In 1966, I was at university in Brighton and each time they put on a show the university band would play the first set. They’d been on and played a few numbers and when it came to the changeover, only Dick Morrissey and the bass player Phil Bates had arrived. After a short break, as Harry South and Phil Seamen still hadn’t arrived, Dick Bottesby who ran it, got the university band back and they played with Dick and Phil Bates for a couple of numbers, and they were really good together.
Then all of a sudden, while they were playing, the door at the back burst open and there was a powerful clanging and banging noise and in walked Phil Seamen with a big grin on his face carrying a cymbal. The whole place erupted and started cheering him. Behind Phil, came Harry South carrying the rest of Phil’s drum kit. The band stopped for a bit because Phil went through the routine of putting his drums up, which was always quite an experience. They eventually got to play together, and it was an outstanding set. There was a lot of jazz students in the audience who totally idolized Phil. The session went on longer than usual and they all stayed afterwards talking to the students. But it was that image of Phil, literally stumbling in through the door carrying a cymbal that has always stuck in my mind!
I also went to the ‘Storm Warning’ session where Phil played with Dick at the Bulls Head at Barnes that was recorded. The date was close to the Brighton session. I also saw him just before he died at the Plough at Stockwell. Singing with him was Bobby Breen who I was knocked out with. The Jimmy Witherspoon session at the Bulls Head that was recorded was very good. Not many people, apart from the obvious ones, knew there was a recording taking place because they couldn’t get all the recording equipment in the room it was that packed. They had to put it in a room at the back where all the beer was stacked.
Copyright – Peter Dawn