Thursday, 1 March 2012


Hiya Gang,

A little boy says to his Mom, "Someday I want to grow up to be a bass
player."  The Mom says, "Sorry, son, you can't do both."

A dad buys his son a bass as a present and sends him off to lessons.
After the first lesson he comes home and dad says, "what did you learn
today?" and son replies "I learned the first 4 notes on the first
string." Dad says "great, well done."

After the second lesson he comes home and dad says, "so what did you learn today?" and son replies, "I learnt the first 4 notes on the second
string." Dad says "Well done, son".

After the third lesson, the son comes home smelling like cigarette smoke
and beer, the dads asks, nervously, "What did you learn today?" Son
says, "Nothing Dad, I had a gig."
I love bass players, let's get that right from the start.   You always need someone along to push the van!....  I actually played bass for a short while to help out a band who had some contracted gigs to do and quite enjoyed it for that short spell.

Drummers are a pain in the arse and bass players mumble about electronics and speak in miserable sentences that generally end with "n' f*** you too", but .............Some of those aspiring teenagers with a conviction that they were going to set the world on fire, took to the bass guitar like fish to water, thank goodness.   A band is as good as it's engine and without the natural talent of some of those who gave the engine 'bottom end throb" with drive and passion, we would have been left with mindless, middle of the road groups, which is where the state of music was after Rock nRoll and  before the advent of the Beat Group phase through to the end of the 60's.   I have recently talked about the merits of Muff Winwood's bass role in the Spencer Davis Group so won't repeat that again here.

The death of The Shadows bassist, Jet Harris was a sad affair.   He was certainly the first 'star' of the electric bass in his own right, having ridden the wave of the skiffle era through to the heady days of Rock n Roll, touring with all the major Rock n Roll acts.   It was during a tour with Cliff Richard and The Most Brothers that Jet, Hank and Bruce had been on the same bill.

Jet had already earned his 'stripes' so to speak and was a lot more experienced than Hank and Bruce, who had their own unique magic at a very tender age, but when these three guitarists combined to form The Shadows, they were just the tighest act about and they were the first to achieve 'hero' group status.......and no back row for Jet either, he was right there, centre stage looking all serious and moody and blonde.  The Shadows sound of those early years was the thing and every bass guitarist copied, or tried to copy, the bass solo in "Nivram".   I'm actually listening to it right now as I type, such a good bass sound too.  It would be some years before John Entwhistle played the second bass solo in My Generation. 

It was said and probably still is, amongst The Shadows afficionado's, that Jet had the first electric bass in the UK. Well I'm sorry to report that he had the THIRD electric bass in the UK. Not world shattering news you know, however, in some "Hankies Club" in some part of the world, they'll be knocking lumps out of each other about the issue.

(copyright Brian Gregg)
If you are follower of this blog you will know that I am fortunate enough to know the superb Brian Gregg (The Pirates/Tornados), we met "In the Snug" a couple of years ago.  He's a remarkable man who has played with all the greats and was an inspiration to many bass players that followed him.   Brian started his Rock n Roll career at the 2i's Coffee Bar in Soho, playing there at night and working behind the bar during the day alongside Jet Harris, Bruce Welch, Hank Marvin, Vince Eager, Terry Dene, Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Licorice Locking, Mickie Most, Alex Wharton and many, many more.  He co-wrote 'Shakin' All Over".    He was the bassist for The Pirates, Tornados, Billy Fury, Terry Dene, Colin Hicks and The Cabin Boys.   He was the first pioneer of the bass guitar in the UK and still is a great bassist and an icon in many respects.  

Brian was at the forefront in 'the mix' amidst the transition from Skiffle into electrified Rock and Roll.  During our conversation "In the Snug" I asked Brian about music electrification and the first electric bass and here is his reply:

"Dickie Bishop had the first electric bass, although he did not use it in a band, he was a banjo player for Chris Barber.  I had the second in 1957, a Hofner that I bought from Selmer Music in London.   I showed it to Jet Harris who was on double bass then. Jet had a tinker on it and said "that f.....g thing won't catch on!!". Double bass players hated it and it was often called a bastard instrument,  I only used it on a couple of songs myself with Les Hobeaux, because one, the limitations of the amps at that time could'nt handle the bottom end and two, I did a lot of double bass 'slapping' on many of Les Hobeaux numbers, which you couldn't do on bass guitar but I fell in love with it nonetheless.   The first one I saw was being played in the Lionel Hampton band that was touring the UK in 56".
(Copyright B Gregg) Brian Gregg (top left) with Les Hobeaux and his Hofner electric bass 1957.
Brian went on to write the first mega-famous bass riff in Shakin' All Over, only this time on a Framus.   I think that this firmly puts the lid on who had the first electric bass in the UK, so we should now, for the sake of history, set that particular record straight.

I can't recall seeing my first bass guitar, other than the one on The Shadows LP cover probably because I wasn't interested in the instrument but do recall the first time that I heard one being played live, "in anger' and by that I mean extremely well and outside of the instrumental box.  That honour goes to:

Mickey Walker second left
MICKEY WALKER (The Redcaps).   I am not alone in being one of those musicians influenced by this great Walsall band.  If this group had lived in London they would have been the best known R&B band in the country, Stones included. 
Mickey was really dynamic in his whole approach to being in a band and was one of those bassists who commanded the stage, your attention and respect with his Gibson EBO thundering away.  I was actually influenced to buy a Gibson SG because I liked the way it looked around Mickey Walker's neck.  Some years later on I jammed with Mickey a couple of times at The Rum Runner and it was a gas.  I was so pleased to have had a blow with him and his brother Dave too.  Just the best feeling, real attacking bassist, would be great to have a band with him - even now!

CLINT WARWICK (The Moody Blues).  This guy was real class, his bass lines shouldering the power of the original (and best) line up of The Moody Blues during the days of R&B.  I'm not really sure if he was the best beat group bassist I've seen or not but the choice between he and Mickey would be close.  Naturally I am speaking from the point of view of a guitarist who wants a bassist that fits into a band perfectly and then plays just the right lines.  I was deeply disappointed when he and Denny Laine left the band and doubly disappointed that I never met or saw Clint play again.  He passed away several years ago.

CHRIS 'ACE' KEFFORD (The Move).   I had first met Ace as a member of Carl Wayne and The Vikings, that group was really a dance hall band of the old format, that is front man and a backing group and was very polished, suited and booted.   In saying that, they were a great and very popular Dance Hall band and naturally all the members of that group were of a good standard.  

However, Ace could have been custom made for The Move, he was the heart of that group, he was the modern image of The Move and no-one looked better with a bass strapped across them than he.   "Night of Fear" and "I Can hear the Grass Grow" with it's powerful descending bass line was the perfect material for him to strut his stuff to.   The Move without Ace Kefford were an empty sounding, spent force.   Following his 'departure' he concentrated on being a front man himself which for me, was a mistake, he should have kept playing the bass because as a bassist he already possessed a great image, not as a front man, vocalist.  If it ain't broke don't fix it.

The Move were in the cabaret clubs after his departure, which speaks volumes about the loss of his influence and presence within that band and also says a lot about the lack of imagination from the remains of that group.   All that being said.  Chris Kefford was definitely a great bassist in the rock band sense.  

JOHN HUSTWAYTE (The Uglys).  There has not been anything said about John Hustwayte over the years and that's not right.  He really typified the model of a very good group bass player, a little bit dour, introspective, and not too chatty either. 
He stood expressionless during those early Uglys live shows. I suppose a bit like the early Bill Wyman - (could be the DNA bass player thing though)

The one thing that has made him stand out from some other good bassists was that he recorded one of the most enthralling bass parts of the time (1966) by a Brumbeat bassist and that is, his playing on The Ugly's, 'The Quiet Explosion" which was the 'B' side to 'A Good Idea".    Check it out for yourself and remember that this was before Pink Floyd and the advent of the heavier style of music had started and showed great creative imagination on John's part.

It is disappointing to only see references to Dave Pegg as being the Ugs bassist, when his tenure with the group was for less than a year with 'End of the Season b/w 'Ugly Blues", being the only evidence of Pegg's time in the group, which is hardly inspirational. Undeniably Dave is a great bassist but John Hustwayte was a great bassist before Dave had even played a bass.
I hope this little piece makes up for those years of ignorance.  John's presence and contribution to Brumbeat ranks as high as any others of the day.  

I'm sure that some of you will disagree with me about who was great, simply because there were so many bands about and so many players to choose from.   I also imagine that there will be bus loads of Brummie bassists now going into 'misery mode' cause they didn't get a mention but those above are simply some of the one's that stood out for me personally, for various reasons, during the 60's Brumbeat days.

A final Bass Player story:
One night at Club Chintz, the mindreader closes her set by reading the mind of the each of the musicians in the band.
First, she reads the mind of the lead guitarist:
"Wow, look at all the cute chicks who showed up tonight! I bet they're all here to see me. Good crowd!"

Then the drummer:
"Look at that crowd! With this many people in the house, we're going to make good money tonight!"

Then the Keyboard player:
"Yeesh, look at that crowd. None of them will ever truly appreciate all of my talent. What a bunch of losers."

Finally, the Bass player:
"E E E E  A A A A  E E E E..."

It appears that all is not well in the Black Sabbath camp.  Bill Ward refusing to sign a contract for the new BS recording.  I think he has a valid reason to be dissatisfied.

You know these guys were all broke when they joined up together, worked really hard together, played for nothing...just to play together, lived in each others pockets for years, gained fame together and now that there is a new album in the offing recorded by the ORIGINAL Black Sabbath line up there is  in-fighting for who gets the biggest cut, most recognition etc etc............. it doesn't take a genius to work out where that kind of attitude stems from either.

It really disappoints me.  Would it really be the end of the world for them to just record the CD, split the proceeds four ways and then go home happy.  It's so unnecessary and pathetic.  
At the end of the day, there is only one loser and that is the fans of the band who deserve a bit more respect from those whose overriding concern is getting the biggest cut.   Shameful if you ask me. 

It is uncanny that I have been writing about Brian Gregg as the ex-bassist of The Pirates because as I was reading it through, I got news from Brian that ace session guitarist Joe Moretti had passed away recently.   Joe Moretti was a real milestone in my past, after being obsessed with Shakin' All Over as a whole song, I along with many, many guitarists laboured over the record player replaying the intro and solo and learning it note for note.  The Shakin' riff itself had been composed by Alan Caddy, The Pirates lead guitarist, but the solo was down to Joe who did a magnificent job and the guitar sound was incredible and that don't come from nowhere!!

He recently passed away at his home in South Africa from Lung Cancer at the age of 73.   Joe's website was a great source of humour for me and he described just how it was to be in a Rock n Roll group then.  I hope they continue to maintain it in his honour. 

Here is a clip of an early Joe Moretti in action with the great Gene Vincent
in Italy, singing Blue Jean Bop....

AND FINALLY.........
Keep your eyes open for Johns new BRUMBEAT Biography page for The Rockin' Chevrolets, one of Tony Iommi's first groups, appearing very soon.

And a welcome to my new Gang of 4 (now 6) pub drinking mate, piano wizard "Mouse".  He's a mate of Nobber's, they 'clicked' at a Marketing Convention, in Stirchley where Nobber was promoting his new line of Political novelty slippers and 'Mouse' was tinkling the ivories in the bar area.   Like the rest of the gang, he likes to moan about things, he knows his music and can play the blues like he was born to it.  OK, that's enough of this. 

Take Care and thanks to Robbie Keane for cheering me up for a couple of

Copyright: Bulls Head Bob
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Ken said...


I am appalled that you should suggest that we hard underrated, underplayed and lonely little soles that form the strength of a band should be deemed 'wingers'. After all we always get the worst seat in the bus, last to pull the birds, hardly ever loved and often left out in the cold. More winges to come ………………. O yes as i write this its bloody cold.

Ken Reeves

p.s Power to the 4 and 5 string boys (and gals)

Anonymous said...

Pleased to see the Les Hobeaux Skiffle Group photo, included Roy Tobin on Guitar.