Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Interview: Bryan Gibson (Session 60)

#501: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! This is an interview long in the making! Back in the early days of ELOBF in June 2009, shortly after the death of the late, great Kelly Groucutt, Yours Truly KJS posted this article about the role of Kelly in his 'other' band: Session 60 thus:

Recommended: 60's Sessions (Session 60)

At about that time, Bryan Gibson contacted me and mentioned his involvement with Session 60 and how sad he was that the group had disbanded. I wanted to find out more about Session 60, those links with the much-missed ELO musician and the Midlands music scene in general so I put together an interview with Bryan about his career and that of Session 60. Henceforth, and amazingly so, nearly four years later, both Bryan and I have managed to complete that interview! What follows is an interesting dialogue that not only strengthens those links between Session 60 and ELO, but also delves into the 'Brum Beat' scene and highlights the colourful musical career of one Bryan Gibson.

BG: A bit of background first ... A brief history of Session 60: In November 1989, Tim Bellamy put together Session 60 to play a fundraising night at the Hatherton Country Club in Penkridge for the Rainbow House Children’s Hospice. Tim, a highly popular and charismatic figure, had played drums in many bands in the Birmingham area throughout the sixties and seventies and he wasn't short of well known pals willing to do the gig. Tim had been in The Chantelles with Dave Morgan, so Dave along with Richard Tandy (both, of course, from ELO) joined the band. The line-up was completed by Graham Clarke on Bass (another stalwart of the Birmingham scene) and Phil Hicken of The Steelwater Gang on lead guitar. Dave Hill of Slade popped along to auction some of his stage gear and a fine night was had by all.
The band found themselves in demand and were soon inundated with requests to do more gigs, but after a while Tandy, Morgan and Hicken had to bow out having commitments elsewhere. Tim then drafted in Steve Stuart and Gordon Bennett, both on vocals and guitar. Steve Stuart had been performing in the Midlands and abroad for many years and was popular on the USAF bases in Europe; Gordon was well known on the BrumBeat circuit. So off they went and began building a reputation in the social club scene in the Midlands. After a couple of years, Bennett left the band, and that’s where I came in.
About a year after I joined, Graham Clarke left, I don’t think the two events were connected. Graham was replaced on bass by Steve Horton. Again, Steve was well known on the scene having been in Denny Laine and The Diplomats and (I think) an early Moody Blues. We became very popular on the social club circuit and were never short of work. Gradually, we started going further afield and picking up work with Butlins and Gala clubs, often being booked as support to the likes of Gerry and The Pacemakers, Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, The Searchers etc. It was usual for a weekend to consist of, for example, Friday in Southampton, Saturday in Birmingham and Sunday in Liverpool. I always travelled ahead with Paul, our roadie and sound engineer, to set the stage up so that the others could swan in, do the gig and clear off, leaving Paul and I to take it all apart and load the van. I got paid extra, so I didn't mind. Steve Horton was a great guy, but a little fiery, and left the band abruptly after a spot of fisticuffs with Steve Stuart. Step forward Bob Blair, who saved the day coming in on bass at less than 24 hours notice to play a 2,000 seat gig in Hull. Bob remained as bass player for the rest of my time with the band. A really solid player, utterly reliable, and with a musical education to boot, he remains my favourite bass player.
I left the band after twelve great years. I was replaced by a guy called Adrian (never knew his surname) who was a completely different player and he changed the feel of the band. I play in a very straightforward way, no effects, just guitar, amp, turn it up to eleven and off we go! Adrian was much more studied in his playing. Hi-tech gear and a bank of effects pedals, his sound was more lush and versatile and Session 60 moved from being The Rolling Stones to being Pink Floyd, as it were. I lost touch with them after that, but would have loved to have gone along to their final gig.
KJS: So what was your musical journey before your time with Session 60?
BG: Like a lot teenagers, I spent much of my youth in and out of various bands attempting to play Rock covers in local pubs. As usual, these bands would rehearse for six months, do one shambolic gig and split up. When I was about 18, a friend of mine, Pete May, who wrote lyrics, started putting together a small home studio and, together with some other friends, we began writing and recording. Some of the stuff we did was quite good, and I still listen to the old cassette tapes occasionally. In about 1981, I met a folk singer called Jood York (who had the most beautiful voice) and we soon put together a little folk band called Lazy Bob. This lasted a couple of years and I became interested in the Folk-Rock scene, Fairport Convention etc. Following this lead, I joined a band called Black Pig with some like minded pals and started gigging the folk clubs of Birmingham. This band included Dominic Allan (now a bagpipe maker in Somerset and still gigging in that area), Dave Simcox (who records and performs under the moniker of Bruford Lowe) and Simon Allan (who now performs with his wife in the Leeds and Bradford area as the popular folk duo Strid). You can find all these folk on Facebook and listen to what they are up to now.
KJS: How did you become a part of Session 60?
BG: I had a friend, a professional entertainer, called Stuart ‘The Rockin’ Jock’ McDonald. He had done a show with Session 60 and in conversation they mentioned that Gordon was leaving the band and that they needed a lead guitarist. Stuart gave them my name and called me the next day. Tim Bellamy got in touch and I went along to an audition. I played one number with them ("Wonderful Tonight") and I was in the band.
KJS: What was your musical journey following your time with Session 60?
BG: My first love has always been the Blues. Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf etc. I love Rory Gallagher and Peter Green (I want to be Rory Gallagher when I grow up!) and I play electric Blues in that sort of style. So, I got together with a couple of guys, and a string of temporary drummers, to form The Fridge Magnets.

We played lots of gigs round Birmingham, a couple of festivals and developed a bit of a following. We eventually settled with a steady drummer named Stuart Wilson. He was (and probably still is) Glenn Hughes' cousin and had been in early Trapeze with Glenn. He went on to be a session drummer in the 1970’s, playing on stuff by The Knack and others. Most recently he received the call to Abbey Road to play on the new Pixie Lott album. After The Fridge Magnets fizzled out I met a lunatic called Tony Mottram. Tony is a well known Rock ’n’ Roll photographer. He has worked with everyone, done album covers, and toured the world as official camera jockey with Aerosmith, The Clash, Eric Clapton name ‘em ... he’s done ‘em. Anyway, Tony plays bass, and wherever he has lived he has had a Blues band called 58 Deluxe.
Before I knew it, I was signed up and then followed seven years gigging all round the country and having a ball. The line-up was me (guitar/vocals), Tony Mottram (Bass), Mario Blowman (Drums) and Tony Stokes (Harmonica). It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a band and we developed a strong following. I stayed with them until 2010 when I suddenly decided to up sticks and move to The Outer Hebrides.
KJS: Although you never crossed paths with Kelly in the band, did you ever meet him or any of the ELO and related musical family in any other capacity?
BG: Kelly and other ELO folk used to turn up at Session 60 gigs now and then and were always great fun. I can’t say I knew him well, but it was always good to see him and he would hang out after the gig. I’m glad to have known him, if only slightly. We worked with The Rockin’ Berries a lot and in the afternoon, after the sound check, Keith Smart was always up for a jam and we would play all kinds of stuff! I always enjoyed that.
KJS: Your musical influences are?
BG: First influence: Focus. It was listening to "Sylvia" on Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes that made me want to learn to play guitar. Thereafter, all the major guitar players, Page, Gilmour ... but once I came across Rory Gallagher, that was it!
KJS: Your most memorable moment with Session 60?
BG: Loads! Meeting, and playing huge gigs with the likes of Gerry Marsden. The Sixties themed weekends at Butlins in Llandudno where we would do all the support spots: Freddie and the Dreamers, The Real Thing ... loads of them! We did it for years. And then there was Paul falling asleep at the wheel of the van on the M1 and veering across the carriageway because he dreamed he’d seen a battleship crossing the road ahead of us!
KJS: And what is Bryan Gibson up to these days?
BG: I’ve just left the Hebrides and moved back to Oban on the mainland. I have met a few Blues players and am hoping to get something together. However, in October last year, I fell and badly broke my right hand. It has not healed well and I find playing difficult now. Certainly my finger-picking has suffered as two of my fingers are slightly twisted and no longer where I think they are. So if I try to play an acoustic piece like "Anji", half the notes are missing. It’s going to take some re-learning. Using a pick is not too bad, but my hand and wrist are very stiff. I shall persevere though!
KJS: Finally a question that I always ask ... your favourite ELO song is?
BG: Well, the first ELO single I ever heard was "Roll Over Beethoven" - which I rushed out and bought, but that's not one of theirs really. So, I’ll have to go with ... "Mr. Blue Sky". I love the arrangement! Hope this is all OK and that you managed to stay awake, Keith!

I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did writing it up! ELO Beatles Forever wishes to extend many thanx to Bryan Gibson for his participation in this interview and looks forward to informing visitors to KJS/ELOBF about his next musical projects in the near future.

Until next "Time" in the ELO (and related) Universe ... KJS ... 20-Feb-2013

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