Rockabilly Hall of FameŽ Archives
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16, October, 1997 -
THE COMETS at SWINDON (UK) -Rod Pyke, HOF UK correspondent
I have just had one of the best nights I can remember. I did make the 3 hour drive across to Swindon and got there about 6.30pm. The Supermarine Club is on the outskirts of Swindon just outside a small village called South Marston. It is a Sports & Social Club and is surrounded by Soccer, Cricket and Rugby pitches. A very modern building with some nice Bars and a fair sized hall. This is the home of the Swindon Rock & Roll Club. A fair sized dance hall with seating and tables down both sides. A large dance area and at the back of the hall was a bar and food counter.A wide age group attended from young children to pensioners.I soaked up the atmosphere and at 7.30pm photograher Barry Dixon arrived with his friend Dave. I was the first person he saw and he couldn't believe I was there. It was impossible to talk above the loud music so we adjourned to the Outside bar. We sat there talking until 10pm. Barry has so many good connections and is a good friend of Rudy Grayzell also. He was telling me of all his experiences and the people he had met, from Chet Atkins to Rose Flores. He has actually met Charlie Feathers and has some good photos he took of him.

At 10.20pm we went back into the main hall to get a position at the front so Barry could get a good spot for photographs. When we got to the front Barry recognised Ritchie Gee (Owner of the Tennessee Club) and Tony Barrett (Rockstar Records). Barry took me over and introduced me. They were standing outside the dressing room door. A bit noisy to talk as it was right next to the speakers. They were very interested in the HOF Web Site and Ritchie is very keen to get the Club bookings on the site. I told Tony Marshall was expecting to meet me next Saturday and does not know I will be here. He did no more than go into the dressing room and give Marshall my RAB HOF business card. Marshall came out and was so pleased to see me, he was thrilled. It should have been the other way round, me meeting one of the all time greats of R & R. Come with me, he said and took me in and introduced me one by one to all the Comets. It made my night. What a great bunch of guys. I had printed off all the Bill Haley, Comets, Jodimars and Marshall Lytle pages from the Web Site for them and they were taking them with them to look at the Hotel afterwards. It was a bit cramped in the small dressing area but they let Barry and I take photos of them all together and Barry took a couple of Marshall and I together.

The time was now coming up to 11pm and they were due on stage. They were introduced to the crowd and came out to a rapturous welcome and went straight into Shake Rattle and Roll. The Line up was Dick Richards (Drums/Vocals) age 73 and joined in 1953, Marshall Lytle (Bass/Vocals) aged 64 and joined in 1951, Joey Ambrose (Sax) aged 63 and joined in 1953, Franny Beacher (Guitar) aged 76 and joined in 1954 and Johnny Grande (Piano) aged 68 and joined in 1949. The Comets were joined by Jacko Buddin who did the Bill Haley Vocal and played guitar. Jacko was formerly with The Dynamite Band and the Flying Saucers. Jacko is aged 61. Marshall and Johnny Grande are the only two remaining Saddlemen. After Boogie Woogie they went into Eat Your Heart Out Baby and then Marshall who did all the compering introduced all the band. The audience who were now pressed at the front of the stage were giving everyone of them the recognition they deserved. The next number was a Guitar solo from Franny called Steel Guitar Medley. They then went into their first big number Crazy Man Crazy. Jacko then took over on drums and Dick came forward to a great ovation to do the Jodimars hit Well Now Dig This. The hits rolled out one after another, See You Later Alligator, No O Can Ever Love You Like I Can, Rock A Beatin' Boogie. Joey than did his first vocal, Bona Sera and the big hits still kept coming, R-O-C-K Rock, Rip It Up, Shake A Hand, Razzle Dazzle, You're Never To Old To Rock and Mambo Rock. Things were really hotting up by now Marshall at the age of 64 was climbing all over the Bass, It was over his head, he was on his back, the crowd were going wild. All good things must come to and end and Marshall introduced Rock Around The Clock and pandemonium broke loose everybody was singing along, dancing Jiving and letting out all their emotions. The audience were not going to let them end there, they were screaming for more and more they got. They went into When The Saints and all band showed off their talents with solos each one warmly applauded. At the end of this the crowd still would not let them leave and Marshall thanked everybody for coming and said that they would have to finish with the last number which he believed started R & R in 1952 which was Rock This Joint. This must have been one of the best performance witnessed by Rock 'n Roll fans in this country, they got a standing ovation as they finally left the stage at 12.20am.

Once the Comets had changed they went out into the main bar and sat and signed anything that anybody gave to them and had the Jodimars CD on Rockstar for sale. When I had everything signed I went to a quiet spot to put everything away. A guy came up to me and said, would you mind if I interviewed you for the Swindon Daily Advertiser, a newspaper. He asked for my opinion of the show, which I told him. I then told him who I represent and about if he was going to print anything he had to print something about the Rockabilly HOF Web Site and the address. I gave him a card and some flyers and turned out he is a Vincent fan also. We chatted about fifteen minutes and was asking me about the site and about the Comets. I took him over and introduced him to Marshall, who was happy to give him some details. At the end I asked Marshall if he had a T-shirt and he said he didn't. So I gave him the last one and asked if I could get a photo.He was happy to do so. I took a couple and then Marshall asked the Newspaper reporter to take one of Marshall and I with the T-shirt. He then rounded up all the band to have one taken with the shirt. The newspaper chap took a few photos so maybe the T-shirt may appear in the paper.

I then got Tony Barrett and Marshall and asked about the forthcoming recording session and where it would take place. Tony said it was happening in Chigwell, Essex about 15 minutes drive from where I live. Marshall was saying the first record was on the Essex label so they chose the English county of Essex. They had hired a school hall for the week to do the session. The school is the William Penn School. They chose that because of their connections with Pennsylvania which was named after William Penn. I asked if it was new material and Marshall said it was and some had been written by the Comets. Tony suggested that if all went well and time permitted they should do Never To Old To Rock.

It was now 2am and everyone who was left were making their way outside. I said my good-bye's to everyone and said I would see them again next Saturday. It was a good drive home as the roads were empty at that time in the morning. There was a bit of fog about but I arrived home at 4.10am. -Rod