Roger Dean interview
Nope, he did not design covers for Yes, Greenslade or Asia. This Roger Dean is a guitar player and quite a good one at that. He replaced Big Jim Sullivan in the Nu-Notes for starters. But just like in the Yardbirds, where Top Topham had to go in favor of Eric Clapton, Roger had to step aside for ole Slowhand in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Here's his story...
- How did you start out in music ?
<I played piano from age seven, changed to classical guitar at nine and to electric guitar after seeing Eddie Cochran in 'The girl can't help it'
- You played guitar in the Nu-Notes, the backing band for Russ Sainty. Was that your first major band ?
<Well, my very first band in 1960 was 'Bob Xavier and the Jury' with Pat Donaldson on bass, me playing 2nd guitar to Albert Lee.
- Apparently you were the one to replace Big Jim Sullivan, although according to the latest information, he only played on live gigs. Do you have any further info on that ?
<Only that Jim was a very hard act to follow !! At that time BJ was too busy with sessions to be able to take on a regular band position.
- Which of Russ' records did you play on ?
<All of them in the 60's. We also had instrumentals out as the 'Nu Notes' eg: 'Kathy' 'Fury' and 'Hall of Mirrors'
- When exactly did you join Mayall and how did that happen ?
<About 1962, I was introduced to John by Ray Smith,('Head Hands and Feet') Bernie Watson had left to pursue his classical career. I was in the right place at the right time !!
- Did Mayall already have a certain reputation at that time ? Was this a definite step up or was it just a step in the dark with some "unknown" ?
< John had a stack of work, I did a couple of gigs and liked the players in the band--- (John MacVie and Hughie Flint)
- December 7, 1964 Mayall's Live at Klooks Kleek album was recorded live, very much the fashion at the time. Who's decision was it to go for a live recording ?
< John has always made his own decisions. We were a tight unit, so recording live (no retakes !!!) was not a problem.
- Is it true that, with the Decca Studios right next door, they only brought in the cables through the roof to record the show ?
< No ! the cables ran out of the window and down the road to the studio, about 100 yards away!!
- Did you actually work up to recording that show or was it just a gig like any other ?
< I think we had a run through in the afternoon, a couple of tunes were new to all of us ('I need your love')
- Was that the band's basic repertoire ? What other songs did you play live ?
< A lot of the stuff on the album -- John would leap into whatever he fancied playing --- and we had to keep our ears open.
- Although Mayall is always regarded as a blues purist, I get more of an R&B feel from that LP...
< John has always been a purist --- I was more R+B --- So I suppose I was holding him back at that time. I was a bit headstrong in those days !!
- What was the reaction within the band to the album ? And how do you look back on it now ?
< We were so busy doing gigs in those days that I didn't really listen to it at that time ! I recently reviewed the album on somebody's website, and a guy wrote in saying he didn't believe that I hadn't listened to it for 40 years ! Looking back on it, it's great !! You can always improve solo's
by retakes - we stuck the lot down in one - very different to being in the studio.
- The Bluesbreakers backed up John Lee Hooker on his 1964 UK tour. Was Mayall himself part of that band ?
<Yes, I think that was just after John bought his first Hammond --- John Lee was a lovely man -- you had to keep your ears open for the changes though !
- A thrill to get such a gig ?
< Very much so, John Lee was a very big name at that time.
- In February 1965 Mayall's second single was recorded : Crocodile walk c/w Blues city shake down. Was that also recorded at Decca West Hampstead ?
< Yes, but that was a long time ago and the engineers didn't understand that the amp needed a lot of poke to get the right sound. They were always watching their meters, not listening to the sound.
- My baby is sweeter (later to turn up on the Thru The Years album) was also recorded at these sessions. Was that a contender for the single ?
<Can't really say. I liked it, but as I said before, John made the decisions
- What kind of producer was Mike Vernon ? I get the impression that he very much let the band do their thing and just keep an eye on things rather than make his mark...
< I seem to remember that Mike was a nice guy who let us get on with it --- I saw him again years later when I was with the 'Flirtations'
- Did anything else get recorded during your time in the band (besides the above) ?
<Sorry Eddy --- too long ago, can't remember.
- By this time Mayall already had a bit of a reputation on the scene. Did you get the feeling you were going places ?
<At the time we were doing basically six or seven gigs a week PLUS one or two allnighters, so we were already a name on the circuit.
- Were you aware of his interest in Clapton for the band ?
< John always keeps his plans close to his chest !!
- How did the switch with Clapton exactly happen ?
<John was always straight, and I was always straight with him, so he could call me up and explain the situation. I already new that Eric was 100% into blues. At that time I wanted to play like George Benson...I didn't fit !!!
- Was that an impression you got from Mayall as a band leader that he had a hard time settling for a steady line-up ?
<Not at all, John changed the lineup to keep things fresh.
- In the early 70's you were in Mick Greenwood's band for a short while...and went nowhere.
< Mick was a nice guy with a great voice. It should have taken off like a rocket.
- Regrets ?
< Absolutely none, apart from my recent acciden. I can't play at the moment, so I'll need one heck of a lot of practise before I'll return to my schoolteaching job.
Thanks very much Eddy, I've enjoyed doing this interview !
Roger was kind enough to send a copy of his CV... WOW !
Musical Training: Eric Guilder guitar school, London (Ivor Mairants)
Youth club gigs in Slough, with drummer Dave Ballinger (Barron Knights).
I recalled working for one of Larry Parnes' early discoveries 'Nelson Keene'. I can only have been about 15 at the time. We did two gigs, one at the old Metropole in london , and one at a venue in Windsor.
Bob Xavier and the 'Jury' (2nd guitar to Albert Lee)
The Nu-Notes : Roger and Mel
Joined Russ Sainty's band 'The Nu-Notes' replacing Rhet Stoller/Big Jim Sullivan. Instrumentals -- 'Cathy', 'Hall of Mirrors', 'Fury', and 'Sunset', still released on compilation CD's.
Extensive touring throughout UK, broadcasts ' Saturday Club, 20's to the Twist. The most broadcast band in the country at that time --
Residency at 'Crazy Horse ' Hamburg.
Backing musicians for Bobby Vee on 'The Crickets' tour --
Odd gigs with 'The Outlaws' for Chas Hodges (Chas 'n' Dave)
Joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, touring with...
John Lee Hooker.
T Bone Walker.
Sonny Boy Williamson.
Recorded first album -- "John Mayall Live" Single "Crocodile Walk"
Many compilation CD tracks still on release.
Left Mayall, replaced by Eric Clapton, short return visit with 'Nu-Notes' before joining top London soul music band.'Ronnie Jones and the Bluejays' featuring P P Arnold --
T Bone Walker tour UK.
P P Arnold' on the 'Roy Orbison/ Small Faces' tour.
Summer residency 'Papagayo' club St Tropez.
Private party for Brigitte Bardot....
St Raphael / Frejus residencies.
Star Club Hamburg.
To Italy to join number one band "The Bad Boys" -- 'Piper Club' Milan.
'Pleasure Machine' .. Bob Michaels (Hammond) Pupo Longo, (drums) Dave Anthony (vocals) -- residencies Milan, Turin, Rome, Cattolica.
Return to UK, worked at 'Modern Sound' guitar store before joining -- 'The Tumbleweeds' pioneering English country band, UK/Germany/Hank Locklin tour, Willie Nelson at the Nashville Room ... replaced by Gerry Donohue when I left to join ---
..."Country Fever" replacing Albert Lee.
Extensive tours backing visiting American country singers --
Carl Belew ('Crystal Chandelier').
Charlie Pride.('Saturday Club' -- live broadcast)
Joined drummer Graham Webb's band 'Country Expression' for a P+O cruise
'Fever' morphed into 'Easy' which became 'Harley Quinne' chart hit 'New Orleans' -- 'Top of the Pops' TV show.
'Mick Greenwood Band' taking over from Gerry Donohue. ('Soft Machine' tour),
Leapy Lee Band ('Little Arrows')#1 hit.
Micky and Griff LP
LP sessions for Rick Jones
Simon King ... theme tune from TV wildlife series 'Man and Boy'
Recording for Ray Dexter
Another day at the office with vocalist Lesley Anne
Mid 1970's to late 90's
-- Mainly working as session musician for --
ITV, Anglia TV, BBC --
Benny Hill Show,
Hi De Hi television theme tune and single (Paul Shane)
The 'Munch Bunch' advert and TV series theme,
Madeline Bell - second guitar to Joe Moretti live at the Black Horse pub, London
The Flirtations (Bobby Patrick Band),
R and J Stone (Bobby Patrick Band)
Sheer Elegance ('Life is Too Short Girl') #1 hit --
Resident guitarist 'Aphrodites' club Piccadilly.
Resident guitarist 'Chaplin's' club Piccadilly.
Resident guitarist 'Silver Skillet' restaurant Maidenhead.
The Platters UK tour.
Phil Allen Sound.
Labi Siffre Band ('Linda Lewis' tour).
Three Degrees"('When will I see you again') #1 hit. UK and European tours.
Prince Charles' 30th birthday party (3 Degrees) Buckingham Palace.... Leonard Rossiter ( 'Rising Damp' film / single sessions).
Andrew Sachs ('Manuel' Fawlty Towers) single.
Jonathan King album.
Jimmy Helms album 'Demolition Man'.
Les Dawson (Jersey)
Des O'Connor album ('The Country Side Of Des')
Elaine Page's first album "Sitting Pretty". and single
Diane Soloman album.
Randy Edelman London gigs.
Wally Whyton 50 childrens songs by Woodie Guthrie ...
Joe Brown (Brown's Home Brew LP) ...
Faith Brown single.
Bobby Patrick's 'Flashback Band' and LP
J J Barrie ... 'No Charge' #1(1976)
Isla Grant Band.
Shaun Michael Band.
Ships musician, 'Arcadia' -- Australia / Fiji / New Zealand.
Ron & Rog in Rio
Invited to join "The Joe Loss Orchestra", many broadcasts / TV shows including... 'Come Dancing', 'Workers Playtime', 'Surprise Surprise', (Cilla Black).
Twelve world cruises on QE2. extensive touring in UK and Ireland.
Gig For Australian Prime Minister... Sydney.....
Gig for Muhammed Ali (Grosvenor House Hotel)
Live New Years Eve broadcasts (Hilton)
Sacha Distel, New Year's Eve, Hilton, London.
The first Western electric guitarist in China -- Dalien 1979
First Western danceband to play concert in Dalien (China) after the demise of the Cultural Revolution. First Fender Telecaster to be taken to the Republic.
Relaxing on a night off in QE2 crew bar
1980's... Resident guitarist for various artists as part of the job on QE2....
Chita Rivera / Rita Moreno (West Side Story).
Sacha Distel (Hilton London).
*Royal Command Performance for Queen Mother* London Palladium.
(Joe Loss / Lionel Blair dancers)
Private functions for the Queen and Queen Mother at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace,
'This is Your Life' (Joe Loss, two times).
Dean Martin (Hilton London, televised).
Deano and Dino at the Hilton
1992---- 2004 Specialist instrument teacher...
St. Aloysius College, Highgate.
Saint Joseph's Primary School, Highgate.
Mount Carmel Technical College for Girls, Islington.
Park Hill School, Kingston.
The Beacon School, Amersham.
Islington Youth Orchestra (guitar supervision)
Dec 30th 2004
Retired following car crash.
All photos courtesy Roger Dean