Smooth grooves with Peddler Roy Phillips

PRIME OF HIS LIFE: Organist and singer Roy Phillips of 1960s British trio The Peddlers has made New Zealand his home and performs tonight at a Gisborne restaurant. Picture supplied

REDIRECTED to New Zealand from their rest-up in Tahiti, keyboard player and vocalist Roy Phillips of British trio The Peddlers was so smitten with the country he made it his home.

Now a soloist, and on a tour of New Zealand’s smaller towns, Phillips will make a dinner-and-show appearance in Gisborne tonight at Peppers Beachfront restaurant.

The gig invokes for Phillips the supper club, an occasion that became popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s and eventually caught on in the UK. Supper club patrons enjoyed an evening that included a cocktail hour, dinner and nightclub-style entertainment.

“I want to create an atmosphere like the Pickwick Club in London.

“It becomes a personal occasion and that’s how I like it. I like to behave like these people have come to my lounge. I like to involve them and play some low-down blues.”

The Pickwick Club was where The Peddlers made their mark from around the mid-1960s. They had already developed for themselves a sound that was between Tamla Motown and free jazz, says Phillips.

“We were told to go to the Pickwick Club because they were kind to musicians and gave them a free meal,” he says.

Film and theatre people hung out at the showbiz club that was owned by Harry Secombe of radio comedy act The Goons. Members of the royal family turned up a couple of times, as did celebrity royalty.

Playing to club audiences that included the likes of Sir Lawrence Olivier, Rod Steiger and Sir Winston Churchill’s daughter, who staff would wake up at her table from time to time to ask if she would like another drink, helped shape The Peddlers’ sound, says Phillips.

While playing a set one night he was joined by George and Mildred TV star Yootha Joyce, who sat next to him and sang a song.

“She got off the stool and a fellah sat down next to me and said ‘move your arse’.”

The fellah was Frank Sinatra.

“He pulled the mike over and said what do you want to do?

“Our audiences helped us develop an individual thing but we had no image.”

French actor and mime Marcel Marceau helped with that.

“He said we weren’t the prettiest fellahs.”

Marceau introduced them to black clothing and dark glasses for Phillips, and a new cool was born. Phillips originally played a Lowrey Heritage Deluxe.

With its classic soul jazz registrations to deep electronic fizzy buzzes, from nasal Stylophone-like reeds to end-of-the-pier theatre organ, the Lowrey Heritage Deluxe helps uphold the British tradition of hard-swinging organ jazz and groovy rhythm and blues, says online magazine Sound on Sound.

But chastised for it by English rocker Manfred Mann, Phillips bought a Hammond organ, a weighty instrument that was responsible for 1000 hernias, he says.

“I know, I’ve got one of them.”

Doctored and hooked up with attachments, Phillips’ Hammond became synonymous with The Peddlers’ sound. He has since moved on from the analogue Hammond organ and broadened into digital technology that can even provide authentic orchestral backing.

“I have eight samples of symphony orchestras from around the world. Every instrument is individual and sampled. It’s frightening but you have to respect the sound.

“If you are using a viola you have to play it like a viola. I do every instrument individually. It sounds human that way.

“You have to become part of the orchestra. I’ve mellowed over the years and that’s what my show is all about.”

UK filmmaker Paul Bratt’s video Blue Groove, the title of Phillips’ 2014 album, invokes a sense of the trio’s smooth grooves and the society royalty they played to in the 1960s.

REDIRECTED to New Zealand from their rest-up in Tahiti, keyboard player and vocalist Roy Phillips of British trio The Peddlers was so smitten with the country he made it his home.

Now a soloist, and on a tour of New Zealand’s smaller towns, Phillips will make a dinner-and-show appearance in Gisborne tonight at Peppers Beachfront restaurant.

The gig invokes for Phillips the supper club, an occasion that became popular in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s and eventually caught on in the UK. Supper club patrons enjoyed an evening that included a cocktail hour, dinner and nightclub-style entertainment.

“I want to create an atmosphere like the Pickwick Club in London.

“It becomes a personal occasion and that’s how I like it. I like to behave like these people have come to my lounge. I like to involve them and play some low-down blues.”

The Pickwick Club was where The Peddlers made their mark from around the mid-1960s. They had already developed for themselves a sound that was between Tamla Motown and free jazz, says Phillips.

“We were told to go to the Pickwick Club because they were kind to musicians and gave them a free meal,” he says.

Film and theatre people hung out at the showbiz club that was owned by Harry Secombe of radio comedy act The Goons. Members of the royal family turned up a couple of times, as did celebrity royalty.

Playing to club audiences that included the likes of Sir Lawrence Olivier, Rod Steiger and Sir Winston Churchill’s daughter, who staff would wake up at her table from time to time to ask if she would like another drink, helped shape The Peddlers’ sound, says Phillips.

While playing a set one night he was joined by George and Mildred TV star Yootha Joyce, who sat next to him and sang a song.

“She got off the stool and a fellah sat down next to me and said ‘move your arse’.”

The fellah was Frank Sinatra.

“He pulled the mike over and said what do you want to do?

“Our audiences helped us develop an individual thing but we had no image.”

French actor and mime Marcel Marceau helped with that.

“He said we weren’t the prettiest fellahs.”

Marceau introduced them to black clothing and dark glasses for Phillips, and a new cool was born. Phillips originally played a Lowrey Heritage Deluxe.

With its classic soul jazz registrations to deep electronic fizzy buzzes, from nasal Stylophone-like reeds to end-of-the-pier theatre organ, the Lowrey Heritage Deluxe helps uphold the British tradition of hard-swinging organ jazz and groovy rhythm and blues, says online magazine Sound on Sound.

But chastised for it by English rocker Manfred Mann, Phillips bought a Hammond organ, a weighty instrument that was responsible for 1000 hernias, he says.

“I know, I’ve got one of them.”

Doctored and hooked up with attachments, Phillips’ Hammond became synonymous with The Peddlers’ sound. He has since moved on from the analogue Hammond organ and broadened into digital technology that can even provide authentic orchestral backing.

“I have eight samples of symphony orchestras from around the world. Every instrument is individual and sampled. It’s frightening but you have to respect the sound.

“If you are using a viola you have to play it like a viola. I do every instrument individually. It sounds human that way.

“You have to become part of the orchestra. I’ve mellowed over the years and that’s what my show is all about.”

UK filmmaker Paul Bratt’s video Blue Groove, the title of Phillips’ 2014 album, invokes a sense of the trio’s smooth grooves and the society royalty they played to in the 1960s.

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