Thursday, November 7, 2013

Colin Richardson Interview Part 1 (Manager of Colosseum and Much More)


Colin Richardson was the Bron Agency representative through
whom the Lanchester Arts Festival booked many of its bands - including Colosseum (who Colin Managed), Jack Bruce and friends / New Jazz Orchestra / Monty Python's Flying Circus / Edwin Hawkin Singers / Ivor Cutler and more.

Colin Richardson got in contact with Hobo after seeing the original article on the Lanch Festival to give me some background. Along the way I became aware of his long standing role in the music business from   the early 60's onwards and decided to interview him. This interview originally appeared on the old Hobo Vox / Typepad blog.

Colin has been a Jazz club manager, bass player/band leader, night-manager at the Marquee club, London. Agency booker. Artist management for Colosseum and a Music journalist. His insights into the music business, his stories and his background information to Coventry's major arts festival in the 1970's are quite amazing - 

In an exclusive interview with Trev Teasdel for HOBO Colin describes his life and career in the music business.


Colin, You were born on 31st December 1936 in South-East London. What were the significant musical influences on you when you were growing up?

The first 2 records I bought (in 1952!!) were was Jelly Roll Morton's Dead Man Blues b/w
Sidewalk Blues the other was a Humphrey Lyttelton record, but I can't recall what the tracks were. I played them on a 'wind-up' gram! Gaaad, that dates me! Then, I got into Earl Bostic for a bit... I liked his version of Flamingo. Later that year I joined the Merchant Navy, so my listening was confined to shortwave radio for the next couple of years...though I do recall buying a 10" LP of Stan Getz in Montreal (even though I had nothing to play it on at the time!). That would have been late '53 on my last trip before quitting. After a short spell, in 'civvy street' I had to do my "National Service, as conscription was still in I joined the RAF (1956) and was posted to Germany. There I bought quite a few LPs from the American Forces shop...Errol Garner, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Shorty Rogers etc.

A lot of your career was spent promoting, booking and managing other bands. Tell us first about yourself as a musician. You played Double bass. How did your own musical career begin.

I suppose the earliest musical attempts were at age 13 when I started to learn classical piano. I wasn't exactly gifted and nothing came easy to me. Hated practicing, so the omens weren't good and I threw the towel in after less than a year (something I naturally regretted later). I fooled around with a guitar while in the MN...and trumpet in the RAF. No tuition whatsoever..just picking out tunes myself...I remember attempting "Someone to watch over me" at one point. I didn't persevere with either and didn't make much progress. Then later, (must have been early 60s by now) to further my 'career' in office management I had taken evening classes for 2 or 3 years. To take a break from these studies, I signed up for a course in jazz
and blues at Goldsmith's College in South East London tutored by an eccentric trumpet/trombone/bandleader guy, name of Owen Bryce
He claimed to be "Britain's First Jazz Trumpeter" and his instrument case proclaimed this in large red and yellow letters! The plan was to play piano on the course and I did start out thus, but there were 3 other guys who played piano, so for 3/4 of the 2 hour session, I just sat and watched. After a couple of weeks, Owen arrives schlepping a somewhat battered double bass, with 2 of the 4 strings missing and asked if anyone could play it. No-one put their hand up, so he then asked if anyone wanted to play it. I figured that, rather than sitting and watching, I would have a go on this large and slightly daunting instrument! So I stuck my hand up...marched up to the bandstand and commenced plucking! I'd like to say it was love at first 'pluck', but that might be exaggerating..though I certainly enjoyed my first attempts at providing rhythm for the other instruments. I subsequently took the bass home, got a new set of strings for it, bought a tutorial book and...and off I went !

I practised quite a bit...took a couple of lessons from Joe Muddel (well-know bass player at the time, who lived quite near to me) and at some point, Owen Bryce asked if I'd like to 'dep' for his regular bass player next Saturday at the Moat Hotel Wrotham? My first gig...and it paid £3! (not a bad sum at the time!). I had to borrow a tux (from my next door neighbour). The band played what was known as 'mainstream jazz', slightly watered down for a dinner dance crowd. From time to time, this offer was repeated and eventually I was playing more often than the 'regular' guy so, by default, the job was mine. Neither of my parents were at all musical...other than playing the odd 78 record of 30s'40s songs. I do remember "Pedro, the fisherman...was always whistling"!!! Now there's a "scoop"!!! Hold the front page!

Other than that, I don't recollect being all that aware of what was going on musically. Mostly I went to the cinema...or very occasionally, a local variety show. As a teenager, I heard all the current pop songs on the radio...Johnny Ray, Guy Mitchell, Rosemary Clooney, Pat Boon...all very "schlocky" (except Rosemary Clooney...a much underrated singer). trying to think of the first 'live' band performance I saw....pretty sure that would have been the Jack Parnell Big Band in Streatham, some time in 1952, I think, when I lived in Streatham prior to joining the MN.

Most of my leisure time was devoted to ice-skating at that time...I was a fanatical, if not always upright, speed skater!...5 nights a week!

3. What kind of music did you play and who with and where?
Later, when working in the music biz...I kind of formed my own band (the "Cole Richards Combo"!!!..this name was suggested by Dave Gelly, the tenor player from the NJO (New Jazz Orchestra) and a long time friend. This band played a kind of "cabaret/night-club jazz for dancing," for quite reasonable fees, at colleges and other commercial gigs...and, with some line-up modification, out and out modern jazz (for little or no money!) in jazz clubs (Ronnie Scott's "Old Place", the Marquee etc.) and even the odd BBC radio prog like Sounds of the 70s.!

4. Any highlights / stories around your own musical activity?
...quite a few, some even printable!

My 'career' as a musician/bandleader was never going to lead to anything remarkable..I played mainly for enjoyment and was fortunate to have around me some highly talented up-and-coming local musicians like Jon Hiseman (at that time still a semi-pro drummer, whilst holding down a day job at ICI!) and Dave Gelly (tenor sax) later to become an established author and journalist (jazz critic for the "Observer")...Art Themen (who had been at Cambridge with Dave) and was usually the other front line instrument with the New Jazz Quintet (the version of my band that played the jazz gigs)).

Some of the slightly more notable occasions include: backing Champion Jack Dupree at the Chelsea College of Technology...we had to be on our Jack would sometimes decide that the 12 bar blues he was playing would be improved with the addition of an extra bar or two!

Other highlights would be...a recording session for Jean Hart, an american singer who worked with my band at the time. She was Bill Oddie's girlfriend (and was the original conduit to Eric Idle and the Python booking coup!) She seemed to be connected to quite a few 'high-flying' celebs, including Richard Rodney Bennett...who she somehow roped in on piano to record some songs for a demo. Dave G and Jon H were also on the session...but where the tapes went is anybody's guess. Dave recently told me he did have a tape of the session, at one time, but had no idea whether it was still around. Shame...I'd love to have a copy.



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