*Tony Bird's new stuff below..
Peter Gaskell: Bass Guitar. Anthony Bird: Drums. Cyril Anderton: Rythmn Guitar.
Tom: Ormesher: Lead Guitar. Alex Keerie: Lead Vocal.
"I first went to the Emp' or Wigan Casino as it was then called, when I was fifteen on a Monday night in 1962. Bill Blackledge Showband was on the main stage and on the other side of the dance floor on a tempory stage was Ronnie Carr & The Beat Boys. They where fantastic and that night inspired me to want to be in a group.
We called ourselves The PACT from our first names: Peter - Anthony - Cyril - Tom. We played many many times at Wigan Casino. We where first introduced to William Leyland of L.E Agency by Mike Hurst & The Trekkers who we met elsewhere playing at a charity gig.
We auditioned for William Leyland in The Beachcomer, which was located underneath The Wigan Casino Club. The first booking he gave us was a pub in Runcorn and the second at Wigan Casino supporting Mike Hurst & The Trekkers and Sandy Shaw - the Eurovision Song Contest winner. Boy was that a night! I have never been as frightened in all my life (stage fright?). We were using Mike Hurst's PA system and when we where introduced the mics started to feed-back and we just froze in front of a jam-packed Casino Club.
# We played at The Casino many times after that including supporting PJ Proby and my claim to fame is that PJ Proby sat on my drum stool. My wife Chris and her sister Kath (We had not met then) was at the ABC Ritz Cinema to see P J Proby live. When they were told that he wasnt coming and was being replaced by some unknown singer called Tom Jones they hated him before he had sung a note. Much regretted in later year's as he got more famous and became one of their favourite singer's.
This story reminds me of the night we got a frantic phone call. 'Could we do Formby Ice Rink tonight as the group that were booked could not make it?' We said yes we can do that and when we turned up people came up to us and said who the hell are you? We said we are The PACT and they said your not supposed to be on we have come to see The Wheels. They hated us before we got out of the van. As you know The Wheels hit Lankyland like a bomb everybody was talking about them we saw them at The Wigan Casino they were brilliant. So I know it was an ice rink but it was the frostiest reception we ever got anywhere. We rang L E Agency the following day and said thank you for last night you could have warned us who we were replacing and they said if we had told you may not have taken booking. I think they might have been right?
PS: The reason they The Wheels didn't play that night is because they were called to London to record Top Of The Pops as they had just released Them's Van Morrison song 'Gloria'."
Tony Bird: June: Updated October 2010
PS. After we broke up Peter sold his Fender Jazzman bass guitar to Bill Blackledge the band leader.
Where am I?
"I was reading the articles about the Monaco Ballroom at Hindley and we The PACT played there many times. On one occasion - which was a Saturday in the afternoon - we got a phone call asking me would I play the drum's with the resident orchestra as well as the group? Their drummer had an accident and couldn't play. I agreed to play to help out and we got there early and set up. Geoff Greenough the band leader said, "The band will start shortly - was I ready? We started and I thought - 'WOWWWWW - where the hell am I? - all these instruments playing at the same time!' It seemed like they were playing against each other and that was a very strange feeling.
At the end of the first spot all I got from Geoff was a nasty look. Then - we the group were introduced and we did our first spot. Geoff came to me and said why could I not play like that with the band like you played with group. I said. 'It was very strange playing with orchestra for the first time, playing tunes I did not know and those I did know you played differently.' I said. 'But dont worry - I'll get there.'
As the second spot went on it got better and at the end that spot he said. 'That was great.' The third and fourth spots went better and better but at the end of the night I was knackered with playing none-stop. Then I went to his office to get the money for the group and whatever he payed me for playing with the band. When I walked in his office he shook my hand and said, 'Thank you for what you did for us tonight. You were great and would you like the job permanently.' I said, 'What, are you serious?' He said. 'Yes I am. The job is yours if want it?' I said, 'Thank you very much. I am flattered, but its the group for me.'
On a different night we were on stage and a fight started right in front of us. As it went on, two of them fell onto the stage - it was very low they knocked over a mic' stand which hit Tom's Fender Stratocaster which dented the mic' and snapped two strings on his guitar. He then took Cyril's Fender and he went backstage to put new strings on Toms guitar. We carried on as if nothing had happened.
Speaking of fights we were one of the last of the group's ever to play at the Court Hall Ballroom. We had not played there for a while but we had heard about the fights. When you were on stage at the Court Hall you could not see the dance floor because all the lights were turned off except the spotlights pointing to the stage. We did the first spot - no problem. The second spot - we had just finished a number and we could hear an almighty noise. All the lights came on and there were about twenty or more lads fighting and they only had one bouncer on duty - and he was a punch-drunk ex-boxer. He got them to stop fighting and all the lights went out.
Down the back stairs they go!
We carried on playing but very soon it started again. It took a while, but the bouncer calmed it down and lights went out again and because we were playing we couldn't hear their noise. But the lights came on again and the place was full of Police and two alsation dogs. The Police grabbed the culprit's and one-by-one they were thrown down the wrought-iron emergency exit staircase at the rear of the Court Hall - there were no health and saftey mafia in those day's. Two Policemen were positioned at the bottom, picking them up and throwing them into the Policevan which was known as the Black Maria in those days. The following Saturday it happened all over again and the Police went and shut it down. It opened again twenty odd year's later - refurbished as the Australian Walkabout Bar."
Tony Bird: October 2010
"We played the Top Rank Suite in Chester. The manager came to us when we got there and said 'I hope your good - we only like good groups here.' I said 'well, we will try our best.' He then said 'by the way you will be doing three one hour spots.' And we said 'you must be joking.' He said 'no joke - that's what you will play.'
So we did the three spots. In the third spot we repeated a few songs we did in the first spot and few songs we thought we had scrapped and had not played for ages. So I went to his office to get payed and he said 'your the second best group to play here. The best group are local lads and play here often. A few here think your as good as them, but I am still disappointed with you because in the first spot you only did fifty-nine minutes, in the second you did only fifty-eight minutes and twenty seconds and the third spot you only did fifty-seven minutes and forty seconds.' He said 'but because its your first time and they liked you I wont deduct any money from your fee this time. He then said I will be ringing the agency in the morning to book you again. I replied with 'don't bother - we wont be coming back here again.' He said 'why wont you come back?' I said 'you were rude when we came in - we had to play twice as long as every other gig we do and to put the icing on the cake you even timed us with stop watch. So we never played there again.
We told William Leyland of LE Agency what had happened and he was on our side. He said that booking was through another agency in which we swap venues they give groups on our books
work and I give some of their groups work. I will be wary of that venue in future."
Love affair - but no money!
"Another great venue was New Century Hall in Manchester. We did not know who we were on with till we got there. Then we saw this van full of graffiti all over it but we could make out the words LOVE AFFAIR amongst it. We said, 'wow this should be a good night - they have already had three number one hits.' We started to unload the van when the compare/DJ came to us and said 'how big is your PA system?' We told him, '100 watts. He said, 'that's not big enough - you will have to use the in-house PA.' 'How big is that?' I asked. He said, '300 watts.' I said, 'blow me. How big is this place?'
We just did a one hour spot and they loved us - we went down a bomb. When we came off stage the girls were all over us and we could not believe it. I got a ring given to me and we later got fan mail too. At the end of the night we could hardly get the van loaded and when we did, Tom had to drive one hundred yards down the road, then we made a run for it. We were half way back down the East Lancs road when Tom said to me, 'did you get the money.' I said, 'awww shoot.' We were so on a high I forgot to pick up the money!!! William got the money for us but it took three months."
Wigan Casino cabaret night..
"The first time we were booked to play Wigan Casino on a Saturday night we thought - 'mmm - the audience a bit older than during the weekday sessions. A Cabaret show? they will want us
wearing smart!' We didn't have stage suits so we decided to put on our Sunday best suit and ties. We opened up with 'Down At The Club' by The Drifters. Being the drummer, the four lads in front of me had their backs to the audience and I had my face down over my snare drum. We came to face the audience as each instrument came into play in turn and we got a round of applause just for that!'
It was just one twenty-minute spot on a Saturday night and that came and went the audience
shouted for more - so we gave them some more and again and again. By this time we had been on stage for thirty-five minutes and who else was back-stage shouting at us to get off? Yes of course, it was Mr Gerry Marshall himself - the infamous Casino Club manager. He told the back-stage 'electrician' to close the curtain on us. When the curtain started to finally close the audience gave out a big round of applause and we played just the last few seconds of the song behind a completley closed curtain.
We came off stage but Mr Marshall had disappeared and I thought, 'hello, he is saving his bollocking till I go for the money?' I went to his office and he said, 'what do think your playing at - running over time like that. It puts the rest of the show behind time.' I said, 'I was sorry, but that's what the audience wanted and I am sure you want your customers to be happy don't you?' He said, 'I suppose so. But next time you come off when your told.' I thought, 'next time! That sounds interesting.'
The following Saturday we were pre-booked at another venue but the Saturday after we were back again at the Wigan Casino and every Saturday after that for several months. They loved us we loved them - it was great. No distance to travel, only one twenty minute spot to play plus a few encore's and then watch some of the best Cabaret acts in the country."
PS. "I used the term back-stage 'electrician' loosely. He used open the stage door for the acts, open and closed the stage curtain and turn a few spot lights on and off. He used to work in a carpet shop by day."
Vans, cops and flying drum sticks..
"The Pact's van was a Ford Thames 15cwt for which we paid the grand sum of £40. With paying such a grand price it was handy having a band member who was a motor mechanic which Tom the lead guitarist was and still is. He worked miracles on that van when it kept breaking down. We once broke down on our way to Burnley Lawn Tennis Club and pushed it the last half mile. Tom called his dad to come out for him. which he did and he returned to the rescue next day. Peter and Alex went home in Toms dads car while just meand Cyril slept in the van overnight. I remember running after a milkman at 5-o-clock in the morning to get a bottle of milk from him. Tom borrowed farmer Ned Topping's Land Rover and came to tow us back to Wigan.
Another time it broke down it needed a spare part for the engine we but couldn't get it until the day after. That same night we were playing at Westhoughton Casino. Tom asked his boss could he borrow the garage van to which he said 'yes'. When we arrived we were sharing the night with The Incas - fabulous group they were! Alf - their drummer said to me 'theres not a lot of room on this stage so would you like to use my kit?' and I said 'yes please.' Well he did have Ludwig! Now he was bigger than me and we adjusted them best we could for me to play them. You might know you can play your own kit blindfolded - but on someone elses kit - it's very different. Four times I lost a stick hitting the rim of the Tom Tom, three of which went into the audience, never to be seen again. For the second spot I used my own kit - before I ran out of sticks.
At the end of the night both groups were loading our vans at the back of the Casino. We looked out to the road and we could see a policeman standing in shop doorway and we thought well its not raining so he must be waiting for somebody. We never thought it could be us, but it was. As we pulled out onto the road he waved us over and he said to Tom who was driving, 'is this your van sir.' Tom said, 'no it belongs to the garage I work for and I have permision to drive it.' He said, 'are you aware that the van has trade plates and that means you may not be insured to drive out of garage hours?' We said that had never entered our heads. He took all the details from Tom then let us go. His name was officer Bell which we later christened him ding-dong. He paid a visit to the garage the day after, spoke to Tom and his boss and said, 'I will let you know what will happen in a couple of weeks.' He rang Tom to tell him what time he was coming and I went round to Toms house at the same time. Low and behold he was no longer PC Bell he was now Seargent Bell. We only helped him to get promoted! He then told us they would not prosecute the group because they thought we would not realise we were driving illegally, but they were going to do the garage because they should have known better. So we got away with it. PHEW.."
Tony Bird: January - February 2011
A drummers nerdy note:
"Using somebody else's kit was always a no-no for me. Like Tony says nothing is where it supposed to be and having to look and think at the same time wereas on your own kit you don't even have the need to look. I sang too - and still do - so you don't need the burden of an unfamiliar kit to sprag your playing style. In lay terms.. you must know what its like trying to drive a different car for the very first time?
The other side of this same coin is when the other band turns up after you. Their drummer takes one look at your super classic Ludwig kit and makes every excuse in the world not bring his kit on stage - where there's plenty of room for both it and yours. Then he turns nasty and calls you a miserable sod when you refuse his polite, sensible but unwelcome request. If you do happen to acquiesce he then makes sure he trashes your precious kit to as close to a near death experience as he possibly can - and then he walks off when he's finished - no kit to dismantle - no humping back to the van with hardly so much as a simple bye-your-leave or thank you!"
PS: "Mmmm... I've been wanting to vent-one on that for donkey's years."
Bill Hart: February 2011