Once upon a time I was on South Congress Avenue in Austin Texas, perusing the somewhat odd garments on offer in a hip clothes store called ‘Lucy In Disguise.’ My eyes were drawn to a rail bearing pink leopard-skin jackets. For some inexplicable reason, probably brought on by the copious amounts of Tequila consumed … I had to have them! So I parted with the requisite number of dollars and left the store laden with pink jackets that were way too warm to wear in Texas. They returned to the UK with me, and took up residence in my closet. And there the story ends for a while.
Over the next few years various artists from the Lone Star State and occasionally Gnashville pitched up in the UK looking for a back-up band for a European tour. Or more exactly looking for MY band, on account of the fact that we’d toured and recorded in the US ourselves and were noted as being pretty much up to the task … and cheap! These tours would always include radio spots throughout Europe and the occasional TV show. One of the regular tour stops was the Mary Costello Show on a London radio station. After we’d done the show several times backing various US acts, we were eventually invited onto the show in our own right. It was pretty well received and we were asked back a couple more times, and then Mary asked us to do the Christmas show. Now, anyone familiar with my songs knows that although not especially gloomy they ain’t exactly festive either. So … enter the shades, the pink leopard-skin jackets and the VILETONES. The story of the fifties band reuniting was invented and we strung together some obscure Rock ’n Roll Xmas songs. The cast was as follows:
Vince Vaccarri: Vocals, rhythm guitar … Ian ‘Barty’ Bartholomew
Vince Black: Lead Guitar, vocals … Wesley McGhee
Rev. Vince Charles: Bass … John Gordon
Vince Morris: drums … Maurice McElroy
Al ‘Doc’ Phibes: saxes … Al Stewart
Eddie Jones: piano … Simon Webb
And we were joined by honorary Viletone Patty Vetta to add harmony vocals. Eddie Jones was replacing his father, Vince Jones, who was indisposed for various and possibly suspect reasons. The real reason was Simon looked a bit younger than the rest of us and could no way pass as a fifties rocker!
But … it being the festive season, we were presented with a problem. Our main singer Barty (Ian Bartholomew) is also an actor and was currently appearing in ‘Into The Woods’ in the West End. The radio show was broadcast live on a Saturday which meant Barty, having a matinee and an evening show at the theatre, could only get to the radio station between times. This meant he had to leave early and we had to come up with a reason for his departure.
We did our first couple of Xmas songs but when the next cue came up for us to play we tore into the old instrumental ‘Raunchy”. At a given point Vince Vaccarri cut in to the performance complaining loudly that there was no singing on this piece. An argument broke out with the rest of us shouting that this was ‘an instrumental, it had always been an instrumental, and it had never, never had words!’ Whereupon Vince Vaccarri stormed out of the building. ON LIVE RADIO!!!
Of course, this was all preplanned and the radio station were happy with it, but it didn’t stop a flood of listeners’ complaints about the ‘appalling behaviour live on the wireless’.
This was followed by an interview with Vinces Black and Morris, revealing the whole sorry story of how Vaccarri’s behaviour over several decades had blighted the band’s career. Stories of the days at the Two I’s, where the likes of Terry Dean and Wee Willie Harris had stolen their thunder, and so on …and so on!
We played a couple more Xmas songs and put away the shades and pink jackets, thinking this would be the Viletones one and only outing, with only listeners to the radio having seen them. (ed. - Is this right?)
But it was not to be: we were asked to do a couple of gigs around New Year! It seemed reasonable to reprise the Xmas songs, and we dug out some old R ’n R, classics, ’Mohair Sam’, ‘Sunglasses After Dark’, ‘Hot Dog’ and several others. The gigs were really well received … and one or two perceptive punters finally realised that the Viletones were actually the Wes McGhee Band.