Tuesday, 22 December 2015

"The City in the Sky"

For a different take on interesting subjects, I have taken an interest in the unexplained.  One of the most fascinating was the incident of the so-called "City in the Sky."  Events began in July of 1943 in the Mediterranean Sea, on a tank landing craft.  Suddenly, a vision began to emerge in the sky, and depicted what appeared to be a victorian street scene.  People walking about.  A small dog was seen running about.  The entire crew of the American ship, a total of 98 men, took turns watching the apparition, which lasted for around four hours.  Some of the crew even made sketches of what they were seeing.  The apparition slowly disappeared after around four hours, not to be seen again.  So, what was it they witnessed?

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Alexis Korner - A Memory

One of the founding fathers of the British Blues movement, Alexis Korner presented an eclectic brand of music every week on his radio show.  I religiously tuned in every Sunday night between 7pm & 8pm to listen to Alexis on Radio One.  His show covered all the musical decades and all styles of music.  Old jug bands, old time blues - one night he played some of the original Sonny Boy Williamson.  That is John Lee Williamson, not Rice Miller.  Apparently there is very little recorded work of John Lee Williamson still around.  He would contrast this with new releases by the Young & Moody Band featuring Coleen & Linda Nolan on backing vocals, Little Feat, Clapton, Zappa, Ry Cooder, etc.

   However, I did get the opportunity to see him do a small show at the Gateway Theatre in Chester.  I can still remember the exact date: 23rd July 1983.  To open the show, there was a female Irish folk singer named Gilly McPherson, who did four songs before Alexis came on.  Together, they did three blues songs with Alexis playing acoustic bottleneck and some electric guitar.  Then there was a break, then Alexis came on to do a solo spot on acoustic, electric and piano.  All together the show was no longer than an hour but it was a chance to see a legend of the British Blues scene, and it was a very good show.  For years, Alexis`band CCS, played the theme to Top of the Pops.  A version of Zeppelin`s "Whole Lotta Love."  Sadly, Alexis died on New Years Day 1984 from cancer, aged 55.  You can never replace shows you have always tuned in to. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Jack Dempsey - The Manassa Mauler

One of my favourite old time fighters was a man who specialised in destruction; Jack Dempsey.  Born in June 1895, William Harrison Dempsey started his fight career in 1914 under the name "Kid Blackie" ( there were a number of fighters calling themselves Kid something around that era).  Dempsey rode the rails, hoboed about, had plenty of barroom fights, offering challenges in camps and saloons for money.  He went through a succession of managers, with one that twice tried to line up a fight against none other than the "Boston Tar Baby" himself; Sam Langford.  Both times Dempsey declined.  Was it because of his colour?  In his autobiography "Massacre in the Sun" Dempsey stated that it was because Langford would have killed him.  One fighter that Dempsey was afraid of.  Even though Langford was really on the decline.

    Dempsey did fight one black fighter, and that was John Lester Johnson, who broke four of his ribs.  Dempsey did admit to there being one fighter that he truly hated and that was Carl Morris.  Morris had been a top rated fighter but was now on the downward slope.  What upset Dempsey was that after working as a sparring partner for Morris, he moved on.  When he needed his gear, Morris sent it on to him C.O.D.  For 75 cents!  He had three fights with Morris.  Before one of them, Morris pleaded with him to go a bit easy.  Dempsey said he was in perfect shape, and told him that he is going out as soon as possible.  Another top fighter Dempsey fought a few times was Ed "Gunboat" Smith, who hit Dempsey so hard that Dempsey thought he had been kayoed.  He came around well after the fight.  Far from being knocked out, he beat Smith!   It was in 1918 that Dempsey fought a top rated man, big Fred Fulton.  Dempsey demolished him in just 18 seconds.  This helped to put Dempsey in line for a bout with the champion big Jess Willard.  His demolition of Willard was savage in the extreme.  Willard should never have been allowed to come out for the second round.  He lasted a total of three rounds, but was decked seven times in the opening round.  He was an absolute mess.  From that day in July 1919, Dempsey was the most explosive fighter in the world and lasted as champion until 1926, when he was well and truly outpointed by Gene Tunney.  Not a truly thorough account of Jack, but a taster for more to come on other fighters of that era.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Gordon Banks - My Hero

Growing up as a young lad, I was obsessed with being a goalkeeper, even though I was small.  Playing football on fields, I threw myself all over the place, having my young buddies calling me Banksie.  When it came to the game, the most interesting player to me was the goalkeeper, and I remember perfectly the incredible save Banks made from the header of Pele during the 1970 World Cup game against Brazil.  Then there was the penalty save from Geoff Hurst, helping Stoke into the League Cup final in 1972.  I remember that Frank Lampard Sr, could not bare to watch. But the sickener was the car crash that truly ended his career, even though he was really at the end of it.  What was it about him that still makes him my hero?  He had presence and command at the back. Not as agile as say, Peter Bonetti, of Chelsea, but capable of organising the defence to his satisfaction.  And having all the qualities.  His deputy at Stoke for years, was John Farmer.  Farmer had bought a hairdressing business in Little Sutton, and had Banksie officially open it for him.  Also present, if my memory serves me correctly, was Mike Bernard of Stoke.  Some people on polls have put the three greatest goalkeepers as 1) Lev Yashin of Russia.  2) Gordon Banks.  3) Dino Zoff of Italy.

    Players remembered include Ken Mulhearn and Harry Dowd of Manchester City, Alex Stepney and Jimmy Rimmer of Manchester United, Tommy Lawrence & Ray Clemence of Liverpool, Gordon West and Andy Rankin of Everton, Phil Parkes of QPR & West Ham, Phil Parkes of Wolves, Kevin Keelan of Norwich, Jim Montgomery of Sunderland, Gary Sprake and David Harvey of Leeds, John Jackson of Crystal Palace, Bob Wilson and Geoff Barnett of Arsenal, Pat Jennings of Spurs, Peter Shilton of Leicester & Forest, Peter Bonetti, Barry Watling of Notts County, John Armstrong of Southport, Mike Gibson, and there was Phil Owers, who debuted for Darlington at 17 but let in seven against Southport, and was said to have left the field in tears.  The crowd gave him a standing ovation.  What about Tom McAllister, who saved two penalties from Alan Hinton of Derby.  Did he play for Sheffield Wednesday?  Sheffield United did have John Hope in goal in the early 70`s.  Ah yes, memories.

The Wonderful World of Motorcycles

I come from a motorcycling family, but alas, I could never get the hang of riding one.  I did once own a 125 Suzuki.  But in my family, it goes back to my grandfather, who died before I was born, had two bikes.  An old belt driven Rudge, and one of the first foot change BSA`s.  My dad owned a 1937 hand change 350 Douglas, a 500 Norton, which turned out to have a slightly bent frame, and his favourite, an ex-army 350 Royal Enfield.  One elder brother had two; a Puch Maxi, to start, then a CD175 Honda.  Another brother had an assortment; Honda 50, Honda 90, CB175, CD175, CB200, CB250, 250 AJS & a CX 500 Honda.  Both of them were members of the Wheelwrights Motorcycle Club in the early to mid 70`s, that met in the Wheelwrights pub in Elton.

    What does my memory recall?  The club held a "Bike of Britain" contest in August 1976 that brought bikes from all over.  There was me with a cheap Halina camera snapping away at bikes, when an immaculate Matchless slowly run past me.  I managed to snap the bike and rider and caught a very good black and white photograph.  This turned out to be the winner.  A G500 Matchless from Wallasey.  An event was somebody turning up on a Silk.  A limited edition bike, modelled on the Scott, but very much updated.  The club president Keith Wilkinson had a ride on it, with me catching him on some hastily taken photos.  He and two others once road tested a T3 Moto Guzzi and took in the small Silk factory situated in Derby.  They had a test ride on a just completed bike and all agreed it was a fantastic bike.  The only stumbling block was the price.  Because it was a very small production bike, it was expensive, and Keith could not afford it.  I know this because he once told me.  He said it WAS a fantastic bike.

    A couple of times in the 80`s, I visited a lady friend in Oxford, when one day, stood at a bus stop, we heard a roar of a bike.  A big black Yamaha with semi high rise bars, came racing down the street, with a woman rider, weaving in and out of the traffic.  "That`s Carol" said Joan, my friend, "Never pick a fight with her.  She`s a hard case!"  The Yam was a 750.

     One of my customers has a couple of bikes, and as he is retired, he has time to indulge himself.  One bike he has in a 650 XS2 Yamaha, a 1978 model.  In good condition as well.  To finish this ramble, I must mention Alf, one of my cousins.  He had the ultimate superbike in the early 70`s.  The Kawasaki Z1 900.  One of the very first in the country.  The times he used to visit our home to see my brothers or my dad, and then see my brothers looking enviously at this superbike - remember this was the early 70`s.  I will keep returning to the world of bikes, as, although I could not get to grips with them, they fascinate me.  Until next time.

Welcome to my World

Hello folks, to a new blog from your fave crime blogger!  This is going to cover various subjects, such as the classic era of soccer - the 70`s, motorbikes, rock music, films, unexplained phenomenon, and anything else that interests me.  Let us start with football.  I come from Ellesmere Port and we have had a couple of big names in the soccer world emanate from the Port.  The biggest, arguably, was the former Manchester City and England manager, Joe Mercer.  Then we had Stan Cullis, a former manager of Wolves.  On the playing side, nobody came close to Ian Bowyer, star of Nottingham Forest & Derby, under Brian Clough.  Ian came from Little Sutton, with his parents living just over a five minute walk from where I lived.  For some years, he always left all his medals at his parents home.  Kids always used to knock on their door, asking if they could see his medals.  My mother, who is in her 80`s, remembers this to this day.  They would explain what he had won each of them for, and the kids would be totally awestruck.  Could there have been a better inspiration for youngsters?  What a total commitment can achieve for you.

    Another local player who hit the old first division, was Dave Hickson, who passed away some years ago.  He made it with Everton.  David Johnson, who played for both Liverpool and Everton, lived in Great Sutton.  There was a guy I saw in a game, years back, in which my eldest brother was playing.  This guy was tall, about 6`5" and a great goalkeeper.  He also managed to get a trial for Coventry, but alas, no success.  The local team at that time was Ellesmere Port Town.  One man who graduated from the old Northern Premier League, to the Football League, was Leo Skeete. Born in Skelmersdale, he played for Burscough before playing for E.P.T.  He was spotted by a scout for Rochdale and signed for them. One of the very first black footballers in the Football League.  He carried on doing what he always did; scoring goals.  He became the leading Dale scorer but was not in the plans of the clubs new owners, so next season, he was back in the semi-pro leagues.  He played for Mossley United, and in total played 350 games and scored 174 goals.  How can you ignore a record like that in a career?

    To finish, when I first started doing the post in the Port, I delivered  letters to a family called Storton.  I immediately asked; any relation to Stan Storton?  The woman I asked was slightly taken back.  "That`s my dad.  You remember him?"  Stan Storton was the town captain in the late 60`s/early 70`s.  My god. Me and my memory!