Wildgust was my very first proper band!
I'd played music with a few friends while studying Environmental Sciences at Lancaster University. And immediately after finishing my degree, I worked as a musician — and even attempted to act! — in Fairplay Theatre Company, a street theatre ensemble with links to the university and to Lancaster's Duke's Playhouse. This wasn't as grand as it sounds: Fairplay had a very short life, just the summer of 1975. We performed in the streets of a few small towns and in the main squares of many tiny villages around the south of France. Hot work, at times! But it was a lot of fun while it lasted. (Even when our van broke down in Nevers...)
After Fairplay, I did not want to live in Basildon. So I moved to Worcester in late 1975 along with several friends. Why Worcester? Well, we chose it as a place to live partly because of a dream that Pete Kearney had. Those were the days! I hitch-hiked there, carrying most of my wordly goods, along with friend Shirley Cupit. One lift was in a stolen van (at least, that's what the driver told us as he swerved exuberantly from lane to lane).
Once in Worcester, a few of us got together regularly to play music. We called ourselves Wildgust. This was the surname of one of Heather Cupit's friends, a Pat Wildgust. On guitars, ukulele, mandolin, and percussion was my former school chum from Basildon, Dick Langford. Martin Thorne — also from Basildon — played guitar. And I played fiddle, banjo, mandolin, one-string fiddle, tin whistles, and percussion. All of us sang.
We were inspired (at least, I was) by the sound of the early Incredible String Band, still one of my all-time favourite influences. And there was a lot of rough jug band in our sound.
The top right-hand photo shows me and Dick playing in the bar of Worcester Teacher Training College (now the University of Worcester). This was early 1976, I think. I was wearing wellys due to the winter mud. And I remember that Shirley had fallen through a window on the day before this gig, and her hand was bandaged. I visited this college a lot, and used to eat there too, until someone official asked to see my student card.
The other two photos show first me and Dick, then me, Dick, and Martin, later in 1976, at a gig in the back room of a Worcester pub then called The Pheasant (I think). I still have a recording of this gig — it's pretty poor quality — on audio cassette. By this time, I had a job as a computer operator, working at the same place as Dick.
Wildgust did only a few gigs before 'differences in musical direction' pulled us apart. Though Wildgust was a bit of a disappointment, I'm glad we tried.
Next: the Worcester Brawles