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Exeter Stories

Exeter folk and friends in their own words - 1890's to the 1990's │ << Previous story │ Next story >>  │

Paul - Backstage with the Stones


"I was onstage with the Stones at the Odeon, October 1964. 

My friend Paul Walter’s dad Ken was involved with the Odeon & got us both in that night as stagehands. Our job was to take the leading edges of the heavy curtain that would come across between acts and guide it around any mike stands, etc that may be in the way. So, we got to see what the acts saw in the auditorium, - screaming teenagers - but from the safety of being hidden behind these massive curtains. I remember being terrified that I’d do something wrong, like falling into the pit.

I saw the Stones backstage (Brian Jones included) and somewhere at home in Exeter, there’s a box with an autographed programme from that evening. Mick Jagger had Chrissy Shrimpton with him that night - and I also remember Long John Baldry asking the female singer in Shotgun Express or was it Steam Packet,  (could have been Beryl Marsden) if she minded if he put his hand on her shoulder during one of the numbers. (I much later realised she’d had nothing to fear from him on that particular front)

An act called Thee Of London (just in case you were wondering) were also on the show. Basically a thrown together let’s-smash-up-our-gear Who copycat routine, they caused some muttering in the wings as the drumkits that they were kicking were shared between most acts.

The best part was this. Those 60’s package tours were a series of short sets, fast turnarounds and an introduction by an old-school compere. That show had a real old Northern ‘take my mother-in-law’ merchant as host. Never heard of him before or after.  His spirit lives on in Phoenix Nights.

As I was waiting stage left to guide the curtains back, he quietly came up and asked me if I knew the Stone’s names.  So, I told him. He carefully wrote this information on the palm of his hand in biro and a bit later, walked out on stage to say…”Lets have a big hand for Mick, Brian, Bill, Charlie and Keith - The Rolling Stones!!!!” .

I then realised he’d actually had no idea of who they were until he asked me.

Now, if I was the person at 14 that I am now, I’d have said something like, Alf, Timothy, Snotty, Micky & Griff. and taken great pleasure in watching what happened when he read that out onstage. A little bit of pop history could have been created in Exeter on that night.

Another chance that I’d never get again, lost forever.

Seize the day, you youngsters out there."

© 2006 Paul/David Cornforth

Rolling StonesThe Rolling Stones when they played at the ABC, in August 1964. Photo courtesy Tracks.Odeon CinemaThe Odeon Cinema

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