Nortel Leukemia Research Show

Pauline Brown (vocals), Ben Millway (drums), Dave Barber (bass guitar) & Nicole Barber pictured at The Mayor Of Barnet's Leukemia Research charity gig, Nortel Sports & Social Club, New Southgate, London.

Pictured, left to right, Andy Gilbert (guitar/vocals), Pauline Brown (vocals), Paul Calvey (guitar/vocals), Ben Millway (drums), Dave Barber (bass guitar/vocals) and Ricky Joseph (guitar/vocals)

Another Fine Mess! by Andy Gilbert

There are very few things more embarrassing than making a fool of yourself in front of an audience. If you've been reading the newsletters, you'll know that I'm too busy being a tuition-agency director to be a guitar teacher any more. But my hobby is playing lead guitar in a 60s pop group, for charity functions only. We were recently asked to play at the Mayor of Barnet's annual charity gala, booked for March 16th, funds this year for Leukemia Research. It was to be a big do. The Mayor of Islington and lots of councilors and dignitaries were also due to attend. Bow ties, no jeans. Phil, our bassist and principle singer, together with Fiona, principle harmony singer, both said "no"; they had other commitments. But I really wanted to accept the gig; leukemia is a killer disease which has hit my family several times. Our six piece band were down to four regular members, Our regular drummer had recently told me that he wouldn't play charity functions any more, he had lost his day job and needed paid work. Down to three. Ben Millway, an excellent drummer and drums teacher stepped in. Mitch Haynes, who played bass at our charity show in February, backing several acts whom he'd only met once, said "yes." He's a fine bass player, and of the right generation to know our "old fogie 60s music" (as my children put it.) We figured we'd manage without Fiona's harmonies; we'd miss her but we'd live. But Phil was also principle singer. Paul, who sings second vocals, and plays rhythm guitar, stepped forward to take Phil's place singing. He sings well, but felt that he could put much more of himself in to it if he didn't play guitar at the same time. So we brought in Ricky Joseph, a world-class guitarist. Then, with only three weeks to go, Mitch, the bassist told me he couldn't make it after all. I was talking to my twelve-year old son about it when he suggested his music teacher at school. "He can play any instrument" my son proudly boasted. I don't want to embarrass this teacher, so I'll call him Sidney. I spoke to Sidney on the phone, who said yes, he could play bass, he knew the material and would be delighted to help.

With two weeks to go, the new band met for the first time. Sidney turned out to be the nicest guy on earth, but with only one problem; he couldn't play bass! "I'm more of a guitarist really" he confessed. "Ok you play guitar, Iíll play bass" I said. That led to another problem. The band are used to hearing my musical prompts on guitar, phrases that they recognise as the end of the introduction, time to start singing; lead break coming up, time to stop singing; end of the song arriving, shut up! Nothing complicated but the same every time. They're not written down, so Ricky couldn't replicate them, and Sidney wasn't that slick. The band didn't have a clue where it was going; we'd end a song at five different places, just as Ricky was starting a lead break! With two weeks before the Mayor's Grand Ball, the dance-band were a disaster band! We'd start a song and it would be a minute before all of us were playing in the same key. Ricky would start a lead break when the singers weren't expecting it, so they'd carry on singing too! Then both would realise what had happened, give way to each other and suddenly no one was singing or playing, save the rhythm section, which ground to a halt, realising the song had collapsed! Worst of all were the songs that didn't end. With the singers and guitarists both waiting for the other to end a song, it would just keep trundling on forever! If Madame Mayor of Barnet was going to dance with her chum Mr Mayor of Islington, they were going to be feeling anything but romantic by the time we'd worked out how to end Under the Moon of Love! The venue was only booked till midnight!

I had to sort it, but time was running out. We agreed to meet the following Thursday. Sidney couldn't make it, so we got together without him. As the only guitarist in the band, Ricky covered lead and rhythm, while I played bass again. We concluded that, nice as Sydney was, we were better off without him, as he simply didn't know the material well, and with a band that didn't know if it was coming or going, we couldn't have a musician who wasn't sure where the band was supposed to be coming from or going to!

With only a week until the gig, Pauline, our other regular singer, gave me details of a Musicians Union website. Once connected, I posted a notice for a bassist to rescue us; we'd had no joy finding a bassist of Phil's caliber, because very few musicians of professional standard will work for nothing. Very few such musicians have a day-job affording them the luxury of performing for love. Luckily for all concerned, Dave Barber of Welwyn Garden City was one such bassist. Forty-eight hours before take-off, he came to audition at band practise. An ex-professional turned computer engineer, Dave stepped in and was obviously very relaxed playing bass with us. Not only were we all relaxed with him, we were grateful to that great Rock 'n' Roller in the sky (not Elvis!) who sent him to us (via the Internet!)

The gig went as smooth as cheesecake. We were happy to see so many people enjoying themselves, happy to support Leukemia Research, and more than happy to be treated to a slap-up meal! Five thousand pounds was raised for Leukemia Research into the bargain!

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