb of Brisbane ) where the business started in 1993. Factory size was a small 100 sq. meters.

Inside the Garlic Bread factory showing the 1500 sq meters of Food preparation area  with one of the 6 - $200,000 ( 120,000 pounds)automatic Garlic Bread making machines in the foreground.