July 2006 Meeting
The Night a Rock Star came to call
What a week it has been for Vintage Sixties Live - the organisation set up with the intention of providing a monthly venue where ex-sixties group members of all abilities could meet to renew acquaintances, exchange stories, have a laugh – and maybe even perform a song or two - in an relaxed and informal atmosphere
On Tuesday night the two organisers – Alan Prudhoe and Alan Leightell - were asked to appear on the Paddy MacDee Late Show on Radio Newcastle to chat about their memories of some of the people, places and events connected with the many bands, or rhythm groups as they were then called, who worked the Northern Club circuit during the Swingin’ Sixties.
But an even bigger surprise yet to come.
Alan Prudhoe checked his answerphone on returning home from Paddy’s show in the early hours of Wednesday, to find a message from Alan White – legendary drummer with Rick Wakeman’s international superstar group – Yes”. The message simply said that Alan, who has lived in the USA for many years, was in the UK to visit his Mum and that he would try to fit in a visit to the Vintage Sixties Live club night on Thursday 13 July 2006 at Tudhoe Victory Club.
“We had just enjoyed a great night with Paddy,” said Alan. “He even managed to dig out old singles by the Silver Dollars, Toby Twirl and the Elcort, - who were all local groups of the period. This message from Alan White was simply the icing on the cake.”
Alan Prudhoe and Alan Leightell – or the Two Alans as they have become known – struggled to keep the news to themselves until the big night arrived when, sure enough, in walked Alan White together with his lovely wife, Gigi, and his 84 year old Mum.
Relaxed and informal the atmosphere may be, but it never envisaged to embrace the occasional visit by a rock superstar. In the event, however, it coped exceedingly well.
Alan had started his career with local club group the Downbeats, who he joined at the tender age of 13. Within a very short period of time it became obvious that this group had something a little bit special and they played to packed clubs and pubs almost every night. In the height of the Sixties they went on to win a national group competition judged by Brian Epstein, Ringo Starr, Cilla Black, David Jacobs and Alan Freeman and were quickly snapped up by the Animals manager Mike Jeffries. For Alan White the rise to stardom continued. After eventually leaving the Downbeats his CV came to read like a Who’s Who of pop, performing with such artistes as John Lennon, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Rick Wakeman, Alan Price – the list is endless (see www.alanwhite.net ). Tonight though he was back home enjoying an evening with his friends and family. It was evident from a chat with his Mum that she had been very much a part of his pop career from local club to international acclaim. She has an instant recall of every aspect of it. Alan’s wife was also very much a part of the evening. She fitted easily into the informal atmosphere with an enthusiastic exuberance much commented upon and appreciated on by the assembled crowd.
“It was never intended to impose on Alan to actually perform on stage” says Alan Prudhoe with a wry smile. “I don’t think we could afford him now.We were happy that he had taken the trouble to call in to see us. It was just that, by pure coincidence, we were short of a drummer for an impromptu jam session with a couple of former Downbeats - Dave Turnbull and Kenny Potts – supplemented by Alan Leightell and a local “volunteer” on bass guitar.These things happen. Alan agreed to step into the breach and - with a last word of advice from Mum not to play too loud -he took to the stage
The following short set was the old Downbeats magic relived, ending in a absolutely knockout version of that old Free classic – Alright Now – which brought the house down.
The evening was reluctantly brought to a close with a photo session, with Alan’s wife doing the honours very professionally as celebrity photographer, ably supported by Vintage Sixties Live’s own snapper Malcolm Rocks.
Sheesh – what a week!!