Music for me began in the early 60s, singing along to the likes of Buddy Holly, and then in my teens discovering folk music, Paul Simon, Peter Paul & Mary etc. Then my brother, Frank bought me a 12 string guitar, so I began to sing and play, not that well I might add.
Myself and Hazel Holder, Trevor Gibson and Dave Hole formed a band, ‘The Free Folk People’, we played local gigs with a modicum of success, we had a fan club!
Around this time the organisational side of me began to emerge, I started running a folk club in Bracknell, Berks for a while, I think Pete Hall (now known as GP Hall) played there, originally a blues/rock guitarist, he had come back from a time in Spain, playing flamenco based classical guitar, I can remember standing in his kitchen, being blown away by his rendition of Rodrigo, Concerto de Arangez. Pete used to drive around in this big old fashioned Austin Princess, I can remember going to a few gigs with him in it.
Later I moved on to run a folk club at the Molly Millar’s in Wokingham, Berks, one notable performer was Al Stewart, just before he became famous.
So, I was still playing guitar and singing, solo now, although I did join some other bands briefly. Around 1969/1970 I began to write songs and perform them.
Inevitably for a time family life took over for a few years and it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that I became involved in music again. By this time I was working as a youth worker in North Kensington, London. Myself and local youth workers began putting together a band for Christmas parties etc. led by our Youth Centre music instructor, Alan Gruner (He wrote one of the tracks on Bonnie Tyler’s, Total Eclipse of the Heart Album). Eventually, out of this came ‘Cousin Billy’, a covers rockabilly band consisting of me (rhythm guitar), Donald Houston (lead guitar), Mike Macdonald (Drums and vocals) and John Alcock (bass). We played clubs around London for a year or so.
In 1988 I and my family moved to Gloucester to run a Youth Centre there. In 1990 the local authority built a new Youth Centre and we included a recording studio in the design. So, now I began working with young bands, some of which became quite successful. At this time I also began promoting ‘Gloucester Live’ at the Guildhall in Gloucester.
My son, Simon Lay (rhythm guitar) got together with his friend Iain ‘Eddie’ Edwards (lead guitar), recruiting Matt Fuller (drums) and Rich Devine (bass) to become, the scrub metal band, <-OBLiViON->. I began to manage. After some success with good support and headline performances, Simon left to concentrate on dance, eventually setting up Variations Academy of Dance with his wife Tina.
<-OBLiViON-> became ‘AC-151’ with the addition of singer, Gina Cooke, and success followed with some outstanding performances. After playing Moles in Bath, four record companies were keeping tabs on them. Gina and Eddie were putting together some brilliant songs. Sadly it wasn’t to last, Gina and Eddie fell out big time and they played their final gig at the Guildhall in Gloucester, January 1995, one year after forming.
At this time, I was beginning to struggle with the stress of being youth worker, and increasingly looking to band management, full time. I was still promoting at the Guildhall. And I now had no band! Then I got a phone call…
It was a guy working with a Dutch rock band playing a few gigs in the UK.
They had been let down for a gig the following Saturday and someone had told then to ring me… Now just before this phone call I’d received another, the headline band for the gig I was promoting the following Saturday, had pulled out through illness!
I received a tape of the Dutch band, it was good, I took a gamble and gave them the headline slot. They were called Journeys End and they were brilliant.. I promoted them a couple of more times when they were over, and eventually they phoned and said they were looking for a manager. I flew to Rotterdam and I was in.
I recruited Canadian Paul Ledbury to the project as sound engineer and we began recording for 4 days in the Netherlands, producing a promo CD, Journeys End were Paul Kalis (vocals, guitar), Steve Zwinkells (lead guitar), Martijn Zwinkells (drums) and Jan Oosterfof (bass).
Not long after recording this CD Jan decided to pull out and was replaced by Frans Bruens.
Eventually in 1999 we found ourselves in Bullet Sound Studios in the Netherlands recording a 3 track CD, main track ‘You’. This CD and an appearance at Glastonbury 1999 resulted in a record deal with Canadian label, ‘Attack’. So in May 2000 myself and the band found ourselves in the legendary, Phase One Studios in Toronto for a month recording and album to be called, Rage of the Common Sense.
Sadly the record company failed to release and we had to employ lawyers to reclaim the rights. I hope this album will be digitally released soon.
All this time I was working with other local emerging bands for a while.
It is now 2016, I have just bought an Ibanez nylon strung guitar, and I am going back to my roots, folk wise, practising and looking to begin with a few open mic sessions soon.