The first-ever Ritchie Blackmore Convention (celebrating 40 years
of a musical legend) was held in The Limelight Club (Crewe, England).
Situated in the county of Cheshire, the venue Website www.crewe-limelight.co.uk
describes the club as having: "…three floors, the Annex
Bar and the brand new Music Cafe, wonderfully friendly atmosphere.
From humble beginnings (with mainly tribute bands) the club is now
one of the North's top venues".
When viewed from the outside, the club appears as a rather old, austere
brick building. The arch windows at the front (and the overall appearance
of the building) lead one to think that maybe the building was originally
some form of Church? (Following a follow-up discussion with the Limelight
Club management, I can confirm that the building was indeed a former
Methodist Church that was closed in the late 60's or earlier 70's.
It was then used as Snooker Hall in the 80's to 90's. The current
Limelight Club management then took it over as a derelict ex-snooker
club in early 1994 & managed to open November 30th 1994. Thanks
for the information Ray!)
going up the entranceway steps and entering the club, my friends and
I found our selves in a large bar area, with a pool table and a TV
screen. Initially, it was a little confusing where the main musical
activity of the venue was to be staged. The secret was to go into
what looked like a "corner alcove" in the bar area and there
a door could be found that one went through and descended down the
stairs to the lower level (which may have been a former large basement
or crypt area?)
At the immediate bottom of the stairs, were the toilets plus a small
basement café area that served food for most of the day. One
could continue up the corridor from the café; this went up,
via a few steps, to another bar area (effectively bringing the visitor
back up to street level). Alternatively, instead of going along the
corridor, one could simply stand at the bottom of the stairs and choose
to go either into the café or go through the right-hand door
into the main room where the convention was being held.
This larger room had a stage dominating one end of the room (the end
nearest to the entrance door just described). Facing the stage was
a wooden floor area that was in turn flanked by raised areas. Both
raised areas had a wooden banister running around them, with tables
and chairs on the raised areas. Behind the wooden floor area (which
had tables and chairs on part of it, the half furthest away from the
stage), was a bar area, raised to just a slightly higher level area,
than the two other raised flanking areas just described. In regards
to the two "back corners" of the room, one had tables and
chairs in it, the other had a doorway which led to the upper part
of the corridor (mentioned earlier). The walls of this large event
room where covered in posters, advertising bands.
For the purpose of the afternoon event, a large (16 feet across) video
screen was temporarily suspended at the front of the stage. This was
to facilitate the reviewing of rare Blackmore-related film footage.
Whilst the films were being reviewed, a number of trade stalls were
attracting interest. Jerry Bloom's MBTP stall was in one of the back
corners of the room; CDs on the table with tee shirts and posters
hung on the wall behind it. A special thank you must go to Shelley
Joy (with matching red tee shirts and bleached blonde-hair!) who worked
hard on the stall for a lot of the day! On each of the two raised
spectator-areas, there could be found another stall. One was a DVD
stall; the other stall was selling vinyl albums. Some were rarities
but apart from the foreign-language album covers, I had everything
terms of fans trying to get to the stalls, it tended to appear to
be a little bit crammed-in, in regards to space. There were about
150 fans in attendance during the daytime (but this number increased
to 200 during the evening). A little bit of patience in waiting for
one's turn was thus required but ultimately, everyone still had enough
time to see and buy whatever they wanted. The slight limitation in
available space was obviously dictated by Jerry's need (as convention
organiser) to get everything fitted into the one room; a necessity
that no one can begrudge him for. They should offer him and his organisation
team (Neil, Alan etc) much praise instead!
There was also originally intended to be two competitions. No one
entered the "Ritchie Blackmore Air Guitar Impression" competition
(what a shame!) but the caption competition had many entries. The
picture showed Candice squeezing Ritchie's cheeks. The winning caption
read: "Are you turning purple yet?"
During the afternoon, there was also a break in the activities already
outlined so that a "Questions and Answer session", could
be chaired by Rob Fodder, who had been Ritchie's Personal Assistant
on tour for a number of years. The start of this session unfortunately
(from my point of view) coincided with my friends and I having meals
upstairs, as I intended "to go into amateur journalist mode"
after that. Thus I missed some of Rob's contributions but I did manage
to hear a couple of the more important questions. One was concerning
Ritchie throwing water over an on-stage cameraman, at Birmingham NEC
in 1993 (and I myself was present in the audience at that gig!). Rob's
reply echoes what he has previously written in MBTP magazine. Essentially,
Ritchie had not agreed to the on-stage camera and even though he had
been promised it would not be there, each time he tried to go on stage,
he found that it still had not been removed. This was why he arrived
on stage late, very upset and threw the water at the cameraman. Rob
emphasised that the water was aimed at the cameraman only and was
not intended to hit any band member on stage, even though it might
have done by accident. Rob mentioned that Ritchie ran behind the back
of the stage and got the cameraman with another bucket of water just
before Black Night started!
Another question was in regards to Joe Lynn Turner in Deep Purple.
Rob outlined a well-known story, in which Ritchie supported Joe but
the other members wanted Ian Gillan back in the band. Rob's additional
comments went something on the lines of the following: "Joe Lynn
Turner understood the immense pressure there was to re-instate Ian
Gillan. He was thus quite willing to stand aside".
I would also like to thank Richard Gillitt who emailed me this additional
comment regarding Rob Fodder's talk. "Too many stories to mention
but one about Ritchie and Thomas (from the Geyers) ‘discussing’
‘Smoke on the Water’ at great length; ending with the
guitarist admitting that, it may not be the most complicated of riffs
but it’s made me a lot of money’ (or words to that effect);
stuck in the memory. Many of the stories centred around the explosive
rivalry between a certain guitarist and vocalist!"
Though I have been a fan of Blackmore’s Night since the outset
of the project, I have never actually seen them in concert with Jessie
Haynes (except for the Live in Germany video). On that video, Jessie
comes across as a very friendly and sincere person; loving the music
that she helps to create and play; and valuing the friendships that
she makes with her fellow musicians.
When it was announced that Jessie Haynes & Cowgirl Ecstasy would
play at The Ritchie Blackmore convention (23rd October 2004), other
fans and myself, realised that here was a chance to make up for those
earlier missed opportunities and also catch up with what her latest
The band took to the stage at 5.30pm and consisted of Jessie Haynes
(vocals & guitars), Trina Michne (guitars), Alex Sarkis (drums)
and Susan Collins (bass). The song set list was: Prophecy, A Girl,
Another Match, I Don’t Wanna Know, Dracula, I Know, Arizona,
Selling Roses, Castles & Dreams, Temple of the King and Rainbow
Perhaps not surprisingly (considering Jessie’s former musical
influences), Cowgirl Ecstasy present a very gentle acoustic style
of music; creating a very relaxed atmosphere amongst its audience.
Four tracks (Prophecy, A Girl, Arizona and Selling Roses) appeared
on the "Jessie Haynes & Cowgirl Ecstasy – Limited Edition
Compilation" CD that was being sold on Jerry Bloom’s MBTP
After playing her own material, Jessie then performed a version of
Castles & Dreams that some members of the audience gently sang
along to. The song Temple of the King featured Jessie playing electric
guitar. Finally, dedicated to Neil Davies (MBTP), the song Rainbow
Eyes was performed; it was obviously under rehearsed but Neil Davies
appeared "moved" all the same and it was certainly appreciated
as an unexpected surprise.
In between songs, Jessie entertained the audience with a few anecdotes.
She thanked Rob Fodder for the loan of guitars to Trina and herself
(as it was too expensive to bring their own from the U.S.A. due to
the high charges made by American Airlines!)
Jessie recounted how Trina, Susan and herself had been in an all-girl
band when she first met Ritchie, Candice & co. Jessie was then
in Blackmore’s Night during the "Shadow of the Moon"
and "Under a Violet Moon" tours. She told the audience that
during the early Blackmore’s Night rehearsals, each song was
played in many different ways in order to work out which was the best
and then recorded at the end of same day.
the end of the "Under A Violet Moon" tour, Jessie has stayed
in contact with Candice but the two never had time to get together
until recently when Ritchie & Candice invited Jessie to a down
town pub in New York. Ritchie had several tables put together, so
that everyone could sit around them as one large group. Guitars were
then produced and much singing and drinking then ensued!
When Jessie’s Convention performance came to an end, quite a
few fans (myself included) went to the front of the stage to get autographs
from each band member and also to be photographed stood next to Jessie.
The rest of the band members were also overwhelmed by their sudden
rise in popularity! Some fans that had not bought Jessie’s CD
before the performance, hastily rushed to buy a copy from the MBTP
stall, in order to get Jessie to sign it before she disappeared.
A little later, I was privileged to be able to interview Jessie for
about half an hour (albeit hastily improvised in the Limelight Club’s
downstairs café!) I asked if Jessie’s band were playing
any more dates in the UK. The answer was "No"; they had
flown over especially to perform at the Convention (as a special favour
to Jerry Bloom) and were due to fly back to the U.S.A. the next day.
I explained to Jessie that I was researching with a view to writing
an article on Blackmore’s Night stage scenery and costumes.
We thus talked about costumes from Jessie’s perspective.
Jessie said that she liked to dress as a gypsy. She preferred very
bright colours, with very flowing skirts. I mentioned the white top
she sometimes wore on the Live in Germany video. She explained that
her grandmother made that particular garment for her. Jessie also
had other medieval blouses, in white, green or black.
explained that Candice had bought several dresses at Renaissance Fairs.
Apparently, these can be of a one-size-fits–all type. By purchasing
a black bodice (from the Gothic clothing store "Hot Topic"
in New York), Jessie was able to "pull-in" the excess material,
either on her own dress or on one that she might be borrowing from
Candice. Jessie also pointed out that she and Candice had often temporarily
swapped various items of costume for the purpose of film shots.
Another source of costume supply that Jessie had used was Medieval
Mayhem, as she regarded some of their clothes as "beautiful".
Jessie had also made a few costume items herself or in the case of
some dresses, had modified them from off-the-rack items to give them
"jagged edges" to resemble a Witch’s Dress look.
A particular favourite item that Jessie mentioned was a red and black
necklace that also had a half moon and bat on it. This was a special
gift from Candice; presented during the band's very first tour. Jessie
also added: "I've seen them give gifts to lots of new members...
they are very generous that way!" I asked Jessie about her choice
of medieval shoes. She explained that though she had worn footwear,
a lot of the time, she had preferred to perform barefoot! In contrast,
Candice had a large selection of tall suede boots, in different colours.
(That was in 1998; Candice’s wardrobe has expanded considerably
Jessie said that she still wore her medieval costumes, usually when
attending a Blackmore’s Night concert as a member of the audience.
She summarised her time with Blackmore’s Night as "The
best of both worlds; pretending you are medieval but still having
electricity and bathrooms".
I would like to thank the band members of all the bands featured,
who kindly gave me information regarding their music and their contributions
to the Ritchie Blackmore Convention. I would also like to acknowledge
the support given to me by Jerry Bloom, Richard Gillitt, Rob Fodder
and Ray (at the Limelight Club!)
This article was published in co-operation with:
"Black Knight - The Journal of Ritchie Blackmore Fans In Lincolnshire
Crewe is not the most attractive of North English
towns; however the Limelight Club enjoys the reputation as one of
the top rock venues in England. The first ever Ritchie Blackmore convention
was held there on Saturday 22nd October 2004.
C/o Mike Garrett, Email: email@example.com
day was divided into two separate sets, with the afternoon devoted
to rare videos, question and answers sessions and the first UK appearance
of former Blackmore's Night member Jessie Haynes. The evening set
being set aside to accommodate two of the best Blackmore covers
bands namely Burn and Rainbow Rising.
More Black Than Purple editor Jerry Bloom was master
of ceremonies for the event. Following a rare showing of Blackmore's
Night in Sofia 1998, we had his introduction to the event, making
us all feel very welcome indeed. The afternoon session was a lot
fuller that I had expected, and we were soon enjoying Rainbow from
Of course the inevitable technical gremlins appeared,
but were dealt with quickly in good humour, and the show carried
on. The organisers had certainly provided enough for us to watch,
and if that was not enough we soon had a question and answer session
with Rob Fodder. Rob was of course Ritchie's personal assistant
for many years, through Deep Purple, Rainbow and Blackmore's Night.
His answers were very informative and often very amusing.
Following a short break to allow a sound check, Jerry
announced the arrival on stage of the first band of the day. Jessie
Haynes and Cowgirl Ecstasy.
Prophecy, A Girl, Another Match, I Don't Wanna Know,
Dracula, I Know, Arizona, Selling Roses, Castles & Dreams, Temple
of the King, Rainbow Eyes.
It was really good to see Jessie and her band make
such an effort for the convention. They played a selection of their
own material and some Blackmore related covers. Their own material
was generously appreciated by the afternoon crowd. Despite the late
set up and technical gremlins, the band played really well. The
cover of Castles and Dreams was great, highlighting Jessie’s
vocal purity, despite her sore throat. Temple of the King allowed
Jessie a chance to play lead electric guitar. Sadly the cover of
Rainbow Eyes was not so good, with Jessie having to sing in a key
lower than she seemed comfortable with. I guess this might be why
Blackmore's Night has never done the song. Overall the band went
down really well. They were certainly pleasant company over the
weekend, and gave their time to anyone and everyone without any
Stormbringer, Strange Kind of Woman, Woman from Tokyo,
When a Blind Man Cries, Burn, Mistreated, Long Train Running (incorporating
Child in Time & Knocking at Your Back Door as brief instrumental
sequences), Space Trucking, Black Night, Highway Star and Smoke
on the Water (of course!)
Three piece band, and at times the lack of Keyboards
showed. The set started really well, with a great version of Stormbringer.
The guitarist really captured Ritchie's technique, and despite playing
songs from different eras, he also retained the tone suitable for
each song. I was really impressed by the band. They worked really
hard and the enthusiasm helped them to overcome the sometimes weak
sound. The cover of the Doobie Brothers song was really clever,
and the interpolating was really well done. Knocking at your Back
Door was probably the highlight of the set for me. They closed with
a well received version of Smoke. Thoroughly enjoyable set from
the band, one that I really enjoyed and that seemed to go down well
with the crowd.
Kill the King, Miss Mistreated, 16th Century Greensleeves,
Do You Close Your Eyes, Catch The Rainbow, Still I'm Sad, Man on
the Silver Mountain, Since You Been Gone, I Surrender, All Night
Long, Black Night, Stargazer. Encores: Difficult to Cure, Long Live
Rock n' Roll & Smoke on the Water.
the guitarist certainly looked like Ritchie, had all the right moves
and gestures, but the sound wasn't quite right all the time. Certain
songs worked really well, other did not. The rest of the band was
certainly working hard, and the crowd really enjoyed them. However
I did not enjoy them as much as I had Burn. To me they seemed to
try too hard during some numbers, and at times they looked like
a band who had rehearsed all the spontaneity out of their obvious
ability to play the music. It lacked that edge of uncertainty which
you get with Ritchie live. However despite my doubts about the band,
it has to be said they played what they played well. Catch the Rainbow
was very good indeed, and the long version of Man on the Silver
Mountain, including the Blues and Starstruck, was fun. The guitar
demolition and amp explosion was fun to watch, but to me a bit pointless.
The amusing version of Smoke resplendent with the Convention organisers
onstage certainly gave the convention a really wonderful end. The
sight of Jerry waving the broken guitar was hilarious.
So was it all worthwhile, well it was certainly well organized and
the venue was well suited to the conventions needs. Everyone seemed
to have a great time. The only downside for me was trying to find
a taxi after the event, getting one and having to let it go as Mr.
Fodder did his good Samaritan routine and helped out a lady in distress.
We then had a long 20-minute walk back, just making it in time for
My thanks to Jerry, Alan and all at MBTP, Jessie
Haynes and band, Rob and Anihoa, Richard for coming all that way
for three hours, Richard and Splodge, Costas and his wife and finally
Callum for the company on the road.