Original water colour by Pamela J Thorpe.
I guess all kids want to be either train drivers or astronauts but with me it was music and I desperately wanted to be a rock star. Both my elder brothers were in bands and my mum and dad played piano after a fashion, so the die was cast and I was sent to piano lessons. After about grade two it was clear that this was not cool enough for me and like my brothers before me I had to play guitar and sing.
By the time I got to secondary school I knew which end of the axe was which and mated up with a couple of kids and we formed our first band 'STEEL SKELETON' (no photo's) which was quickly changed to 'TERRAFIRMA' in around 1972 (see the first of the photo's). We were lucky enough to be able to practice at school and my musical career began as we prepared to play at a school Christmas party.
We had a few songs the first one I clearly recall was Silver Machine by 'Hawkwind' and the other I remember was 'Chuck Berries' my 'Ding a Ling' which happened to be topping the charts at the time. Yes we did play and we made a shit load of noise, the rest of the kids cheered and the teachers looked down on the whole event but it was great. The real truth is it was complete un-syncopated ego tripping bollocks! but we were true mega stars!
After leaving school and a quick audition with a band called the 'MAD HATTERS' (no photo's) a bit of mix and match between another band at the time 'APEX' was formed. Now we really did know what we were doing and we practiced for months in a cellar and all our material was original written by our guitarist Martin Rennard. I still believe Martin had and still has a great un-discovered song writing talent our public performances were amazingly great packing out various venues around the town.(it is my full intension to contact Martin in the near future and record with his permission some of his staggering songs, so keep an eye out on the web site)
'THE WING NUTS' (no photo's) were a good little outfit formed by a couple of the guy's I got to know whilst working for the Army. We started life as a three piece doing the odd gig here and there we did sound ok. With Colin Letchford on bass their was never a dull moment and Mick Everest on Drums both really nice blokes. We then recruited an old pro called Brian Dunn who used to play with 'Joe Brown' and 'Marty Wild' back in the 60's, the band was transformed with a name change to 'EBONY' (no photo's) and a new drummer in Geff Stead who for some reason I re-named Doreen! Geff could do the best impersonation of a 1970's trim phone I have ever heard it was so bloody good that on occasions Geff featured in the act, we had people running to answer the phone. Remembering that this was twenty years before anyone had heard of a mobile. We did many excellent gigs and held a residency down for months at a pub called the 'Little Wonder' the people were just great. This is where I first met the phantom tambourine player and now friend Chris Leamy.
After meeting Brian Dunn my life was never to be the same again and over many years he tailored and honed my act showing me all the little tricks of the trade to include regular bollocking's after performances in the dressing room. Brain now 70 years young has been and always will be a great friend and a key player in shaping my music career. I would have no hesitation in asking for his help in any of my future projects if the need for his great expertise was required. I wrote the song 'Laughin & Cryin' for Brain and in a solo performance in the early 80's I played it to a packed house with him in the audience, I think we all cried.
One of the bands favorite gigs was at a great club in Harrogate which is sadly no longer there called the CEGB club it was run by one or two different stewards in the time we worked it but by far the most memorable has to be that great day I was lucky enough to meet 'Tommy Nesbitt' and his dear wife Vera and family. Tom and I have been friends from the first day we met me and the band played at just about every important event in Tom's time at the club. I'll never forget that Tom, thanks. (see you in the pub Saturday)
After another shuffle around of band members and a change of name to 'WYTCHWOOD'. This new bands members were me(12 string guitar/vocals), Colin Letchford (bass/vocals), Brian Dunn (guitar/vocals), Dave Carnell (keyboards) Mike Everest (drums) Gill Dunn (dancer/vocals) and Sonia Everest (dancer/vocals). Although we did many gigs together the most memorable has to be the time we played at the Waliston night club in Knaresborough we played again to a packed house and someone who had something to do with ITV turned up with a TV camera. So that means yes I do have footage of the band, I put it on for the first time in nearly twenty years the other day and it is very, very scary!!!
As the band progressed we had yet another band member shuffle and our new drummer was 'Dilly Lawson'. Dilly was an interesting guy with a real drum talent and a real hard nut to boot, he was the loudest drummer I have ever had the pleasure of playing with and a brilliant musician. This inspired me through sheer fear and deafness to go out and buy a pair of JBL bass bins and sixteen radial horns! no one had the stones to tell Dilly to turn it down. Remember the drummer in the Irish classic band film 'The Commitments' well that was the cardboard copy of Dilly! Sadly Dilly tragically died of cancer a few years after he left our band, a sad loss to the music business and a character I will never forget. God bless you 'Dilly'. I bet he's still playing as loud in that great gig in the sky.
Another stand in drummer and a great bloke who helped us out one New Years Eve all thoughs years ago was Mick Moorey. We got him in at the last minute and played at the Russell Hotel Harrogate. It snowed real hard that night and the whole thing was a struggle to get the gear in but as always we pulled the cat out of the bag and had a great night. Thanks Mick for reminding me of that night, you did'nt even get rehearsal time as I recall just picked up the sticks and played. Just the way it should be! Nice one.
I could bang on all day about separate events that happened in the band and maybe one day I should write an account of all the good, bad, funny etc times we had but for now I will try to stick to the facts. So 'WYTCHWOOD' ran it's course and we all moved on.
I met a guy in a club one night somewhere in Leeds whilst watching a band and it turned out that this guy Mick Davey was a songwriter/composer his thing was steam trains, particularly the Carlisle/Settle railway and his compassion and desire to keep the trains running on the line, which in fact he achieved. Steam trains had never really done it for me however I liked the guy and his commitment to the cause and he asked me to sing on a series of songs he had written for the cause 'INCOGNITO' was formed. To cut a long story short I thought his songs were incredible and so did the BBC a good few hours in the recording studio and off we went out on film location and filmed a three minute project which went out to over 12 million people on a couple of occasions. Made us lets say a few quid and recognizable if you happened to be a train nut. We gigged for a while as a band with fiddle player John Davidson, bass player Terry Edwards and a real cracking guitarist in Dennis Corbett. Terry didn't like to talk about it but I will he had worked with 'Freddy and the dreamers' and 'Clifford T Ward' to name just a couple. I would love to put some of Mick's work on the site however when the band folded and we went our separate ways we lost touch. Mick rightly owns the copy write to the material so without his permission their is nothing I can do. Anyway the last I heard of Mick Davey was he was writing the full score for a brass band in Sheffield the stories to go with it were something to do with the steel industry. John the fiddle player moved out to France he was a bit of a cool hippy and Terry the bass player went down south to find a better life (but not until he had had a spell with our next band) God only knows why, it would seem good old |Terry has wanted to come back up north ever since he left. I for one would be happy to see his return and again wonder at his incredible mastery of the bass guitar.
Strange how things go around in circles for as 'INCOGNITO' came to a natural end Dennis Corbett and I re-joined our old pal Brian Dunn again. The bands name this time was a very obvious one 'THE LIFE OF BRIAN' I suppose in honor of the great man himself or was it that we all liked the movie! Anyway with Brian Dunn, Dennis Corbett on guitar vocals and me up front playing the same Terry Edwards holding down the bass end of the outfit Wayne Dunn on skins and Gill Dunn doing the we've got a great looking bird in our band routine singing and dancing, yep a real family affair. We were off again into the dark oblivion of the northern working mans club circuit doing a two set 60's show.
'BIG PETE AND THE PURPLE GANG' was risen from the ashes of 'THE LIFE OF BRIAN' (no photo's) with me, Dennis 'Dino' Corbett and Wayne Dunn. We recruited a keyboard player called Duggy Brister and a young bass play called John 'knobby' Turner and yes you've got it back into the clubs. When Wayne and Duggy handed in the towel we replace them with Pauline a keyboard player and real stunner, sorry Pauline I can't remember your second name, we then got Dave 'fester' Cundall on the drums. It was down to Pauline that we got the tour over in Germany but before we were to go Pauline handed in her notice she said she couldn't handle the pressure any more so we cut her lose and off she went to America where she now lives with her husband. Because we had to have a female in the band to go to Germany I asked a pro sax player called Hilary to come with us, Hilary had worked on the early 'Duran Duran' albums so we were pleased to have her on board, she just did the German gig and then went to live in The Isle of White. Seems like everyone who played in my bands move abroad, were they trying to tell me something. I bought an old white VW Micro bus (The Fridge) for £100 we filled it with our gear and took off on tour to Germany. Phil Harris a great bloke who had helped us out many times acting as our stand in drummer in the clubs in the UK drove the van and as luck would have it he could speak German. One interesting thing was that our Hotel in Germany didn't have enough rooms for us all, so me and Phil shared a double bed. Good job we were close friends! The band stayed as it was for a few good years and then we called it a day. A lot of fun was had by all, gallons of wine, whisky and fags were consumed. The act was more of a comedy show than anything else, where my impersonation of a dwarf Elvis Presley in a bright red satin and silk jacket were released onto the unsuspecting audiences of the north. We thought it was so bloody funny, however the punters stunned faces said it all, as at that time the clubs were full of serious Elvis impersonators this took the biscuit. 'Fester' and 'Knobby' couldn't hold it together for laughing when we got to that part in the show.
It was about the time in the early 90's when John Turner and I followed suit with the trend of using backing tapes, this was really against the grain for both of us but the call of the extra cash and a duo did it for us 'MUSICBOX' was born. Another five years in the clubs followed, 'Fester' Cundall after leaving the last band went on the ships for an amazing twelve years and now works in the south drumming for Warner Bros in a blue rinse hotel gig. John and I tired of the tapes, their was just not enough room to move with them so we got the dots written up and used the clubs musicians as backing, Laugh or what I don't think we ever had a dry pair of shreddies in the whole time we worked with em!
This time it was my turn to bugger off, and down to the south I went and formed a cracking little outfit of old pro's we named this new band of none Yorkies 'BIG PETE'S BANNED' by this time in the late 90's for some reason we were still referring to each other with nick names so full names in some cases escape me. A memorable and talented pair of brothers called Doctor Death and Mr. Crippin alias Paul and Mark Ibbott were fine players with 'Rigger' on skins and a guy who occasional turned up to gig with us called Dave who was a chemist but also held some title as the best country guitarist on the planet. Now country just ain't me but when I first heard this guy play standing behind me on the stage one night me and the rest of the band had to turn round and watch the guy along with every one else in the audience. I have never seen or heard a player with such skill to this day. After about three years I returned up north the call was just too much so I said goodbye to the southern guy's and came home.
So now we are about up to date I guess and I've tried to recall everyone I can remember in as short a missive as possible, but the memories and the stories just keep coming and maybe one day I will write a book about it if I can be bothered. You no how it is in this business you meet people play with em! if you what I mean! and move on, although in my case I still am great mates with some of the guys.
'PETE WILLETT'S SOLO STUFF' In all the years of playing with bands I never did forget my true roots and continued to perform as a solo artist and still do to this day. I mainly stick to posh gaf's my act now is simple and pure with nothing added and nothing taken away, apart from a bit of reverb that's it. Very definitely no backing of any type shape or form. It amazes me how things turn around over the years and today people really want to see what you can do. My solo act has never changed apart from the songs and back in 1986 the BBC ran a show called 'Opportunity Knocks' I was fortunate to get on the casting list for the show as a singer song writer playing a song I wrote in 1979 'Rainy Day Lady' you can click on the music page and have a listen. Anyway after all the fuss of the camera tests in London and again in Birmingham I wasn't selected for the show. They said that a balanced show was required and on the thirteen programs that were to be recorded they couldn't find me a slot. The following year whist waiting again to be cast for the show the BBC in their wisdom cancelled the whole series. Ain't life a bitch! The one thing that sticks in my mind about the BBC producers was they said that out of 4000 applicants, to be placed on a casting list of 80 wasn't a bad achievement so I licked my wounds at that.
'SCRATCH AND SNIFF MUSIC' I continue to write songs and have a small recording studio where one or two acts come to record the odd CD. 'Scratch and Sniff' recording studio is a haven for me to hide from the world and I'm proud to say that some of the stuff that comes out of it is inspirational.
As a last but not least note, I would like to mention my great and dear friend and Manager over all these years Bob Cundall his sad loss at an early age was a devastating blow to me.
Please follow this link to read a little about the great man. (Where are you now)
Thanks for struggling through this lame bit of text, now go and check out the photo's and other stuff that's here.
Cheers and thanks for calling.