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Friars website introductions


Paul Conroy

Charisma Records booking agent

How Did I first come Across Friars

 In the early ‘70’s about ‘71 I think, I left teachers training college to enter the world of showbiz as an agent booking out bands for the Terry King Organisation – for the extortionate amount of £18 a week. 

I got this break as I had been a Social Secretary at Ewell Tech in Surrey so had come into contact with the great and good of the then blossoming live music arena.  It’s hard to imagine nowadays how small this so called industry was at this time – most centered around walking distance to the Marquee Club and Soho. 

When I started my first day’s task, I was given the booking sheets for a number of acts and given a National Union of Students Book and told to fill them up.  I had an interesting collection of bands – The Fortunes, the Foundations, Caravan – of whom I loved and some new acts from the Charisma label – which had just been set up by Tony Stratton Smith. 

Tony was a brilliant man who, from being a writer and journalist and manager, started Charisma Records.  A label with incredible collection of artistes – from Gary Shearston, Lindisfarne, Van der Graaf Generator, Sir John Betjeman, Monty Python, Atacama, JoBurg Hawk, Capability Brown and of course Genesis. 

It was Genesis who got me interested in Friars first of all.  They were going out for about £30 a night in some cases around the country and were being funded by the label – but they had two really strong areas of interest – Guildford/Godalming (The Angel) and Aylesbury/Dunstable.  All us bookers used to fight to speak to the promoters and Social Secs who might want to use our artistes or services.  As the young agent I was last in line for incoming calls and enquiries.  I don’t know though how David Stopps and I first came into contact – was it on the phone at a gig or in the Marquee (he will remember I am sure!!) but we started talking and I made my first few visits to Friars and got to know the various luminaries who made the Old Hall click.  Over time and visits, David had Genesis many times – Friars becoming their spiritual home – and from where they went on to conquer the world.  We didn’t really know what marketing was in those days – but what we did know is if a band went down well at Friars – you knew they were on the ladder to success. 

It was a most fought over venue to play (and not because of the money!)  - the bands loved it and it was always a great place to get a review in one of the Music papers! 

Over the years – I had many artistes play the club – both the Old Hall and then the newer hall – Genesis, Lindisfarne, Van der Graaf, Capability Brown, Atacarma, Caravan, The Kursaal Flyers (who I later managed), Chilli Willi, Kilburn and the High Roads, String Driven Thing, Kokomo, Joburg Hawk, Phil Collins solo (need to check some of these – am sure they did but can’t remember everything!!) 

David and I became good friends and some years later when he decided to go into the world of management -  it was my pleasure to sign Howard Jones – who almost joined Stiff believe it or not – but as I was at the time going to Warners, came with me to WEA – and the rest is history. 

Long live ‘Friars” – it was one if not the most important venue to start building an audience for a band –and many a combo built its initial fan base from its appearances at the club.  The great spot was the support slot because the crowd were always attentive, knowledgeable and always up for a new act.

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