Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Right Note - 4. Joe Lee and John Deacon

Joe Lee

Band Pic: GOOD COMPANY: circa 1975
June Lee, John Deacon, Joe Lee, Jack Claridge .

While attending Otumoetai College, my family and I lived on Windsor Road.

This was the time I was starting to take an interest in bands and pop stars in general. In those days (early 70s) there wasn’t much around in the way of hi-fi stereos. Consequently, my first record player was an old MONO job.

It was one of those suitcase-type models, covered in blue vinyl, with a lift-up lid.

I would put my records on, and turn it up to Volume 10! - It must have sounded terrible! - but modern music had really started to take a hold of me, and I wasn't about to let the quality of the sound get in the way!

I was walking out my gate on my way to school, when another school kid approached me, and said “was that Uriah Heep you were playing just before?” I said yes, and we got to talking and found we had quite a bit in common.

The kids name was John Deacon, and he lived just up the road from me on Bellevue Road.

John came round to my place after school, and I showed him my record collection, and my record player.

He said “that’s only got one speaker!” “I can fix that for you!” So off we went to his place, and he got an old speaker from somewhere (I believe his dad was a bit of an electronics enthusiast), took it back to my place, and wired it all up for me, and just like that I had a STEREO, and I was on cloud nine.

At this time, John was learning the cornet and - following his father - he joined the local brass band, but at the same time, he was learning to play acoustic guitar.

After learning the basics he soon progressed to an electric guitar plugged in to a home made amplifier made by his father and joined a band called “Good Company” with a drummer called Joe Lee, (see photo) and then later in his teens he formed a band called “Orpheus.”

Some years later John left New Zealand, for Austin Texas, where he lives to this day.
Joe Lee and his wife June had arrived in New Zealand in 1970, and had quite an influence on the local music scene spurned by Joes experience and musical influences in and around the fringes of the happening London scene.

In a later column I will talk about how musicians locally can be inspired by passionate performances by their contemporaries, but seeing as Joes “local” was the scene in london in the late 60’s his “local contemporaries” were legendary artists and promoters such as the great Ronnie Scott, and Cliff Richard and the Shadows, who Joe worked with, and later became the Tour manager for.

Joe was what you would describe as “a big fish in a small pond,” and those London “big-time” influences proved to be a significant inspiration to young and old musicians alike. So much so, that Joes name pops up in conversations concerning music on a regular basis even today.

June Lee told me that one day Joes singer - one Merv O’Shea - failed to show up for a gig.

When Joe got home he said “that’s it, June - you are now the new singer for my band!”

That came as quite a shock for the glamorous Mrs Lee, as she had never sung in her life before!

June was submitted to a baptism of fire, and was thrown in at the deep end straight in to live pub and club work around town with already seasoned musicians such as a young and dapper Mr Jack Clarridge, who can still be seen carting those vibes around on the odd occasion, such as at the recent 2008 Tauranga Jazz Festival.

Memories in a scrapbook remind me of those yesterdays
Pictures and dreams that come to me won’t let them go away
You know I often wonder how you are
What you’re doing now
Maybe you’re a lawyer, or a doctor
Or a singer in a Band

John Deacon -
When You Cross My Mind
From his album Another Time, Another Place


Anonymous Bill Bacon said...

Now you are bringing back some memories. Back in 1978 when I was living down in Mansfield Road Greerton I was introduced to Joe and June Lee by my sister Lizzie at I think what was called the Hi-Spot just across from Tauranga Boys College. I was looking for a band to play in and they were in need of a rhythm guitar player so began two years of being in Good Company playing all the digs around Tauranga and the Mount. Good Company line ups changed all the time as local musicians such as Alan White, Mike Kirk, and Lewis Baker would step up on any given night and I don't think there was a musician left in the area that did not benefit from a night or two with Joe and June Lee. Lewis Baker was living with me at the time and would accompany me to many a gig and drive Joe nuts with his long loud Roy Buchanan lead breaks laughing up a storm as Joe muttered under his breath behind the skins. Whether while practicing out at Omokoroa or sitting between sets both Joe and June would tell us wonderful warm tales of their time around the London music scene. Good Company was a great apprenticeship for a yound Tauranga lad and I owe them both my gratitude for starting me off in the right direction.

8:25 am  

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