Growing up in Warwick and Leamington Spa
Multi-instrumentalist Cary L talks about her life in bands, on the road, her album releases and contribution to local book.
They say teachers shape your life. Mine certainly did. Without my primary school teacher, Sue Fairhurst, at ten years old I would never have picked up a guitar and learnt my first 3 chords – G, C and D. I then moved onto Aylesford High School in Warwick and Keith Bellman ran the music department. He was very enthusiastic about his music and taught us about The Beatles which made his lessons so interesting and related his teaching to modern and classic chart records at the time.
I was eleven years old and painfully shy. I found a bass guitar in the cupboard with an old amp/speaker that I asked to play and I used to listen to how Paul McCartney played his melodic bass lines. Keith encouraged me and was responsible for the most important life lessons of all – how to play a twelve bar blues in E and the three chord trick.
A light bulb went on and I started to play an instrument that no one else in school was playing with the sole ambition to be the next Suzi Quatro. Dad managed to get me my own bass – a Rickenbacker copy and a very heavy 18” speaker with a WEM amp which he willingly carried to and from gigs for me. I joined the school orchestra along with Rob Phipps on drums (who went on to do great things in The Jamm and The Rogues) and Gary Walters on guitar. We played a concert at the Spa Centre in Leamington and this was recorded to a vinyl LP – exciting times!
I suggested that Rob, myself and Gary form a band outside of the orchestra. I was probably 12/13 years old at that point. Although I could also play guitar (and had been having 12 string guitar lessons in a music shop in Kenilworth high street) I preferred bass so we rehearsed at my house with me on bass and lead vocals. Status Quo songs generally made up a lot of the set. Dad was very supportive, transporting me to gigs and being a roadie. We played the social clubs around Warwick, Stratford, and Leamington including the musicians Union workshops/shop windows and always seem to follow a band called ‘Hands Off’. I remember thinking we would never get any gigs as these guys were just too good!
Dad would take me down to the Crown in Leamington Spa on a Monday night where I would get up and play bass/jam with the likes of Steve Walwyn who I now recognised from ‘Hands Off’. I remember singing and playing ‘Tulane’.
Dad had been writing original songs with his song writing partner Graham Wale since the sixties. They used to record at Jackson’s Studio in Rickmansworth and Vic Maile (Motorhead/Eddie and the Hot Rods) would engineer. It’s an early memory for me as I was about 8/9 years old and I would go to the studio with them. It was quite intimidating at first although Vic was a lovely guy and very patient with me explaining what was going on in front of a huge desk with loads of sliders and buttons.
I felt comfortable in a recording environment from an early age.
“I must have been 8/9 years old and remember sitting in the back of a transit going down to London and being really excited about it. When we got there it was a massive room with a drum kit and loads of instruments and it used to fascinate me. I was a very shy kid but I used to chat to Vic Maile (later to be engineer for Motorhead and Eddie and the hot rods) about the studio equipment and watch him work the desk” Cary aged 8 years old.
At 13 years old I decided I wanted to record Dad’s original songs that he had been writing with his songwriting partner Graham Wale. Rehearsals started in ernest, with Rob Phipps drumming and me playing 12 string guitar (a folky White Stripes?) I hadn’t been playing bass very long at that point and must have thought 12 string was the way to go. We booked into a local studio. ‘Bird Sound Studio’ had recently moved premises from Snitterfield to the Woodloes estate. Owned by Monty Bird who engineered the session, Dad had asked Steve Walwyn (who we knew from the crown jams) to add some electric guitar for us.
At the Crown, I also met drummer Paul Johnston and we formed a band together with his mate Mike on guitar – ‘Incognito’ was born. We had a residency at a hotel ‘The Avonside’ in Leamington (now The Ramada) and played every Saturday night as well as a few club gigs. I’d received a ‘teach yourself bass’ book for Christmas with accompanying flexi disc with backing tracks on it and I was learning to play bass blues riffs. Now in the last year of Aylesford High School, Pete Hutchins used to rehearse in the music department with his band (also playing a lot of Status Quo tunes). I still wanted to be the next Suzi Quatro.
Steve Walwyn (Dr Feelgood) would also play a couple of hotel gigs with me when our guitarist Mike couldn’t make it. He didn’t need a rehearsal he just seemed to know all of our songs and this amazed me. He was such a lovely guy and an amazing guitarist. Bands influencing me were varied – I’d fallen in love with AC/DC after hearing ‘Dog eat Dog’ on a melody maker album.
Incognito folded and Paul Johnston and I joined ‘Tinted Glass’ who were a Leamington covers band – I had a rest from vocal duties and concentrated on playing bass.
Dad had met Chris King (Manager of The Flys) and we would go and see his new band ‘X-Certs’ rehearse in a cellar in Coventry. This was exciting for me watching 3 lads playing tight well rehearsed original songs and I wanted to do that as well. Dad had wanted to build his own recording studio for a while so we started to scope out the possibilities.
I started my first original band – Paul Johnston on drums, Baz Eardley on guitar, his girlfriend on vocals and me on bass. We rehearsed in the shell of what was to become ‘Cabin Studio’ over a car showroom in Coventry. It didn’t last long enough for us to get a name, but prompted me to find other musicians and I met Caron Joyce (vocals).
Kip Gough (Guitar) and Bill Gough drummer (Ex Swinging Cats) joined and started to get a set of original songs together. ‘The Finx’ did a couple of gigs and this kept me out of trouble during my year at college studying a BEC General business course that Mum had insisted I needed (She was right!!)
L’Homme De Terre
I was seventeen years old and helping Dad build a recording studio in the day while rehearsing with my original band and going out to see other Coventry bands in the evenings. A major event for me was passing my my driving test. This meant I didn’t have to rely on Dad to drive me around. My cassette copy of the Police album ‘Reggatta De Blanc’ was played constantly in my car until it stretched and broke. I would go and see local bands whenever I could – The Mosquitos, and Chevy – the venues were The Crown, Kellys and Winstons.
It was a variable feast of music with X-Certs and Gods Toys, Reluctant Stereotypes, Hot Snacks, Human Cabbages, and The Specials all making their mark. As the bands split and reformed other bands I was right in the middle of it all enjoying the varied genres now influencing my music. My band (now called L’Homme De Terre) had a fixed line up playing punky fast melodic songs and we were asked to contribute a track ‘Get A Grip’ to an EP called ‘Boys and Girls’ released in 1980.
My band line up continued to be ‘fluid’ and we played a few gigs – the 100 club in London, the Belgrade Venue supporting ‘Dangerous Girls’, the General Wolfe in Coventry and The Crown and Hintons in Leamington. Although the band were rubbing shoulders with members of the Selector, The Specials and Reluctant Stereotypes/King, we refused to bow to the Ska movement (hindsight is a wonderful thing), and instead opted to play punky pop at a break neck fast pace. We were runners up to Channel A (with lead singer Stan Campbell of a later specials line-up) in a battle of the bands held at the Lanchester University in 1981. Ady Dix on guitar, me on bass, Caron Joyce on lead vocals, and Steve Harrison on drums played an original power pop set like our lives depended on it.
Cary remembers “Just after we did the battle of the bands, we went into Johnny Rivers Woodbine studio in Leamington to record a couple of tracks. Can’t remember what they were but he did play us a new track the specials had just recorded that week. That track was “Ghost Town” and I loved it, it sounded very different.”
The L’hommes decided that additional musicians were needed. Tony White (The Editors) Wild Boy Johnny Thompson, and Toby Lyons (Colourfield) on keyboards all played with the band for a while. Steve Harrison (drummer) unsurprisingly got fed up of the line-up changes and left. Pete Jordan from the MP’s joined for a while with his wonderful sax playing adding another level to the music. Dad and I were working on building Cabin studio and I did a lot of the wiring up.
It was the end for L’Homme De Terre and in 1984 I formed another band Armalite. The lineup was myself on bass guitar/backing vocals, Caron Joyce on lead vocals, Ady Dix on guitar and Paul Johnston on drums the sound dominated by the vocal harmonies. This line up only lasted as long as the recording!
Living on the edge
Armalite recorded ‘Living On The Edge’ on 8 track analogue tape at Cabin Studio with the lineup of Paul Johnston – drums, Cary Lord – Bass guitar/backing vox, Caron Joyce – Lead Vox, and Adrian Dix on guitar. Produced by Armalite and Paul Sampson, ‘Living on the Edge’ b/w ‘Breakaway‘ was the third release on Sonar records – catalogue number SON 3.
This band split and I concentrated on running our 8 track recording studio Cabin. I was then asked to play bass in a Country band which I initially refused as it wasn’t a genre I knew anything about. I went to see ‘Indigo Lady’ and was blown away by the musicianship and really enjoyed the show. A cassette with 20 songs to learn arrived in the post and a week later I found myself in Holland on the European Country Music Festival show with the band. This was all very new for me and we travelled thousands of miles in the transit van up and down the UK playing clubs, Country festivals and military bases.
We played to officers in military bases in Cyprus and had a summer season in Jersey (supporting the Drifters and a residency at St Helier Club). A massive poster advertising the show was in Woolworths and we kept getting recognised. Mainly in Woolworths. We also had hotel residencies in Dubai, and Abu Dhabi before they were touristy. We used to spend all day on the beach windsurfing and water skiing and then play in the evening. It was the best job in the World.
I’d had a busy year in 1984 as we also appeared on UK TV show ‘3,2,1’ which had millions of viewers at the time with George Hamilton IV. By that time I had upgraded my bass to a beautiful Fender precision but I found it heavy (we would find ourselves playing 4 x 45 minutes sets in some hotels).
Tours of Holland/Germany and Norway soon followed and we would come back down to earth proving ourselves on the ‘North East’ circuit. We supported Boxcar Willie on a theatre tour of the UK in 1985 playing venues from Aberdeen to Eastbourne. Boxie sold millions of records and certainly drew the crowds as we played a 23 date tour with some matinee performances as well.
We were invited to Nashville in June 1986 to appear at the 15th Country Music Association Awards and pick up an award for “CMA International Show”. Now the CMA’s are big business but back then not that well known in the UK. We played 3 songs and ‘The Jordanaires’ (!! I Know!!) sang backing vocals. Backstage we were chatting with Crystal Gayle, Eddie Rabbit, Hank Wankford and Charley Pride who was hosting the show. A new signing – Dwight Yokham – had an album to promote Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., and he played a couple of songs.
We were looked after very well and I remember finding myself water skiing with a guy who was the barefoot skiing champion (Who knew?) on the Cumberland river. We made friends with a band playing in the bar of the hotel we stayed in. ‘Ethel and The Shameless Hussies’ had recently been signed to a major label and invited us to play with them at a small venue called the ‘Bluebird Café’. This was a tiny place that had been open for about 3 years, on what resembled an industrial estate. It was packed out and we played 3 songs. Nowadays, the Bluebird Café is still packing them out, and well known for discovering major country stars (Taylor Swift will rock up and play a set). We were honoured to play there. George Richey showed us around Tammy Wynette’s house and then we had to go home.
I had now changed my bass to a Steinburg Headless which was slightly lighter in weight than my precision and I didn’t keep hitting the ceilings of venues with the headstock. My backline had also been upgraded to a trace Elliot combo.
We secured a wonderful summer season at an amusement park in Benalmadena, Spain. Tivoli World had a staged area and they wanted us to provide a country themed show for them. We had apartments provided in nearby Fuengirola just opposite the beach, and got driven to the park each day.
On The Edge
Back to reality, Indigo Lady went into Cabin Studio to cut an album called ‘On the edge’ which was a mixture of original material and cover versions released on the cassette only for the Country and Western audiences. This album featured a version of ‘Living on the Edge’ recorded by the girls.
She’s The Leader
I had enjoyed my time with Indigo Lady but decided to leave and form another female rock band ‘She’s The Leader’ with keyboard player Helen. We got a set together of covers and original material and immediately flew out to Dubai for a hotel residency where we entertained ex-pats in the hotel restaurant playing 5 x 45 minute sets 5 nights a week.
We would spend our nights off visiting other hotels watching the bands. One Christmas we went to see a show and the band started playing gently as the lead singer was wheeled out on a steel trolley. He had broken his leg falling through a glass table at a party. As he sang the music got louder and faster and the song became ‘Santa Claus is comin’ to Town’. It was hilarious and we spoke to the band after the gig. They came from Tamworth and were called Wolfsbane. It was obvious even then that Blaze Bayley had star quality.
The Bahrain Hilton flew us out for new years eve gig. This was slightly different as we needed to recruit a guitarist quickly as our usual guitar player couldn’t make the gig. Helen managed to find a London based female guitarist and I was in awe when Deidre Cartright rocked up at Heathrow to meet us. I had watched her on TV in ‘Rock School’ during the seventies and she was an amazing guitar player. She listened to the cassette of our set on the way over to Bahrain, played the gig and left on the next plane out. Not quite the meeting I had envisaged just business as usual.
We supported comedian Billy Connolly in Jersey on his ‘Rebel without a Cause tour’. He was lovely and lent us his stripey jackets for a photo opportunity.
Gigs included Edwards No8, and the Birmingham Superprix (in between races) in the summer of 1988. Two European tours of American Air bases provided an exciting conduit of new music that was popular at that time before it had hit the shops in the UK. ‘Kiss me deadly (Lita Ford) became an audience favourite along with the latest tunes from Vixen, Heart, Rocky Horror Show and anything else the band could get their hands on to learn and play for the troops.
STL appeared on the pilot show of Teletubbie’s. Originally conceived as a program by children for children. It was centered around Helen’s kids who were interviewed about her job (playing keyboards in STL) and STL appeared at the end playing a song. When it was broadcast on March 31st 1997 it was certainly ‘different’ but it got picked up and turned into the cult show ‘Teletubbie’s’ as they say….. Eh-Oh
Cary fondly remembers “We were driving thousands of miles between bases on the European tour and only 3 band members could drive. Maz had to do the honours one night and she was used to an automatic gearbox on her car. The rest of us were trying to sleep in the back to the sound of grinding gears as she tried to coax the van up a mountain. It went on for hours..”
She’s The Leader Helen, Maz, Lisa, Cary L and Stacy
She’s The Leader – Three
Check out She’s The Leader performing the heart classic “Alone”. Originally recorded for release on cassette, entitled ‘Three’ with a sound akin to American bands Vixen, and Heart.
Back in the 80’s STL were working constantly touring around Europe and the UK with their own brand of female rock. This was an audience favourite and lead vocalist Lisa Dean gives a stunning vocal performance as well as two other tracks “Heaven is a place on Earth” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You”.
All good things come to an end and sadly due to musical differences it all spectacularly fell apart in the summer of 1989 and She’s the leader split after playing to 4000 American troops on 4th July at NAS Sigonella in Sicily.
These were an early project collaboration with Coventry band Reluctant Stereotypes / Pink Umbrellas Paul Sampson, and Crokodile Tears, and the original track ‘Don’t be Scared’ appeared on several compilation albums released Worldwide.
Roy Wood Big Band
I was privileged to be asked to play with the Roy Wood Big Band between 1995 and 2000. At the time I was regularly gigging with several Midlands based bands including ‘The Word Girl’ and ‘Angel Street’ who between them played classic covers, soul, motown, and chart material.
Roy had put together a 12 piece band featuring a brass section and took us all into a studio owned by Malc (drummer in Showaddywaddy) and Roger Lomas engineered. We recorded new versions of all of his hits for a forthcoming album and provided Roy with backing tracks. I played bass with the band on several theatre and festival gigs around the UK between 1995 – 2000 as well as appearing on Jim Davidson’s The Generation Game, The Big Breakfast, and Richard and Judy promoting Roy’s new version of the wizard hit ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day’ which I had played bass on. Every year since, Roy has popped up on TV usually during December, singing to this backing track.
The Sonar Music 25th Anniversary album
This was released in 2009 and I was on tracks with Armalite (Living On The Edge), Blush (Obsessed By You) and Viktoria’s Sekrets (Don’t Be Scared).
After the Roy Wood Big Band, recording under the name of ‘Blush’ enabled me to keep a fluid band line up and change musicians as needed. The ‘Independence Day’, album was released in 2006. This was the first album of totally original material featuring 14 songs written by Jon Lord, Myself, and Graham Wale with the exception of ‘Loving you baby’ written with Phil Brown of local reggae band ‘City Dread’. The songs were all sung and played in a poppy style by me with help from Alf Hardy who was the engineer at Cabin Studio in Coventry at the time and Paul Sampson. The album came together over a couple of years. One track ‘Obsessed With You’ appeared on several compilation albums released Worldwide and I travelled to Berlin in 2004 with Barry Tomes Gotham Records label to promote a compilation album on his label.
This album is available from our bandcamp site as a physical CD or download.
The follow up album ‘More Blush’ was written and produced over four years working
with Alf Hardy at Cabin Studio and collaborations with local musicians Chris Sidwells Crokodile Tears. Two songs ‘Strong’ and ‘Runaway’ feature Crokodile Tears vocalist Amy Myers. The track ‘Seven Years’ with backing vocals from Chris and Amy received airplay on the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Saturday night show ‘Introducing’. Several tracks are on the playlist of ‘Girls rock radio’ in the USA. I play bass /rhythm guitars throughout the album singing vocals and backing harmonies. I also released the entire album as instrumentals called ‘Less Blush’
In 2013 I released ‘Wildest Dreams’ which was a home project. I have since re-recorded a few of these tracks ‘That’s the way it goes’ , ‘On The edge’ and ‘Real’ also appear on the ‘Looking Back Looking On’ album. This is an interview with Radio Warnford.
By 2015 I was a bit fed up and disenchanted with music although I was loving the contemporary country bands coming out of Nashville – Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Sugarland, Keith Urban etc. I was playing around with a new song in my home studio and had some time on my hands. Now living near Barnsley I decided to look around at local studio’s and found Big Sky Studio.
Josh and Jake had been over to America to record an album themselves picking up some neat production techniques, and ‘In Your Way’ was swiftly recorded with a fabulous drummer in Jacob Ingemells. A new album followed over the following 18 months with Jacob playing drums on each track and I played bass, rhythm, lead vocals and harmonies as usual.
Looking Back, Looking On
That album became ‘Looking Back Looking On’ and reflects my early roots of country/rock and pop. The title also reflects how I felt at the time, looking back on some songs I wanted to re-record and recording new ones in a different way. It features 12 tracks of acoustic country/pop with plenty of harmonies in the mix released under my own name as a new start. Jake Ingermells produced my first ever video for the lead track called ‘In Your Way (Big Sky Mix). I also changed my backline rig selling my beloved well travelled Trace Elliot combo to a young lad just starting out playing bass. I purchased a Mark Bass combo and extension cab which I used on this album. It sounds amazing and technology now means I can pick this up and fit it in my car!.
The lead track from this album is called ‘In Your Way’
In Your Way – Acoustic version
Press for Looking Back Looking On
“Cary L, who previously recorded under the name Blush, has released the album of her career with Looking Back/Looking On, issued on the independent Sonar Records in Coventry, England (best known as the hometown of the Primitives and the Specials). The album’s excellent songwriting is complemented by consistently effective use of harmony and deft production. ” YINPOP .COM Jan 2016
“Cary Lord has a history of producing some great albums and with the release of her latest CD “Looking Back Looking On”, she has without doubt reached her Sgt Pepper’s moment. No of course it’s nothing like that famous Beatles album but his album sees all the elements gel precisely at the same time producing her finest work to date. These are the songs that will define this superb musician from now on. Even more impressive is that Cary plays everything on this album excluding the drums and some slide guitar (provide by Jacob Ingermells.) Really worth checking out.” Pete Chambers Back beat Coventry Evening Telegraph 18/05/16
Only The Night Knows
Cary worked on her new album for over a year creating pre production tracks in her home studio. This involved writing the drum, bass, guitar and vocal parts and arranging the songs. She then took these to Josh Ingermells at Big Sky Studio, Barnsley who engineered and produced the album with Jake Ingermells on drums.
The album was released in 2018. “Only the Night Knows” is a collection of 14 original tracks penned by the songwriting team of Jon Lord and Graham Wale with co-writes from Cary and Chris Sidwell (Crokodile Tears). This has received airplay on Sunshine FM on the costa blanca and has been album of the month (July 2018) on the Keith Fabrique HILLZFM show.
The album can be purchased as a physical digipack CD and/or a download or streamed on apple music/spotify and all the digital platforms.
Press for ‘Only The Night Knows’
“This is an immaculate album: every track perfectly written, arranged, performed & produced by people who know exactly how to do it: Jon & Graham have been writing together since the 1960s .I appreciated how well also the dynamics of the set were worked out: a brisk start, a move into softer focus & then foot down to finish.
No one who listens to it is likely to not enjoy it & I am aware of several Cary fans among radio presenters who will play it. I wish it might be taken up by mainstream media, though I am a realist enough to know that quality of this sort of craft is no longer the key to that.” Andy Holdcroft – Hot Music Live Jul 07 2018, published Jul 25 2018
The Alternative Sounds Project
I am very proud to be involved with the Alternative Sounds Project. My track ‘Seven Years’ appears on the ‘Alternative sounds – Volume 2’ compilation album and I played a gig at the Golden Cross in Coventry to support that. I played ‘Single Bed’ from my new album with Crokodile Tears Chris Sidwell who co-wrote this one.
I also played ‘Way It Goes’ from my album ‘Looking Back, Looking On’
A terrific project and a huge amount of work has gone into this by Martin Bowes and Andy Holdcroft. Well worth a copy – buy one here.
‘Fire In The Belly’ Book
New book from Jim Layton and Keith Hancock about the Leamington and Warwick music scene with contribution from Cary L.
Jim Layton and Keith Hancock (The Mosquitoes, DT’s) spent a lot of time and effort compiling information for a book about the Leamington and Warwick music scene. Keith asked me for a contribution and to think that anyone would be interested in my waffling’s was a complete surprise!
I am very chuffed to be asked and attended the launch party at Temperance Bar/cafe in Leamington Spa on Sunday 29th July 2018. This was well supported by local musicians and a few got up and played whilst Jim and Keith gave a talk on the background of the book. It’s fascinating stuff and definitely worth the investment. Copies are available at HEAD records in the priors, Leamington. I was really pleased to be included in this piece of history on pages 52/53 with a couple of vintage pictures!!
OCTOBER 2019 – CARY L – back in the studio again
Cary has been back working hard on her pre production tracks over the last couple of years. She felt ready to go back into Big Sky Studio to start work on her third album with the working title ‘Songs from the Dairy – Vol 1’. She has been learning to play her latest toys – a banjo and ukele. The uke is a lot of fun!! When she read that her hero ‘Keith Urban’ played a six string banjo Cary immediately started adding this to her tracks. At present March 2020, Josh is busy mixing and she is expecting to hear the fruits of her labour next week. Cary is also recruiting extra help from various musicians across the globe on this one for a country flavour – Steve Giddings is playing wonderful pedal steel on a few tracks. Work continues….
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