the Minstrel's Tale down along the Costa Blanca
The events portrayed in this series are not necessarily in chronological order
I'm too old to pimp, and too young
Having officially left the Tailgate Band I now became the number one dep for my replacement. This meant my playing on all the gigs he didn't want to do.
The first one was in a huge new supermarket complex in Alicante. We had to start at ten o'clock, so I got up early and went all the way down there in the bandleader's car with all the music, amplifiers, speakers and other gear in the back. We had a bit of a job finding the place until a motorcycle cop gave us some instructions. It was an industrial wilderness whichever way you looked.
When we got there it was to discover that the gig was for ten o'clock at night. Great stuff. Neither the bandleader nor the organiser had ever heard of the twenty-four-hour clock. Now we had to warn the rest of the band not to come, but as they all had their mobiles switched off it was a waste of time, and soon they were all there, raring to go.
There was nothing else we could do, so we drove back home, and back again in the evening. The place looked deserted. The organiser assured us that people would be thronging the place as soon as we started because they'd be pouring out of the cinemas. One of the supermarkets had six of them. It was a marvellous place, all right, with fountains, waterfalls and huge video screens with heavy metal rock banging away at heart-stopping decibels. But no people.
I tell a lieas soon as we attempted to drive up to a wooden thing that had been banged together in the middle of the square, laughingly called a bandstand, men with guns appeared. No one was allowed to drive on to the square. But we are musicians, we said. We have to unload our gear. Musico, Musico! we said loudly, as one does when addressing foreigners and idiots. But we were the foreigners, and they had the guns, so we were the idiots as well, and we lugged the library and the music stands and the amplifiers and the speakers and everything, sweating in the muggy Spanish evening air while they stood around and smoked and smirked.
"Aren't you going to help us?" I said. "You'll be listening to the music, too." They frowned and spoke rapidly with one another. I took a step back with my hands up. "Don't shoot," said the drummer, "He's the trumpet player. We need him. Amigo! Amigo!" He handed out cigarettes, and patted them on the back. He is a Jehovah's Witness, and knows how to calm people down.
We played for an hour. Still no people. "They'll be out of the cinemas soon," said the organiser, nervously. As he spoke, as if by magic, doors were flung open all over the place and hundreds of people poured out of them. This was it!
The people walked quickly, chatting excitedly about the films they had just seen. They walked right past us, while we were playing, and disappeared around the corner. Within a couple of minutes the place was deserted again.
When we packed up to leave the security men showed up at once, as if they had spent the evening hiding somewhere and keeping an eye on us. They smoked and smirked some more as we struggled with the gear back to the cars. I decided not to do any more deps with the band.
But a week later I changed my mind because it was a local gig, just down the road in Moraira. It was a lovely little village before the council decided to make it into another Benidorm. For some time now it has resembled a gigantic building site.
We were to play right beside the old castle on the sea front. It was a pleasant evening, with a balmy warm breeze blowing in from Africa. No trouble in setting up this time. The cops had blocked the road off for us. I parked in a side road nearby that said Residents Only.
Our singer for this evening was a charming young Dutch girl named Joanna. I'd met her some weeks earlier at the Cisne. Someone had introduced her, saying that she had formerly sung with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. "You look pretty good for an eighty-year-old," I cracked, but she'd been singing with the Miller band in Holland. Well, she was pretty, and she was good, too. This evening she was beautifully attired in a very sexy low-cut black dress with a very full skirt, and she looked absolutely marvellous.
By the time we started it was dark. The castle was brightly lit up behind us and the square in front of the stage was packed. Mike gave the downbeat and we started. At that moment the warm breeze suddenly updated itself into a typhoon, blowing in from the east at Force 10. As was my custom when playing out of doors, I had, beforehand, artistically arranged some lumps of iron and clothes pegs, useful for all occasions, especially these, all around the edges of my music, thereby ensuring that it remained firmly anchored, come what may. The bass player, new on the job, had not done this, and when the wind changed there was a great flurry as his music became distributed like driving snow all over the stage and all points west. He stopped playing at once and began dashing around trying to catch the sheets of wildly flapping paper. We tried to help him by stamping on bits of it while we kept on playing. It reminded me of the time we had played a wedding celebration up high in the Spanish mountains. The wind had caught us unawares there, too, and the entire trombone book had been blown up over the church roof and distributed all over the field behind it.
But now something else occupied our total concentration, for over on the other side of the stage the sudden wind had caught Joanna unawares, and she was now doing a very passable imitation of Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch with her dress blown right up over her head. The force of the wind was so strong that nothing she could do would bring it down again.
"Gawd!" said the tenor player, in awe. We all stopped playing and watched her dancing around struggling with the billowing mass of material around her head. It was a lovely sight, and one that left very little to the imagination. We could hear her little muted screams as she fought away. No one made any attempt to help her.
Agesit seemed like yearslater the wind dropped enough for her to pull everything down again. The drummer, straight-faced, offered her a long leather strap he had in his bass drum case to tie the dress down around her knees, but she didn't want that, thank you very much. We gave her the slow handclap. The audience, on the other hand, gave her a standing ovation. A small boy ran up with all the bass parts he'd collected. After that no one could put a foot wrong. It was great show business.
When I went to collect my car afterwards I found that someone had locked gates across the road at both ends. I had to stand around for half an hour and wait for some resident to arrive home so I could get out again.
A mysterious voice asked, on the telephone, if I was me. I said yes I was me and the voice said that here was someone who wanted to talk to me. A girl came on the other end and said, "Hello Ron, you won't remember me, but I used to be called Gloria Duval."
I said, "Of course I remember youyour real name is Gwen Dyball, you sang with Tommy Sampson's band in 1949 and you were married with Danny Moss at the time." I was gratified to hear her gasp. "How could you remember all that?" she said. "How could I forget," I answered. Everything about that band is permanently engraved on my memory.
She had married again, Danny was now in Australia and had an MBE for services rendered. Gwen had an apartment in a nearby town, near me, not him, with her husband and I went over to see them. She was tearful when we met in the street and hugged me fit to burst. Her husband turned out to be Irish, my favourite people, by the way, so we got on fine right from the start. Of course we both had a lot of catching up to doeach with over fifty years of news. Her husband just sat and listened. They have this great apartment framed with tall palm trees, right on the seafront. Like a tropical dream, but they only come over on holidays.
I took them to the Cisne on a Sunday to meet Eric and listen to the Blues band. They had a couple of grown-up grandchildren with them and I think they all enjoyed themselves. It was a real dip into the past seeing her again like that, and she was still beautiful. I put a picture of her singing with Terry Walsh on my Tommy Sampson page. Then I put on a photo of how she is today and Stan Reynolds swore it was not the same person when he saw it. But it is. She looked beautiful then and she looks beautiful now. Sampson photo
Copyright © 2004, Ron Simmonds. All Rights Reserved