Live Music in Machynlleth from 1978 to 1990s
I moved to Machynlleth in 1978 where the local music scene was pretty much homemade and bands were hired in from away. Pubs had pianists who would accompany customers in traditional songs and hymns with their church and chapel background making for superb harmonies. Pubs of note were The Red Lion and Dyfi Forester in town and The Red Lion in Dinas Mawddwy. There was also The Railway in Abergynolwyn which had a barn behind the main pub where all sorts of musicians would turn up and play - guitarists, violinists, vocalists - one guy used to bring his vibraphone and sometimes the Powys Male Voice Choir stopped off on their way back from a concert for a few pints and an impromptu concert.
George Fleming with his guitar and singing also featured prominently for some pub evenings and together with his friends formed a small group that used to play at the Bowling Club and parties. I used to join in with George on guitar or drums but things really started to happen when I met keyboard player Phil Wheeler through the Panto. The two us began playing together for fun and added Barry Wise on bass guitar, Christine McLennan on vocals and sax and a drummer from “The Rainbow Commune” called Chris. We named ourselves “WOK” and after gaining ground locally we hit the big time and played gigs as far afield as Aberystwyth, Llanidloes, Dolgellau and even Newtown!
Whilst WOK was going strong I met another musician, a guitarist called Graham Preston who’d just moved to the area. Together with friend Dai Speake on bass we formed a group called The Fabulous Indian Elephants - otherwise known as F.I.E. Graham provided vocals for most numbers but we were joined by Jonathan Pickles who would adopt the stage persona of “Leroy Mellonrelish” for some particularly manic performances. We actually had regular lunchtime sessions at The White Lion one summer which were packed out. The format had Leroy as an American DJ who'd present the show complete with adverts and introduce 'The Studio Band'. Hmmm - had to be seen to be believed but here is a video which features audio extracts from the show, originally recorded on cassette tape.FIE - excerpts from a live performance!
Although both WOK and F.I.E. both slowly dissolved as members started new musical projects, the core formed up regularly to play in The Panto Band and added other musicians as needed. The prime example of this was for “Blues Brothers – The Panto!” when we put together a ten piece band which became very much in demand for local dances, parties and charity events with vocals from the actors who played the lead parts in the panto.