What are you doing after the moon?

what are you doing after the moonThis is from Chapter Arts newspaper  1984 – 1985.

I’m using OCR software to extract the text, so if you see any gibberish please contact me using the button above.

If you had been in Cardiff at midnight on a Wednesday night in 1975 and had made your way to the bottom end of The Hayes, you would have heard music coming from the dimly lit backstreets behind the old Mill Lane open air market.

The music would have become louder if you had gone into the backstreets, turned into New Street and found a narrow staircase that led up to the New Moon Club.

Inside the club you would have seen Red Beans and Rice playing an eerily authentic mixture of Chicago and New Orleans blues, Cajun music and rock and roll.

The New Moon Club is not there anymore because New Street has been demolished, but rhythm and blues is still alive and well in Cardiff. Red Beans and Rice forms part of the trunk of the Cardiff rhythm and blues family tree   a tree which has spread its branches wide.

Tommy Scott was to revert to his original name of TOM JONES … and he never looked back.

The instigator, and only constant member, of the band is drummer Tommy Riley who formed Red Beans and Rice in 1975. Under his guidance the band has resisted the fads of the last nine years and has continued to produce music of quality. Red Beans and Rice has proved to be an enriching experience for dozens of musicians wishing to explore a wide range of American R’n’B music.

Tommy Riley said of the band: “The idea of Red Beans and Rice was to play all types of R’n’B music rather than just one particular type, whether it was just soul, just rock and roll or just blues. We wanted an amalgamation of all of it. ”

His roots in RWB go back a lot further than the forming of Red Beans and Rice. In the early and mid’60s he was the drummer in a rock and roll band called The Sons of Adam. Dave Edmunds was on the same club circuit with The Raiders and so was a rock and roll band called Tommy Scott and the Senators. Tommy Scott was to revert to his original name of Tom Jones … and he never looked back after that.

what-are-you-doing-after-the-moon2(Left: The original Memphis bend   left to right: Lincoln Carr, Micky Gee and Tommy Riley.)

The guitarist in The Senators, and later with Torn Jones and the Squires, was Mickey Gee, now one of the most respected rock and blues guitarists in Britain   a musician’s musician.

During the mid’60s both Tommy Riley and Mickey Gee played, at separate times, with Dave Edmunds’ band, Love Sculpture, and in 1968 they both joined Joe Cocker’s Grease band.

They were together again in 1973 playing the dreary working men’s clubs of South Wales. Recalling that time, Mickey said: “We were playing some nowhere gig up the valleys in between the bingo sessions. The singer collapsed in the middle of a number. Tommy and I looked at each other and he said: ‘We’ll share it, you sing one, then I’ll sing one, so we can get our money’. “They did just that and it worked. With the addition of Lincoln Carr on bass, the trio became Memphis Bend.

The sound was rockabilly. It was, added Mickey, “just like the Stray Cats are doing now, except we didn’t have a string bass and I didn’t have the hair”

In 1973 the New Moon Club was a down market ‘chicken in the basket’ night club. Mainly frequented by bus drivers, it was open only at weekends until Memphis Bend secured a Wednesday night residency. For a year the trio entertained the more discerning members of Cardiff night life before splitting up in 1974.

red beans & riceMickey Gee was quiet for the next few years until 1979 when Mik Flood, then Artistic Director of Chapter, invited him to play in Alan Osborne’s Terraces at Chapter under the musical direction of George Kahn of The People Show. Shortly afterwards Mickey joined the Shakin’Stevens’ Band alongside pianist Geraint Watkins, and they both also played with Dave Edmunds’ band. Whilst with both bands, Mickey was in great demand for recording session work, as he is today. Now he is working with Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones.

After the demise of the original Memphis Bend in 1974, Tommy Riley kept the band going until 1975 when he formed Red Beans and Rice with Lincoln Carr, Graham Williams on guitar, and Geraint Watkins. With the introduction of Geraint on piano and accordion, the sound became New Orleans blues. Then Geraint left for London where he worked with Stiff Records and formed his own band, Geraint Watkins and the Dominators.

Red Beans and Rice went through some changes, the most important of which was Tommy’s teaming up with local soul legend Lavern Brown in 1976. With the addition of Geoff Coleman on guitar, Mike Pace from London on sax, and Bennie Herbert on bass, Red Beans and Rice brought the soul sound of the ’60s to life.

That line up ended in 1980, shortly after Lavern secured a contract with Chiswick Records. Mike Pace joined the Jools Holland Band with bass player Pino Palladino, who is now with the Paul Young Band. Before joining Jools Holland, Pino had been a member of the Dominoes – a Cardiff-based trio Peter Wenger on drums, formed in 1980 by Mickey Gee.

New Moon Club
New Moon Club Cardiff. Stephen Hunt uppivozlumadr (flickr.com)

Meanwhile Tommy Riley briefly adopted the name of The Sole Distributors for his band, but by 1981 had reverted to the name of Red Beans and Rice. Through the following years the band has, developed a’40s style swing blues. Indeed, by 1983 it had swelled to a seven-piece band with three saxophones.

In 1982 Lavern joined up with Geoff Coleman. Mike Pace joined the band, too, along with brilliant young pianist Rob Ford, Paul Westwell on drums, and Neil Jones on bass. That was the beginning of the Lavern Brown Band. The band’s soulful blues still survives now.

Many other local musicians developed R’n’B from the ’60s into the ’70s. Bands such as Stiletto, The Nicutinos and The Cadillacs all added to the strength and depth of Cardiff R’n’B. Now, in the’80s, Red Beans and Rice is still playing and so is the Lavern Brown Band. There is Snatch It Back, Fire Down Below and the crazed blues of The Red Hot Pokers, too. Soul music has been kept alive with Dansette and now the Madassa
Soul Band.

Back in the 1960s Tommy Riley, Dave Edmunds, Mickey Gee, Lavern Brown and a handful of others developed an authentic approach to American R’n’B music. That approach reverberates through the music being played in Cardiff today.

It took me three years to learn those chords. C and G were easy, but F was hell!”

When asked what first interested him in playing music, Mickey Gee had to delve back to
1959: “The thing that started me playing was my Uncle Sid, and who knows Uncle Sid? But dammit if he hadn’t been there,  I wouldn’t have been here. Uncle Sid was a house painter from Llanrumney. He’d be there in his painter’s overalls with a two quid guitar, strumming three chords. It was magic. It took me three years to learn those
chords. C and G were easy, but F was hell! ”

Here’s to Uncle Sid and the continuing excellence of R’n’B in Cardiff.

11 thoughts on “What are you doing after the moon?”

  1. LOCAL STORIES AND THE FAMILY TREES OF THE INDIVIDUAL MUSICIANS ARE FASCINATING BECAUSE YOU LEARN EVEN MORE ABOUT THEM AND HOW THEY COMBINED AND NETWORKED TO MAKE GREAT MUSIC!

  2. I was 17 years old when my father, john, took me to meet mickey at his house in canton (i think) because i’d spent the last year learning how to play like chet atkins and he knew mickey as he’d played with him many times with himself and cal ford a country duo. I played him a few of my best numbers and he showed me a few of the riffs that i hadn’t been able to figure out. He said at the time that i was doing fine and there wasn’t much he could show me but just keep at it. when he played the same tunes i had played him it was like listening to god. i noticed the feel of the music was so important, his way of playing was so natural. i saw/met him many times after that and he always seemed to appreciate the fact that i was one of the guys into the picking style of guitar playing. i remember playing a gig years later (and he probably didn’t recognize me) with a cajun band i was in and mickey was in the audience……he came up to me after the gig and said…’i knew it was you because i don’t anyone else who would use a thumbpick playing those riffs around here’.

  3. The New Moon in 1973 became totally filled, as far as I can remember by piss heads and hooligans, out for a rocking good time from Chapter goers, Moving Being and the Arts College where I was in my 1st year….I think we took the place over, much to the chagrin of any locals that thought it their own! Happy memories!

  4. It’s still going on now. Chris Rees of Snatch it Back fame is not well. Craig of Tiger Bay (bass and staple of the 70s Moon) still warbles in the Llandaff heathcock of a Wednesday where some Royal Oak regulars resurfcae. Dansette is back and I’ve had the pleasure of bassing in Fire Down Below, the immortal Heavy Quartet, Out to Lunch, Rough Justice, Zed Allie, Brothers Louis, Ain’t Misbehavin’ etc. Great times. The Dowlais, Casblance, Windsor, Memo, 4 7s… glad to see Steve and Jeff Hawkins still drubbing away in Fun House as well as Madassa et al – whoever he is. Me? I became a single-dad and a councillor for 10 years and now write crap near-future science fiction. Miss gigging still… once it’s in the blood it never leaves ya for a second…

  5. Does anyone else remember the street party on Rhymny St Cathays to celebrate Investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales. Tommy Riley teamed up with Blues Harpist and gravel voiced Lynn Phillips. They called the band “Throw it in the Grass”. Can’t remember who else were there but have feeling that Titch may have been on lead.

  6. it was myself on vocals and harmonica,tommy on drums,ian lawrence bass ,and robbo ingram on les paul.By the way the power came from dave marleys mums house great day.

  7. I was one of those pissheads and hooligans at the Moon! it was agreat mox of bikers, teds, hippies, skins & everyone ! BUT there was more agro at the Top Rank in Queen St!

  8. Mickey was in my band, Sting Like a Bee, on and off for stints of several months at a time. I’m an American but musically I grew up in S. Wales, where I lived for 17 years. I constantly credit Mickey for much that I learned about being a working musician.

    I was introduced to Mickey at the Inn on the River by Cal Newman but first got to know him when he answered an ad I put somewhere. We spoke on the phone and he said he liked the idea of what I was doing, but at one point he said, in typically blunt M.G. fashion, “I hate harmonica players.” I decided it might not be the best idea to mention that I was actually a harmonica player.

    The first time I played with him was at a last minute political club New Years Eve gig in Gwent somewhere. 1983 I think. We did it as a duo, no rehearsal. I just picked him up and off we went. I was really new to S. Wales and just starting to learn the way things are done. We arrived to a room full of people already fairly rat assed and pissed because apparently we were late. So Mickey and I quickly went and banged out a set. We then settled into this great conversation in the dressing room, interrupted occasionally to go play. At one point Micky said to me, “Steve don’t bother talking to them between songs. They’ll just think you’re some twat from Bristol pretending to be an American.” He was, sometimes frustratingly, almost always right and that was no exception.

    One final thing, I did a session with legendary Texas guitar player Casper Rawls a couple of years ago. I asked him if he ever heard of Mickey Gee. Casper’s eyes lit up and he smiled large and replied, “Oh yeah. Dave Edmunds band. Great guitar player. Like him a lot.” So did I.

  9. Tommy Riley did you live in Railway St. Also did yo you start playing in a “skiffle” band with my uncle Mike Rich? also from Railway St? This is roughly late 1950’s to early 60s. I would like to get in touch if possible?
    Regards
    Kevin

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