SUNNYSIDE 10 (March 19th & 20th 2010).
If this was the last Sunnyside event, then it was a corker, to end what has been a brilliant ride. Both Friday and Saturday evenings were packed with some wonderful music, from an array of great artists. Add to that, the friendliest group of people you could imagine, and you’ll get some idea of just what Harry’s Baby has achieved.
For Judith and myself, the journey to Northampton was uneventful and our Sat Nav (Gladys) directed us straight to the hotel. The first people we met were our old friends, John & Mags Cummings, as we tried to sign in for our rooms. The young lady behind the desk couldn’t find either of our names on the booking sheets but a call to the manager soon sorted things out. After a unpacking our case, we ventured back into the hotel to find Rob & Chris Dee, Johnny Storme and his wife, Diane, Henry Swindells, Katie and Alan, and Steven Sinclair, relaxing in the “meeting room”. Rob sang us a couple of songs and then gave the microphone to a new face, who, was introduced as Little Elvis. A few more people turned up to chat, while Rob played us some 60’s music in the background.
After a shower and change of clothes, Judith and I ate a hearty meal in the carvery and then returned to a packed meeting room. I can’t remember who was singing when we got there, but we sat in the company of another Alan & his wife, Linda C & Sally, and Kenny & Rita McIntyre. Later we were joined by John Stack and his wife. Various people got up to sing a song or two to keep us entertained but, possibly the most memorable was the return of Little Elvis, who sang a never to be forgotten version of the Elvis classic, “One Night”. Other new friends to take the stage included Dave Wilcox and Paul Ritchie, both impressing us with their vocals. Unlike last year, when my nerves got the better of me, as soon as Rob Dee asked me to sing, I was out of my seat and heading for the microphone. I was going to start off with “24 Hours From Tulsa” but, for whatever reason, I heard myself telling Rob that I was going to sing “I Only Want To Be With You”. That turned out to be a good move because, from the off, I could see people singing and clapping along. My second song was The Beatles’ hit “All My Loving” and I really enjoyed singing that one. Creeping Bentgrass played quite a number of songs in their inimitable style and towards the end of the night Dean & Jane Hubert sang two great songs together.
Saturday greeted us with rain as we made our way across to the hotel for breakfast. There were a few tired people in the hotel lounge that morning, but Harry kept us smiling by providing Sounds of the Sixties on his radio.
The main event at the Sunnyside was due to begin at 5pm, but some people were there just after 1pm – obviously wanting to make sure of a good seat. As with the previous night, Cathy and Jean were busy running the raffle, while they were ably assisted by members of the Homan family. Maureen manned the BillyFury.com merchandise table, while both Billy fan clubs sold various related items. Judith and I arrived a little after 4pm and I began to set up my guitar and music podium. We found good seats, right at the front of the room, along with the McIntyre’s, Lynda C, Sally, and Margaret Dewick.
Harry welcomed everyone to the Sunnyside, then it was up to my old friend Dave Jay to compare, and introduce the first act of the night, John Stack. Guitarist, John played a set of lesser known Billy songs, warming the audience up with numbers such as “Am I Blue”. Everyone was, then, surprised as Harry took the microphone again to announce the arrival of a special guest, none other than Billy’s mum, Jean. It, honestly, felt like royalty had arrived. Vic England, had driven Jean from Liverpool to be with us and her arrival brought big smiles to many faces.
Next up, was Paul Ritchie who stood in at the last minute for the ill Roger Sea. Hailing from Birmingham, Paul treated us to songs such as “Ferry Cross the Mersey” and “Great Balls of Fire”. Dave Wilcox was next to take to the stage and, although quite nervous, managed to get everyone singing along to his rendition of “Nobody’s Child”. I only met Snowy for the first time last year, but he’s got quite a stage presence. The flowing locks and long dress coat give him quite an appearance. Last year, he rocked things up a bit, but this year, his set was more laid back, with songs such as “Everyday” and “Tell Laura I Love Her”.
With Dave Jay managing the artists, and Colin Paul and Rob Dee mastering the sound system, there was time for an extra artist to be added for one song. The exuberant Little Elvis (aka Mark) bounded onto the stage to sing his version of “Teddy Bear”. The only way to follow him was with a class act, and that came in the shape of Dean Hubert. Judith and I met up with Dean and Jane last year, and we’ve kept in contact ever since. He has a smashing voice and included songs from his Billy show, including “Last Night Was Made For Love” and “I Love How You Love Me”. Singing for the first time in five years, was Laura, along with her sister Emily. Nervous or not, the twosome soon got back into the swing of things, entertaining us with a medley, plus Shakin’ Stevens’ “Give Me Your Heart Tonight”.
Dave Jay, missed last year’s event, but was back on form this time – not only comparing, but – singing in his laid back style, songs like “Penny Arcade”. Then it was my turn. I tell you, as an artist, there’s nothing better than to see the audience singing along with you, and that’s just what happened with “When My Little Girl Is Smiling”. That gave me a lot of confidence and, by the time I was singing my last song, “Daydream Believer”, I was having a ball. Thanks to everyone who spoke to me afterwards commenting on my performance.
Dave and John, aka Creeping Bentgrass, took to the stage after me, and treated us to some more hits from the sixties, such as “Every Time You Walk Into the Room” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes”. The duo have a real easy listening style, and compliment each other well. That meant, the final act before the raffle and auction was Rob Dee – Mr Tribute Himself. I’ve known Rob for seven years now and a nicer fellow you couldn’t wish to meet. When he goes on stage, his personality comes through with ease, and fans of Billy were treated to “Cross My Heart”, “Sleepless Nights”, “Play It Cool”, and “I Think You’re Swell”, to name but a few.
The last new artist on this year’s list was Michelle Gibson. It was nice to hear a female vocalist and, dressed in a lovely red dress, she kept the party mood going with “I’m Hurt” and “Speak to Me Pretty”.
And, so, it was time for Colin Paul and the Persuaders to come to the stage and play. Like Rob Dee, I’d first met Colin at Newark in 2003. Because I’d previously seen him on stage in Blackpool a couple of years earlier I was a little in awe of him but, within five minutes of meeting him, he made me feel right at home. Colin and the band are superb at what they do. Each musician knows exactly what they’re doing and provided the perfect backing to Colin’s vocals. I’m not sure how many songs they sang but they had people dancing from very early on with their set of rock n roll numbers. During the break, Billy’s mum had been presented with some flowers and she was very moved as she told us how delighted she was to be with us all. Those gathered were even more delighted when, at Colin’s request, Jean joined him on stage to sing “In Thoughts Of You”. It was a very moving occasion and I’m sure that there were a few tears being shed in the audience. And, just to round things off, everyone joined in to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jean who was 89 on the 25th.
To all the artists I’ve had the pleasure of performing with over the years, it’s been great. To all the friends we’ve made, thank you for being such good friends. To Harry, thank you for making it all possible. And to Maureen……thank you for supporting Harry. Behind every man…….. Here’s to the next time, whenever, wherever.