The Cressida Story Part One 1968-70
Chapter 1: The Beginning and Who’s Who
In March of 1968, 21-year-old guitarist John Heyworth packed up and left the local club scene in Sheffield and headed for London, where he joined a band called The Dominators. Shortly after, Angus Cullen – who had been singing with R&B bands on US military bases in Germany – showed up to audition as lead singer. Angus and John got on immediately. Although the Dominators quickly disbanded, John moved into the Cullen family flat in Earls Court where he and Angus continued to write songs together. They formed their own group by the end of 1968 when they found keyboardist Lol Coker, bass player Kevin McCarthy and drummer Iain Clark. Initially they called the band Charge before adopting the name Cressida instead. As Angus put it, “not because of any Shakespearian connection but simply because we thought it was a nice-sounding word.”
Before joining Cressida, Kevin played in Surrey-based bands and toured Scotland with The Peasants, who performed at the Cavern club in Liverpool on his 18th birthday. Later, Kevin joined The Original London Beat, who were the first Western group to play behind the Iron Curtain: in 1965 they toured for six months in Poland and were treated like the Beatles.
Kevin: “After answering an ad in Melody Maker, I met John Heyworth at Angus’s flat in Earls Court. We might have played a bit, but I think we mainly talked about the kind of music we liked. John and I seemed to hit it off, and the next thing I remember were the auditions for drummers. I’m not sure if I was hired at that point or if they just needed someone to play with the drummers. Angus and John decided that Iain was the best choice as drummer and I was then bass player, so we had a band.”
Iain kicked off his career as a drummer while at teaching college in Cheltenham, eventually joining the Ramrods, Brian Jones’ former group. When he moved to London he played semi-professionally and recorded some tracks at Radio Luxembourg. After he gave up teaching he almost joined a blues band being formed around brilliant young guitarist Danny Kirwan in August 1968.
Iain: “There were at least two dozen drummers and bass players at the auditions for Danny Kirwan’s band above the Nag’s Head pub in Battersea. It was a real cattle market …. drummers lined up on one side of the room and bass players on the other. Mick Fleetwood and his manager Mike Vernon were there to supervise the auditions. It was pretty chaotic, but I was invited back twice and got into the final shortlist of three drummers. While waiting to hear whether I had got the gig, I read in Melody Maker that Danny had been invited to join Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac instead. He was a beautiful guitar player. That was him on “Albatross.”
In October ’68 Iain answered another ad in Melody Maker for a drummer. The audition was held in a church hall just off Kensington Church Street near Notting Hill Gate.
Iain: “I remember the band sounded pretty good and I’d always loved a Hammond organ in a line-up. I was intrigued by the singer. He wore a long, black hooded cloak and he had a very pure, non-rock voice. With his brooding image he was an interesting character. Anyway, they seemed to like how I played and offered me the gig. That was my introduction to Cressida.”
The line-up complete, the band began rehearsing, working on arranging original songs that Angus and John had been writing as well as some standards and covers to include in the set.
Iain: We used to rehearse in the All Saints Hall in North Kensington and the place was used by several bands. Pink Floyd were regulars .
When they weren’t rehearsing, they spent a lot of time at Angus’s flat in Earls Court. The flat was always a hive of activity. Lemmy (of Hawkwind and Motorhead) was a regular visitor.
Iain: “Lemmy was a real character even then. He played guitar in a psychedelic band called Sam Gopal’s Dream. We spent a lot of time hanging out in the record stores on the Kings Road in Chelsea listening to American imports and checking out bands at places like UFO in Covent Garden.”