I will be eternally grateful to my Mother who “exposed” my brother and I to live music from a pretty early stage of our youth. Early memories include seeing THE BATS and 4 JACKS & A JILL at the Bulawayo Theatre on their respective tours to Rhodesia. I can’t recall the exact years but it must have been somewhere around 1967/68. The humour of THE BATS, in particular, blew me away and I still laugh at one of the throwaway quips used by the band that night, “He’s so thin and tall that he looks like a thermometer when he puts a red tie on!”
My “education” in live music took another turn when, in 1968, I was allowed to trundle off to the Bulawayo Showgrounds, adjacent to the Trade Fair grounds, to watch PERCY SLEDGE who had included a visit to Rhodesia in his South African tour. It was a warm and cloudless Bulawayo afternoon as we all took our seats out in the open at the arena. The curtainraiser that day featured a young man who was just coming to prominence at the time, RICHARD JON SMITH. When he took the stage and performed his current hit of the time, “Candlelight” we were all suitably impressed. PERCY was also good – I mean, this was an extremely rare event to be able to see an international artist performing in sanctions-bound Rhodesia – but I have a sneaking suspicion that many may have been more impressed with RICHARD JON.
The other big annual event of these days was, of course, the Texan Rock Band Contest. This really captured my imagination and it took a fair bit of conniving to get to this event, many parents being disapproving of youth our ages attending such “happenings”. Stories of fights, drunkeness, drugs and anti-social behaviour ruled the day in the minds of our parents’ generation. Not that any of them had checked it out, mind you, but the neighbours’ and friends’ words were good enough to be true! I can’t remember what my approach was but I probably got there under the general guise of “going to the Trade Fair!”.
I spent many, many, hours taking a break from my school books and the drudgery of high school life at the Texan Rock Band contests. There again, I was fairly easily blessed thinking most acts were amazing. One of my favourite recollections is of watching OTIS WAYGOOD perform one night at the ampitheatre and, whilst they were working their way through “Fever”, one of them – I think Alan Zipper – stepped forward and kicked his leg up. I don’t think he had any intent on his mind but his foot struck one of the stage coloured footlights and sent it into orbit. It was the wildest act of exurberance I had ever witnessed in a live performance and it made an indelible mark on my physche!!
Other highlights of that era include seeing HEDGEHOPPERS ANONYMOUS at Coq D’Or, hearing THE DOMINOES practicing “Tabatha Twitchett” inside a club whilst on holiday in Durban. (I was too young to be allowed entry so I never pursued that any further), CHRISTIE and EDISON LIGHTHOUSE on the back of a truck at the Redcliff drive-in, multiple attendances at RABBITT’s concert in the 7 Arts Theatre, Bulawayo, in the mid-70’s, my disappointment at missing out on the TROGGS when they visited and going to a mid-night showing of the movie “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” at the Bulawayo City Hall, the COLLECTION at Casa Alba, STAGECOACH, TRIAD, GATE and NEVER-B-FOUR at various night clubs, GARY & SPIDER at the Holiday Inn at Ascot and, of course, THE MONKEES series on RBC TV. What memories.