My Family Story
I come from Upper Norwood, South London, born and raised at the bottom of Spa Hill, on the lower slopes of the old Beulah Spa, a pleasure gardens & spa popular in the 1830's. I've written a history book all about it.
I went through lots of different hobbies one of which was film making - filming, editing, audio dubbing soundtracks etc. so from 1985-1990 you didn't see me without a film camera in my hand!
I made many films with friend Julian Dryden (who'd star and write the scripts), most notably 'Sherlock Holmes And The Curse Of The Vampire' 1989. This took us a year to make, filmed on location in and around Croydon, Surrey, it had a very large cast made up by Croydon Library staff.
In another film called 'The Wandlebeats' (a spoof '60s band rockumentry) I was persuaded into an acting role - playing Ritchie Fields the bass player. The band featured the 1980's Croydon music legend Andy Callen on guitar and vocals, Peter Holm on lead guitar and Julian Dryden himself on drums.
My Dad's family came from Peckham, South London and lived on Choumert Square, just off Rye Lane SE15.
Charles Shields and Jane Ellen White wedding Peckham 1934Choumert Square Peckham VE Day Street Party celebrations - smallest boy front row is my Dad (Brian Shields)
My Grandparents, both from Peckham and Camberwell, were Charles (b.1903) & Jane (b.1906) Shields.
19 Choumert Square PeckhamMy Nan's great grandfather Henry Wormull was a surgical instrument maker and was part of a large company called 'Evans and Wormull' who in 1889 were manufacturers of surgical instruments to the army, hospitals and government institutions, before the days of the anesthetic.
Here's a picture of my Great Great Great Uncle George Wormull, standing outside his cutler shop at no.2 Brixton Road near the Kennington Oval.
You can buy their old medical cases on ebay for £1000s. I don't know where their financial empire ended up because it definitely didn't come to our branch of the family!
My Dad - Brian Charles Shields 1941-2014
My Dad started at the age of 16, playing in skiffle groups in Peckham, South London and was in many bands :-
1957 The Ravens (Peckham skiffle band - Lesley Barrett on guitar, Mick Mahone on guitar, John Pointon - bass, John 'Bomber' Harrison on banjo/washboard).
1958-59 The Dicemen Peckham skiffle band - John Skudder on guitar, Mickey Cole on tea-chest bass, Brian Cole on vocals and Gerry Smith on drums,
1959 Johnny West and The Apaches Peter Cole replaced Mickey on bass.
Chislehurst Caves - plugging into the light socket. John Skudder with blonde Hofner President
1959 Lance Shields and The Knights - often played The Star Of India pub in Peckham. Robin Perry joined on Fenton Weill and then Hofner Club 40 guitar.
Fenton Weill guitars
1960 Same band but name change - Andy Cole and The Andy Caps
1960 & '61 Johnny West and The Apaches A female singer called Brenda joined the band. Lenny Mills joined on vocals (singing Big Bopper stuff), Brian a sax player joined for a while- It turned into a showband which played venues like the Park Lane Ballroom, Croydon & Co-Op Hall Peckham then called Rye Lane Jazz Club - where my Dad first met Paul Raven who got up to sing with them.
1962 The Twilights with Robin Perry, Johnny Miller & Gerry Smith.
My Dad and Robin saw a singer called Cliff Adams singing in a club in Peckham. They approached him and asked him to join them. My Dad and Robin thought of the name 'The Twilights', (Cliff Adams went on to become the manager of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac).The Twilights went on to play the Star Club, Hamburg in March 1963.
The Twilights - Co Op Hall Peckham
1962-63 Cliff Adams and The Twilights - Gerry replaced by Peter Engham (Adams), Johnny Miller replaced by Barry Watling.
Cliff Adams and The Twilights - Denmark Hill Club 1962 Robin Perry, Brian Shields on Framus bass, Cliff Adams, Gerry Smith & Johnny Miller" The Twilights 1962 Cliff Adams and Brian Shields Cliff Adams and The Twilights 1962 concert poster for the Hi-Fi Club Northwood Hills
Here is Cliff Adams and The Twilights (Brian Shields, Robin Perry, Peter Engeham, Barry Watling) performing What'd I Say - recorded 1962 in Regent Sound, Denmark Street. Click on this link to listen:- https://soundcloud.com/chris-shields/whatd-i-say-cliff-adams-and
The Twilights 1963 The Star Club Hamburg Robin Perry, Brian Shields, Peter Engeham (Adams) & Barry Watling Cliff Adams and The Twilights 1962/3
After the 5 week Star Club stint in Feb/March 1963, Cliff left the group and Paul Raven (Gary Glitter- oops not to be mentioned now eh!) became the new front man of The Twilights.
1963 Paul Raven and The Twilights - managed by Joe Knight (my Uncle). Paul Raven and The Twilights 1963 concert poster Royal Hotel Lowestoft
Paul Raven and The Twilights 1963 (Robin Perry, Brian Shields, Paul Raven, Barry Watling, Peter Engham (Adams) Paul Raven and The Twilights 1963 Royal Hotel Lowestoft
Dad with his Gibson SG (one of his friends stood on it and broke it in half!) at a 1963 rehearsal.
My Dad left The Twilights in early 1964 after an arguement about management (my Uncle Joe Knight had managed them up until now, but some of the band members wanted another manager called Peter Aitkin instead). This put my Dad in an awkward position as Joe was 'family' so he left Paul Raven, Robin Perry & Barry Watling to carry on touring in the group without him. In the meantime Cliff Adams was working with his own band which he'd called 'The Twilights' so there were two 'Twilights' on the circuit in late 1963/1964 playing the same venues, one with Paul Raven and one with Cliff Adams. My Dad mentioned one gig when both bands turned up to play the gig as they were on the same Roy Tempest agency!
Cliff's brother Peter Adams, who had been the drummer of The Twilights for their Star Club heyday, left the band to replace Clem Cattini in The Tornadoes.
1964 The Images (Dave Kettle on drums, Richard Bird on guitar and singer Bob Moore
In 1964 he joined an Epsom band called The Images. He remembers them having long hair (longer than in this picture!) and he enjoyed playing lead guitar with them but he left the band when Barry Watling (ex Twilights) was financing a tour and persuaded him to join Sam Cooke's singing nephew Sonny Childe and be the lead guitar for a band called 'Sonny Childe and The Elders Consolidated'.
1964 Sonny Childe and The Elders Consolidated - Financed by Barry Watling from The Twilights - Sonny Childe (Sam Cooke's nephew) on vocals, 2 sax players, John Cameron-Tetley on drums).
This pro band (including John Cameron/Tetley on drums) toured in a large coach and played lots of venues e.g. The Pavillion Ballroom Bournemouth, Locarno Ballroom Swindon & The Princess Ballroom Halifax.
In 1965 after he'd left The Images, they won a competition and got to release a single on Polydor. They wanted an original song so asked to use my Dad's song 'Head Over Heels' and invited him back to the recording session where he played lead guitar and sung in harmony with Bob Moore. The 'A' side was supposed to be Tony Macaulay's (Baby Now That I've Found You) song 'I Only Have Myself To Blame' but the people at Polydor preferred my Dad's song 'Head Over Heels' as it was more upbeat. Have a listen to Head Over Heels by The Images here:- https://soundcloud.com/chris-shields/head-over-heels-brian-shields-the-images-1965 Head Over Heels The Images Brian Shields Polydor 1965
He was asked by producer Jack Winsley if he had any more songs so he hastily formed his own band called The Pyramids and had a single 'Baby's Gone Away' released on the same Polydor label by the same producer in the same year as The Images 'Head Over Heels'!! Click on the link below to listen to Baby's Gone Away
1965 The Pyramids - John Tilt vocals, Robin Perry - 12 string guitar, Brian Cole bass, Gerry Smith Drums. Released 'Baby's Gone Away' on Polydor 1965.
The Pyramids 1965 Polydor
The Pyramids Polydor 1965 Baby's Gone Away - Shields
The Pyramids on Polydor 1965 (Brian Shields, Brian Cole, John Tilt (Johnny Valentino of 1970s do-wop group Jakety Yak), Gerry Smith & Robin Perry)
1966/7 Various gigs as a trio - Dave Kettle drums, Graeme Leach - bass, Dad guitar and vocals
1967-9 The Blacksmiths - Alan McIver on bass, Peter Randall - vocals, Phil Read on drums, Paul Speigal on organ replaced by Ivan Coutes.
In 1967 my Dad, with Robin Perry, built a recording studio at the end of our garden and called it Woodview Studios. John Smith in Woodview My Dad with his Grimshaw GS33
1967-69 The Falling Leaves Richard Roffey - vocal & Brian Shields -lead guitar
He started working with a singer called Richard Roffey who sang my Dad's songs 'Feeling So In Love', 'Sing Me A Song' & 'Look Into My Life'. Richard sounded like Tom Jones and they recorded original songs.
1967-71 Root 5 as bass player with John Smith, Colin Fuller - lead guitar, Dave Benyon -drums, Martin Monahan - harmonica. Then replacing Colin Fuller on lead guitar and with John Rayner taking over on bass.
1971-73 Renegade - Brian Shields lead guitar John Grace - piano John Edmed - pedal steel
Richard Roffey went on to set up his own studio in Kent.
Escape Studios owned and run by Richard & Ted Roffey.
An early memory of mine is going to Escape Studios in 1973 while my Mum recorded her vocal to Sing Me A Song. I remember trying to get into the live room during the recording session but the studio door seemed two feet thick with soundproofing and was much too heavy for a little 3 year old to open (me in the red jumpsuit below).
Listen to my Mum's recording of Sing Me A Song written by my Dad. Engineered by Tony Taverner. Have a listen to it here:-
1974-84 Pony Express - Country Band - John Smith - vocals and rhythm guitar, Brian Shields - lead guitar/vocals, Martin Monahan - harmonica/vocals, Robin Perry - bass, Dave Benyon - drums.This was the band I remember as a kid and my Dad's favourite band.
Martin Monahan, John Rayner, John Smith, Brian Shields- Fender Jaguar, Dave Benyon
They always used a harmonica player in their band, Martin Monahan, and that 'sound' always influenced me when I got to do my own stuff. I was lucky enough to have Martin play harmonica on my first cassette release in 1991. Mark Feltham replaced Martin Monahan on harmonica (1982)
Graeme Leach replaced Robin on bass.
Brian Shields on Ibanez, Dave Benyon, John Smith & Graeme Leach -bass
1981-3 Kim Bridges and The Hound Dogs with Nick Preece on drums, Rob Perry on bass
Kim Bridges and The Hound Dogs 1981
1984 Jenny and The Grand Prairie - Irish Country music with Rob Wilson on bass, Jim on drums.
1986-89 Kim Bridges and The Blue Moon Boys with Chris Shields on bass, Dave Benyon on drums
1989-92 Kim Bridges and Burning Love with Dal Shields on drums
Chris, Brian & Dal Shields at Odessa Street, Downtown Rotherhithe 1989
1992-6 Grand Prairie - Jenny Ormonde - Irish country music with Chris Shields on bass/vocals, Howard Tibble on drums.
I first joined my Dad in the studio on backing vocals in 1981 at The Old Barn Studios in South Croydon, run by Matthew Fisher
(Procal Harum), singing for Kim Bridges.
My first live performance was in 1981 with his band Pony Express at Cane Hill Hospital, Surrey singing the Ray Charles song 'What'd I Say'- I still have the live recording on tape.
I finally got to play guitar in The Twilights and play again with Pony Express at my Dad's 70th birthday and was in my element meeting all his old friends. Left to right Clifford Adams, John Tilt, Johnny Miller, Gerry Smith, Peter Engeham, Brian Shields, Robin Perry - me in the front! One last blast -Brian Shields - guitar, Peter Adams - drums, Cliff Adams, Chris Shields - acoustic guitar
Dad did one last studio album called ''Goin Down Rockin' '' pressed on vinyl a week before he died in 2014.
Of his original band Pony Express, the only ones still standing are Martin Monahan and Robin Perry. Singer John Smith and drummer Dave Benyon sadly both passed away.
Lorraine Shields - Sing Me A Song
My Mum was born at 159 Beauchamp Road and spent her childhood and married family life in Upper Norwood. She first met my Dad age 13 when she had a paper round that operated from the news stand outside The White Swan pub at Crystal Palace. My Dad used to help his dad Charlie, who worked on the papers in Peckham, and would cycle from there dropping off the bundle of papers to the paper seller stand.
That's how they both met and they were married in 1964 at All Saint's Church, Upper Norwood. My Mum has sang all of her life and recorded some great songs written by my Dad. Her biggest one was "Sing Me A Song' Have a listen to it here:-
My grandparents on my Mum's side were Albert Snell and Alice (Baker).
Albert Snell and Alice Snell / Baker
Alice's family: Father Fred Baker and mother Bertha Baker nee Maguire with young Alice 1914
Bertha Baker and Alice
1/8th Romany Heritage
I'm 1/8th Romany, my Great Great Grandmother on my Mum's side of the family was a Romany gypsy called Sophia Smith/Scarrott.
Sophia Smith / Scarrott Romany gypsy
I've written a book all about it called 'Putting My Past Behind Me' - see bookshop page.
Sophia Smith/Scarrott (daughter of Samuel) was born as Sophia Smith circa 1847 in Northamptonshire. She married another Smith, a distant cousin - as Romany families often did in those days - Jacob Smith - a basket maker who played the violin - (b.1831 Northamptonshire). They lived in caravans/wagons and tents on the commons - Stanmore, Barnes, Ashford (Kent), Wimbledon. Jacob died age 35 in 1872 and the family legend was that he was ''burnt in his caravan with all of his possessions'', but in truth he was buried at St Mary's Church Bedfont, Middx and they burned his caravan/wagon containing all of his possessions. The Romanies didn't believe in keeping possessions as the possessions of the dead could bring bad spirits back to haunt them, so all possessions were burnt.
Get your magnifying glass out and have a look at this:-
Jacob was the Son of Benjamin (b1799) & Sinfy Smith (b.1801) - married first cousins, being the Son and Daughter of brothers James (b.1767) and Samuel Smith (b.1773). James and Samuel were the sons of James Smith (b.1750) and Mary. James married Winifred Loveridge (b1760) - daughter of William Loveridge (b.1740), and Samuel married Sophia Smith (b1770) daughter of Hannah and Thomas Smith.
Sophia & Jacob Smith had children - Zelpha (married Arthur Huxley- had kids Arthur, Zelpha, Riley, Spinkey & Midget), Divers (married Rose-killed in air raid shelter in WW2), Davey, Agnes (married James Shoesmith), Parents (married Kate),
Sophia married a 2nd time in 1882 to another Romany (her deceased sister-in-law Druscilla's husband) called Frederick Scarrott (brother-in-law to Jacob). Fred was a hawker (born 1842) They lived in Chiswick and had children - Alfred, Eliza (married Ted Moles), Emanuel, William (married Mary Ann 'Polly' Donoghue) & Emily (married Edward Townson). Sophia sold flowers outside Acton Town tube station around the time of this picture. She died in 1938 in Fulham.
Thanks to Keith Scarrott for help in adding and confirming information most of which I gleaned from my Great Aunty Lil!
Jacob and Sophia had daughter Cinamentis (my Great Grandmother) on Ashford Common in 1872, one of a twin but her twin died at birth.
In 1892, Cinamentis married George Snell, an agricultural labourer from Mortimer, Berks - They lived in South Ealing at 79 Murray Road.
George William Snell (b.1863) joined the army age 17 (he pretended he was 18) on 31st December 1880 at Brock Barracks Reading. He spent the next 12 years in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Berkshire (Princess Charlotte of Wales) regiment of foot. From Reading in1880 he was trained a Parkhurst camp IOW and then travelled to Gibralta in 1882, Cairo in 1883, Gibralta again in 1884, Sudan in 1885, Wadi Halfa in 1886 and Malta in 1886. He spent over 5 years abroad and had to fight at the grizzly Battle of Tofrek in 1885. For this he received the 1885 East Sudan Egyptian medal plus star clasps for Sudan and Tofrek.
He was discharged at Reading on the 30/12/1892.He had married in 1889 in Brentford to a Kate Ellen Seabrook who died in 1891. He then married Cinamentis Smith (Minnie) on 24/12/1892.
I've found out a few things from my Romany family history searching:-
My Great Grandmother Cinamentis, had a Great Great Uncle called Absalom Smith b.1768 who was nicknamed 'The King Of The Gypsies' She also had another Great Great Uncle called Jasper Smith b.1749 who was nicknamed 'The King of The Fiddlers' - for playing the violin I hope and not dodgy dealing - though saying that, about 20 of my Romany ancestor's who I've researched were either sent to a house of correction, prison or even transported to Tasmania for crimes ranging from stealing a bolting of hay, sleeping in public on an open cart to stealing horses and even palmistry!
Another Great Great Uncle Salovino Smith b1761 had a son Cornelius b1831 who published his life story. He had a Son called 'Gipsy' Rodney Smith MBE b.1860 who was a British Evangelist and involved in the beginnings of the Salvation Army. A Great Uncle Woodfine Smith b1780 had a daughter Sentinia 'Henty' who was called Queen Sentinia of The Black Patch married to 'King' Esau Asha Smith. They 'ruled' over an area near Birmingham where the Romanies lived.
When I googled her name it came up with the news that Charlie Chaplin was born in her caravan on the Black Patch so he must be a distant Romany cousin!
Cinamentis and George's had many children - Eliza (married Fred Fairhead), George (married Kitty), Alice (married Tom Hook/Harry Brown), Florrie, Ada (married Fred Neighbour), John (Jack) married Florrie Pinnock, Lily (married Nelson Medland) and Albert Snell (my Grandfather).
Eliza Snell/Fairhead George Frederick Snell Alice Snell/Brown Ada Snell/Neighbour
John (Jack) Snell Albert Snell Lily Snell/Medland
Albert Snell (b.1912) married my Grandmother Alice Baker (b.1913), from South Acton. They had met in 1929 and had been together as a couple before they'd had a big argument and split up prompting my Grandfather to volunteer to join up to the army to spite her, but ended up spending the next 6 years of his life in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
When he returned home to Ealing after his time in the army, he found that Alice had married somebody else and had a young child, having had an earlier baby who'd only survived for a day.
Alice was experiencing domestic violence at home so ended up moving back into her Gran's house and then running away in 1938 with daughter Bev and Albert, moving South of the river to Upper Norwood, where they stayed at Albert's brother George's house, at the top end of Beauchamp Road.
She kept her first marriage secret for 60 years which when discovered, had an big impact on her own family. If she'd only explained the truth earlier, It wouldn't have been a such a shock for all involved but things were very different in those days and she had experienced some bad things so must have had her own reasoning behind keeping it quiet. They soon found their own place at 85 Spa Hill. Alice & Albert lived there with her daughter Bev, who Albert loved and brought up as his own, and their new baby Son, Barry Julian Snell born 3/8/1939.
They then moved to rent a much bigger house with a large garden at 159 Beauchamp Road, which was to be the Snell family home for the next 60 years.
159 saw many home births, including my Mum, various cousins and Me and my siblings (no hospitals in those days!). Many family members lived there over the years too.
Then came the Second World War and Albert was called up to train the Militia and was made a Sergeant Major in the Royal Artillery fighting in France, evacuated at Dunkirk, becoming a Desert Rat in North Africa, being captured at Tobruk in 1942 and being marched under capture through Egypt, Sicily and then up through Italy to get to the prison of war camp at Stalag IVb Germany where he was held captive until 1945. Alice was sent a 'missing in action' slip from the army and for a period of time she thought he'd been killed. Then came notification that he'd been captured and was a POW in Germany.
He returned after Stalag IVb was liberated by the American's, but on his return home he was painfully thin and yellow skinned.
My Mum Lorraine was born in 1947.
Alice and Albert lived together at 159 all this time, both having kept away from their old family haunts in Ealing and Acton. In 1969 they got news that Alice's 1st husband had died which enabled them to get officially married which they hastily did in secret at Croydon Register Office with Albert's sister Alice and sister-in-law Kitty as witnesses.
Alice had faced many troubled times in her early life. Her Mum Bertha had been ill with TB and had died when Alice was only 13. She was ill herself, having double pneumonia, measles and TB, so was sent away for convalescence to a cottage in the country. She said that when her Dad came back from fighting in the First World War he didn't really know her very well and didn't show her a lot of love. When her Mum died he remarried and all of his attention went away from Alice on to his new wife and younger sister Shirley. Shirley saw a different side of Fred than my Nan had ever experienced. So she moved out of home and in with her Grandmother, Susan Walker, who lived just over the railway at Osbourne Road, Acton.
She had experienced a tough life. Losing her Mum, the attention of her Dad. The loss of her first child, her violent first marriage, the running away and secret keeping. Her childhood illness had scarred her for life causing her to have asthma. She also developed pernicious anaemia and retinitis pigmentosa.
When she died we all realised that she had been a much stronger force than we'd ever realised, always fighting hard to keep everything and everyone happy. She suceeded I think.
Alice and Bert - my Nan and 'Pap'.
I was brought up listening to Elvis and rock'n'roll. At the age of 13
I discovered Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent & Ricky Nelson. The first album I ever bought was Ray Charles Greatest Hits. While all my friends at school were listening to Madness or Duran Duran, I was listening to Twenty Flight Rock.
I first gigged aged 16 when my Dad needed a bass player at very short notice. I hadn't ever played a bass before but I stood in for him and busked it as I knew all the rock'n'roll songs. This all worked so well that I became his 'official' bass player working a lot with Elvis Presley tribute act Kim Bridges and country music singer John Smith.
I started my own songwriting age 20 and put together my own 4 song cassette -recorded at home on my 8 track - which even got radio play on BBC Radio 2.
I then did a 12 track CD album called 'Haunt Me in 1993 at Moon Studios in Croydon, Surrey.
I started to perform my own songs at showcases in London like the Orange Club, Mean Fiddler, Marquee Cafe, Borderline and Kashmir Klub.
At the age of 15 my Dad gave me two cassetes featuring all of the original artists that he'd used, along with John Smith in Pony Express, as a musical source.
Most unusual for a teenager but I went very big on listening to Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson & JJ Cale on vinyl.
I then discovered, using my Mum and Dad's vinyl collection, James Taylor, along with other big favourites of mine Jim Croce, & Loggins & Messina. These people heavily influenced me as a songwriter and musician and help me in shaping the musical path I'd then choose to follow.
After my first album I was lucky enough to get to work with Irish singer Christie Hennessy both in the studio and live. I sang backing vocals on 7 songs on his 'Lord Of Your Eyes' album, recorded at Maison Rouge and produced by Paul Samwell Smith. I got to do a sort of 'duet' with Christie on his song "Love's Great Pretender' (check it out on Spotify) - It sounds just like Cat Stevens singing a duet with James Taylor.
I got to tour Ireland playing 18 concert dates at places like The Point, Dublin and Opera House, Cork.
I went on to write, record and produce album no. 2 at Moon Studio Croydon - called 'In A Melody' in 1997.
Then came album no. 3 called 'Sky Turn Blue' recorded at RMS Studio, South Norwood, London in 2000.
I played three sellout concerts with a full band in 1998, 1999 & 2001 at the Croydon Clocktower, Surrey.
An interest in mine is comedy and its history. I love the likes of WC Fields, Laurel & Hardy, Tommy Cooper, Tony Hancock, John Cleese, Rik Mayall, Steeve Coogan, Tim Vine. I researched all about comedy from the Victorian Music Hall onwards and have a great interest on the subject.
My last album was recorded and released in 2013 - 'Be Myself'.
I'd always wanted to record in a live set up - playing 'at the same time and singing live' in 'real time' with all the 'musicians there together on the day' (instead of laying down tracks separately), so I finally achieved this ambition with this record.
I also revisited my old live favourite 'But The Neighbours Ain't' with BJ Cole playing on pedal steel and my old friend Mark Feltham on harmonica.
On two occasions I've also played harmonica myself with a full choir at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, Surrey.
I don't play live so much anymore, although occasionally I can be coaxed to play e.g. I did a James Taylor tribute set for charity.
My favourite things in life now are being with my family and close friends, enjoying good food and good wine, the odd rum, a wee dram and a rare cuban cigar - and not necessarily in that order.
Thanks for reading this blog. Please listen to the songs and read the books.
All the best