Did Buddy Holly’s fruit and veg trip change pop history in Chesterfield?
London has an unlikely contender for capital of “swinging sixties” cool.
Chesterfield – the northern market town best known these days for an underperforming football team and a listed derelict court house– has been hailed as “arguably the most prolific pop cultural hotspot of the era” according to a new book.
The author of the ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1960s Chesterfield’ has uncovered some little known firsts for the town which prove – for a place of its size – it was punching way above its weight for much of the era and, in one instance, was responsible for launching the career of one of the world’s most prolific artists via a flat above a hairdressers.
It all started in the months leading up to the decade when Buddy Holly – just weeks before he tragically died – decided to ditch his touring schedule in favour of a visit to Chesterfield’s fruit and veg market.
Author Pete Dodd said: “Word of the mega-star’s unlikely visit spread like wildfire amongst the town’s youth and it seemed to act as a catalyst for everything that happened in its wake.
“His visit gave the town’s young people the confidence to form bands, set themselves up as music promoters and write to the stars of the day in a bid to persuade them to play in Chesterfield – a place previously untouched by touring schedules.”
The roster of artists that ended up performing in the wake of the Buddy Holly visit read like a who’s who of 1960s music: Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, the Small Faces, The Kinks, Free, Bill Haley and scores of others shunned major UK cities to play Chesterfield.
But probably the town’s biggest coup was its pivotal role in getting multi-million selling star Joe Cocker his first record deal.
David McPhie – a local music promoter and record shop owner – helped him record the demo that scored his first hit.
He said: “Joe had became very depressed, being faced with sparse future bookings and no prospect of anything recording-wise on the horizon. He told me that if things didn’t improve radically in the next few weeks, he was going to disband the group and return to his former employment as a gas fitter.”
David told him that, one way or another, he would get him a recording contract, and the first step would be to make a demo recording to hawk around the major labels in London.
“So we arranged a day at our rented upstairs flat, above the hairdressers on the corner of Chatsworth Road and School Board Lane in Chesterfield. It was recorded on one of those old, chunky, reel-to-reel tape- recorders (a Ferrograph, I think), on Scotch tape, with a rudimentary mixer and a couple of microphones.”
Songs recorded included the Cocker/Stainton-penned ‘Marjorine’ which went on to become Joe’s first chart hit.
Pete Dodd – author of the ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1960s Chesterfield’ – is founder of the Thompson Twins, a band originally spawned by the town that went on to enjoy worldwide success in the 1980s.
The ‘Dirty Stop Out’s Guide to 1960s Chesterfield’ is on sale now from www.dirtystopouts.com and all good bookshops at £13.95.
David McPhie will soon release his own book ‘Sounds in the Shadow of the Crooked Spire’.