Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Les Brown and Sinclair Gardens

Les Brown is well known to Queen fans as the man who originally brought Brian May and Roger Taylor together when he saw an advert for a drummer at Imperial College where he was studying Maths...I spoke to him in France last night, and he had some great memories of the Smile years in particular, both in London and Cornwall. He remembers for example cooking breakfast for 17 in Truro when Smile and their entourage descended on him one weekend!

There are some unanswered questions re Sinclair Gardens though which I will hope to get to the bottom of over the next few days mainly regarding who exactly lived there and when...

This picture is taken from Google maps...The black door level with the blue lorry was the entrance to their flat... You also have to imagine a Smile sticker - about a foot across - in the window...

UPDATE 3/12/10 All the Queen biographies say that Roger moved in with Les in 1967 - but actually Les and Geoff Daniel who lived at Sinclair Gardens say they were in Halls during academic year 67/68. Its possible Roger was too - but will need to try and clarify this. Certainly Roger and Les lived there during the academic year 68/69 and Brian and Freddie visited and slept over regularly but never lived there - at least whilst Les was there.

The Kensington was a regular haunt for the band  - especially before they moved to Barnes late in 1969. It was near Sinclair Gardens and it was where Freddie met Ibex for the first time...

UPDATE 12/12/10 There was a flat a few hundred yards away in Sinclair Road where Ibex stayed with the McConnell sisters. Roger also first met John Harris the Queen sound man via the McConnells in the same pub.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Penny North of the Jayfolk

Jill Johnson sent a copy of this photo of The Jayfolk to me a few months ago...and I wondered if there was a story behind it. Penny who joined Jayfolk at the beginning of 1967 was able to explain that this was the Jayfolk's Austin van which was written off after an accident only a few weeks after the accident that their friends The Reaction had had in February. (At the time Jill and Sue of Jayfolk were going out with Roger Taylor and Mike Dudley of The Reaction). Penny stayed in touch with Roger Taylor, and got to know Smile and Freddie Mercury. She stayed with them in Barnes, and they stayed with her in Grampound. She also helped secure one of Queen's first concerts at Balls Park College, which followed a Smile gig the previous year.

Very interesting. Thanks Penny!

UPDATE 29/11/10 Looked in the West Briton1967 March to June and Oct to December. Couldn't see record of accident which occurred travelling back from a second round audition for Opportunity Knocks...the X-Factor of the day.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

John 'Acker' Snell

I was really glad to finally speak to John Snell on Friday. He was the sax player and one of the founders of Roger Taylor's group in Cornwall: The Reaction, and he was able to explain lots of things about the history of the band that were not clear.

So, for example, the band used a Bedford van like the one above that was owned by the butcher and concert promoter, Jack Pascoe. This was the van he remembers driving most often, though prior to this they used his parent's Ford Thames. He confirmed that, on their trips to Devon organised by the promoter Lionel Digby, they often slept in the van. Digby himself was a very colourful character, and the first time John met him, he was wearing a cowboy outfit complete with six-guns which he would intermittently fire at the boys!

John saw Smile not in Cornwall but in London at the Albert Hall, and he remembers staying with Roger in his flat in London the night after the gig. He also went on a trip with Smile out of Truro, but only got as far as Playing Place because they had a puncture...Below is a fairly well known picture of him sharing the front of the stage with Graham Hankins at a dance at Truro School. Thanks John.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bert Biscoe and a piece of very important and very rare memorabilia

Bert is well known in Truro as a musician, writer and City councillor. Although he saw quite a lot of them he is at least two years younger than Roger Taylor, Mike Dudley, Dick Halliwell and the other boys associated with The Reaction, and so has a different perspective on that time.

He remembers Roger and Dick at Truro School. During dinner Roger was head of the table he sat at, and Dick deputy head, and they had to supervise the younger kids as they ate their food. Bert also recalls sneaking into PJs after school where he listened to Smile rehearse on more than one occasion.

He also saw Queen play at Tregye and has an original ticket, which - and he probably does nt realise this yet - is probably the earliest printed ticket for a Queen concert in existence anywhere in the world. (I'll e-mail him in a sec to point this out!!!!). Here it is.

The gig he remembers most, though, is the Fantastics playing at the Rock and Rhythm Championship in 1968. This band was actually Roger Taylor's Cornish band The Reaction under another name, and  - for one night only- they had a French go-go dancer called Joelle...(who may have also danced with one of the other groups).

It should be said that Bert has a great knowledge of Truro, and of the Cornish folk scene as it was in the 60s...For example he remembers seeing Eric Clapton play with Maddy Prior at the Folk Cottage in Mitchell. But that's a story for another day...Thanks Bert.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Cornishman ads

These old ads from the sixties are so evocative...I've trawled through the West Briton and Cornish Guardian. That only leaves The Cornishman as the other paper that is probably worth looking at for gigs by The Reaction...

22nd April     Penmare Hotel 'Cornwalls champion group'
20th May     Penmare Hotel 'Cornwalls champion group'

11th June    The Old Barn Club Eastern Green Penzance
16th July     Winter Gardens, Penzance
23rd September   The Old Barn Club Eastern Green Penzance
8th October   The Guildhall St Ives  'By popular demand the return of the Reaction Cornwall's Big Sound'
14th October    Penmare Hotel   'Beat Night is back with the Reaction'
4th November     Penmare Hotel  'Beat Night.  The Reactions'
18th November     Penmare Hotel   Beat Beat Beat Night Reaction Reaction Reaction
11th December      Arlo Guthrie appears at the Tell-a-Tale folk club on Chapel Street, Penzance

6th January   The Penmare BEAT BEAT BEAT NIGHT
27th January   The Penmare
28th January   St Ives Guildhall With apologies to The Electric Prunes OAP 2/6
24th Feb   The Penmare The Fabulous Reaction
10th March   The Penmare The Fabulous Reaction
31st? March   The Penmare Reaction
9th? April    The Penmare
28th? April    The Penmare
4th August   Hayle Rugby Ground  Beat Dance Barbeque Open-Air Floodlit Dancing
30th Sept    Town Hall, St Just  St Just Cricket Club

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Rock and Rhythm Championship: Cornishman

There are 3 or more local newspapers in Cornwall. The Cornishman covered the Rock and Rhythm Championship in 1966 differently to the others and included mention of a tour of Southern France...

Richard Halliwell

Richard was not in The Reaction but was one of Roger Taylor's best friends at Truro School. Then known as Dick, he is one of only a few people who has seen all of Roger's groups play: Beat Unlimited, Reaction, Smile and Queen. He has some good stories: one of them being a trip to Exeter to see The Kinks and The Herd in 1968. He remembers, that day, both he and Roger wearing white sailor's trousers that they'd bought from an army and navy store in Falmouth. Thanks Richard.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


This has been a good week or two for new pieces of memorabilia: all things not previously seen or reproduced to my knowledge. The best ones I'm keeping back for the exhibition and the book. One of them is a postcard to Pat and Sue Johnstone from Freddie Mercury written in 1974 which is completely brilliant. Another is the contract with Queen for the Tregye Festival in 1971, which Dave Stone from St Austell let me copy.

I thought this picture of Dave and a friend sitting in front of one of The Magicians Workshop 'magic murals' was interesting too. Magician's Workshop (Gerry Gill and John Lumley-Saville) did the sound and lighting for a couple of the Queen gigs in Cornwall. This 'mural' was 3 or 4 four times bigger than the frame of the photograph below and created using luminous paints that responded to light.