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The Parkas



The Parkas

1965 came around, Keith and I were playing football for a local side called "Trovato Football Club". Keith was dating, me having my first infatuation on some girl, I’m still practising and loving the music scene.

Uncle Ron told me that my cousin Rob played bass guitar. So I said “Thats good, maybe he can come round and have a practise one night - so he did, and we kept on practising all that year. My mate Terry Marshall bought a drum kit and he started to learn to play, also Barry Tucker used to come round, and with him I wrote our first song "E-Type Jag", which we still play to this day. When my dad and Uncle Ron had a job, they used to invite Rob and I to do a spot they using there drummer. This was good experience for Rob and I, but by the end of 1965 Terry Marshall moved away to Barrow (on Christmas Day), so now we had no drummer as such. I wonder who we could get to play the drums!!!! ?

It’s 1966. Rob and I are still practising and I have a girlfriend, (well at least till the summer!). Keith told Rob and I, that he was going to buy a drum kit, so I think he had caught the bug. He started practising on his own at first, then we had a practise together, doing all the latest hits of the time. It was good fun and we carried on practising through to the summer of 1966. Rob decided to call the band "The Parkas" as he wore one on his scooter, so that was that.

In July we got an offer to play at the Ascension Hall in Chichester Road, North End, in Portsmouth. It was club-night for "Trovato Football Club". We did our first gig there, with just basic equipment, (photos to prove it), I’m shaking all over, playing and singing in front of all my mates. But we did it.

You may ask why I sing!!! Well I did not intend to!! It was just that we only had one microphone and Rob said “I’m not singing”, and Keith said, “No, I have to concentrate on my drums and anyway we don’t have the right mic stand for me”, so it was left to me, which was a bit of a shock!!!!!!! Oh dear, more pressure!!!!

We practised every Wednesday at Wimborne Road School when we could, and we played at one of the youth club nights soon after. Youth clubs was our main work at this time. We were trying to sort more songs out that people liked and we liked, but it was mainly the hits and No.1’s of the time. We got a job in the summer of ‘66 at the "The Rover" pub in Leigh Park. That was our first experience of pub work.

Also that summer, I took part in a talent competition over on the Isle of Wight when on holiday with my parents and won it! I sang the current No.1 at the time “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks, so that gave a little boost to my ego.

We were still working on our songs, playing with basic equipment and no PA system as yet, so my voice used to be very croaky after playing. The singing came out of my guitar amp. Those were the days!!!

In 1967 we bought military jackets and started wearing a uniform which looked quite smart except that they were rather hot to wear when playing. Flower-Power year, music changing again, but we kept up with it all. We were playing at Farnham and Yateley by then and had an old Bedford van with 3 gears, so we were getting about, just for the experience at least and were still fired with enthusiasm.

We also got our first PA system that year. All the money we earned went back into the group for better equipment. Rob was the one who knew what equipment was best and I just went with flow. I bought my second guitar at this time, a Fender Duo-Sonic, with a short neck, but it was a much better guitar and it helped me to play better.

So by 1968 things were still much the same, we were doing weddings and the odd social club, but social clubs and working mens clubs thought we were to noisy. Anyway we always have to move a blimin’ great piano off the stage every time before we could get on because at that time that’s all they were used to!

In Easter of 1969 we began our first regular gig (also the last!!!!) at the “Good Companion” pub on Eastern Road, Portsmouth. My Dad and Uncle Ron had been playing there but said it was not for them anymore, so we started playing Friday & Saturday nights. We tried to change the songs every week if we could, putting in new and old songs - we needed to have quite a turnover of material! We got a good following there and carried on playing there for almost a year until march 1970. That was enough for me by then, and we vowed never to do regular spots again. But we did save some money, added to the equipment and got a lot of experience from it. We also made lots of friends.

In 1970 Rob got married to Valerie. One down - Two to go! It must have been infectious because Keith and I got married in 1971. Also in that year I won another talent competition at Butlins, Minehead, again singing “Sunny Afternoon”. That was my last.

In 1971 we had no lighting or backdrops. All that was yet to come, but we had to come up with some ideas, so we could get noticed,. We left that to Rob - “Mmmmmm, wonder what he will come up with”!

So by 1972, with the music scene about to change again, Rob came up with the idea of putting flashing coloured lights on the stage floor with timers clicking away and ultra violet bulbs. We tried it for the first time at Hill Park Memorial Club in Highlands Road, Fareham. We played with the lights clicking through our amplifiers and the other bulbs glowing, not knowing what it looked liked!!!! We decided that ultra violet bulbs were no good, so Rob went for two ultra-violet tubes hung from the PA system, one on each side. This worked well and Rob also improved the lights as well using bullet spotlights which gave a more powerful beam. We were gradually introducing elements of stage presentation that year.

I saw on T-Rex on Top of the Pops. They had a backdrop of an eagle and I thought that would be good, so we got a big sheet, dyed it black and had one of Keith’s lodgers, Steve Pannell to paint the eagle using fluorescent paints which glowed in the dark under the ultra violet lighting. We played at a football dance in the Wegdewood Rooms and that was the first time we had it all going. It looked great. We also bought some rope lights which we got from London. They were unheard of at the time, so now we really were different and our presentation was way ahead of anything in the area at the time.

We were happy with our stage set up and it showed, cause we glowed.

1973 another good year coming up. In November 1972, for a laugh I, sent a comedy song I had written to the “Opportunity Knocks” songwriters contest. It was called “You Live Near the Gasworks” and by February 1973 I had received a telegram saying that it was into the last 7 songs to be shown and would Keith and I be willing to appear on the show!! Well!! What a shock!! We had photo of the group in the local paper beforehand and then in March we went to record the show. Another group sang it and I wasn’t very happy with the way they did the song, but anyway it did not win! That didn’t matter too much to us. We’d had some great publicity by now!! We were on the same bill as “Frankie Howard” at the Portsmouth Guildhall that year, which was great, and the bookings were getting even better. Most of our work was now working mans clubs, social clubs and of course weddings and private parties. So all in all a good exciting year!

On a personal note. my daughter Hayley and Keith’s daughter Claire were born.

We had work and families as well as playing with the band at weekends!!!!

“Ooo, how long could this go on for!!” Little did I know !!!

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