Friday, December 23, 2022

Traffic's first gig was at the Masonic Hall, Wallingford

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Traffic, the band Steve Winwood formed after leaving the Spencer Davis Group, played their first concert at the Saville Theatre in London on 24 September 1967.

That's what the books say, and what I said when blogging about my own appearance there with lovely Danny La Rue.

But, when researching my post on John Masefield at Aston Tirrold, I came across the story of an earlier appearance by the band.

Rob Southern tells the story on the music website Elsewhere. 

In the summer of 1967 he was working for Coxhead’s Electrical, a company with branches around Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire:

One morning in 1967, Steve Winwood entered Coxhead’s. He had recently left the Spencer Davis Group to form Traffic. The band had rented a cottage on the Berkshire Downs, a few miles from Wallingford.

I recognised him immediately and, without wanting to look too star-struck, ambled up to him to ascertain his requirements.

It became clear that he wanted one of those new colour TV’s. I guided him round the showroom, stopping in front of one of our larger screens. The deal was done. The TV rented for 12 months at a cost of seventy-five pounds and five shillings.

Most people would want to pay in monthly instalments. Steve didn’t have cash on him (long before the days of credit cards) and we agreed that I would collect c.o.d. ...

On this sunny Friday I drove to Aston Tirrold to deliver the colour TV. ...

At the cottage, I unloaded the van and carried a very heavy TV through the front door. Setting the appliance down at the chosen corner of the lounge, removing an electrician’s screwdriver from my pocket, I diligently tuned and set-up the TV ready to receive all three channels available.

I looked up. The numbers present had swollen and all were sat looking at this new technology, waiting for their first glimpse of colour pictures on a television screen. Steve Winwood came over. We sat at a table, a glass of beer arrived for both of us and he signed the rental contract, handing over four £20 notes.

"Sorry, Mr Winwood, I’ve no change.”

"Keep the change,” he replied.

£4-15s-0d! This was a week’s wages! I couldn’t believe my luck!

It got better. “We’re having a bit of a party” said my new friend. “Do you want to stay?”

I explained that I had to return to the shop, park the van and hand over the cash to my manager.

"But I can get back later, Steve,” confident enough now to use his first name.

And get back he did:

Friday evening turned into Saturday morning, Saturday morning became Saturday night. I was in a paradise, rock stars a-plenty, music playing from the assorted collection of guitars and other instruments.

Probably there were drugs involved. I left the party late into Sunday evening and never did find out who opened the shop on Saturday.

Needless to say, another employment opportunity was closing. Did I care? I was friends with Stevie Winwood. I had partied with Traffic. I had met Led Zeppelin, even got to one of their parties later that year in Pangbourne.

Shortly after this experience, we were organising a gig with local band the JB Roadshow headlining. I met Stevie in town and, over a coffee, told him what we were up to. At this time Traffic had yet to perform live.

How about we come and play as support?” Stevie asked. “You can’t advertise it, but we’d love to use the opportunity as a rehearsal.”

Posters had just gone to the printers. “Stop Press!” There was an addition to be made to the line-up! “Plus Surprise Guests” was added to the poster.

Traffic’s first live gig was played at the Masonic Hall, Wallingford and I was involved in a little piece of Rock History.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely story!