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THE (FEELGOOD)
HISTORY OF CANVEY ISLAND

 
This is an outtake of Susan White's book "Five Generations", a Canvey family history
book published by The Bookshop, Canvey Island, UK in 1994 (ISBN 0 9520002 0 2).
Chris Fenwick, manager of Dr Feelgood since the beginning, is the brother of Susan White
- that's the reason to add a chapter and some photos of Dr Feelgood in her book.

Photo of the book

EXCERPT:
(...) Chris was the Manager of Dr. Feelgood Rock and Roll Band. All the members of the original band lived on Canvey. They started off as a Jug Band when they were school children, busking outside the various Pubs, playing a gig whenever anybody would let them. In the middle of a Bingo session, even in the middle of a Keep Fit Demostation at the Casino Ballroom or a Canvey Carnival event. One time when still a Jug Band they won the talent contest at King's Holiday Camp and managed to be allowed to play at the Oysterfleet by twisting Mr. Mick Saunders arm who was the Proprietor. It is coincidental that when Lee Brilleaux became ill and they had to stop touring they ran the Club as "Dr. Feelgood's Music Bar" giving young musicians a chance to play. The club has now been demolished as plans had already been passed for a New Hotel which it is hoped will be finished the middle of June 1995. Chris Fenwick has been asked to be the new Manager as half his life his has been spent in hotels around the world he hopes to make it a success.

Frisco Bay Jug Band  THE FRISCO BAY
JUG BAND
One of the Pre-Feelgood-bands

Jeff Shaw, Mick Townshend,
Rico Burt, Lee,
Sparko and Chris
(from left to right)

When the Feelgood's played around the local jaunts they even ventured over to Kent to get a broader horizon complete with their equipment in an old pram they bought at a Jumble Sale, little did they know, then that they were to play all over the world. They formed Dr. Feelgood after playing Southend haunts, playing a gig in Holland which Chris, who was then 18 years, was in Holland when he met someone who was interested in hiring British bands. Seizing his chance Chris said he had a band in England. He came home and told the Feelgood's he'd fixed them a tour. If he bought a van could he manage them. Whilst Chris was still at drama school Lee who had just left Newcastle University, who in 1964 had been in a pop group with The Big Figure called The Roamers. They played Canvey Weddings and Working Men's clubs. But Wilko used to make more money busking with his brother Malcolm on comb and paper. It was around this time that Lee had seen them in the street and got ideas of his own. For five years Wilko put his guitar away, he decided his was going to be a poet. The Figure was playing in pop groups up and down the country. The others into jug bands, Ginger beer jar, hubble bubble and shears were among the implements used in "Chrissy White's Jug Band", though Chris himself was a musician. John "Sparko" Sparks appeared on twelve string hence his chord style of bass playing. Lee played banjo and did the vocals. When the jug band broke Lee joined a blues band called The Fix. Then he and Sparko were both in the Pigboy Charlie band.

Dr. Feelgood was formed with Chris as their Manager in 1972 after two successful tours of Holland and backing Heinz at the Southend Rock Festival and the Wembly Rock Festival. At early 1974 they broke into the London Pub circuit. They made an immediate impact on the press, the punters and the business. Paul Conroy and Nigel Kerr signed them to the Charisma Agency and Andrew Lauder signed them to United Artists the record contract enabled them to relinquish their day jobs and to accept gigs beyond day tripping. In 1974 they toured nationally with Brinsley Schwarz and Dave Edmunds billed as the "New Favourites tour" acknowledging their influences they recorded their first album "Down by the Jetty" in mono. In February 1975 they participated in the notorious Naughty Rhythms Tour and emerged national stars later that year completed their first tour as headliners promoting their second album "Malpractice". After a debut at the annual convention in San Diego they embarked on their first United States tour. Back in England their third album "Stupidity" recorded live in Sheffield and Southend reached No. l and remained in the top 50 for 2 months. They were then regarded as one of the most exciting acts in Britain. Then followed another top 10 album "Sneaking Suspicion".

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Admiral Jellicoe  From left to right:
Lee
Big Figure
(proud on his new car!)
Sparko
Gypie

This photo was taken
in front of their favourite
pub on Canvey, the
"Admiral Jellicoe".

In March 1977 John "Gypie" Mayo from Harlow replaced the manic guitarist Wilko Johnson. An audition for this replacement was held at "Feelgood House" in Central Wall Road. If you happened to be driving through Benfleet that day you would have thought that Canvey had been invaded, as every train from London seem to carry hundreds of youths carrying guitars. September 1977 the modified line up made its final debut with Nick Lowe producing "Be Seeing You" from which came the hit single "She's a wind up". After more American and Continental touring they recorded their sixth album "Private Practice".

...just another airport...

From left to right:
Gordon Russell
Phil Mitchell
Kevin Morris
Chris Fenwick
Lee Brilleaux

 Just another airport...

The band was always well known as being down to earth and friendly spent the next 10 years or so travelling the world, which 18000 people attended the shows.

Lee in particular threw himself into the performance with energy and gusto, shaking his head like a madman, showering torrents of sweat everywhere, singing songs like "Milk and Alcohol" and old favourites like "See you later Alligator" which went gold in Sweden.

Gypie quit the band in 1981 to be replaced by Johnny Guitar and in 1981 Sparko and the Figure left to spend more time with their families. Phil Mitchell, Kevin Morris and Gordon Russell formed the new formation of the group, finally Steve Walwyn and Dave Bronze taking over on guitar and bass. Only front man Lee remained, as always dressed in a suit, strutting round the stage, snapping back and forth as he growled out the lyrics.

      Steve & Lee Steve & Lee in Paris

Lee was a charismatic focal always for every Feelgood show, always the showman, always polite. Always a true gent, sadly Lee was diagnosed in 1993 as having Lymphoma, a form of cancer. While in remission from the illness Lee made two final concert appearances at Dr. Feelgood Music Bar. In April 1994 Lee lost his year long battle against the illness. The singer was one of the giants of the local music scene over the last quarter of the century, but a very modest and unassuming man.

A special tribute concert was held on May 10th 1994 which would have been Lee's 42 birthday, at his music bar, this was attended by fans all over the Country and Europe.

(Published with friendly permission. © COPYRIGHT BY SUSAN WHITE)

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