The Legends

By Pete Massey  

The Legends' Pete Massey in 1962I was born 1945 in Coggeshall, Essex - Yes, you have guessed it: my Mum was an Essex girl! although my Dad came from Chester, but was the son of a Scotsman. (There was a war on at the time, and that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) When the war ended and my Dad was demobbed, we came back to Chester to live when I was about two years old.

I had always liked music and at the age of 13 years my idols were Cliff Richard and Little Richard. In 1958 I first met Gordon Morris and Barry Tushingham in 'Scoutabout', the boy scouts gang-show in Chester. Along with Gordon and Barry we formed the Legends rhythm group. I played rhythm guitar, mainly because I was the only one among us who could play chords! Gordon played bass guitar and Barry was on lead guitar. We only bashed around in Gordon's father's garage for about nine months learning the Shadows tunes like 'Apache', 'FBI' and 'Peter Gunn.' When we eventually started to sound a bit 'reasonable' we thought about recruiting a drummer. Interestingly, one of the first we had was Russ Roberts, who we also met in the scouts gang-show (although he only had a snare drum and a cymbal at the time!) You know him by his stage name of Russ Abbot, formerly of the Black Abbots. Would you believe we turned him down because we thought he wasn't good enough!

Eventually, in about 1960, after leaving school we met up with Graham Leigh, who had a full set of drums, and he could play them. The Legends was born. In those days money was a bit scarce and we only had second hand 'Futurama' guitars and a Framus bass coupled up to 15 and 20 watt Selmer amplifier and a home made 'bass cabinet' which looked more like a coffin than anything else. In the early days we played more or less anywhere people would let us (we did not have the nerve to ask for a fee), usually church socials, youth clubs and private parties.

Arriving at a gig was a bit of a pantomime to say the least. Gordon's father was the only person with a car, but when it was loaded up with the drum kit and the bass cabinet on the roof, there was no room for us. Fortunately, Gordon and I had Vespa scooters, so with amplifiers balanced on the running board, between our legs, and guitars tied to our backs, we managed to get about.

I remember our first gig was in 1962 at a village hall in Doddleston, about eight miles from Chester. I think we got £10 for it. After about eight or nine similar gigs we somehow gained a manager/agent called Godfrey Dawson. All the money we earned doing gigs up to then we pooled and bought a P.A. system because after watching groups like Faron's Flamingos, the Undertakers, Johnny Sandon & the Remo Four, the Big Three, the Searchers and of course the Beatles, we realized that good vocals were essential. Godfrey managed to get us into bigger venues like the Shell Club, Ellesmere Port and our fee went up to £12 - £15.

We had our share of rough gigs where bottles and glasses were thrown at us, or worse than that - like the dancehall in Johnstown, Wrexham. There was one hell of a fight between two rival gangs of about 50 or 60 going at each other with razors, flick knives, chains and belts. There was blood and guts everywhere! We sang 'Twist And Shout' for 15 minutes, too scared to stop! The dance floor looked like the Somme. We packed up our gear and scarpered quickly. We didn't even bother to wait to be paid. After about another year or so the Legends disbanded. Mainly due to mine and Gordon's day jobs making it impossible to go out to work all day and then come home and go out on gigs, arriving back home at 2am in the morning and having to be up again at 6.30am for work.

The Legends 1963 After about six months or so there was a knock on my door one day and it was Graham Leigh asking me if I was interested in playing lead guitar for another band - which I did. The band had a few names because by then there were literally thousands of groups looking for gigs. So we decided to change the name of the band after we had 'done the rounds' of venues as the promoters were always looking for something 'new.' The band was mostly known as 'The Gunrunners' (a bloody awful name I thought) but we got gigs. The other members of the band were Graham Leigh, drums, Taffy Thomas, rhythm guitar, 'rat face' (I never did get to find out his real name) bass guitar and Graham Hillier, vocals. We were usually the support band at the bottom of the bill. We supported the Hollies and the Exchequers on a number of occasions. By this time I had a 1935 Ford Anglia to get around in and this made life a lot easier.

The venues we played included the Cavern, the Iron Door Club, the Locarno, Mr Smiths, Quaintways and assorted working men's clubs. Our repertoire at that time was very much the same as most of the other groups. Songs like 'Reelin' 'n' Rockin'' and 'Some Other Guy', but we did have one slightly unusual song in 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone.' All the groups were playing a slow 'smooch' number in the middle of their set, but we had that one. Probably the first electric folk!

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