On the Road/In the Studio
After quitting The Alan Bown!, Jess headed back to Kidderminster to re-think his longer-term goals and take stock away from London.
Giving his first major interview, early in 1970, Jess said:
“The stuff I was writing was too soft and light for Alan Bown. After about a year of that, I split back to Kidderminster to play with the people I was closer to.”
“Then, I had a telegram from Guy Stevens (at Island Records) that said, “Give me a ring”.
To term Guy Stevens as simply an 'executive' with Island and running their Sue label is, a considerable misnomer and, belies his standing in the industry.
In short, Guy was one of the most influential figures in popular music – and certainly within that particular era.
He was not strictly a manager, producer or musician in any full-time sense but his rôle as a catalyst that led to the coalescence of nascent talents into truly formidable wholes must never be underestimated – despite the fact that he spent longer in prison, for drugs offences, than most people in the music industry of the time.
When Guy got in contact, one sat up and took notice. Simple as that.
And, as Jess said at the time:
“And, when I rang him he asked me to come down and see him and Chris Blackwell. I went down and rapped with them and they helped me get the band together.
“Bronco conjures up rough and smooth really; western scenery, home on the range and that conjures up something warm that we want our music to sound like.”
The ‘group’ that Jess was referring had, as its antecedence, roots that can be traced back four years to 1966 to The Band Of Joy who, at which point included Robert Plant (vocals) and Pete Robinson (drums).
Plant, despite being still in his teens, had already released one single with his former band Listen as well as two solo singles for C.B.S. Records.
However, due to conflicts with the band's management Plant left the group the following year and went on to (confusingly) form his own Band Of Joy but that band soon folded and he subsequently rejoined the original incarnation.
During 1967 the Band Of Joy comprised Plant, Kevyn Gammond (guitar), John Bonham (drums), Paul Lockey (bass) and Chris Brown (keyboards). They became one of the major bands operating out of the burgeoning Birmingham scene and toured Britain the following year as support act to the American singer Tim Rose before folding.
Robert Plant then, briefly, joined Hobbstweedle, before he and John Bonham were invited to join Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.
Meantime, Robinson, Lockey and Gammond started to work with Jess and the earliest incarnation of Bronco was formed.
However, Lockey soon left to be replaced by John Pasternak (bass) while Robbie Blunt (guitar) completed the line-up.
Pete Robinson – "It was Kevyn who first contacted me and we had our first get together at Johnny Pasternak’s Mum’s house.”
“Being young, I suppose I was a bit in awe of Jess, he had come from a very well known band, and it was him that Island Records had put their faith in.”
"We had our first ‘musical’ meeting – as the five of us – in a Kidderminster pub. Eventually rehearsals moved to Arley Village Hall; this was great because it was just round the corner from the ‘Bellmans Cross’ pub!”
“At first we just jammed together on a few ‘West Coast’ tunes and then moved onto working on original material of Jess’ and Robbie’s.”
Before too long, Bronco started playing a handful of shows. On the 14th December '69 – as noted from the John Coombes diary of Kidderminster-area 'events' – Bronco played their second ever show at Franks, the old base from which The Raiders had operated. 'Their music ranged from jazz to blues and country with Jess Roden on vocals and on fine form.'
Pete Robinson – "Johnny and Kevyn moved into a farm house not far from the rehearsal hall and I quickly joined them, this really helped the band get tight.”
“I had a good friendship with Johnny both on and off stage, we worked well together, he was a great bass player.”
"Our first stab at recording was at Olympic Studios overseen by Guy Stevens and we recorded a couple of our more ‘rocky’ sounding tunes with him.”
Time Slips Away
Back to 1970 – “Guy started producing the album but our musical feelings were different so we ended up doing our own (production).
‘We had a demo of Love down on the sixteen-track and it turned out so well, we were allowed to do our own production. I did the first mix but I didn’t quite get enough quality into the recording so Island called Paul Samwell-Smith in to remix it”.
Pete Robinson – "We moved to Basing Street Studios (Island Records HQ) and set about the task of getting the first album together"
"Nearly all the first batch of song’s were Jess’ and we had thrashed these out many times at the village hall rehearsals so we were all familiar with them.”
“While 'Diga' was tape-op on the Country Home album, Jess had a lot of input on the final production.”
“Actually, I don't think that any one of us, including Richard Digby Smith (Diga) who was engineering the sessions (a first time for him also) had any idea what or how proper records were made.
‘Kevyn was also writing for that first album as was Robbie… Johnny helped out a bit on some of the heavier things but he wasn’t really a writer.
‘I didn’t know anything really about the way I was recording having just done the vocal parts with Alan Bown so, we’d sort of sit around… and play. Lots of strumming went on actually.
‘If there was going to be an acoustic guitar then I’d play that but then we realised it would create leakage so that wasn’t too good…
‘Then, one of the things that did happen is that I’d be doing a vocal as well as playing and then they’d say, ‘Ohh its leaking into the acoustic and its going to spoil it’ so it ended up where there wouldn’t be a lot of live vocal.
‘We just played and then dubbed the vocal later, sometimes same day, sometimes anything up to a month later.
‘So, because there was a lot of acoustic guitars going on, we often had to record things without a guide vocal or I’d be isolated in some booth or other going la-de-dah which I never thought was the best for the songs.
‘It was alright and you basically had to do it like that otherwise you’d be leaking all over everybody.
‘The Country Home album was pretty much recorded on the back of very few gigs and so, in my opinion, has a ‘put together in the studio’ feel to it.
‘Anyway, we ended up with about ten tunes – and Paul Samwell-Smith was bought in to polish up and finish off the record.”
Bronco, who were still playing the occasional show at the time – for example at Kidderminster College on June 18th – were then introduced to (parts of) the waiting world via the summer release of the first of the (now legendary) Island double-album samplers; Bumpers.
Disc One, side one, track two – and that song Jess was referring to – Love.
Bumpers itself was issued in various permutations around the world.
On the British release Bronco’s track is sandwiched between Traffic’s magnum opus Every Mother’s Son and Spooky Tooth’s downright grunge (before the term had ever been coined) interpretation of I Am The Walrus. Even so, on the original release the title of the Bronco (source) album and its catalogue number were wrongly listed. And, the mix used different to the final one on Country Home.
In Scandinavia, Bumpers was pared down to a single album and Love opened up proceedings on side two while in Australia and New Zealand, the track-listing differed wildly with Bronco’s song being left out entirely.
Nevertheless, that one song was the precursor for things to come because, as the leaves on the trees turned to autumnal golden, came Bronco’s first (and, indeed, only) single – Lazy Now which was released in October.
We're sad to have to remove the exclusive video that was here - which has been hacked and spread around the world - disregarding all copyrights belonging to Jess Roden and Hidden Masters.
And, for this, their first album, the band were augmented by former Alan Bown sideman Jeff Bannister who played piano on two songs as well as Clifford T. Ward who not only provided vocal back-ups on the track Home but who also co-wrote Misfit On Your Stair.
A further JR co-write was with Suzy Worth for Bumpers West, the final song on the first side of the record.
“Suzy was one of the arty ones of our gang – wrote poetry and drew things – and so she wrote lyrics for a few of my tunes.
‘CTW was a very good friend of Kevyn’s and so they occasionally wrote together.
‘When I was with the Raiders, he was known as Cliff Ward and his band were The Cruisers. They were without doubt, the best pop group in Kidderminster at the time.”
The Cruisers later became The Secrets who became popular around Birmingham as well as touring American army bases in France.
CTW recalled, “We used to work very hard, but I was the only one who was married with children. The others were able to pocket their money and have nights out in Paris while I would mail my money to my wife to enable her to pay the rent and feed the kids.
I used to walk in the forests of Fontainebleau and I remember working on Home Thoughts From Abroad on a lovely sunny day there.”
In 1968, after The Secrets disolved, CTW eventually landed up teaching Drama and English at North Bromsgrove High School where one of his pupils was Trudie Styler (otherwise and nowadays known as Mrs Sting).
In his spare time, he continued songwriting and recorded his first solo album Singer Songwriter; he signed to Dandelion – John Peel’s label and, when that fell apart, landed up on Charisma, Tony Stratton-Smith’s label also home to the likes of Audience, Van Der Graf Generator and Genesis.
“During the Bronco years he had re-emerged as Clifford T Ward and was, if I recall correctly, signed to Island Publishing or rather Blue Mountain which was Island’s Publishing company. He had one almighty hit single and a fairly successful album.”
The single was entitled Gaye (it reached number 8 in the UK) ultimately selling over a million copies. At this point, he gave up teaching but, while making only rare appearances on radio or TV, further success eluded CTW despite his songs being covered by the likes of Art Garfunkel, Judy Collins and Jack Jones.
In 1984, he was diagnosed with MS but had huge difficulty accepting his own predicament; he shunned medication, saying, “I refuse to believe that a cure can’t be found.”
During 1992, Kevyn Gammond wrote Shattered Life – a musical based on CTW that was staged at the Kidderminister College of Further Education. CTW released a further two albums but eventually died in 2001.
“The album cover was shot near Rusper on the borders of Surrey and W. Sussex at a house that Elaine and I had rented with another couple who were our good friends.
‘The house was single-story, made mainly of wood and built in a Japanese style (large picture widows and clad in bamboo) as was the garden which contained a swimming pool (drained and somewhat slimey) and a very large iron cage – we were told that it had once housed a Bear (cruel fuckers).
‘It was all set in eight acres of woodland and fronted by a lake complete with a couple of islands.
‘The house (Laudate) was owned by Peter Asher, who, at that time, had become a major record producer in LA.
‘Neil Kingsbury, (pictured right) one of our friends, was a sound recordist working in television and at that time he was working on a show called 'Nice Time' which was the first television vehicle for Kenny Everett.
‘Kenny was the previous tenant of Laudate and, kind of, passed it on to us.
1. Civil Of You Stranger (Robbie Blunt)
2. Love (Jess Roden)
3. Misfit On Your Stair (Kevyn Gammond / Clifford T Ward)
4. Bumpers West (Jess Roden / Suzy Worth)
5. Home (Jess Roden)
6. Well Anyhow (Jess Roden / Robbie Blunt / Jon Pasternak / Kevyn Gammond / Pete Robinson)
7. Time (So Long Between) (Robbie Blunt / Jess Roden)
Produced by: Jess Roden
Mixed by: Paul Samwell Smith
Label: Island ILPS 9124
Recorded and mixed at Basing Street Studios, London
(Love is a different version to that which appears on the Bumpers, double-album compilation)
Cover photography: Malcolm Macintosh (The pictures were taken at Laudate – the wooden house depicted on the front sleeve, being out there in the grounds)
JR – Vocals, Guitar, Percussion
Robbie Blunt – Guitars, Vocals
Kevyn Gammond – Guitars, Vocals
John Pasternak – Bass, Vocals
Pete Robinson – Drums, Harmonica, Vocals
With: Clifford T Ward – backing vocals (Misfit On Your Stair) and Jeff Bannister – piano (Misfit On Your Stair & Home)
Sleeve: JR & Guy Stevens
Talking Jack Humpries
We're sad to have to remove the exclusive video that was here - which has been hacked and spread around the world - disregarding all copyrights belonging to Jess Roden and Hidden Masters.
The story goes that John Lennon visited Laudate a few times – once when Derek Taylor (the Beatles PR guru) had invited him and Neil Aspinall (their roadie) over to listen to Harry Nilson’s new album.
This – according to Sylvia, the housekeeper (who lived in a caravan in the woods) – they did whilst boating on the lake illuminated by spotlights and having dropped at least a couple of tabs of acid each… before the evening’s events were curtailed somewhat by a major thunderstorm.
Apparently, paranoia then set in and the assembled company spent the remainder of the night worrying about who may or may not be hiding in the trees.
A combined obsessive level of mistrust that wasn’t exactly unfounded as one of the Great Train Robbers had, it seems, used the house as a hide-out and the boys in blue were, really, lurking locally.
“We were also told by Sylvia that John had written Bungalow Bill whilst staying at the house.
‘He may well have written bits of it there though the song is actually based around a guy in the Maharishi's meditation camp who had set up residence right next door to where the Maharishi was staying.
‘This chap would take a short break from the ashram from time to time to go and shoot a few poor tigers, then wander back to commune with God.
‘And, there was a v. nasty fellow down the dirt-track who did seem to go out 'Tiger Hunting' at the drop of a hat. So it all seemed quite plausible.
‘Be that as it may, the photos for the sleeve were shot by our friend Malcolm Macintosh in the woods surrounding the property – and the wooden hut was, well, just there in the middle of nowhere.
‘All the people in the gatefold shot were our close friends and they used to come and crash on our floor for days, and... sometimes… for weeks on end.”
With the album out, and a slew of good reviews under their collective belt, Bronco took to the road with their final show of the year being the homecoming for Jess' homeboys with a December 27th appearance at Franks in Kidderminster – an afternoon Christmas party.
As noted by John Coombes - 'a very confident Bronco entertained the capacity crowd with fine performances from dual lead guitarists Kev Gammond and Robbie Blunt and superb vocals from Jess Roden in spite of his raging toothache.
It was their first hometown appearance since the release of Country Home and also a rare opportunity to see Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant on stage where he also played the guitar'.
“I remember that day very well, and not just because it was the day before my birthday.
‘By the evening, my toothache had become so unbearable that I went to the casualty department of Birmingham Hospital (all the dentists were closed over Christmas).
‘Anyway, the hospital couldn’t really help but they did give me some painkiller of one type or another.
‘Elaine then drove me back to Laudate where we were to have a party the next day. Thankfully, a dentist in Dorking was open on the Monday morning because, by now, I’m delerious with pain.
‘No messing, the dentist ripped the malfunctioning molar straight out of my jaw.
‘The party was a bit of a damp S for me – I think I slept through most of it and when I was awake, I listened to Laura Nyro albums – so, not really in a dancing mood!”
Time, of course, is the healer of all things and there were more gigs to play and songs to record.
ALAN STONE – (Roadie, pictured, left) recalls his accepting the Bronco shilling:
“I had a blue Commer van for my market work which I really enjoyed driving. Over time, I changed this to an old dark blue Ford Transit. This made me a very popular (!) and I became friends with all the local groups due to the fact I could transport their equipment here and there; even so, I soon learnt to ask for petrol money up front.”
“By virtue of my having a van, my brother Derrick and I slowly got ourselves involved with the local music scene which, at that time, revolved around people like Robert Plant, Roy Harper and a childhood friend of mine, Robbie Blunt; Bert Plant even paid me in imported Buffalo Springfield albums. And, of course, this small circle also included Jess, Johnny Pasternak and Kevyn Gammond.”
“There were many others we met who became really well known – for instance, when Bronco were starting out, we went up to the Limelight Club in Birmingham to see the Alan Bown Set who, by then, had Robert Palmer singing with them. Robert came back home to sleep at our house in Kidderminster saying he had no money. Mum made a fuss of him, gave him breakfast and… he just left.”
“It was 5 days after Christmas 1970 when the members of Bronco approached me to work for them – they had just sacked their roadie Nigel due to him smashing up their white, long wheel-based, Transit. Johnny Pasternak sweet-talked me and glorified the job very much.”
“I was so glad he did – plus, it got me out of the Steel Mill where I was working.”
“So… on January 3rd 1971 I found myself at the Island Records studios in Basing Street, London; it was 6-30 a.m. I had left Wolverley in the early hours of that Monday morning and, as I drove South, I kept saying to myself… ‘Sod the Steel Works’ because, miles away back in Cookley, Mr Wall the Steel Stampings foreman would be having another one of his outbursts.”
“Although I was only about 5 months on the road with Bronco it seemed like years. We’d be in Sunderland one night, Folkestone the next and then Dusseldorf for a few days. We went to Germany – both East and West as it was in those days via Check Point Charlie and in to the American zone; we played in France, Denmark, Norway, Belgium – this was on a tour organised by Island which featured us with several of their bands: Free, Traffic, Spooky Tooth, John Martyn and others.”
“We also played many times in Holland where the group had a good fan base. The Paridiso Club in Amsterdam (right) was very much a favourite and Jess was very well received there.”
The Paradiso can rightly claim to be one of the legendary venues in Amsterdam along with the nearby Melkweg (Milky Way). Since opening in 1968, it has been housed in a former Church building (dating from the mid nineteen-hundreds) and there are three church windows set high above the stage area.
The Paradiso is also one of those venues that appears on pretty much every band’s tour schedule at some point or other – you name ‘em, they’ve almost certainly trodden the boards there; indeed Keith Richards is widely quoted as saying the best-ever Stones’ performances were at… The Paradiso.
JR- ‘Bronco had three principal writers and also combinations of the three with other writers and so, it’s not too difficult to fathom why there was always plenty of material to be recorded.
‘Robbie didn’t write a great deal of stuff but what he did write was, in my opinion, good quality.
‘Ace of Sunlight benefitted from coming on the back of a few weeks solid gigging and, with a couple of exceptions, has a more ‘group playing’ feel to it.
‘The Ace Of Sunlight pictures were also shot by 'Mac' at Laudate. I think that he actually carved the name into the log with a Swiss Army knife.
‘When the cover image was chosen (by Muff Winwood – who was kind of, our-man-at-Island, for a bit) I really hated it!
‘It was a very diverse record, very hard to channel all of the rapidly-expanding creative energies (something to do with brown lumps and green leaves I expect) within the group – hit & miss I guess.”
However, despite a wealth of touring to coincide with the album's release, it was also the precursor to the end of the road for Bronco.
From being Alan Bown’s driver-cum-roadie, Bob Pridden has played an integral role with The Who for over forty years; not just as their principal front of house sound engineer but also as producer in his own right – the live album that emanated from Eric Clapton's comeback show at London's Rainbow Theatre in 1973 being one such.
At Live Aid he mixed f.o.h. sound for The Who, Paul McCartney and David Bowie while other key Who performances that he has mixed include Woodstock, The Super Bowl and The Monterey Festival.
Bob is also widely acknowledged to have invented something now taken for granted at any live show – big or small: on-stage monitors (wedges) when, during the late 1960's he requested a set of slanted speaker enclosures placed directly in front of the band in order that they could hear themselves – and each other.
“BP and I are lifelong best friends (his mum took me in as a lodger when I moved to London with ABS).
‘We used to hang out at Traffic's and Kellie's and also, there was a couple called Helen and Patrick who lived in Blewbury where we often congregated. They, of course, were older than all of us – they had two boys.
Trevor Burton and Ace Kefford used to hang with us too and much reefer was consumed together with some of that ghastly stuff that Dr T. Leary and Mr K. Kesey used say was v. good for one.
The tall and lanky Mike Kellie was, at that point in time, drummer with Spooky Tooth who were all holed up near Theale at an out of the way hideaway – Woolwich Green Farm.
This was an old Tudor farmhouse that was surrounded by a manmade lake that Chris Blackwell had bought at auction after spotting it one day while driving with producer John Gilbert.
One of the outside barns was set up for music – in much the same manner to Traffic’s remote (now mythical) Berkshire cottage high up on the downs and only accessible via a long (and often axle-deep) muddy track out of near-by Aston Tirrold.
In similar style, the Traffic cottage had its frontal area concreted as a make-shift stage and, over time, both houses witnessed many creative nights with a huge variety of musicians bowling up and jamming or recording into and through the night.
Arc of Sunlight
1. Amber Moon (Jess Roden / Suzy Worth)
2. Time Slips Away (Robbie Blunt)
3. Some Uncertainty (Kevyn Gammond / Clifford T Ward)
4.Woman (Kevyn Gammond / Clifford T Ward)
5.New Day Avenue (Jess Roden / Suzy Worth)
6.Discernible (Kevyn Gammond / Clifford T Ward)
7.Sudden Street (Jess Roden)
8.Joys & Fears (Jess Roden / Suzy Worth)
JR – Vocals, Guitar & Percussion
Robbie Blunt – Guitar, Vocals
Kevyn Gammond – Guitar, Vocals
John Pasternak – Bass
Pete Robinson - Drumsrs (Jess Roden / Suzy Worth)
Mick Ralphs – Piano - Amber Moon
Ian Hunter – Hammond Organ - Amber Moon
Terry Allen - Hammond Organ (Discernible)
Paul Bennett - Backing vocals (Sudden Street & Time Slips Away)
Paul Davenport - Piano (Some Uncertainty)
Trevor Lucas - Backing vocals (Time Slips Away)
Produced by: Bronco & Richard Digby Smith
Label: Island ILPS 9161
Recorded and mixed at Basing Street Studios, London.
Cover photography: Malcolm Macintosh (similar to Country Home, the sleeve images were shot in and around Laudate).
Sleeve; Annie Sullivan & Bronco
The version of Sudden Street is different to that to be found on El Pea (on which it was originally released); here, the track is about a minute longer.
For Bronco, their onward and upward momentum stuttered to something of a halt for quite a few weeks whilst everyone got well again.
Dates in Holland followed – with Johnny Pasternak still heavily strapped up and playing bass propped against an old fashioned bar-stool. But, it wasn't just European shows that were on the calendar – the long flight to the West Coast beckoned.
“So... off we very excitedely went.
‘For the first couple of weeks we stayed at the Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard and, I think, we must have played four or five nights at the Whisky on Sunset Strip.
‘We were pretty good, but also, a bit small time for LA so not much attention was paid to us.
‘Still, we had time to look around all the Hollywood sights. Plus, from our base at the Tropicana, we played gigs at Huntingdon Beach (a big surfer-dude hang-out).
‘And, we did Long Beach and San Diego before heading north toward San Francisco.
‘On the way, we played at Palo Alto and Santa Barbara – those were both really good shows, Santa Barbara was a fantastic party with everyone dancing wildly but Palo Alto was the complete opposite.
‘The venue was full of Vietnam Vets – the smell of grass heavy in the air and they sat and soaked our music up and were really appreciative.
‘Eventually, we got to look around San Frasncisco, ride the tram, took in Haight Ashbury and Market Street and sought out the places where the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service had been.
‘We played a gig at Berkeley University and were due to play another but somehow it got cancelled.”
ROBBI BLUNT - “That was a bit of a disaster too, hanging out in L.A at the Tropicana Motel, playing poxy gigs in L.A. and San Francisco. That also contributed to our demise.” (speaking to the Wolverhampton Express and Star’s John Ogden many years later).
He went on to recall: “But, I did get to see The Allman Brothers play – and that was a revelation to me, I started to play slide guitar after that.”
Far from home, pretty much broke and... disillusionment set in...
JR- “It was a Saturday night and we had very little money and nothing to do but sit around in our motel rooms.
‘Bronco was not a group that took alcohol but for some bizarre reason, we decided to go to the liquor store and buy ourselves a bottle each.
‘Not knowing anything about liquor, I chose Southern Comfort.
‘That was the last time I ever drank that stuff (not its fault – mine!). We were all in pretty rotten shape the next day and then, we flew back to England.”
In fact, the band returned to the UK and played a number of number of shows in the November with the likes of John Martyn; at Wembley Empire Pool with Led Zeppelin and Stone The Crows as well as London's Rainbow Theatre – a benefit concert in aid of the Glastonbury Fayre (now, of course, the world-renowned Glastonbury Festival) on a bill including Bridget St John and Formerly Fat Harry. After a short break over Christmas, the band were on the road again.
By the end of January they were out with Island stable mates Free, Mott The Hoople, John Martryn and Claire Hammill.
DICK HAYES – “I did the Island ‘package tour’ when I’d got over the accident.”
“We were supporting Mott mostly, and John Martyn was on the bill as well while Free also played some of the shows. I recall that the headline act swopped around a bit.”
“After that tour I ‘retired’ but Richie from Mott called me about two months later asking if I would join them as their soundman. I told him that I had quit so he asked me to at least think about it overnight. It was all of 15 mins before I was back on the phone to say YES please!
And, as Jess remembers,
“That was pretty much it – and, it really feels to me, like Bronco just dissolved.”
Pretty much concurrent with Jess' spring departure, Robbie Blunt also jumped ship.
Nevertheless, Kevyn Gammond, Johnny Pasternak and Pete Robinson remained as the nucleus of the band and Bronco (mark 2) also comprising Dan Fone (vocals / guitar) and being re-united with Paul Lockey (guitar – taking Robbie Blunt’s role) – went on to make one final album.
For the album sessions they were augmented Clifford T Ward (backing vocals) and Simon Lanzon (keyboards).
And the album – Smoking Mixture – was issued by Polydor the following year, 1973.
The album was released on red vinyl (at the start of the vogue for such things) inside a 'book of matches' gatefold sleeve.
The band plodded on and gigged sporadically and, eventually, played its final show at Manchester Polytechnic with Jack The Lad (an offshoot of Lindisfarne) on November 24th of that year.
There is, however, a sad coda to the Bronco tale; John Pasternak died of a heart attack on September 23rd 1986 whilst out riding his bike in Kidderminster.
At the time he was involved with a local band, Pictures In The Dark Room and had set up Zone To Zone Records.
Mourners at his funeral, at St Johns, included Robbie Blunt and Robert Plant – the latter leading an all-star tribute concert at Stourport Civic Hall, scene of a number of early Shakedown Sound gigs, in his memory during December of that year.
“Thankfully, I wasn’t in the van with the other guys – I had travelled to the gig in Bristol from Berkshire with Bob Pridden and Mike Kellie.
‘The rest of the band, together with Sound Engineer, Dick Hayes and Road Manager, Alan Stone, had travelled from Kevyn and Johnny’s place, Baynhams Farm in Arley, Worcestershire. I don’t recall how that gig in Bristol went. But, afterwards we sat around for while and then simply headed off... back to to our respective bases.
‘The first I knew about the accident was in the early hours of the Sunday morning. Perhaps it was Kevyn but, I don’t remember who called me, and the news was not good.
‘Dick was driving and Alan and Pete Robinson had been in the seats alongside.
‘All three of them were pretty badly injured and together with Johnny Pasternak (who had suffered a broken leg), were all in Cheltenham Hospital.
‘Elaine and I drove to Cheltenham to see them and we were massively relieved to find them all conscious and although very badly injured, they were all alive!
‘What had happened? A truck had broken down in the middle lane of the east-bound M5 – there were no lights and tragically, the bands’ van just ploughed into it.
‘Perhaps there was one thing that saved everyone’s life – the broken down truck was full to capacity with clothing.”
John Pasternak and Pete Robinson were released from hospital after a day while Alan and Dick remained in hospital for considerably longer.
ALAN STONE – “Bronco were really going from strength to strength and it felt like we were going to be the “next best thing “as Charles Shaar Murray wrote in the Melody Maker. Until… it all got cut cruelly short by the terrible accident on the M5 near Tewkesbury at 3 o’clock in the morning of the 2nd of May.”
“Dick and I had only just swapped over driving some five minutes before. We had played at Bristol University and had been up in Middlesborough the night before. The accident was about 12 days before we were all due to fly off to Japan for several dates and then go onto Australia followed by a 16 date tour of the U.S.A. My passport had the visas already in it and I was so excited about this World tour.”
DICK HAYES – “I actually only worked with Jess and Bronco for about four months beginning in ’71 up until the accident although he was the first ‘Pop Star’ that I met – that was when he was still with Alan Bown.
Before that, I’d worked with The Who from June ’69, but had become a bit frustrated ‘cos Bob Pridden wouldn’t / couldn’t explain why he was doing certain things with the sound desk and so a few months after Jess formed Bronco he offered me the job of soundman / collector of funds.”
ALAN STONE – “We made it a rule to tell each other if we were tired when driving so it was even more ironic that, six years later, when the driver of the lorry we hit finally admitted it was he who had fallen asleep at the wheel, crashing across our path from the other side of the carriageway. In 1971, there were no central crash barriers on that part of the M5.”
“We collided with the lorry – which was sideways on to us – at between 50 to 60 miles per hour and the impact made the equipment in the rear of our van shoot forward doing further damage to us all. I must have been wedged between the equipment, seats and the hot engine that, on impact, had been pushed into the van because it took several of the Firemen some time to free Dick and I from the wreckage.”
“We were taken to Cheltenham Hospital. When I came round, I found I’d broken my right thigh-bone in five places, the front of my legs were burnt, I had glass in my eyes and imbedded in my head along with broken ribs. And I was seriously bruised just about everywhere else.”
“Dick and I became a well known couple (!) to the staff and other patients at the hospital; I was flat on my back in bed for about eight weeks – my leg was held together with several plates and screws and I was on traction with a bolt through my knee.”
“Friends from the industry in London came to see us and fixed up something so we could play / listen to music while I learned to walk again during what seemed like an endless routine of getting washed (which took about an hour), waiting for meals, playing cards and physiotherapy.”
Dick was eventually moved to a hospital in Middlesex and, while there were plans made to transfer Alan to Kidderminster Hospital, they never came off.
ALAN STONE – “It must have been towards the end of 1971 when I finally went home (to my parents) yet, all the while I was in the hospital in Cheltenham recovering and learning to walk again all I ever seemed to hear on the radio was the song ‘A Horse With No Name’ by America.”
"To me, it was like rubbing salt in the wounds as it should have been Bronco playing on the radio but… that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
JR- “Dick had one of his hips badly smashed up, underwent several operations and would be off the road for the forseeable future.
‘After some months of recuperation, he re-joined us – but only after we did those shows in Europe which were followed by that stint out on the West Coast of America.”
Englands Answer to "The Grateful Dead"
On The Road and in The Studio
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