II – Band Schooling
At school things are looking up. I meet Vic King (a year above me) in the playground and find out he’s a drummer! I smell the formation of another band in the air. Alan Bagshaw plays bass and he lives 15 yards from Del Palmer on Morris Walk Estate. As I neared the two bass players houses I was faced with the decision of whose door to knock on first. An impulse sent me to Del Palmer and, lucky for him, he’s at home! I offer him the place – and he’s in!
″Mr Jim Stockdale becomes our first manager and contracts are signed″
Work begins. I’m writing songs and have been for some time. Del’s dad ‘Nobby’ has access to the local youth club and finds us a room to jam in. We play all afternoon and boy, isn’t it great – this is the start of something real good! As well as some original songs I remember playing ‘Dazed and Confused’ by Led Zeppelin and ‘The Hunter’ by Free. We become Charlton School’s premier – and only – rock band, TAME, later to become the KT Bush Band.
TAME get off to a flying start. Vic meets a young man who wishes to manage a band – the one Mr Jim Stockdale of Stockdale Tyres fame, Lakedale road Plumstead. Vic had another band going at the time who declined an introduction to meet the great man. To our young selves, any man who owns a Lotus Elan followed by an Aston Martin DB5 was worth meeting! We are serious so we take their place and bingo – it’s on! Mr Jim Stockdale becomes our first manager and contracts are signed. I sign mine at home with my parents present. As none of us drive, the essential thing is to find a roadie with a nice van, preferably a Transit – the ultimate group bus. We find John Clary through an advert in a shop window. He comes complete with his own van and is paid by the mile!
The first thing on the agenda was either new instruments all round or new amplifiers. That was as far as the budget would go. We choose the former. I spot a beautiful Les Paul in the famous guitar shop Orange on Old Compton Street, just off Charing Cross Road. This was a massive improvement from my homemade instrument I was using at the time! Vic went for a set of Tama drums, and we found a lovely Gibson EB3 bass, which we presented as a gift to Del.
Although I carried the lead vocals from the beginning with Del on backing, we were always on the lookout for another frontman vocalist. Singers were auditioned and we did find one person, but he was barely around for a month. Vocal duties were duly handed back to myself.
″I remember gigging at the White Chapel Art Gallery which ended up in a bun fight!″
We are soon on the road. The band does all the local sixth-form gigs, playing John Roan school in Blackheath; Saint Josephs Academy in Lewisham, and many others. This is the younger equivalent of the college circuit that the bigger bands did! We are treated like stars and still perform all our own songs. We support many other bands on ‘major’ gigs – such as playing in the main hall of Woolwich Polytechnic college. We used to get regular slots where the disco was held – another of our favourite venues. I remember the dance of the time known as ‘Leaping’ (jumping in the air to the beat like puppets!).
I remember gigging at the White Chapel Art Gallery for a children’s birthday party which, strangely enough, ended up in a bun fight! A memorable gig! Kate Bush was later to perform at this venue.
Our manager Jim is always hard to find but he does agree to enter us in the Melody Maker competition held yearly to find the latest and greatest new rock outfits. Being the leading weekly music publication at the time, winning guaranteed publicity, bigger gigs and the chance of a record deal. Heats were held nationally and we were allocated a 15-minute slot at a random venue, ours being in Brighton. We took our own instruments but had to use un-familiar back lines and amplifiers. At the time I was using a Marshall 50watt valve head amplifier, going through two AC30 speaker cabinets – which I had painted purple! Unfortunately there was no time to rehearse and familiarise ourselves with their equipment. This created much heartache, especially for a guitarist who relies on his own sound! Unfortunately we didn’t go on to win, but still, all good learning, and a return to London in Jim’s Citroen DS at breakneck speeds!
We occasionally perform acoustic songs during our gigs and Jim soon secures us a lengthy residency at the then famous Shakespeare Hotel in the centre of Woolwich. Unfortunately it’s since disappeared and is now an off the rack clothes shop you would barely recognise as a music venue. In any case, we drew a sizable support from our local crowd playing here. Can you believe the likes of Fleetwood Mac appeared at this ‘prestigious’ venue in the day! Other bands forming locally at this time included Glen Tilbrook’s band Squeeze – just a couple of years younger than us.