A brief word about CRI and how it came into being.
I have been a photographer and drummer all of my adult (and some of my junior life) and so I suppose it was inevitable that at some stage these two career paths would meet. I was fortunate that being a musician I was able to gain access to various groups and players over the years. I took every opportunity to use my skills as a photographer to record the people I met or played with. All the pictures in CRI gallery are originals that I have taken during this time, including those mentioned here. On leaving school, my early days in Southall were spent photographing various artists such as Jo Ann Kelly at a local pub, The White Hart. Venturing further a field I photographed Peter Green and Top Topham at The 100 Club in Oxford Street in the late ‘60’s.
My circle of friends at that time were involved with the Marquee Club and we annually did the security for their National Jazz And Blues festivals at Plumpton and later in Reading. It was whilst here that I was approached to help run the Weeley Festival in 1971 which turned out to be a nightmare, getting into all the Sunday papers for all the wrong reasons. In 1970 I went to the Bath festival where (with long hair and looking hip) I got the nod from the Hell’s Angels, allowing me over the barriers they were Patrolling to get photographs of Donovan and The Mothers Of Invention (all in CRI gallery). I played in various bands at the time locally in West London including the legendary ‘Nasty’ which could conceivable be the first ‘Punk band’. It certainly lived up to its name. A regular gig with Turnpike Trust and a short stint with Screaming Lord Sutch and Skydiver completed this faze of my life and I returned to the photography fold to pick up my previous career and try and earn a realistic living But the music was never far away and I was seduced back and became a founder member of Cold Sweat around 1994; which still remains my most memorable musical experience.
Under the leadership of Damien McCabe we recorded the highly regarded album ‘Down Payment On The Blues', toured Monahan blues festival in 1995, supported Walter Trout, Tinsley Ellis, Arthur Brown and Paul Jones. Our album launch was at The Bottom Line Club in London’s Shepherds Bush. We had Procal Harem’s Gary Brooker and Henry Spinetti to help the launch along. One of my proudest (and most scariest moments) of that year was when Cold Sweat was asked to play with Byther Smith (ex Muddy Walters) on his U.K. tour. We had the previous year played support at one of his gigs here in the U.K. and he obviously was suitably impressed to ask us to tour with him as his band. 1996 saw us do an incredible three week tour of East Germany where I cassette taped part of the gigs direct from the mixing desk and produced a six CD box set. Whilst there, on one of my phone calls home (there were no Mobiles) I got wind of a major Advertising photographic assignment. I faxed the estimate to the advertising agency on the back of one of our flyers from the venue and returned home shattered to complete the job. I realized I couldn’t maintain both careers and decided to return to photography where I still remain. Damien did however during this period get me a stint playing some gigs with Brian Knight who co founded The Rolling Stones with Brian Jones in the early days of the band.
For me a nice pedigree to have on my C.V. I photographed and designed Brian’s last solo album just before he died. A great loss to us all, but a time well respected and appreciated by all. Brian was also working with Mick Avory of the Kinks during this period with Damien who mischievously asked Mick if I could ‘sit in’ on a number. Mick didn’t mind , so I got to play on the Kinks ( one of my favorite school day bands) drum kit in my local. Thanks Damien. Didn’t think I’d ever do that when walking home from school down Dormers Wells Lane. During this period I was commissioned by Alan Pearce editor and founder of Blues Matters magazine to photograph various artist that were being featured in the magazine. This gave me a great chance to photograph people like Chris Rea, Todd Rundgren, Big Town Playboys, Ritchie Milton, Anthony David and Journey. Pete (Sargeant) did the words and I the photographs, all of which are in the CRI gallery. I still play with Pete Sargeant’s ‘Band Of Sceptics’ every once in a while at the Bull’s Head, Barnes, (miss you George McFall) and we have guests such as Gypie Mayo (ex Yardbirds) and John O’Leary (ex Savoy Brown) so I am still not completely out of the loop.
I want you to enjoy this gallery and would love to hear from you. Tug on my coat about anything you want to speak to me about, your experiences, meetings with, any thing relevant to these pictures.
John A Freebrey
Photographer and director and founder of Classic Rock Images.