Born in Hammersmith, 4thApril 1943. Lived in Battersea, was Bombed and evacuated to Huddersfield. My Dad’s job moved to Burton Wood near Warrington so we moved up there and I went to Great Sankey Infants School. Fell in love for the first time. Her name was Rita Klemm. We were already five but we kept it clean. Both my parents went to piano accordion lessons but were not very advanced. They also played mandolin, but I can’t remember ever hearing them play, but the mandolin was my first confrontation with a musical instrument. The next was the descant recorder which I hated. My first flop was “Tom Tom the Pipers Son” when I was six at the school concert. That was the first of many times I used the phrase “It sounded ok at home”. After four years, dad’s job had to move back south and we ended up in Thornton Heath near Croydon. I went to “Beulah Road Junior Boys School” then onto “Ingram Road Boys School”. At Ingram I started playing Skiffle with class mate Keith Bennett who was an ardent Lonnie Donegan fan but I developed an aversion to that style and was much more interested in American music. We’re talking 1955 or so, Johnny Ray and Frankie Laine are over and Elvis, The Champs, Frankie Lymon, Little Richard and Larry Williams (who had a hit with “Bony Moronie”), are what’s happening. Then came Gene Vincent with Cliff Gallup on guitar and it changed my life.
He lived just around the corner to me, was very eager and enthusiastic to play, I wanted a second guitar in the band. And so it came to pass. On Piano was Brian Bennett – musically the most “intellectual” of the band – meaning he actually knew what notes he was playing. We needed a singer also and after an advert in The Croydon Advertiser we were introduced to Roger Newell. He played rhythm guitar and sung pretty well – He looked good and had a refined presentation. The personnel in the band, possibly in this order, because I can’t recall who joined when, were;-
Malcolm Wright on drums – well at first it was only one drum. He gradually accrued the others from who knows where. For a while the “Kick Drum” was literally that because he didn’t have a bass drum pedal that worked.
Allan Stainer played Rhythm guitar at first, but I talked him into tuning the guitar down and playing bass on it – which he did very well. My futuristic suggestion of putting a piano string on the lowest position was soon dropped when the guitar neck started to bend.
Stuart Pope on Rhythm guitar was going to join but had to concentrate on his “0” Levels so his place was taken by;-
Me being left handed was a problem. There were NO such guitars. So I was forced to make my own. Thanks to my Dad and Mr Sherwood the woodwork teacher at Ingram School, I was good at making things. My first home made guitars were Spanish and Cello instruments and they actually worked fine. One day I was in the garden shaving the neck on my latest guitar, when a friendly guy neighbour Ray Broadie, mentioned that he had a workshop with all the tools I needed, including a band saw. That made things easier and opened the way to make a solid body electric guitar, which I had only seen in pictures of American players, in particular Little Richard’s guitarist and Buddy Holly. In fact I later played pro gigs for a year in Germany using myself made solid guitar and amplifier. Someone in the band’s mum was a very able tailor. She made us the outrageous pink jackets with black trimmings. That gave us the visual image we had lacked until then – We looked BETTER than The Hot Rods – That was of great importance to me and we got more gigs. I played lead guitar with The Hi-
Sonny’s band was another step toward professionalism. His guitarist Pat O’Grady couldn’t keep up the gig schedule with his day job/marriage and had to leave. The personnel was Dave Dale, drums, Frank Jackson, Fender bass, Roger King, Sonny Stewart vocals(aka Arthur Champerlain). He was a great showman and singer and looked like a Hollywood star. He drove a 1960 Cheverolet “Impala” – the one with a winged rear end – in light blue metallic finish. We played the US bases Chicksands, Brize Norton, Laken Heath etc and always went down great.
Its now 1961 and we were invited to play for a month in Hamburg. I’m doing an apprenticeship at “Parchmore Engineering” which, I of course had to quit.
While with Sonny in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg we were augmented by the house singer Tony Sheridan who had the Beat Brothers (Later renamed The Beatles) as backing band in the club. One evening both Tony’s and Sonny’s voices gave out – which no wonder, considering we played from 19:00 until 04:00 in the morning – sometimes longer. Because I knew the words to the songs I was thrown in the deep end and had to sing. Glad to say, the audience liked my singing.
We ended up staying in Germany for over a year before returning to Croydon for a break….I had been engaged to Janet Taylor when we left. She wisely broke it off and I unwisely hit the Schnapps bottle for a while….actually long enough to get kicked out of Sonny’s band for rowdiness.
In keeping with some other events in my life, what at the time seemed to be a tragedy turned out to be a godsend? German night club owner, Aaron Broun had seen me with Sonny’s band and gave me a substantial amount of money to form my own band which he would manage.
My mum loved Les Paul and I thought the sun shone out of his “F” holes – but when I heard Cliff Gallup – Wow! The first band I played with in 1955/56 was, “Rod Lyward & The Hot Rods”, I must have been 11 or 12 years old. I played my Mum’s mandolin with the strings altered for “Left Handedness” a terrible affliction which can, if caught early, be easily corrected by forcing the culprit to play like everyone else. After all, there are no lefty pianists or violinists. After about a year 1956/57 I left The Hot Rods to form my own band. Not wanting it to be at all associated with Skiffle I named it “The Hi-
I held auditions in Croydon and two musicians from The Deltones, bass player George Clarke and tenor sax Ian Thomas both joined. On drums was a more jazz orientated player Mick Godfrey. "Jeff Beck auditioned for Rhythm guitar part for my cover band in Germany, but although we got on great, he wasn’t right for the band -
The band I took back to Germany we named “The Continentals” On rhythm guitar was my sister’s boyfriend Joe Cunningham, an excellent singer with a beautiful voice similar to Johnny Cash. That line-
To be Continued.
Len Ford with Ian's first solid electric guitar and Ian with his NO.1 homemade guitar.
Carl Perkins singing KawLiga 1978, With Ian Jimmy Duncombe: guitar, Terry Stevens: bass, Philippe Kienholz: piano, Düde Dürst: drums, -
Carl Perkins singing Blue suede Shoes: guitar/vocal, Düde Dürst: drums, Ian Jimmy Duncombe: guitar, Terry Stevens: bass, Philippe Kienholz: piano -