Even in the wealthy Richmond Riverside area, Bruce Welch stands out, his charisma, charisma and — it must be said — his mighty rock star Barnett still intact. He paused for a moment and immediately felt comfortable in front of the camera, giving photographer John Royle the most striking smile.
“It’s a great place to live. I have incredible river views,” he said of his Richmond home. The 79-year-old enjoyed a huge career with one of the most influential bands in British music history, The Shadows, playing rhythm guitar under the tutelage of Hank Marvin.
“If I were 16, I would do it again,” he told Richmond Nub News. When he was a schoolboy in Newcastle, he and his fellow student Hank would take their guitars and play wherever they got the chance – to the playground, later to pubs and across the city.
Have a great day on the river bank
They were inspired by a subgenre of American folk music, the skiffle. After forming the band, they traveled to London and finished third in the national ski competition. Her bandmates go home; Bruce and Hank are invited to spend the night with a friendly landlady, a fellow George. They stayed for six months.
The two up-and-coming musicians spend most of their time in the “melting pot,” 2i’s Coffee Bar in Soho. It’s crowded, it’s hot, and that’s where it all happens.
Bruce was selling orange juice in the back of the cafe when Cliff Richard took the stage. His manager makes an amazing offer to Hank. Cliff on tour in three weeks: Does he want to play in a band?
The story is told in the BBC documentary The Shadows At Six0, which you can watch on iPlayer.
From the 1950s to the 2000s, Shadows had 69 UK chart singles, 35 of which were credited to The Shadows and 34 to Cliff Richard.
Cliff Richard and The Shadows reunited in Brussels in 2009. Photography: Jpmawet
Cramming them all into one album is a tall order, and Bruce took some time earlier this year to include Dreamboats & Petticoats Presents: The Shadows – The First 60 Years with 46 tracks.
“It’s just a real reflection of 60 years and how music has changed. Music is always changing.”
Hopefully it bounces back in 2021 after an exceptionally challenging year.
“Everything has come to a standstill, including the entire music industry, because of the terrible Covid-19 pandemic. For a lot of musicians, it’s a real tragedy,” Bruce said.
“If you’re a working musician or actor and suddenly lose your job…people are going to pile on shelves for a living.
The band at the jpmawe concert 2009
“It’s been a hell of a year.”
Bruce is looking forward to things getting back to normal — and seeing Richmond flourish again.
“You remember the good times when we could go to London – from Richmond, everything was easy. It was just a good atmosphere.
“In the summer it’s like a playground. People come to Richmond on weekends to go to bars. It’s a big draw.”