An Interview with
Roger Willis, the last drummer to play with Christie before
they split in the 70s
(With Ray Chan)
Q: Can you tell us
briefly about your career?
A: I was born in Harrow, Middlesex, in July 1951. My first
introduction to live music was aged about six, when I went
with my parents to a family day and saw a band called The
Vikings. As I watched the drummer, I remember thinking to
myself, I want to do that.
My initiation into gigging was in
a rhythm and blues band called The Flamingos, aged 15, playing
in pubs and clubs in and around West London. Over the following
five years, several semi-pro soul and rhythm and blues outfits
were to be instrumental in assisting me in learning the necessary
craft of how to drive a band from the hot seat.
Ive always been interested
in vocal harmonies and therefore it wasnt long before
I also became involved in providing backing vocals from behind
the kit. At 20, I turned professional with Capability
Brown, a six-part harmony rock band that recorded two albums.
Capability Brown splintered in 1974 when I became the drummer
in Krazy Kat, recording a further two albums.
Throughout my career, Ive performed
vocal sessions on other artists albums, such as Tony
Ashton, John Lord, Linda Lewis and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well
as being a member of supporting bands touring with Genesis,
Lindisfarne, Jess Roden, John Miles, Alex Harvey and Peter
During the 80s and 90s I continued
to play in many bands, again playing rock, rhythm and blues
and soul, while focussing upon improving my knowledge and
skills with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music,
in order to begin teaching.
Since the turn of the millennium,
Ive been with a number of rhythm and blues bands playing
in the Buckinghamshire area. It was while playing here that
three musicians, Bob, Derek and Ian, suggested putting a band
together hence, the birth of my current group, Storm
Q: How did you join Christie?
A: Roger Flavell phoned me to say that hed heard
that Capability Brown had split up and that Christie were
in need of members to fulfill a contract to tour Mexico and
He simply asked if I and one other (guitarist)
of Cape Brown would be prepared to stand in.
I mentioned that three of us, myself,
Tony Ferguson and Grahame White, were trying to put a band
(eventually Krazy Kat) together and asked whether Christie
would be prepared to become a five-piece.
Roger spoke to Jeff and the Christie
management, before phoning to say OK. Many rehearsals followed
at Jeffs house and it was sounding good.
Capability Brown folded, due to
a number of things. Money was extremely tight, if not non-existent
Personal demands were different
for each member and because of the three-day week, promoters
were not promoting gigs. The pressures took their toll and
the band split.
Q. Grahame White did a disappearing
act before the tour. What happened?
A: Grahames father became gravely ill just before
we were about to tour, and therefore he declined the offer
It was a difficult decision for
Grahame, as I know he was really looking forward to the tour.
Q: Do you have any musical preferences?
How did you feel about playing Christie's commercial music
after the progressive style of Capability Brown?
A: Ive been influenced by many drummers and a variety
of bands: Keith Moon, John Hiseman, Phil Collins, Jeff Porcaro,
John Mayall, The Who, Genesis, Tower of Power, and The Beach
Boys, to name but a few.
Ive always maintained an eclectic
view towards music and have been able to adapt to most styles.
As a professional, I feel I should
always consider that my job is to fulfil the requirement of
each position. Thats exactly what I did.
Q: On the Christie tour, the set
included some Capability Brown songs (Redman, Liar). Whose
idea was this?
A: I cant remember exactly whose suggestion it was,
although Jeff naturally had the final say with regards to
what songs we sung, and therefore it had to be him that agreed
to us playing them.
Jeff was very much into harmonies
himself, and I think he was attracted to singing some of the
songs Capability Brown had performed.
Roger Willis playing on stage in 1974.
Q: Christie released two songs for
the Latin American countries, Navajo
and Guantanamera. Did you play
A: I definitely remember playing on Guantanamera,
although am unsure if I played on Navajo.
Theres a nagging voice on
my shoulder that said that I may have .. certainly yes, if
Navajo was recorded on the same
days session as Guantanamera.
Q; The line-up with the Capability
Brown members was the last before Christie split up. What
A: As far as I remember, it was just the tour that was
required of us, and that Jeff was returning to England to
consider his future in general.
Following our return, Tony, Grahame
and I continued our quest to form another band (Krazy Kat).
I remember I very much enjoyed
the tour, both as a musician and as a tourist.
I remember the experience as us
all getting on well, of the gigs being varied ... from theatres,
to bull rings, to hotels .. and of the beautiful weather.
Q: Where are Tony and Graham today?
A: Tony is now working in management for Interscope Records
in the States.
Sadly, Grahame died on Good Friday,
2008. He was a very accomplished musician and is sorely missed
by me and many others.
Q: Last words?
A: Check out my band called Storm Warning here: www.stormwarning.co.uk