Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Justin time

They say that everyone remembers where they were when they heard that John F Kennedy had been shot. That's hardly true today as most people weren't even born in November 1963. I do remember it however, as I was 17 at the time. I arrived at the Justin Hall, West Wickham, Kent, for the regular Friday night gig and was immediately told the shocking news. It's not an event that I am ever likely to forget, and it compares, for me, with the first news of other shocking deaths, such as that of Elvis (a brief 'and finally' item at the end of News at Ten), Sam Cooke (a two line stop press item in the Evening News), John Lennon (breakfast radio), and Princess Diana (an early morning car boot sale in Barnet).
The Justin Hall Friday gig was a typical early 60s dance, with a live group, a motley selection of girls dancing round their handbags and spotty youths like myself trying to pluck up courage to pick one of them up. There were some pretty good local bands playing there though, including the Konrads, with a very young David Bowie, and the Herd, with an even younger Pete Frampton. The repertoire of these bands, like all others of the time, consisted mostly of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Coasters numbers. They weren't great, but they were adequate. Occasionally, if finances allowed, I would go Up West with friends to The Scene or The Flamingo, but most weeks the Justin Hall sufficed. The highlight of 1963 in the area was 'Wickham goes pop' - an early attempt at a music festival - comprising four hours of local groups, including the Tru-beats (forerunners of The Herd), the Konrads and other forgotten groups (according to Chris Groom's book 'Rockin' and around Croydon') such as The Rebounds, The Psykons, Del and the Panthers (I seem to remember that Del had a very flash American car) and the Constrees, which apparently comprised members of the 45th Beckenham Scout group, which I had earlier belonged to. Innocent days - I don't remember much in the way of drugs - not even Purple hearts - at the Justin Hall, but exciting in its own way. And we even had Gene Vincent performing there once.


At 4:36 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the dances at the Justin Hall, my friend and I both 17 were two of those motley girls. I don't remember dancing round my handbag or drugs being in evidence.But do recall some of the bands you mentioned.My Granmother lived next door to the Justin Hall in the Thatched Cottage which was sadly demolished to make way for a housing estate.

At 9:53 pm , Blogger DJCross said...

I'm doing some research on the 'Wickham Goes Pop" event and would like to know if you remember when in 1963 it took place (date, month or season, early in the year or late, anything you recall woukd be helpful!) Cheers!

At 12:08 pm , Blogger Nick said...

It's all a bit hazy now, but there is some info in Chris Groom's book Rockin' and Around Croydon. He quotes from the Beckenham and Penge Advertiser in October that the organiser was David Meyer and that seven local groups played for just under four hours at Wickham Hall including the Tru-Beats (with Peter Frampton) and the Konrads (with a young David Bowie). Other groups were the Rebounds, who backed Croydon vocalist Vern Rogers, The Psykons, Dal and the Panthers and the Constrees. The Burnettes were due to take part but had to stand down, but their singer, Pip Blakemore, did appear, having put together another group. Compere was Brian Showell who was manager of Showell's record shop in West Wickham.

At 4:20 pm , Anonymous Mike said...

A friend and I (he's now in Australia) were reminiscing about our time in West Wickham and Beckenham and going to the Justin Hall, and he pointed me to your blog, which definitely made my day. I WAS A CONSTREE! Yes, memories came flooding back. I have to say we weren't great, definitely support to most of the other bands you mention. I do recall an evening with the Konrads when David's (or Davey Jones as he was then) microphone packed up and he had to borrow ours. Other memorable sessions there included Screaming Lord Sutch being carried down the stairs to the stage in a coffin!
As well as Wickham Goes Pop, there was also an open-air event in Blakes Recreation Ground behind Justin Hall around the same time (I can't remember when but probably earlier) that we played at along with the Trubeats with a very young Peter Frampton. He can't have been more than about 12, but could play even then. I vividly recall his pink Stratocaster which Chris (our lead guitarist) managed to cadge a play of.

Happy days!


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