Sixties Pop and
St. Brendan's

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Former St. Brendan's pupil, Dave Clark (no relation to he of the Dave Clark 5) formed a pop group, The Renegades, back in the 1960's. The photograph was taken on the stage at St. Brendan's.

From left to right: Paul Burchill, Phil Sampson, Derek Williams and Dave Clark.

Here's Dave's story:

"There's a bit of a story attached to the birth of The Renegades. It all started with Phil Sampson jumping off the school coach as it arrived at Backwell. At this point in time there wasn't even a hint of a band in the air. Phil was just another one of a social group including me, who met on the school bus most evenings. I'm guessing that this must have been around about 1958-59.

In those days the folding doors of coaches were at the bidding of whoever was standing on the steps waiting to get off. They hadn't developed "remote control" for them yet.

The coach was approaching it's normal stopping place for Phil's stop. He had opened the doors, and was poised to jump off as the coach slowed down. 99 times out of a hundred, he would have managed it without a problem, but on this occasion he stumbled on landing and rolled off the kerb under the back wheel of the coach, crushing his pelvis.

Ambulance was called, Phil was whisked off to hospital, we all wrung our hands and expressed our concern, sending messages of sympathy to his family. His father, who was a doctor, took a more pragmatic approach and said "Serve him right!! Stupid thing to do"!! I feel sure he was feeling just a bit of paternal concern at the events.

The story moves on!

Phil came out of hospital, and was confined to bed at home. Word got around that he was bored out of his trolley, and close friends from Backwell took to visiting him on a Saturday. Eventually not-so-close friends were also encouraged to visit, and it was on one of these occasions that I turned up on a wet Saturday, having cycled three miles from Cleeve.

It was on this particular Saturday, that I discovered that Phil had a guitar, but was not particularly enthusiastic about playing it. I had been playing for about three years at that point, and was able to pick up Phil's instrument and play Apache (Shadows), and Guitar Boogie Shuffle (Bert Weedon) albeit a bit hesitant!!

On the next visit I took my guitar along, and someone else played Phil's instrument. I think that by this time Phil was banging out a rhythm on a box with wooden spoons or some similar; still confined to bed with a plaster cast shrouding his whole waist and abdomen!

The details from here on become a bit vague, but eventually Phil emerged from his cocoon, and started walking. It was then that he revealed that his father had a barn/garage attached to the house, and that it had a large loft area. It was a great place for a band to practice.

As time progressed we had recruited two more "musicians"(?) and some singers. Paul Burchill appeared, and was found to be very good on the guitar. His father had made him an electric one, but we didn't have any amplifiers at that time. Barry Vowles (Chickuns) was co-opted to play bass guitar, but he knew nothing about playing guitar, and didn't even have one.

Geoff Halls (Also of St. Brendans) and Alec Rich (Cathedral School) fancied their chances as singers, so that by now we had an embryo band, but very little by way of hardware.

Somehow, over the course of the next few months bits of hardware came together.

My first instrument was a "Spanish" style acoustic guitar constructed by my father and I from a "Hobbies" kit which I had received a couple of Christmases back. Having been closely involved in things like fitting frets, and attaching the other bits, I fancied my chances at building an electric guitar. The trouble was, that the only plans I had to go on, were images from memory of Buddy Holly's Fender Stratocaster, and guitars played by Bert Weedon, Duane Eddy, and others. The features which stood out were the obvious "horns" on the body, cut-aways, and a long (or so I thought) neck. I plumped for a design which I thought I could build. It had a single cutaway, hollow body, no sound holes, two pickups and a long neck! I drew it full scale on the back of a bit of wallpaper, and that next weekend rounded up some bits of plywood and started to cut out the body shape. I managed to obtain a lump of beech wood from which to carve out the neck.

The final result some months later was a guitar-looking contraption, but which was almost unplayable. The neck; being long, meant that the strings had to be tensioned almost to breaking point to be at the right pitch. I was getting through strings at an alarming rate, at great expense, and couln't figure out why, until I talked to the physics master (Bro. Rock?) at school. Hmmmm!!! No easy way to overcome that problem! Back to the drawing board!!

My next attempt had a shorter neck, but retained most of my "essential features"! By dint of a bit of carelessness with the chisel and spokeshave, the neck ended up much narrower than one would expect, but nevertheless it was playable. I could actually span three strings with one fat fingertip!!! I took it into the guitar technician (Graham Jones) at Browns Music Shop in Bristol to show him one day. His look said it all when he tried to play it!!

I developed some unusual chord changes with this instrument. It was this guitar which was "current" at the time life was being breathed into the band. At this time, we didn't have a name.

Based on my experience to this point, I volunteered to build a bass guitar for Barry Vowles. This took another two or three months, but at the same time a gang of us were meeting regularly in Phil's barn, and gradually developing a repetoir of songs. Twenty Flight Rock by Cliff & the Shadow, Bad Boy (Marty Wilde), Heartbeat (Buddy Holly) and various other current hits which we could manage. We were also building up a fan base by this time, and Saturday afternoons and evenings were rapidly becoming gatherings of twenty or so in the barn. The fans even started to decorate it with posters, and other "pop" paraphenalia!

I should add at this point that Phil was by now walking, and almost back to his normal activity, including playing for St. Brendans 2nd Rugby XV!!! He had by now confirmed himself as the drummer for "The Band" and had gathered a few bits and pieces of a drum kit - cymbals, hi-hat, snare drum, bass drum pedal - but no bass drum yet!! He was using an old lawn-mower grass box in this role!!

We were now feeling confident enough to put on a performance, and the word was passed via the fan base that all comers would be welcome on the following Saturday evening.

There was no heat in the barn, and on frosty nights, it was almost impossible to play a guitar with frozen fingers! I have memories of trying to play on several Saturday nights, but eventually just giving up defeated by the weather.

Our early amplifiers were old radiograms with inputs for record players. They were just about loud enough, but looking back, it's a b*****y miracle we weren't electrocuted!! I was looked upon as the "techie" of the band, but I certainly had no real experience of mains electricity, only of wiring up transistor circuits using 6volt batteries!! Somehow, by the grace of God we survived, but there were one or two near misses along the way.

Eventually we had accumulated enough kit to contemplate venturing beyond the comfort of Phil's barn, but someone decided that we needed a manager!!

Alan Bailey - one of our social group - was "entreprenurial" and had already dabbled in one or two ventures! He also had a car! Essential for doing gigs away from the barn!!

One of his first attempts at managing us was to arrange for us to play at the local youth club Christmas party. The only problem was, we were expected to pay to get in!!! At the time, my "black & white" perception of fairness thought that that was unfair!! In the end, we did the gig but were not included in the party. Neither did we get paid!! What sort of an arrangement was that?

Arising from that, there were feelings of uneasiness about Alan's management, and he decided that he didn't want to manage us after all. He did however refer his cousin Brian to us, and somehow after that, things seemed to 'gel' and work in a much more transparent way.

At this point in time, we still didn't have a name for the band. Barry, in his infinite wisdom had suggested "Egger Follop & his Local Yokels" but somehow this didn't fit in with the fashion for slick "streamlined" names like Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs, or Dale Rivers and the Ramrods.

We actually turned up at a gig still without a name, and the organiser came up with "Mick Carson & The Renegades" as a suggestion, and because time was short, that was how we were introduced. It stuck ever since!

Brian (White) our new manager, turned out to be a gem!! He found us gigs all over the place, from Berkley Town Hall (At the time the nuclear power station was being built just down the road), to Glastonbury Town Hall, to the Victoria Rooms in Bristol where we appeared with Mike Sarne ("Come outside") to a whole host of places including The Glen on the downs, various youth clubs around Bristol...

We had by this time also improved our 'gear' and had graduated to the heady heights of groups or bands who used an echo machine. It was this that gave the Shadows their distinctive sound, and from then on, we were able to reproduce it fairly closely.

At the time we did the St. Brendans gig, the band was going through some soul searching. Barry, our bass player had already decided that he didn't want to continue. At the time we were all of an age where 'A' levels were always lurking in the background. I had already succumbed to the distractions of the band and despite taking three years in the sixth form, had achieved only an 'O' level pass at 'A' level maths. I think Barry was under pressure to knuckle down.

The rest of us (Derek, Paul, Phil and myself) tried to carry on as a "Trio with singer" with Paul playing Bass instead of rhythm, but he was already being head-hunted to join another band - Johnny Hastings and the Tributes. The writing was on the wall!!

I think the St. Brendans gig was actually our last gig.

When we disbanded, Brian found himself holding our accumulated gear, and gradually managed to disperse it among the band. He then went on to manage the Tributes for several years, including a trip to Hamburg, playing the night clubs, which at that time was the "mecca" for bands looking to make it into the big time.

The band (Renegades) members have largely kept in touch, even including our loyal fan base and the early 'singers' Alec and Geoff. Phil however has disappeared off the radar. He was last seen at Geoff's 40th birthday party - nearly 30 years ago!! At the time he was living in Foot's Cray in Kent, and was actually being considered as a magistrate on the bench in that area!!! I'm not sure his wife approved of his links to our past, as from then on, we all lost touch with him.

We have also held a few reunions since then, but in Phil's absence have had to call upon "outsiders" to fill the gap(s). So far as I know, we are all still alive, although sadly Geoff is in a fairly serious condition now.

Brian had kept a diary of his days as our manager, and from this produced a wonderfully nostalgic document - "The Renegades Report"!! I still have a copy, and it fills in an awful lot more that I could include here.

It was a memorable period in my early life, and one which has given me many friends, to this day.

I have continued to play guitar, but in 1967, I was tempted along to a jazz club, and discovered a whole new world of dance music, blues, folk, jazz, and all sorts of other stuff. I did a gig with Joe Brown once, and have helped Albert Lee as a 'roadie' at a Steel Guitar Festival. Unfortunately Arthritis is starting to restrict my hands, and playing is now proving more and more difficult. Hey ho!!"