Wednesday, 1 October 2014


Watcha Brummies,

Well the old 'cyber box thing' has been repaired and although I lost a load of stuff I am now able to re-enter my man cave and dive, delve and rummage about once more into the grubby little world of the Brumbeat days when men were men, women hadn't burned their bras' and thousands of spotty youths congregated in garages and front rooms to get together with their new-fangled electric guitars, guaranteed to annoy the neighbours.    Those were the days when there were thousands of jobs available and only a few people had a car, most of which were manufactured in Birmingham, but now we seem to have gone from one extreme to another.  No jobs, millions of cars, and only a handful made in Brum.    

Electric guitars still exist but fewer spotty youths are playing them, probably because the garages are full of cars.

Longbridge, the home of Brminghams automotive industry has now
disappeared and has been replaced with some more attractive buildings and restaurants and the area is being landscaped to include a large leisure park.   I was there the other night and I have to say that although I bemoan the loss of all Birminghams industry and jobs, the Longbridge plant that echoed to the sounds of Red Rob encouraging everyone to strike was a real eyesore.

One highlight of my 'spotty youth' days was the opening of a small music shop on Colmore Circus called Ringway Music.   The shop had been opened by a group of musicians who were the 'trio' accompanying organist, Jerry Allen. They were drummer Lionel Rubin, bassist Ken Ingarfield and Vibraphone player, Alan Grahame and they were the resident band on ATV's daily show 'Lunch Box' and were the first TV celebrities I had met, there was also a flautist named George, whose surname I can't remember,who had a natural sense of pitch and you could ask him to give you an E for example and he would simply hum it, quite a trick .   They were all real nice guys and were very generous towards us all, not only with advice.   With this kind of attitude the shop soon became  the focus of attention and it wasn't too long before they moved to much larger premises further down the road.       
LtoR Jerry Allen, Alan Grahame, Lionel Rubin, Ken Ingarfield
The above picture taken at the ATV studio on Broad Street portrayed them like old fashioned, regimented cabaret musos to us young budding musicians who were just beginning to listen to the Blues and thinking we had it all and the music we played was radical, how naive we were.   However, during my very early youth I had listened to all the great 'Big Bands' on the radio, one of my favourites and certainly one of my Mothers, was Nat Gonella and his Georgians who had first been formed way back in 1937 but had been through many transformations by the time I got to hear them as
The Nat Gonella Band and subconciously, this band influenced my musical direction performing songs like Hesitation Blues.  

The outstanding song though that, above all others, made me like them was 'Georgia on My Mind', still one of my favourites and I was blown away to discover that Lionel Rubin had been Gonellas drummer.  I held him in high esteem, he was truly brilliant.

At the time of the opening I was in a group that was playing all the well known venues and everyone who came into the shop on the opening day signed the ceiling and we were one of those, quite an honour back then, I thought.

Of course the 'Godfather of  Brummie 60's Guitarists' the
Pete Oliver (second from left)
brilliant Pete Oliver worked there also.   I had a great relationship with Pete over the ensuing years and, although no longer with us, I think of him often.
I'm glad he turned Jeff Lynne down when asked to join ELO, it would have been a waste of his considerable talent.   
Last month I mentioned my small part in the getting together of Johnny Neal and Paul Carter but John Woodhouse, Editor of BRUMBEAT, has also helped to cybernetically reunite Norm Crandles, a regular on this blogs 'Brummies Abroad' slot and a friend he met from Newcastle many moons ago.

In the early 60's Norm, was better known as Lee Stevens
Lee and Satellites
with his band The Satellites and he received a letter simply addressed to The Satellites, Birmingham. In those days the post office would actually get letters to people with such a sparse address as this.   There was only one thing wrong, this letter was from the girlfriend of a guy called Peter Johnson who was the bass guitarist with The Satelites, with one 'L' from Newcastle and happened to be on tour in Birmingham at the same time!

Geordie Satelites Peter Johnson far right

Norm opened the letter to get a return address which started a chain of correspondence, he then sent Peter and Pat  a copy of Midland Beat which featured his version of The Satellites. 
Pat with Maggie Crandles at The Elbow Room
This resulted in Norm inviting Peter and his girlfriend Pat down to Brum for a week and he took them out to see the sights and also to see some of the many bands 
at places such as Chateau Impney including Danny King and the Mayfair Set.
So impressed was Peter with the Brummie scene that he considered moving to Brum permanently and when he married his girlfriend Pat they ended up having their honeymoon at Norms place!!

Norm and Peter last saw each other in 1966 at New Street Railway Station, (co-incidentally the place where J Neal and P Carter recently met up)
New Street Farewell 1966
when he waved them off back to Newcastle and later that same year Norm and his wife Maggie moved out to Canada. 

Fast forward to 2013, Peter who now lives in Portugal found himself in the company of some old Brummie musicians who got around to talking about some of the early Brummie bands i.e Danny King and The Mayfair Set, Chris Kefford etc etc.   A day on the internet brought up BRUMBEAT.Net and with a Dear John email to John Woodhouse he managed to get hold of Norm and sent him a surprise New Years Greeting EMail on 1 Jan 2014. 

They are now in contact and, although they are much farther apart than when they first made contact, they are looking forward to meeting up one day to reminisce about their good old days.... it really does show what a brilliant thing the Internet is and also what a valued service John Woodhouse provides for us 'old and bold' Brumbeat musos and music aficionados.  So thanks John.  

Norm Crandles "It was a great start to 2014 for me, getting back in touch with Geordie Pete has really squared the circle for me, if only by EMail" 

A brilliant little R&B band of the 60's, The Yamps featured heavily on the circuits of Birmingham, The Black Country and The Potteries and had a great following.

The last 'Brummie Abroad', Will Hammond, recently made a flying visit to Brum to re-unite with his old Yamps and Traction cohorts Bob Styler and Malcolm Palmer.    "I hadn't seen these guys for around 50 years and although it was just an overnight stop we met up for dinner and managed to cram in many happy stories of our beginnings and the various gigs we did" said Will.
THE YAMPS CIRCA 1964  L to R Leigh Higgnson, Tony Walters, Bob Styler, Will Hammond, Malcolm Palmer

The Yamps  2014.  L to R Malcolm Palmer, Bob Styler, Will Hammond

"In fact, it was such a nice experience, we met up again the day after for lunch out at The Bluebell at Earlswood before I had to leave, we had some great food and got to relate a few more war stories. To be back in each others company was a fabulous experience for us all, it was so successful that Bob bought all the beers!!  I was last in the UK in 2004 for The Uglys re-union and never managed to get to see these two marvellous guys at that time, I'm really happy I got to see them this time around."   Bob and Malcolm are still active on the Birmingham music scene and Will is playing out in Spain.

So there we are, full of coal and with a good head of steam now pouring out of the Cyber Box Thing, the Bulls Head Bob Blog is back on the rails.  

So, see you next month.


Copyright:  Bulls Head Bob

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bulls Head Bob Sep 2014. Dear Auntie Bob, Park Les Paul Guitar, UK National Drum Fair

What Ho Brummies,

I'm in Manchester at the moment on my travels and was informed by Mrs Bob that the computer had crashed and burned the day before publishing date.
It appears to have taken most of my stuff with it but is under scrutiny by cheapo computer fixers, Bodgit and Scarper to see if they can get it all back together.  The main story, as advertised last month will now unfortunately be re-scheduled as I try to find the pictures to go with it.   

In the meantime 

Dear Auntie Bob
One of the benefits of writing this blog is to put old friends in contact with one another it was a delight for me to try to organise a meeting between Johnny Neal and ex Brumbeats and Starliners saxophonist Paul Carter, old mates from various musical encounters in Brum.  They both have houses on the Cape of South Africa but neither knew that.  Paul flits between London and SA on a regular basis and Johnny, although once a permanent SA resident, just holidays there from his home in Birmingham. 

I had been a kind of go-between informing each of them when the other party would be present either in SA or in the UK but there was always a clash between their whereabouts.  I'm pleased to have received the picture below, just yesterday in fact, of the two of them meeting up at, of all places, Birmingham Railway Station!

UK National Drum Fair
Just to let you 'skin bashers' know that the annual drum fair will be held on 27 and 28 September in Kings Heath.   I won't be there, my ears can't take it.

I've just noticed at the bottom of the programme 'EXTREME SPORT DRUMMING'.....mind boggling to say the least.

Park amplification is as Brummie as it gets, manufactured specially for Jones and Crossland music shop and in essence, Park was Marshall in different clothes and was just as good in my humble opinion.   I used this kit every night for years and only suffered the occasional break down.  I hope to do a more in depth story in the future but here's something of an oddity that I can't even remember

I guess this was introduced by Jones and Crossland during the British Blues phase and despite being a regular J and C visitor when I would play most of the guitars they had on the wall, as was the case then, I can't recall ever seeing one of them.   There were an awful lot of Les Paul type guitars going around at that time though.

At 126 guineas this wasn't a cheap guitar for it's day.

If you have one of these they must have a hefty price tag attached to them as Park is now very, very collectible!!

Once again, sorry for the delay but technology isn't always our best friend.

Take Care
copyright Bullsheadbob

Friday, 1 August 2014


Howdoo, you Lucky People,

An habitual truant, on balmy summer days I would laze under the shade of a tree in the nearby park, with my Bells of Surbiton Guitar Catalogue or any of the other advertising blurb I had on electric guitars and dream away the days. The naivete of youth, combined with absolute self belief was predominant in those who thought about 'leaving the garage' to become a music star.

Success didn't arrive for most but there was one thing for sure, it was still a great thrill and experience to play with other people in a group situation, learning all those classic songs and instrumentals.  The first night my group learned 'You really Got Me' was brilliant, we played it all night, time after time just enjoying the pure magic of that song with it's simplistic riff.  We were laughing with excitement and I was certain that music could be an escape from the factories of Tyseley, that grind of 8 till 5 and the smell of cooking from the Golden Wonder crisp factory didn't hold much of a future for me.   
It was all such great fun, getting together to make music and earning a bit of money too, you were sure that you were better than the group you saw last week at the Youth Club!!    A little later on you discover that being in a group means a lot more than just playing the music, if you want to play anywhere, you immediately have transport problems and a search would have to begin to find someone with a van who would take you to the gig and hopefully come back and pick you up at the end of the night for a couple of quid!   We had our share of 'one night' drivers with assorted vans.

A point, arrives though when you have to get your own van.....which of course is just more expense to be deducted from your gig money.

The reality of it all was though, those group vans were absolutely great and we had some incredible fun.   I think I must have driven the entire length and breadth of the UK several times over, in various vehicles back when we played every night, so here's a very brief trip down memory lane.

The most popular van of the early sixties by far was the 15 hundredweight 12, seater, Thames Trader

a real stunner this, built by Ford, really spacious inside with 12 seats.  The Beatles and Brummie band The Conchords had one just like this I recall.  The majority of the vans though, were the enclosed type like this one below   
and some bands had their names painted down the sides.

I came across this great Ford promotional Youtube clip called BAND WAGON and it's worth a watch if you want to get a taste of yesteryear.... and particularly this vehicle.
Click the picture below to play

The Move's first van, I seem to recall was a white Commer similar to this one below, The Uglys too had one but with a built-up roof:

Exceptionally comfortable, great all round vision and a bench seat across the front.  I think it used to 'roll' around a bit though when fully loaded.

There was a similar looking van from the Morris group (British Leyland) that also enjoyed some of those features and that was the great 


The J2 was a great van and it could hold all your kit, the band
plus 'guests'.  We had a regular van owner/driver who had a large family and would make up his wages carting us around, poor sod had to keep washing off the lipstick after every gig, during the 'screaming phase', deep down though I think he quite liked the attention he got. 
It was also another van used by The Conchords. 

Not every band was as fortunate to have a man with a van and there were many strange and sundry vehicles transporting would be musical heroes around the UK. There were also the novelty type vehicles, The Undertakers who travelled in a hearse and Brums The Yamps with their ambulance which soon got adopted by several other bands. 

I think our first van was from an auction and cost 12 quid!
12 quid special!
It was an ex bakers van and  I remember getting in it for the first time and still smelling bread.  It only lasted about two weeks before the smell of bread was replaced by burning oil!! it gave up the ghost but at least we had bought our first transport.  

Of course we were all awaiting the arrival of the best group van ever made, the immaculate

What a brilliant van this was! and it was very stylish too, for it's day.   With the advent of much, much bigger amplifiers, the old Thames Trader sized vehicle was too small and Ford introduced the most iconic of band transport, it was a real gift from the Gods and it ran and ran and ran with hardly any work done on it.  I say that from the point of view of being the guitar player rather than the roadie, for all I know he was perpetually under the damned thing.   I miss those days of travelling around
in a Transit though.  That will never happen again, I'm sure that, in the 60's after 11 o'clock at night the only traffic on the M1 going between Brum and London was vans full of groups.  We had ours fitted out with a comfy 3 seater settee in the back and a nice 12 inch speaker to listen to the radio with and we also discovered that you could reach under the dashboard and use the windscreen heater hose to dry your hair with too. 

The Transit also came in a long wheel base, 30cwt variant, which is what most of the more successful bands ended up with. 

Bedford CA
The smaller Bedford van of the day was this model, the Bedford CA.  It was used by Brummie blues band The Blueshounds
An ugly, pug nosed contraption with sliding doors.  Only two could sit in front and it was incredibly cramped in the back, not really the ideal sized group van. We would generally sit on the amps, rather than a cold floor.  If you owned your own van you would have put in a small sofa or made a bench seat to put behind the driver.  The one good thing about this van was the engine cover was in between the two front seats so it was always warm!

I was prompted to do this bit on vans because of a picture I'd included in last months blog featuring The Fleetwoods  who had taken their name from the beautifully elegant Cadillac Fleetwood

I remarked on what appeared to be the rear part of their van in the background and Brian Nicholls sent another picture showing it in all it's glory.   It's clearly a 1950's Bedford Light commercial and it probably had HM Prison Service painted on the side of it in a previous life. 

Brian told me it cost 20 quid.  And as you can see, it's as streamlined as a brick.  It is the very antithesis of the Fleetwood that the group named themselves after.    What must the punters have thought when they saw this rolling up? 
THE FLEETWOODS  copyright B Nicholls

The photo is great too, obviously not from the photographic aspect but, just whose idea was it to park on a random patch of mud for a photo op? "Ar, we'll look bostin' standin in mud and let's get the van in too,  it's sleek beauty says who we are".   I've just noticed that it had 'suicide doors' so it's similarity to a hearse is spooky.
For the keen eyed musicians, you will see that the bassist is playing in C, Brian in E and the rhythm guitarist in F7.  This must have been taken by the bass players Dad cause he's the only one in focus.  

If you think that this Bedford was dreadful, I've saved the best for last and I make no apologies for featuring The Inca's van again.


Yes, here it is, The Incas with their Morris J.  This vehicle was designed in 1939 and produced up to 1951.   As mentioned earlier, some bands painted their name on the side, The Incas painted their van with a yellow man balancing on a little yellow boys head whilst throwing a hoop over a hedgehog on a log and it appears to read The Oincas.  I think it's only the paint that's holding the van together.   

So there you are, a little taster of those old wagons, goodness me those were the days.


With the world being filled to capacity with cheap Chinese 'knock offs'
anyone can own their dream guitar, visually at least, for a couple of hundred pounds or dollars and it's not a lie that some of these guitars really look the biz.  But should you wish to own a genuine classic guitar as an investment, can you trust sales of advertised original Stratocaster or Les Paul dinosaur classics any longer, I think it's risky business.

If you are clever though, you would go about your business looking for those classic guitars slightly down the price category and one that I would consider buying is this little beauty!

   What a cracker of a guitar, 1965, the height of the beat generation, brilliant condition.  A scaled down version of the grotesque lavatory pan that was the Black Bison, this is a stylish guitar and looks beautiful front and back.  Red and Black and fitted with their own REZO-TUBE tremolo and beautiful V shaped headstock it just looks so well put together, very nice indeed.

What's more significant in showing the collectible value of this guitar is is that some guy in the States is selling the small plastic name badge from the headstock of a Baby Bison and the asking price is 100 bucks simply for that!!

It appears to be in beautiful nick, so you could always ask some questions and then you could stick it in a glass case if you just wanted to admire it's beautiful space age looks.  This is the type and make of guitar that will become a real collectors item.

It's for sale on Ebay, with a buy-it-now price of 999 pounds.  These, my friends are few and far between.  The sale finishes on 12 August.   Better than money in the bank.  If I had a grand to spare and I was satisfied with some answers, this would be mine.
Disappointed to report that ex-Wizzard ace sax player Mike Burney is very poorly at the moment. A note to his friends......Knowing that people care enough about you is a tonic for the soul and it doesn't cost anything more than a little of your time.

Next month.  'Dear John' a letter to BRUMBEAT'S John Woodhouse reunites mates from 1962 with a great background story.

Take care,

Copyright:  Bullsheadbob

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


Hiya Brummies, Brumettes and Other Friends around the globe,

Here we have a 60's group from all around the Brum area, that is Perry Barr, Great Barr and Bordesley Green.   They are a group that never achieved any dizzy heights of recognition but they and a thousand bands like them were the essence and backbone of the Brumbeat scene and equally as important as any other band that was around then.   I can well imagine that they played with great fire and enthusiasm and would have gone down well at the places they played.  The line up of this band was from left to right, Brian Nicholls, Lead Guitar, Vic Jarvis, Bass and lead vocal, Ray Green, Drums and Dave Crewdson, Rhythm Guitar......
So  ladies and gents, a round of applause if you will for The Fleetwoods

I'm just guessing here but this photo was probably taken around 1962/3 as there doesn't appear to be any Beatles influenced hairstyles apart from the bass player, but naturally being a bassist meant he was the 'odd' one anyway. I have no idea what message was trying to be conveyed here but I do
think it's a great photo. 
The Fleetwoods
The introduction of the electric guitar created a freak of the times and spawned a group on every street in the West Midlands, it was quite extraordinary.   The Fleetwoods are the perfect example of how bands evolved then.  They were the musical youth of the day who spent their time at endless practise sessions, striving to get some 'better' gigs, or 'bookings' as they were known.  

I imagine their name came from the 'in vogue' collection of bands whose names were associated with cars, The Corvettes, The Vipers etc etc. 

I had a band that I named after my own car but for some reason The 1955 Side-Valve Hillman Huskys never really had that yankee ring to it.

With a band playing in practically every pub and dance hall three times a week, on average, it was a real 'industry' and record shops, clothes shops, guitar shops and van salesmen did a roaring trade off the back of these young men and this group of young men did the normal round of gigs.  If you were good enough there were plenty of places to play too,
albeit for about 10 pounds a night between four, it doesn't sound much but was certainly enough to equip yourself with some reasonably sounding budget kit similar to the three Hofners above.  In their day The Fleetwoods would have looked good on stage with their matching guitars, amps and stage outfits as was the norm for bands then. 

They played on the Ma Regan circuit and supported The Redcaps and also The Searchers during the height of their fame.  

What interested me, more than a little, is their old set list.

When I first saw it, it was like looking at a piece of my past also because, with a couple of exceptions, I must have learnt or played every one of those songs and probably every other Brummie band had practically the same sort of set.   Interestingly, they included 'World without Love' by Peter and Gordon?? this song appears to be the most modern, but bizarre amongst the other rockers, which
Crackin van in the background?
Brian Nicholls 2nd left
would date this list to 1964, right in the thick of the beat music phase, loads of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis songs that would have had the girls dancing plus some Screaming Lord Sutch, Larry Williams and the wonderful John Lee Hooker's 'Dimples'.   

There is one song in the set that has always been a favourite of mine too and that is "Thats What I Want" by The Marauders, from Stoke on Trent and was written by Brums own Carter-Lewis songwriters

The list is also indicative of how the music scene was changing then.  It still contained some Shadows instrumentals, a bit of a musical throw back to when playing instrumentals was expected because The Shads had been such an influence but were now being considered yesterdays news.

I don't think I ever actually saw The Fleetwoods but I certainly saw hundreds of other bands, all with practically the same set list who were great little bands, enjoying their music and hoping for stardom.  You all worked hard trying to achieve the dream, proud of the band you were in.   The dance halls and pubs were generally full at that time too so you always had a reasonable sized audience to play to.   I'm pleased that I can feature them here. 
brian nicholls today!

The City of Birmingham and it's sprawling suburbs were full of live music and every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday night a band, just like The Fleetwoods would be setting up their equipment to belt out that set list in some smoke filled, stale-beer smelling dance hall or bar.  I can tell you, it was just the greatest time of our young lives.  My thanks go to Brian Nicholls for sending me the above photos.   He is still active on the music scene with a couple of projects.

Competition was tough then and only the tough or the ruthless survived to make it. 

Myself and the gang at the boozer were talking about the Gordon Jackson blog I did 2 months ago, specifically about missed chances of musical fame when Malcolm Palmers missed opportunity story reared it's head.

Although not born in Brum, Christine Perfect grew up in Birmingham, Bearwood to be precise.  Having musical parents it was inevitable that she too would be pulled in that direction.   She was in her teens when the music of the Blues first started to be heard.   It was an obvious magnet for her and her soulful bluesy voice.   She of course was also a very good pianist too.

When Stan Webb formed Chicken Shack she contacted him and asked if she could join the band.
Chicken Shack
Indeed you could see the group playing at various gigs around Brum, a very good band indeed.  At the same time Malcolm Palmer
a veteran of the Beat scene with The Yamps, was now playing Sax in a band called 'The Fashion', also a good Brummie band, who were playing good gigs all over the country and could have been a big act.
Malc had been at Moseley School of Art along with Christine and they would bump into each other occasionally in the City.   

One night The Fashion were playing at a gig in Moseley Village when he saw her and the rest of Chicken Shack in the audience.   Their record "I would rather go Blind" had been released, had charted and they were now enjoying the fruits of their labours. 
Malcolm Palmer

After the gig Christine came over to talk to Malc and said that the band were very interested in him joining them, and that they were shortly embarking on a tour of the USA,  Malc said "Sorry, I can't do it, I'm playing with my friends". He was confident that with his own bands current tie-up with an important Agent in Birmingham, their future was on the rise.  

It was just a week or so later that the guitarist with The Fashion, always one for the women, decided it would be a great idea to shag the daughter of the bands agent.....!! Mr Agent found out and he dropped the band in an instant saying "You'll never work in this City again".    Malc, along with the rest of the band was devastated, then remembering the offer from Christine, he discovered which aeroplane they were leaving on for the States and turned up at Birmingham Airport with his Saxophone and his bags packed and when they arrived at the terminal he talked to them trying to convince them to take him with them. 

They said no. 

It's a sad story of missed fortune but is one that has been, and will continue to be, repeated over and over again with of course different personalities in differing situations.  The real message to musicians is that you have to take these golden opportunities by the horn and sometimes though you feel like you're letting your band mates down these 'windows to fame' are few and far between.   The same sort of thing had happened to me twice and I still find myself thinking, "I should have" but by then, it's history.....that boat has sailed.

It has recently been reported in the British Press that there is a drastic shortage of good quality sperm in the UK and UK clinics are importing Sperm from the USA and Denmark....DENMARK!!!!  of all places? Don't they know that those arseholes have banned Marmite??  

Anyway, I'm absolutely amazed there's a supposed shortage because I know of thousands of Wankers in Birmingham alone???.  I know one who could supply the national bank on his own.  

However, there are some excluded from donating and those are bankers, solicitors and politicians.  They can only donate their sperm to aquariums and ponds where they can produce even more bottom feeders and leeches.

Have a nice holiday you guys, it's July and I'm looking forward to some lazy afternoons. 

Toodle Pip

copyright:  Bullsheadbob

Sunday, 1 June 2014


Owdoo Brummies and Mates Across the World,

Here in 'Blog Villas' life has been turned on it's head.   Mrs Bob
is injured, she fell over and has broken her wrist and dislocated her knee,
she was in ample amounts of pain that would have made even Jeff Astle cry and she has been a real hero throughout.  I have now been promoted to taking care of the house and the cooking...............piece of piss this housekeeping lark Lucy keeps going on about, what does worry me though is, I just don't know how long it will be before she can use that new wheelbarrow I bought for her anniversary present??

I can see it out of the window from here, it's still full of water from when it rained  a fortnight ago and I think she's out of action for another five weeks so I hope it doesn't rust by then!!   Needless to say, everything, including this here blog has suffered so I am here in the early hours of 31 May rattling this thing off just so I have something to offer.
My apologies.....normal service will be resumed following my current nursing duties.


"It just can't be done!" you're thinking, and up to now I would have been there agreeing with you.  Can 50 quid make such a difference? the answer is yes, I'm quite amazed and because of that I want to pass this on to you lucky
Bobs Blog readers.  

It was not long ago that I talked about the financial plight of updating the piss poor electrics inside a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster.  They are a disaster, with both my and my mates CV Tele's electrics breaking down at the same time.  He replaced his with the DiMarzio Solderless tele set, which I fitted, and it certainly did make a world of difference but at 200 quid a pop, it's a lot to spend in addition to the cost of buying the guitar in the first place.   

One day whilst roaming about on some random internet pages I came across a comment that had been left on some Telecaster forum or other talking about pick up replacements and the name 'Ironstone' came to my attention and it said that the brand was a British guy from Rutland, marketing telecaster pick ups that he'd designed himself that had varying heights of the poles in the bridge pick up which particularly interested me.   What delighted me the most though was the price.....24.95 for the bridge pick up, a snippet.   I thought,
"This simply can't be true and even if it was, the quality must be very bad?"  However, at that price it was definitely worth a gamble so I ordered one through EBay.

Well I'd found a new, bargain priced, pick up but what about the control plate?  The one that came fitted to the guitar was thin metal, badly assembled and as the three-way switch had ceased to function after only two weeks and the tone control was practically no more than a decoration so there seemed little point in trying to repair the defective components.   I went looking for a complete replacement.

Now I am sodding useless at soldering so I always look for the easiest option to lessen the misery of working with to EBay I went looking for an affordable pre-wired control plate.  It wasn't long before I came across this model advertised at 13.99, I sent off for it the same day as the pick up.

Both items arrived in short time which was nice.   The control plate had been well packed for postage which I applaud and on inspection it is a nice solid piece of hardware and the control knobs feel sturdy.  

A lot of folk feel daunted at the thought of doing these jobs but it really is quite easy and will save you a lot of dosh.  

These days we are blessed to have YouTube where you can source any advice you could ever think of and there are several clips relating to soldering pick ups to telecaster control plates which I used because Black Dog neither supply you with fitting instructions or have anything available on their website for you to consult, we are not all Bass players who know what a soldering iron is you know??? it wouldn't hurt their customer relations to feature something this simple as a part of their after sales service.

Nonetheless, armed with a soldering iron,
This is a soldering Iron
some wire clippers and a screwdriver 
I set about replacing the bridge pick up, which is the most difficult of the two.

I burnt myself twice with the soldering iron but in a short time I had successfully attached the new bridge pick up and control plate - patience is the key to success, check everything twice before soldering and don't forget that soldering irons have bloody hot ends!!!

I connected a Gibson guitar to my amp and played with that for a while to get accustomed to the potency level of those powerful pick ups, I then plugged in
the Ironstone fitted Tele.........Wow!! what a great surprise, gutsy
and loud, with a bluesy driven sound!!   I had purposely only ordered the bridge pick up so I could test it against the fitted neck pick up and the difference in sensitivity was staggering,  I immediately ordered the neck pick up.
It arrived three days ago and I immediately fitted to my Squier CVibe and I wasn't disappointed with the sound.   I would say though, from a consumer viewpoint, that the chrome on the pick up cover wasn't that good compared to the fitted one but it's a small price to pay for a massive improvement in sound.   I did this upgrade for around 50 quid nwhich is brilliant these days.

There are also a broad range of Stratocaster pick ups
and fitted scratchplate assemblies, so if your Squier Strat or any budget copy for that matter sounds like its being played through a rice pudding, you could invest a little dosh and give your guitar a little Ironstone Viagra!!!!!

I don't often endorse any kind of product but these are great pick ups at a great price so I can only say that it could be an affordable option. 

You can visit the Ironstone website at....

I sourced both these items from EBay.

It was a nail biting end to the season for the City's football teams and although I am a Villa supporter and therefore still recovering from the usual
end of season panics about Premier League survival I would like to say that I am pleased that the OTHER team didn't get relegated to League One.

Well I really have to get some sleep.

See ya next month.

Copyright.  Bullsheadbob

Thursday, 1 May 2014


Howdoo Brummies,

Well here we are, back again.  It's May already and flowers are flowering
bees are a buzzin' and occasionally so am I, in a non-audio way that is.
I'm full of the joys of music and feeling pleased to have some nice friends,
all I need now is to have all of them in one place, with a BBQ, give them loads of ale and when the time's right later on, toss in the line "Thank heavens for that lovely George Osborne" and leave em' all to it, there'll be blood before midnight.

Once upon a time there was a group of teenagers from the Worcester area who formed a group called The Hellions
oft appearing in Brum's usual round of 60's gigs.   In the line up of that band was one Gordon Jackson who along with his band mates hammered their way through the usual type of 60's set
during the 'Beat Group' days.  Like most groups they had their ups and downs and despite recording three singles without a sniff of real success, they realised that the rapidly changing music scene required a name change so the Hellions became 'Deep Feeling', which was a musically adjusted version of The Hellions minus Dave Mason but now included Luther Grosvenor and Poli Palmer.

I was in the support band when Deep Feeling played at Hall Green Technical College during the 60's and they were ace, tremendous!!. We thought we were a good band, we were confident and always put on a good act, but after seeing and hearing them we had a serious re-think, I think we felt a bit intimidated. 

It was a great performance and they were appropriately named because they had a killer sound.  It was a bit like getting a lesson from the bigger boys. I thought they were going to be a real big band, but history is history.  Click here for the DEEP FEELING Bio by Brumbeats Editor, John Woodhouse. 
Look at that line up of dream guitars, Selmer PA cabinet at the side too for you kit freaks.
Anyway, belatedly, I'd like to say thanks to the band for the lesson!!
You did me the world of good, that was one of the experiences that made me want to be a musician even more than before.   So here I am, admittedly with a break in between but, all these years later, eternally broke, striving away still, my fingers are corrugated from all these years of practice but luckily for me I'm still playing.  

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE? In the 60's, life in a professional, hard working group wasn't all that rosy really.  I had been through thousands of band arguments, fights, disappointments, rejections, treachery, more disappointments, savage criticism's, chinese whispers, tears, heartache and more arguments however, after the second day I found myself getting into the swing of things....!   
Years later, my life in the field of music made walking through a jungle of snipers with a target tattooed on my bald head, a piece of piss.

I have an old mate who phones me out of the blue, now and again, we'll call him Crazy Malc, because that's his name - Crazy Malc, it was a mix up on his Birth Certificate.   Anyway, he phones me every time he feels a tinge of guilt, just to salve his conscience of anyone whose life he may have shagged up during his time on this planet.   I love him.  
You did get to play to large audiences across the country though and also in sweaty, smelly bars thick with smoke, where the heat and enthusiasm would always generate the best nights.  The 200 mile drive back to Brum wasn't always a drag because it was great for drying your sweaty clothes as you all huddled together in your Transit afterwards, smoking, absorbing the smell of the meat pie's and take-away's and dripping oil from the chips on your trousers.  We had it all didn't we? the time you got to the Elbow Room and met up with the other musicians there, you miraculously seemed to smell great again?  good enough anyway to put the same clothes straight back on the next day.


The band recorded an Lp that was never released and then they broke up, well when I say broke up it was more like a transfer and transmogrification of Jim Capaldi and ex Hellions Dave Mason into the best band ever to have come out of Birmingham and that band was of course TRAFFIC.   

Sadly there are always some casualties left on the battlefield of pop music and Gordon was one of those, as he saw all of his ex band members soaring up the charts with various successful groups.

Gordon, undaunted however, continued as a songwriter and made some recordings in his own right, aided and abetted by all the members of TRAFFIC with the LP itself being produced by Dave Mason.   There is a time and a place for everything in the world of music though, an immediacy, and that immediacy had slipped by leaving Jackson's really good recording practically ignored.
Thinking Back.  Great CD!!!
I call it the 'wounded soldier' effect.  I have never been able to understand it, there is something in the mental psyche that makes people think of some artists as a 'second' or as someone who cannot 'cut the mustard' because of not being included in a new project, such a strange phenomenon of us frail humans.  We have lost a load of great musicians to this effect.

Make some time to listen to Gordons CD, THINKING BACK
better still, buy it, but first click HERE to read John Woodhouse's review of this great CD.

All of the above aside, Gordon Jackson was a force and featured heavily in the 60's music scene, playing with the one of best bands around and competition was very tight then!!.   

Latterly he had turned his talented hands to the world of gardening, there is such creativity there with the blessed addition of more peace but less 'fringe benefits' of the music world.   Nonetheless, he has remained close friends with all his music mates and has recently pulled off a great coup in staging a small charity event which featured the three greatest and definitely the three coolest Brummie singers of all time whose vocal identities are recognised from the moment they open their mouths, no pictures or videos required, on one stage.


Robert Plant, Steve Winwood and Steve Gibbons were those three brilliant Brummie vocalists. 

Interestingly but glaringly incorrect was a piece by the Birmingham's own Evening Mail which described Winwood and Plant as vocalists and Steve Gibbons as a guitarist?, come on now??... got their finger on the pulse there, at the Evening Mail offices?  Stone me!!

However, these three amazing vocal legends, along with a panoply of Brummie muso's
and family members as a backing band, played three songs each at a small gathering at a Church in the Cotswolds where their efforts raised 5000 pounds for The Children's Society.  I just loved the fact that Steve Winwood chose to play bass, so cool and understated.  

The entrance charge was

There was something special about that line up too.......
not a Broad Street paving stone in sight, Hooray!!!!! that says something about the class of these guys.

All this however, would never have occurred if not for the great Gordon Jackson so, thanks mate. (round of applause sounding here in the bloggery).  
There is a snippet of a phone clip on Youtube somewhere.

In the shabby world of Southern Jessies, it doesn't take long for some twat to say "Birmingham!, who the fuck's from Birmingham??.......Enough said I think.  There's grit up here mate!!

1954 - 2014
I remember quite distinctly seeing my first Stratocaster and being blown away by its looks, it was like something from outer space, something futuristic about its design and there was one sure thing.....we all wanted one and those of us with parents who had a bit of dosh managed to get one, sadly that didn't include me.  History has shown that this guitar as a real icon, up there with all of the greatest designs of all time. 

If you wanted to buy one of those early Strats in 2014 you would have to fork out an incredible amount of money.   Today with all the acclaimed leaps forward in technology and electronics why it is impossible to buy a consistently well made Stratocaster like we could in the 60's?? I say the 60's because Fenders were not available in the British shops until 1962 because of post war import embargo's.   However once all that stuff was sorted out, if you were lucky you went to the music shop of your choice and bought a Fender Stratocaster and the one you bought was just the same as any other, great quality, beautiful paint job and was an instrument purchased for a lifetime of playing.  You didn't have to be a guitar nerd then, the only decision you had to make, if a Fender person was Stratocaster or Telecaster.

Japanese...a thing of beauty
Thanks goodness for that, I think to myself. Today we are faced with a mind boggling complexity of trying to buy a Strat model that you could be happy with.   'Made in Mexico' China or Korea Stratocasters are sneered upon by the owners of those Made in Japan or the USA and quite rightly so, because the difference between the reliability of the electrics, on their own, is poles apart and even if you get a 'Made in the USA Strat' does that mean you are getting the top of the range instrument?   I'm sure Fender would say "of course you are".   A lot of folk I know would say that the Japanese one is superior.
My question is, should there be a difference between those made in differing countries?  the answer of course is "No", this simply shows Fenders marketing strategies and about generating corporate income.

There is no doubt that they could make a seriously great guitar as standard
but then who would want to buy another??

This year of course, Fender have released their
60TH ANNIVERSARY 1954 Special with a RRP price tag of 2,278 pounds but that is not the only 60th anniversary model they are selling, there is also the 'classic player' 60th anniversary model which retails at 998 pounds and even Squier have released one selling at 350 quid, they also did a 50th too. Just one glance at this 50th Squier shows it being assembled from offcuts with the tell tale striping down the length of the body.  This was advertised on Ebay for 90 pounds and didn't sell. 

You might think that you are buying a piece of history and even if you don't bother playing it, which in my opinion is a criminal act, you may think that it might be a great purchase for investment purposes but would you benefit?
I think it's a real gamble on the part of the purchaser but a win-win, clever marketing ploy by Fender releasing so many 'high end' anniversary variants of this guitar along with the Custom Shop models which are even more expensive than these.

There have already been the 40th and 50th Anniversary models and there has been a difference between the two with regard to investment.
Beautiful 60th Anniversary Stratocaster
The 50th has seen more of a consistent improvement in value whilst the 40th, which was not too well liked by nerdy Strat fans is not quite so highly valued and you could buy one off ebay for about 700 quid on a good day or I have recently seen a 'Made in Mexico' 40th anniversary go for as little as 450 pounds. The 40th has fallen in value from it's purchase price, although there are those who think it's worth a punt to advertise theirs for a couple of thousand.

All these re-issues are based on the 1954 model.    

The 40th has serial numbers on the rear of the headstock from 0001 to 1954.  You can buy a 1954 re-issue Strat at any time you like though, you don't have to wait for anniversary models to be introduced.   I read that the only difference between the two models was that the 40th came with TWO cases......WTF!!! it's just crazy stuff. 

I have watched, on EBay, a lovely looking 'Made in Japan' 1954 re-issue this week with a Buy it Now price of 530 pounds along with a multitude of 40th,50th and 60th anniversary models to see how the market forces are.   One 50th anniversary model (unplayed) sold for less than it's purchase price.  All the rest were either unsold or re-listed, but this Japanese guitar still has 4 days left so you could pick up a great bargain..

With price tags in the thousands it is no surprise that these models are being copied and there are plenty of great looking Chinese copies floating about that are being sold as the genuine article so you should exercise good judgement if you are thinking of getting one, especially second hand or even new on-line, take care especially if you are buying from a private source.  

These copies are convincing but valueless in real terms.  

Here is an immediate guide what to look for when buying an advertised 50th De luxe Anniversary model.  Should you wish to read some more detailed information about what to look for when buying this guitar, then just drop me a line at and I'll send you
a more comprehensive sheet of 'what to look for' details, although of course this is advice only.

1.  The guitar was only produced in sunburst, no other colour variants.
2.  The wood is Maple, showing a rich pattern of grain under the cellulose.
3.  Etched 50th anniversary neck plate.
4.  Produced in 2004 only.  However, ALL 'USA made' Stratocasters during 2004 had the 50th anniversary neck plate as standard, so some people who own a Strat might be deluded into believing they have the 50th anniversary special for sale but that is not the case!  They simply have the neck plate.

It's minefield out there, a minefield!!!

You have been warned.    

I'd love one of these guitars I have to say,
brings back so many beautiful memories.
Mmmm Pie and chips tonight then.

If one of these is for you then good hunting, never buy in haste, be smart and help yourself not to get ripped off.

Two Blues supporters went fishing, when they had got settled down one of them took out a Thermos flask, the first one said. 
"What's that?"
"A Thermos, it keep hot things hot and cold things cold"
"What you got in it then?"
"Coffee and two choc ices"

Anyway you lovely people, tune in next Month......June will be busting out all over!!!

Take Care

copyright: BullsHeadBob