Steve’s musical background
When I moved to W. Dorset in 2001 I thought I was coming to a musical backwater. Far from it – the range and talent of the musicians I very quickly came across almost prompted me to give up playing for fear of being overshadowed.
But, however dented my musical ego may have felt, I was contacted almost immediately by Hamish Maxwell to work with local outfit Custer’s Last Blues Band. How he got my name or number I have no idea, although I suspect it had something to do with the late Dave Miles who was a great champion of local musicians – and especially about raising funds for younger musicians. I soon discovered a wealth of musical talent ranging through Rock, Blues, Jazz, Folk, Celtic and Singer/songwriter, Show Music, Choirs – amateur or professional – you name it – every type of music seemed to be flourishing – not to mention the smattering of celebrity musicians that live locally as well.
My background, starting in the early ’60s, included R & B, Rock ‘n Roll and working in a nightclub playing dinner music. In those early days we still finished the evening with the national anthem even if it was playing at the local hop. My first band, in 1962, had the unenviable name The Tremorbeats and it was with them that I learnt about chords. Having learned the piano classically I knew nothing of chord charts and loud playing – it was all very seductive. I was in my element. I bought a Clavioline keyboard and played songs like Shakin’ All Over and Telstar with the band. It wasn’t until I hooked up with local (Berks) guitarist/singer Pat Lynch that I discovered the more evocative Rhythm and Blues. With drums and double bass we would boogie at all sorts of functions, dances and parties.
Married at 18 and a father at 19 I sought a ‘proper’ career in Industrial Design and studied at Birmingham College of Art. I played with several bands (whose names I forget) sharing the stage with likes of The Move and I once accompanied Duster Bennett. I didn’t manage to complete my studies and ended up back in Berks where I teamed up with GT Moore. We played folk clubs within a 50 mile radius or so and then both joined a band called Breakfast (run by K Michael Dixon on bass) which transformed into Giant Bird and we recorded two of Gerald’s songs (Giant Bird and Goodbye) at Olympic studios. The single was never released because American Mercury – the record label – hit on hard financial times and closed its European operations.
Through GT I had met Les Calvert and he asked me to join an Irish show band called Margo and the Marvettes who toured the Northern club scene. We did two gigs a day, seven nights a week for the handsome sum of £30 a week! – but it was regular money. Meantime Gerald was living at my flat and establishing a connection with the Heron boys. It was around this time that he met Peter Eden, who had discovered Donovan, and the plan was to record an album. His plans changed when he joined Heron. My touring came to an end and he asked me to work with Heron on a maxi single to be recorded at Pye Studios for their Dawn label. The musical chemistry led to me joining the band. The rest is history… or is it?