Johnny's thank you's & anecdotes
It’s only right that Shirley's parents Richard and Joan be at the top of this list as they forfeited much to take care of us in the early days. They never, for one moment doubted our potential and were convinced that ‘talent would out’ long term. Sadly we didn’t quite achieve the type of success that brings with it fame and fortune but we had a damn good time fighting for it! It’s still hard to believe that Richard, with his quick wit and sense of fun is no longer with us. He died one day before the date his song; our first record was released in 1964, 11th June 2001.
Brian Shepherd will always remain the one person in our career that we will never be able thank adequately for all the un-dying faith and support he showed us from our first meeting in 1968. At weekends he often travelled for many miles in his 850cc mini just to see us work and have a beer or two before turning around and driving all the way back to town for Monday morning. Morecambe was just one example! One night that is etched on our memory was in ’68. We’d finished our summer season with Dick Emery and The Baron Knights on The Palace Pier in Brighton, after loading up our Ford Cortina we drove back along the length of the pier with Brian laid on the bonnet singing “just call me angel of the morning”, we’d had a couple!
A great record producer, a great friend - great times.
Australian Mel James was somewhat of a star in his youth! He was, and is an amazing tenor banjo player and as such made a trip to England at the age of 16 after an appearance on The Graham Kennedy TV Show. (See the video clips on YouTube). In 1963 along with his mum and brother he boarded a plane to the UK to work as a soloist on TV shows such as The Charlie Drake Show and The 625 Show + live shows country wide. When we met him in June 1966, he was staying at our digs in Manchester, the now infamous ‘Biz’ in Whalley Range. A bit of a flash £$%^ I thought at the time! But Shirley saw him with a different eye and married him on 16th October 1969. Once he’d lost the Brylcreem look, grew his hair long like the rest of us and listened to The Beatles and Stones instead of Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis and Charlie Mingus I realised that he wasn’t such a bad bloke after all! He remained a constant source of encouragement and enthusiasm throughout the final years in the business and, although he lives twelve thousand miles away, remains my closest friend to this day.
Ron Richards (January 1929 – 30 April 2009) for giving us that first bite of the Cherry. Without him we probably would never have had the opportunity to record at Abbey Road. In retrospect, I’ve always thought that he never quite captured our sound again after the first record.
Sadly we never did meet The Beatles. Although we arrived at Abbey Road Studio 2 one morning just after they had left the building!
Norman ‘Hurricane’ Smith was a joy to work with on our final offering for Parlophone. I still have a fairly poor quality photo of him over-dubbing some tymps on the A side of ‘And I don’t want your love’ on page 4 of this site. Sadly Norman died on 3rd March 2008.
Our days spent at ‘The Biz’ later ‘Clifton Grange Hotel’ in Wellington Road, Whalley Range, Manchester with proprietor Phyllis Lynott will always be held close to our hearts. Apart from meeting Shirley’s future husband Mel James there, they were some of the best fun times we had in all our years on the road. We’re still in touch with Phil now. She played host to us when we visited Dublin a few years ago. I was one of a very few people that had been permitted to hold Phil Lynott’s (Thin Lizzy) guitars. What an honour! We met Phil a couple of times at ‘The Biz’ during his school holidays. He was about 15 or so then. Sadly Phyllis died on 12th June 2019. Never to be forgotten xx
Rick Parfitt stayed at ‘The Biz’ on at least one occasion prior to joining Status Quo. I seem to remember he was in an act with twin girls (that sounds right!)
I think they were called The Highlights. Quo are also big mates of Shep as I believe he signed them to ‘Vertigo’ records?