Sticky Wicket is now known as the UK’s No1 Swing Drummer, but he didn’t start out on that path, he had a varied musical career before settling into the Swing Groove and forming the Swing Orchestra in 1999.
How it Started……
My dad had an eclectic taste in music and he bought lots of records, including Lonnie Donegan, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chris Barber even some classical. I used to entertain the family strumming along on a little tin guitar, I just loved the rhythms. My cousin bought a beautiful white drum kit, I knew that was what I wanted but dad wouldn’t get me one. Then my cousin met a girl and no longer wanted his kit but didn’t want to sell it so he lent it to me. At first I was only allowed the snare and the high hat, I couldn’t have the bass drum because of the noise, but I had a Meccano set! I made myself a bass drum pedal from the Meccano which I put up against the cupboard in the bedroom, it made a fantastic bass drum making as much if not more noise than a real one!
When I was about 14 or 15, although my parents would no doubt have preferred I set my sights on a ‘proper’ job, they could see my determination and enthusiasm. My dad was great he used to take me to my first few gigs in Working Men’s clubs and they were both very supportive. I did get a proper job when I left school for about a year then I saw an advert for a covers band as they are called today, in Germany, again dad took me to the interview, I got the job and that was where my professional career began.
In the late 60’s when I was about sixteen, listening to the bands that were on the scene at that time and was very keen on getting onto the Rock music path, however, I was in a music shop in Birmingham and someone said to me are you going to see Buddy Rich at the Town Hall? I said “who’s Buddy Rich?”, the reply came “listen kid if you want to be a drummer check this bloke out”. I respected the man who said this as he was a great drummer himself. At the Town Hall I asked if there were any tickets left, they said ‘we have a few left, there are a couple at the front and a couple at the back’, I said “I want the front please”. Bearing in mind I’d been to a lot of live concerts, I’d seen The Spencer Davis Group, The Who and lots of Rock & Roll bands who I thought were the most exciting thing, until that night. Out come all these musicians and there is this big drum kit and it so happened I was right in front of it, and they played this most exciting music and Buddy played absolutely phenomenal I’d never see anything like it (even better than Keith Moon!). That started my interest in the style I now enjoy playing.
For years it remained a personal interest, I was still pursuing a rock career in Birmingham although I was getting involved with some of the local Trad bands which was fun playing a bit of jazz and they welcomed in this long-haired rocker. I never thought much of it, in terms of making a living playing jazz, until I saw a chap called Sammy Rimmington. He was a really exciting tenor player, although traditional based he could really whoop it up and play some great swing. He also had a progressive jazz/rock band called Armada. The piece in the Melody Maker that got my attention was ‘Sammy Rimmington forms new Armada’. I called a mutual friend to see if he could get me an audition and he did more than that he got me the job! I had been a regular member with many rock and jazz bands in Birmingham but on joining Sammy I moved to London.
My first break came with The Russ Ballard Band which toured the UK, Europe and the USA . We also performed on the legendary BBC TV live music program ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’. Next I joined Street Band with singer Paul Young ( the well known pop star who left the band after recording ‘Toast’ which was a minor hit for the band). After the arrival of ‘Punk Music’ in the late 70`s I turned back to jazz and toured jazz festivals and venues in Europe with the extremely popular Sammy Rimmington Quartet.
Click here for The 1980’s onwards