Dinky Dawson and the Legendary Gig Wagon Races - Part 1

Martin Bailey mbailey at netsoltek.co.uk
Fri May 30 07:43:22 CDT 2008

This was on Wolfgang's Vault website.  


Typically entertaining anecdotes about Keith's behaviour, written by a roadie.

It's a bit long, but I think it's worth repeating here.


Dinky Dawson and the Legendary Gig Wagon Races
by Dinky Dawson

In April, 1969, Fleetwood Mac had just finished Top of the Pops for the BBC, and I headed straight to my favorite watering hole, La Chase on Wardour Street, right above the Marquee Club. Sitting at the bar was an old friend from my days as a DJ at the Mojo Club in Sheffield, Long John Baldry. As we chatted over a pint, I learned Clifford Adams, Fleetwood Mac's manager, had been talking to him about a short tour with B.B. King and the Mac with Duster Bennett opening. Baldry would be the master of ceremonies. I thought that would be brilliant. John said he had always wanted to see B.B. King and was ecstatic that he would be touring with him for eight shows. After another drink, John and Jack Barry, the owner of the bar, took off downstairs to see a new band playing at the Marquee.
As Jack was leaving, he said he had seen Baz, an old friend and roadie for Keith Emerson's new group, the Nice, heading to a corner pub with Keith Moon. I said, "They must be going to get trashed," and decided it was time to leave myself.

As soon as I stepped out to Wardour Street, I could hear some very loud voices coming from the corner pub. It was a bit early for the lads to be plastered, but whatever they were up to, I knew it would be fun. As I walked into the pub, Baz was yelling something to Noz, the roadie for the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Suddenly I heard a familiar voice booming over the noise, "How's the Mac?"

"Moonie," I yelled, looking to where the voice came from. "Top of the Pops!" Then I saw him-Keith Moon holding court with Peter Frampton, a couple of ladies, and some of the other lads from the Herd.

"How's your gig wagon," a grinning Keith yelled back at me, referring to an incident from the Who's Magic Bus days. Just after they had released their single, I was driving down Regent Street in the Mac's transit van behind a wildly-painted, double-decker bus covered with Who posters and banners and a big Union Jack. At the rear of the bus, staggering down the stairs from the upper deck, was none other than Moonie himself, frantically waving a bottle of beer. As he pointed at me, I blew my horn and gave him the two-finger salute. Keith, laughing hysterically, responded by throwing the bottle at my windshield. As the big, brown bottle hurtled towards me, I instinctively slammed on the brakes. Crash! All the equipment at the back of the wagon slammed forward, pushing my seat. The empty bottle smashed harmlessly on the grill of the gig wagon. Quickly, I jammed my foot on the accelerator, and the equipment moved back towards the rear of the small van.

"You bastard, Moonie," I yelled, sticking my head out of my window. Hearing the ruckus, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry rushed to the back of the bus to see the cause of all the commotion. By now, Moonie had found another beer bottle, and it looked like a full one. Worried that he'd bust the windshield, I drove up beside the bus, shaking my fist and yelling. By now, everyone on the bus was on hand, chortling and yelling at Moonie and me. As the other band members tried to restrain him, Moonie opened the beer and yelled, "Why waste a good pint on the Mac!" I have often wondered what spectators on Regent Street were thinking as they watched a psychedelic bus being chased by a madman in a transit gig wagon that day.

Tonight was the first time I had seen Keith since the Magic Bus incident, but he hadn't changed at all. If anything, his legend as a wild man was growing. Not waiting for a reply to his question about the Mac's van, Moonie stood up and yelled, "Everyone ready for the Speak?" The Speakeasy Club, 48 Margaret Street, London, was a late-night haunt for the music industry from 1966 to the late 1970s. It was more of a declaration than a question, but I wanted to talk to Baz before going to the club.

"No way Baz can talk," said Moonie, bleary-eyed and smiling. He was right. Baz was well plastered, doing his Buddy Holly impersonation on the stage and challenging anyone in hearing range to a strong man contest. Baz was always bragging about lifting Keith Emerson's Hammond B3 organ by himself. Even if he had only dragged the heavy keyboard, Baz was a strong lad, but seeing his condition, I thought it best to speak with him the next day. So I told Moonie I'd follow them to the Speak in the Mac gig wagon.

Parking near the Speak was almost impossible-cars and vans were everywhere on the narrow streets. By the time I walked down the stairs and into the club, I was ready for a drink. Keith had commandeered a large table in a recessed booth near the stage from the Herd's roadie, Chris Adamson, and I headed straight to where they were seated, waiting for Frampton and some of his band lads. I began moaning about the parking around the club when Chris started bragging about the Herd's gig wagon.

"Nothing can touch it, man," boasted Chris. "It's the best." Not to be outdone, Moonie protested, "The Who's gig wagon has a V8 and no one can touch that." After ordering some food and a couple more drinks, we were all declaiming loudly about the virtues of our vehicles. In fact, at one point, the bouncers came over to calm us down-we were louder than the band on the stage. "Eat your corn on the cob and strawberries and cream," they ordered, "some folks want to hear the band!"

Eventually, everyone calmed down except for Moonie and Chris, who challenged each other to a gig wagon race from the Blue Boar, a well-known roadie rest stop on the M1, to the end of the Motorway in London. The M1 was a big deal for us lads who traveled throughout England, especially when we did two or three shows a day or night. Roadies knew this motorway well. But now it was late, and although for weeks after folks talked about the challenge, no one gave it serious thought. I left with the Mac for a short tour of the continent.

Then one night about a month later, I made a pit stop at 3am at the Blue Boar. Walking into the restaurant, I spied Keith Moon, kicking the jukebox. As the Who's "My Generation" sputtered and was ejected, I called out, "Moonie!"

Keith jumped back. "Dinky," he declared, "you're here for the gig wagon race!"

"What?" I said, "What race?"

"Remember the Speakeasy challenge?," Moonie impishly replied.

I had forgotten, but not Moonie. He further elaborated that gig wagon races had been going on for the past three weeks. I was flabbergasted.

"We've been gigging abroad and this is the first trip back in England," I confessed.

Moonie understood. "Look around," he said, gesturing at the four other road crews having a cup of tea.

**Stay tuned for Part Two of Dinky Dawson's Gig Wagon Race tales in the coming weeks.**

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