So how did a drummer get to be a collector of electric guitars? Guess it went
something like this . . . .
It all began when my school friend Martin "Thumbs" Bellamy and I,
inspired by listening to Joe Meek recording artistes (like John Leyton, Mike
Berry, Heinz and The Tornados), one bright summer's day in 1964 went to look
round the Soho music shops (near the 2 I's coffee bar) to kit ourselves out
so we could hit the road as musicians. After much searching we finally
decided on a Czech-built Futurama with a 10 watt Bird combo amp for him (at
£25) and a Broadway drum kit for me (at £18) - mainly because they
were the cheapest we could find!
Our first attempts at music were split between his home in Quenington,
Gloucestershire and mine at Calgary House (now known as Calgary Castle) on
the Isle of Mull, my idyllic childhood home with my parents - Eric, a very
distinguished veteran of both World Wars, and Elizabeth Mackenzie who
created the woodland garden that Calgary Castle has since become famous
for. Calgary Castle is now a prestigious holiday home but thankfully,
despite this, much loved by its current owners. Unfortunately,
Gloucestershire and the Isle of Mull weren't quite ready for our renditions
of classics such as 'Johnny B Goode' and 'Whole Lotta Shakin' etc. Actually
nobody recognised them, which was a problem and fatal for a time!
After two years of musical wilderness I found myself in Southampton
ensconced in the digs of the building firm that I worked for in Cranbury
Avenue (yes, it is the street just off Derby Road). I learnt a lot there,
but not about building, as it was then in the middle of Southampton's red
light district. An eye opener, and more, for a shy lad from a sheltered
background! But I digress. I still had a hankering for being a pop idol so I
placed an ad in a newspaper for other musicians to form a band. I then met
Bill and Bob, two guitarists who were looking for a drummer and I joined
their band The Blue Stars - yep, yep, they really did name themselves after
that well-known chain of garages and manufacturers of car batteries! Bob
played a home made solid and Bill played his Watkins Rapier 33 and dreamt of
emulating Hank Marvin. He was also a naturally gifted musician and
certainly, the best drummer in the "Blue Stars"! Incidentally,
Bill Geddes was still playing regularly, and had released several CDs, until
his untimely death two years ago. We achieved a modest success and also
appeared at Southampton's Guild Hall for the princely sum of £5 - on a
package show featuring: The Footprints, The Nite People and headlined by
Les Fleur de Lys, occasionally you can hear each of them on Sounds of the
I then moved to London and it was back to the wilderness again until I moved
to High Wycombe. I still couldn't get music out of my system so in 1973, and
yes - you've guessed it - I advertised again! This time I met Francis Rossi
and Alan Lancaster look-alikes, Jack and Dennis and their Fender copy
Antorias and was transported into the wonderful world of Status Quo - a
world I've never entirely left - we called ourselves Fat Man's Toy. Yes we
did 'Paper Plane' and 'Caroline' fuelled by home-made beer in Jack's house
until the volume caused his kitchen shelf to collapse and, yes, it was the
one that housed his crystal glass collection! But we also played numbers
like 'Please Don't Touch' and 'Shakin' All Over', both written and first
performed by the late, great Johnny Kidd - I recently saw The Pirates live
at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne - absolutely fantastic! Anyway, to cut a
long story short, we lined ourselves up for our first gig in a pub in Reading.
Sadly, despite the fact that we were a trio, we, for the whole night,
outnumbered the punters! Was that the end? No, not us, we hired a hall,
argued a lot and practised non-stop for three months (doubling the intake of
home-brew in the process!) and hit the road again but this time we were a
success and for two years we were out gigging 1-3 nights every week, and
over the Christmas and New Year period, it was often six nights out of
seven. By this time Jack had graduated to a Hayman 3030 guitar and Dennis bought
a huge bass amp. For me it was first a Pearl Dynamic drum kit which I bought direct from Dallas Arbiter at a trade price of £90.20 on 23rd November 1973. Then to Jack's fury, as he'd bought his Hayman 3030 guitar at the full retail price of £160, I bought a Hayman Showman drum kit in Solid Silver again at "trade" direct from Dallas Arbiter for £183.60 on 15th May 1975. One of our most popular numbers was 'Baby Jump' by Mungo Jerry, but my lasting souvenir of this time is a tape of me lead singing 'Twenty Flight Rock' by Eddie Cochran (recorded on £10 cassette recorder), live at The Bell in Maidenhead - a well known venue.
But, as with many bands, personalities clashed and Dennis and I left Jack to
his own musical wilderness and joined Eric, and Earthborn was formed. We even had Roger Newell, but sadly without his triple necked custom Wal bass, (Yes, Rick Wakeman, Marty Wilde's Wildcats etc) join us for a few gigs and changed our style, ending up as a
four-piece doing clubs and pubs within an area which included London,
Hampshire, the South Midlands and Hertfordshire. In this band I was the one
who drew the short straw and had to lead sing favourites like 'Viva Espana'
and 'Una Paloma Blanca' - well, no-one else would! Thankfully, we always
managed to avoid 'The Birdie Song'!! By now I had graduated to a Premier Kit
(in black and orange hoops!), Slingerland chrome snare (I sometimes used an
unusual 10-inch 1930s Premier Ace chrome snare drum with double snares - the
second under the batter head), coupled with Super Zyn and Zildjan cymbals
(which I still have today). Eric was using a Fender Stratocaster and a
Fender Twin Reverb, Dennis had a Fender Musicmaster Bass and H & H amp
and, Mike the new lead guitarist, a Fender Telecaster and another Twin
All went well till about 1978 when another split occurred. Briefly I joined
Wayne as a duo, backed a weekly talent contest at the King's Head in High
Wycombe, then Trooper (at that time a young and upcoming band from
Oxford) until I met the person who I enjoyed playing music with the most,
Tony Price, who used an Epiphone E-270 and I have a similar model in my
collection today. We sometimes gigged as Tony and Guy or as Earthborn 2
(or 3 or 4) or whatever our agent, Bob Kember from Watford, wanted us to be
for the booking he'd made for us. Tony Price is an amazing entertainer and
with the right luck and promotion would have been the star he always
deserved to be. However for some reason, which I have never had difficulty
understanding, Tony was never, in all our time together, appreciative of my
singing ability! How do I know this - well, why else did he keep turning my
mike down and his Watkins Copicat up, just as I was about to harmonise with
But we finally went our separate musical ways - he and his wife to
Lincolnshire and me to Cornwall. Tony has since had a long and successful
career in music and released several CDs, only retiring himself and his
Fender Stratocasters in 2005. (Tony Price sadly passed away in December 2011.) Since moving to Cornwall I've only come out of retirement on a few occasions to gig in Penzance and Hayle, or to annoy the neighbours!
Through all this time I found a love of guitars and a love that I could
never quite understand - because I can barely even play one! But for me
that's a bonus because I can appreciate them without being hampered by
liking them only because of their sound or action or whatever all you
budding Jimmy Page's look for. So with that, how could I resist becoming a
collector - and that's why my collection has yer Fenders (of course), yer
Gibson (a Victory) but also a Fenton Weill and a Tremo Twenty (a what?) -
the quirkiest guitar of all, excepting of course, my Burns Weill bass and my weird, wonderful Teisco SS-4L.
And not forgetting my selection of Supersounds - some of the earliest solid body electrics made in the UK (more information on Supersound Guitars and the company itself can be found in the Story of Supersound website).
Which do I love best - fair reader, I'll let you be the judge, as you
check out my collection. It may not be the best and it hopefully isn't the
worst - but it is all mine!
Finally, my own guitar heroes? Naturally - Mick Green (The Pirates, Paul
McCartney, Van Morrison, Bryan Ferry) and, of course, the legendary Welsh
rocker himself, Dave Edmunds - who can ever forget 'Deborah', or 'I Knew
the Bride' and 'Girls Talk'.
However a special mention must go to guitar collector and the UK's No 1 Rockin' Blues guitarist Larry Miller and, of course, the greatest Rockin' Blues guitarist of them all...the incomparable Johnny Winter.
Stop Press: 2014 update.
In October 2012, a guitarist friend, Ron Barratt (Ron And Rosalind), persuaded me to dust off my drums and do a "one off" gig with him at Camborne Conservative Club, Cornwall to celebrate the 5th November and I reluctantly agreed. This was to be my first gig since 1987!
Of course having done it and to a very surprisingly (to me, anyway!) enthusiastic audience, I was hooked and decided I'd like to try to get my drumming back up to speed again.
So in January I was off to a jam session held by Alan Rideout and his partner Kc. (Casey) Johnson. Well, I sat quietly at the back of the venue open mouthed as a stream of excellent drummers (aged from about 10 years old!) got up and, in turn, did their stuff! How can I compete with children I asked myself and almost walked out. Luckily I managed to delay my performance till last (nearly everybody had left by then including the other drummers!) but thanks to the remaining musicians it was ok ...well I enjoyed it anyway!
As a consequence I spent the next few months practising or playing anywhere or everywhere I could ...jam sessions, open mike sessions or just anywhere or with anyone who needed a (free) drummer. Then in August I joined The Parchman Blues Band led by local businessman and guitarist John Cowles playing old blues. Our first gig together (after just one practice) was at a blues festival near Looe in S.E.Cornwall...so no pressure! Then in November local personality, ex-champion show jumper and rock 'n' roller Ben Davis asked me to join his band The Thunderbirds which he was reforming after a break due to ill health. And I'm still with them playing with Geoff Jackson on bass, Chris Ward lead guitar (surely the only person who can lift my Mapex traps bag above his head!) and Ben Davis jnr. on the mixer deck.
And not content with 2 bands I've now formed the Al Rideout band playing blues rock with the very talented multi instrumentalist Kc (Casey) Johnson on bass and vocals and occasionally Simon Bowman on keyboards. And here is a recording from one of our first gigs (done on a digital recorder) which was held at the Queens Arms, Breage, Helston on 8th March 2014:
However by mid May, with no paid bookings in the pipeline and modest intentions, an amicable parting of the ways with the Parchman Blues Band became inevitable.
Finally a message to my friends Frank Allen (The Searchers), Alan Lovell (The Swinging Blue Jeans), Roger Newell (The Wildcats) if you or anyone you know are ever desperate (well you'd have to be!) and need a drummer....call me. And will I play for nothing just to be on the same stage as any of you? Well of course I will and I'll pay my own expenses too!
So has my phone rung? Well No - not to date anyway! But I live in hope and one day, who knows, I may be able to update this page!
And my present drum kit? A Mapex Meridian in birch:- 10/12/14/22. Cymbals:- 2 16" Zildjan K Dark crashs:- a medium and a thin, an old 20" Paiste 2002 ride and a pair of Paiste Alpha Hi-hats. Hi-Hat? A Premier given to me by my mother many years ago. Pedals? A Ludwig Speed King and a Yamaha pedal. Sticks? Vater sugar maple and my latest toy...Rock Stix Pro2!
And as for my Guitar Collection? Well that's still growing too so please keep checking!
Charlie Gracie Concert November 2014!
So, having waited what seemed like an age for the phone to ring (actually it was only a few months but it seemed like an age!!) I decided that if I wanted to play with a "Name" I'd have to organise it
myself! So after hearing that legendary Rock 'n' Roll Pioneer Charlie Gracie ("Fabulous", "Butterfly", "Wanderin' Eyes" etc.) was touring the UK in November and had a few spare dates - I determined to book him myself and build a show round him!
Having made that decision I gave up my playing career in various line ups and concentrated on Charlie Gracie's set. I decided to make the event a Charity concert in aid of The Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust and put a band together to back him. Thankfully my friend and possibly the finest 50s guitarist Ron Barrett was available, as was Andy Pascoe a fine bassist and proprietor of Modern Music in Truro.
Support acts were No Apologies...acapello ladies singing 50s & 60s numbers and The Pistoleros who got the audience dancing with their versions of R 'n' R standards and 60s classics. Legendary BBC Radio Cornwall DJ Freddy Zapp compered the show and the BBC's Matt Shepherd auctioned a guitar specially built by my friend Trevor Williamson.
Charlie Gracie Live in Cornwall 2014 backed by The Guitar Collections very own Guy Mackenzie on drums, with Andy Pascoe on bass and Ron Barrett on guitar:
"At the Hop":
The evening was a "Fabulous" success (far beyond my expectations) and the concert was sold out and raised over £2,000 for the Trust! Charlie Gracie was an absolute delight both as a man and as someone to play with and it was an evening I'll never forget. I've achieved my ambition to play with an internationally known star.
Following the success of the concert starring Charlie Gracie in 2014, I rebooked Charlie Gracie again in 2015 and this time I included, on the bill, Graham Fenton of "Matchbox". However, tragically Ron Barrett had passed away in March and so backing was provided by the "Sugar Bullets".
Support was again provided by the fabulous "No Apologies". Joint comperes were Matt Shepherd and Freddy Zapp and, once again, the Concert was sold out - a week beforehand! And, as a consequence, over £3,000 was raised for the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust!
After one year of inactivity, my friends the Sugar Bullets invited me to put a band together and play at a Rock 'n' Roll charity weekend they were planning in May. This resulted in me putting a trio together under my own name and after some practice sessions, including some live, we opened a very successful weekend.
Having fulfilled almost every musical ambition I've ever had, is it time for a second and final retirement? Watch this space!
Venues I have played include:
750 Club · High Wycombe Bell · High Wycombe Bell · Maidenhead Black Swan · Gweek Blues & Roots Festival · Looe, Cornwall Brick Layers Arms · Wheelers End Brimpton Grange · Milton Common, Oxfordshire British Legion Club · Flackwell Heath British Legion Club · Marlow British Legion Club · Princes Risborough Brittania · Aylesbury Buck Inn · Burley, New Forest, Hampshire Buffs Club · Penzance Burnham Working Mens Club Carriers · Watlington Castle · High Wycombe Cheltenham Hospital Civil Engineer · Greenford, Middlesex Corn Dolly · Oxford The Cornubia · Hayle Cressex Community Centre · High Wycombe Crown · Aylesbury Crown Tavern · High Wycombe Dairymead · Aylesbury Downley Donkey · Downley, High Wycombe Downley Heights PTA · West Wycombe Duck · Aylesbury Duke of Clarence · London W11 Falcon · Woodley Godolphin Club · Helston Golden Goblet · Southend Guild Hall · Southampton Havelock Arms · Harrow Hazells Club · Aylesbury Hedsor Club · Buckinghamshire Humphrey Davey · Penzance John F Kennedy · Aylesbury Kings Head · High Wycombe Kings Head · Penzance Kings Langley Services Club London Village · London W4 Mawla Charity Rally · Redruth Miners & Mechanics Institute · St Agnes, Cornwall Moreton in the Marsh Football Club Mounts Bay Inn · Mullion Nags Head · London N7 Nettlebed Working Mens Club · Oxfordshire New Holland Social Club · Aylesbury New Inn · Wendron, Helston Overton Football Club · Hampshire Plough · Brackley Queens Arms · Breage, Helston Railway Inn · Eastleigh Red Jackets · Camborne Sandbar · Praa Sands, Cornwall Scotts Social Club · Bletchley SKF Sports and Social Club · Luton Stable Bar of the White Hart · Hayle Stithians Lake Cafe · Redruth Swordfish · Newlyn Tamarac Lodge · Volumntown, Ct., USA Target · Northolt Thames Valley Caravan Club · Windsor Trades Union Club · Reading Turnpike · High Wycombe Victoria Inn · Four Lanes, Redruth Union Hotel · Penzance Watermill · Hayle White Hart · Didcot White Lion · Penzance William IV · Langley, Slough William IV · Madron, Penzance Windmill · Slough Windsor Racecourse Woking Working Mens Club Wooburn Green Working Mens Club
The Guitar Collection
as featured in Guitar & Bass, Vol 18 No 1, Feb 2007
Text and photographs by Lars Mullen
The Guitar Collection - my Supersound Guitar Collection
as featured in Guitar & Bass May 2009 My thanks to Paul Day for all his help and encouragement
The Guitar Collection
as featured in Guitar & Bass Magazine 2010