Second city group go professional
By Steve James
Mike Patto and the Bluebottles get "in the
In the dimly-lighted cellar you could literally feel the throbbing of the portable organ as its waves of sound struck you, mingled with the rhythm of electric guitars and the beat of drums.
It was rather like listening to a pneumatic drill which gave out tuneful rhythm, instead of the conventional t-r-r-r...t-r-r-r...! you know how the very air and ground vibrates when you're standing round the beginning of a hole in the road...
What I was actually listening to in the Orford Cellar Jazz Club in Norwich was music new to the city, rhythm 'n' blues – exciting stuff which is drawing big audiences.
Dispensing it was Mike Patto and the Bluebottles, formerly Mike Patto and Breakaways, now re-formed, renamed – and "gone" professional."
They're the second Norwich group to take to the full-time as a step towards the big time in these past few months. The others are Garry Freeman and the Contours.
In an interval I had a quick word with Mike and the boys as they cooled off with some refreshing beer.
"Everything's happened so quickly we hardly know where we are," they told me.
What gave them a push along the professional road was an offer from the agency run by Dick ("City Gents") Charlesworth.
They offered the newly-formed group a three-year contract, after hearing them play at the Jazz Cellar. So vocalist Mike, organist Paul Gunnell, bass guitarist Ronnie Day, lead guitarist Roger Bunn and drummer Barry Wilson decided to take the plunge.
Norwich-born organist Gunnell in fact has been a professional for some years, playing in London.
Mike Patto is a Londoner who came to Norwich when his family moved down here. He passed through skiffle and rock 'n' roll periods before turning to rhythm 'n' blues.
"Seventy-five percent of what we play is improvised," he told me. "Even the words I sing are often made up."
I found this rhythm 'n' blues music has a peculiar fascination of its own.
It's got the beat of "trad," the feeling of the blues, the musical variety you find in modern jazz. "Something for everybody," said Bluebottles' manager, Bram Lowe.
Judging by the size of the crowd at the Cellar he's dead right. It's certainly music with a new kind of kick – and this group knows the way to get the best out of it.
They're off to Newcastle for their first out-of-Norwich professional engagement shortly. Their aim, naturally, is to climb into the charts. Will the right kind of luck come their way? Let's hope so.
Thanks to Phil McCarthy for providing this article!
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