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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan
Dave Kelly
Dave Kelly

The 100 Club, London
November 23rd 2007

They’ve put the seats out at the 100 Club, apparently for the Senior Citizens, amongst whom either the Photographer or I must number, given the way that some nice young men stand up to offer us their places. OAPs they may be, but they’re certainly putting their bladders to a means test given the number of pints of London Pride that are being sunk. What with the old-fashioned (and very uncomfortable) chairs and the booze, it seems like a rather alcoholic school assembly. All we need are the teachers – and, masquerading as a blues band, here they are!

There’s the chemistry master and slide guitar maestro Dave Kelly (brother of the late Jo-Ann Kelly), Gary Fletcher (Games and French, and upside down bass guitar), woodwork and metalwork teacher, and drummer, Rob Townsend, classics master and rhythm and lead guitarist Tom McGuinness, and of course the smartly-dressed Deputy Head Master, Paul Jones.
You may remember many of these names, but Mr Jones is possibly the most famous – ex-Manfred Mann vocalist, actor, broadcaster and harmonica player. And he leads the very receptive class in a most scholarly fashion – kicking off with a short and very learned seminar on Charley Patton – it actually gets a little wearing after not too long. Every song has an introduction; some of the anecdotes are engaging, like McGuinness’s story about Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Cruddup's rat-gnawed stage suit, but the rather patronising lectures begin to sound like preaching (did I mention that Mr Jones is a ‘new born’ Christian who evangelises with his wife?) if not hectoring. It’s almost as if he’s forgotten he’s on the stage and thinks he’s back on the radio. It all gets too much for one wag at the back of the class. “Sir, please Sir, get on with it” he shouts. “No, this is it, this is it!” replies the Deputy Head, with a messianic fervour worthy of a Fifth Monarchy Man awaiting the dawn of a new age.

But despite these occasional millennial excesses I have to say that the Staff Room put up a pretty good show. The set was divided into two halves, the first largely acoustic, the second electric and as a rocking as a gang of old pedagogues can be. Dave Kelly plays his slide guitar like a dream, and has a much better blues singing voice than I remember. Fletcher’s left-handed upside-down bass playing (how does he do that?) is bewilderingly good, and he also has a shot at a couple of his own upside-down acoustic numbers too, including ‘Payback’ from his solo album Human Spirit.
Paul Jones Rob Townsend
Paul Jones (top)
Rob Townsend
McGuinness doubles up on guitar and mandolin (that trademark sound from his number one McGuinness Flint hit ‘When I’m dead and gone’) and managed some tasty old blues licks on his Stratocaster in the second half, although I can’t help thinking he’d have been better off playing something with a bigger sound. And as for the Deputy Head, well of course he can sing, and write (but his rather self-consciously maudlin ‘Sonny Boy’ would frankly have been better without the lyrics), and he can certainly talk for England, but his harmonica playing at times was top of the class, with some really intricate work on the high notes. Have I missed anyone off the register? Hang on, what about Mr Chippy, the woodworking drummer? Well, if ever a band was over-serviced in the drumming department this was it, and I’m not sure that they really deserve the atomic-clock timing of ex-Family sticks man Rob Townsend, or his occasional and witty fills. Superb stuff at the back.
Charley Patton Now, what did they play? Do you really want to know? Well let’s start with tune number one, ‘Moon goes down’. Not many people know that Charley Patton was born a veteran blues man in 1891 (or was it 1887?) in Edwards (or was it Bolton? - scholars disagree on that like so many disputed points) Mississippi, sometime in the 1890s, or possibly the late1880s in a small forgotten town that would forever be remembered as the home of the most influential … - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Kate's Blues Band photo album

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