I was born on 31st March 1943, in Mount Alvernia Hospital, Guildford. My family had been evacuated from Dulwich, where my mother was a matron at Dulwich Hospital. We were billeted to ‘Hollyhock Farm House’, next to Notcutts, and from there we moved to 20 Kings Road Cranleigh and subsequently to ‘St Anthony’s’ at the top of Avenue Road. We stayed there until the late 1940’s, at which time my mother took the lease on ‘Penwerris’ in Horsham Road, which she ran as a nursing home.
When my father arrived in Cranleigh he worked at Lloyd’s bank, which in those days was half way up the hill in Ewhurst, between the Windmill and the Bulls Head. He went on to manage the Regal Cinema which was owned by Raymond Wood, who happened to own many properties in the area at that time, including ‘Penwerris’. From there he moved on and became secretary at Swallow Tiles in Bookhurst Road, where he stayed for many years.
Terry Ward rehearsing at home
I come from a musical family. My maternal grandfather was a very good pianist. Sadly, he went blind when he was 21 years old, and to earn a living, would play the piano at the local cinema for the silent movies. His wife, my grandmother, would sit next to him whispering what was happening on the screen and he would play appropriate music! My two uncles were also in the entertainment business.
I attended Elstow Preparatory school in Avenue Road and then St Peter’s in Merrow, until the age of 15. It was very much a Catholic school in those days and all our lessons were taught by priests. I had no desire to take A Levels and instead attended Guildford Art College. I found the transition very challenging between a strict Catholic School and Art College which felt like a holiday camp and started to play up quite a bit as a result. Eventually I was deemed a bad influence on other students and was asked to leave after two years, at the age of 17.
‘Penwerris’ where we lived and my mother ran a nursing home
I got a job in Leatherhead at BKS Aerial Survey, as a cartographical draftsman. Unfortunately, I was once again asked to leave for not taking the job seriously! Then I worked for a little while spraying lighters at the Ronson’s factory down the road, before making a move into retail and joining Dunn and Co. in Guildford High Street.
In those days we would steam the hats and prepare them for sale. While I took this job a little more seriously, there was one incident with a particularly rude customer that nearly landed me in trouble, when I drew noughts and crosses in chalk on the back of the blazer he was collecting!
The family in the garden at ‘Penwerris’
I grew restless after a while and started hanging around with the local youth for entertainment. They used to frequent the Wishing Well coffee bar, on the High Street with motor bikes in tow. That was how I met John Dixon. In 1959, John and I formed a small band and called ourselves ‘The Senators’. Our drummer was a close friend called Richard Hodby who lived in Ewhurst and had also attended Guildford Art College.
Eventually I got fed up with selling menswear and applied for a job as a Butlin’s Redcoat. They were holding auditions in Oxford Street, London, so I took my guitar and sang ‘It’s Now or Never’ by Elvis Presley, which was top of the charts at the time. I got the job and was sent up to Pwllheli in North Wales. It was the first time I’d ever been away from home.
August 1955 with my father on a family holiday, Shanklin
It was quite a hard regime being a Redcoat. We would work on the ground roughly from 7.30am until Midnight, with little time off to relax. We did everything from Ballroom duty, where we were instructed to dance only with the ‘less attractive’ ladies, to Glamourous Granny competitions. There was a band on the campus called Rory Storm and The Hurricanes, whose drummer just so happened to be Ringo Star. My chalet was three doors down from them in fact and I ended up doing a set with them a few times a week.
When the season finished, I applied to join P&O as a steward. I went up to Fenchurch Street to the Shipping Federation, got my Seaman’s card and was off on a ship called the SS Strathedan. It went from Tilbury to Sydney in a three-month round trip. Seeing the world and visiting places like Bombay was a real eye opener for me at that young age.
My first job away from home, as a Butlins ‘Redcoat’ in ‘Pwllheli’ Wales 1961
When I returned from my travels, I decided I would pursue my interest in cars. I landed a job as a salesman/car cleaner at ‘Guildford Car Sales’ in Leapale Road, which at the time was run by a guy called Paddy Nash. He was an old school, car dealer with a sheepskin coat and a roll full of notes in his back pocket. As you can imagine, I gained quite the education working with Paddy.
Roundabout this time I formed a band known as The Bumblies. The band would come around to my house, ‘Penwerris’ to rehearse. It was a regular thing every Thursday. We became pretty well known playing throughout Surrey, Hampshire, The 2 I’s coffee bar in Soho, London and the The Kingston Jazz Cellar.
Judging a Butlins beauty contest 1960
One evening, when we were rehearsing, there was a knock at the door and a bespectacled youth in a duffle coat stood there saying, “Hi, my name is Kenneth King and I’d like to get involved in a band. I hear this is one of the main bands around here.”
We thought it was a joke. Anyway we invited him in and it turned out he lived in Forest Green and was desperate to get involved in the pop music business. He turned up regularly at our rehearsals and got more involved. Eventually he started to find us a few gigs. One of these happened to be a posh private party, where the hosts were extremely wealthy, though a little mean. We were getting paid a very low fee and were just given ‘Coca Cola’ and a sandwich.
My first solo gig as a singer in Cranleigh village hall with ‘The Rythmics’ 1959 at Cafe Continental, a local talent show
We discovered stacks of beautiful vintage wines behind us. The band and I thought this was a bit much. So we had an idea, and encouraged the gathered guests to form a conga. They were a bit tipsy by then and we directed them to conga out of the marquee and around the garden. By the time they’d gone around the flower beds we’d already loaded two crates of very nice wine into the back of our van before the conga line came back. At least we got a nice perk from that gig!
Kenneth King was still interested in making a record with us, and he contacted Joe Meek, the famous ‘Telstar’ record producer. We travelled to north London, to Holloway Road to do some recording in his home studio. Joe was a very unconventional man. He’d have us sitting in all sorts of different parts of his flat recording our instruments. He liked to use natural acoustics. I can remember he put the bass player in the bathroom! All the rooms were miked up. We did a few recordings but nothing much came of it. Kenneth would call him continually night after night and we’d go to Kenneth’s house, desperate for more news.
Passenger ship Stratheden being turned in the Brisbane River by the tugboat Carlock, © State Library of Queensland
Finally, Kenneth got us a recording contract with a song he’d written called “Gotta Tell”. The deal was with Jack Baverstock from Fontana Records.
We were over the moon but the song wasn’t really any good. It was one of the first songs Kenneth ever wrote. Despite all that at least it was a record, we went along with it. It was released and played a few times on the radio but it died a not very surprising death. Kenneth then went fishing around for other material to use and suggested we did a version of “Detroit City” which had been sung previously by Bobby Bare. It was about a guy who worked in the car factories in Detroit. We weren’t keen on the song as it was a bit too ‘Country and Western’ for us. It was later released by Tom Jones.
The Bumblies 1963
Back row: LR Tony Hawkes, Godfrey Matthews, Mick Clarke
Centre: Richard Hodby, Front Row: Maurice Shelley and myself
Eventually we all got a bit disillusioned. I desperately wanted to go totally professional. When The Bumblies were playing and recording with Kenneth King, we were a semi-professional band and I was selling cars during the daytime. So the band broke away from Kenneth King, we didn’t think anything would happen musically, although I do remember his mother saying “You’ve got to stick with Kenneth, he’s going to make it”. Nevertheless, we left him. Turns out she was right because shortly afterwards “Everyone’s Gone to The Moon” came out under his stage name ‘Jonathan King’. Our guitarist Anthony Hawkes, had worked the chords out for this song because Kenneth couldn’t read or write music. He would hum them, and we’d work out what chord fitted with each melody.
So Kenneth was on his way up when we’d already broken up with him. Later, he brought out a song called “Good News Week”. The credit would’ve inevitably have gone to us if we’d still been involved with him, but in fact it went to a group of RAF guys, ‘Hedgehoppers Anonymous’ and the record went to number five in the pop charts.
With Bill Haley in Germany 1966
I really wanted to go full-time and eventually answered an advertisement from a group in Leicester requiring a lead singer to tour Germany. The band was called The Shindigs. We all piled into a van as you did in those days and found our way to a GI Base in Frankfurt, Germany. We were on tour with Bill Hayley and The Comets, who came over to Germany every year to entertain the US troops but unfortunately nearing the end of this tour the Shindigs broke up after our drummer, Phil Dillon, got into some trouble and was arrested on stage in the middle of the show. Allegedley he had failed to pay his hotel bill. He was the ‘engine’ of the band.
Uncertain what to do next I saw another advert in the Melody Maker for a singer wanted for an Israeli band. They’d lost their singer in the Six Day War, in 1967. I didn’t really want to go on my own so, I took the bass player from The Bumblies with me. We were given this huge welcome and reception at Tel Aviv airport as the band was quite famous. We were put up in a little bungalow on the outskirts of the city and performed quite a few gigs in Israel. The crowds were very enthusiastic, everyone went mad because they’d been starved of live entertainment.
Promo photo shoot for the Bumblies on Pitch Hill
After a while though there was no money coming in, something was a bit strange and we were thinking we really wanted to get away from the set up. When the Manager found out we wanted to leave, he threatened us with physical violence saying “You’re not leaving this band, you’re staying here and the money will be coming don’t worry”. But we’d already become nervous about the situation so we scurried off to the airport to see what the cost of flight tickets would be. We spoke to an official at the airport who was dismayed when he knew who we’d been working for and said “He is a very dangerous man and not to be trusted. I’m sorry you’ve fallen for this guy, you need to get out of Tel Aviv and you have to make it to Haifa, where you can take a boat that’ll take you out because they’ll be watching all the airports.” So we laid low in Tel Aviv for a few days and eventually the time came for the boat to leave and we got a taxi to Haifa, terrified in case we were followed. We got on this little boat and travelled from Haifa through to Marseille. It was such a relief to be back in France again, to get on that train and be heading back home.
I came back from that feeling disillusioned by everything. I was ‘out of pocket’ basically and just wanted to forget about the music business for a bit. I went back into the motor trade, cleaning cars, that sort of thing and I even ended up back in menswear at Debenhams in Guildford. Eventually after a while I got an opportunity to go back to France and left Debenhams travelling to Paris to stay with a friend. I had no idea what I was going to do. I started giving English lessons to dentists and doctors who wanted to travel to the States, and that provided me with an income. My friend helped by giving me food vouchers so I could eat as it was a bit sketchy at times, it wasn’t regular work.
John Dixon and I playing in Ewhurst village hall as the Senators in 1959
All this time I was knocking on doors of record companies and publishers and eventually landed a contract with ‘Trema Records’. They took me on as a recording artist and as a songwriter. I also earned some money doing adaptation from French lyrics to English for the French-Canadian Market. I’d become fluent in French and at times spoke it better than my own Mother tongue.
A few of my records were released and I was coincidentally offered a job as a singer from fairly a well-known band in Normandy called ‘Sevy Golden’. It was a 12-piece band and had regular, well paid work. I was the one English singer and covered everything in the French charts in English. In those days 80% of the French charts were English records, they were crazy on anything English.
During my Chemotherapy treatment with my consultant Gerry Robbins along with my cartoon drawings in the background
I sang for Sevy Golden for about three years whilst still signed with Trema Records. A French singer called Michel Delpech heard one of my songs and recorded it in French and it became quite a big hit.
On the strength of that hit I was able to buy my first house in Cranleigh, in Ewhurst Road, opposite Dobbies, the florist. I was lucky enough to buy it for cash. In those days houses weren’t so expensive. It cost £14,000. I fell in love with it and bought it. I was still with the Sevy Golden Band and would commute from Cranleigh to France every weekend. I’d catch the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe each Saturday morning. Travel from there to a town called Louviers where the band would pick me up. The gigs were usually on the Saturday from 10pm until 3am. I’d do the gig, then stay over with friends and on the Sunday afternoon we’d return and play the same hall from 3.30pm to 7:30pm, this was regular every weekend. On the Monday morning I would take the ferry back to Newhaven. My mother would collect me from there in her car. So I did his routine of commuting back and forth.
Lesley and I out celebrating at a festival of the sixties
Trema Records released a song I’d written at that time and it got into the German hit parade which led to quite a few gigs in Germany. But eventually I had enough of travelling. I was always on the go, touring around and I really wanted to spend more time back home. I’ve always been drawn back to Cranleigh.
I returned to England and took a job at the Hammersmith Palais, with the Tony Evans Band for one year. I had no qualifications in anything really. I just didn’t want to sing for the time being. I started decorating with another ex-musician friend of mine. I did this on and off for quite a long time and then got involved at a semi-professional level with some local musicians, one in particular called Rick Cressy. We did a duo together which ran for quite a few years.
Back to full health, Doctor Robin Corbett and I at a charity gig for Macmillan Cancer Relief, at Cranleigh Show Ground
Subsequently I sold my house and moved in with my parents for a short while. They lived in Rowland Road at that time. Later I bought Montrose my present home.
Around this time I developed a serious illness. It started in July 1992 when I had a bout of gingivitis which was so painful, I went to see Dr Robin Corbett. He ran some blood tests and rang me with the results the very next morning at 8am, asking me to go directly to the surgery. Never one to beat around the bush, he explained there were a few problems with my white cells and had already booked a bed at the Royal Surrey hospital for me that day. I asked what they would do and he said I would probably be put on a Chemo drip. “Chemo?” I asked, “like chemotherapy, as in cancer?” “Yes, that’s right, but quite a few of my patients have it and they’re okay”.
My treasured Martin D35 guitar
I didn’t really have time to think about it. At this time, I was seeing a girl called Lesley. She was a great support. I spent the next seven months in hospital. It was quite gruelling as the treatment was severe. Lesley would visit each day. Now and again I would be allowed to go home between treatments when my cell count was stable enough.
My diagnosis was ‘acute Myeloid Leukaemia’. When the doctors first told me I asked them “What chance have I got?” and I was told “50/50, it depends a lot on your mind set”. My initial reaction was delayed shock, laughing one minute, crying the next. To cope with my feelings I started drawing cartoons, virtually making fun of the disease. I would sometimes get frustrated and go through mood swings. However, close friends kept me company and would visit me in hospital on a regular basis. We would be in fits of laughter as we watched things on TV like Faulty Towers. I tried to remain as upbeat and positive as I could.
Still singing and practicing as much as I can
The months went by and eventually the treatment had good effect and I was in remission. Returning home after all that time in hospital was frightening. I’d been so well looked after by the doctors and nurses 24 hours a day. Lesley had a demanding job and was working in Horsham at the time. I was scared, I didn’t go out and was bald as a badger. I’d lost weight and had gone down to about 7 stone. It takes a little while for your body to recover, but it did eventually.
As I returned to full health, I realised Lesley was the woman I wanted to marry. We’ve been married now for 25 happy years. As she settled into Cranleigh, Lesley went to work as Store Manager for Grahams, now known as One 40, and has been there now for 22 years. I no longer work, I’m pretty well retired but I still do gigs. I occasionally do dinner parties when invited. I take my acoustic guitar, enjoy a dinner and get paid! I entertain at the table, like a jukebox. I ask what songs guests would like and if its 50s and 60s I usually know them.
My 1950s Seeburg Juke Box
Lesley and I have fallen in love with Brixham, in Devon, over the years and often visit the town. I formed a little circuit in the area and enjoy performing in front of the live audiences down there. The audiences in Devon are refreshing because the whole lifestyle is different. It’s not so pressurised. People tend to go out and enjoy themselves more. Brixham has about 6 pubs, and almost everyday of the week has entertainment going on. Nowadays it seems there’s very little pub entertainment anymore. There used to be quite a lot of local, live acts playing in Cranleigh, but sadly they’ve all dried up now.
On the other hand it’s well recognised now that singing is a very healthy thing to do. People are pursuing singing as a therapy, because of the mental capacity involved and the social interaction is invaluable. Singing a song from the heart makes you feel good.
Shot taken from the video ‘Tomorrow’
I’ve worked for a little agency for a while going into nursing homes. Some of the elderly people come to life when they sing along with me. I sing things like ‘Singing the Blues’, Guy Mitchell, those kinds of songs. The residents can seem out of it when I first start, with their eyes closed but suddenly they start tapping their fingers and smiling. It’s so rewarding to see their sparkle come back.
I’m still singing and am involved in amateur dramatics from time to time. I will never stop performing and will sing as long as I live.