‘Cal Vincent’ - as in Cal Vincent and The Countrymen.
Cal Vincent being an amalgam of James Dean’s character in East of Eden and Gene Vincent; whose given name was Eugene Vincent Craddock.
Rock ’n’ Roll being a crucible where you can be anything you want to be if you can imagine it.
When I was a child growing up my best friend was called Terry Lowney, he had an older sister called Julie who had a boyfriend called Trevor Rackley AKA Cal Vincent.
Talking ‘bout early 60’s Reading, Berkshire.
Lots of family parallels; his Mum came from Northumberland Avenue, Whitley, south Reading with Yorkshire roots, while his Dad, who also worked on the GWR like my Dad, was from Cork, Ireland, my Dad being from Sligo.
My Mum was from west Reading of Berkshire/Hampshire descent.
Trevor/Cal was the first person I knew who was the living, breathing personification of what I perceived as rock and roll music.
He was around 21 years old at the time while I was about 8 years younger.
Drove a Humber ’Super Snipe’, wore stylish suits and had a Rickenbacker guitar.
I’d seen Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Billy Fury on TV and he fit the profile.
Trevor Rackley/Cal Vincent
In fact, he was a serious musician. He studied guitar with the Ted Heath’s band’s guitarist; Ivor Mairants and went on to lead a trio at the Astor Club in Berkeley Square, Mayfair.
The high society, London underworld of the Astor Club is well documented and Trevor tells of how the Kray Brothers would turn up sometimes.
Not that Rock 'n' Roll ain't a serious business but he'd been studying and playing music before it was born.
Those days I often spent as much time at Terry Lowney's house as I did in my own; only a few doors along Lyndhurst Road and Trevor started showing me guitar chords once I'd got a guitar.
A while later I used to go to the house on Alma Street in Reading, where he set up home with Julie and their baby son for guitar lessons. He’d sing and play Elvis and Hank Williams songs. I had some Hank Williams records but at that point had not met anybody else who knew of the Alabama poet.
He told me to listen to guitarists such as Tal Farlow, Laurindo Almeida and Barney Kessel.
To listen to vocalists such as Sarah Vaughn and Dakota Staton.
He also introduced me to Chuck Berry.
When I was around 14/15 years old I used to go and watch/listen to him rehearse in the back room of the Pond Hose pub on the Oxford Road in Reading.
I recall them doing Joe Brown’s ‘A Picture of You’ and Johnny Kidd’s ‘Shaking All Over’.
The band were a hot ticket in the hometown at that time.
They were; Bert Hinckley on lead guitar, 'Spud' Cox on bass and Melvyn Grist on drums.
Cal Vincent and The Countrymen opened for Johnny Kidd and The Pirates and Johnny Burnette at The Majestic ballroom on Caversham Road in Reading.
He took me with him, I was underage but he got me in for the show.
Those nights changed my life.
That experience turned up in my song Me and Johnny Burnette on my 2005 album Night Ride To Birmingham.
Around that time he also promoted shows for local bands around Reading; Pangbourne Village Hall, Bucklebury and at Bradfield Southend.
As I had a portable record player Trevor let me be the DJ. I would say I had a Dansette but I couldn’t afford one of them.
I had a Curry’s own brand - a Westminster.
Was my first gig, I had a reputation as a chatterbox and Trevor decided to bill me as Cassius Clarke.
When The Countrymen folded Cal/Trevor joined forces with a Wallingford based band called The Gangbusters.
in 1963 they released a single as The Gangbusters.
Two songs Trevor co-wrote with the band’s female vocalist Teddy Munro.
The A side was The Memory Of Your Face, the flip side was When We Met.
I travelled with them by coach to see that year’s NME Poll Winners Concert at Wembley Empire Pool.
Later on when I was getting started in bands, Trevor helped me on my way by selling me his Meazzi P.A. system.
I also bought his beautiful Levin ‘Goliath’ acoustic guitar.
The one he played the Elvis Presley songs on when he was teaching me.
I went on to sell it a few years later to fund the purchase of another guitar but always regretted letting it go.
I would like to think that I never took those days for granted and have always appreciated it.
I’ve paid tribute to those times in song.
In fact I did give Trevor Rackley a credit in the sleevenotes of my 2002 album Green Voodoo.
Time passes and we go different ways, develop lives with wives and children, divorces and shenanigans but certain times do remain magical, life forming and endlessly influential.
There was a time where we din’t see each other for maybe 30 years but got together a while ago. We laughed and caroused as if there wasn’t a cigarette paper between the past and the present.
As I write this; Trevor/Cal Vincent is 77 years old and living on the south coast of England.
He busks around Poole Harbour and gives everything he makes to the RNLI.
We plan to meet up in the summer.
As a teenager I played the horses for a while but lost money and learned a lesson but I’d still place money on Cal Vincent, he might not realise it but my life would not have been what it is without him.