Looking back through the first memories of my youth, the most vivid are those of places visited, people I met and presents received. For me at 12 years old 1956, I got a guitar for Christmas, it cost my mum and dad the princely sum of £7.00. (I got £4 a week when I first started work in1959 aged15). At the time this was my best present ever, so after a lot of effort and pain in the fingers, (which all budding guitarists know about), it brought about my greatest gift of all – the ability to play music and ultimately what this profile is about; I joined a group of like minded musos called -
The original groups name was “The Hi-
I was born 11th March 1944 in Croydon and lived in Upper Norwood, but my parents told me I was conceived in Liverpool. Dad was a Scouser and met mum in Croydon whilst serving in the army at the beginning of the war. They were both very good ballroom dancers, mum also played the piano, but only from music, I was the busking type and wished I had learnt to sight read. I had an older brother Allan by 5 years and Stan who is 2 years younger than me.
First school was Beulah Road Junior, where I met Malcolm Wright, (The Hi-
Around 1956/7, Ian and Malcolm started playing skiffle at school with Keith Bennett (no relation to Hi-
Luckily we passed an audition to play a regular gig in The Park Lane Ballroom, owned and run by Ed Waller and his wife. This had us playing 2 or 3 nights a week there as the main act, for 2 or 3 years. We got supported by local Croydon bands; Martin Jae & The Hi-
We managed to slot in other gigs around these and got involved with dance hall promoters Ron King and his brother Fred, they held dances mainly in North London, but had weekly gigs at the Putney Ballroom and Ebbisham Hall in Epsom. We ended up on a continuous rotation of the dance halls run by Ron and Fred, (check out the gig list).Ron King became our manager later on.
Roger Newell’s mum was handy with a sewing machine, it could have been her idea for the band to wear uniforms, anyway it certainly made people aware of us, as we always had black trews, jackets of bright pink with black velvet lapels and pocket tops. The new replacements were bright orange with purple velvet lapels and then we tried lime green ones, urgh! They didn’t last. The local paper even noted it in an article about the group, appearing at the Park Lane Ballroom for another season.
Being a Liverpool group they had the entire promotion budget, plus all the attention. Must say it was a better record. We made a further two more recordings of Brian’s songs, “Giant of a Man/Part Time Lover” but the option to release them never happened, so they stayed as demos.
Very soon after this, May 1963, we accepted the offer to become a backing band on the Robert Stigwood package “All Stars 63” Tour.
The Granada, Crystal Palace.1958.
Len Ford; Vern Rogers; Ed Waller; Alan Stainer; Malcolm Wright; Brian Bennett on the MV Royal Daffodil 12th June 1960
Sadly around late 1958 Ian Duncombe decided to leave the band, detailed within his profile. So by default I got to be the new lead guitarist. This entailed me frantically trying to learn enough solos etc for the 1 hour set at the Old Greyhound Hotel. I think it was for Sainsbury’s staff dance. Well I did manage to carry it off without too many bum notes, but had another kind of tragedy -
Len’s brub Allan sporting Hi-
The other change that happened when Ian left, Roger Newell decided to adopt a stage name and we became Vern Rogers & The Hi-
As a group we had recently turned professional (early 1963), Vern Rogers did not want to do the same, as he had a very good daytime job and wanted to keep it if things went wrong. So we left him to it and became Brian Bennett & The Hi-
This recording session, April 1963 resulted in “Take Me or Leave Me/I’m Struck” being released on the Pye-
This had to change, so I went around to Ian Duncombe’s house and got me some lessons, he showed me some chords and solos and I gawped. Being a streetwise lad I progressed quickly, with his help and Bert Weedon’s “Play in a Day” book, every lad with a guitar must have owned a copy. So it came to pass, Ian and Malcolm asked me to join The Hi-
Artistes we backed were -
The Pigalle Club was my last gig with The Hi-
It took a further 6 months convalescing at home before I was declared fit and recommended not to follow the musicians lifestyle and so joined the everyday work place. The Hi-
Part 2 of my story will follow in 2015. My time with;-
Oban FM Radio
The Chess Set
My retail record shops
Moving to Scotland and the Scottish groups;
Take A Break
and playing solo gigs.