Rockabilly Hall of Fame® Archives
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by Rod Pyke

My first ever visit to the Thunderbird Club turned out to be very memorable. The two hour drive got me to Wellinborough at 16.30pm and after asking directions I soon found the Thunderbird Club. A largish well designed hall with a big car park surrounded by sports fields. This provided a lovely setting on a warm English Spring evening. The hall doors were open, so I went in. My attention was taken by a mass of pink, black and novelty balloons. This was the Clubs 7th birthday and it was being spruced up for the occasion. "Can I help you?" said a voice from behind a bunch of balloons. I introduced myself and was made very welcome by Roger, who runs the Club and his son Mark. We chatted for a while but there was more work to be done. I had time to kill so I stayed and helped out with the balloons and making coffee.

At 17.30pm a couple of vans pulled into the car park and into the hall came The Hicksville Bombers who were the other band on tonight's bill. A few moments later Ronnie Dawson arrived to set up his equipment and to do a sound check. Roger welcomed Ronnie and after a few minutes talking to him called me over. I showed Ronnie my RAB HOF ID card and he said "Hi you must be Rod." I was surprised that he had remembered my name. We had never met before but had exchanged several e-mails in the past. We chatted about the Web Site for a few minutes but work had to be done. More coffee was called for and while Ronnie was having his I gave him a HOF T-shirt and our CD. I asked him if he would mind having his photograph taken holding the T-shirt when he had time. "No problem", was his reply. Ronnie was using a band especially put together for his short visit calling themselves the B-Men. Tjarco (Guitar), John Palmer (Drums) and Neil Scott (Upright Bass).

Coffee over, everybody got about their business and the Hicksville Bombers were the first to check their equipment and sound. While the Bombers were practising more people came into the hall. I recognised them as the guys who used to run the Gene Vincent Fan Club. John Braley I had met before. Also with him were Roger Nunn, Adrian White and a friend of theirs, Tom. Steve Aynsley and Sam Powell were to arrive later. The only person missing from the fan Club team was Bob Erskine. They told me they had come to see the newly discovered Blue Cap. Of course they meant Ronnie who appears on the new Lost Dallas Demos track Hey Mama playing lead guitar for Gene. It was not long until Ronnie's turn came on stage. The first practise number was under way. One more number was all that was needed and everybody was satisfied with the sound.

Ronnie jumped down off the stage grabbed his T-shirt and shouted over to me, "Hey Rod how about that photo now". I didn't have to be asked twice. He then signed autographs for all those wanting them. Then it was back to the Hotel to rest up for Ronnie and we all went to take in the evening sunshine in the car park.

The time soon came round to opening time and the crowds were arriving. We followed them in and found a table near the open doors to the playing fields and sat and listened to DJ Lee and his Record Machine who soon had the place rockin'. At 20.30pm the Hicksville Bombers a popular British rock 'n' Roll band came on stage and gave a brilliant performance of pounding rhythm. They soon had everybody boppin' and jivin'. A really entertaining hour was well appreciated by the large crowd. We were only 30 minutes away now from the Blond Bomber and people were gathering nearer to the stage, but still the dancin' continued to Lee's Record Machine.

Along with Steve Aynsley I had my camera ready and we awaited the arrival of Ronnie. Many familiar faces were in the audience, Jean Vincent, Willie Jeffery and Varik, and some friends of mine from the Tennessee Club, Ann and Lizzie (check out their photo in the Sonny Burgess review). The time had now come and as the B-Men took the stage everybody was waiting for Ronnie to be introduced. All eyes were glued to the back of the stage looking for him. He fooled everybody by making his entrance through the crowd from the back of the hall and jumping up on to the stage. His back to the audience, he then spun round and went into Red Hot Mama, he quickly followed this up with Shim Sham Shimmy and Home Cookin'. This is the closest I have been to the stage for one of his performances. From here you can see what a great showman he is. Every movement, every Facial expression, every gesture, it is pure showmanship. Fish Outta Water, V8 Ford Boogie and Sucker For A Cheap Guitar were others to have his fans jumping in time to the music. A favourite of mine, Veronica followed then Crazy Shoes, Just Rockin' And A Rollin' and Up Jumped The Devil. Every now and then Ronnie would jump down into the audience and play his guitar solos from there. His band were doing an excellent job. Tjarco we all know about, what more could be said that hasn't already been said, brilliant. John Palmer another excellent drummer to be found by Ronnie, he certainly has an eye for talent. Neil Scott on Double Bass usually found behind the counter of Sounds That Swing in Camden Town. This was probably his biggest break yet, to play with Ronnie, and he showed what a competent performer he his. He fitted right in with the rest of the guys. Still the songs kept coming Rockinitis, You're Humbuggin' Me, Party Time, Knock Down Dragout. You could see Ronnie was havin' fun and thanked thecrowd and his band on several occasions. There was still plenty more tocome, you get value for money with Mr Dee. Rockin' Bones, Wham Bam Jam andAction Packed finished off the scheduled numbers but no way were the fansgoing to let Ronnie go yet and continual chanting brought him back on stagefor an encore, not only once but three times. Apart from one harmless drunkwho got up on stage to shake Ronnie's hand every body was well behaved andhad a good time. Ronnie's encores consisted of Yum Yum (recently used in amovie), Monkey Beat and No Dice. Things had to eventually come to an end buteverybody walked away from the Thunderbird Club satisfied at having seenprobably the best exponent of Rockabilly on the circuit today. Itís hard towrite anything about a person like Ronnie because all you can say aresuperlatives. All I can say is, if you havenít seen him yet when you do youwill know what I mean. I was enjoying the show so much I was forgetting tolist the songs, so some may be in the wrong order. That won't alter the factthat they were all done professionally and energetically.After one hour forty five minutes on stage Ronnie came off looking as freshas when he went on.

I said my goodbyes to Ronnie and thanked him for a great performance. It wasafter midnight now as the Vincent Fan Club and I headed for our cars anddiscussing the memorable nightís events.The next morning I had to get ready for my next long journey to Newark tosee Narvel Felts.

I would like to finish by thanking Roger, Mark and all the staff at theThunderbird Club for making my first visit there a memorable one.

-Rod Pyke