all photos and cuttings supplied by Glynn Brown
(1) Al Ryder, Glynn Brown, Chris Clayton, Gordon Turner at the Sun Lounge, (4) Kevin & Glynn at the Bill Haley Concert, (6) Mark Brown playing the drums.
It was in 1973 that Ernie Townsend the Warden of Ore Community Centre introduced me to Alan Ryder, who liked to be called “Big Al”, as we both had similar interests in music. Together with Chris Clayton, a work mate of mine, we got to discussing how we could form a band to play the sort of music that we liked instead of that terrible 1970’s stuff. We practised with several other musicians before deciding on Gordon Turner who had once played with a local group called “The Chicago Boys”. Gordon was versatile in that he could play Lead, Rhythm or Bass guitar. Alan Ryder was born in Hastings, but his family moved to Birmingham before Alan came back to Hastings. Before the Midnight Shift he had played guitar with a group called “The Downbeats” and most recently with a Gospel Group. Chris Clayton had cousins in a local group and was destined to be our drummer having picked up the basics from his cousins. I was pretty hopeless as a musician but had a long history as a singer, even spending many years in Emmanuel Church Choir. Right up to our first public appearance we were still practicing with a number of musicians, which happened to be a Talent Contest at the Sun Lounge on Hastings seafront. It was Alan who decided that our final line-up was to be just us four. We came second in the Talent Contest losing out to some guy who sang the Paul Anka song “My Way” which had been made popular by Frank Sinatra.
Most of our equipment was second hand as we were all cash strapped in those days; our Bass guitar had been purchased from the local group “Town Council” with the amplifier being an old valve type one coupled to a speaker that we had purchased from a local Auction. Al Ryder had his own guitar and amplifier and speaker, Chris Clayton purchased some second hand drums which we did up to make them look smarter and our PA (Public Address) system was some speakers that I took out a loan for and an amplifier purchased from the local group “Grundy”. To pay for all this equipment we decided to make “Bootlace Ties” that we sold wherever we performed. The ties were made in plaster of paris moulds at my house using white-metal sourced from old car handles from Harry Eldridge’s car yard in Old Top Road. Harry often payed us money for taking cars from Old Top Road to his other yard in Three Oaks. All of the cars were destined to be wrecked and many were un-road-worthy which gave a few hair-raising moments when brakes failed etc. But we would do almost anything to raise money to pay for the equipment. Very soon we had regular bookings at the “New Broom” pub on the Broomsgrove Estate, the “Kings Head” pub in The Bourne and Shearbarn Farm Caravan Park, as well as a few bookings at the “Manor” pub in Manor Road and other pubs around the area. Early on we tried a piano in our line up but it proved too difficult to get to venues. The speaker for our Bass soon gave up the ghost and I managed to get a good replacement from Ernie Townsend of Ore Community Centre. Of course it had to be payed for, so we did a couple of gigs at the Round Table Youth Centre in Priory Road for Ernie, as well he asked me to teach Home Brewing at the Ore Community Centre. Well on the first week we had about forty people turn up to learn how to make home brewed beer, after they learnt that it takes five to six weeks to make a decent beer we only had four or five turn up the following weeks. All the beer went to support the Ore Centre’s Bar Billiards team that played in a local pub competition. One time when we were playing at the “Wishing Tree” pub in Hollington, Al Ryder had to replace a couple of strings on his guitar and to keep the audience happy, Jack “Soapy” Hudson, well into his late sixties who I worked with, got up and told jokes until we were ready to resume. It wasn’t long before we appeared in a local free newspaper “The Hastings News” which led to more bookings. As part of our act we included a Skiffle segment which went down well with audiences and included a washboard and tea chest bass.
When Bill Haley came to England we got together two carloads to travel to Margate where he was performing. I led the way in my car and arrived at the venue with plenty of time to spare and even had time to speak to the Comets as they arrived. Of the second car there wasn’t any sign, we even telephoned the Police in case they had had an accident on the way. We enjoyed the concert and Kevin, one of our roadies and I had our photo taken by the Margate “Isle of Thanet Gazette” and appeared with comments in their next edition. When we got back home we found out that the second car had broken down before Winchelsea, they limped back home and I found people sleeping all over my lounge room floor.
Little were we to know that storm clouds were on the horizon when Al Ryder left the group due to personal reasons. We were joined by Gordon’s brother Chris Turner to keep the group going and then we became a five piece group with the addition of Brian Baker a lead guitarist who had played in other local groups. Chris Clayton broke his leg badly in a motorcycle accident and we had a replacement drummer called Tony to fill in whilst Chris was unable to play. We went along quite well for some time, even travelling to London to audition for a TV show, that was unsuccessful and I was fined for speeding in the hired van. We had a low spot when we played at the “Ponderosa” on the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately I had a severe cold and was croaking more than singing, also the stage curtains didn’t open too well and our PA speakers were hidden behind them muffling the sound. Within a few weeks Brian wanted to go his own way and the Midnight Shift broke up. As we had a few gigs booked and not wanting to let anybody down, I had to pay local group “The Odd Socks” to fill in for us. Soon afterwards Al Ryder turned up on my doorstep wanting to reform the band, but I was severely out of pocket and I resisted at that time. However when Gordon and Chris came to see me, we did reform the band with a new member Dave from South Africa. We had about one hours practice before performing our first gig at Rock-A-Nore. The Midnight Shift then continued happily until I migrated with my family to Australia in April 1976
Paul Kilford… stuff like this is goldust. love it.
Alan Esdaile… Agree Paul. Glynn has done a great job of remembering the 70’s. Even if you do not know the band its well worth reading as lots of places and people in this that you might remember like Harry Eldridges car parts, Sun Lounge, Manor Pub, New Broom and loads more. Excellent.
Paul Kilford… That’s the thing , I am pretty much Worthing born and bred but being a musician , I am obsessed with the history and origins of the not so famous right along the south coast. I have the honour of playing in Hastings from time to time and have an affinity for the town.