Early one morning in January 1976 I got a phone call from Laurie Mansfield, who was now managing an act called Peters & Lee.
"Do you fancy a job as Peters & Lee's Tour Manager?"
"Get lost Lol, are you insane? I'm a musician for Christ's sake!"
Well, I did own a guitar. And Peters & Lee - perlease! To be honest, they seemed a bit wishy-washy to me. They were the kind of act that I would have been sending up in a comedy routine not too many years before. I had banged the phone down in a rage, but as I looked at the pile of bills and pictured Jo once again struggling up the front path, through the snow with her hard earned wages, common sense prevailed and I called Laurie back to say yes.
Having previously been my manager and a friend of the wife, Laurie knew I was skint and that I would have worked for peanuts, but still offered me eighty quid a week (that was loads back then, and the answer to a prayer). Don Arden warned that if I got into management and stopped performing, I would never go back to it. I knew he was probably right, but went ahead anyway.
Laurie had asked me to meet Lennie and Dianne in their dressing room at Stratford on Avon. The meeting went well and Laurie offered me a trial period of four weeks while Lennie and Dianne were working at The Talk of The Town in London.
At the time, The Talk of The Town was a very prestigious floorshow and you knew you had made it if you were booked to work there. On the first day of rehearsal, unaware at the time of the pecking order of 'proper' show biz, I swanned in wearing my ball hugging, flared trouser'd suit (the one I'd bought to meet Elvis). Add to this a bright red teddy boy style overcoat and my curly Henna'd perm flowing behind me like a bridal train. I walked straight through front-of-house, past the choreographer, the producers, the designers and worst of all – the director, Robert Nesbitt. Up the steps on to the stage to say hello to my new employers.
Well, I'd never heard such language. Actually I had, but not from posh people like directors or producers and such. Fortunately, Lennie and Dianne saw the funny side. Watching their act on stage during that four weeks, I realised that they had a very special quality indeed. Suddenly, what they were doing wasn't so damned funny anymore. It was captivating – it was chocolate cake. Anyway, Lennie's mother packed up the best liver sausage sandwiches I'd ever tasted. At the end of the four weeks, not only had I passed my trial period, I also felt like one of the family.
As a tour manager, with the exception of actually getting the gigs and TV work etc, you are responsible for practically everything the act does, day or night, on stage or off. Booking hotels and flights, driving them when necessary, carrying bags, buying a loaf! You don't have to be a rocket scientist - just organised and awake. After six months I felt as if I'd got that tee-shirt, and started to feel restless. I missed playing in a band. Then to my relief, because of my background, I was offered the chance to mix Lennie and Dianne's live sound.
OK, so it was a cheap way for Laurie to get some consistency into their live sound. I didn't care, it was more money in the bank and more responsibility. One thing led to another and eventually I produced two of their albums and played guitar and pedal steel in their band. They worked non-stop until 1980. We toured every bit of the UK and then dates in New York and Nashville, followed by a tour of New Zealand and Australia with Harry Secombe.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, I moonlighted the 'Wizzo' gig, which made one live TV/radio broadcast before breaking up. Spookily, the show was called 'Sight And Sound'.
Because of the nature of the Wizzo band, Roy decided we would need a conductor to stand out of shot, controlling the readers in the group. Mike Alexander was approached and agreed to do the job as long as he wasn't credited. He didn't want to upset his current employers. On the day, in true 'Musical Director' fashion, he turned up in his best Tuxedo. And to ensure he wasn't recognised, a Jimi Hendrix wig.