Sensible Shoes

Sensible Shoes:Sensible Shoes
The band was named after a drink involving Guinness. We picked this name, which drummer Dick Halliwell had come up with, because we thought we might apply to Guinness for sponsorship but when we approached Guinness with this kind offer they turned us down. Shame as I was a Champion Guinness drinker with an eye on the Winter Olympics Gold Medal. After I’d left Creepin’ Jane I was still in training as a Male Nurse at RCH Treliske College of Nursing so did little with music other than my Folk Club residencies, lunch time gigs at The William the Fourth in Truro and running a weekly jam session on a Wednesday night that I’d set up also in the William the Fourth. The jam session came about because there had been a loose sort of arrangement in The Coach and Horses opposite the cathedral and the tiny little pub – whose name I forget, possibly the Victoria Inn – which stood in the corner of Victoria Square next door to Mallet’s Hardware shop. There was usually a band booked in these pubs on Wednesday afternoons this being Market Day and we’d have a play while the booked band were having their break.
There was a country band with a slide guitarist back then – can’t remember their name either – and I was amazed to see him, in the Victoria Inn this was, take out a flask and sandwiches to have his lunch during the break! We made do with beer, peanuts and crisps!

Sensible ShoesJam Sessions.
When these pubs closed or the bookings fell off I took the idea of a Jam Session to the management of the William the Fourth and they funded me with just enough cash to buy each player a drink! I seem to remember that as coordinator I had to play quite a lot so at least I had a fair share of the drinks. Incidentally this jam session continued in various Truro pubs for over thirty years in one form or another finishing up in The Old Ale House. I suspect it was an influence in Gerry Gillan’s Melting Pot jam sessions too. It’s still going strong even now!

I had met with and played with Pete Keeley in these sessions, he was with another band at the time but when I was invited to join drummer Dick Halliwell, and bassist Dave Richards form a Rock ‘n’ Roll cum RnB band doing covers I jumped at the chance and poached Pete away from his other band (which greatly annoyed the other band leader, Frank Coia I seem to remember). Pete was known to me from my Folk Days when he played in Strange Fruit with Keith Warmington, a very good blues harmonica player and vocalist (now with The A-Team and also presenting a radio show in Bristol). Pete was an excellent blues guitarist. Dick had been to school with, and was still a mate of, Roger Taylor, the drummer from Queen so I thought he’d have to be good, if only by association. Dave was a geologist working at Wheal Jane tin mine and played a pretty mean bass guitar. We rehearsed for a time in the stables behind the Swan Inn where the Truro Folk Club was held, in the Young Farmer’s Hall near Threemilestone with frequent stops to refresh ourselves in The Victoria Inn across the busy dual carriageway! When we couldn’t afford this or when it was pre booked we were given use of the front room of a cottage, belonging to a fan of the band, on the Highertown Road in Truro! Imagine the racket in that tiny space as we three played amplified electric guitars and Dick walloped the beat out on his full kit!

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We did covers of all the usual standard artists and some chart material too but I was also able to coerce the band into playing some lighter, more contemporary stuff too like the Goffin/King song: ‘Goin’ Back’ a slow rock version quite unlike the Dusty Springfield massive production. There was: ‘They Shoot Horses Don’t They?’ (Racing Cars), some Beatles and some of my own acoustic arrangements of Bob Dylan stuff too. We gigged at all the usual venues around the Cornish Circuit but when we had an audition to be a regular turn at The Bodmin Jail Night Club I thought we ought to try and impress the management with a hard hitting full-on start. I picked Chuck Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ to open with and we rehearsed the start with me striding up to the microphone and belting out the first line without the band who would then come in on the last word in the line: ‘Boston’ and off we’d go banging it out like real rockers. In rehearsal it went well and – I thought – it sounded great but on the night I forgot to switch on my Shure Unidyne B microphone with the result that I ran up the microphone and was belting out the line as loudly as I could in the vast cavern of a room – to no effect whatever – and when the band came in behind me I was swamped with noise, nothing was heard of my vocal until I realised the mistake and switched my microphone on. Needless to say it was a less than impressive start and we didn’t get the regular gig at the club.

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We were also approached by an agent, Derek Woodward, from Hayle I think, who thought he could do big things for us if we’d only tone down our aggressive and rebellious attitude, wear a sort of uniform, frilled shirts with bow ties and black slacks, and change our odd name to something a little more acceptable like ‘The Clansmen’. On behalf of the band and in the spirit of a rock and roll bad boy I refused point blank but Derek got us some gigs anyway. The first of these was at the Queens Hotel in Penzance. The trouble was we had only twelve songs ready and although we could jam well enough we knew we were under funded with rehearsed material so I worked out a cunning plan. We did the twelve songs in order then had a break. When we went back on I split the set into two lots of six working from the middle songs out to the edges in both directions and did a lot of talking to the audience in between, luckily I’d always had a comedic bent. For the third and last set we did alternative songs working from the last song of the first set and we got away with it. I think. Derek did attend and seemed quite happy at our repertoire and we did get return bookings there.
We were also ‘handled’ by Barry Bethel an ex-actor who’d moved from London to Truro and opened an Agency but things didn’t run as smoothly as they might and Barry and I ended up in loud disagreements a lot of times. To be fair it was Barry who was the driving force behind the production of the LP ‘Double Booked’ which was made and released by The William the Fourth Record Label. This was recorded at Roche Studios with Barry ‘co-producing’ though I still think he was just making it up as he went along. The record was launched with a ‘do’ in the William and suddenly, overnight, we were all recording stars and I even wrote an eponymous song for the album!

Stuck with Choice.
Another of those impossible choices came up while I was with Sensible Shoes; as I was finishing work on a Thursday evening I was informed I had next day off as I was being put on nights to cover sickness or staff shortages. I was gobsmacked; this was very short notice indeed and the band had gigs booked, one in particular at Tyack’s Hotel in Camborne on the Saturday night, and I didn’t want to let the band down so I mulled things over and decided that since the hospital had given me too little warning of my stint on nights they were at fault and I duly called in sick for that Saturday night. We rocked the pub and towards the end, kind of high on excitement I suppose, I called to the audience, ‘I hope there’s no nurses in here from Treliske because I’m supposed to be on nights tonight and I had to take a sickie.’ How daft can you get? Of course there was someone there who righteously reported my deception and defection and the following Monday morning, after a twelve hour night shift and well tired, I was hauled before a disciplinary meeting where I tried to argue that although I wasn’t fit for a twelve hour shift of nursing I was just about able and well enough to do ‘just three hours’ on stage with a band. It didn’t wash and I was severely reprimanded and advised not to seek employment with RCH Treliske if, and/or when, I finally qualified. I took the hint.

I don’t remember when or why we split up; although there was no real animosity between Pete and I we were by now getting fractious with one another, having arguments over ‘musical differences’ and the expectations and disappointments we had with one another so, as I remember it, one night I just told them I was leaving and after a while the band just gradually faded away and the players regrouped wit others and things carried on as usual. However this was not the end of my association with Dick and Dave …