The best thing about running the Archive is I get to meet my heroes and chat with them without hefty bodyguards in the way and more often than not they are surprised I am interested in, and want to chat about their first bands and what inspired them to pick up an instrument.
The Archive is not just about those musicians that achieved fame and fortune but a social site about those who spent years entertaining the local crowds. It’s always good to hear the stories of those who almost made it but I’m far more interested in those golden moments that happened while working the local scene. I haven’t posted on the news page for some months now and that’s because we’ve been busy updating the site and loading in new material. I am slowly going through old files, sorting and then scanning them; it was one of these files that contained material that I had been given many years ago by photographer, local drummer and founder member of Norwich band Memphis Index, Grenville Edward Arnold.
I met Greny, as he was introduced to me, although some of you would know him as Eddie, in the late nineties. The interview had really caught him on the hop and he could recollect very little, he did however, say he was thinking of doing a biography of his life and would make some more detailed notes for me. He came across as a quiet and gentle person and I don’t ever remember anything but a smile on his face throughout the interview. I could tell he loved his early music days and was telling me all sorts of stories of travelling to gigs, equipment failures and some I couldn’t possibly put into print. It was a great afternoon chatting about his musical days and I went away that day and instantly forgot all about his promise for more detailed notes. I didn’t see Greny again until 2003, when he took some photographs for me of Albert Cooper for his biography, which I was working on. He was at the time running Grenville studios on Borrowdale Drive. Before the session ended he gave me a thin A4 photographic paper box, I had a quick peak and noted some really nice photographs of his bands and a Memphis Index acetate record and that was it. “You can have them for the Archive,” he said. I filed the box when I got home and carried on putting the finishing touches to Albert’s book.
You may have read in one of Derek James’ articles in 2007 that Greny and his brother John, had been searching for their father after his parents had split when he was three. He eventually found his half-sister and step mum but unfortunately his father had passed away; he had also changed profession by this time and become a bus driver.
Going through the files yesterday I opened Greny’s A4 box for the first time in 11 years, I removed the photographs and record for scanning and found two sheets of typed paper at the bottom, entitled Biography Notes by Grenville Edward Arnold; the notes he had promised me. I’m not sure that Greny ever finished the whole book, but do let me know if you know different. Greny passed away at the Prescilla Bacon Lodge on 20th April 2012. I just thought you might like to read how Norwich’s most famous Rock & Roll band was formed in the words of one of its founder members.
BIOGRAPHY NOTES by Grenville Arnold
Born Grenville Edward Arnold on 25th July 1945 in the small village of Easton, seven miles north of Norwich; a sleepy village, 57 years ago with nothing much to its credit, apart from the local pub the infamous EASTON DOG, where everybody used to meet for their weekend drink and “Mardel”.
Grenville was the second of the two sons born to Helen (Grenville being the younger by three years). Grenville never knew his father, who as presumed lost at the end of World War 2. Helen had to go to work every day to make ends meet and it was a struggle to bring up the two boys. However, we all got by and in those days never really knew any different if we were going short on anything.
I suppose my interest in music began like many other thousands of young teenagers of the late 50s/early 60s, listening to records being played on a Dansette at the local youth club; most of which were wax 78s or the then new vinyl 45s. Apart from the cheap EMBERSY cover versions, made solely for Woolworths, I can still remember my first real record – it was “Red River Rock” by Johnny & the Hurricanes.
When I was about 14, one of my school friends (Dave Mortimer) had an electric guitar and amplifier bought for him at Christmas, so we used to meet down the Village Hall where he would strum out a few chords that he had leant and I would beat out a rhythm on an old card table with a pair of chair leg spindles, which I obtained from the local wood yard.
Another boy in the village (Barry Steward) also had a guitar bought for his birthday and so joined us at the village hall. After leaving school and earning my own money at my first of many jobs, I decided to buy my own drum kit. As I was too young to enter a Hire Purchase agreement, I asked my brother, John, to stand guarantor for me. So we set off to Norwich on the bus and went to Wilson’s Music Shop in White Lion Street. Wilson’s was about the only shop in Norwich at that time selling musical instruments. I purchased a new Olympic Four drum kit in a blue swirl effect finish (Olympic being the cheaper version of the famous Premier Drum manufacture).
Whilst in Wilson’s my brother took a shine to a semi-acoustic guitar and so not to be outdone, he also signed an HP agreement himself.
Back down the Village Hall we would religiously make the ¾ mile journey, sometimes two or three nights a week, rain, wind and shine, we would tote our equipment in wheelbarrows, sometimes not returning home until late in the evening.
Barry Steward found the guitar too difficult for him to grasp and so after a few weeks decided to drop out, leaving brother John on guitar and vocals, Dave and myself to practise the pop numbers of the time. It was while I was working in Norwich, as a van driver for a firm called British Paints, that I persuaded one of the other drivers, a lad called “Rod” to buy a bass guitar, as he seemed very keen to learn to play in the group. So my first band was formed – we called it “The Wayrockmen” – similar to “Piltdownmen”.
As we were still only in the learning stages, with only a limited repertoire of numbers, the gigs were restricted to the local youth club with a few wedding receptions for good measure. I remember our first gig outside of the youth club; it was at a pub called the “White Horse” at Kenninghall. We only got the gig because it was run by the father of one of the girls that worked in the office. After about six months, (I was 17 at the time), David Mortimer decided to get married and so dropped out of the band. As Rod had not progressed very far with his guitar playing, and found it difficult to attend rehearsals as he lived out at Hempnall and he also left the group.
My brother, being ambitious, decided to advertise in the local rag for musicians to form a new band and asked me to play the drums. A rehearsal was set up one evening at the Cellar House in Easton. But unfortunately, only three people turned up (two were violinists, the third being a bass player). This disheartened my brother and he dropped the idea. However, the bass player, a guy in his late forties named Bob Sutton, said he knew a few musicians of his own and asked me to join them in the Strict Tempo Dance Trio. I agreed and so the “Bob Bradley” [why Bradley I will never know] Trio was formed. Various people turned up to play, including two regulars Jeff Kelly, a professional Trombonist, who was often called away to do pit work at various theatres. Jeff also played a pretty mean jazz piano. The other guy was called Jack Kingsley, who played Tenor, Alto and Soprano Sax.
We played mainly dance parties, private functions etc., dressed in DJs and bow ties. It was at one of these gigs that the then singer let us down and Bob asked me if I knew anyone who might fit the bill. The only person I could think of was a good friend of mine, a guy called Tony Dann (later to use the surname of Dee). I had met Tony after leaving School. We used to hang around at the Larkman Pub car park where a lot of the local rockers used to meet. They used to have rock bands performing in the Sportsman’s bar at the pub. I had heard Tony busk in with some of the groups from time to time and thought what a good voice he had.
After much persuasion, Tony agreed to come along at a few rehearsals which were held at “The Walnut Tree Shades” pub in Norwich and so was eventually coerced into the band; although only used to singing rock and roll songs, he quickly settled down to singing tunes by Tony Bennett, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra.
One evening, playing a usual Town Hall dance, Bob had invited a guitarist, (Terry Paston), along to play in the band. It was while we were taking a break that Tony, Terry and I, got talking about forming our own Rock & Roll Band as we were getting fed up playing to fuddy-duddies. So early in 1966 we decided to form a Rock bank. I got in touch with Dave Mortimer and he said he would do the odd gig. The band was originally called “The Four Capitols” after the name of the record company. Unfortunately, after only a few gigs, Dave Mortimer became unreliable and was dropped from the line-up. It was Francis Wigley that replaced him on bass guitar; belting out such Rockers as Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shaking”, Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” and Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally”. The one instrument that was missing was the piano. As Tony had at this time little experience on the ivories, it was decided to find an accomplished piano player. Back in the Bob Bradley days I got to know a guy called Rodney Buck, who had a son, Elliott, who also played the piano and sang. Not doing so much himself at the time, Elliott was only too pleased to join the band. Now we had five members, so another name had to be found; still in keeping with record companies it was decided to call the band “The Stateside Five”.
We took to the road and really went down a storm. The only competition at the time was a Rock & Roll Trio called “Rocking Preachers” fronted by Micky Robinson. The band were very good, especially when they first came on stage, dressed in monks’ robes and an intro of taped eerie church music, then they screamed into a traditional Rocker.
Playing “The Canary Pub” in Norwich one night, we were approached by Peter Miller, the then manager of “The Preachers”, and also the tenant of the “Crocodile Pub” in Heigham Street in Norwich. The Crocodile had the reputation of being the home of Rock & Roll in Norwich. He invited us to play at the venue and we jumped at the chance. A date was set when “The Preachers” were out of town and we played to a packed house. Later Pete asked us if we would like him to manage us as well as “The Preachers”, as he had the contacts to get us better gigs. We all agreed and so Pete Miller became our Manager.
We were still not happy with the sound and to achieve that really true Rock & Roll sound we brought in Clive Button on Alto Sax, also doubling on lap steel guitar for the country numbers. So now we had six of us in the line-up; so another name for the band had to be found. After playing a gig at the Crocodile one night, Pete and his wife, Coleen, invited us upstairs for a coffee and a chat. It was Pete Miller’s idea that we renamed the band “Memphis Index”. Being a devout Jerry Lee fan, Pete had taken the name Memphis from Jerry Lee’s backing band “The Memphis Beats”. The Index stood for the repertoire of numbers, and so Memphis Index was born. The band was now playing major gigs all over East Anglia. We were getting so well-known that coach loads of fans would come to see us from far and wide. The highlight came when we organised a trip down to London to cut a demo disc at The Cavern Recording Studios in Bayswater Road. It was at that recording session that we met the famous “Hot Chocolate” band, who were also making a demo.
We had chosen for the ‘A’ side a Rock & Roll number, Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” with the Buck Owen’s country ballad “Together Again” for the ‘B’ side. The record was duly included on a number of local juke boxes and I must admit it was quite an ego boost when we heard it being played. Copies of the disc were given to Pete to be distributed to various record companies/agencies in the hope of maybe gaining a recording contract. However, it was not until sometime in the future that we found out the records were never sent.
I had been engaged to a girl called Pat for a couple of years and we finally got married in April of 1967. As we were playing, and on the road sometimes for seven nights a week, I hardly ever saw my wife and finally, the inevitable happened, the marriage broke-down after six months and we were divorced. The strain and the stress of lack of sleep, as I had to do all the driving to and from the gigs, and not being able to hold down a permanent job, led to almost a nervous breakdown. I had, in the meantime, met another girl and by the spring of 1969, I decided to give up the band, move away and make a fresh start. So we gathered up all our belongings, put them in the van and went to stay with my brother and his wife in Cornwall.
After about a year living in Cornwall, my girlfriend Brenda found herself pregnant, with our son, and so we moved back to Norwich, so she could be near to her parents. On our return I learnt that the Memphis band was still going strong, although the line-up had changed from time to time. It was a few years later, whilst I was long distance lorry driving, that I had a phone call from Ray Smith, who owned a music shop in Norwich. He informed me that Tony Dee had moved up to the North East and that Ray was now in charge of Memphis Index and would I like to drum for them again. He also said that as I did not possess a drum kit of my own (as I had sold it some time ago) that I could borrow one from his shop. I agreed and so I was back in the Memphis line-up. Unfortunately, apart from Ray and myself the band never had a permanent line-up. It seemed anyone who went into Ray’s shop would be summoned to play that night. Sometimes we would be a six-piece outfit and another night would see us as a duo. I think this is why so many local musicians can claim to have been part of the Memphis band. My personal life had taken another turn and my second divorce was declared absolute in 1979.
I received a phone call from Adrian (Jumbo) Barrett, another ex-Memphis man. He asked me if I would be interested in joining his newly formed middle-of‑the‑road group “Tight Fit”. As the gigs with Ray were few and far between, I agreed. Tight Fit’s line-up were “Jumbo” Barrett, Mark Sayer and Richard Brotherton, (Guitars), plus Richard’s two sisters, Nicola and Jill on the vocals and“Sloppy”Dave Evans, (Bass). I had only been in the band a few weeks when there was a big family bust-up that saw the departure of Jumbo and ; Jill and I decided to take the band under our wings, give it a new name and new lease of life. After several names had been put forward, we decided on the name “Legend” after the title of one of Don Williams’ LPs. Again, as with most bands the line-up changed from time to time; members included Dave Basham (six string guitar), Dave Phillips and Richard “Bugsy” Sadler (Bass), Dave Clague (ex Bonzo Dog Doodah Band Bassist), playing anything from Rock & Roll to Country to Pop. The band created a good sound and plenty of work was rolling in. We also introduced a couple of short cabaret sketches that really went down well in the clubs. After going out with Jill for a couple of years, we decided to get married in the August of 1985. In 1986 the surprise departure of Jill’s brother, Richard, left us without a lead male vocalist, so although I had only been used to singing the odd number and back-ups, I was pushed into the front-line sharing leads with Jill. Another good friend of Jill’s, Lesley Dawson, also joined the band to take lead vocals and keyboards.
The untimely death of my wife, Jill, in the January of 1988 left us not knowing what to do; but the old saying “life must go on” we decided to keep the band on the road. The last member to join the band was Zelda Rolf, another of Jill’s old time friends. So the final line-up was myself (Drums/Vocals), Dave Clague (six-string guitar), Richard Sadler (Bass Guitar), Lesley Dawson (Keyboards/Vocals), and Selda Rolf (Vocals).
After setting up as a social photographer, I decided that I had to put all my energies into my business. It was a hard decision but we finally disbanded. The last gig was playing at the Railway Social Club, Peterborough on New Year’s Eve 1990.
Grenville (Eddie) Arnold (1945-2012)