What if felt like being the drummer on rock legend Chuck Berry’s British and French tours. It was some time ago but a big event in my life. This is how it came about.
In the late 60’s my self and six other members of (Bobby Faulds and The Strangers) gave up our jobs and life in Victoria and headed to England to take a shot at making the big time. I had previously been over to England for six weeks to check out the scene and felt we had a good shot.
We had three great horn players in our band at that time, all were all married and had to convince their wives that we could all do this within a few months. It was going to be quite an adventure for us all.
We hit London, got an agent and starting touring and playing all the major venues in England. Even did gigs at the Cavern in Liverpool where the Beatles started. My drum lessons were starting to pay off. We bought rain coats, a touring van, ate fish and chips and learned to drive on the left. We were getting written up in the top British Music Tabloid, Melody Maker Magazine and our big sound was getting recognized.
Unfortunately the married guys in the band could only send home so much money each month (thanks to the British Government) which created a crisis and after several months all three members had to leave and boy did we ever miss their sound. We were now down to me, on drums David Foster, on keyboard and Mike Stymest on bass along with our singer Bobby Faulds (now called Bobby Hanna).
Our agent was bringing over American acts as they were huge in England at the time and he felt that we new their sound better than the Brits, and so we were booked as Chuck’s band for his British tour along with gigs in France.
He was a big star in Britain at the time and many of our gigs had major security and some riots along with police and guard dogs. It was all very exciting to be Chuck’s drummer. We played big ballrooms and Universities always doing Chucks’ mega hits like Johnny B. Good, Roll Over Beethoven and Sweet Little Sixteen. He was a Rock n Roll Legend, even back then.
One morning I picked him up at the London Hilton and before we left he put one arm around my shoulder and lifted his other arm up, as he did some kind of document unfolded all the way to the pavement. “Do you know what this is”? He said “No” I replied “These are all the songs I am getting royalties on” he said with a big smile. There were a lot of songs on that list and I was beginning to feel like a rock star myself.
At one point we headed over to the Olympia Theatre in Paris to do a live radio show that was cast live all over Europe. I couldn’t believe my luck? On the plane was the entire Duke Ellington Band, Chuck Berry and us. The show was a blast and one of the up and coming British bands at the time called “The Small Faces” were also on the show with us. A couple of unknowns in that band were Ron Wood and Rod Stewart. Small world Huh??
More on those early days on the next blog. Go to www.drumboy.ca for some cools grooves to practice and contact me for lessons. Cheers, Barry