Girl musicians are people, too..

by CHRISTINE PIERCE

It is now more than seven years since I wrote to you ("Should Chicks Pick up The Sticks", Crescendo, February, 1970) and I am prompted to do so again by reading of Max Abrams' retirement from teaching. I owe Max so much - many times, with a tricky score shoved under my nose, I could hear his voice in my ear -"Not that was, you twit!"

So what happened? Well, my career began around the Bristol area, with occasional trips to South Wales, Swindon, etc., to play with bands run by Mike Slocombe, Gordon Rodger, Roy Osborn (I laughed when he said he was an ex-wrestler, until he took a flying drop-kick at the side of my van). A highlight was a dep job or two in the Bristol Locarno with the Tommy Hawkins Band (suitably dismayed to see a female drummer sitting in the band room). No, gents, I'm not going to spout about male chauvinism; it was just: "Where on earth are we going to find a band jacket to fit her?"

Then there were club jobs on my own doorstep but, finally, much as I love home comforts, I took the plunge and started seeing a bit more of the world and the music business.

I remember viewing the prospect of being part of an all - girl band with some suspicion a few years ago; there was that vague doubt about being regarded as a gimmick and, anyway, what on earth would they be like as people? Well, I got over the first shock about five years ago, when Ivy Benson asked me to dep for a con-cert at Catford Town Hall in London. I dropped everything and traveled down and found myself amongst dresses, jewelry and perfume, only just keeping my head above water


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thanks to a blonde lady armed with a bass guitar, who hung on to the tempo like a limpet, and a trumpet player who, in between blowing the walls down, found time to check that I was reading the bit I should be reading which, most of the time I must admit I wasn't. I was very relieved when that night was over and I was able to return to Weston. Chris is still lead trumpet, Bass is now Audrey, along with Ann, Joan, Jazz, Lynne, Eva, Jenny, Margaret. What kind of people are they? Well, they're people, just like the Stans, Rons, Rays and Mikes of the world. Individuals whose lives primarily revolve around their music, and who occasionally cause consternation amongst "day people", as do musicians in general.

I must say, after ten months with this band, that along with a lot of stress, nerves, frustration and just plain muscle-ache, I've had more laughs than I can remember like the night a drunk in Stuttgart was unceremoniously removed from the stand by Ivy, who was promptly re-named able people, such as a group called Kung-Fu. And I've met some memorably, who had us all roaring with laughter by imitating us all too well. Then there was my first "pro-digs", run by Ronnie Stephenson's piano playing brother and his wife, where jazz constantly filled the air - sometimes along with a clarinet concerto from Margaret in the room next to me and a ballad from Ken Kirkham across the hall. In Munich I met up with Charlie Persip, who has a mischievous sense of humour and a good way with philosophy. I think he hexed my brushes; the evening after he told me he couldn't use that make ( which must remain nameless), I starred an Alpert medley in a shower of bristles.

It's hard to make a brief resume of ten years. I've no all-consuming ambitions now just take each day as it comes, hoping to get this job sorted our and see where I go from there apart from the hope that I'll get to hear Buddy Rich again one day and perhaps get the other half of a pair of sticks his roadie gave me after a show in Bristol. I'd no sooner got my fingers around them than a guy elbowed me in the muscle at the top of my arm, rendering it useless, and made a grab at those sticks I hung on with the other hand and saved one stick. Yes. that's one ambition that's never left me but my new snare drum is too good to smash over anyone's head!