Pete Clemons contacted me recently, to supply material and press cuttings on Pete Waterman's Coventry days, to the ITV researchers who were gathering material for the forthcoming Piers Morgan Life Stories featuring Pete Waterman. I copied Pete Clemons in on my e mails to the show and his wizard pen has converted that material into an article for the Coventry Telegraph. The material related to Pete's early R & B bands, early songwriting, DJing in Coventry and the Midlands and his Soul Hole shop and more. In addition to the article itself, I've added in some of the source material below for your enjoyment.
At the time of writing, the show is currently being recorded, Pete having been interviewed and some of the artists have been filmed too. It should go out some time soon during the summer.
|This a view of the whole article but a readable version is below.|
Pop man Pete's early years; Your memories.
COVENTRY born Pete Waterman, founder of PWL who created the1980s hit making phenomenon Stock Aitken and Waterman as well as being nationally known as being an early Pop Idol judge is soon to be featured on 'Piers Morgan's Life Stories'.
Ex-Coventry resident Trev Teasdel who set up the highly recommended Coventry Music Blog website, knew Pete Waterman through work and would help out now and again at his dances. Trev has kept a fascinating set of notes and memorabilia about those days.
I have attempted here to condense those notes and capture a snapshot of Pete Waterman's early career in the music business in one manageable article.
Pete began as an R & B singer with two mid to late 60s bands. His first band, as far as Trev can recall, were called The Pilgrims. The Pilgrims may have been operating circa 1965/66 but apart from that very little information exists about them.
His next band was Tomorrow's Kind. The line-up was Pete Waterman on guitar and vocals, Keith Jackson on bass, Duncan Hall on drums, Richard Hollis on lead guitar, Paul Hatt on vocals. They played R & B and Motown covers and were operating circa 1967/68 at venues such as The General Wolfe, The Navigation and The Plough on the London Road. They were also with Friars promotions that sent them all over the place.
The transition from band member to DJ could have been one evening when a band failed to turn up and he went and fetched a bunch of soul records to fill for the band.
But there is no doubt that as far back as 1969 Pete Waterman performed at venues such as The Baginton Oak and The Mercers Arms. He would sometimes work under the alias of Dandelion and would also double up with another DJ known as Chantilly Tilly.
At this time Pete was working at the GEC (General Electric Company) where he was also a shop steward. It was in June 1970 when Trev, also working for the GEC, first met Pete. Trev, a poet, was putting a lyric together called 'A Lotta Rain is Fallin'.
Pete caught sight of it and was particularly taken with a line from the song 'There's a lotta rivers flowin' but the seas's learned how to fly'. To Trev's surprise he took it away, put his own acoustic guitar behind it and recorded it onto a state of the art mono cassette player.
It is not known if this was his first attempt at recording as it is suspected he had contributed original material to his earlier bands. Nothing ever became of that song and the cassette has long since disappeared.
As well as still working at The Mercers Arms, 1970 also saw Pete get a residency at The Walsgrave pub's Progressive music nights which he ran for Friars Promotions.
These nights would have a mix of local progressive bands and singer songwriters.
The Mercers Arms housed national progressive bands via Birmingham based Jim Simpson who discovered Black Sabbath about then. Some of the bands included Skid Row, Medicine Head (with unannounced the former Yardbird, Keith Relf) and many more that at that time were playing the university circuit and appearing on John Peel.
Trev would help Pete collect payment on the door along with fulfilling a number of other functions at The Walsgrave. Trev also has strong memories of seeing Pete play staccato flute and of seeing him jam with legendary local singer songwriter Rod Felton at the Earlsdon Cottage. Rod, who worked the national folk circuit, also had a strong R & B voice and had, according to Pete, become a bit of star on the folk scene.
Later that same evening Pete introduced Trev to an R & B band called Gypsy Lee. After doing a cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Lemon Song', Pete took to the stage to do the vocals on 'Rock me Baby' (an R & B standard) cutting a raucous vocal with some breathy, staccato flute in the intervals between vocal.
It was highly effective and Trev often wondered why he didn't do that more often but realised that he was more interested in developing his career as DJ and promoter at that stage.
Pete, in his autobiography, is quite dismissive of his own talent but Trev witnessed a small window in Pete's performing art and was always impressed with the energy and strength of his performance at The Walsgrave. This is a side of Pete Waterman that the greater world does not know about him.
Of course, all this may paint a different image of Pete, but throughout, his first love was Motown, blues and R & B. This was his key thread and motivation in music which would eventually lead to the creation of Stock Aitken and Waterman.
Where many others will remember Pete Waterman from was when he was DJ at the Locarno Ballroom. To get a residency here was effectively the big one and would inevitably bring your name to a wider audience within the Coventry area. It began mid way through 1970 and continued through till 1973.
By mid 1973 Pete had left the GEC and, with a friend called Tilly (Chantilly Tilly?), set up an independent record shop called the Soul Hole. He was still continuing to DJ for as many as seven nights a week. Initially the Soul Hole was located in the cellar of a hippy boutique store called 'I AM' in Hales Street, Coventry. The cellar of the building had a very low ceiling and was not the ideal location. The 'I AM' shop would be alive with soul music pumping up from the cellar and full of young Northern Soul fans. The shop would also advertise its products in the Coventry Telegraph and Trev's grass roots music magazine 'Hobo'. The Soul Hole also supplied a top 14 chart reflecting the then current sales of the imported soul records that Pete was selling at that time.
Mr George's Nite Spot was Pete's next destination and the formation of Coventry Soul Club where he ran regular discos. By the end of 1973 the Soul Club had moved to the Tree Tops Club on the Foleshill Road where he would attract guest artists. During this period Pete won a DJ of the month competition organised by Philadelphia records.
1974 saw the Soul Hole relocate to the top floor of Virgin records which, at that time was located in the City Arcade. This is how Pete announced the move in Hobo magazine "As you know by now our small shop (The Soul Hole) has now moved to the top of Virgin Records in the City Arcade. Our new shop will, we hope, bring more people into the faith. We had a good time at the shop in the 'I AM' boutique but the stock was getting too big for our small shop. The move will not, we hope, change the service that we are so proud of. The new shop will give us more room to serve and talk. Also you can stand up!" By now though, Pete's reputation was growing nationally and his activities were spreading. He had taken a job as an A&R man, and worked in the Philadelphia scene, reviewing the latest releases by the likes of Trammps, Billy Paul and The O'Jays. Significantly, during March 1974, he introduced the Three Degrees to the UK and slightly later had moved into production, with Susan Cadogan's hit 'Hurts So Good' being an early exa mple.
Pete Waterman would inevitably move on from, but never forget, Coventry. Hopefully, this brief potted history gives an insight into Pete's Coventry days but the rest, as they say, is history.
Pete Waterman's R & B Bands in the mid to late 1960's
This band was operating c 1965 / 66 but i have no further information about them.
Tomorrow's Kind c 1967 / 68
The line up was Pete Waterman - guitar and vocals, Keith Jackson - bass, Duncan Hall - drums, Richard Hollis - lead guitar, Paul Hatt - vocals.
They played R & B standards and Motown and possible some original numbers.
The played local gigs like the Navigation Inn / The General Wolf / The Plough and Friars Promotions used to send them all over the Midlands.
Tomorrow's Kind playing at the Navigation Inn.
Photos of Tomorrow's Kind supplied kindly by Vocalist Paul Hatt
Here is an excerpt on 'Tomorrow's Kind' from Pete Waterman's bio I Wish I Was Me
" By 1965 the whole Beatlemania phenomenon had gone barmy........for a while at least I was in a band called Tomorrow's Kind who actually looked like they might have gone on to be famous. They didn't, of course, but we did pick up a bit of a following and we started gigging three or four nights a week while I was still holding down the day job at the GEC. That continued for a couple of years but I eventually realised that I didn't have any genuine talent. I could fake it like buggery, but I was never going to be top of the charts.
One night in 1966 we were playing a gig and one of the other bands didn't turn up, so I dashed home, got my records and played them before the band came on. Now no one really did this at that time and the Landlord of the pub where we were playing said he really liked it. He offered me 10 bob to come back again and play records the following week. This wasn't some kind of complicated system, it was a record player with a microphone next to it going through the PA, but for 10 bob. I wasn't about to complain. So by a quirk of fate, I went from being the lead singer in a not very good band to being the only DJ in Coventry. ....I began to play records more than I played instruments, and because I got to know the right people, I started to get people asking me to play records."
Pete's book available on Amazon - here
Pete's DJing is legendary and there are various Coventry Telegraph articles on this blog by Pete Clemons which looks at some of the venues that Pete Waterman DJ'd at - The Locarno (Tiffany's) / Tree Tops / The Walsgrave / The Mercer's Arms - check them out in the index.
Trev Teasdel's memories - Part 1
I met Pete in 1970 at the GEC Stoke Works, Telecommunications dept. Copswood, Coventry. Pete, was the TGWU shop steward. I was 19 and putting on local bands at the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club and writing lyrics during tea breaks and sometimes during Pete's Union meetings!
In June 1970, I began writing a lyric called A Lotta Rain is Fallin' (while the boss was out!) and a workmate asked me what i was doing. Pete got wind of it and came over to see what i was doing. He ended up taking it away with him (half finished though it was, promising to put music to it. The lyric was inspired partly by Dylan's but also Epitaph by King Crimson. I think I wanted to be a kind of Pete Sinfield (who wrote lyrics for King Crimson or Pete Brown who wrote lyrics for Cream at that stage. The next week Pete brought in a mono cassette player and played the song to me with his voice and acoustic guitar. His voice was a mix between the smooth tones of Paul McCartney and the R & B edge of Bob Dylan and he loved one of the lines "There's a lotta rivers flowin' but the sea's learned how to fly" for its imagery and repeated it in his version. I've no idea if this was his first attempt at songwriting or if he'd written for the bands he played in but it was damn good and I completed the lyric and gave it to him. Pete promised to perform it at the Walsgrave but it never materialised. The lyric is below - not quite a Kylie Minogue song - it was 1970 and Pete wasn't world famous at that stage.
A LOTTA RAIN IS FALLIN’ (Lyric by Trev Teasdel June 1970)
A lotta rain is fallin’, but the earth has moved aside
There’s a lotta bullets flying but the victim’s found somewhere to hide
There’s a lotta rivers flowin’ but the seas learned how to fly.
There’s a lotta clouds a wondering which rockets knicked the sky
‘cos the roads are moving fast but the cars are standing still
and so much is happening yet nothing’s ever done
Oh we want to see the light but we’re dazzled by the sun.
And some people’s only sunshine
Is their Cornflakes in the morning time
And the age of instant sunshine
In packets of bright display
I know will be dawning, in some future day.
There’s a lotta tears a fallin’, and more are being cried
There’s a lotta people trampled on as man takes another stride
There’s a lotta smoke a rising but the sky’s learned how to swim
There’s a lotta faces smiling but their hearts are feeling grim
Cos a lotta tension’s forming and the bags about to burst
There’s gotta be an answer cos the world is getting worse.
A lotta help is needed to get that truck back on the road
Cos too many people are pullin’ too heavier a load.
(BACK TO BRIDGE)
I don't have a copy of Pete Waterman's more upbeat version but this Sound click link is to an acoustic version with my own chords / music and playing and with a minor chord feel. I originally envisaged melotron in it and we did do a version with modern keyboards but this is just an acoustic version with lead guitar by Steve Gillgallon of Middlesbrough) and recorded on cassette in 1981. You can hear it here -
Pete got me to write for several local bands like Coconut Mat and some times threw ideas at me for lyrics -Umbrella club. They were mostly local or regional bands at that venue like Wandering John, Asgard (a Pink Floyd type outfit that John Peel was interested in), Pantomime (from Birmingham), April, Skid Row (not local) and many more.one using the imagery of Chess is one I remember. He also asked me to come down the Walsgrave - a pub, where on a Tuesday night , he ran a progressive music venue and disco. For nearly a year i turned up early after work and helped Pete set up and did the door. It meant I got in free and was an opportunity to meet new bands, some of which I booked for the
While setting up he'd play many of the chart hits of the time - Yellow River, In the Summertime, Question (Moody Blues), Groovin' with Mr Bloe, Spirit in the Sky, All Right Now, Psychedelic Shack, American Woman, are a few I remember, along with oldies like Itchycoo Park and soul hits.
Sometimes we'd go walkabout, often to collect gear - leads, mics, instruments etc before the doors opened at 8pm. On one occasion we walked up to his house in Walsgrave and another to his parents house in Burlington rd, catching the bus into town (he was highly popular even back then with all the disco fans from the Locarno waving to him as we walked through town), and then up to Earlsdon Cottage folk club to collect his flute from Rod Felton. Rod was sat out on the grass at the back with a crown and his guitar and Pete joined in on flute, playing quite melodically. The next time Pete used his flute was, as described in the article, doing the vocals on Rock me Baby with the R & B band Gypsy Lee, adding staccato, Jethro Tull style flute in the breaks.
Pete Waterman's parents house at Burlington Rd, Stoke.