MY STORY: PART 2: Drummer Boy.
The first time I came across a kit of drums was at my uncle Izzy Walton’s house in Glasgow. I was about 10 years old and the drums belonged to his son, my cousin, David who was about 16. I was mesmerised by the drums and would sit behind them imaging me playing them just like my cousin. I vaguely remember a record I used to hear in my home, I think it was something like ‘African Beat’ and loved the sound of the pounding drums. If I wasn’t miming in front of a mirror to Cliff Richard I was fantasising that I was playing the drums like Toney Meehan, drummer with the Shadows.
By the age of 13 I had my Bar Mitzvah, and Bar Mitzvahs meant lots of presents, the one I remember that meant most to me were the three LP’s, they were Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Joe Dee and the Starliters recorded live at the Peppermint Lounge New York and Teen Beat by a young American called Sandy Nelson
One Sunday afternoon I arrived up at Maccabi, the Jewish sports and youth club in Terenure, Dublin, when I heard a band practising on stage, they were the first live band I had ever seen, I can’t remember all the band members names but the one I did remember was the drummer, Randy White, and his beautiful sparkling drum kit. I was so excited by what I was seeing I made up my mind there and then I MUST start a group. So I set about asking the kids around the club did they know anyone who played an instrument. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to Jeff Key and Howard Spears, both who had electric guitars. This was it I thought my dreams were becoming a realty there on that Sunday afternoon I was only a beat away from stardom. Just one problem, I had no idea how to play the drums. My ever generous father, after a little persuasion, bought me a single snare drum which I battered the life out of it day in and day out much to our neighbours dissatisfaction!
I remember the day our first rehearsal, it was held in Jeff Key’s house, Jeff had brought his school friend Arnie Pool to make up the front line of 3 rhythm guitarists, no one was good enough to play either lead or bass guitar, and of course me and my single drum which I hadn’t a clue how to play. I was beside myself with excitement, this was it!. Before we started rehearsal we did as all teenagers throughout the UK and Ireland did on a Friday evening, we watched Ready Steady Go hosted by the lovely Cathy McGowan and the not so lovely Keith Fordyce. The number one song at the time was I Remember You by the Australian yodeller Frank Ifield, also on that show were the Zombies, Gerry and The Pacemakers and Cliff Richard. We decided that the first song we should learn was I Remember You, simply because the chords were the easiest. How I would have loved a recording of our first attempts. I think if any of us really knew anything about music we probably would have given up there and then, but perhaps that was true of all groups of the 60’s. We were all so enthusiastic and continued our feeble attempts of the yodellers song until it sounded somewhat like the original. After the rehearsal and well satisfied with ourselves we set about naming the new group, after all we were going to be the next Beatles and needed a strong name. We decided that the name should be The Keynotes, named after our guitarist and future star Jeff Key (now a doctor!!). Job Done! After a few more ‘rehearsals’ it was time to try and get our first ‘gig’ After a lot of persuasion we were allowed 10 minutes at a Jewish youth dance, me with my one drum and the boys with three rhythm guitars and about 3 songs, it was a disaster! Reality check time. We decided we needed a new strategy, we needed to learn how to really play our instruments and needed a repertoire lasting more than 6 minutes! Arnie decided to pack it in then and we were joined by Jim Hudson a bass guitarist
( The Photo is the first and only photograph of the Keynotes left to right, Jim Hudson, Jeff Key and Howard Spears and me with my ONE drum)
I was now 15 and a very spoilt by my parents, I had gone to one of Irelands best boarding schools, I lived in a very comfortable home and more or less had everything I wanted handed to me on a plate. Jim, Jay and Ditch came from a very different background they were from the other side of the city. Dublin is divided into two sides, the South side and the North side, it was considered then by us Southsiders that the Northside was the wrong side of the tracks where high rise apartment building were part of the skyline and unemployment etc was rampant, us Southsiders we thought were posh, a load of rubbish really, but I also remember I thought it very cool being part of a group with ‘Northsiders’ as fellow band members, in fact it turned out they really looked after me like their younger brother. We were originally managed by Alan Weinribe, who probably remembers more of that period than me. But it was our lead singer, Ditch Cassidy’s good friend, Pat Fay who took over the management who really got the ball rolling.
During the 50’s and early 60’s the Irish music scene was dominated by showbands, these were normally made up of 3 guitarists, 3 members on a brass section , a keyboard player and a drummer. Names like The Royal Showband, Brendan Boyer the Royal’s lead singer had a massive hit in UK with a song called ‘The Hucklebuck’ and received music’s highest award of a Carl Allen Award, this made Boyer and the Royal Showband superstars in Ireland. Many of these bands also travelled to UK and America playing to large crowds in the Irish clubs earning more money at the time than the Beatles or Rolling Stones. Other big names on the showband scene were Dickey Rock and The Miami, The Capitol featuring Butch Moor and of course The Clipper Carlton Irelands first showband to name but a few. Beat groups were something very new and as far as I can remember there was only the Kingbees and a fantastic group called the Creatures and that was about it. The only gigs we could get at the time was as an ‘Interval bands’ to the big showband names. We normally got to play about 4 or 5 songs and were mostly ignored by the hundreds that would fill the ballrooms to see what ever feature showband was playing. I remember one lad shouting up at us , “get off you long haired fucking gits! ”
Dublin, I think, was the first to recognise the growing popularity of the beat clubs in the UK and saw a need to open such venues similar to the Cavern in Liverpool , Tiles in London to facilitate the growing Irish beat group scene etc. A few beat clubs started to open across the city, like The 5 in Harcourt Street, which was a basement club very like the Cavern in Liverpool and became home to the Creatures,( photo of the Creatures on stage at the 5)
The Kingbees started to get a following and by this stage I had persuaded my dad to buy me a full kit of drums but not just your normal kit but the Rolls Royce of drums, Ludwig, in the same mottled gray as the Beatles Ringo Stars kit!! Told you I was spoilt. I remember a few of our early shows, one that stands out was our first gig outside Dublin in a town called a gig in the Tipperary, all of us cramped in a mini bus making are way to some far off ballroom in the depths of the country and only to play as a support band to one of Ireland’s leading showbands, the Miami. Prior to this trip I had been watching the Rolling Stones on telly and noticed Brian Jones had the coolest tab collared shirt on , he had it closed and was not wearing a tie, I loved it and insisted we all should get tab collared shirts to wear on stage. What a site we must have looked following the smartly groomed and suited Miami Showband on stage with our long scruffy hair, tab collared shirts , Cuban heeled shoes. The country folk had never seen anything like us! No sooner had we started the show than a priest, who were ever present at dances, rushed on stage, unplugged our equipment and threw us out saying we were to sexually suggestive both in our dress and music!!! That was the last ballroom we played from then on it was beat clubs.
By this time the Kingbees were getting better known and even had a fan club and screaming girls at every appearance. We had already made our first appearance on the national television station RTE’s (Radio Telefís Éireann) Showband Show alongside Brendan Boyer doing his Hucklebuck and a beautiful young singer called Kelly and her showband the Nevada. We also released our first record which of course was a cover of the Muddy Waters song ‘I’m a Kingbee’ How exciting was this, Brian Epstein was sure to call any day now I kept telling the boys??? We felt like stars as we arrived on the sound stage of Irelands film studios Ardmore in Bray, Co Wicklow. Tony Boland (no relation) signed us to his Tempo label and the producer he had flown in from UK was none other than John Paul Jones, who went onto fame and fortune as bass player for Led Zeppelin.
The Kingbees were becoming recognised wherever we went and one funny incident I remember took place whilst I was walking down Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street , when a young shop assistant came rushing out of her shop yelling at me “Ya dirty feckin bastard!” I was shocked and asked what I had done? Still yelling she replied “Ya dirty feckin bastard, leaving Lulu like that!”
“No” I replied, "that was Maurice Gibb, I’m Maurice Boland and the band is the Kingbees, not the BeeGees” still yelling she yelled “ Kingbees, BeeGees your all the same you rock stars!!!” ‘Rock Star’ I thought, now that’s not so bad. Fame at last!
I can’t remember if we were actually making money but at a guess I’d say about 10 shillings each a night! It was around this time that the Kingbees were booked to play Germany, we couldn’t believe it we were heading for the very country that helped launch the Beatles, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Fourmost , the Swinging Blue Jeans etc etc. I was 16 at the time and I can’t really remember if I ran away or bullied my parents into letting me go, possibly the later. Anyway, we boarded a boat with all are equipment at the Dublin port from there we sailed to Germany and then by train to our first venue in a town called Brunswick to play a week long stint at The Party Club. Most of the Germany period was lost in my memory (Me playing in Hanover)
After the second week, and all stony broke we made our way back by train and boat and I’m not sure why but ended up in London. We literally had no money, I think the German promoter refused to pay, but we ended up sitting around Eros in Piccadilly Circus broke, hungry, cold, tired and all I wanted to do was go home to my mummy , I had enough of this rosk star life style!!! I remember I was always told my god mother, Nan Gluckstien, owned the Dorchester Hotel and not knowing where it was in London I drifted away fro the rest of the band members looking for what I thought was a B&B called the Dorchester! Eventually and after asking a few people for direction, I found myself on Park Lane Park outside the Dorchester Hotel. I remember thinking WOW! This is some B&B! I must of looked like a tramp as I walked into the 5 star luxury hotel, with my long hair not washed for ages looking filthy, my clothes being slept in for days, what a sight among all the super rich making their way around the entrance. As bold as brass I walked up to the reception desk and announced I was Nan Gluckstiens godson and I wanted a room. I was immediately ushered back to an office behind the reception desk and explained my dilemma to the desk clerk who listened sympathetically. He waited until I finished before he delivered the shocking news that my godmother Nan Gluckstien had died about 10 years prior and that she never owned the Dorchester but in fact owned the Cumberland and Regents Palace hotels. He then asked for my mother’s number in Dublin which he rang and explained the situation. This kind man then drove me to the Cumberland, booked me a room, ordered dinner in what then was their grill room The Time Bar and informed me he had booked an airline ticket the next day to Dublin, I presume that my Mother did this transaction with my father American Express Card, and that folks was the end of my German adventure and my days with the Kingbees. I was never to drum again.
P.S I never did hear from Brian Epstein!
NEXT UP: PIONEERING DISCOTHEQUES IN IRELAND