Blues, Skiffle and Rock ‘n Roll

The first paid gig I ever had was with Nick Coombes and Ralph Sutton, two friends from school at a youth club in Petts Wood. It must have been about 1958. We played skiffle – including the Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” and, I think, were paid about £5.00 between us.

Skiffle Guitar
Skiffle Guitar

Later, we ended up in a rock band – “The Hoods featuring Tony Verne”. I was Tony Verne. While most of the other bands at the time were copying Cliff Richard and the Shadows, with matching suits and a relatively “clean-cut” image, we went for a wilder, more rock ‘n roll approach. We wore leathers (plastic actually, but never mind) and had a repertoire based on songs by Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and other hard rockers. Not that we didn’t like Cliff and the Shads – I can still remember seeing the Shads play FBI in Tooting, and the show was awesome.

Tony with The Ramrods
Tony with The Ramrods

We did pretty well in South London, and played at places like Chiselhurst Caves, The Athenaeum Muswell Hill, and even ran our own shows in West Wycombe. We also started playing music by Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, and I really started to get into blues. It was about then that I discovered my all time favourite blues man, John Lee Hooker and, of course, Ray Charles. It was to about 35 years before I got the chance to see Ray Charles perform live, and it was well worth the wait. About this time, our bass guitarist left, and I got a call from a Bill Perks asking about joining us. As we were all studying for A levels, and he was older than we were, I turned him down on the grounds that we couldn’t offer him the regular work I though he needed (code for “you’re too old, mate”). Some years later I discovered that he changed his name to Wyman and joined some other mob. Terry Clemson (aka Terry Gibson) was the guitarist and he went on to join the Downliners Sect. He is still playing, in The TT’s .

After leaving The Hoods, I joined The Ramrods, playing the same type of music, and we performed at Wimbledon Palais and The Two I’s – the legendary coffee bar where people like Tommy Steele were discovered. I believe there is a plaque in Old Compton Street to show where it used to be. By then, the Beetles had arrived, and everybody thought we must be from Liverpool!

Soon after this, I got bitten by the Folk Music “bug”. It was getting more and more frustrating trying to play hard rock to super-cool mods, so I sold my electric guitar (I still miss that red Les Paul Junior) and bought an acoustic.

I didn’t really go back to rock until the 90’s, when I was inspired by The Blues Brothers to “put the band back together”. I advertised in the local paper and music shops and formed “Blues Junction”. We played mainly in Hertfordshire for several years until I moved to Northampton in 2001.

Occasionally, I play with Sunfly with my good friend Johnny Hadfield.when they are short of a bassist or guitarist. The photos above show me playing with “Sunfly” at the Stables, Wavendon - Johnny and Tony Hadfield (both ex Diabolus), Eddie Carter and Paul Gibbons (both ex Mr. Big) and Barriemore Barlow (ex Jethro Tull) at the Stables, Wavendon.

Until recently, I was playing bass with the  Yellow Dog Rhythm and Blues Band - a great bunch of guys. Click on the links to see more about the band and the music they play.