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Len Ford’s memories of Malcolm Wright R.I.P - Drummer 1957-1969

Len Ford’s memories of Malcolm Wright, known as Malc;-Mel;-Wrighty; Mr Fix It.

I first met Malcolm, (I always called him Malc, which he preferred), at Beulah Road junior boys school, (boys were kept apart from the girls in those days). He was slightly older than me so he was in a different class, so contact was limited to the playground, which is where we bonded. It became a more solid friendship after we both went to Ingram Road Boys secondary school.

Long before we became music minded we were on the same wavelength, anything mechanical was our bag. My dad had a shed in the back garden, where we made wooden boards that had ball race metal bearings from car wheels; how we got hold of these I have no idea. The trick was getting them to stay on the wooden strut axles, and then staying on the board, whilst travelling down the steep Spa Hill in Upper Norwood. This progressed into making what we called a trolley. This was a longer plank, with front steering by a rope. The wheels came off baby prams, the bigger the better. Always smaller wheels on the front as we discovered it made the trolley more stable. The next invention was to make a longer one, build a box on the back and then it was 2 seated, which made it much more stable. Other kids started making these trolleys and we used to race down through the woods by Spa Hill. I got into trouble over this, as I’d collected an old pram from the gardens behind some flats that backed onto the woods. I chanced my luck a bit too much this time, as the flats main occupants happened to be police families. Oh what large trouble that caused. Malc knew nothing about it until he got questioned by the police, his mum and dad after that tried to keep us apart, it lasted a while, but Malc was a true friend.

Always being outdoors, we grew up pretty fast and upgraded to bikes. I remember Malc got one first, sort of scrap, but still usable. So I copied him and we both scoured the land everywhere for old bits of bike. We spent many a day changing wheels, chains, handle bars and forks. Brakes caused us most problems as these parts had to be purchased with real money. Our main source of income in those days was beer and lemonade bottles, collected and returned for the deposit refund. This put the bikes to good use, as early wombles we cleaned up the waste land bomb sites, also backyards of the local pubs, naughty, naughty.

After all this we quietened down, as we both got paper round jobs, I went on to do a milk round. The milkman’s name was Nobby Clarke. It was around this time that skiffle started when Lonnie Donegan came on the scene. Around this time, we were about 12 years old, Malc got a 3 piece drum kit and began to learn his craft, this led to him sitting in at school with Ian Duncombe and others playing the craze of the day ”skiffle”.  I got a guitar that Christmas and messed about with other lads in the school .I suppose a year went by and Malc and Ian had made a group and started playing rock-n-roll.

Not long after that they asked me to join them. Me and Malc spent many years together on and off, and they were the happiest years of our youth. We spent time; fishing/cycling/snooker/table tennis, darts in the pub, playing music and travelling all over the country. Malc always looked after his mates and if there was a problem with anything, he was straight into it trying to fix it, which he nearly always did. He was a lovely generous person and a wonderful friend.

Thanks mate. R.I.P.