Once again it is necessary to mention a few people who are no longer with us, and to pay tribute to their memory.
Just before the beginning of 2016, the wonderful Frankie Reid died in Australia, where he had lived for the last 35 years. Frank had come to England from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) with his family in the early 1960’s. Gifted with a fine voice and a charismatic personality, he achieved legendary status during the 60’s and 70’s, fronting Frankie Reid and The Casuals, one of West London’s most polished and popular groups, always in demand on the club and dance hall circuit. Frank always attracted good musicians, and was a great front man, his skills as a karate black belt holder giving him the ability to move well on stage.
During 1979 Frank teamed up with legendary drummer Carlo Little and ex-Warhorse axeman Pete Parks. When their bassman didn’t work out, they offered me the gig, and so Flying Fox was born. The group soon gathered a healthy following and began to pack out venues around London. Every gig was like a big party, and I don’t think that we ever had so much fun, before or since!
Sadly for the rest of us, Frank had already planned to move with his wife and children to Australia, where his parents and brothers had already re-located, and in November 1980 he left England for good. Flying Fox continued performing with several different vocalists, before morphing into the Good Old Boys, who are still performing today! Frank returned to visit England several times, always celebrating with a gig and always attracting a big crowd. He continued to perform in Australia, and it is a tribute to his memory that his son Darren became a popular singer in that country, keeping the Reid name alive!
Frank was a skillful engineer by trade, who never gave up his job for a professional singing career, although he was certainly good enough. As his friend Screaming Lord Sutch said, for someone who never turned pro, Frank as more professional than most! A great performer, and a lovely person, he will always be remembered.
At almost the same time as we lost Frank, we also lost one of England’s greatest saxophone players, Sid Phillips. Another West London native, Sid came to prominence as an original and long-term member of Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers, without doubt one of the country’s best ever rock and R ‘n’ B groups. Sid also played piano with the group when necessary. It was always a pleasure to work with Sid, who often augmented the Good Old Boys, notably on the live album with the late Roscoe Gordon, and often forming a brilliant saxophone duo with the great Tony Hall, doing sterling work with Chas ‘n’ Dave. Sid was without doubt a very talented musician, and always great fun to be with. We will miss him!
On January 10th 2016, more tragedy struck my family with the death of my lovely niece, Angelique Palumbo, just days short of her 52nd birthday, and just over a year since we lost her sister Sophy to the same scourge of cancer.
Always known as ”Leaky”, Angelique was the second of four girls born to my sister Liz and her husband Angelo. Like her mother she was keen on music, art and history, with a passion for performing on stage whenever she had the opportunity. Her flamboyant personality And often outrageous mode of dress mad her well-known and popular in the town of Hastings where she, her Mum, and siblings had lived for many years.
Twelve years ago Angelique relocated to Glastonbury, where she soon made many friends. It was a tribute to her popularity that most of the town came to a standstill to observe her funeral, with the traffic being halted for some twenty minutes whilst the mourners gathered. What followed was more of a party than a funeral, which will forever be remembered by all who attended!
A dear, kind and generous girl, she will be sadly missed!
In September 2016, we said goodbye to one of my oldest friends, the great bass player Ken Rankine, who died following a short illness.
In 1961 I was introduced to Ken at the Sandgate Hall in Hayes, where we were both watching a performance by Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers. When I learned that Ken knew a few guitar chords, I asked him if he would be interested in learning bass guitar, with a view to him joining Ian Nelhams and myself as a member of the Renegades.
On the following Saturday, Ken cycled from his home in Hanwell to my home in Hayes with a Spanish guitar on his back which sported only the four bottom strings necessary for bass. For several months, supported by the great Tony “Rupert” Ross, who kindly lent us his bass guitar, I attempted to teach Ken the little I knew about bass. He proved to be a real natural, and buying himself a second-hand Burns bass and Watkins amplifier he promptly joined the new group started by ex-Renegade Rich Bennett, called the Downbeats. This proved to be the death knell for the Renegades, but the Downbeats did very well, working the clubs and pubs for several years. Ken was soon recognised as one of the best bassists around, and was a stalwart of the music scene that pivoted around Jim Marshall’s shop at Hanwell Broadway.
He worked extensively with the Art Wood Combo, before they became the Artwoods, when Ken became a member of the highly rated Soul Messengers alongside such great musicians as Rod Freeman, Terry Marshall and Mitch Mitchell. Always a great rock player, it was jazz that really appealed to Ken and he became proficient at both styles of music.
When the Soul Messengers gained employment on the Mecca Ballroom circuit, they soon became part of the Ronnie Smith Big Band, working the ballrooms for several years, with Ken learning to read music and becoming extremely useful on the double bass. In recent years Ken played mostly jazz gigs and kept a low profile, in spite of his great talent, spending a lot of time at his cottage in Portland. We always kept in touch, having so many friends and colleagues in common, and his loss leaves a big gap in the dwindling members of the ‘Marshall Set’. A great musician and a great bloke, rest in peace Ken.
On a lighter note, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who supported me during the recent (Rock ‘n’ Roll???) Hall of Fame debacle!
Like most of you, I was completely non-plussed at their strange course of action, but long ago decided that it really wasn’t worth worrying about! Many of you, however, decided that it was, and made lots of noise about it, but to no avail.
One can only wonder why this organisation continues to undermine any credibility they may have had. Perhaps they should change their name!
Many thanks again!