Bass player, Musician, journalist and anything else That's fun...
I'm a lucky man. I've survived the good and bad sides of the worlds of music; journalism, and many of the other things life throws at you, some expected and anticipated, others completely out of nowhere. This is a place to gather my thoughts, tell some stories, and look back on a life I've been privileged to lead. My journey has taken me around the world a few times, starting in the small town of Leek in the UK, then Australia, back to the UK, and now in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. A place I now call home. The photo above was taken last year at Cairns Casino by Mimi Tannaka. I'm playing my double bass, an instrument I hadn't touched for nearly 40 years. I picked one up at Bernie's Jazz Piano Cafe here in Cairns a couple of months before. It was like riding the proverbial bike. Music, music, and more music.
In the beginning there was music. Always music. My dad was a pianist, composer and teacher, and my mum shared his love of music, combining it with a passion for theatre. I started piano lessons at the age of four (I think), then violin, then classical guitar. I was in my first band at the age of 10, and yes, we gigged. (See the pictures at the bottom of the page.) I learned to love and play jazz from Sir John Dankworth and Cleo Laine; my debut as a bass player was with John and Cleo. That was just being in the right place at the right time. But what a way to start. When I left school I turned professional immediately. I worked for Mecca in their ballrooms for a short while, and then there came some success. The first band was Hunter, from 1975 for five or six years, then in 1981 there was Demon, then a career change with the BBC, then a move to Australia, and Channel Nine and the ABC. After that came far too many things, good and bad, to mention on one page. Search around as I build this blog story by story, in the order in which they occur to me. I can certainly promise some good stories. I hope most of them bring a smile to your face; but some won't. I'll start with music; something that was there for the first 30 years, then a 20-year break to do the other things you have to do, and now back to music again. Almost full circle, but there's a way to go yet. At least I hope there is. The YouTube video here was Hunter's only number one. In Italy of all places... salvaged from a very old VHS tape by a friend. People in our home town, Leek, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, in the UK, still dance to it today. If you think the end sounds familiar, you're obviously old enough to remember Doctor Finlay's Casebook. If you're not, Google it. You'll find more about Hunter at the link above. You'll also find links to another band, Demon, and I'm going to build an archive of stories that I don't want to be forgotten just yet. Navigate around as you see fit, and the content will increase as time permits. Feel free to comment, correct if I get my facts and years muddled up, but most of all I hope you'll be entertained. Chris Ellis, Cairns, October 26, 2013.
Starting as we mean to go on.
Yes, it's true. Our first gig. Westwood Road County Primary School, in Leek, probably in 1968. Left to right you have me, Andrew Mansbridge, Mick Bode and Nev Smallwood. The photo was taken by my dad, and the reason we're all looking the other way is because we were being photographed for the local paper, The Leek Post and Times. Nearly 40 years later, I worked for the paper for a short period. It appears that we had one Vox AC30, God knows where the curly cables went... Anyway, as I say, our first-ever gig. I can't say it was memorable because I can't remember it. Having said that, there's a lot I can't remember, hence this website...
This pic is even older, taken in the gardens of Beech Dene, in Leek, where we used to rehearse. Only one electric guitar between three of us, and there's some sort of cable running from my classical guitar to a box. What was in the box remains a mystery. My dad's camera tripod was used as a stand, with an old Grundig microphone. It's a wonder weren't electrocuted. The old house was a great place to practise. After a rehearsal we'd run into the nearby woods and play Japs and Commandos. Nev always lost because he wore orange trousers. The house is now a nursing home. I can guarantee no bands rehearse there at the moment.
Remember Pink Floyd's Ummagumma? This was our version. We used to donate parts of our pocket money each week to the cause. We even kept books. Pretty impressive for a bunch of 12-year-olds. Note the sophisticated keyboard set-up. A cigar to the first person to name the little black-and-white keyboard.
A set list from March 1971. I was 13. Nice to see that even then we were covering Jethro Tull, The Who, Deep Purple, Ten Years After, and even Yes. Only a few years later I met Jon Lord and Ian Paice at a PAL rehearsal, and Alvin Lee called in to Bray Studios when Demon were recording The Unexpected Guest.