In seeking bands with a buzz going for them the IM team travelled to Nottingham to meet Terrapin and Carlo Santanna (no relation).
Nottingham, Sheffield and the area of the Midlands which they occupy may be small in size, but it manages to support as much musical diversity as most places in the world. What more can you say about an area which encourages hopes as diverse as those of Carlo Santanna and Terrapin?
Terrapin were formed in April of this year, by bassist Terry Penn. As he says, "I knew Richard (Guildford, lead guitarist) for quite a while, and when I left my last band, I was going to join him. But instead, he left his group and we formed Terrapin."
The outgrowth of this is a country-rock band, playing material influenced by the Eagles and Commander Cody. "Getting a drummer was perhaps the hardest part of forming Terrapin," Richard continued. "We've been through quite a few but for the moment settled down as a trio, with drummer Paul Pinder." Oddly enough, Pinder was until recently drumming for Carlo Santanna.
The hunting, however, isn't over yet. "We really want a second lead guitar, as well as another voice. Right now I'm doing the lead vocals, with Richard — who's an old Beach Boys fanatic — singing harmony. I think a rhythm guitar is important — too many people ignore it, but it shouldn't be denigrated."
"We also like to do more acoustic numbers," Richard added, "and we need another guitar for that."
Terry Penn has played in the Nottingham area since Alvin Lee first rose to national prominence. His strongest taste of success came in a band a few years ago. "We had seven singles and an album, and we had some 'hits' in Australia and Japan, but nothing much ever came of it. The only bright spot from it all was from the publisher Chappell's, who still send me statements regularly."
Terry uses four basses regularly. He discovered that some instruments are more effective — not only on some numbers, but also in some venues and not in others. "I usually use the Fender Precision for rock numbers, it's got a good gutsy sound, but in bigger venues, I've begun to use a Jazz Bass, because I can get more volume out of it. I've also got two Rickenbackers, one which is standard and another which I converted slightly."
The vigour and experience is there, but at the moment perhaps patience is the most important quality demanded of Terrapin. "We work a lot, almost every night, but it does get a bit trying. Last week, the van broke down twice, once with axle trouble and the second time we discovered we needed a new engine. All in all, it was more than £300, and we'd worked a week for the van."
The city of Nottingham is perhaps not the easiest place for rock bands. The one major venue only does two nights of rock a week, and one of those is a residency, held by Cisco. "There are about half a dozen bands fighting for that night," Richard Guildford told IM. As a result, most of their work takes them around the North and Midlands. Still, the work is there for bands that want it, and Terrapin have been getting a good name over the past three months.
The next step? "Recording, I suppose," said Terry, "but not just yet. We want exactly the right sound first, and that takes some work." With that and a little luck, the rest of the country should hear more of Terrapin before the year is out.
Terry Penn plays Fender Precision Bass, a Fender Jazz Master Bass, and two Rickenbackers through an Orange Graphic Amplifier; Richard Guildford plays a Gibson SG standard through a Carlsbro Stingray amplifier; Paul Pinder plays a Premier kit, with Paiste cymbals.
Some might call it anarchy, but the music scene in the Nottingham area is remarkably free and easy, and Carlo Santanna and his band are a case in point. Carlo was formerly a member of Paper Lace, but following a joint decision to disagree viz a viz the group's musical direction, he decided, with Manager Brian Hart, to go solo, and form his own backing group.
It takes some gumption to opt out of a chart topping group like Paper Lace, but Carlo is certain that he made the right decision about the whole situation. As he says, "It must be the records which determine which way a group goes, and it was obvious to both Brian and me that we were about to head in the wrong direction."
In short, any change in direction was, to Carlo, a mistake of the first order. On his own, things are progressing very well. Towards the end of February, Carlo began to put a band behind him that could both blow independently and aid him in the interpretation of his own musical ideas. He picked up that band with surprising ease. The first to join was Graham "Berry" Ruffles, bass guitarist. "I've known Graham for about ten years, and he was first on my list.
"Norman Williams was next. He was playing in a cabaret backing band in Sheffield. Originally, we had though of a trio, with me playing guitar and singing, Graham playing bass and doing the arranging, and Norman on keyboards, and writing the parts."
After three weeks of rehearsal and a few attempts to find a drummer which failed until relatively recently (ending with Gary Fox behind the kit), the band were ready to go. Their first engagement was in Jersey. It was hard going at first, and to a lesser degree it still is. Says Carlo, "We don't have an Arctic and a large road crew — we still do all our own roadying." It is, admittedly a hard life, but Carlo's eyes are firmly on the future. "I've got a really good band behind me now.
"It took some time to find the right drummer — we went through three before settling on Gary — but he's fantastic. He's only 16, but he can read music and he's going to be great, all he needs is a little moulding.
"The rest of the band are great, too. Norman used to be in Billy Fury's backing band and was his M.D., Graham has played in quite a few local groups, and once turned down a chance to join Exit, which at that time included Terry Bennett, who's now in Sassafrass."
The musical pedigrees are good, and Carlo is no exception. His family was musical, and as a child he used to go to Sheffield to take singing lessons from a former teacher of the Royal College of Music.
Musically, his tastes run the gamut, from opera to pop. "I guess the band I rate highest now musically is 10 CC. They really are great, but as far as listening goes, I'm quite open. I like Mario Lanza, for instance, and Andy Williams as well."
A recording contract is in the air for Carlo and the band. Peter Shelley is interested in him, and there are rumours that Mickie Most is, well, most interested. "We've laid down a demo single, called 'Midnight Thursday Last', at Chappell's in Bond Street. But most of my own ideas I record myself — I've got a Klark-Teknik recorder, which is good for putting them down."
Carlo's approach to writing is idealistic in a way, and yet at the same time highly realistic. "Most of my stuff is very personal and yet it's also a reflection of what's in the charts. It's O.K. to write for yourself, but you've got to write things that the audience want to hear as well."
Carlo Santanna and his band are attracting a lot of attention in cabaret in the North and Midlands, and with an eye on the charts and clubland, both he and the band are a force to be reckoned with.
Carlo Santanna plays a Gibson Les Paul, a J160E Acoustic, and electric mandolin; Graham Ruffles plays a Fender Jazz Bass; Norman Williams plays a GEM Organ, a Mellotron and a Fender-Rhodes piano; and Gary Fox uses a Premier kit.
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