Ray Warleigh was a British saxophone player. Allan credits Warleigh with extending an open invitation to come and stay with him in London after meeting Allan in Bradford in the late 60s, an offer which Allan took up on in 1972. They appear together on "Bundles" and "Land Of Cockayne" by Soft Machine. A version of "The Abingdon Chasp" featuring Warleigh was also released on Tales From The Vault (album).
- 1 The Silent Man In Tempest (disc 1973)
- 2 Any Key In The U.K. (Unknown publication 1978)
- 3 Player Of The Month (Beat Instrumental 1978)
- 4 Allan Holdsworth (International Musician 1981)
- 5 Allan Holdsworth (English Tour Program 1989)
- 6 Mike Pachelli Show (video transcript 1991)
- 7 Allan Holdsworth: A biography (Atavachron 1994)
- 8 No Secrets (Facelift 1994)
Holdsworth is a marvellously mysterious and talented guitar picker who seems to have been "discovered" by, among others, saxist Ray Warleigh. He was doing his semi-pro bit at the time . . . working for a few quid at a Sunderland Mecca ballroom. Warleigh like just about everyone who’s seen him since, was considerably moved and encouraged him to come to London.
What kind of band did you play in first?
They were a few semi-pro bands from around Bradford, where I was born. It was all workingmen’s clubs and that type of thing. After that, I got in one of those Mecca bands in Sunderland and Manchester and played with them for three years. I eventually met Ray Warleigh, the alto player, and he told me that he had a spare room in London because I wanted to move so I stuck it out with the Mecca band for a while and then decided that I couldn’t take it any more. I left to go down to London and moved in with Ray. I couldn’t have done it without his help, really. It’s pretty hard if you don’t know anybody.
To aid him in this search for his own musical identity Allan had already bought himself a Strat, which became his first proper guitar. After that he bought an SG Standard, and kept it until he moved down to London at the invitation of sax-player Ray Warleigh, who had come across Allan in a Mecca band working in Sunderland. "About six months passed, still doing the Mecca gig, until I couldn’t stand it any more, and I called him and asked if his offer still stood. And he said yes. So that’s when I moved to London, and just a few months after that I joined Tempest."
Can you give me a career résumé so far?
ALAN: 1971 I was still in Bradford; 1972 I had an invite from Ray Warleigh to come to London and a place to stay. Later that year I played with, Jon Hiseman in Tempest but I left in ‘73. He thought I played too many notes, I don’t like being told what to do, I’d rather find out for myself. Anyway I was on the dole for six months and in ‘74 I made some guest appearances with Soft Machine. In ‘75 I did two albums with Tony Williams in New York City. I like that place.
Through the Glen South band Allan met alto sax player Ray Warleigh, who was playing around the north of England on a Musicians’ Union tour. Quickly spotting an extraordinary spark, Ray promised there’d always be a place to stay, should Allan ever decide to make the break and move to London. About six months later the time was right and Allan called him:
"I asked if he remembered me and fortunately he did. So I got a lift down to London with a mate and took Ray up on that offer. He helped get me some gigs; I worked at Ronnie Scott’s - they were good to me too - with pianist Pat Smythe, and Ray on sax. I tell you, man, without that guy, and without that room...
MP: I understand that after that you had some lean years and you owe a lot to Ray Warleigh and Brian Blaine.
AH: Yeah Brian Blaine was a guy who works for the musician’s union and he really helped me a lot that guy, he tried to get me hooked up with various musicians in London. And Ray Warleigh, probably without him I would have never have been able to make the move from the Top 40 band to move to London. He just had a room where I could stay in so… you know if you want to do that – it’s there, so about 6 months after he told me that I decided I wanted to get out of the Top 40 thing and try it, so I called him up and he remembered me and he said, sure, come on, so that’s how it started...
Holdsworth’s early career was frought with desperation and dry spells, and from his late teens through his mid-twenties music was a mostly sporadic venture and hobby; he supported himself primarily repairing bicycles during this time. His first known project as a leader was a low-budget project recorded in 1969 on the Decca label with a few of his local Yorkshire friends-the band’s name was Igginbottom, and the music was derivative of the psychedelic rock fashionable at the time-yet even then, the origins of Holdsworth’s prowess and vision as a guitarist were readily apparent. Veteran British jazz saxophonist Ray Warleigh who travelled frequently around the country, was actually the first professional to "discover" Holdsworth. Warleigh, who played in a large, state-supported dance-hall band (as did some of the other members of Igginbottom), was instrumental in introducing Allan to the London clubscene. At the time, Holdsworth’s major influences were a wide range of American jazz greats - in particular Benny Goodman’s guitarist Charlie Christian and saxophonist John Coltrane-and in particular the psychedelic, bluesy hard rock of Cream.
"Just before we moved to the Ritz there was one of those workshops - jazz workshops that came up into our area, and I went along and think it was Graham Collier. I can’t remember... Geoff Castle, Ray Warleigh. I remember that. And they played and we asked a bunch of questions and then they said, ‘there’s another one of these tomorrow and we’re going to ask people to sit in.’ So I thought, great, and so I took my guitar along and sat in with them on the next thing. And Ray remembered me ... oh, and Derek Wadsworth was there as well, the trombone player.
"So Ray remembered me, and he said, ‘if you ever need anywhere to stay, and you want to come down to London I’ve got a spare room and you can stay there’. And he was the big key really - without Ray I don’t know whether I would ever have got further than that Mecca band. So then we moved to the Ritz Ballroom and I guess after about six or seven months started to get really fed up and started thinking about it a lot. Then I called him up, Ray, and I said, ‘I was that guitar player, remember me?’ And he said, ‘yeah, yeah, come on down’. So I just packed my bags and went to London and stayed in his department. He kind of just fed me and looked after me for months. And just kept dragging me round to these little gigs and trying to get me to sit in with different people and that’s basically how it started.