How Lester and Jim kept us a-rockin' and a-rollin'
PUBLISHED: 10:19 12 February 2018
It is time to open the pages of a booklet following the life and times of one Norfolk rocker and pay tribute to another who has recently passed away. Both great music makers with a great sense of fun. Derek James reports.
It was a privilege and an honour to be able to help bring together musicians from across Norfolk and Suffolk for the Golden Years gigs where the musical memories rolled back and huge amounts of money was raised for charities and good causes.
Organiser Terry “The Zodiacs” Wickham along with myself, David Clayton, Andy Archer and the late Roy Waller from Radio Norfolk, had a wonderful time helping to reunite the original rock ‘n’ roll bands who proved they could still cut the mustard and were just as talented, maybe more so, as some of the national hit makers.
Two of the musicians who climbed back on the stage and brought the house down were Jim “Mr Fakenham” Baldwin and Lester “The Emperor” Middleton of Norwich who both played with so many different bands over the years.
Jim has just published an entertaining booklet following his life as a musician but he has also suffered a stroke and is learning to speak again. The money raised from the book goes to the Friends of the Stroke Unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, who looked after him.
And I am very sorry to say that the brilliant Lester Middleton, who lived near Norwich, died suddenly from a heart attack a few weeks ago. He was 75 and leaves his wife Christine, daughter Lucy and step-children Susan and Nigel.
Lester was a true legend. A rare talent both on and off the stage. A rock star turned teacher.
As a boy he went to the CNS in the 1950s where many young skiffle kids were born. He formed the Downhomers with Pat Wood and went on to become a member of the brilliant Continentals and a leader of The Emperors before front man Lucas came along.
Over the years Lester became of the best and most respected musicians in the business with many different bands and he was a star attraction at the dear old Garibaldi in Great Yarmouth, singing playing the guitar and piano.
During the day he worked as a much-loved teacher at the wonderful Hall School, the specialist college in Old Catton, for many years... and how the pupils, parents and colleagues loved him.
He dedicated much of his life to helping others and will be greatly missed by family, friends and fans.
He came out of retirement to play with members of the band Don’t Ask at the Golden Years at the UEA – raising money for the Hall School at the same time.
You get a real feeling of life on the road in 1960s Norfolk in a new little booklet by Jim Baldwin, who has done more than most to promote and illustrate the history of Fakenham, the town he loves so dearly.
Sadly Jim has suffered a stroke. He is learning to speak again but told me in an email: “I was getting a band together for a gig when I had a stroke. The staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn looked after me so well. I can’t thank them enough.”
It Started As a Hobby But... tells the story of his life as a musician which started in Fakenham with the Electrons and led to the Bruntones, The MBI Trio, and Van Day Trio, the brilliant Mervyn & The Starbeats, Datty Shud and others.
On the road, usually in an old van travelling to village halls, as part of a group, especially back in the 60s, was not as glamorous as it seemed as Jim points out with some amusing and entertaining tales:
“At one venue the door to the kitchen was by the side of where we had to set up so that waiters had to make their way through the playing group with trays of food. And, after all that trouble, we were not allowed the smallest of cakes! Tight lot.”
And of course there was the odd punch-up.
“At one gig two combatants nearly had the complete stack of PA speakers fall on them. They still did not stop fighting. Two girls tried to calm them down but things got more violent.
“We stopped the gig, packed our gear away and then, after a drink, we went home without getting paid, just an apology,” writes Jim.
Oh well, that’s life for a rock ‘n’ roller...
It Started As a Hobby But...My Years on the Local Music Scene by Jim Baldwin costs £3, including postage, and money raised goes to the Friends of the Stroke Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn. It is available through www.jimbooks.co.uk or by post from 11 Smiths Lane, Fakenham, NR21 8LQ, with cheques made out to J Baldwin.