Rick Brown's Memories

 

Along with Carlo Little and the legendary pianist Nicky Hopkins, Rick Brown (aka Ricky Fenson) was an original member of Screaming Lord Sutch's Savages and Cyril Davies' All Stars. He was also part of the embryonic Rolling Stones, and made his name in the Brian Auger Trinity and Steampacket.
Rick also played with the Georgie Fame band, to name but a few. His stage name was Ricky Fenson.
 
Bill Wyman is quoted as having copied his unique walking-bass style. Rick gave up playing with bands in the early 1970s after deciding to play classical. Here's his story...

 

"I wish I could tell you completely what it was like back then, but I can't. If you went back in time to the Sixties, you'd find it naive, innocent and almost quaint".  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That seemed to be the end of that, so without Dave we started rehearsing with a girl called Sylvie (also from the Oldfield) who had agreed to be our singer. Well, she was already our groupie, so why not? The only number she ever got through was 'The Train'. The band decided that I should get a bass, because Bernie was a much better guitarist than me.   It may have been then that Dave was a minor name on a small package tour, backed by the house band The Flerekkers. (I've probably spelt the name wrong. It was run by a Dutch sax player called Pete Flerekker. And Micky Waller was their drummer.) There we were, rehearsing away with Sylvie. One day I met a small-time film extra and con-man called Frank Maher who offered to be our "manager" and came along to a rehearsal.  Carlo saw through him almost straight away, and left the band pretty damn quick, as the saying goes...and Sylvie gave it up as well. 

 

However, Bernie, Nick and I stayed with Frank and the band became the Saxons. We got a drummer called Johnny Jenks, rehearsed for what seemed like an eternity, and eventually got some work at the American Bases. Brize Norton, Mildenhall, etc.  

 

Meanwhile........the first Savages proper had formed, and the famous tour of Scotland happened. Carlo, of course, with Ken Payne on bass, Andy Wren on piano and Roger Mingay on guitar. I used to go round to Carlo's house late at night and listen to endless stories about that tour. There was a cosy open fire in the kitchen, and we'd chat away with Carlo's mum making tea, the three of us smoking far too much. Another occasional nocturnal visitor was a small Welshman called Huwie who had an enormous car straight  out of a Hollywood movie. He would sit there saying "Christ, Mabe" while Carlo's mum was talking about the murderous feud she had going on with the off-licence next door. I think the boundary fence was about an inch in the wrong place.....   And trouble was brewing in the Saxons.

 

One day Frank told me that Bernie and Nick had voted me out of the band. Naturally all my dreams crumbled....but fate had other plans. Ken Payne decided to leave Sutch - so I was back in the Savages again. I got my orange shirt and white cowboy boots and did my first gig at the Top Rank ballroom in Reading. There was so much water on the stage after 'Great Balls of Fire' that when it came to the hopping sequence I slipped and fell flat on my back. What a debut! Never mind... I had 150% commitment!   Later on it was Sylvie who first bleached my hair at her house in Kenton. And much later on, when we were staying at the Broad Highway Hotel in Doncaster, Bernie and Nick tried to vote me out of the band again. But Carlo stood up for me, and I stayed. Actually, Bernie and Nick had a point. I was an awful musician, and a complete prat as well. There's nothing worse than working with a useless musician. It must have been agony for Nick to listen to my playing".  

 

On Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages

 

"Sutch's main peculiarity, his claim to fame was the length of his hair!!!! Shock, horror!  It was down to his shoulders! He always kept it hidden under a sort of pork pie hat, and off-stage he'd never show it to anybody...plenty of people asked. 

 

With one exception..... in those days, especially in the provinces, the police thought it was very suspicious to drive a van around in the middle of the night. So we used to get stopped. And Dave used to wave his hair at the coppers, to give them something to tell the lads back at the station.....and make them go away without asking for his driving licence and insurance......which he didn't have.

The horse-box looked suspicious even in the daytime. It was an old black gown van, the sort of thing tailors could hang fifty suits in. No windows in the back. There were two front seats just like in a Morris 1000. In the gloom behind those, a huge bench seat out of an American car. And all the gear went behind that, expertly packed by Carlo, who had been a van-driver's assistant at Kodaks, and therefore knew how to load vans and read maps. There was no heater, and we travelled all through one freezing winter in that van, huddled in blankets wearing three pairs of socks, boots off and feet in polythene bags for insulation. And to make matters worse, Sutch used to stick his head out of the window to stop nodding off behind the wheel! And sometimes we'd run out of petrol in the middle of the night.......  

Petrol was not the only thing that ran out. Dave's luck ran out in the end, and he got banned from driving. So we got a driver called Cannonball, an amiable ex-trucker with permanently bulging eyes. This chap was quite overwhelmed to be connected to what he thought were celebrities, and used to lug the gear for us, as well as being Dave's general factotum. When I sold him a pair of cowboy boots he developed the swagger of a Mexican bandit. He eventually became something of a celebrity himself, dressing up as a woman and getting stabbed to death and disembowelled in the Jack the Ripper act.   I must say I've seen more convincing cross-dressers...but I learnt a couple of things about driving from Cannonball which I've never forgotten. Brian, his real name was."  

 

Tom Littlewood and The 2i's

 

"So what was the I's really like? Well....it was just a coffee bar, with room for about 20 people to stand comfortably. Behind the counter was the espresso machine and a few bottles of soft drinks. A door at the back led to the kitchen....but not much cooking was ever done there - because it was also Tom's office. Besides the sink and gas cooker, there was  a large cupboard containing nothing but a desk diary, and on the wall a four-pennies-in-the-slot telephone. And that was it.  

 

As for Tom, he was a 'Mad' Frankie Fraser type, with a slight northern accent. Clearly a man with a past and a very private home life. Judging by the way he cooked himself a slice of meat, he could have learned to survive in the jungle warfare of Korea. Nevertheless his brown eyes sometimes revealed a certain sense of humour. Rock and roll didn't interest him, except for the amount of extra cash he could squeeze out of it. When some distant promoter phoned up to ask what famous musicians were in Sutch's band, he replied, "We've got Scratch and Scrape Bailey on guitar, Freddie Fingers Lee on piano"........and Andy Wren had a new name. It's possible Tom had appeared in the film 'Tommy Steele Story' as the judo instructor he really was. He didn't put up with much nonsense, and would say to Sutch "Now look, fella....."  

The usual clientele of the I's were general Soho flotsam and jetsam. Rock and roll hopefuls, and other doubtfully employed characters. Jerry the Bat, a diminutive bass player. A nameless drummer straight out of Belsen. Tom Football Head, who could sing about three rock numbers, and had a job opening the curtains in a strip club. Casey Jones, freeloader and rock singer. Lily of the Dilly, and her friend Awful Brenda (occupations undisclosed, and neither of whom were awful.) Paul Raven, Jackie Lynton, etc etc. Big Jim, cabbie and occasional chauffeur to the stars. All these people looked decidedly pale and undernourished. Palest of all was Bobby Woodman, the Playboys' drummer.  

 

On the walls of the I's were a few photos of musicians who'd once played there, but had since moved on and now avoided the place. Drummer Red Reece, Tex Makins.... But in 1961/2, all the musicians who went to the I's (Savages included) were strongly influenced by the sound of the Playboys, which really came from Bobby Woodman. It was a hard. punchy. aggressive style which has made any other British rock or pop music sound weak and flimsy by comparison. And Woodman had his hair bleached for visual impact. On stage Vince Taylor had true charisma; it's sad that he destroyed his own career by  being absolutely irresponsible - twice! Once in England, and then in France where he had become a huge star. Vinci Taylor et ses Playboys, alors!  

 

From the main coffee bar area you went down some narrow stairs to a dismal, dark and gloomy basement about the size of a large bedroom, lit by a couple of weak bulbs. At one end were a few milk crates with planks on top of them, which everybody assumed was the stage. And there may have been some sort of microphone system, left over from the Boer War. The nearest toilets were probably Piccadilly Circus Station.  

 

Why was it all so special? Well, Tom had once let Thomas Hicks sing there, and they made a big deal of it in the 'Tommy Steele Story' film. Perhaps Cliff Richard and the Drifters played there before they were anybody.  And the BBC once did a programme about the hand-jive craze, with some well-behaved youngsters neatly sitting in rows downstairs. As if!!!   Only Tom Littlewood could have thought of putting on "entertainment" in that basement, and charging people to go in. Free enterprise works!"

 

The Beginning

 

"Fascinating how life sometimes offers you an opportunity; and if you grasp that opportunity it will change your life forever.  I still can't remember how I met Carlo, but look what happened to me after I did! And what about a chance remark at the Oldfield Hotel, Greenford? An outlandish full-time layabout and part-time window cleaner was dancing to the live band, when his shockingly long hair fell all over his face. Somebody said he looked unusual enough to do a stage act, and the phenomenon known as you-know-who (Sutch) was started. The regular band there was Dougie Dee and the Strangers. I don't know if Dave ever did a gig with them, but there was some connection. 

 

Carlo and I had heard that there was actually someone else in Wembley who played guitar, so off we went to the Wembley Music Salon where Bernie (Watson, guitarist) worked, and recruited him. He probably introduced Nick (Nicky Hopkins, pianist), who conveniently lived just down the road from Carlo in a small castle. The first Savages photo was taken in June 1960 at a school in Wembley where we were 'rehearsing'. See I was playing guitar then - we didn't have a bass player! It was about that time we did our first ever gig with Dave --- for Bob Potter in Camberley. We didn't have any transport, so Alf from the Oldfield (a tree surgeon by day - a good feller HA HA) took us there in his van. We were so dreadful that Bob was furious. I distinctly remember being on stage, looking into the wings and seeing him jumping up and down with his fists in the air! (We eventually did a lot of work for Bob and got on very well with him.)  

Rick and Carlo, 1963.

After Pop

 

"Your last mention of me is something like: 'and Rick left the music business'. Well  - I didn't ......I joined THE music business. Around 1970 I went to the Guildhall School of Music for a while, and became an orchestral player. From 72-75 I was on contrabass with the London Festival Ballet touring orchestra. I must know more about Tchaikovsky ballets than any other bass guitarist on the planet!   After that I was freelance with various other orchestras. I tell you, doing a Brahms symphony at the Festival Hall with the Philharmonia is not quite the same as rocking on the back of a lorry in the Ace car park.   Having said that, it's a privilege these last couple of years to have finally worked with Willie Harris. He was the first rock and roll act in this country, he was there before anybody else, and he's seen it all. I respect him for that.   I gave up playing in 78, sold my double bass for thousands, sold my flat, and went to a commercial pilots' training school.   Then Iris invited me to play at Carlo's 60th birthday. It's a good thing she did, really, because I'm studying music seriously these days, and I think I'm getting the hang of it at last.  

 

Finally...I've said it before and I'll say it again. Sutch wouldn't have got anywhere without Carlo".

 

As told in 1999. 

 

Carlo and Rick, 1998.