At the end of the summer of 1966 I was so broke that I had to move back from London to Swindon to stay with my parents for a few weeks.
The only thing I had of any value was my original 1963 Gibson ES335 and to make ends meet I had to sell it. The other guitar I owned was the big old 12 string that Lonnie Donnegan had given me the year before. But I needed the 12 string more as I was getting some gigs playing folk clubs and pubs, as well as some sessions with it in London.
The 12 string was the guitar that Donnegan sent someone round to my flat in Bayswater (when I was out) to take back when it had become desirable again in 1968, and after it became notable for playing on “Nights”, ‘Days Of Future Past’ and ‘Legend Of A Mind’.
But in that summer of 1966 the Moodies threw me a real lifeline when Mike Pinder called my parents house one day asking to speak to me.
That afternoon I was hanging around with some musician friends in a music shop in Milford Street, Swindon called Duck Son and Pinker. The guy behind the counter, who was also a musician in a local band, shouted out my name and said there was a call on the shop phone for me. My mother had given Mike the number.
Just by Mike’s tone I could tell it wasn’t a hoax, or just a pal having a laugh, and I can remember the sultry sound of his voice that day very clearly. I can also remember hearing Graeme in the background firing questions for Mike to ask. But Mike was very clear – he had heard some of my songs, and read my letter to Eric Burden (I had written to Eric, who was looking for a guitar player) and he suggested that we should meet.
I was absolutely thrilled, but also slightly concerned – why? – Because it was the perception in the music business at that time (which I realized was wrong as soon as I met the other guys) that Denny was the only talent in the band, and that his leaving had left the band in trouble. These were the days when a group was lucky to have a career of two or three years at the most, and without a hit single, groups would disappear quickly. But the Moodies, in the short time they had been together, had gained a reputation for class and style, which would stand us in great stead when we actually did, at last, have something to say with our own songs.
I was right to be thrilled - it would be brilliant.
Anyway, I met Mike, and then Graeme and Ray, we got on famously and I was in! A couple of weeks later I met John. Ray had told me he was going to ask John to join the group, as he had known him before the Moodies.
The band had been offered some live gigs in Belgium in the weeks ahead, which would pay the rent. I needed an electric guitar -pronto.
There was nothing suitable in Duck Son and Pinkers right then, so I after I had met Mike and the other guys I went down to Kempster and Sons in Commercial Road in Swindon looking for the cheapest ‘quality’ electric guitar I could find. There, on the wall was a very pretty new Fender Sunburst Telecaster with a maple neck. Telecasters were very reasonably priced then at around £120 and I knew as soon as I played it that I could lower the action a bit, make it easier to play, and line up the intonation on the bridge so that it would be in tune all the way up the neck. I still had an AC 30 and in the shop it sounded great through the amps they had in there that day. Most importantly though, I could just about afford to buy it, after paying my train fare up to see Mike and the band.
That little Telecaster went on to play one of the riffs I am most proud of, on ‘Ride My See Saw’, to do hundreds of gigs all over the world and to feature on two classic albums, ‘Days Of Future Past’ and ‘In Search Of The Lost Chord’.
For many years I put really heavy strings on it (a 60 on the bottom string) to play the stage version of ‘Question’ (see the Isle Of White video), as I was unable to amplify my acoustic guitars.
It has always stayed with me on the road. It’s a tough guitar that I would often use if we were playing outdoors and it was too hot for the 335, and along with all the guitar techs we have had over the years, I love it.
Lately I have brought it back to play on the live versions of the recordings it featured on – ‘Peak Hour’ and ‘See Saw’.
That era of Telecasters have become hugely sought after nowadays.
Thank you my Sunburst friend.