The Hobo Workshop operated for roughly one year between June 1974 and
June 1975 (ish). The regular Monday night mixed media music concerts, first at the Holyhead Youth Centre and subsequently upstairs at the Golden Cross, were the central focus of the Hobo Workshop. Although I co-ordinated it with Bob Rhodes, there were a range of people involved with the workshop (listed on the about the Workshop post) on a co-operative basis who were invovled in all aspects eg I even cleaned the toilets out and took a turn on the door as did others. Although many of the musicians below later made it in the music business, the intention was to provide a venue for bands to get started at, try out new material and get support.
Among the bands who played there were - Fission, Midnight Circus, Trigon, Analog, Under the Sun, Schizoid, Memories, Phoenix, Marantha, Breaker, Just Before Dawn, Warrior, Khayyam, Fisty, Vallhallah.
Solo or other artists that played in some form included singer songwriter Colin Armstrong, Phil Knapper, Dave
Bennett, Bob Rhodes, Johnny Adams, John Alderson, John Gravenor, Neol Davis, Colin Cripps, Lynda Hardcastle, Nikki Hawkswell, Bill Jackson, Andy Cairns, Ricky, Trev Teasdel, John Rushton, Horace Panter. (This is not all embracing - just names I remember or on the gig lists etc.)
That there was a dearth of places for bands to get started or supported at that time was illustrated when one young band - maybe Under the Sun (can't remember) almost begged for a gig - they were a teenage band and about to give up) of course we gave them a gig and encouraged them. I think it was Gary Kirton who described us one night as the only human beings in the city - as we gave them a regular spot. Such was the state of things, that the Workshop for some bands was like an oasis. Many of the top Coventry bands had split up, the Umbrella had gone along with some of the other venues and new bands were struggling for survival.
- Fission were one of the early bands we had one but split up soon after with Guitarist Rick Thawn joining Trigon. The other guitarist - Johnny Adams played solo for us. (He later played with Squad)
- Trigon became one of our regular bands with jazz rock feel. (Paul Sampson would go on to play with Ens /
- Analog were another regular and very innovative band who hadn't played a gig until the Hobo workshop, having spent a year perfecting a 40 minute suite called Custers last stand, they were at last ready try it out in front of an audience. Mick Hartley, Steve Edgeson, Paul Brook all went on to form Reluctant Steroetypes with Paul Samson - the band that had Paul King as lead singer. The band King was a break away for the stereotypes in the 80's.
- Midnight Circus - were again a regular and very popular band at the workshop, led by singer / guitarist Neil O'Connor. Nobody would know at that time that his sister Hazel O'Connor would be such a huge success in five years in time. Bob Rhodes, the youth worker at the Hobo Workshop, himself a musician, took to managing them. later in 1979 (ish) I saw them after a punk concert at Warwick University, dressed in punk gear. They told me they had changed their name to The Flys and had just made a single - Molotov Cocktail and were going to promote it on The Old Grey Whistle Test. A year later Hazel broke through and Neil became the guitarist / producer in her road band.
- Colin Armstrong had gone solo after spliting from Music Box with Rob Armstrong. Rob of course became reknowned for his guitar making, producing guitars for George Harrison and Bert Jansch. Colin was a great supporter of the Hobo Workshop and played for us many times. We even formed a little band with Colin, Bob Rhodes and myself but it didn't go anywhere!
- Colin Cripps and Lynda Hardcastle (later of the legendary Mountain Ash Band) came along to play and sing and always brought a crowd. They are written about elsewhere on this blog.
Neol Davies came along. I wanted Neol to organise a jam at the workshop like the one he'd done earlier at the
Umbrella club. Downstairs in the basement of the Holyhead Youth Centre was a group of West Indian musicians. I went down to invite them to join us. They said they would think about it - the group were unsure of the response I think at the time. In the end it was Neol Davis who went down and jammed with them on the blues and built a rapport with them. Apart from Charley, there was Desmond, Silverton and Lynval. In 5 year stime these musicians developing their confidence in the basement of the Holyhead Youth Centre would be causing a sensation as part of the Selecter and Specials. They still didn't play for us but Neol persuaded them to come along when we moved to the Golden Cross. A year or so later I worked with Neol for a temping agency at Argos in Daventry. He used to pick us up in the band van at some unearthly hour in the morning. By then he had formed a band with them called Hardtop 22. After a bit more evolution the Specials and Selector would emerge and the rest is history!
We got to have the jam session when we moved to the Golden Cross some time in 1975. Neol was there and a lot of musicians from now defunct top Coventry bands. Among the musicians who jammed at the Golden Cross were John Gravenor and Nikki Hawkswell who both sang some blues, Neol on guitar, Andy Cairns, Bill Jackson (former vocalist with April, Roy Butterfield (Ex Indian Summer, Tim James (I think), John Rushton of Analog, Horace Panter, Ricky, Phil Knapper, Carl , John (Brad) Bradbury (about 13 musicians took part).
Phil Knapper - was a regular supporter and a really good friend. A singer-songwriter who could play pop / rock
Classical and Bert Jansch. He would often back me on some poetry and music experimental pieces and we did form an informal band - mostly covers, with Andy Cairns. Phil's younger brother Stu Knapper would later head the punk band Riot Act. Phil has since passed away but I have some songs of his I recorded which I hope to up load in tribute to him. Phil suffered from Schizophrenia which held him back but he was actually a very talented guitarist and he taught me loads.
Andy Cairns - was another Hobo Workshop regular - a lead guitarist who I met at Henley College and got involved
with the music scene. Andy became a great friend and again some one who taught me loads guitar wise and vice versa. Andy formed a band with a guy we used to jam with called Ricky. It had Andy's friend Carl in it (I think) and Horace Panter (later of the Specials). They did Jazz rock material and I think they were called Breaker. They played for us at the Golden Cross. Horace had written to Hobo as early as 1973 to place an ad for a 'Happy Band'. As Hobo didn't always come out on schedual
owing to lack of finance, Horace had found a band by the time the ad appeared but he did later come to the Hobo Workshop at the Golden Cross which I think is where he met Andy and Ricky. Later I formed a Pentangle type group with Andy c 1979. The bass player was Selecter's roadie and Van driver.
o wever Andy went off to Aberystwyth to do a Phd in Biology and became a folkie and I moved up to Teesside to do a BA in Humanities so that was the end of that band! Although we were folk, we did do a ska version of my song Mrs Stress and Strain I seem to remember. You had to get a gig after Two Tone broke! We also covered Pentangles Cruel Sister.
Bo (John Bargeant) who I co-founded Hobo with returned with Khayyam
from their european tour. Bo did the Moonraker disco for us at the Cross and Khayyam gig for us there, leading to a residency their. Other band nights were beginning to take off at the Cross before the Hobo Workshop finished after the summer 1975, with the Coventry supergroup - Monster Magnet
taking a regular spot as well as Khayyam.
HOBO presents, Monday July 8th, a double bill at lower Holyhead Road
Youth centre, near Coventry Garage, Trigon and an Acoustic Workshop, featuring Johnny Adams, John Alderson & Trev Teasdel. 10p
(Small ad From Coventry Evening
Telegraph July 8th 1974)