Reg Jones Interview
Information On Interview:
Reg Jones Interviewed by Mick Bonham - 30 October 2001 - Friend of John Bonham and vocalist with 'Way of Life'.
Source: Mick Bonham Book
Q: Well, how did you meet him and how did you get together?
First of all, with Way of Life which is the band that my brother Chris and I played in.We were holding auditions on a Sunday afternoon at The Cedar Club in Birmingham and we had about 20 drummers turn up for this audition, John came along and said, "What gigs we got then?" and I thought blimey he's cocky, you know, what gigs we got, even before he'd had his audition! I said well you seem pretty confident, anyway he got the job and we did a gig on the same night at The Cedar Club.
Q: You played that night?!
Yeah, we were already set up you see because we'd been booked to play there and he'd passed his audition of course. We were doing Motown and Progressive Rock which was popular at the time, quite a variation with some of our own original numbers as well. At the end of the night about 2 am in the morning, I had a disagreement with John because he wanted me to take some girls home for him in the van and I told him that I'm not running groupies around for you in the middle of the night and if you are going to be this cocky after the first gig, then it might as well be your last, so I sacked him on the first night. The next morning we were rehearsing, well it was about 12 o'clock actually 'cos musicians have trouble getting up in the morning. My brother Chris and Mike 'Sprikey' Hopkins, who I think went on to play with The Quartz, were both on lead guitar and Tony Clarkson was on bass, who was in the 'World of Oz'. We were getting the gear out of the van ready to rehearse and who should be stood watching us, wearing what I used to call his 'Harold Wilson' pinstripe suit carrying a little suitcase, by John. I felt sorry for him, so I said look if you're gonna be in my band, what I say goes, he said okay, he was back in the band and rehearsed with us that afternoon.
Was that the original line-up?
That was the original line-up, we wanted to spend time rehearsing before we started the gig. We hadn't got much money and it was difficult for me to pick everyone up from all over Birmingham in the van each time. It was summer, so I came up with the idea of hiring a caravan in Great Yarmouth for a couple of weeks for us all to rehearse in. On the way to Great Yarmouth I soon realised that not one of us had got any money, not such a good idea after all, we barely rehearsed and I ended up paying for everything.
Q: Was this before Dave Pegg joined?
Yes, Danny King played bass before Peggy joined us, this was after Tony and Sprikey had left. Danny was a great singer as well, we played a big venue in Loughborough and there was an eleven piece soul band on before us, they were all wearing red shirts which they ripped off on the last number, they were really giving it some! Then the four of us came on stage and the whole audience rushed to the front to watch our set, they had an eleven piece band on and it was though they hadn't even noticed them. Chris, John and I were half way through our number when I spotted Danny King down in the audience, still playing his bass. I said, "What are you doing down there?" He said, "It's such a powerful sound, I wanted to be on the receiving end of it!" It was soon after that, that we did a double gig, we played Parkingson Cowan on the evening and the Elbow Room later on that night, we had Danny King with us on the early gig and Dave Pegg at the Elbow Room. We had two separate bass players on the same night which was quite unheard of in those days. That's when Dave fist joined the band.
Q: Any funny stories from those days?
Oh, yeah, John was always up to something, he and I were best mates for years, he actually lived at my mum's house for a while. We used to go out drinking in Warstock and Kings Heath. I remember when he tried to grow a moustache. He was only young of course then. We played at Norwich Industrial Club and to look more mature, he had thickened his moustache up with mascara, he was standing at the bar chatting to some girls saying, "Looks pretty good doesn't it?" and all of a sudden from the heat of the lights and sweat from playing, his moustache started to run down his face, he didn't know it was, but the rest of the band had a good laugh about it.
Q: This would be around 1966/67 wouldn't it?
Yeah, we were set up to play a gig at the Ritz, Kings Heath and the World Cup was on television before the gig. Old man Reagan, the gaffer, said if anybody can come and do a commentary on the match, the winner would get a bottle. John volunteered himself and dragged me with him onto the stage, he stood at the microphone, went "Errrrr..." And left it to me.
Q: He left you to it?
Yeah and I won. Actually the prize was a bottle of whiskey, I remember because we went down to The Cedar Club after the gig and he drank it!
Q: What do you think influenced John's style?
I know where he got his influences from, because he told me. He used to cross Rock'n'Roll beats with soul rhythms, he liked the Isley Brothers drumming rhythms and he'd cross the tow styles together to get his unique sound. Perhaps that's how he got such a powerful sound, his triplets on the bass drum were just superb. He was so loud we never used to mike up his drum kit at gigs and still constantly got complaints about the volume.
Q: I heard that John used to sing?
Yes, John used to sing the lead on 'Hey Joe' and we used to do the backing vocals.
Q: Matthew was your roadie at this time wasn't he, with a Commer van?
John had just started playing with the band. I had a yellow Commer and one night we were on our way to The Cedar Club and it broke down, so John phoned his mate, Matthew, and Matthew came to rescue us in his green Commer. From that day on he became the roadie. We weren't a professional band in those days, but there were always plenty of gigs.
Q: Can you remember what you were earning, like £10, £20?
Yes, it wasn't much, we used to blow it on a curry, it didn't seem to matter then and anyway we were all single. I used to collect the wages and pay the band, but we always gave poor Matthew the excuse that we had been paid by cheque and couldn't pay him. One night he collected the wages before I could, to stop us from taking it off him. After the gig, Big Al, the gaffer at the Rum Runner said, "You'd better have a look at your roadie." And there he was pissed out of his brains lying on the floor, he'd spent all our wages on booze and drank the lot whilst we were on stage.
Q: So you used to enjoy yourselves?
We were playing at The Plaza, Handsworth and we were going to have a party after the gig, so we decided to borrow some glasses from the club. Matthew filled John's bass drum case full of empty beer glasses, buy on his way out of the club he managed to drop the drum case from the top of the stairs, the gaffer, Alan Reagan, was stood at the boot and all of these glasses fell out at his feet. But he was a nice bloke and said, "Have a good party, you're playing here on Monday, so bring as many back as you can."
Q: There were times when you played on the same bill as Slade, The Move and other local bands?
We played a Flower Power Party in a marquee in Balsall Heath with The Move, Ace Kefford from The Move is my nephew. That's when John took these big plastic flowers and covered his whole kit in them. The audience couldn't believe it, this big powerful sound coming from behind a mass of flowers.
Q: How long was John with you?
John was with us for about 18 months. He was very extrovert and a real play-up merchant, but always serious about his music. He used to play the band up, one night we were coming home from a gig in the van and John started writing these words on the back of a beer mat, he said "It's coming to me, it's started to flow..." as if lyrics to songs just came to him, he really had the bass player on when he wrote down all of the lyrics to The Kinks' number 'Waterloo Sunset', the bass player thought he was a genius and got all excited about this song. We used to rehearse at a recording studio in Birmingham, all John had was his bus fare, so Chris and I would buy him dinner. We would all chip in together. He traveled on the bus because he drove like a maniac, whenever he borrowed his Dad's van, he would do handbrake skids on the gravel.
Q: Dave Pegg mentioned that you were not asked to return to some places because John played too loud.
Well he was loud, we did the 'Tyburn House' one night and the gaffer was really moaning, the gaffers always used to moan, buy the audience never did. I got sick of it and I shouted down the mike, "Do you think we're playing too loud?" And they shouted "No! No!" John got annoyed and threw his cymbal; it hit the wall and stuck in the brick. I used to say that when John struck up, the barmaid's knickers hit the optics! He used to do it deliberately, as soon as I bent down to plug a mike in or something, he would whack his snare and send me deaf.
Q: He didn't have his drums miked up either?
No, there was never any need, he had a blue Ludwig Kit that was really loud anyway. It seemed as if he'd get hold of his drum sticks and just attack the drums, but he was totally in control and a solid player.
Q: How do you remember John?
He was a good drummer, when he was young he was one of the nicest people you could have met and we were really good mates. We kept in touch throughout the rest of his life, I remember when Way of Life got a deal with Polydor Records and we were recording at their studios in about 1970. John, Robert Plant and Matthew came to the studio to see how we were doing and wish us luck. We remained friends until the end.