Circa:  1960’s
Home town:  Salisbury

  • Richard “Rick” Fenner – Guitar & vocals
  • Frederick Algernon Carr-Thompson (“FA” to his mates!) – Trumpet & epic poems
  • Ray McCauley (of Liverpool) – Banjo & mandolin
  • Jimmy (“Who’s on first?”) Watt– Tea box bass
  • Various suspects– Washboard or drums
  • The occasional “ivory tinkler” or two.

This short-lived but historically-important skiffle/trad jazz group was informally called to order in the BSAP Traffic Branch’s “Lay-Bye” bar at Cranborne Barracks, Salisbury, one drunken Friday night sometime in the late ‘60s. No-one can actually remember the date – after all, it was the Sixties…!

The two founding members, Fred Thompson and Rick Fenner, ordered a triple Scotch with a beer chaser and a pint of Oude Meester and a Coke, respectively. They put both the drinks on someone else’s chit.

Both Fred and Rick had played individually at a number of bars, and Rick already professed some obscure claim to fame – some rubbish about “Jo’burg’s legendary Troubadour folk club” and “RTV”.

Fred’s true talent as a trumpet player, however, had only recently become evident. One night, at approximately 02h00 Lima, on the Parade Ground of the Police Training Depot, his impromptu and alcoholically-inspired rendition of bugle calls – commencing with “Reveille” and finishing with “The Bugle Call Rag” – made a deep and emotional impression on both the recruit company and the instructor cadre.

Somewhat taken aback by the short but impassioned chase by screaming fans in cars with roof-mounted flashing blue lights, Fred decided to forsake further fame and restrict his playing to more traditional venues – hence his presence in the “Lay-Bye”.

After the initial gig, and against all the founders’ expectations, people actually began to request the band’s presence. It became a semi-regular (depending on the availability of prune juice – we had sanctions, you know!) and occasionally sought-after party band comprised of said members and the odd scruffy RTV techie.

The band’s unique strength and attraction lay in its inimitable ability to intersperse good foot-tapping music (the band) with epic poetry recitals (Thompson), thus appealing to a far broader spectrum of tastes than its competitors.

Primary venues were various police and military messes and hostels, post-Marlborough race meeting parties, the Sables Motor Club and, indeed, any place that wouldn’t throw them out.

The pair’s musical commitment did not end here. On days when he missed rehearsals “because he was on duty”, Fred was instrumental (no pun intended) in establishing the Sunday “Jazz Afternoon Jam Sessions”, first at the *********Hotel and later at the Sherwood Arms. Rick, meanwhile, was exploring his more intellectual, feeling side and was singing folk songs at the Beverley Rocks with a little-known local called Clem Tholet.

Despite these distractions, and to their everlasting amazement, the G.I.P.W.S.V.E. performed not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES on RTV’s Saturday night extravaganza, “Starlight Bar-B-Q” – more than any other Salisbury band. Feeling that they had succeeded beyond their wildest expectations – being invited back once was far better than a gold record – they disbanded, and the founder members returned to their unfinished business in various Messes.