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1976, 1977….. Our hero was astir. Once more in good shape, finally rid of his heroin addiction and beginning to put his face about again on the jazz scene.

Meanwhile bassist Adrian Kendon had started to run a weekly jazz club at “The Hanbury” in Kemptown, Brighton – an extraordinary pub-come-mini dance hall with a huge dome roof which had originally been a mausoleum!.


 I had recently moved from London to Tunbridge Wells and I was travelling regularly to the mausoleum to play with Pete Burden’s group and to accompany visitors including Jon Eardley, Hank Shaw, Terry Smith, Ron Asprey (of “Sky”fame) and New York singer Joe Lee Wilson who had settled in Kemptown.

On Thursday 21st June 1977, my life changed forever. Adrian had rung a few days before, casually asking me to appear at the Hanbury again, because “this time, we’ve got Bobby Wellins coming on tenor”. YESS!!! (as tennis players shout after hitting a winner). My hero who had knocked me out with Stan Tracey, who I had played with once in 1965 and who had disappeared without trace.

Adrian Kendon and Pete Jacobsen

Adrian Kendon and Pete Jacobsen

Not only Bobby. Adrian had also got a superb pianist for the gig called Pete Jacobsen. Pete, blind from birth, hailed from Newcastle but had been in London studying classical piano at the Royal Academy and starting to play jazz dates.

The evening was such a musical meeting of minds that we decided pretty well on the spot to form a new quartet under Bobby’s leadership.

Word must have got around and, as well as returning relugarly to Brighton, we were soon working at venues in London like the 100 Club (Oxford St), the Phoenix (Cavendish Square), the Seven Dials (Covent Garden), the Half Moon (Putney) and at the Carioca club in Cambridge – John Donaldson tells me he used to come and listen to us there in his youth!

In June 1978, we did the first of many BBC Jazz Club broadcasts and made our first album live back at the Hanbury (Jubilation – Vortex Records VS1 which I am now told goes for big bucks on e-bay!). Later that Summer we appeared at the Bracknell jazz festival (I remember meeting Clark Tracey there for the first time – a little boy trailing round in his dad’s wake and soaking up the work of his dad’s drummer Bryan Spring).

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On into 1979 and at the start of May, we embarked on a six night tour of Scotland and the North of England. In view of the mileage involved, we hired a Morris Sherpa van to pack ourselves and the instruments in. The name “Sherpa” is presumably intended to imply rugged reliablility since the Sherpa people are natives who lived at the highest extremities of the Nepalese mountains.

Our Sherpa conked out after less than 200 miles and we had to hastily replace it with a sturdy Ford Transit. Scotland was fun. In Aberdeen, at the height of the oil boom, there were exotic brands of imported American beer which I bought excessive amounts of.

In Edinburgh, Pete Jacobsen at a late night post-gig curry and after quite a few pints dared the waiter to bring him the hottest vindaloo the chef could produce. To his great credit and honour, Pete finished it but his nose was streaming……………..

 In July, we made our second album Dreams are free (Vortex VS-2 – another collectors’ item I believe!) this time at Porcupine Studios studio, Eltham.

Next time (as they say in TV serials)…………..

a colourful 13-concert sextet tour reviving Bobby’s famous CULLODEN MOOR

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Spike Wells