I’d been attending
private guitar lessons for fifteen months or so before I made my stage
debut in my home town of Middlesbrough, in the north east of England.
When I wasn’t practising a watered-down version of some classic
melody, I would be busy playing along with the latest Beatles, Rolling
Stones or Yardbirds records.
So, on a December night in 1964, along with school friends Paul Rodgers
on bass and Colin Bradley on rhythm guitar, I faced my first audience.
And it’s true what they say; you never forget the first time! The
band became known as the Road Runners.
Early in 1967 we changed our name to The Wildflowers
for London where the ‘Summer of Love’ beckoned. Paul’s
singing had progressed to such an extent, that he’d become a lead
vocalist in his own right, leaving the bass spot open to Bruce Thomas.
Soon the band shed their cool suits and took to wearing kaftans and jeans
- Wildflower power! I listened to Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Hendrix
and Mike Bloomfield; guitar playing had come a long way since The Shadows
and Johnny and The Hurricanes!
My interest in acoustic guitar had grown since I’d
familiarised myself with Django Reinhardt, Robert Johnson, Lonnie Johnson,
and the great classical maestro Segovia. This was a side of the instrument
I yearned to persue. So by October, due to an absence of a record deal,
a lack of decent gigs, and ‘personality clashes’, I decided
to return home and arranged for private tuition on the classical guitar.
Though I enjoyed my study of the instrument, it wasn’t
long before I was back rocking on stage. I became a member of Tramline
and recorded two albums for the famous Island record label.
The band broke up later in the year, and a couple of months later I was
back in London as a member of Lucas and the Mike Cotton sound. It was
an excellent band that specialized in soul music, and I even got to back
Gene Pitney and Paul Jones! A year or so later I joined up with legendary
rhythm and blues performer Zoot Money. The band recorded an album and
did a concert tour with John Mayall plus the usual round of club dates,
but was short lived.
I joined Juicy Lucy in 1970 and knew this was indeed
the ‘big time’ as they had two roadies and two buses - one
for the equipment and one for the band - luxury! The band featured the
very wonderful Glen ‘Fernando’ Campbell on twin-neck steel
guitar, and had recently had a hit with Who Do You Love. We recorded
three albums, toured a lot in Europe and played a club tour in the United
When Paul Williams left Juicy Lucy, the remaining members
(none of the original line-up) attempted to keep the band on the road,
and both Frankie Miller and Bobby Harrison (ex-Freedom singer/drummer)
sang on gigs. Bobby asked me to do some session work on his first solo
album which I did. Juicy Lucy broke up soon after and Bobby and I decided
to put together a funky-style rock outfit - Snafu.
As in Juicy Lucy, we recorded three albums and toured extensively in Europe,
including tours with The Doobie Brothers and Golden Earring. The band
also undertook a tour of the States with ELP, The Eagles, and Jo Jo Gunne.
I’d known David Coverdale since Tramline days back
in the North East and had last seen him on the eve of his departure to
the United States as the newly-recruited singer with Deep Purple. So it
was a pleasant surprise when he turned up at a Snafu gig in Munich in
1975. We spoke soon after and he invited me to his Bavarian home to help
him write and arrange his forthcoming solo album.
Shortly after, I left Snafu to concentrate on session work (refer to Albumography
) and write and record the Young And Moody album with Status
Quo lyricist Bob Young. We recorded David’s first solo album Whitesnake
in London, and the following year Northwinds, in Munich. Soon
after I did a short tour of the States with critically acclaimed singer
Frankie Miller, followed by a string of British dates. It was during these
dates that I received a call from David, and the plan to launch Whitesnake
was set in motion.
The band went on the road in early 1978 and soon after
recorded a four track EP, Snakebite, followed quickly by the
first album, Trouble, though a live recording from Hammersmith
released in Japan.
The line-up was David, Bernie Marsden and myself on guitars, Neil Murray
on bass, Dave Dowle on drums and Jon Lord on keyboards. The follow-up,
Lovehunter, featured the same personnel. After British and European
tours, Ian Paice replaced Dowel and the band recorded their first hit
album Ready An’ Willing.
I also found time to take on some session work including Roger Chapman’s
debut solo album, Chappo, and In The Night by Lindesfarne’s
Ray Jackson. Things were hotting up and boy, were we having a good time!
During 1980 we toured Europe, Japan and a rather misguided tour of America
due to Whitesnake being the support act for Jethro Tull.
1981 Whitesnake recorded it’s most successful LP, Come An’
Get It, toured Europe, then undertook a less than successful tour
of the States with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I took time off to handle
the guitar duties on Graham Bonnet’s album, Line Up, which
included the hit single Night Games, and after a memorable Donnington
Festival with AC/DC and Slade, Whitesnake went into the studios to record
Saints And Sinners. A tour of Germany with Slade as support was
next on the cards, and it was during this inconclusive jaunt that the
rot finally set in. There are always conflicting stories as to the break
up of a band, but as far as I’m concerned it was down to ‘mismanagement’,
greed, and personal reasons. My philosophy is simple: ’You do your
work and you get your money’. Well, we certainly worked…
After some session work with the likes of Sheena Easton,
and being a glutton for punishment, I accepted an offer to go back with
the revamped ‘Whitesnake’ to tour Europe and Japan, and record
the Slide It In album. It was an unhappy experience for me with
none of the camaraderie of the original band. I quit after the Autumn
tour in October 1983. Selling my soul was never on the agenda.
The period following my departure from Whitesnake was
my most inactive; it was as though I’d been drained from head to
toe. I played with local musicians near my home, took on session work
with the likes of Mike Oldfield and Chris Thompson, and played occasionally
with Status Quo drummer John Coughlan’s Diesel Band, an act I’d
worked with on and off since 1975.
Towards the end of the decade I went into the studio with Danish singing
star Sanne Salomonson, English vocalist Jane Harrison, and
my former employer, Gene Pitney. This was followed by both recording and
tours with legendary blues singer Chris Farlowe, and my old friend Roger
Chapman. I also rekindled my working relationship with Bernie Marsden
on a few early Moody Marsden Band gigs which were most enjoyable!
In 1992 the Moody Marsden Band recorded its live album
Never Turn Our Back On The Blues and worked live on a more regular
Over the next few years we recorded two more albums and I did more session
work (compare albumography) and co-wrote two songs for Roger Chapman’s
album Kiss My Soul. Soon after, Bernie suggested we team up with
Norwegian musicians Jorn Lande, Willy Bendikson and Sid Ringsby to form
The Snakes. This line-up recorded both studio and live albums and worked
mainly in Norway, though it did perform in England, Holland, Sweden and
The new millennium saw the release of my first solo album I Eat Them
For Breakfast and the formation of the Company of Snakes, which repeated
the formula of The Snakes with both studio and live recordings. The band
was active until it’s metamorphosis into M3 Classic Whitesnake in
2004. Also during this period I teamed up with ex-Juicy Lucy singer Paul
Williams to record Smokestacks Broomdusters And Hoochie Coochie Men,
then toured Europe with Roger Chapman. Session work was also in evidence
(compare albumography) and I was invited to play on Marius Mueller- Westernhagen’s
Nah Aufnahme. The album reached number one in Germany.
Towards the end of 2005 I went into the studio and recorded
my blues-rock album Don't Blame Me. It was released the following
year to almost coincide with the publication of part one of my autobiography,
Playing With Trumpets - A Rock And Roll Apprenticeship. The book
chronicles my early days in the music business, mostly in the company
of my classmate and band member, Paul Rodgers. I'm working on part two
In November 2006 I played on Roger Chapman's album One More Time For
Peace then toured with him in April / May and December 2007. That
year also saw the release of my acoustic music album Acoustic Journeyman,
and I also recorded 22 tracks of original soul and blues-rock for use
on TV and film. Toured with both M3 and Roger Chapman.
In 2008 I appeared on drummer Jimmy Copley's album Slap
My Hand alongside Jeff Beck, Pino Palladino, Pete Cox and many more
great performers. Jimmy then asked me to perform as special guest on his
Japanese tour. The Tokyo shows were recorded for a DVD, Jimmy Copley
and Char - Special Session.
2009 saw the release of my album of electric guitar music, Electric
In 2010 guested with Uriah Heep on selected dates in England and Japan,
and played a series of shows with Monsters Of British Rock, a band that
would eventually morph into Snakecharmer.
Release of the Young and Moody anthology album 'Back For The Last Time
Co-wrote and produced more music for TV and film in early 2011before concentrating
on the preparation of new songs and recording with Snakecharmer.