In his second installment of Backbeat Memories, Musician and photographer, Mark Goodwin, recalls to Andy Howells his early gigs in Newport, a talent contest and a radio debut in 1959!
The first gig I recall playing was with a Skiffle group, a local, well-known band called the Red Bats. Sometime later they changed their name to the Black Dominoes. By now, I was 14 going on 15, and had started taking drum lessons from the pro drummer in the dance band at Newport’s Majestic Ballroom, Jeff Myers – my next drum hero!
I had one hour a week and it cost me 10 shillings (50p in today’s money). Jeff was as tough as you could get. All the time I attended his lessons, he never once let me sit behind the kit. It was always just on the practice pad learning the rudiments from the Buddy Rich book.
I had owned a small drum kit since I was about 13 and word eventually got out that I played. There were not many young drummers in Newport at that time that I knew of. One day, there was a knock on my Grandmothers door, and it was one of the members of the Black Dominoes inviting me to join their Skiffle Group. At that time, they had just one gig a week at the Castle Pub in Pill. Of course, I said “Yes.” That was when I began playing Lonnie Donegan numbers.
Carroll Levis Talent Show at Newport Lyceum
Carroll Levis was a talent scout, impresario and television and radio personality, a Simon Cowell of his era. Born in Canada, he moved to England in 1935. Joining the BBC, he hosted a regular programme showcasing unknown performers of which were discovered through his touring stage show.
When the Carroll Levis Talent Show came to Newport’s Lyceum, The Black Dominoes entered and won, which resulted in a trip to London in August 1959 for a live broadcast from the BBC’s Cumberland House. It was my first ever appearance on radio and we got a princely sum of £50 for the appearance! It is interesting to note that a Merseyside group called The Quarrymen also auditioned for the Carroll Levis Talent show when they held auditions in Liverpool. The Quarrymen featured three young men called John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. They didn’t win through the Carroll Levis audition, but they did eventually change the world of popular music as we knew it back then – but that’s another story!
Audition at The Newport Electricity Club
After I had left the Black Dominoes, I applied for a gig at the Newport Electricity Club. It was a little piano Bass and drums trio. Their drummer had recently left, so I applied and got an audition. When I got to the audition, there were two older more experienced players, who were quite condescending as I was only 15 at the time.
When it became my turn to play Ernie the Piano player asked, “Do you have any brushes?”
“Yes”, I replied.
“Do you know the Theme from The Apartment?”
“No,” I responded
“Okay, just listen and see if you can keep up!”
We played the number then a couple others. When we finished, he smiled, “Okay you’ve got the gig! £2.00 a night, every Tuesday!”
That was my first introduction to what I later discovered were known as Standards!
Mark Goodwin was in conversation with Andy Howells
Main photo of Mark Goodwin from Mark Goodwin Collection