July/August 1979 – Nag’s Head gigs

Local promoter Ron Watts was busy throughout the summer months of 1979 putting on a variety of gigs at both The Nag’s Head and The Town Hall in High Wycombe. A flyer I discovered in my own collection reveals some interesting dates during July and August 1979, including a debut for Mod revival band Merton Parkas, a Blues Loft Reunion and ‘World Debut’ for former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock’s band.

Nag’s Head gig flyer July/August 1979
From my own collection – enhanced for wycombegigs.co.uk

So, a quick skim through the list

Thursday 19th July 1979 – Merton Parkas/Panther 45

I believe this was Watts’ first venture into promoting a band from 1979 Mod revival. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, I recall making one of my ever trips to the Nag’s Head on a warm evening and being amazed to see at least a dozen scooters parked up along the London Road as punters from their London following made the trip into Buckinghamshire.

The Merton Parkas (formerly The Sneakers) consisted of Mick Talbot (keyboards and vocals), Danny Talbot (guitar and vocals), Neil Hurrell (bass and vocals) and Simon Smith (drums). At 20 years old, Mick Talbot and Simon Smith were the oldest members.

At the time of this gig they had just signed for Beggars Banquet after being recommended by The Lurkers. They would release their debut single, ‘You Need Wheels’ a few weeks after their appearance at The Nag’s Head.

Their set list that evening included the soon to be released single, plus covers, ‘Tears of a Clown’, ‘Stepping Stone’ and ‘Kids are Alright’, plus originals, ‘Plastic Smile’, ‘Give it to me Now’, ‘Hard Times’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Know You’.

Thursday 26th July 1979 – Blues Loft Reunion

This gig came just over ten years since Ron Watts had launched his Blues Loft in High Wycombe. According to the flyer, the featured artists were Paul Jones, Tom McGuinness, Hughie Flint, Shakey Vick and Dave Kelly.  I’m pretty sure that Ron himself and the rest of Brewers Droop would have been on stage too.

Thursday 2nd August 1979 – The Jimmy Norton Explosion

This was billed by Watts as a ‘World Debut’ for a band put together by former Sex Pistols and Rich Kids bassist Glen MatlockThe Rich Kids had split up at the end of 1978 and Matlock had drafted in Steve New (guitarist formerly of Rock Kids), Danny Kustow (guitarist formerly of Tom Robinson Band) and ‘Budgie’ (drummer at the time for The Slits).  Watts’ hand written flyer misspells the latter as ‘Busby’!

After all that explanation, I fairly sure that this gig never took place. They were also booked to appear at The Music Machine in London on 3rd August 1979 but I not sure if that took place either. From what I can make out, after recording a session for John Peel in July 1979, Matlock and New went off to tour with Iggy Pop and the JNE project was put on hold until early 1980 – they definitely appeared at The Nag’s Head on 29th February 1980.

Glen Matlock at The Nag’s Head.

Thursday 9th August 1979 – Phil Rambow

Rambow was a well-respected guitarist who had worked with Brian Eno and Mick Ronson. A quick search of Google reveals he also wrote songs with Kirsty MacColl and created the classic ‘classic ‘There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’.

References and further reading

https://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/merton_parkas.htm

http://www.philjens.plus.com/rattle/glen_spectres.html

https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/phil-rambow/whatever-happened-to-phil-rambow

20 June 1979 – After Science –Nag’s Head

Four years before Howard Jones would make his breakthrough in the UK charts with his synth based pop, his three younger brothers had formed a band and began gigging in the High Wycombe area.  Their first outings came under the name of After Science, with an appearance at The Nag’s Head on Wednesday 20th June 1979 being one of their first ventures.

After Science/The Runs
Nag’s Head – 20th June 1979
Flyer from my own collection

Brothers Roy Jones (20, vocals), Martin Jones (21, guitar) and Paul Jones (17, drums), were joined by friend Majid Ahmed (19, bass) for the gig billed to be in aid of Friends of the Earth.  The self-made flyer was the only form of advertising for the gig but that and word of mouth amongst their music loving friends drew a decent crowd to the London Road venue.

I’m grateful for Roy Jones confirming, shortly before this article was published, that he had previously gained experience playing with local band ‘prog rock’ band Beowulf, which featured Sabir Ahmed (brother of Majid on bass), plus High Wycombe Royal Grammar classmate Paul Ferguson on drums.  Ferguson went on to perform with Pink Parts during the 1977 ‘punk’ explosion.

By 1979, the ‘post-punk’ scene was in full swing and Ferguson had teamed up with a fledgling West London based Killing Joke.  Meanwhile, Roy had begun collaborating with his younger brothers – all boasting natural music talent – and bringing a relatively fresh sound to the local scene and one that was in stark contrast to the bands harking back to the days full on punk days of 1976 and 1977.

Drawing influences from the likes of XTC, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, Talking Head and Public Image Limited; After Science quickly built up a local following playing the smaller local venues but seemed to struggle to make the step into the larger venues.

Later in 1979 they would change the band name to The Jones Boys and start to record tracks at The Boiler House studios in High Wycombe (Sands) along with engineer Derek Timms.  By the end of 1979 they had built up enough material for an album and were gaining interest from record companies.

Roy Jones commented: “We used to rehearse two nights a week for four hours in the evenings after work. Then we used to play live in local venues like The Nag’s Head in High Wycombe. We even got record company interest from CBS who sent an A&R man down to see us play live.”

Roy also recalls that during one of their Nag’s Head appearances in 1979 brother Howard would join the group on stage.  It would be the only time that all four brothers ever played live together before an audience.

After Science / The Jones Boys
Majid Ahmed plus Martin, Roy and Paul Jones
Picture taken circa November 1979 in High Wycombe – photo Jim Rendell

In 2014 Roy Jones would re-visit the tracks recorded at The Boiler House and issue a retrospectively titled album, ‘Endless Waiting Game’, via download and streaming platforms.

The tracks featured were:

  • Con 79
  • Endless Waiting Game
  • Talking
  • Goodtime Music
  • Disco-O
  • It’s Science
  • Falling Apart
  • Television Hum (featuring Paul Ferguson)
  • Crazy Rhythm
  • Chinese Takeaway Experiment
  • Visit to Earth
  • Yes No Running

The tracks were essentially the material performed live by After Science and The Jones Boys up until early 1980, when the chaotic events at a planned support slot for Killing Joke and Joy Division at The Town Hall, High Wycombe provided the catalyst to move to London and make another name change, this time to Red Beat – and finally a breakthrough to play the bigger stages in London and beyond.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Jones Boys/Red Beat – Endless Waiting Game – 1979 remastered in 2014 by Roy Jones

References and further reading:

http://dredzilla.com/bio/

https://www.facebook.com/RedBeatWorldwide/

https://twitter.com/roybakerjones

 

8 March 1979 – The Beez – Nag’s Head

The Beez, a local band from Chesham, made what is believed to be their Nag’s Head debut on 8th March 1979 when they supported The Alligators.

Formed in 1977, they originally performed under the name of Bloo Lite – making their live debut as The Beez at a gig in April 1978 at The Elgiva Hall in Chesham.

Line-up for The Beez was Robert Boughton (guitar/vocals), Gordon Watson (guitar/vocals), Tim Heal (bass) and Paul Morris (drums/vocals).

The Beez quickly built up a local following and recorded their first material in December 1978 at Quest Studios in Luton. A demo tape from The Quest Studio sessions was circulated in order to gain more gigs and two tracks would eventually become their debut single –‘Easy’ coupled with ‘The Vagrant’.

The Beez – outside Quest studios – promo photos complete with autographs from my own collection

They  clearly impressed local promoter Ron Watts at The Nag’s Head on 8th March 1979.  Watts would have been delighted with the paying punters they attracted to the London Road venue and rewarded them with support slot  on the Town Hall stage on 18th April 1979 next to The Damned and The Ruts – it was by far the biggest venue they had played in their short history to that date.

The band would continue their rise to relative local fame with support appearances at Aylesbury Friars, plus further support slots at High Wycombe Town Hall and headline slots at The Nag’s Head.

An EP would follow later in 1979 but by 1980, perhaps frustrated with their lack of wider success, they had split-up. However, their recorded output remains the perfect example of truly independent record releases and the vinyl copies are collectors’ items.

For your listening pleasure

Easy – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B’ side

The Vagrant – The Beez – audio of debut single ‘B’ side

References and further reading

https://www.boredteenagers.co.uk/BEEZ.htm

2 February 1979 – UK Subs – Bucks College SU Bar

The UK Subs made what is believed to be their first ever appearance in High Wycombe on Friday 2nd February 1979, with a gig at the Buckinghamshire College of Higher Education Student Union Bar.  The date is also significant as it was on this day that Sid Vicious was found dead in his New York flat following a heroin overdose.  Meanwhile, back in High Wycombe, according to music paper gig listings, there was also the choice of seeing Adam and The Ants appearing at The Nag’s Head.

2nd February 1979 gig listings from Record Mirror – UK Subs and Adam & The Ants in High Wycombe

The basis of what would become the UK Subs had been formed out of the 1976 London punk scene, when ‘30 something’ hairdresser, Charlie Harper pulled together a band that performed under various names before settling on ‘United Kingdom Subversives’ and then the abbreviated UK Subs for their first gigs around the summer of 1977.  John Peel sessions followed but it was not until September 1978 that they released their first studio recordings – a three track single on City Records featuring live favourites ‘C.I.D’., ‘Live in a Car’ and ‘B.I.C.’  Earlier in 1978 they had two live tracks included on the ‘Farewell to the Roxy’ LP.

The UK Subs line-up for their debut release was the same as the one that appeared at their High Wycombe appearance in February 1979:

UK Subs – Gem Records promo photo 1979
Left to right: Nicky Garratt (guitar, 23), Paul Slack (bass, 21), Charlie Harper (vocals,34), Pete Davies (drums, 24)

This gig at The SU Bar pre-dated their signing to Gem Records and subsequent rise in popularity by a few months – their first widely available single, ‘Stranglehold’ would be released in June 1979 and they would return to High Wycombe to play the Town Hall twice more in 1979 to promote the single and their debut album release ‘Another Kind of Blues’.

The UK Subs still continued to perform at the time of this post – with lead vocalist – veteran rocker Charlie Harper the only common face throughout and aged 74 as of February 2019!  Their gigging history has seen them return to High Wycombe on a number of occasions – playing The Flint Cottage, White Horse and The Phoenix.  They were due to return to The Phoenix in November 2019 – an incredible 40 plus years since their appearance at the SU Bar back in February 1979.

Back in February 1979, a much younger (but still ‘old’) Harper would have heard the news of the death of Sid Vicious by the time his band took to the SU Bar stage.  Less than three years previous, Vicious (real name John Beverley) had seen The Sex Pistols in at the close by College Main Hall – a notorious character on the London ‘punk’ scene, he later became bass player for the Sex Pistols before the band split in January 1978.  He was just 21 years old at the time of his death.  The circumstances surrounding his death were still being discussed and analysed at the time of this post.

Sid Vicious obituary from Record Mirror – 10th February 1979

Advertised for the same evening as the UK Subs gig were Adam and The Ants at The Nag’s Head. The The London based band were fronted by Adam Ant (real name Stuart Goddard).  24 year old Goddard was in the stages of promoting his band, Adam and The Ants, formed around the summer of 1977 and on the back of the ‘punk’ explosion but starting to move more towards a ‘pop’ sound.  I’m unsure if the Nag’s Head appearance actually took place on 2nd February 1979.  It is listed in some publications as High Wycombe Town Hall but I can confirm the Town Hall appearance was a few days later on Monday 12th February 1979.  Perhaps The Nag’s Head was a warm-up date or simply never took place?

If the multiple events of Friday 2nd February 1979 weren’t enough to keep up interest at the time, local gig goers could have also taken in an appearance by Sham 69 at Aylesbury Friars on Wednesday 31st January 1979 – this was the gig where lead singer Jimmy Pursey claimed this would the final live appearance for this band – Pursey becoming increasingly frustrated with crowd trouble at Sham 69 gigs.  A day after The UK Subs gig at The SU Bar you could have travelled across to Friars again to see Stiff Little Fingers play as headliners on their Rough Trade tour to promote their recently released debut album, ‘Inflammable Material’.  A busy week!

Anybody with any memories or clarification of these gigs, please get in touch.

For your listening and viewing pleasure:

13 November 1978 – Siouxsie and The Banshees release debut album

Siouxsie and The Banshees released their long-awaited debut album on Monday 13th November 1978. ‘The Scream’ consisted of 10 previously unreleased tracks but most already live favourites with a growing fan base.  It proved an instant chart success in the UK, peaking at No.12 and going on to be regarded as a watershed in the transformation from the ‘punk’ musical genre to what would soon be branded ‘post-punk’.  40 years after its release is still sounds as fresh and stark as the day it was released.

The Scream – Siouxsie and The Banshees – debut album – released 13th November 1978 on Polydor

The Banshees had played High Wycombe on three previous occasions. Their most recent had been a riotous affair at The Town Hall in April 1978.  Prior to that they had appeared twice at The Nag’s Head in early incarnations of their line-up.  In March 1977, they played what was their fourth ever gig (not third as widely documented) when they supported Johnny Thunders.  They returned as headliners in May 1977 – both appearances including Peter Fenton on guitar.

Both those early appearances at The Nag’s Head were sparsely attended and it was only when John McKay replaced Fenton on guitar later in 1977 that the now iconic Banshees sound would develop. Two John Peel sessions would follow and a ‘sign the Banshees’ campaign would culminate in a deal signed with Polydor in June 1978 for a rumoured advance of £400,000.

A debut single, ‘Hong Kong Garden’, followed in August 1978 and the tracks for the debut album were recorded the same month and produced by Steve Lilywhite. Commenting on the album, bassist Steve Severin has said: “None of the songs were about current affairs. That was deliberate, as I saw that as a downfall of a lot of the so-called ‘punk’ bands.”

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Metal Postcard/Jigsaw Feeling – Old Grey Whistle Test – 7 November 1978 – BBC TV

30 June 1978 – The Skids – Nag’s Head

Scottish punk/new wave band The Skids played their first gig outside of Scotland or London on Friday 30th June 1978 (*) with a date at a Ron Watts promoted night at The Nag’s Head.

Skids – Return To London (and make first visit to High Wycombe) advert from Record Mirror – June 1978

(*) I’ve seen the date of The Nag’s Head appearance documented as both Thursday 29th June 1978  and Friday 30th June 1978. – The Thursday date was certainly the originally intended date and would tie in with the usual Thursday ‘Rock Night’s under Ron Watts’ promotion.  The music paper listings for that week show Thursday 29th June but I was delighted (and more confused) to discover the above tour advert in The Record Mirror showing The Skids ‘Return To London’ dates with The Nag’s Head appearance indicated the 30th June. My theory on why it might have been moved is below.

The Skids had been formed in 1977 in Dunfermline by then 19-year-old guitarist Stuart Adamson. He recruited Bill Simpson (bass), Thomas Kellichan (drums) and a 16 year old Richard Jobson on vocals. They played their first gig in August 1977 and released their first record in February 1978, the Charles EP on the No Bad record label (Tracks: ‘Charles’, ‘Reasons’ and ‘Test Tube Babies’). The EP was championed by John Peel and led to a rapid rise in their popularity away from their homeland.

Skids 1978 – Bill Simpson, Richard Jobson, Stuart Adamson and Thomas Kellichan

The Skids subsequently made their first journey ‘down south’ during April 1978, playing well-known London venues; including The Rochester Castle (Stoke Newington), Red Cow (Hammersmith), Hope and Anchor (Islington) and The Nashville (Kensington). The trip coincided with a record deal being signed with Virgin Records.

Their return south in June 1978 followed a first John Peel session recorded on 16th May 1978 and first broadcast three days later. The tracks were: ‘Of One Skin’, ‘Open Sound’, ‘Contusion’, ‘Night and Day’ and live favourite ‘TV Stars’.

The tour dates show The Skids playing a 28th June 1978 show at The White Hart in Acton.  Listings show this gig with the Scottish lads supporting Tubeway Army (Gary Numan’s electronic band in the making).  By some accounts it was a violent evening at a venue famous for its ‘punk’ nights.  I also noted a couple of other interesting gigs from the same weekly listing. The Clash made their Aylesbury Friars debut on Wednesday 28th June 1978 in front of a sell-out 1,000 plus crowd – they had played the Nag’s Head in November 1976 in front of barely 100 people!  On Thursday 29th June 1978, David Bowie played before around 20,000 fans at London’s Earl Court.  He had made a very early appearance in High Wycombe during 1966 – also playing to less than 100 people.  Perhaps the original date was moved to avoid clashing with The Bowie date? Members of The Skids were big fans of Bowie? Meanwhile, if you stayed at home to watch Top of The Pops on the Thursday night, you could have seen Dave Lee Travis presenting a typical show for the year – culminating in John Travolta and Olivia Newton John’s – ‘You’re The One That I Want’ video being shown for the third consecutive week. It would remain at No.1 for a further seven weeks! There was hardly a ‘punk’ revolution storming the top of the charts in the summer of 1978!

Back at The Nag’s Head the crowd for The Skids was also around the 100 mark. Promoter Ron Watts recalls the evening in his 2006 autobiography – 100 Watts – A Life In Music, saying:

“The Skids [were] yet another band with obvious massive potential. Richard Jobson was a dynamic singer, not blessed with the greatest of voices but he could handle a crowd. They also had Stuart Adamson, a guitarist who went onto even greater things with Big Country before sadly committing suicide in America. That was a real tragedy; Stuart had so much talent, yet he couldn’t cope with the situation.”

Success for The Skids would come relatively quickly following their Nag’s Head appearance. Within 12 months they had recorded three further sessions for John Peel and released a trio of singles that would propel them into the limelight.  Their debut on Virgin, ‘Sweet Surburbia’, was released in September 1978, while their ‘Wide Open’ EP released in October 1978 featured the storming lead track ‘The Saints Are Coming’.  Both singles had minor chart success but that was blown out of the water with the release of ‘Into The Valley’ in March 1979 – reaching No.10 in the UK charts and earning them regular appearances on Top of the Pops.  The track was taken from their debut album, ‘Scared to Dance’ – released in February 1979.  In November 1979 – less than 18 months after their Nag’s Head show, they had sold out The Rainbow Theatre in London.

For your listening and viewing pleasure – starting from the era The Skids played The Nag’s Head

Skids – 1st John Peel session for BBC Radio One – recorded 16th May 1978

The Saints Are Coming – The Skids – BBC Top of the Pops – November 1978

Into The Valley – The Skids –BBC Top of the Pops – March 1979

References and further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skids_(band)

http://www.the-skids.com/WEBPROTECT-timeline.htm

http://auralsculptors.blogspot.com/2012/01/tubeway-army-early-years.html

https://writewyattuk.com/2017/05/26/absolute-game-on-reconvening-the-skids-the-richard-jobson-interview/

24 May 1968 – Jethro Tull – Nag’s Head

The Nag’s Head hosted an early appearance for folk/prog rock giants in the making Jethro Tull on Friday 24th May 1968.  The band, formed in late 1967, had released just one single at the point of their Nag’s Head appearance and their debut album had yet to be recorded.  Less than a year later, their first vinyl long-player had hit the top 10 UK album charts and by the early 1970’s they were touring the world playing huge arenas.

Jethro Tull adverts from The Bucks Free Press for gigs at The Nag’s Head and The Crown, Marlow – May 1968

Promoter Ron Watts recalls the gig in his 100 Watts – A Life In Music – autobiography, where he claims he trialled an admission charge increase method.

“The normal price of admission was six shillings, but rather than reduce the price for an unknown band as Tull were then, I charged 6/6 (32 ½ p). I gambled that people would think that the higher price meant Tull were well-known, and potential customers would be too embarrassed to admit to their friends that they’d never heard of the night’s star attraction. The gamble worked, the place was full and Tull did a great set.”

The original band members had met in Blackpool. They found success after moving south to base themselves in Luton and settling on the name Jethro Tull.  Scottish born Ian Anderson on lead vocals and flute was a main focus, with other band members at the time of their High Wycombe appearance being Micky Abrahams (guitar), Clive Bunker (drums) and Glen Cornick (bass).  They released their first single, “Sunshine Day/Aeroplane” on MGM records in February 1968, although it was miscredited to ‘Jethro Toe’.

Following their appearance at The Nag’s Head, on 29th June 1968 Jethro Tull played the first ever free concert at Hyde Park, along with The Pink Floyd, Roy Harper and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Footage of the concert was filmed by Pathe news and has since appeared in documentaries about the band.  In August 1968 they appeared at the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Sunbury-on-Thames and by most accounts, this was the point they became recognised by the national music press and their career blossomed as a result.

Support to Jethro Tull on 24th May 1968 were The Nag’s Head houseband Dynaflow Blues.  They would also share the bill with Jethro Tull at the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Sunbury-on-Thames in August 1968.

Watts also promoted a Jethro Tull gig in Marlow the following week, with a show at The Crown. Watts added in his autobiography: “Six months later Tull’s first album, This Was, had made the top ten album charts and the band had been the hit of that summer’s festival circuit. People were coming up to me in awe, saying, “You booked them, and they became stars.” It was nothing to do with me, I’d hardly heard of Jethro Tull when they played the Nag’s, but they helped me to get a reputation for being able to spot up and coming acts. That meant people were happy to see bands they didn’t know, because they thought that a few weeks later they’d be watching Top of the Pops and telling everyone that they’d seen all those performers playing at the Nag’s.”

It doesn’t appear that Jethro Tull ever returned to play High Wycombe again but there is another connection with the area as Ian Anderson moved to live in Buckinghamshire for a number of years from the late 1970’s through to the early 1980’s – residing in a farm house in Radnage – a village about 7 miles from High Wycombe.  Footage of the farm (with recording studio added), plus the 1968 Hyde Park film, appears in the YouTube clip below.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

Fish ‘n’ Sheep & Rock ‘n’ Roll – Ian Anderson documentary – Channel 4 1987

Hyde Park footage is from 1:30 – filmed 29th June 1968
Footage at Radnage is from around 27:30

References:

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/hyde-pk-6-29-68.html

http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/sunbury2.html

11 May 1978 – Wayne County (cancelled)/Stukas – Nag’s Head

High Wycombe favourites Wayne County and The Electric Chairs were due to play at The Nag’s Head on Friday 11th May 1978. This date appears in printed and online histories but my research some 40 years after the original date had revealed that Wayne was forced to cancel the gig late in the day due to illness.  Those arriving at the London Road venue hoping to see Wayne with The Electric Chairs would have been shown a telegram taped to the wall from Wayne apologising for the cancellation and indicating a new date would be arranged as soon as possible.

Wayne and The Electric Chairs – circa 1977

Wayne County and The Electric Chairs had appeared in High Wycombe on at least three previous occasions prior to the scheduled May 1978 date. The first, as part of the March 1977 US Rock Week at The Nag’s Head, drew a decent crowd and prompted promoter Ron Watts to invite them back for another appearance just a month later on 9th April 1977. However, a November 1977 headlining show at The Town Hall proved a step too far, with audience numbers not that much greater than a crammed Nag’s Head and an atmosphere toned down from the intensity of The Nag’s Head stage.

The return to the Nag’s Head on 11th May 1978  was billed as a ‘farewell’ concert for Wayne County – farewell being to the name ‘Wayne’ and hello to the soon to be ‘Jayne’.

The few who stayed on at The Nag’s Head on Friday 11th May 1978 would have seen support band Street Chorus, followed by headliners The Stukas.  Street Chorus appear to be a soul band with horns and a Hammond Organ.

Stukas debut single – reverse of picture cover with details of band members

Meanwhile, The Stukas were returning to The Nag’s Head having supported Chelsea at the same venue a year previous. They had built a small following throughout 1977.  However, by mid-1978 it appears their momentum had waned and they gradually faded from grace leaving a small back catalogue of songs from 1977-1978.

Jayne County and The Electric Chairs would return to High Wycombe later in the year.

26 April 1968 – Dynaflow Blues – Blues Loft Nag’s Head

West London based Dynaflow Blues made their Nag’s Head debut on Friday 26th April 1968 as Ron Watts’ recently launched ‘Blues Loft’ venture at the London Road venue continued to attract attention.  Looking back on the 50th anniversary of their appearance at The Nag’s Head, Dynaflow Blues drummer Mel Wright has shared more of his memories, press cuttings and priceless photos from the time.

Dynaflow Blues had been formed out of Shakey Vick’s Big City Blues Band who received an encouraging reception from High Wycombe Blues fans after playing their first gig at The White Hart with Champion Jack Dupree in March 1968 and then nearby at The Angel.

Watts then moved the ‘Blues Loft’ to The Nags Head, with the opening night on 5th April 1968 featuring Jack Dupree (accompanied by Shakey Vicks’s band).  Savoy Brown followed on Friday 12th April 1968, with Chicken Shack on Friday 19th April 1968.

Watts was soon to book in the newly formed Dynaflow Blues at The Nag’s Head. Mel confirms the line-up of the band as Ron Skinner (vocals/bass), Rod Price (guitar), Chris Elvin (blues harp) and Mel Wright (drums).

Dynaflow Blues – picture taken on the footbridge opposite The Nag’s Head during the Spring of 1968. Left to right – Chris Elvin, Rod Price, Ron Skinner, Mel Wright. Sitting at front, Ron Watts. Photo by Ron Holley and kindly supplied by Mel Wright for wycombegigs.co.uk

Mel recalls: “The 26th April 1968 gig at The Blues Loft was our third gig of that week, after playing at Ron Watts’ The Thames Hotel in Windsor. We were excited to play The Blues Loft and had an enthusiastic crowd come to see us.  We had a new set of songs that included ‘Big Road Blues’, ‘Stones in My Passway’ and ‘Too Much’ – a mix of Robert Johnson, Jimmy Reed and Tommy Johnson numbers.  Ron Watts was very pleased with the rousing packed reception and reunited us to play with Champion Jack Dupree at Conway Hall, London.  This was another great gig which we prepared by rehearsing to his album ‘Blues From The Gutter’.”

Dynaflow Blues were based in London and Mel says they were not used to the warm welcome they recieved when they played in High Wycombe. He added: “During 1968 we played at The Blues Loft at The Nags Head five times – alongside Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown and Shakey’s new band (we were still friends!). We also accompanied Texas bluesman Curtis Jones.”

Mel’s memorabilia collection includes a Bucks Free Press article from May 1968 that reviewed those early days of The Blues Loft. The Teen and Around column said “The club itself has a very good atmosphere. Everyone is very friendly. The audience show their appreciation of the music with lots of foot stamping and cheering of they think a piece is good.”

Blues Loft memorabilia – Bucks Free Press article 24 May 1968, poster and advert

Promoter Ron Watts was also asked in the article to define the type of music played at The Blues Loft. He said: “The type of blues featured at The Blues Loft is not the country or folk blues, but their city cousin, the amplified swaggering music of the negro ghettos of North America. It shares the same roots as country blues but has absorbed elements of jazz and other musical forms.  The Blues are an emotional outlet based on the fact that if you tell the world your problem, the problem is shared.”

Mel goes on to say that Ron Watts also formed The National Blues Convention and as Watts’ gig empire grew he wrote to Mel in August 1968 from his Aveling Road, Wycombe address to ask Dynaflow Blues to play at his second Blues Loft venue at The Derby Arms, Aylesbury. There were also invites for his other gigs, including The Crown – Marlow, Rugby Club – Maidenhead, and later at The 100 Club in London.  Mel added: “During this period Roy Holley, a local photographer became a good friend and took lots of pictures of Dynaflow Blues around the Nags Head. This all helped us get a manager. Tom McGuinness, along with Manfred Mann, had formed an agency and got us on at The Marquee club and National Jazz and Blues Festival at Kempton Park.”

Dynaflow Blues went their own ways by the end of 1968 but Mel reminds us that Rod Price went on to play with Foghat in The States and become quite a star! Indeed, he was right.  A quick bit of internet research reveals that Price went on to join Black Cat Bones (late 1968/early 1969) – replacing Paul Kossoff.  They recorded their only album, Barbed Wire Sandwich (released November 1969) but it failed to be a commercial success and the band subsequently split-up around the end of 1970.  Price joined Foghat in January 1971 – with their debut album, ‘Foghat’ released the following year and produced by Dave Edmunds.  It was through these recordings that Price would become renowned for his slide guitar work.

Dates of those early Blues Loft gigs at The Nag’s Head as advertised in the Bucks Free Press

Friday 12th April 1968 – Savoy Brown Blues Band plus Sunshine

Friday 19th April 1968 – Chicken Shack

Friday 26th April 1968 – Dynaflow Blues plus Watercolour Blues Band

Friday 3rd May 1968 – The John Dummer Blues Band (featuring Tony McPhee)

Friday 10th May 1968 – Giant Marrow Fat

Friday 17th May 1968 – Dynaflow Blues plus The Colin James Blues Band

Friday 24th May 1968 – Jethro Tull

Friday 31st May 1968 – Battle of The Blues – Dynaflow Blues versus Giant Marrow Fat

Friday 7th June 1968 – Shakey Vick’s New Band

Friday 14th June 1968 – Doc K’s Blues Band

Friday 21st June 1968 – Black Cat Bones

Friday 28th June 1968 – Dynaflow Blues plus Colin Smith

Please share any memories or memorabilia from these gigs.

January/February 1978 – High Wycombe music memories

January and February 1978 were relatively quiet months for live gigs in High Wycombe, compared to the wealth of shows in the closing months of 1977. However, I doubt it wasn’t for the want of trying on the part of local promoter Ron Watts.

Watts’ baby was The Nag’s Head and he put on Liverpool ‘power-pop’ hopefuls The Yachts on Thursday 19th January 1978.  The Yachts had appeared at the same venue on 16th October 1977 shortly after the release of their debut single on Stiff Records, ‘Suffice to Say’ and the popularity of that gig saw a repeat booking – albeit not a date to set the pulses racing for those keen to see something new in the same week that The Sex Pistols had played their final live date.

However, there was excitement for fans of the local music scene when the national music press, including NME and Sounds, reported that The Rich Kids, a band who included former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, were due to appear at The Town Hall on Saturday 28th January 1978.  The High Wycombe appearance looked to be a real coup for Watts as it would be part of national tour that had seen virtually all dates sell-out.  But there was bad news in store for Watts and punters, when, for reasons I’ve been unable to trace, the gig was cancelled and the local gig goers were left with another free Saturday evening to fill.

‘Pub Rock’ outfit Roogalator played at The Nag’s Head on Thursday 2nd February 1978.  They had been a regular live act under Ron Watts – dating back to a late 1975 gig at The Crown in Marlow.  They went on to appear at The Nag’s Head during 1976 and 1977 – drawing decent crowds from their loyal following despite not entirely fitting in with the direction that popular music was taking.

Their Nag’s Head date came a few weeks after they appeared at ‘Front Row Festival’, a three-week event at the Hope and Anchor, Islington, in late November and early December 1977. This resulted in the band’s inclusion, on a UK top thirty selling double album of recordings from the festival released in March 1978.  They disbanded shortly after the release of the album.

One of the most popular dates during January and February 1978 was a Patrik Fitzgerald gig at The Nag’s Head.  I’ve yet to be able to confirm the exact date but it was February 1978 and most likely on the regular Thursday slot.  Support came from Frumious Bandersnatch and one of the last appearances by local band, The Party.

The picture below is an extract from Issue 2 of High Wycombe fanzine The Buckshee Press. A great selection of pictures by Pete Bird and Henry.

Bandersnatch, The Party, Shucks and Patrik Fitzgerald – pictures by Pete Bird and Henry – as published in The Buckshee Press – April 1978

Several music historians have designated Fitzgerald as ‘folk punk’, presumably based on his link with rise of the punk movement during 1976 and 1977. He released three EP’s through London record label Small Wonder – the first and best known being ‘Safety-Pin Stuck in My Heart’.

He proved popular with the crowd and would return to The Nag’s Head and Town Hall later in the year.

For your listening and viewing pleasure

The Bingo Crowd – Patrik Fitzgerald – 1978 Revolver TV