Roger Dean
[ the one with the guitar ]

Roger Dean on the Bluejays to Benny Hill

Cutting his teeth on Rock n Roll with the Nu-Notes and then moving on to Blues with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Roger found himself unseated from his position by Eric Clapton. He needed a new challenge and had decided he wanted to play like George Benson but it's not quite what he he ended up doing. As luck would have it there was a vacancy with his old band, the Nu-Notes and being the forgiving lot that they were, they took him back.

The interview with Roger continues.

When you left John Mayall you went back to the Nu-Notes for a while. Was this intentionally a stop gap?

When my time with John came to an end, I rejoined the lads for a while, but found it difficult to return to that style of playing ... I had heard Wes Montgomery, and wanted to play more jazz influenced material.

But you joined the Bluejays who were a soul outfit not jazz. What made you go down the soul route?

I joined the 'Bluejays' because I knew and liked Ronnie Jones, also my friend Jack Massarik (now jazz critic for 'Evening News) was playing alto sax in the band, plus there was a stack of work and dosh involved!!

Ronnie released several singles between 62 and 67 which was pretty early. There's an album of them, 'Satisfy my soul'. Did you work on any of the recordings?

I did a couple of recordings with Ron, 'You're looking Good' was one, but I can't remember the others. The material we were doing with Ronnie was a mixture of the latest (at that time) James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding... Ronnie was a huge fan of Joe Tex, so of course, we did quite a few of his tunes as well. Instrumentally, we would probably start with a couple of Jack McDuff or Jimmy Smith organ tunes adapted for our 10 piece band. PP's material was 'You keep me hanging on', 'Ready for Love' sort of stuff.

You did a private party for Brigitte Bardot, how did that come about?

We (Ronnie Jones and the Bluejays) were resident at the 'Papagayo' beachfront club, and Brigitte used to visit every night with Gunther Sachs. She liked us and wanted us to play at a party for her ... the club owner would have given us the night off to keep her happy !!

This was followed up by a tour with PP Arnold. She's another one with a mixed track record starting out with the Ikettes, followed by setting up her own band 'The Nice' and then going solo. What are your recollections of working with her?

PP was a lovely girl, and a truly great singer. The 'Orbison' tour was after we split from Ron. We called ourselves 'Four of a Kind'. Unfortunately, although we had a really tight little spot, we only had about five or six numbers. We were supposed to spend a week rehearsing, but Pat had so many other commitments coinciding with the release of 'First Cut is the Deepest', that she was hardly present at the workouts ... very difficult to get an act together if you're guessing what the singer wants to do.

This was not PP's fault, her management knew we needed to work on the show, they should not have had her running round doing press calls. I seem to remember that the first shows were a shambles... we went on the road under rehearsed ... a disaster as we had already left Ronnie ... nobody's fault, it just went wrong.

I understand you had a run in with Hendrix who had a habit of turning up at shows and demanding to jam with the band. He did it with Mayall and a few others. What are your recollections?

I did have a verbal misunderstanding with JH. I had no idea who he was, but he wandered up and asked me to give him my guitar to sit in with the band. We were about to do a 15 minute spot with PP Arnold, very rehearsed and tight ... I said words to the effect 'I don't think it's a good idea, please go away kind gentleman'. He took offence and cleared off ... anyway, I would never take the liberty of asking someone to let me play their guitar, it's a bit like saying 'Move over sunshine, I'll show you how to do it'.

Jim had a lucky escape, because that little spot we did that night was the same tunes we did when we toured with PP on the 'Roy Orbison/Small Faces' tour, and they weren't 12 bars ... he would have got his backside roasted. Anyway, NO-ONE plays my guitars but me !!!

So, after this, several residencies and then you moved on to the BadBoys who were very well known in Italy.

I joined the 'Bad Boys' for a while, and yes, they were very big in Italy. I actually had to SING in Italian, try that when you don't have a voice! They were a pop band, and they did it well, but I couldn't settle there, and after a couple of other bands, decided to come home... there's no place like it, you know!!!

Leaving them you had some more residencies and then went to work with the Tumbleweeds. Now I know you switched styles a lot but what on earth was the thinking behind that one?

Well I came back from Italy with fifteen shillings, a wife, a guitar, and an AC 30[1] in a cupboard at Brian Augers flat in Leicester Square! I got a job in 'Modern Sound' flogging guitars, which gave a whole new meaning to the word 'Boredom'. Dave Peacock (Chas n Dave) was an old mate who came into the shop and asked if I could cover a few gigs with his country band ... I did, and enjoyed it so much I stayed. I started on Classical guitar, which gave me a good grounding for most other styles of playing, I'll play anything for a fiver!!

You stayed with them for about a year and then moved on to Country Fever. So you were obviously enjoying Country Style and you got to work with a lot of big names. What do you remember about those guys and those days?

I did play with a lot of big names from the Country Music scene, and without exception, they were all nice down to earth people... unlike some of your 'Rock Stars'.

Was this when you met up with Roger Rettig?

I met Rog Rettig so long ago that I can't remember where we DID meet. He's a great player... I just remembered, he was with 'Eden Kane', at least I think he was !!

You seemed to spend a lot of time swapping places with Albert Lee and meeting up with the same people in various bands. The Jury, the Tumbleweeds and Country Fever. Pete Oakman and John Kitchener seem to feature a lot during the late 60s.

Albert just happened to be on guitar in Bob Xavier's band at the same time as they needed a rhythm player. Albert was never with the Tumbleweeds but both Jerry Donohue and Steve Simpson passed through at some time. Pete stayed on for some time when I joined, John Kitchener (Jed Kelly) was a great guy, and a very fine drummer. I'm still in contact with most of the people for whom I've worked, John Mayall included.

So how did you come to join Country Fever?

I already knew the guys from my 'Tumbles' days. Albert Lee was leaving, right place, right time. I got first shout when Al wanted out.

They were a very popular backing band supporting many great names such as Guy Mitchell, Hank Locklin, Slim Whitman, Melba Montgomery and Charlie Pride, to name just a few but seem to have had a lot of personnel changes during their lifespan. Is this what led to their demise?

We were together for quite a long spell, quite a few years in all. We made two or three albums... 'Listen to the Country Fever', 'A new Dimension', couple of compilation LP's, but only for small record labels ... no proper promotion. Adrian Legge joined on guitar sometime after I left, but like all bands, you drift apart If you don't get the breaks.

So from there to Fever/Easy/Harley Quinne with Pete Oakman again. Why the rapid name changes?

We tried a few different names and styles to try to crack in to the big time, but still no luck. Pete was around all through the 'Fever', 'Easy', and 'Harley' days. He is a fine songwriter, and we should have done very well... he was a very solid player, I never heard him drop a wrong note!

You had a big hit with New Orleans did you think this was finally it?

It was 'it' for me when I had to dress up as a pixie for 'Top of the Pops', I never felt so daft. I got out like a rocket. I had no contact with the band after my demise, and didn't see Pete for years.

Then on to the Mick Greenwood Band. You joined after the release of the second album 'To Friends' which featured Doris Troy and Jimmy Helms. Mick was pretty good but never got a lot of success. What did you think the reason for that was?

I can't figure out why such a great singer, who was also a really nice guy didn't crack it. It's the same old story, being successful doesn't equate to being good or talented.

And Proby?

PJ was a super singer, the band calls were always fantastic. Gigs could be a challenge to get through... don't ask.

You followed that up with some session work on recordings then went into TV work and did some classic shows, was it fun working on Benny Hill?

I've always 'gone for it', so whenever sessions were offered, I'd jump in at the deep end. If they had charts to play, no problem... if they just wanted me to do what I do, that's fine... if they didn't like me, they booked the wrong guy. Benny was in the studio in Shepperton, but the session was for Ronnie Aldrich, who was MD for the show. I was booked for a sketch on 'Woodstock', Ben called it 'Woodstick'. After I had done my bit, they decided to re-record the main title theme, on which I played rhythm... turned out to be my lucky break, because I'm still getting repeat fees to this day !!!

[1] The AC-30 is the amplifier that became forever linked with The Beatles and the British Invasion. While The Beatles for the most part only utilized this amplifier during 1963 and 1964