AUTHENTICS on Marquee 1964/65
John Williams,-Vocalist and bass,- Berne guitar/vocals,- Stuart Collins'- drums and Mike O'niel,- Keyboards;- on the Marquee 1965 . Later joined by Dutch(Nigel Reevely Mills on Harmonica
LINK TO BERNE'S AUDIO TRACKS
Berne Williams’ Marquee Memories – Part 1
Berne Williams was the guitarist in the Authentics, a band that is all but forgotten now, but was very popular amongst the "Marquee" and "Crawdaddy "clubs crowd in the early Sixties. He went on to have a career as a graphic artist and is currently setting up an Authentics website. He is on the look-out for old Authentics pictures and memorabilia, so please get in touch if you have anything!
Unfortunately, The Authentics are a bit of a ‘lost band’, mainly because our manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, just didn’t like us! His partner, Hamish Grimes, discovered us playing at the Scene Club one Friday night,standing in for the "Animals" while Giorgio was on holiday and signed us up immediately as resident band to support their star signing group "the Yardbirds" at the Marquee. they had just started their Friday night residency there and they were desperate for a good blues support group.After which we were their support band for all but one of their Marquee Friday night gigs through 64 & 65 until Eric Clapton left the band.
The Authentics all came from Bedford. It was just myself on lead guitar and support vocals, my brother John on bass guitar and lead vocals, and our drummer called Stewart Collins, We started off at a church youth club. It was very strange, because we performed the youth club on the Thursday night and on the Saturday night, we played at a really wild American bar in the High Street, the Silver Grill, where all the Americans from the local air base went. It was a bit like the Blues Brothers; they had bouncers walking up and down with baseball bats, and if the audience didn’t like you, they threw things at you!
From there, we played a little basement club called the Ready Steady Go Club, off Soho Square. Somebody from the Scene club came down to see us there and booked us for that Friday night and the next one, and that’s where Hamish Grimes saw us and booked us to play with the "Yardbirds" at the "Marquee Club" every friday night. So we went from performing in Bedford to the West End in three or four weeks.
We arrived at the Marquee about lunchtime to set up and soundcheck, and were met by John Gee, the club manager, who showed us around. The club looked very seedy and shabby with all the lights on and daylight streaming through the doors.
We set up our gear and while we ran through some of our numbers, loads of interesting people came in and watched; among them, Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and a very young Dana Gillespie. Then the Yardbirds arrived to set up and we went over the road to the Intrepid Fox pub for a few pints.
When we came back, there was a long queue at the door, the lights were down and the club was already packed. There was an incredible atmosphere; the ambience was electric - really exciting.
We played a really good set, mainly because the audience was so fantastic and supportive. The Marquee was a fantastic gig, unlike any other place. The mainly mod audience was always so enthusiastic and there were some incredible dancers. Although the audience were mostly mods, there were also long-haired hippies and art students and tourists, but everyone got along really well - I don't remember there ever being any trouble at the club.
Berne Williams’ Memories, Part 2
From 1964 to 1965, we were in The Marquee every Friday night for about a year. During that time, the Wednesday night was Long John Baldry with Rod Stewart, which was a big draw, and at the same time, Georgie Fame and Chris Farlowe were on at The Flamingo. That seemed to be the year when all the magic happened.
At the time, we were the in group for people in the know. A lot of Friday night people came to see us and not the Yardbirds, because the Yardbirds were a bit too hyped – not that we were any better, but we were more of a blues band than the Yardbirds.
We supported the Moody Blues on their first appearance at the Marquee and the same with the Who, because they’d opened for us, when they were still called the High Numbers, a couple of times before at Greenwich Town Hall and then they suddenly rocketed to fame, so they asked us to support them at the Marquee.
While we were doing the Friday nights at the Marquee with The Yardbirds, we also played at the Croydon Crawdaddy on the Saturday. Julie Driscoll, who went on to have a big hit single, ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’, with the Brian Augur Trinity, used to take the money on the door for us and she sang with us a few times as well. Eventually, we did the Richmond Crawdaddy as well, on a Thursday I think., and we played a lot of the other London clubs like the Harrow Railway. We also supported The Rolling Stones at the Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival in 1964.
It was an amazing time and Soho was a great place to be. There was a little Italian café just off Wardour Street where they did a mushroom omelette for 3 shillings and 9 pence [approximately 19p] and we were all broke, so you could go in there on a lunchtime and you’d see Rod Stewart, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck… And it was the same with the Intrepid Fox, the pub just across the road from the Marquee.
It was me that actually introduced Jimmy Page to the Yardbirds. Before we played at the Crawdaddy one Saturday night, Jimmy and I were wandering round the guitar shops and then he came onstage to play harmonica for us – that happened a couple of times, actually. Giorgio Gomelsky got to hear about it and when Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds, he said, “You know Jimmy Page, don’t you? Could you bring him down, because we’d like to talk to him?” So I got hold of Jimmy and we went to the Marquee on a Wednesday afternoon, which I’ll always remember because Howlin’ Wolf was rehearsing there and while Jimmy Page went off with Giorgio to talk about the Yardbirds, Howlin’ Wolf and I demolished a bottle of Scotch! Eventually, Jimmy turned the Yardbirds down, but he introduced them to Jeff Beck, who was a big mate, and then of course Jeff Beck brought Jimmy Page into the band and that was the start of Led Zeppelin.
Berne Williams’ Memories, Part 3
At the time, nobody ever thought that pop music was going to become what it now is. Because it was a bit radical and it was kids who liked it, all of the rock/blues musicians thought that by the time we were thirty, it would be over, we’d be back in ordinary jobs and music would have gone back to people like Lita Rosa and Max Bygraves! If you’d told some of them that in twenty years, they’d be a multimillionaire and a world star, they’d have laughed at you.
Very often the topic of conversation when we got together was what we were going to do when it was all over. People would say things like, “Well, I’ve got an apprenticeship, so I’ll be alright - I’ll just go back to plumbing”!
Things were changing so dramatically, at that time you couldn’t envisage what was going to happen in your wildest dreams, because some artists then were very well off, but they tended to be very middle of the road, and musicians in bands just didn’t suddenly become multimillionaires.
The UK went from austerity to absolutely wild outrageous extravagance in two or three years. In 1959, when I started Art school it was still just after the war and there was little in the shops. We had to slog around to Dobells [early specialist record store] and places like that to get cheap American import records. All the merchant seamen would come into England with armfuls of LP’s and sell them to places like Dobells, so that was the only place we could ever get records by people like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. It just wasn’t possible to go into a shop and say, “I want a blues record”, because they wouldn’t have known what you were talking about.
Berne Williams’ Memories, Part 4
The Authentics were always fighting a losing battle, because Giorgio Gomelsky simply didn’t like us. We even got to the point where Jackie DeShannon, whose song ‘Needles And Pins’ had just been a No. 1 hit single for the Searchers, wrote a single for us and co-produced it with Jimmy Page, but Giorgio never did anything with it, because he wanted her to write for the Yardbirds. Even when those two tracks appeared on Jimmy Page’s ‘Back Pages’ CD a few years ago, they acknowledged the band as being run by Mike O’Neil, who was a very temporary pianist we’d had!
My brother John started writing folky material as the flower power thing came in. We left Giorgio and Ricki Farr, the brother of Gary Farr and promoter of the Isle Of Wight Festival, took us over, but it didn’t really gel and nothing really happened.
We started playing for Rik Gunnell at the Flamingo and by then, my brother had written a lot of songs, so Andrew Oldham took us on. My brother wrote and recorded a double album called THE MAUREENY WISHFULL ALBUM ( still availlable on the web , directly from John Williams ) for Immediate Records, but Andrew Oldham disappeared with the master tapes!
John eventually got one of the master tapes back and pressed it himself, and it’s now a collectable item, because Jimmy Page, and all the good session artists of the time are on it. The master tape of the other album, which I’m playing on, was unfortunately never recovered.
But I was still heavily into blues and as music got more and more pop I lost interest. Eventually, I became so disillusioned with the music business, I got out of it and went back to Art,- book illustration and graphic design, which is what I’ve done for many years until I moved to France.
I still illustrate and produce characters for animation for an American company and I am in the process of building a website for the Authentics. I’ve got a blues band in France now which is very popular and we hope to produce a CD and sell that through the new website.
At the moment, the band is called Blues Zone, but we’re thinking of reverting back to the Authentics’ name – it would bring things round full-circle.