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Part II: The London Years – Bands, Friends & Guitars in the 1950s…

My first guitars – some very interesting ‘experiments’…

One of the first guitars that I played was an old classical guitar that my Dad had. This thing was quite a contraption. It had the wrong strings on it – which bent the neck – and also had a brass nut to raise the strings so it could be played as a Hawaiian guitar.

Eventually I bought a Hofner arch top acoustic, and made a pickup for it that actually worked. I proceeded to make another pickup, and ended up with a two-pickup guitar and a volume control for each pickup.

Because it was trial and error for the wiring set-up, it had a unique sound that was great for rock and roll. I ended up with a small business by converting a bunch of my friends’ guitars. As the word got around I got quite busy putting pickups on acoustic guitars.

My first bands…

One of my friends, Geoffrey Fraser, used to sing and play guitar, so after school we would practice together. We added a bass fiddle player – a Hungarian immigrant named Victor – and Arthur Maple on drums. We named ourselves the “Blue Hounds”. Blue Hounds: See 'Photo Gallery'
"Blue Hounds"
We played at a few pubs around the South London area, trying to learn the ropes. One day while I was working as an interior designer at Hadfields Paint Company in Western Road, Mitcham, Surrey, I met Pat Cresswell who worked at Hadfields as well. It happened that he was a singer, and was putting together a group of musicians. (Well, we should use the term ‘musician’ loosely here…).
I went to the rehearsal and was hired on the spot. I didn’t want to leave Geoffrey in the lurch, so I convinced Pat to let Geoffrey play rhythm guitar. We now had a Lead Guitar, a Rhythm Guitar, a Bass Guitar, Drums and we had Pat singing. At the time we were playing mostly Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran material. This was around ’57.

Geoffrey left and was replaced by Sydney Hayden on Rhythm Guitar, and Johnnie Aldrich on Drums. We were now known as “Pat Cresswell and the Crescents”.

Crescents: See 'Photo Gallery'
Finally Pat left and we changed our name to the “Crescents”. By then we were very well known in the London area, playing five nights a week.
Playing around London
Playing around South London at the time were future luminaries such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Harvey Hinsley from the group Hot Chocolate.

Harvey was a friend of mine, and he had made his own guitar and tremolo arm, which actually worked – which was an engineering feat at that period of time; most tremolo arms immediately de-tuned a guitar. When he eventually bought a Fender Stratocaster, I bought the tremolo arm off of him. (Somewhere I still have it hanging around; maybe someday I’ll donate it to the British Museum…).

Well, one day as I got up in the morning to get ready for work, I passed out. The doctor came to the house and said I had had a nervous breakdown. He gave me the hard choice: Choose work or music. Tough choice for a youngster…

I didn’t think twice. I quit my job and ended up being a musician. Very often I played with bands that needed a guitarist if theirs couldn’t make the gig.

Rory Blackwell, Rory Storm, Earl Sheridan and the House Shakers, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent were some of the bands that I have worked with.

 To my late brother, Roy: 
I must mention that my late brother, film composer and jazz pianist Roy Budd, once played together with my friend Geoffrey at the local cinema between the double features. Roy played piano, Geoffrey played guitar, and Roy sang “A Whole Lot a Shakin’ Going On” and other numbers.

They called themselves the “Blue Devils”. Roy was 10 years old at the time, but even then he played GREAT piano.

He became a phenomenal world-class player, musician, and composer – and was well-known in world musical capitals such as Los Angeles (Hollywood) and London. His talents and personality are missed by many people, and I miss him personally.

Back to the London scene: There was quite a bit of infighting with the Crescents. I wanted to play more gigs, and the others – as they had full-time jobs – didn’t want to commit very much time to the band thing.

I had a feeling that a major move for me would soon be in the works – and it was!

Next: Off to Germany (and Chicago)!

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