When Keith Moon Came A-Calling

Written by Nick Churchill
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As if the brightly coloured Rolls Royce prowling the back streets of old town Poole wasn't unlikely enough in the mid-1960s, seeing Keith Moon step out on Green Road and bellow to his mate Chris Ferguson must have blown the minds of the locals.
"Yeh, Moonie was some character," says Chris today, with due understatement.

"I was living in proper old Poole in those days, down by the old gas works; and he called me up one day and asked if I wanted to go for a pint. We ended up going all round Bournemouth – the old Fox pub, the Buccaneer bar at the Royal Bath. He just put a roll of white fivers down and told the bar staff to tell him when it ran out. I don't remember how that day ended, or if it ended!"

Moon, who died in 1978 after overdosing on pills prescribed for his alcoholism, was a regular visitor to Bournemouth in the mid-1960s while he was courting Kim Kerrigan, the local girl he later married. Chris was playing drums in a band, The Nite People, and met Moon at a friend, Nigel Leonard's 21st birthday party.

"We were playing and he sat in for a couple of numbers and broke three of my drum skins. I had to turn the drums upside down and finish the set with only one skin on them.

"What happened to Moonie was terrible, but in those days I never saw any of the destructive madness that plagued him later on. He liked to be liked and would be dead flash with the cash, everyone's friend. Could you imagine a rock star doing that these days?"

The Nite People were no ordinary local band though. As well as releasing a string of singles and an album, PM, that Chris thought was awful ("It's worth 480 quid according to Record Collector, but I hated it so I never bought one!"), they were signed by Fontana and then Larry Page to his Page One Records and toured with the likes of Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Small Faces and The Beach Boys.

"The first night we played with Martha Reeves we did a rehearsal at the Scotch of St James club, then played the 100 Club on Oxford Street, then a gig in Leicester and finally an all-nighter in Leeds. We had an old Bedford van and Martha was driven in a car by the American football player Jim Brown who just came over for something to do."

Chris has a wealth of road stories. Otis Redding complimented The Nite People, but when the soul man's drummer Al Jackson, of Booker T & the MGs and probably the epitome of the drummer's drummer, told Chris he liked what he played, it just about made his life.

"Oh, that was the moment of them all – God spoke to me," smiles Chris recalling the incident more than 40 years later. "No-one ever had timing like Al Jackson and for him to praise me..."

Although Chris had served his musical apprenticeship in Bournemouth alongside the likes of Robert Fripp, Gordon Haskell, Zoot Money and Andy Summers in various local beat groups, pop stardom never came knocking for The Nite People.

"I think I came out of our last tour of Germany with 15 quid in my pocket and that was it. We did it for the love, but boy did we work?

"Pete Stringfellow had this club in Sheffield that was up 14 flights of stairs and we'd be humping this Hammond organ up there as the previous band was coming down the stairs and people were queuing up to get in – absolute chaos. We were glad when Ricky Summers, Andy's brother, joined us as road manager."

After working on cruise ships for a few years, Chris went into the agency business in 1978 and has been working ever since, mainly in South Africa and the UK. He's booked major tours including big names like Shirley Bassey and helped bring the UK's first karaoke to Bournemouth during his time at The Academy in Boscombe. He's currently representing international tenor Le-Roi Moralles.

© Words Nick Churchill
Read 5077 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:19
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Nick Churchill

Nick Churchill

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