A quote from Chris Black: "I'm over 21 years old and I'm still rockin'! They've billed me as the Legendary Chris Fender Black over here for some reason, it must be because I resemble an old Jaffa orange!!!"
Well folks, Chris Black will always be legendary in my book. He and his orginal Black Cat band are solely responsible for turning me into a full time rocker back in 1979, when they played at a local venue in my home town. Oh yes, I loved rock 'n' roll before that. I was a dee-jay for 10 years playing all the old songs, but it was then and there that I changed from an oldies fan to a life time rocker.
Chris started in music as far back as 1955, aged 17 he got his first Guitar out of a cupboard under the stairs in the house next door Ilford Essex. Chris's house was bombed and badly damaged during the war and the guitar was full of bits of metal and plaster which he had to shake out the sound hole. He put metal strings on it to get a nice twang but it bent the neck up like Robin Hoods Bow and he couldn't hold the strings down past the 5th fret. Still it was good for Skiffle and he soon learnt 3 chords and how to play LOUD in a day.
After giving it a good thrashing he put his first skiffle group together in 1955 called "Mike Stand & The Jack Plugs". Chris's first gig was in Chislehurst Caves in Kent all accoustic with hand held candles for lighting and plenty of grey dust blowing down the windswept damp dark erie tunnels. There were 20 plus bands playing skiffle & jazz, trumpets trombones, bugles, violins, banjo's, drums, all at once, so everyone's music got mixed up together like being in one hudge echo chamber and it sounded like the roar of an underground train plus a raging river. The punters loved it, and so did the bands.
Chris progressed to Youth Clubs Pubs, Clubs & Church Halls playing skiffle and then in 1956 Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" came out in the film Blackboard Jungle which started Rock-n-Roll off in the UK as we know it. Then Elvis appeared and then an unstoppable avalanche of Rock-n-Roll hit the UK from the USA with countless artistes.
Chris still could not get a guitar lesson or buy an electric guitar or amp so he learnt from records (Scotty Moore, Bill Dogget) and put an electric pick up clipped to the sound hole of his old acoustic guitar. Chris then got some TV bloke to make an amp with the valves glowing with no cover or box just a metal chassis and loads of wires hanging out. Chris got electrocuted and thrown across the room several times. Some guys actually died during this period from electric shocks! This mostly happened when Chris grabbed the metal mike stand and shorted out all the lights. But Chris and his band generated more electric than the national grid and he had a real good time with all the energy twanging out. Chris said it was like having a Musical PUNCH-UP.
Chris then got called up into the Army in 1957 for national service and had his quiff cut off and was sent to war in Cyprus for 16 Months. He got a medal for this!!! (Not the war having his quiff cut off!). He formed a band called the "N.S. Six" (National Service 6) and played in a bar in Ledra Street Nicosia (Murder Mile) with army machine gunners on the door to stop terrorists throwing a bomb throught the window. No money, just steak and chips and a few beers. Chris was then sent to Iserlon old S.S. Barracks in Germany where he kept his band together and just as he was going to play on German TV they sent him home to England and he was demobbed in Dec 1959.
He soon got his band back together in UK and added a sax and called it "UNIT 7". 1960-1964 Chris bought his beloved Fender Stratocaster in January 1962 and it cost him £163 and 10 Shillings and it took him 3 years to pay it off on HP. He then at last managed to play all the way up the guitar neck and his band became the 5th best band in London and he then played all over the UK backing Paul Raven (when he was 17) and Garry Glitter before he was a purve. They played at all the top London venues Two Eyes, Whisky Go Go, etc. From 1964-1967 Chris had all his equipment and vans stolen 3 times and ran out of money, he had to get a job and play semi pro.
He then started Black Cat in 1978 and won best Show award at Bristol in 1980, and came to Holland. The original Black Cat split up in 1983 due to pressure of being semi pro and having to travel all night all over the UK and work all day and the band couldn't keep up with it and got tired, they crashed their motors several times going to and from gigs.
Chris kept Black Cat going with Ricky Bainbridge (Sax & Keys) who is still with Chris after they first met in 1973. Chris has backed nearly every Rock-n-Roll star in the UK on Shows with Black Cat and has now got his own Show called "C'mon Everybody", Live Non Stop West-End Rock 'n' Roll Show". A trubute to all the great rockers like Eddie Cochran, Brenda Lee, Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Connie Francis and Buddy Holly.
Claire Black (Chris's daughter) now plays brilliant bass guitar in the current Black Cat and Chris himself is over the moon with this. Chris said "It's so nice to be able to depart your musical knowledge after having spent as long as he has learning it all, to someone who want's to learn and make good use of it."
Chris is always in for a good laugh, one fine day he really did marry his Fender guiter. The Vicar was the Rev Courtney Crabb ? Bishop of Becton Alps, East Ham. You can see him scratching himself getting out the band van, and no we didn't. It got him listed on the Fender Europe website (item 35) next to Jimi Hendrix: http://www.fenderurope.com
Here are some quips: Here strums the Bride! - Brenda the Fenda was the most expensive pick up Chris ever made - Chris married his guitar because he'd been stringing her along for 40 years and wanted to make an honest guitar out of her - From the first time Chris and his Guitar struck up a chord together they have been in perfect harmony and in tune ever since - Brenda never frets anymore now she's married - They are both completely nuts and proper head cases - Brenda doesn't answer back and always fits snugly to Chris's body perfectly - Benda is the best pluck in England!
Another quote from Chris Black: "The best compliment I ever had for myself & Black Cat was given to me when I was resident rock-n-roll band in Lennon's Wine Bar, which was next to Stringfellows in London's West End. When we played the opening night Cynthia Lennon came up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss and told me that it was the best rock-n-roll music she had heard since the BEATLES. Wow that was some tribute!!"
Chris has created a CD with 26 tracks from 1979 to 2004. The tracklisting is a walk down memory lane for me and many of the revival rockers from the late 70's and early 80's. With Black Cat classics like "Queen Of The Hop", "Type A Letter", "Race With The Devil", "Black Cat Boogie" and many more...
This Black Cat line-up:
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