1st May 2016
Late last night Martin Ace phoned me from Germany with the sad news of Phil Ryan's unexpected death. Tears were shed. The last time I spoke to Phil was about a week ago and he was his usual self; erudite and ebullient with a razor-sharp wit. Telephone conversations could last as long as three hours, when Mary and I would take the call in shifts - an hour on, and hour off.
He had his health problems, mostly stemming from the stress generated by the lingering death of his wife, the lovely Boletta. He'd just had a mild stroke. but it had, he said, wrecked his left hand, which is fairly important to a keyboard-player. However, when Martin heard him play he couldn't tell the difference. But Phil could.
But now that doesn't matter. We may have lost one of the greatest keyboard virtuosos of all time, but, worse, we have lost a much loved friend. Mary and I are devastated, and that's not an exaggeration.
Deke & Mary.
A WEEKEND IN THE SMOKE - PART 2
The following day, Roger picked us up about four o'clock and we headed for the Saturday gig at the Oliver Conquest in Whitechapel, where the landlady is the divine Sara Eichler, daughter of John and Sue, sister to Deke and Gracie. I'd been looking forward to seeing as many Eichlers as I could but, unfortunately, John, who has health problems, didn't feel up to it, but Sue turned up. Deke couldn't make it because he was working (he inherited the landlordship of The Three Kings when John retired) and neither did Gracie, who had a prior commitment. However, Sue introduced me to Beth, Gracie's daughter, who now works as a barmaid at Sara's pub. She was a real charmer and every bit as beautiful as her mother. The Oliver Conquest, deep in the heart of Whitechapel, was a slick, city pub, full of slick, city twats. The gig was upstairs and while Roger set up the gear I stood outside and chain-smoked. Lots of familiar faces and friends arrived. Richard Thomas, the Laugharne supremo, with friends. Boogie John Stanforth plus friends and, out of the blue, George Bleddings arrived. George used to run the Torrington and I hadn't seen him since the Manband days so there was much catching up to do. And Josh Ace turned up - a chip off the old block.
The gig went well, but again I had a couple of mind blanks. If I'm not careful I'll develop a complex. You wait until you're my age. The drive back to Walthamstow was hair-raising, thanks to heavy traffic and swarms of reckless cyclists. On Sunday, Roger, again driving up from Canvey Island, arrived around midday and, after a chat and coffee, we drove to the BBC studios in Portland Place. Roger's satnav became subject to London's atmospheric whimsy and we were soon lost. Unusually, I came to the rescue. Suddenly, I knew where we were, when we drove past the Hope & Anchor. My old stomping ground. The rest of the journey passed without incident, unless you consider nose-to-tail, static traffic to be an incident.
Michael Heatley was waiting for us, standing defiantly in a vacant parking space just down the road from the BBC. Pausing for a brief photoshoot in front of the BBC sign, we headed for reception. The girls had gone ahead and just as they trudged into the reception area, Tony Blackburn - in a hurry, head down, talking into his mobile phone and obviously oblivious to his surroundings - burst through the swing doors and clattered into Mary and Gina. Everybody involved apologised, even if it wasn't their fault and moved on.
Not, I think you'll agree, one of my best anecdotes, but I can't let the opportunity pass to indulge in a quantum of character assassination, vis a vis Tony Blackburn, with whom I have a longstanding bone to pick. Years ago, he played one of my singles, I know not which. As it faded out, he felt the need to comment (I didn't hear it myself because I'd rather rub my testicles with a cheese-grater than listen to Tony Blackburn, but a reliable source confirmed it). ''Never let it be said that I only play records I like," he said, which seemed to me to be peevish and unnecessary.
Given the man's ghastly taste in music, I'd have been more upset if he'd liked it. Still, it rankled. I didn't see the collision with Mary and Gina, which was a pity because I'd have liked to meet him. It wasn't a big deal, but I was sorry to miss the chance to knock his teeth down his throat. Never let it be said that I only beat up people that I like.
Part 1 of Deke Speaks was on www.Facebook.com/twangdynastybook.
To read Part 3, see the next Welsh Connection newsletter. Subscribe free by mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAXIMUM DARKNESS: MAN ON THE ROAD TO NOWHERE
'I'm very much looking forward to the latest Deke book!' - Pete 'Rock Family Trees' Frame
Guitarist-singer Deke Leonard was a founder member of the Welsh rock'n'roll band Man. He served with them, give or take a couple of sabbaticals, from 1968 until 2004, and is now a solo artist, broadcaster and raconteur.
Maximum Darkness: Man On The Road To Nowhere is the third book in Leonard's autobiographical trilogy after Maybe I Should've Stayed In Bed and Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics.
It picks up his epic journey in 1977 as he fights to resurrect his solo career, chronicles Man's re-formation in 1983 and follows their battle to reclaim their status as one of the world's leading acid-rock bands up until his departure.
Highlights include Deke giving guitar lessons to Ten Years After's Alvin Lee, crossing swords with Wishbone Ash and lecturing the Animals' Eric Burdon on stagecraft - tales told with his inimitable style and customary dry wit. Smokey Robinson, Ian Dury, Phil Lynott, Walter Egan and Tina Turner are among the other characters in a fascinating and often rib-tickling story.
His previous autobiographical books have each reprinted at least twice. Rhinos has become a cult classic, while 2012's The Twang Dynasty - Deke's insightful analysis of the most influential guitarists in popular music - was acclaimed by Classic Rock as 'the most illuminating, idiosyncratic, illuminating and entertaining book on the subject available anywhere' and was Guitar & Bass's Book of the Month.
With the publication of Maximum Darkness - Man on the Road to Nowhere, Deke Leonard stakes a claim to being the most prolific and entertaining writer still making music today.
Maximum Darkness: Man on the Road to Nowhere (ISBN 978-190071119-7) is published on 23 January 2015. With 160 pages plus eight pages of photos, recommended retail price is £12.99.
NEW UNRELEASED DEKE LEONARD TRACK “MARTHA” NOW AVAILABLE AS A SINGLE!
Turned up unexpectedly in a house move, a track which got away from Unfinished Business.
As it’s never been released before we have decided to put it out as a digital download via CD Baby. It will also be available on Amazon and iTunes over the next few days. We have described it as “a catchy, light rock’n’roll song which you will be whistling in the shower”.
If you do download it (and we hope you do...) please do consider leaving a review.
Deke's third book, The Twang Dynasty, a discussion of some of his favourite guitarists, was published late 2012. Further details now available...
We have finally reprinted Deke's first two books, Rhinos Winos and Lunatics and Maybe I Should've Stayed In Bed.
Both are alable in limited numbers for the first (and possibly last) time in recent years, and the good news is the prices are as per the originals (£11.99 and £12.99 respectively). Sadly the post has gone up in the intervening 12 years, but we can't do much about that. It's even cheaper to post them separately, if you can believe it!
Paypal to email@example.com - add £2 apiece for postage and packing. Alternatively a cheque payable to Northdown Publishing at PO Box 1485, High Wycombe, HP11 9HQ will do nicely.
Plus, a couple of gigs have been lined up -
There's an opportunity to read a transcript of an interview Deke recently did with Cherry Red Records to tie in with their release of the first two Man albums.
There are now mp3 clips from every Deke Leonard album available for your listening pleasure in the music section.
In 2002 Deke started work on a new solo album, his first for... a long time. It's original working title was Smoke Signals, but, having thought about it, Deke decided to call it Freedom and Chains.
The CD is now available on the Angel Air label, SJPCD197. See the music section for more details.
Available now is a collection of tracks from previously unreleased radio sessions by Deke Leonard's Iceberg. Two sessions are from Europe, and the third was for a John Peel Radio 1 session. This is available on on Hux Records.