'I would use my saxophone case to get in everywhere'
If you are going to chauffeur Mick Jagger around, the least you can do is get him to put petrol in your car. Former roadie David Parkes has many tales to tell about his time touring with Preston Entertainers and Groups (PEG), from the Rolling Stones legend filling up his car to using his saxophone case to gain unrestricted access to his idols.
The 74-year-old from Ingol, who became a road in the early 1960s, recalls: “It was all kicking off from the skiffle movement and everyone wanted to be part of the scene. I wanted to be in a band and so being a roadie was part of that.
“I did some running around. I loved being in with all the bands.
“I was a roadie for Preston and Liverpool band Freddie Starr And The Midnighters, as well as PEG’s bands - The Wildcats, The Dominators; The Suspects; The Cyclones and Thunderbeats - plus a couple of female singers.
“PEG used to put on support bands when bands like The Beatles and Rolling Stones played.
“I used a saxophone case to get me into places. As soon as people see that they assume you are a musician and they let you in. It was great.
“I used it one day to get into the dressing room of the Rolling Stones at Preston Public Hall in 1964.
“I was chatting away to them after their gig.
“I used to have a two-tone slate grey Zodiac car. It had red leather upholstery - I must have looked a bit of a poser.
“I offered to take the band to Liverpool. Mick Jagger got in the passenger seat. Two other members jumped in the back.
“I pulled into Howick Cross service station and Mick Jagger put petrol in my car.
“As we got into Liverpool, I showed them where the Cavern Club was and the Blue Angel, which is where bands used to go after they had finished their gigs.
“Before I went home, I made sure I got their autograph.”
David’s saxophone case got him in to many dressing rooms and hotel rooms during his 10-year stint with PEG Entertainment.
He says: “I got into The Midland Hotel in Manchester where The Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley were staying.
“As I went to reception with my saxophone case, I asked for Mr Elias McDaniel. The receptionist asked me ‘do you mean Bo Diddley?’ and I said yeah. They told me where his room was.
“I knocked on his door and his ‘sister’, Norma-Jean Wofford, more commonly known as The Duchess, answered.
“She had a gorgeous dress on.
“Bo Diddley was sat up in bed and had a crate of Coca Cola by the side of him. I managed to chat my way in and I got his autograph. We chatted for ages about Elvis.
“The Duchess (who Bo Diddley referred to as his sister to ward off male admirers) gave me a pink satin card with his name on.
“When I came out into the foyer again The Everly Brothers were there so I got their autograph too.
“I was like a kid, collecting all these autographs.
“My sister Jean and I saw Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis at King George’s Hall in Blackburn.
“When we went to see Jerry Lee Lewis there was eight of us crammed into a Mini.
“At the end of the concert, Jerry, as always put his feet up on the piano.
“I jumped up onto the stage and pinched his chair. We carried it out and as we got to the car park, everyone was asking to sit on the chair. That chair is probably still in my sister’s garage in Fulwood.
“Another time we saw Gene Vincent and gave him a fancy belt.
“I was also invited to the dressing room of American singer Brenda Lee.
“I remember her wearing a pink fluffy jump suit and she had big hair.
“She was doing her homework because she was only 15 at the time.
“I was lucky to see Jimi Hendrix a few times, as well as Bob Dylan.
“I saw Bob in the Isle of Wight in 1969. A bunch of Americans had made a village out of corrugated iron to represent Desolation Row.”
Entering into the rock and roll world of musicians was a vicarious job, involving underground clubs and fights.
David remembers: “We were working in the Cubiklub in Birkenhead, which is a few yards away from the Majestic where rock bands used to play.
“We were told never to go there on our own because we were hippies and they were heavy rockers.
“My friend David John ‘Miffy’ Smith went to a chip shop and when he came back his face was bleeding. He had been hit with coins and a hanky in an alleyway.
“The Roadrunners were playing that night so the Cubiklub owner Clive Kelly took the band off. He then got some mops and took the heads off so they were sticks and brought out two or three Alsatian dogs.
“They all charged out and Clive let the dogs go at the rockers from the Majestic club. They dived into the rockers and smashed the headlights and windows of their two big classic cars.
“Miffy and I were just stood back in amazement. As some of the gang ran off, the police came. All they said to Clive was ‘next time you have trouble, phone us - don’t handle it yourself. Now get back to the club.’
“We went back to the club and the band played.”
David also recalls meeting Brian Epstein, who he describes as being “strange.”
He adds: “Being in the music industry I was able to meet The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. He was a strange bloke. He didn’t seem happy about the men’s fascination of having long hair, which I had.
“He also wanted to see if our finger nails were clean.”
After 10 years chasing the stars with PEG, which was based at the Derby Arms pub (now The Guild Hall), David emigrated to Australia to “follow the yellow brick road.”
David says: “I had been listening to Cat Stevens’ On The Road to Find Out and recently watched The Wizard of Oz.
“I was wondering what would happen if you went on the yellow brick road. What would you find?
“So I sold my records and my van and I moved to Australia in 1970.
“There was a scheme to emigrate for £10 as the country needed workers.
“So that was the end of an era, from the 1960s looking ahead to the 1970s.”
David found work with a paint factory in Melbourne, where he escaped a brush with death.
He recalls: “One of the solvents had been left in 40 degrees heat and there was a big explosion. Luckily I was downstairs at the time. Otherwise I could have been killed.”
Missing his roadie friends he returned to Preston in 1973.
He says: “I wanted to come home because there was a big reunion of my Preston gang in the Lake District that Easter.
“It was pouring down with rain and I nearly got pneumonia. I had begun to wish I had stayed.”
Looking back fondly over his time as a roadie with PEG, David is now hoping for another reunion.
He adds: “Some of the bands are still playing today.
“I would love to get a reunion together with all the musicians.
“Hopefully they will still be around.
“I have has some great stories to tell through my years as a roadie. It kept me young – I never wanted to settle down and start a family.
“These days I am learning the saxophone, but I have to play in a cupboard because I don’t want to annoy the neighbours.”