Bands and singers back record appeal to preserve a century of music in Chesterfield

An enterprising duo is appealing for bands and singers to contribute to a record of music in Chesterfield over the past century.

By Gay Bolton
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 6:59 am
Aaron Brown, front, with Dazy Age musicians.

David McPhie, a legend of the music scene for many years, and singer/songwriter Aaron Brown are spearheading a project charting the town's musical legacy.

The reaction so far to their appeal on social media has been phenomenal with more than 160 names discovered and about half having responded.

David said: "Rock and pop bands by far outnumber every other genre, next in line solo folk singers and folk groups, blues bands and dance bands, some electronic based outfits too....very few jazz bands or 1950s style rock 'n' roll groups."

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Hannah James of Lady Maisery and Maddy Prior fame.

Those who have responded include multimedia electronic arts Nigel Ayers (founder of The Pump and Nocturnal Emissions) who is a towering figure in industrial music's development; accordion player Hannah James whose credits include Lady Maisery and Maddy Prior; Chesterfield born new wave group Thompson Twins and singer John Tams who has won six BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.

David said: "Al Needham certainly is the oldest (now in his nineties), Kai Undrell, Connor Berry and Alpaca Factory and a few of the late teens/early twenties contemporaries the youngest.”

Bands and individuals that have so far eluded the appeal include Gomez, Fred Baker, Ashley Hutchings and his son Blair Dunlop and Staveley-born Chris Spedding.

But there's still time for those who have slipped through the net to be part of the record.

Al Needham, who is now in his Nineties, was renowned as a band leader.

David said: "We wish to receive all correspondence by the end of February if possible, but an absolute 'deadline' must be Friday, March 25.

"All will feature. There will be no attempt at 'quality control'. Not all of course have recordings available. But those that don't will still get up to 200 words to document their story on what we hope will be a comprehensive set of sleeve notes."

The record will be compiled and produced by David and Aaron, who are aiming to bring it out on vinyl or CD this summer.

David said: "Starting to write my book on the dance bands of the area I realised that there had been music created (in all forms and genres) in the town for the past 100 years or more, and if it wasn't collected in one place now, then most of it may never be heard. In effect it will constitute a social (aural) documentation of the town's entertainment history over the past century.

Tom Gannon from Alpaca Factory said the compilation record will help to put Chesterfield on the map.

"It's important because these recordings or short biogs for the sleeve notes will be inevitably be lost over time if no-one collects and collates them now whilst a good number of the participants are still alive.

“It's a first for Chesterfield and area, and possibly the first for a town or area in such comprehensive detail. The area covered will be (approximately) Dronfield to the north, Buxton to the west, Wirksworth to the south, Bolsover to the west.”

The project has earned a thumbs-up from artists. Gogglehead said: “Over the years there has been a rich pool of talented and diverse artists emerge from the Chesterfield area, all of which deserve to be both celebrated, remembered and showcased. It is a fantastic project which will help to invigorate our local music scene!”

Tom Gannon from Alpaca Factory said: “I personally think it's a great idea as Chesterfield has loads of budding musicians and as a musical hotspot we're often overlooked by the likes of Sheffield, so I think it'll be a great opportunity to get us on the map!”

Aaron Brown, left, and David McPhie are compiling a musical legacy of Chesterfield.

David, who lives in Grindleford and turns 81 this month, was drummer with The Blueberries in the Sixties, a band famed for its single It's Gonna Work Out Fine on Mercury Records. He obtained Joe Cocker his recording contract for With A Little Help From My Friends and as his personal manager convinced Joe to carry on when the singer had decided to quit and go back to gas fitting. In the Sixties and Seventies, David booked groups including King Crimson, Free, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull and Family into the Victoria Ballroom in Chesterfield. He managed Shape of the Rain, ran the Smokestack (blues club at the Queen's Park Hotel with John Fleet (who was bass guitarist with Dave Berry's Cruisers) and was a DJ. David and his first wife Geraldine launched the record shop Some Kinda Mushroom on Newbold Road.

From the Eighties onwards David opened bookshops in Chesterfield, Matlock, Bakewell, Hassop Station and Buxton and a craft centre in Calver.

Aaron, 49, who lives in Chesterfield, is a singer-songwriter and vocalist in The WonderWhys who played Alexandra Palace to a crowd of 6,000 twice in 2017 and supported Happy Mondays in Chesterfield in 2018.

He was vocalist with Dazy Age, who specialised in original sun-soaked harmonies, in the early 1990s.

Aaron was in The Chasers qwho won the Derbyshire Times band of the year title in 2002.

Last year he released his all original songs album Exennial, from which four singles were released including the anthemic Pure Water and uplifting The Way That I Roll.

Gogglehead hailed the initiative as a fantastic project that would invigorate the music scene.

David and Aaron first met in the mid Nineties when Aaron was in Dazy Age and David promoted the band at a Bakewell venue. Now they both record interviews and reviews for the S40Time Podcast, hosted by Aaron, which features Chesterfield history and in particular music.