CP's Blues Band

"CP's Blues Band - a History"

by Anton Hunter

As far as I can make out, CP's Blues Band started coming into fruition on 20 February 1999. TP was standing in for one performance (in Bunbury Village Hall for a "Songs With Youth") on bass for Leda Atomica while James Matthews had his tonsils removed (rock and roll). Afterwards, we were sat in my room discussing how great it had been and a jam started happening (or it might just have been Chris playing the keyboard we had there, reports differ) and the four of us there decided to start a blues band. Already there's some argument in this, as Johnny remembers it we'd been talking about starting a blues band with Chris and TP for a while, I'm not 100% sure, but I know this was the first time we agreed to do it.

Anyway, we started playing together properly, one session was even recorded and still survives on four-track tape somewhere, but this is NOT going to be made public. The repertoire consisted largely of 12-bar blues jams (in different keys and speeds) and the Peter Gunn Theme. As I recall, even in those early practices we often swapped things round a bit, and I distinctly remember playing the drums whilst Johnny and Chris played piano and keyboard together. The first gig came in summer 1999, at an open-air school concert at Tarporley High. We went down really well, certainly for a first show, and we were all quite enthusiastic.

This was the first time we'd been named as well: TP, Johnny and I were asked a few weeks prior to the concert what we were called, and as Chris wasn't there we picked "CP's Rhythm and Blues Band" (based on our love of Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and the fact that we were in awe of Chris' talents).
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In the autumn of that year, rehearsals began for another Songs With Youth in Bunbury and most of the blues band (minus Johnny) were also playing on a set for Alex, Rachel and Ruth. Having recently seen the Blues Brothers tribute stage show, we wanted to play Flip, Flop and Fly and a few weeks before the gig we asked the girls if they'd sing backing vocals for us (even then we knew TP and I couldn't do all the vocals ourselves, and besides, we both fancied them really), and so the band grew bigger. It wasn't long after that show that we realised Ruth played the sax, and she became our sax section.
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A few gigs followed (including our first long set, playing on Millennium eve with just the four of us), notably a Youth Music Showcase in Nantwich Civic Hall, which then got us another two gigs in 2000, the first an open air thing in Crewe which provided our first pay-check and the second upstairs in Nantwich Civic Hall for Friends of the Earth which was a very special occasion for us all, as it was Dom's first gig. He'd come to see us earlier and liked what we did, and after turning up for a jam and saying "don't worry, I'll work out my harmony parts", there was no question: he was in the band.
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In the mean time there had been another Songs With Youth, for which Talitha Moss (daughter of musician Asa Moss) had guested on lead vocals for the first time. She sang the Jools Holland track "I'm Gone" (incidentally, she's the reason we still play this in the wrong key as it suited her voice better).
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However, things weren't going brilliantly with this collaboration. There were commitment issues, we didn't feel her heart was in it and she didn't feel her voice suited the soul stuff we played, and so, when she pulled out of a Christmas gig at Chester Zoo with a couple of days to spare, Johnny's friend Nicola stepped into the role.
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Things carried on, with more gigs in 2001, including one on Bunbury playing fields supporting the Wall of Sound (Paul Stafford claimed we played them off stage. He's a very nice man). At some point Nikki became a permanent member, fortunately meaning less and less songs for me and TP. And then, as things were getting really good, Dom left for Cambridge University. We decided to draft in Mike Hallett (who was already playing with Chris and Johnny in their trio) to fill the void, and fill it he did. Loudly.
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More gigs ensued, including our first time in Chester Town Hall and our first gig on the move (Tarporley Carnival - we had a float), which also was the only time in our history we've played two gigs in one day. Such a hard-working band...

That summer, 2002, featured a great reunion with Dom as he arrived back from Cambridge and came straight to Bunbury playing fields without his music and had to read over Mike's shoulder all gig. After this, we've never worried about him being late.

Once again we'd hit some great form, only for half the band to leave for university that September. Abandoned by myself, TP, Ruth, Alex, Rach and still Dom, the others started to piece together another band, recruiting Ros and Rose on backing vocals (it's unclear whether or not Chris and Johnny employed the same principle for hiring backing singers as TP and I did, but they sure as hell can sing, and in harmonies too!), Bell on guitar (who proved me wrong: I thought he wasn't up to it, but he now enjoys running rings round me at gigs) and John Etherington on drums (Johnny switched to bass to prove he could indeed play anything he wanted).

I don't have many recollections of this period, as I wasn't there, but the new line-up played some gigs for, among others, the Tarporley Karting team, and added Charlie Crotty on alto sax at some point (his hair fits into the horn section perfectly, as does his playing). The initial idea was to run two separate bands, but practicing with all 15 of us was such fun this idea was scrapped. In about Easter 2003 the four original members hit upon an idea to stage a charity show in Bunbury Village Hall. The rest of the band were enthusiastic and preparations were underway in earnest when everyone came home for the summer.
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We once again played the Tarporley Carnival, this time winning 2nd prize for best float in one of the categories, which was when I realised the true nature of Alex's importance in designing and decorating the float. Needless to say she was then put in charge of doing the same for the charity gig.

It was also around this time that we realised things weren't working out with the drums. The problem seemed to stem from the fact that Johnny wasn't playing them. John wasn't really enjoying the music we were playing either, and so we went our separate ways.

We now had a four-piece sax section (plus TP on trombone occasionally), and it was clear that our hand-scribbled arrangements were no longer up to scratch. Chris, in a move that was met with some resistance from the members of the band who'd forgotten how to read music, arranged around two hours worth of tunes for us.

After an intensive summer of practising we raised just over £2000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust on 6th September 2003. Everyone had a great time although looking back I am inclined to agree with Johnny and TP that musically we were a bit all over the place.
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The following week in the Nag's Head was much better musically and also the last gig that I can remember not wearing the now standard uniform of black shirts and white ties.

The line-up as we know it today was nearly complete, apart from the addition of Stuart Edge on bass and trombone around January 2004 (whose first gig was for the 18th birthday of our very own webmaster Mark Shelley), and later of Tom Bruce on trumpet who made his debut in Chester Town Hall (talk about throwing him in at the deep end), both of whom have proved excellent additions, not least because they actually play the music Chris gives them.

Once again, around Easter, we seemed to forget how close we came to killing each other in organising a gig all by ourselves, and thought, "let's do another!" This time though, we had around a gig a fortnight over the summer (including my personal favourite, a 21st in Bunbury to the most attractive audience I've seen, and the great honour of playing Jill Percival's wedding to Robin Grimshaw, the amount of help she's given us over the years goes well above and beyond anything that's expected of a music teacher) and so we were in great form when it came to 11th September in Tarvin Community Centre. Once again it was a great night, and again we raised over £2000 for the same charities.

This was also intended to be our last gig ever, as myself and Johnny felt quite strongly that, with a lot of the rest of the band also heading off to universities around the country, our standard would drop through not playing week in week out. We wanted to go out on a high you see.

However, a couple of months after the gig, we realised how much we'd miss it and, almost without us knowing, Shelley (who is alarmingly looking like he's running the band) booked Tarporley Community Centre for 10th September 2005.



The End