Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Jim Rodford, bassist with The Zombies, The Kinks and Argent, talks about the early days of The Pioneer Club

The Bluetones in 1961 at The Pioneer Club
Let's go back, waaaaay back, to 1961 when Elvis was at the height of his fame and no one outside Liverpool had heard of The Beatles.

In St Albans the biggest band of the day was The Bluetones, a skiffle outfit formed by Jim Rodford and his mates from The Pioneer Club.

Jim played an old tea chest, it was impossible to buy a double bass back then.

He says: “Like many young men in the ’60s we listened to American rock ’n’ roll and Lonnie Donegan and tried to copy that, and skiffle music started us all off.“ So naturally when his younger cousin Rod Argent wanted to start a band it was to Jim he turned.

“Rod used to come and watch The Bluetones perform, and in ‘61 said he wanted to form a band, so I took them to the club and set them up. That was the very first time The Zombies played together and then they went on to conquer the world“, he says.

“I remember they won a rock contest at Watford Town Hall and the first prize was a recording session at Decca and Rod wrote ‘She’s Not There’ for it and it went straight to the top of the American charts.

“That was all because of The Pioneer Club“.

Jim had turned down Rod’s request to be in the band because “I was in the biggest band in the area, so why would I want to play with some young kids?“ He says he never regretted it as he went on to join the Mike Cotton Sound and then formed Argent with Rod, recording the original version of God Gave Rock and Roll To You, and then he joined The Kinks as their bass player and toured the world.

Born in St Albans, he met his wife at The Pioneer Club and still lives in his hometown, but says The Bluetones “scattered everywhere” after the band broke up.

But the grandfather of four will be reuniting with three of the original members Bill Bennett, Andy Jenner and Chris Davies for the first time since 1961 for a special one-off performance as The Rodford Files to mark the great history of the club that has helped shape him and so many other young artists.

Jim says: “The industry has changed so much and it’s made live performance that much more precious.

“With shows like X Factor you start at the top and the only way is down, but I’ve been going 50 years and am still building a following through doing live shows.“

He says of MusicCity: “It really encourages bands to get out there and do it.

“There is a thriving music scene here being supported by local people and that’s what it’s all about“.

The father of three will be performing at the event after coming to the end of a special anniversary tour with The Zombies, with Rod on keyboard and son Steve Rodford on drums, which he says is the best line-up he’s ever played with. This is quite a claim, since the 72-year-old was bassist with legendary band The Kinks for 20 years.

“I’m still in touch with Ray and see him at the fan conventions, but Dave has been ill so has kept a low profile.

“I’m pretty sure there will be some sort of reunion this year for the 50 years since You Really Got Me, but Ray and Dave have never got on well or agreed on things, so I just let them get on with it“.

A special an exhibition of The Pioneer Club is being held at the Museum of St Albans, running until March 30, and will trace its history and include memorabilia from famous artists.

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