Music in the Cotswolds

From Jimi Hendrix playing at The Blue Moon in Cheltenham to Forest of Dean-based EMF via Newent-born Joe Meek, Tim lowe takes a musical trip down memory lane

Last summer I spent some time doing some research for a special radio programme that came to amaze and astound me! Gloucestershire has such an enormous legacy when it comes to music and I shared all I discovered with my listeners on BBC Radio Gloucestershire on the Bank Holiday Monday back in August.


Let's start with a music venue and The Blue Moon was a place that sits above Burton and Dorothy Perkins in Cheltenham High Street. 40 years ago, it was the place that really made a name for itself with big stars on stage including the Small Faces, The Who and Cream. It's still running under the new name of The Night Owl with new management, but one of the original promoters of music at the venue was Bill Reid who now lives on a farm on the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire border. He saw an ad in the Melody Maker for a club for sale in Cheltenham called The Clifton Ballroom. Together with his business partner, they bought it and opened it as The Blue Moon on July 17th 1965. One gig in particular is fondly remembered, when Jimi Hendrix took to the stage on February the 11th, 1967!


Jet Harris, the bass guitarist with The Shadows is a former Gloucester resident and got married in Cheltenham. He also recorded an album called Jet Harris "INSIDE" - Live at HM Prison, Gloucester, 1977.


Most Read

Richard Ashcroft is best known as lead singer of The Verve. He lives with his wife and manager Kate and their son Sonny in a �1.2 million six bedroom Cotswold stone Grade 2 listed farmhouse in Taynton. You can often spot him in the Kam Wah Chinese Takeaway in Newent.


Alvin Stardust's son is Shaun Fenton, he's the headmaster at Pate's Grammar School in Cheltenham. Cliff Richard is godfather to Shaun's two-year-old half-sister Millie by his dad's third wife. (Confused!?)


I spoke to John David who's a multi hit producer, engineer and songwriter about his career. He runs his own record label and recording studio in Berry Hill in the Forest of Dean. He's worked with an endless list of big names like Mark Knopfler, Robert Plant, Status Quo, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr to name but a few. John played with the band Love Sculpture at the age of 20, and performed on their 60s hit Sabre Dance. That's where he started working with Dave Edmunds playing various instruments and singing backup on all his solo records that were to follow. John was once voted in the Top 10 of an NME Best Bass Players poll.


Joe Meek was a pioneering British record producer and songwriter, who was born in Newent on April 5, 1929 and died February 3, 1967. His most famous work was The Tornados' hit "Telstar" from 1962, which would become the first record by a British group to hit No 1 in the US charts.


Hubert Parry composed the music for William Blake's poem, Jerusalem. He was brought up at Highnam Court.


Steve Winwood was in the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith. Steve lives near Northleach with his family and has his own recording studio, Netherturkdonic Studios. (He's one of my favourites!)


The band Embrace recorded their album Drawn From Memory during 1999 at Batsford Manor near Moreton-in-Marsh. I spoke to Mickey Dale, the keyboardist with the band, he told me that the recording studios in London felt "impersonal", so they ended up recording in the mansion close to Moreton-In-Marsh. They fell in love with the place. Embrace stayed on site, brought caterers in, had pinball machines and table football installed. They were supposed to stay for 6 weeks but enjoyed it so much they ended up staying for 12. There are many tales from the time including band member Richard who went to run a bath, which overflowed and caused a flood; and when recording the title track, Mickey recalled a bat circling above his head, as he was playing!


Bad Company's album "Straight Shooter" was put together by the group hiring Ronnie Lane's mobile studio (Ronnie Lane from the Small Faces), installing it at Clearwell Castle and recording the album there in September 1974.


EMF were from the Forest of Dean. Their big hit was Unbelievable, a number 3 hit in 1990. The band was signed by EMI/Parlophone after just four gigs, without even asking for a demo tape. James Atkin is from Cinderford and Ian Dench from Cheltenham. Zac Foley, Derry Brownson and Mark Decloedt were all born in Gloucester. (The song was also a hit in America.)


Mike D'Abo performed with Manfred Mann. Mike is Gloucestershire based and lives near Stroud. He wrote the song "Handbags And Gladrags", which was recorded by the Stereophonics and Rod Stewart amongst others.


Gustav Holst was a former pupil at Cheltenham Grammar School for Boys, and became a composer, most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets. I visited the museum dedicated to Holst on Clarence Street in Cheltenham, he was born there on 21st Sept 1874 and lived there until he was 8 years old. It's full of a lot of Holst's belongings and memorabilia including the piano on which he composed The Planets. His family also lived at Vittoria Walk in Cheltenham and 46 Lansdown Crescent. He wrote the music for the Christmas carol "In The Bleak Midwinter", which he named Cranham after the village near Painswick where his mother was a Sunday school teacher at the local church. There is a hassock in the church embroidered with a tribute to him.


Heartache Avenue by The Maisonettes reached number 7 on the UK singles chart in 1982. The front cover features a photograph of Montpellier Gardens in Cheltenham! A chap called Jeff Tristram was behind the photography and the artwork. (Now you need to find a copy!)


John Entwistle was the bassist with The Who. He moved to Stow-on-the-Wold in 1976 and lived in "Quarwood", a 53-room Gothic mansion. John died in 2002 and his funeral took place at St Edward's Church in Stow on 10 July that year.

One of the most famous 'sons' of Gloucestershire is Brian Jones, the founding member of the Rolling Stones, with whom he played lead and rhythm guitar. He died when he was just 27. Brian was born in the Park Nursing Home in Cheltenham on the 28th February 1942. His first house was "Rosemead", 17 Eldorado Road. The family also lived at 335 Hatherley Road in the town. Brian went to Dean Close Junior School, and later to Cheltenham Grammar School. He used to frequent The Waikiki Club in Montpellier and the basement of 38 Priory Street in Cheltenham, both popular hang outs between 1955 and 1965. His funeral took place at St Mary's Parish Church in Cheltenham in July 1969. He was buried in Cheltenham Cemetery in a grand silver and bronze casket that was commissioned by his close friend Bob Dylan. Many still visit the grave on the anniversary of his death.

Listen to Tom's Saturday Breakfast Show every week from 6am on BBC Radio Gloucestershire on 104.7 FM, 95.8 FM in Cirencester, 95 FM in Stroud, countywide on 1413AM and online at