Having gotten over the initial shock of the Vauxhall drag pub scene I started getting calls to play in various pub venues - some of which were specifically known for their particular musical genres, others no more than common working class "boozers" where the music didn't seem to matter - and I often asked myself why the heck I was even there to begin with. And because of come crazy rule about noise, many venues were not allowed to book anything larger than a duo. This certainly killed any hopes of playing with a decent band.
Nevertheless I found myself doing a gig with Dick Edmond's Sound of Seventeen big band at a delightful country pub in the northern green belt, did some dates at The Cricketers (renowned for jazz-funk), some solo gigs at places like The Prospect of Whitby where Shakespeare is reputed to have sunk a pint or two (and where pirates were hanged from a yardarm which still stands outside the pub) and a host of non-descript dives where the cigarette smoke nearly killed me.
I had my best times whilst working with Tropicana, a West Indian band featuring a front line consisting of steel drums, trumpet and trombone supported by a standard keyboards, (sometimes guitar) bass and drums rhythm section. We did a regular Sunday lunchtime spot at The Green Man on Great Portland Street (in the basement) and the place was packed every week. The music was very lively and the audiences some of the best that any artist could ever hope for. It was through working with this band that I was able to develop an authentic sense of calypso, soca and reggae, and we did several "big" gigs for a variety of social functions - including major concerts with some real superstars from the Caribbean. I had now started on the road to a new world of music.
But every now and then (and more often then not) I would be brought down to earth; my philosophy was to never say no to a gig, and indeed this is why I met so many wonderful musicians who, like me, placed more importance on simply getting out there to meet new players than on the money. Sometimes I would land up at a working men's club supporting terrible cabaret acts with lousy charts, and playing with musicians who, to me, were no more than manual labourers. I recall one of them - a drummer with tinnitus who stuffed cottonwool into his ears, stuck masking tape all over his cymbals, and then still erected clear perspex between himself and his cymbals so as to hear as little as possible!