1944 - 1967
He was born and named Peter Robinson on June 17, 1944 in
Staveley, a small town in Derbyshire, England.
His mother was Edith Ellen Robinson, a 31-year old married
secretary from Lincolnshre, and his father was a 35-years
old Royal Australian Air Force Flying Officer Cedric Gordon
"Jack" White. Their romance in the fall of 1943 was intense
but tragically brief. Jack White was killed in action only
a few days before Edith planned to inform him that he was
to be a father.|
At the age of three months Peter was adopted by an educated Yorkshire couple in their forties, Muriel and Jack Spedding, and renamed Christopher John Spedding.
Jack Spedding was a bank manager and after retirement he became an amateur keyboard player and a part-time music teacher. Muriel was an amateur singer in Bach choirs.
At nine years old, the Spedding moved to Birmingham, and he went to Moseley Grammar School.
I started with the violin when I was nine (1953); school orchestra and things like that. Mum and Dad said 'It's time for you to put ot the violin, son'. They were amateur musicians and my home was very classically oriented. I had an aptitude for it but I didn't really like it, my heart wasn't really in it.
I came to hate both the violin and classical music with a passion. A real sign of rebellion was my being sacked from the school orchestra for purposely de-tuning my violin. Because it looked like I was fingering the right notes it took quite a while for me to get found out. Around this time I was also fired from the local church choir for for making up my own hymns.
He also talks about his childhood;
Fairly normal. My principal interest back then was writing; mostly poetry, which has come in handy now that I' ve turned to songwriting. I was perpetually in conflict with my grammar teachers, because I'd get top grades in composition without knowing a thing about clauses, participles, and so forth, and I couldn't really see the point in learning the technical details.
|1957||I started listening to rock'n'roll. It started with B.Haley, B.Holly, Elvis,
G.Vincent and E.Cochran. I started playing the violin like this
- strumming it like a guitar, picking it. I got a real guitar when I was 13 or 14.|
His schoolmate, Howard Glansfield says;
Chris was known as 'Spud' when at Moseley Grammar School and it was there that he formed his FIRST group called 'The Hot Spuds'. Chris played mandolin, piano, violin and anything else he could play a tune on! I played tea chest bass and Chris's mandolin (which he eventually gave to me), we also had a rhythm section of washboard and thimbles! It was basically a skiffle group heavily influenced by Lonnie Donegan but Elvis soon won us all over along with all the other great American rock'n'rollers. The group more or less finished but Chris kept on going! I remember trying to amplify his guitar and blowing radio valves in the process! I gave up any hope of being a musician when Chris left for Sheffield. The rest is history.
His schoolmate, Geoff Hassell says;
If my memory serves me correctly we were at Moseley Grammar School from about 1955-1960 during the formative years of Rock & Roll. Chris was a very talented violinist and besides being in the same class for most subjects, we would often travel home together on the same two buses. While waiting for buses, I clearly remember Chris using his violin as a guitar and giving us some great rock riffs of the music of the day.
I couldn't wait to lose the viloin and get a guitar. A twelve year old guitar player in those days stood a better chance with girls than a twelve year old violinist. My parents were aghast and thought that guitars and rock'n'roll were synonymous with teenage delinquency.
My pocket money wouldn't stretch to a brand-new ready-made guitar, so scanning the ads at the back of the paper one day, I found the answer to my problem. For only a few shillings I could sent away for a 'Make-Your-Own-Guitar-Kit'. I was very impatient to get the stirngs on and get to playing this bizzare plywood monstrosity I'd created. But I never got to play this, my first guitar, because as soon as I tried to the first string on and bring it up to tension, the whole sorry thing collapsed. I hadn't had the patience to wait for the glue to dry. I was heartbroken.
I did get hold of some non-descript acoustic guitar after this and went through the seemingly obligitory phase of trying to amplify it using throat-mikes from a military aircraft communication system plugged into the back of a radio. I think Vic flick and I must have read the same copy of 'Practical Wireless'.
It wasn't till I was 15 years old (1959) that my parents finally gave me in and bought me my first electric guitar - a second hand Hofner Senator (1 pick-up, no cut away). After this it seemed like an interminable wait to get my first amplifier. My parents were dreading its arrival - 'Segovia doesn't need one, why do you?' - but when I eventually got it (a Watkins 'Westminster') I was most impressed with the 'tremolo' switch which enabled me to sound like Duane Eddy without always having to wiggle my volume control. Which was how I thought it was done.
Recalls Geoff Hassell;
Don't forget it was in the late 1950's and the 'look' was very much of Gene Vincent and Bill Haley and Eddie Cochrane. Hair styles were rather greasy looking in those far off days. The only thing on the market unlike today, was an awful white cream called Brylcreme. We all plastered huge amounts on our hair which helped us we thought to look a little like our favoured Rock stars of the day. At school, mirrors were non-existent and it was considered to effeminate to carry one. So, just outside the toilet area was the assembly hall where we gathered for morning prayers and roll-call. Fortunately for us vain young macho men, the side windows of the hall where draped with heavy black curtains which were always closed. This did give the effect of providing the much needed mirror in which in we could comb our greasy long hair to very special effect or so we thought. Chris and I were two of many jostling for a place in the 'mirror'. Who said only women are vain. I think Chris remembers the very tight-fitting trousers we wore. The were referred to as "drainpipes" because of the very narrow width around the leg. The tighter the better. The regulation width that our parents bought from the school uniform suppliers was much wider and therefore very unfashionable. One boy in a higher grade made quite a business out of 'narrowing' our trousers by using his mothers sowing machine. I wonder what happened to him? Probably went on to become a textile millionaire. As school uniforms were compulsory, it was a 'punishable' offence not to wear a school cap. We hated them, but, by careful positioning on top of greasy hair we could balance them so far back on our head as to be almost invisible from the front. You were thought very 'with it' if your school cap was completely invisible yet still being worn. If my memory serves me correctly, Chris & I were were two'with it young men'.
Around at 13 or 14, the Spedding went back to Sheffield and
went to Abbeydale Grammar School.|
Got guitar lessons from one year from a Sheffield guitarist/teacher Len Stewart, and formed a band called the Vulcans.
A Vulcan, John Frith recalls;
The story goes that Chris met Lennie Singleton (who became rhythm guitarist with the Vulcans) at a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee concert in Sheffield. Chris and Len may have known each other from school but they got talking and found that they each played guitar. I'm not sure how the others met but they were, Richard Smith - drums, PB - electric (home-made) bass, Keith (Fanny) Singleton - vocals and John Frith - vocals. The repertoire comprised mainly cover versions of instrumentals, e.g. The Ventures 'Walk Don't Run' and British and U.S. vocal hits. The vocals included Eddie Cochran numbers, 'Twenty Flight Rock' and 'C'Mon Everybody' and Cliff Richard songs such as 'Move It' and 'Living Doll'. Chris extended the repertoire by including arrangements of Gershwin's 'Summertime' and even 'Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho'.
The Vulcans played mainly at youth club dances in Sheffield.
One prestigious booking (the term gig was not in use) was the Gaumont Theatre in Sheffield.
The Gaumont had an enterprising manager who ran a teenage show every Saturday morning
which comprised a film followed by a selection of the many groups
(the term band was not in use) from Sheffield and surrounding areas.
The Vulcans had little in the way of amplification, and for the Gaumont show
they had to borrow a 'Watkins Dominator' guitar amplifier - a massive 30 watts!
Transport was also a problem although PB had the occasional use of his Dad's car.
On one occasion I remember that a booking at a pub in Rotherham, some 10 miles from Sheffield,
was fulfilled using a regular bus service for the transport of the group and equipment.
Spedding finished last of his school exams, Abbeydale Grammar on the 28th June 28 1961,
moved to London on the 7th August 1961 and the next day, he started
working at a music shop, Clifford Essex, in the West End of London and giging round
American Air Forces with a C&W band, Bill Jordan and the Country Boys|
He met vibist Frank Ricotti through this band and they started a weekly jazz club at a pub in Islington.
We used to book in guest artists like Dick Heckstall-Smith and Ian Carr, and I expect they thought we were pretty bad. However it was fantastic experimence for us to be able to play with these really good people, and the club lasted about 6 months.
One of their gig in 1961 was taped, and Spedding made a hand-made acetate record later.
The members are;
Al (Earl) Cooke - bass
Al Rushton - drums
Frank Ricotti - vibes
and the songs are;
Now Is The Time (Charlie Parker)
Kinda Moukish (Earl Cooke)
Doxy (Sonny Rollins)
F.Ricotti plays on 'Now Is The Time' and 'Kinda Moukish'.
Another gig in 1964 was also taped and seems to have got to be a record, which Spedding doesn't have any more. The songs on it are;
Work Song (Nat Adderly)
Billie Bounce (Charlie Parker)
Now Is The Time (Charlie Parker)
Spedding also plays jazz with Graham Collier Rehearsal Band (1960-1963).
In 1962, a guitar tutor 'Play Country Style Guitar' was published, which he wrote when he was working in a guitar shop. It coped with the Chet Atkins boom
In 1964, Spedding become a full time professional musicians as a member of the 'house band' of the P&O liner 'Himalaya'. He went to Australia via Aden, Singapore and Bomay. He said that it was quite interesting trip. He came back to London next February.
When I came back I was scraping around for anything, if a gig came in for thirty bob,
I was all knocked out, and I'd probably go for weeks and weeks without getting any gigs at all,
getting into terrible debt and things like that. Then I fell into the Nat Temple Band
which was a society orchestra. We used to do places like the Dorchester.
He was the one who used to do 'Breakfast with Braden' on the radio,
but he would not use me on a broadcast because he wanted to use session musicians,
and to him I was a gig musician. And he had this distinction between a gig musician
and a session musician, everybody else was beginning to recognize me as a session musician,
but Nat Temple wouldn't have his own guitar player on his own sessions
because I was his gig guitar player.|
He also played with the band led by Sid Phillips, Tommy Kinsman, Mitch Mitchell and Monty Frank.
It was main source of session musicians. I mean fifty percent of the session men today (around 1971) originated in palais band. I liked it and it was very good experience because it taught me a lot of things about music. The guys in those bands can play any song in any key, and they're really good musicians. I certainly never regret going through that scene, even though some people would dismiss it as corny.
He then went on to play bass with Alan Price and Dusty Springfield, and guitar with Paul Jones, who had left Manfred Mann. He also started playing with tenorist Lyn Dobson and trumpeter Henry Lowther in various club, and met a bass player Butch Porter and tenorist Geroge Khan.
It was the time of the blues boom and I didn't like playing guitar in that style. Instead of not enjoying myself playing guitar, I played bass untill I found a guitar style that fit in with what I felt was needed, which was nothing like the blues at that time. In that period I was quite into Motown, which is eventually what got me into sessions. That tasty rhythm guitar sound is quite in demand for sessions.
My name started to get around as a guitar player. I was playing a bit different from what everyone else was playing and I was conscious of wanting to play differently. I was sure I wasn't going to get anywhere by sounding like Eric Clapton, like he'd taken care of all that. I was starting to leave the Nat Temple scene behind. I was starting to do sort of demo sessions for people in Denmark Street.
It is said that he recorded with Dana Gillespie among others, but none of which seem to have been out.
Pete Brown & his Battered Ornaments debut at Trafalgar Square.|
Spedding involved through B.Potter. This band contained L.Dobson and D.H-Smith, but replaced by G.Khan later.
|biography / 1968-1970|