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Show Date 3 May 1998 - Posted: Mon, 4 May 1998 -

The Comets visit the Ace Cafe and Thrill the Crowds at the Tennessee Club.


It was 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and over two hundred Motorbikes and Hot Rods were assembled at the Ace Cafe in London.
This historic meeting place, which closed in 1969, has recently been reopened thanks to the efforts of Mark Wilsmore. Its location at Ace Corner, North Circular Road, Stonebridge, London NW10 is an ideal venue for Bikers and Hot Rodders to meet on a Sunday between 8am and 8pm and talk about and show off their machines while listening to Rock ëní Roll music. These leather clad and drape coated rockers were there in force to greet their heroes, the original 1955 Comets. The Comets along with Bill Haley, had been the founders of Rock 'n' Roll.

Ritchie Gee who had booked the Comets for this UK tour arranged for them to visit this historic venue. A gleaming white stretch limousine with highly polished chrome picked up the group from their Hotel and ferried them around the North Circular to Staples Corner where a convoy of about a hundred Motorbikes and Hot Rods met them and escorted them like royalty to the Ace Cafe. Here they were greeted by cheers and applause as the largest Lincoln in Britain pulled up outside the cafe. The sound of Rock Around The Clock was echoing around the forecourt as the Comets emerged from the limousine. The crowds gathered around as greetings were exchanged, old acquaintances were renewed and new ones formed. Marshall spotted me and came over and threw his arms around me, a moment I'll cherish. The TV and Video cameras were rolling and Press people getting interviews. Another Haley song was on the turntable and the Comets formed a line and sang along and clapped to the beat with all their followers. The sun had come out the clouds had gone as if this had all been rehearsed. Sunshine seems to follow these ambassadors of Rock 'n' Roll around.

It was now time for a tour of the Ace Cafe and the Comets were led in by Mark Wilsmore and given a brief history and tour of the building which is about to undergo some refurbishment. Once upstairs everybody went onto the roof patio and more photos and interviews were conducted. Nothing was too much trouble for the Comets who were happy to do all that was asked of them. About thirty minutes was spent up here until it was suggested that the Comets should sample the Ace Cafe tea, which was greeted with delight by the only Englishman among the Comets, Jacko Buddin.

It was down to ground level again and tea was served. I got to speak to all of them separately and they were all unanimous in how much they were enjoying their visit. Joey told me that over 800 people had seen them in Chester last night and the Harvey Spicer Club in Birmingham was a sell out the night before. This was their third hectic day in the UK but it did not show. After a final photo shoot at the Limousine it was time for the Comets to head back to their Hotel to freshen up for the nights events at the Tennessee Club. They thanked everybody at the Ace for the warm welcome and the hospitality shown to them during their short visit. The TV coverage should be shown on a major TV channel in the UK soon. More applause rang out as the Lincoln manoeuvred its way out of the forecourt and headed east to the other side of London. I followed on and it was 5pm when we arrived at the Hotel. The Comets went to their rooms and we were given coffee by the hospitable Hotel staff. At about 5.45pm the guys filtered down to the lounge and signed copies of their new CD, The House Is Rockin', for us. We chatted until about 6pm and then it was off to a local Chinese Restaurant for Tony Barrett (Rockstar Records), his wife and the Comets. We were invited but we did not want to impose on them anymore. We felt it right that they should have some time to themselves. We said our goodbyes and headed off towards the Tennessee Club.

Traffic was heavy in the area due to a big soccer match having just finished and we finally got parked up at 7pm. We grabbed a quick meal and went into the Tennessee and found a good vantage point. Tonight I just wanted to enjoy the music and did not want to try and get front stage for photos as I had taken plenty during the Comets October 1997 visit and had taken many at the Ace Cafe. The crowds were starting to flood into the Club; such is the popularity of the number one Rock 'n' Roll band. Many Europeans on route to Hemsby had left home early to take in this show. I met couples from France and also a blind person who had come all the way from Australia. (Ed. note: sounds like Peter).

The support band tonight was the Razorbacks and a powerful performance they gave. A mixture of instrumentals and modern Rockabilly songs. A good visual band that just enthuse energy. Excellent guitarist/vocalist, a brilliant slap bass player who covers all areas of the stage. A young drummer in the Be Bop Harrel mould. They may not be everybodyís taste but I certainly enjoyed them and the applause they got showed I was not alone. The Comets were due on stage at 10.15pm and as time got near the audience gathered at the front of the stage and you could feel the excitement growing. Right on time Radio DJ Geoff Barker came to the microphone and introduced the one and only Comets. The noise was deafening as they appeared on stage and went straight into Shake Rattle and Roll, followed by Boogie Woogie and Eat Your Heart Out Annie, which is featured, on the RAB HOF CD. Marshall then addressed the crowd and introduced all the band members starting with the oldest member the 76 years young Franny Beecher (Guitar) who joined in 1954. Franny then went into 76 Hormones did the trick for me (Sang to 76 Trombones). Joey Ambrose (Sax) aged 64 was next, he had joined in 1953. Johnny Grande (Piano) aged 68 joined in 1949 and had worked with Bill Haley the longest. The second oldest member is Dick Richards (Drums/Vocals) age 74 and joined in 1953. Marshall Lytle (Bass/Vocals) aged 65 in July joined in 1951.

The crowd began to chant Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. He acknowledged them and introduced the final member, who took on the role of Bill Haley for the vocals, Jacko Buddin, aged 61. Jacko, a Londoner was formerly with The Dynamite Band and the Flying Saucers. Marshall and Johnny Grande are the only two remaining members of the Saddlemen. It was now back to music featuring the brilliant guitar work of Franny called Steel Guitar Rag. Jacko took over for Crazy Man Crazy. I had never heard Jacko in such good voice. It was now Dick's turn for the vocals and Jacko took over on drums. A former member of the Jodimars along with Marshall and Joe, Dick got to a great ovation as he did their greatest number Well Now Dig This. Back to Jacko for See You Later Alligator, which had everybody joining in. Marshall then introduced a new number to their repertoire, from their new CD, Lili Mae. Rock A Beatin' Boogie proceeded Joey on vocals with another song from the CD, Buena Sera. Still the big hits kept coming, R-O-C-K Rock and Rip It Up. The title track from the CD, The House Is Rockin', got a great reception. Razzle Dazzle, You're Never To Old To Rock and Mambo Rock kept the joint jumping. Things were really hotting up by now Marshall belying his age of 64 was climbing all over the Bass, It was over his head, he was laying across it, the crowd were going wild. My watch showed me things were nearing the end. When Marshall introduced Rock Around The Clock, pandemonium broke loose, everybody was singing along, dancing, Jiving and letting out all their emotions. The fans wanted more and they got more. They went into When The Saints and the entire 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 Rock 'n' Roll in 1952. This was Rock This Joint. Another breathtaking performance had come to an end. Can these musicians really be this age, where does the energy come from? I wish I knew the secret. After a ten minute break in the dressing room they were all back out again to sign autographs and meet their fans.

After saying my personal goodbyes to Marshal, Franny, Joey, Johnny, Dick and Jacko it was time to make my way home and relive the memories of the previous ten hours. As I write this review The Comets are probably preparing to go on stage in Germany.

UK/European Correspondent
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