Early Planning 2

I then switched my attention to Will Lowe. John Bentley, who I remembered from the 1960s, had contacted me and said that Will lived about 10 kilometres from his home in Australia. He said he would mention the reunion, and pass on my details, when he next saw Will. He also posted some photographs that included Will Lowe, one of which was taken at Bullmor Lido. Eventually Will, through his wife’s Facebook account, sent me a message that he had seen the photographs and they had brought back a lot of memories. Unfortunately he couldn’t make the reunion, but was hoping to come across in June 2013. Unfortunately, I found out a few weeks later, that Will had been taken ill and admitted to hospital. Will recovered and managed to come to Wales in June, for a few weeks, unfortunately, I was unable to meet up with him. However, John Beardmore bumped into him and told me that he was fine, just taking it easy for a while.

Another photograph posted by John Bentley, was taken of the crowd in Platform One. As well as a very young John Beardmore looking at the camera, in the foreground was Coco, who would join the band later. This photograph attracted a lot of comments, as people were trying to identify those in the crowd. An old friend of mine, Anton Roelands, asked if Coco was Phil James and perhaps he may be the same Phil James who owned a furniture business in Cwmbran. In the time we played with Coco in the band, the only name any of us knew him by was ‘Coco’, so I was unsure.

Back on Google, I came across a website for Phil James Upholstery that had a Cwmbran address. So I sent them an email asking if the Phil James who owned the business, was the same Phil James who went by the name of ‘Coco’ and played trumpet in a version of the Pieces of Mind. Within a day, I had an answer, saying that yes, he was that Coco. He gave me his telephone number, so I rang him up and told him about the reunion, asking if he was interested. He said that whilst he hadn’t played trumpet since the late 1960s, he was definitely interested in playing again. So whilst we had not been able to get Will Lowe, we had located another band member, who wasn’t even on my original list.

Rob Evans emailed me to say that he was in touch with most of the guys who went to Germany and could help with contact details. He gave me various email addresses, including one for a Glyn Whitcombe who had played lead guitar for a while. Glyn also played several other instruments, including sax, so it looked promising. I contacted Glyn and he confirmed he would be keen to play as well. One concerning thing in the email from Rob, was the fact that he had some sort of problem and needed to go into hospital, so there was a chance that he wouldn’t be able to play bass at the reunion.

I next tried to find Dave Sargent, the first bass player in the band. Andy thought that Dave had started a double-glazing business in or around Cwmbran. A quick Internet search found a Dave Sargent Windows company based near Pontypool. I completed a contact form enquiring whether the Dave Sargent was the same person and Andy also left a message on their telephone number. We had no response from either method.            

Sadly I found out from one of my Facebook friends that Dave had unfortunately had an accident a couple of years earlier and was no longer alive. I can only assume that our messages were too much for a family perhaps still in grief and I apologise for that. It’s such a shame as Dave was a lovely man.

Another shock I received after hearing of Dave, was finding out that Dave Martin had also passed away. I am not sure of the details as to when and why, however, for the short time I knew him back in 1966 to 1967; he was ever such a nice person and it was a great a shame he had left us so young.

Some of the people I contacted in the email never responded to me, so I have to assume they either didn’t check email or they weren’t interested in having a reunion. It surprised me that Glyn Williams didn’t reply. Andy got hold of his telephone number and gave him a call and found out that he did read all the emails I sent but didn’t respond because he thought he wouldn’t be able to come, as his daughter was expecting a baby around the time of the gig. In the end, Glyn and his wife Wendy were able to come. It was great meeting up with him again, after all these years.

Finding people was not as difficult as I first thought. By the end of January, the only people I couldn’t track down were Steve Strong and Roy Winston Davies. I still had hopes of tracking down Steve, but didn’t hold out much hope for Roy. We had nearly 3 months to find both, assuming a gig was going to be towards the end of April.

The next priority for me was to try and get as many of the people together for a rehearsal, even though at this time, we didn’t have a gig. I knew that some people were still in bands and played regularly, however Adrian hadn’t sung for over 40 years and, as far as I knew, Phil hadn’t played drums for around 20 years. Could they still do what they did back in the Pieces?  In addition, I had never met Bruno, Vic or Glyn Whitcombe so had no idea how good or bad they were. Any gig was going to be about playing together again and enjoying ourselves, however, if we were going to be in front of an audience, I wanted us to be as good as we could be.
    
I spoke to Ted and asked him to link up with Percy and Andy to try and arrange a venue for a potential rehearsal in early March. Ted had a PA system, and as long as the others had their own equipment, we should be ok. Ted suggested that as the band evolved over the years it might be better to sort any songs into genres i.e. Blues and Rock/Soul. We could then sort out who played what. It sounded a good idea to me, especially as there were already 13 potential players. We agreed that the 7th and 8th March were good days to have the rehearsal; we just needed to find a suitable venue. I emailed Adrian and between us we produced a list of around 50 possible songs to play, classified into Blues and Rock/Soul. As Adrian was visiting UK in a week or so, he arranged to come to my house to narrow the song choices down to a sufficient number to play 2 sets, probably 30 songs. His visit would also give me an opportunity to see if he could still sing.
   
We cut 10 songs from the initial list, which still left sufficient songs for the rest to discuss at the rehearsals. He also had a go at singing a few verses from various songs and I was surprised to find that yes, he could still sing and still in the same key of ‘G’ that most of his songs in the 1960s were. We both had doubts as to whether his voice would take the strain of singing a complete gig, after all these years; however, I wasn’t too concerned as I knew both Andy and Ted could sing as well. Ted had already sent me a set-list from his current band, Atacama, and we had provisionally selected 4-5 songs we could include in our set.
    
Andy and I were both keen that any songs we played to an audience would be representative of what we did back then. We didn’t want to do more modern stuff as we thought that’s it’s not what our audience would have expected and certainly not what we both wanted to play. We had a few discussions with Adrian and Phil who wanted to include stuff we never played in the Pieces. We compromised on one song, but they agreed that the others we didn’t play should not be included.

Whilst Adrian was in the UK, he had a drink with Johnnie Walker MBE, the Radio 2 DJ. Johnnie and Adrian have been friends since the 1970s and when Adrian mentioned the possibility of a reunion gig, he said he would like to come and introduce us on stage. It was getting to be more serious now, so it was imperative we quickly found a place to play.

Ted Dyer suggested doing the gig for a local charity, called St David’s Hospice Care, who had an office near where he lived. I thought this a great idea and it was also one that gave a greater chance of us getting a venue. Ted spoke to the charity and they were very keen on the idea and offered help on the sale of tickets and advertising.    

Andy had mentioned the possibility of playing the reunion gig at the Cwmbran Working Men’s Club (CWMC). He had played there before; it had excellent acoustics and held about 250 people, so in essence an ideal venue. He knew a friend who was on the committee and arranged to present a letter to the entertainment committee, requesting that we could do the gig on either Friday 26th April or the Friday 3rd May. The entertainment committee reviewed the request and confirmed that they were willing for us to have the 26th April date. Now we now had a venue and someone to play for, we only needed an audience.
    
Whilst Andy was negotiating with the CWMC, I decided we needed some publicity. I contacted the South Wales Argus and mentioned what we were doing. Ted had done the same a few days after I had, both of us not realizing what the other had done. We had a reply saying that they would love to do something but they would have to wait until the band has an exact date and gig venue. They would love to include some pictures of the band as well.

A few days later I had a call from Andy Rutherford, one of the South Wales Argus reporters. He spoke to me for around 45 minutes getting background stuff for what he called a 'big' article that was going to go in the main paper as well as online. He wanted me to send him the clip of us playing in Rogerstone, back in 1966. I explained the quality was terrible, but he didn’t mind. He also wanted me to send him photographs, particularly of us playing, with details of who is on what. What he needed next was the date and venue of the gig. When Andy Gibbon had confirmed things with the CWMC, I emailed Andy Rutherford the details.    

Andy Rutherford really liked the photographs and said they were hoping to have an article in the following Wednesday’s paper. He also wanted to know when and where we were going to rehearse, so he could arrange to interview us and take more photographs.
    
A full-page article appeared in South Wales Argus on Wednesday 30th January. The article was titled ‘Golden years recalled as Sixties band re-group for charity gig’. The hard copy daily paper had more detail; however, the essence was the same. The reporter mentioned that Andy Gibbon had suggested St David’s Hospice Care as the charity, when in fact it was Ted Dyer. That was my fault and not the reporter. The Celtic Manor meet was in fact after Christmas and not before. Again that may have been my fault.

As soon as Andy Gibbon had confirmation from CWMC that Friday 26th April 2013 was booked, I sent an email to band members, saying that it was now getting serious and they needed to confirm whether they would be coming to the rehearsals on the 7/8 March; would they be coming to the gig on the 26th April and what gear they had. At the time, I was no too perturbed whether everyone could make the rehearsals, as long as a core band of Adrian, Andy, Chippy, Percy, Phil, Rob, Ted and myself was available, the others should be able to fit in at the gig.

I was a little uncertain whether we had sufficient gear to play a gig. Between us, we had plenty of guitars and amplifiers and, with Ted and the offer from Steve Leman; we had 2 sets of drums. Ted had a PA system, he used in his band however he had doubts whether it would be good enough to play a large gig. It was the small stuff, such as microphones and their stands; we might be a bit short on. I had 2 microphones and one stand, so bought another stand, just in case.
     
I was beginning to have doubts as to whether Chippy, Dave Kubinec and Rob would be well enough to play the gig, so discussed it with Andy. He suggested inviting 2 guest musicians, Bob Teague, on keyboards and Rick Lawton on sax to help supplement the sound. Whilst both had never played with the Pieces of Mind, they were both excellent musicians that had played with Andy in a band that came after. Even if Dave could make the gig, he would probably only be able to play a few songs, so having Bob there would be extremely useful. If Chippy was too ill to play, then, at this time, we still had Phil and Ted to play drums. Similarly, if Rob couldn’t play, then Andy and Percy would cover bass guitar.

When the first article appeared in the South Wales Argus, on the 30th January 2013, it aroused a lot of interest from those who had followed the band back in the 1960s. One person, Lyndon Evans, contacted the newspaper, asking if they could pass his details on to me. Lyndon had played in a band, called Fusion that supported us at the Aberfan charity appeal gig in Tredegar, back in December 1966. His band had reformed, in 2009, and was now called ‘Now and Then’. Lyndon was extremely useful in confirming the location of some of the old photographs and also arranging for the band to appear in the ‘Your Memories’ section of the Gwent Gazette on Thursday 14th February 2013.

The section showed 2 photographs of us playing at the Tredegar Workman’s Hall and asked whether people knew whom the band were and did they have any memories. Lyndon also arranged for us to be interviewed by Chris Philips, on a Blaenau Gwent radio station, called BRFM. The plan was that Chris would do a telephone interview with me, however as I was coming down to Wales the following week, we decided on a face-to-face one. I asked Andy and Ted to meet up the day before an initial practice; we were planning in February, and go to the BRFM studios, to do the radio interview.

Next step was to arrange rehearsal rooms for the 7/8 March. I searched the Internet and saw there were several in the Newport and Cwmbran area. When I mentioned the names, Andy said that he had used the one called Dragon Bands, which was not far from where he lived in Pontypool. We both thought it was worth booking the two days there, as we needed to sort something out quickly. When we spoke to Ted, he had also used the place and agreed it was fine for our purposes. Andy visited them to confirm availability and booked one of their rehearsal rooms, for the 2 days in March. He also checked they had a room the day before the gig, Thursday 25th April, should we require it.
 
Ted arranged a practice session for Andy, Percy himself and me, that was going to be held at the YMCA in Newport. They had a large room that his band, Atacama, used for a practice every week. This session was going to be on Thursday 21st February, and it was aimed at the 4 of us getting to know each other again, bearing in mind we hadn’t played together for a long time. We thought we could lay down a lot of the groundwork, with Andy & Ted standing in for Adrian on vocals. We also intended doing the BRFM interview the day before and visit the CWMC, to check out the room, that same evening.

By the beginning of February 2013, things were coming together; however, it was also getting very hectic. I remember emailing Steve Leman and saying that one night I had a 20-minute call with Andy, followed by a 60 minute call with Ted and then I had to sort numerous emails asking for tickets. It was really beginning to get serious. I thought to myself that it would be almost a relief when we get on stage and start playing. The one thing that was getting to me though, was the failure to locate Steve Strong. I had been the one to tell him that he was ‘sacked’ from the band, back in 1964 and I was beginning to wonder whether he held a grudge and didn’t want to be found.   

Facebook activity was hectic, with people asking for tickets and wanting to know the information about hotels. Despite my posting several links to hotels on my Timeline, I still got emails asking for this information. It was infuriating at times, to be continually asked the same question, when the answer was easily available either on my account or an Internet search. Still I tried to keep calm and appreciate that not everyone was ‘IT’ aware as me.

We had decided to operate a digital ticket system, where people would reserve a place through me. Steve Leman had kindly designed the tickets and then sent me 250 individually numbered images. When people wanted a ticket, I would write their name against a numbered ticket, on my master list, and then send them the numbered ticket image. The digital ticket reserved a place for them, so all they had to do was print it off and then hand it in at the door, where their name would be checked against my master list. Finally, they would pay the entrance fee of £5. If for some reason, they couldn’t make it, they were to send the digital ticket back to me so I could free up the places. It sounds complex, and to be honest, it was. The whole procedure was very time consuming and demanding for me; things that a man of my age could really do without.  
  
Before the band had actually got together to rehearse, it was clear the tickets would all be sold out. I slightly over-booked the tickets, assuming that some people might drop out started maintaining a reserve list. In addition I kept a separate list for members of the band, which contained 29 people, even though the band only had 13 players. The CWMC kept asking for more tickets for their members, but unfortunately, I couldn’t meet their request. I was taking a risk of the club being too full; however, I was gambling on some people not turning up.

My evenings and most of the weekends were being dominated by this event. I was not a promoter; yet I was just about coping with the numerous emails, telephone calls, texts and Internet activity. I started having the occasional Skype call with Adrian to check on progress. It was very stressful, but at least I managed. There is no way I could have done it in the past, technology today is amazing.

Andy thought it would be a good idea to get t-shirts made, with images of one or more of the posters from bands we had supported. His brother-in-law owned a company called Sticky Ink Studios, based in Newport. They offered a range of services, from graphic design, web design through to vinyl and screen-printing products, including t-shirts. They kindly offered to produce the t-shirts, based on a design by Steve Leman, at cost price. We insisted that any price should be fair to them and we also suggested including a contribution, from each sale, to the charity.
 
I decided that, being as the gig was going to be in aid of charity, it would be a good idea to have a raffle. We really needed a good first prize that ideally should be music related and being that I had a Gibson Les Paul Junior Special that I had never gigged, I decided to offer that up. I hoped that an audience containing many other musicians would spend a lot on tickets.    

Andy said he would contribute one of the t-shirts as a raffle prize and would also buy some for the whole band. Phil James went round local businesses and persuaded the Priory Hotel Caerleon, Boleros Wine Bar Caerleon, Mon and Border Motor factors, the Star Inn Mamhilad and the Jockey Garage Pontypool to offer up prizes. Other prizes soon rolled in from Now and Then, Times Up, Diverse Music Newport, CY Benson, Bruno Sampson, Ted Dyer and John Hall. One other prize came in, but more about that later.
 
Dave Kubinec proposed that the gig should be filmed and recorded by a professional engineer, with a view to selling it commercially. He was friendly with a sound engineer called Graham Bonnett, who had worked on the TV Series ‘Live from Abbey Road’ and thought he might be able to hire him. I admired the enthusiasm from Dave; however, I was a bit loath to take this on, as I already had too much to do, without trying to ensure that we had proper PA facilities to enable recording. After I spoke to Adrian, I told Dave that if he wanted to arrange the recording it was fine, otherwise it wouldn’t happen. Dave was going to go ahead and arrange for Graham to record the gig.

I started getting requests from friends offering their bands to support us at the gig. Whilst this offered a way of us having to rehearse fewer songs, I thought that as it was the first time we all have played together since the 60s and there were about a dozen of us wanting to play, it should just be about the Pieces of Mind. I wanted us to play the whole night, so decided not to have any other music, DJ or band, there on the night. I thanked those offering and told them, if the band changed their mind when we rehearse, I would come back.    

Throughout the first couple of months of planning, I continually checked in with the 3 people, Chippy, Dave and Rob who were doubtful of playing the gig. On one call to Chippy, he told me that he had been to a regular check-up with his doctor that day and told him about the reunion, where he was hoping to play drums. The doctor told him he was mad, as his body would not take the strain, so unfortunately he would have to pull out. It was such a shame as Chippy had really been looking forward to playing with us again, as had we; however, it was fully understandable.

The next to drop out was Dave Kubinec. Like Chippy, he had been for his monthly check-up with his doctor and mentioned the gig. The doctor asked him if he was trying to commit suicide, as his body was definitely not up for it.

Rob, at the time, was still waiting to be diagnosed and treated, so I assumed the worst and discounted him from playing.    

We had lost 2 players, with a third very doubtful, within a matter of days. Whilst we had sufficient coverage for the instruments they played, I was really sad that these 3 people would not be able to play or even not be involved on the night. Dave was too ill to travel; however, I hoped that Chippy and Rob would at least get to the gig. Coupled with the sad deaths of Dave Martin and Dave Sargent, it really struck home to me the fragility of our existence.

Most of my plans seemed to be coming together; in fact, apart from those who couldn’t make it things were exceeding my expectations. We had a venue booked and we appeared to have enough gear for the musicians to play a gig. The remaining questions was whether we still had the skills to play 2 sets in front of an audience that had last heard us play in the late 60s.   
 

Dave Sargent, on the left. RIP


 

2 comments

  • Stephen Cleaves

    Stephen Cleaves Risca

    Great stuff John, you deserve a medal for your organisational skills.

    Great stuff John, you deserve a medal for your organisational skills.

  • JR

    JR Brackley

    Not sure about that Steve, but thanks

    Not sure about that Steve, but thanks

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