Chris Gillies Bands Page 2


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The CROX was a bloody good band, but we just couldn’t find the work (we were rather expensive!), and in the meantime, keyboardist MIKE O’NEIL told us he was reforming his 1960’s band NERO & THE GLADIATORS. As he was unable to locate the original bass player, he asked me to join. What an opportunity – on guitar was original member, legendary guitarist DAVE GIBSON – ex PLAYBOYS / GEORGIE FAME & BLUE FLAMES / BILLY FURY / and musical director for SHIRLEY BASSEY.
On drums we had IVOR KNIGHT (Clark if you’re French!), pioneer of British rock & roll – ex VINCE TAYLOR etc, knocking on a bit, but still one of the finest drummers ever!! What a time we had, played all over the place (even BRIXTON ACADEMY), had a C.D. released, worked with DUANE EDDY, THE FENTONES, GENE VINCENTS BLUE CAPS, MATCHBOX, THE RAPIERS, and many others.

NERO & THE GLADIATORS on stage at the Brixton Academy. DAVE GIBSON guitar and CHRIS GILLIES bass.

NERO & THE GLADIATORS on stage at the Brixton Academy. IVOR KNIGHT Drums and CHRIS GILLIES bass.

There had been another sensation earlier in the evening. It was a closely guarded secret.. an appearance by NERO & THE GLADIATORS! It was another emotional highpoint. The majority of the audience was stunned into incredulous silence, but it was true. Mike (Nero) O'Neill and Colin Green were there from the original line-up. It was enough, sadly drummer Tommy Brown is now deceased and although a phone number for Boots Slade was discovered, he was apparently away when attempts were made to contact him. Mike O'Neill still performs around the North London area with his own group 20th Century Crocks, who apparently perform a lot of R' n' R and instros. Anyway, Mike used two longstanding friends and members of the Crocks, Chris Gillies (bass) and Richard Walsh (drums) to fill in for absent Gladiators. What a magical, albeit brief, set it was. Mike and Colin hadn't seen each other since 1963 and the group only met 30 minutes before going onstage! Colin admitted that he hadn't played the music for over 30 years, he even brought handwritten sheet music for "Czardas" with him but in the event he literally threw it away! Yes, it was 1961 all over again as the opening strains of the jokey, camped-up version of Fucik's "Entry Of The Gladiators" rang out in suitably good-humoured, tongue-in-cheek fashion. Who would have believed it? "Hall Of The Mountain King" complete with jive-talkin' intro was

Colin, Richard, Chris & Mike NERO & THE GLADIATORS

exceptionally sharp and incisive. Nero & The Gladiators' quartet of singles are highly-prized and revered by serious instro collectors, everything that the group represented was admirably put into words by Dave Burke (Pipeline 17). "Czardas" was quite sensational, other descriptions would be superfluous. I, for one, marvelled at Colin Green's lightning fast playing - it's a deceptive piece, demanding a high level of skill. The performance was even more remarkable considering that he hadn't played it for 31 years. What's more, the members treated the performances with respect and affection, they were genuinely enjoying themselves. As for the audience reaction.. almost hysterical - tumultuous, warm and prolonged applause. I believe that the group were genuinely touched by the reception. I knew that only three numbers were planned!!! So, another surprise.. a real, uninhibited romp through "Boots". Another sensation!!! They were obliged to come back for a second time to reprise "Hall Of The Mountain King", but couldn't be persuaded to encore "Czardas" again. Worth the admission price alone. No-one who was there will ever forget it.

In 1987, I decided to ‘retire’, as I was now 40 years old…..fat chance! I’d never been so busy, working in duos (SANDLEWOOD, DON’T THINK TWICE) , trios (GOOD COMPANY – from Bedford – not very good, but I’ve never laughed so much in my life!), dance bands, jazz bands, theatre work, operatta (honest!).

Eventually, the guys went their separate ways, pursuing different musical paths, and I was invited to join RECALL in the summer of 2001.
Originally there was COLIN FAY, rhythm guitar ALISON PALMER, Violin & vocals, MICK ELLIS, drums (not pictured), DAVE MEW, bass guitar.

There have been a few changes over the years, and currently we retain DAVE MEW and COLIN FAY, with STEVE BARFOOT on drums. Click here to go to RECALL page


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