The early years…. West of England Sound to the Marquee Club
At about 8 years old I began piano lessons with the same teacher who had taught my Mother. Learning Guitar though was what I really wanted to do but this opportunity took a few years and didn’t come until my family moved from Lancashire to South Devon. Here my parents found a Spanish Guitar teacher who agreed she would teach me at her house as long as my electric guitar wasn’t plugged into an amplifier ! So I sat next to her “unplugged” while she taught me chord shapes and theory on her Spanish Guitar.
After a few months of lessons I joined a group at school called Gandolf Folk and we made our 1st EP at West of England Sound in Torquay, Devon using two revox ¼” tape machines. By this time I had switched to playing Bass. This was my first insight into the recording studio and I became fascinated with the recording process. Thanks to Tony Waldron the studio owner/label producer and his partner Elizabeth Usher they invited me to play Bass on other studio sessions for local artists such as Sharon Whitbread and Fred, The Faraway Folk and Torquay United footballer Dick Edwards. It was during this time I met drummer Kim Turner and his guitarist brother Glenn, whose elder brother Martin played Bass for Wishbone Ash. Kim, Glenn and myself together with another Bass player Tony Brinsley recorded as the backing band for many of Tony Waldron’s signings at RA Records.
At age 16 I knew when I left school I wanted to move to London from Devon and find a job in a studio… but how?
My lucky break came early in 1972, at which time Kim and Glenn Turner, together with bass player Tony Brinsley had moved to London and formed a band called “Cat Iron”.
They rented a house in Forest Gate, East London, enrolled Miles Copeland as manager and had a gig at The Marquee Club. There spot was opening for Vinegar Joe (whose lead vocalists where Elkie Brooks and Robert Palmer) and Kim invited me along.
As opening act they had no one to do there sound so I said in true Catherine Tate style “well I can do that” and we set up a small mixer at the front of the stage. Just after we finished sound check Glenn called me over to meet someone that was just walking through the club.
Glenn introduced me to Phil Dunne the engineer at The Marquee Studios, he was also from Torquay and had previously been a partner in West Of England Sound.
Within minutes of chatting to Phil he invited me for a tour of the studios located at the rear of the Marquee Club. Wow ! to see a huge Ampex MM1000 2” tape machine and 16 tracks to record on was awesome. The console was a Helios and monitors JBL. I was in heaven. Well after talking more with Phil it turned out there was a position opening up as Tape Operator and if I was interested he would arrange an interview with the studio managers Gery Collins and Simon White.
After a few weeks persisting with calls to Gery Collins I finally got an interview and was hired as a Tape Operator at The Marquee Studio in the summer of 1972.
Phil even came to visit my parents to provide assuarance there 16 year old would be taken care of in the bright (red) lights of London (Soho). Yeah right ! Well that worked and I was bags packed with my Fender Precision and on the train to Paddington.