Cornish Queen Party: Jim Jenkins Write Up
QUEEN CORNISH PARTY by Jim Jenkins
Put the clock back 40 years, take your mind to the North Cornish Coast, to the little picturesque village of St. Agnes. It’s a beautiful summers day and the sun is shining over the Driftwood Spars pub and making a live appearance is an up and coming band from London who were on an 11 date tour of the County. This was Queens first ever tour and this would be the only pub they would play in their entire career. They gave an incredible performance and gave the locals more than they bargained for, on the tiny downstairs stage. The event was advertised locally with Roger’s name in large font declaring he was the legendary drummer of Cornwall with his band Queen in a much smaller font. Roger really was a popular drummer of the County who became a worldwide superstar.
Now back-to-date, in the same village which has hardly changed, in the same pub, which hasn’t changed much either and the stage is still there for local bands to perform on in this legendary pub.
The International Queen Fan club head Jacky Smith decided to hold a one day event at the Driftwood Spars, which is located on Trevaunance Cove to commemorate the Queen gig, played on 9th August 1971 (15 years later on the same day they would play a much bigger gig, Knebworth!) Adverts for the party could be found on notice boards in the village centre on this, their annual Carnival Day.
There was another special occasion at the pub too, local author Rupert White held a private launch party to celebrate the publication of a new book on the history of the band entitled QUEEN IN CORNWALL. He has put together a much more detailed account of Queens beginnings than ever been printed before and is an excellent read and well worth adding to your book collection. Rupert has managed to contact many people who were around Roger Taylor from his first school and band days from Cornwall. He has also managed to track down people who were around Smile which led to the birth of Queen, who have never before spoken to any journalist or author. The book takes you on an interesting journey and shows how Cornwall was important to Queen’s growth and popularity. It was in Cornwall where their first fan base was centred, closely followed by Liverpool. The book was made available for attendees. Please see www.queenincornwall.blogspot.com to treat yourself to a copy before publication launch later in the year.
One of Cornwall’s top bands on the circuit in the 60’s was REACTION, of which Roger Taylor was a member. We were lucky to have a couple of members of the band at this special event. We had a plethora of guests, ROGER BROKENSHIRE, RICK PENROSE and DAVE DOWDING (who was in one of Rogers first bands THE COUSIN JACKS with him) and one of the drivers from the era NEIL BATTERSBY from Reaction days. There was reunion for the Jayfolk with JILL JOHNSON (who had flown over from California), JOSEPHINE JAMES, PENNY NORTH and one of the 2 sisters who actually formed the Queen Fan Club, SUE JOHNSTONE. Also in attendance was a past member of Queen, their first bass player MIKE GROSE. Mingling in the attendees were KEN TESTI, who was Queens first Manager, PETE BAWDEN, who owned PJ’s Club in Truro, where Queen played their 3rd gig and Pete also organised a number of gigs on the Cornish tour including the one at Driftwood Spars. DOROTHY GILL-CAREY was also there, she was the mother of Reaction roadie and Roger’s best friend PETER GILL-CAREY, who unfortunately couldn’t make the party. Dorothy runs the local bed and breakfast Penkerris, which was where many of the fans attending were staying and they were thrilled to find out that Roger played there with Reaction. Those fans were lucky to meet Peter earlier in the day and he recalled life with Roger and how memorable and enjoyable it was.
Before the official proceedings began the Jayfolk ladies took a trip down memory lane and sang along with recordings that were playing. Everyone was surprised how beautifully they sang, their voices shining through. What a treat.
Rupert White welcomed everybody to the Driftwood Spars and gave a presentation showing some rare photos of Roger and Queen and more which were taken in Cornwall. Interview panels followed and Rupert introduced Jim Jenkins who was to conduct these sessions. First up were the guys involved in Reaction; Dave Dowding, Rick Penrose and Neil Battersby. Then followed a trip down memory lane of the swinging 60s and told stories of how Roger progressed through his bands The Bubblingover Boys, Cousin Jacks, Beat Unlimited to Reaction. Dave recalling how he and Roger once played a gig and both took turns playing each others instruments to lengthen the time of the gig. We were told how Roger started putting nails into stages to stop his drum kit from moving. Rick managed to tell different stories than those he told earlier in the year at the Queen Fan Club Convention. Neil commented how much he enjoyed life on the road with Reaction and told many stories. He also managed to record a live Reaction performance.
Next up was Mike Grose. He recalled playing a couple of gigs with Smile after Tim Staffell had left the band and how Roger phoned him and asked would he come to London and join the band. At that time Mike didn’t know Freddie was the lead singer and they were calling this band QUEEN. Mike went shopping in the Kings Road area of London with Fred who insisted the band have ‘stage clothes’ and wanted the trousers to be extremely tight fitting. Ouch! Mike remembered the bands very first gig in Truro’s City Hall on 27th June 1970, even though the gig was locally advertised as Smile, it was Queen who actually performed. This was the gig Rogers mother had organised and they felt awful accepting £50 travel expenses as the gig was for charity. Mike remembered opening the show with Stone Cold Crazy. He travelled back to London with the guys but only did 2 more gigs with them. One at Imperial College and the following week Queen went back to Truro and played their one and only gig at PJ’s. Sadly this was Mikes last. He decided to stay at home. He has no regrets but followed Queen’s success with immense interest. There were two parts to the next interview panel. It was time for the girls.
Jayfolk, first time together for many, many years recalled meeting Roger at Little Canaan Farm and Jill talked about how her relationship blossomed with him and even talked about cutting his hair! She talked about how her cousin Doug Puddifoot visited and took many photos of Smile and Queen. Josephine too remembered stories from the 60s. Penny talked about the time Brian and Freddie stayed at her house as when Smile travelled down to do the Cornish gigs Rogers friends would “put-them-up” in their homes. Penny arranged gigs for Smile and Queen and told stories of these concerts. Sue opened her mind and recalled of meeting Roger and becoming good friends along with her sister Pat. Sue also would have Freddie staying at her home and told of him singing in her house with her dad round the piano and Brian playing guitar. She talked about her time working at Kensington Market and remembered the first Queen fan mail being delivered to the market and her and Pat answering the letters. They were asked to form the Queen Fan Club which they did as mail increased. Doug took photos of Sue’s face to incorporate pics of Queen he had taken in the grounds of Imperial College. Pat and Sue moved to offices in Trident headquarters and developed the bands fan club and Sue remembered Brian being particularly interested in its development. When the band moved to John Reid, Pat and Sue only lasted a few months and they left. Sue was one of a handful of people who saw Freddie with Ibex, Wreckage and Sour Milk Sea and Queen of course. Hearing all these stories from the people who were around at the nucleus of Queen was totally amazing. Queen fans found this all truly wonderful. We were very lucky to have the guests who mingled with the audience for more chat, photo opportunities and autographs. A unique memorable afternoon.
The evening started with a quiz which was won by local fan Jean Harding from Redruth. We had a raffle and lucky people went home with some great prizes. Jacky gave a speech thanking those that attended the event and introduced live band STILLYANO, who rocked the night away and included a couple of Queen songs into their set. Cheers guys. Finally a Queen disco took us to the early hours with music we have loved for 40 years. What a celebration.
The next day Rupert kindly took fans on a walking tour of Truro and everybody met at The Drummer statue Roger unveiled recently. We were shown Roger Taylor’s Truro, the places where he grew up, the Cathedral where he sang in the choir and his old school looking down on us from a hill. Some fans continued the tour by vehicle and were taken up to Truro School and then onto Roger’s old house and out to Carnon Downs to see Tregye Hotel and the place where Queen’s first ever outdoor gig was held, which they played on their Cornwall Tour of 71. Then there was a bit of a time- team adventure. On the back of the first Queen album is a picture of Freddie standing by a river in Devoran (the area Queen stayed in during the 71 tour). We found the exact spot where the photo was taken! A photo opportunity to stand a la Freddie from the pic was a must.
A massive thank you to Rupert White for all his assistance in helping organise the event, for securing all the guests and for his enthusiasm of the Cornwall music scene and being the guide on the Truro tour. To Louise Treseder of Driftwood Spars (whose parents met at a Reaction gig!), Stillyano, Kathy O’Halloran for helping with the sale of raffle tickets and Graham Longworth for taking the photographs. To the fans who joined in the celebration and many had travelled from afar and all the special guests who kindly took time to come along and share their stories and remind us of the journey Roger and the others took to become the band Queen. Roger deservedly became that legendary drummer of Cornwall.