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An interview with Jerry Shirley
Interview By John Hellier (14th Sept 2000).

Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirleys recollections of working with Steve Marriott


When did you first become aware of the Small Faces?

That would be on Ready Steady Go playing “Whatcha Gonna Do About It”.   I was completely blown away by everything about the band. Kenney’s drumming in particular struck me.    It was exactly how I wanted to play, I became a pseudo to Kenney I did just about everything I would to be like him.   The mod image was absolutely spot on and, of course, Staves voice really floored me like it did everybody else.   Shortly after that Ready Steady Go appearance I went to see them at the Hertford Corn Exchange.   By this time my own little group had become a full-blown Small Faces copy band and we ended up supporting them at the Wolsey Hall in Cheshunt.    That’s when I first met them and I remember whilst we were playing our set I looked sidewards into the wings and saw Steve and Kenney watching me play and giving me the thumbs up.   After the gig Steve actually asked me if I would be there stand in drummer in the event of Kenney being sick or unavailable.   It was probably just friendly chat and Steve’s behalf and Kenney never did become sick but, of course, it made me feel ten feet tall.    Steve and I did become good friends and I would often go to Steve’s flat in William Mews, Knightsbridge.     This was in 1967 and it was during that period that he gave my group a song to record.   We went into the studio and recorded “Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me” and it was released on Immediate under the name of Apolistic Intervention, we were previously called Little People.   Steve wanted to call us The Nice but Andrew Oldham said no.    Only a few days later I found out that he’d given the name to PP Arnold for her band. 

With the Small Faces were you always closer to Steve than the others?

Not really.   I was very good pals with Kenney, we would swap ideas and talk drums.   Mac was always very nice although I would only see him and Ronnie at gigs.   Ronnie was always a bit distant.   I think he had some resentment about us coming in and recording one of their songs.   Ronnie was at the recording session but he left halfway through.   With Steve it was very much a social thing.

How did Humble Pie come about?

Fast-forward a year or two.   Steve had become good pals with Peter Frampton.   Peter had told Steve that he was unhappy with his current band; The Herd and Steve had offered to help him form a new one.   Steve recommended me and I went to Beehive Cottage to meet him.   I, in turn, invited to a gig that I was doing in Cambridge with my band The Wages of Sin.   He liked what he saw and the Humble Pie seed was planted that night.    At this stage there was no intention of Steve being in the group.    Nothing really happened for several months until I got a phone call from Steve in the early hours of New Years Day 1969.    He told me that he’d walked out on The Small Faces and asked is he could join the new band with Peter and myself.   My first reaction was one of total shock.   The Small Faces were my favourite band and the thought of them being no more left me dumb.   However when he told me that he had a bass player lined up and that bass player was Greg Ridley from Spooky Tooth well that clinched it for me.   Greg was the most respected Bass player in England and the idea of playing with him was every drummers dream.

         

How did the name “Humble Pie” come to be?

It was suggested that all band members submit names, we’d write them all down and come up with a shortlist.  “Humble Pie” was one of Steve's suggestions.     One of mine was “Evil Cardboard” which was the end of a joint.   Anyway “Evil Cardboard” did not get the vote.   We all thought Humble Pie was just perfect.    It was a reaction against the whole super group thing.   The idea of being called a super group without even playing was quite disturbing.   We were just saying, “Now wait a minute we’re only a bunch of lads just starting and want time to develop”.

Were there any differences between playing with Peter Frampton and his successor Clem Clempson?

Both are brilliant guitar players.   Peter was and still is a very jazzy guitarist whereas Clem was more of a Blues man.   Clem joining the band gave us a fiercer edge, more of a dirty blues feel.   Clem also became a good mate and he probably fitted in personality wise a bit better.    He was one of the lads.   Peter is a nice guy, please don’t get me wrong, but Clem slotted in better.

What were your favourite Humble Pie songs to play live?

Well there weren’t too many that I didn’t like.   I loved “Hot ‘N’ Nasty” because of the Hammond organ.    “Doctor” was always fun, so was “Hallelujah”.   There’s a couple of songs that we played in the later years that I didn’t like doing, one was “Up Our Sleeve”.   But generally speaking if we didn’t like it we didn’t play it.

What are your favourite Humble Pie albums?

Probably both “Smokin” and “Rock On”.   The live album was great but that was a different animal.   Also the two Immediate albums have some wonderful moments on them.   We were having so much fun in those days.

Was the installation of The Blackberries the beginning of the end for the band?

Yeah it was.  It wasn’t their fault though.   Things that were going wrong behind the scenes just happened to coincide with them joining the band.   Steve’s life was falling apart at the seams so therefore, so was the band.   In today’s world having black female singers with a white rock n’ roll band are an everyday thing but back then it just wasn’t accepted by lots of people.   You could really feel the prejudice in a lot of the American audiences.  I hate any sort of racism.   A great shame.

Why the Split?

The disintegration of our personal lives I suppose.  We were all doing too many drugs, we’d lost sight of our business arrangements and no one within the band had any control over money matters.   But the main reason was that we were making bad records, it all came to a head in early 1975.   The rot had set in so deep it was inevitable.

Are there any unreleased A & M recordings?

I don’t think so.   I suppose there might be the odd one here and there.   Oh yeah, there is a version of the old Chris Montez hit “Lets Dance” knocking around somewhere.

How did the early 80’s Humble Pie reincarnation come about?

IN 1979 while I was living in New York I got a phone call from Steve, who was living in Santa Cruz, to ask if I was interested in putting a band together.   I mentioned the idea to Jerry Krebbs, a New York manager, and he made us an offer to put Humble Pie back together.   Steve came over to my house in upstate New York to see what we could come up with song writing wise.   Over the first weekend we wrote “Fool For A Pretty Face” and made a demo of it.   We used session bass player Sooty Jones and on the strength of that song and our version of “My Lovers Prayer” we got a deal with Atco Records.   I approached Clem to see if he was interested.   He came over to check us out and brought Bobby Tench with him.   Clem chose to pass on the idea, I don’t think he wanted the hassle of working with Steve again but Bobby stuck it out and that was the line up, me, Steve, Bobby and Sooty.

How did the Packet of Three thing come about a few years later?

Steve called me 1985 and asked me if I’d like to join the band.   The idea of playing again with Steve in small clubs and pubs appealed very much to me.   I was out of work at the time and had just moved back to England.   It was a fun two years but it ended on a sour note.   We came back from a very ugly American tour and Steve decided to change the band and it didn’t include me.   Shame but these things happen.

How would you sum up Steve Marriott?

He was certainly the most talented person I ever worked with.   He was like a brother to me and I was devastated when he died.   He always lived on the edge and I was always waiting for a phone call to say that he had died but I never dreamed it would be under those circumstances.   He’s never got the credit that he deserves.   He should be in the Rock and Roll hall of fame because he was the greatest white soul singer that England ever produced.   I’m if you caught the likes of Rod Stewart and Paul Rodgers in a private moment and asked them who was the main man?   They would say Steve Marriott.

Thanks Jerry for your time, that was super.

 

Jerry went on to form a new version of Humble Pie in 2000 with Greg Ridley,
Bobby Tench and Dave Colwell.   For full story see issue 20.

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