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Skylinesongs The Cast

In order of appearance


I'd like to thank the thirty or so friends and musicians who supported and put up with me over the years, some of whom I may not have mentioned in the foregoing saga, and to apologise if you ever found me overbearing or too demanding; I just wanted to make the bands sound good. As the years take their toll I hope you've all, in your own way, found some measure of peace and musical fulfilment.

For those I haven't seen for years, please feel free to contact me if you come across this website. I'd love to hear from you, especially if I've forgotten, misplaced or misrepresented you in the story!

Harry Heppingstall

(Drums, 1976-?) - a drummer who played with us for only a short time, a matter of weeks I think.

I always remembered him firstly because of his alliterative name, Harry Heppingstall from Hinckley... but also because he seemed a genuine odd 'muso'. When he played with us he played loud and firm, but said he wasn't interested in practices, he'd busk on the night, and on his first gig he didn't mix with the rest of us in the dressing room, but instead took out a newspaper and a flask of tea to relax with!   I now understand he’d been pro since the 60s and was looking for any and every gig he could find. Not a good match for us personnel-wise...

2014 update: I just Googled Harry and it looks (left) that he’s in a classy hardworking 50s rock outfit, ‘Paul Leegan and the Legends’.  (Harry will be they guy holding the sticks...)  Again, it’s great to see that another stalwart is still making music!

According to their web site Harry played with The Matadors, a hard working and well respected 60s band based in Coventry.  In 1964 they signed with the legendary recording pioneer Joe Meek as their recording manager and cut a number of sides with him.  Now that IS impressive!

Denis Anderson

(Bass, 1981-1989) - One of the best bass players we ever had.

Denis was a friendly, straight forward guy with no side to him, and he played great, solid bass. A career move took him to Leeds and where he became an IT professional. In 2008 he found this web site (like many others mentioned here!) and he's doing very well, now residing in sunny Devon after living in France for a while. Here's a photo from 2007 (left) which seems to show that the years haven't taken as heavy a toll as they have on some of us! Denis still has his trusty Fender Precision and although he hasn't played in a band for a while he still enjoys the buzz from gigging, but now as part of a choir.

Roger (?)

(Keyboards, 1984-?) - Roger was a somewhat enigmatic young man who played with us for a few months in either 1984 or 1985.

He had a serious, even sad, demeanor that was to do with the abrupt loss of his father who'd died tragically only a few years before, falling out of a tree in the family garden. Roger was an excellent keyboards player and we were able to put a couple of Toto numbers in the set which we did really well. We also rehearsed a pretty fair version of Emerson Lake and Palmer's 'Fanfare for the Common Man'. Whether we were planning on hammering that out during someone's wedding reception I can't recall now!

Roger left to try and go professional. I hope he fulfilled his dreams.

Jim Mercer

(Guitar, 1989 - 2012) - Jim's an excellent confidant, smoother-of-waters, techie and all-round good companion, and a pretty good shot as well.  He was a solid second guitarist and vocalist for 23 years in the various incarnations of ‘Sugarcane’, ‘Blues Deluxe’ and ‘The Skyline Band’.

Head of IT in a manufacturing company, Jim is very intelligent, perceptive and humorous. He's naturally placid and I can honestly say I've never seen him in a bad mood or angry (sorry Jim, maybe I miss the signals!). His easy going demeanour was a good balance to my frequent over-earnestness. He was so easy going I never saw a bead of sweat on his face at a live gig, even though the atmosphere was hot and I'd long since melted into a salty puddle next to my pedal board.  Laurie often exhorted Jim to 'move about a bit' during performances to at least let the audience know he was enjoying it, but to no avail!

Although he left the band in 2011 Jim and I have been avid shooters for many years and we still go on the occasional Sundays to punch holes in paper at 100 yards, (the combination of rock and roll and shooting as hobbies has diminished my aural acuity considerably) although the main stimulation from these forays is putting the world to rights on the car journeys to and form the rifle range.

Photos top: Jim in 1994, bottom: in October 2009.

Mick Jennings

(Keyboards, 1988 and 1995-2000) - Mick was another good musician I was glad to have with us. He had a natural ear for music and contributed a lot in terms of versatility and especially formal musical training.

He was a little parsimonious though when it came to buying equipment and unlike other keyboard players who like to splash out on the latest synthesisers Mick made do with a an 'economic' entry-level model.  But, to coin a phrase, ‘beware the man with only one keyboard - he probably knows how to use it!’  Mick didn't usually carry his own leads and spares and the phrase most associated with Mick was "Anyone got a spare battery?" !

Mick left in September 2000 because he didn’t like any conflict, even when it was slight. I think Laurie and I were responsible as were trying to improve the band’s  ‘drive’ at this time and although we were totally happy with Mick he didn’t like the tension this was causing overall.

John Ciriani

(Bass, 1994-2000) - John was the sort of guy who always seemed irrepressibly happy. Nothing seemed to get him down and when we arrived at rehearsals or gigs he was always 'Hail fellow, well met", which at least helped get proceedings off to a cheery start! Thanks John.

His bass style was a tad low in the mix and ill-defined for our tastes and, as I said elsewhere, I once described it unkindly as a "rumbling miasma" (sorry John), but there was no doubting his professionalism, reliability and affability. He just loves to play as much as possible, whether it's in bands, pantomime orchestras or whatever, and that's what it's all about.

I’m glad to say John continues to ply his axe around Leamington Spa and in the two photos here he doesn’t seem to have changed one iota between June 1995 (top) and today. What’s the secret John?

David Eyre

(Keyboards, 1995) - David (pictured here in 1995) joined us for a few months until career and young family commitments made it necessary for him to pull out, very reluctantly.

Although just starting to learn keyboards and never having played in a band before, David played what was needed and had an empathy with the other players. He would have made a good long term member.

Andy Kneeshaw

(Keyboards/backing vocals, 2000) - A super keyboard player.  We had a few sporadic practices with Andy around 2000/2001.

Andy was extremely patient with us, letting us use his company's spacious, carpeted showroom at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh, and calling on him to complete the line-up whenever we (Laurie, Jim and myself) found what we thought was a decent bass player.

We rehearsed two bass players with Andy (Barry Kingsbeer and Tony English below), and in the end Andy said "Look, call me again when you've got a steady bass player". I felt too embarrassed to do so, thinking we'd messed him around a bit, even though we later found that steady person in Charlie Douglas.

Here is a recent photograph of Andy.

Part 2

Andrew Strain

(Keyboards, 2003) - A pleasant, low-key Scot, he had a nice playing style and could have been a great long-term member of the band.

As mentioned on the ‘2000s’ page, he and Rachel (see below) became a couple and abruptly left the band to get married, as we understood at the time. I was disappointed as we had the makings of a good six-piece (two guitars, drums, bass, keyboards, lead vocalist).  When I made contact with Andrew recently he told me that although Rachel had proposed she let Andrew down and it didn’t happen, but Andrew later found his soul partner and is still enjoying ‘musical interludes’ which is very pleasing to know.

Left: an up to date photo of Andrew.   

Barry Kingsbeer

(Bass, 2000) - As I described earlier on the ‘2000s’ page, the band wasn't big enough for Barry (pictured Left) and myself, and Jim Mercer demonstrated his perspicacity when he spotted this and flagged it to me at the outset! I couldn't help asking Barry to join though and still admire his straight-ahead, driving style of bass playing. A pity it didn’t work out.

Tony English

(Bass, 2000) - Tony, hailing from Stratford-Upon-Avon, made hand-made jewellery for a living and answered one of our ads in 2000 for Barry's replacement. He stayed for two practices then the band he'd left that prompted his finding us reformed again and he was asked to return. Ah, the politics of band lineups!

Charlie Douglas

(Bass, 2001 - 2004) - A cheerful Geordie, Charlie was a top-notch bass player who was with us a couple of years to May 2004. He always knew his bass parts, was great company and a strong contributor, as opposed to some members we've had who seem to wait for instructions (and then pick fault with the instructions). Charlie was certainly one of the best players we had and I think he would have stayed if it weren't for the gig May 2004 that didn't measure up to the high standards we'd all set ourselves at the rehearsals.

Photo: Charlie at the infamous and terminal May 2004 gig.

Rachel Harris

(Vocals, 2003) - See also under Andrew above. In hindsight, an odd and fickle lady. When Andrew updated me recently he said Rachel left the band ‘because of my ‘tantrums’.  Obviously between her inexperience and selfish nature she couldn’t see the difference between ‘tantrums’ and serious processes necessary to pull a bunch of musicians into a proper unit.

Mark Deeley

(Keyboards, 2004) - Poor Mark joined us as we were frantically rehearsing for the May 2004 gig that saw the breakup of ‘After Midnight’.

The gig in was his first ever public appearance (photo L. top). He was a novice and hadn’t got the necessary skills and experience yet to play in a band to be fair. His particular keyboards motifs would pop up sometimes a bar or two away from their proper place! Actually, on the night Mark acquitted himself well, although from where I was positioned I couldn’t hear much due to the dreadful acoustics and the way we were setup.

We had an email from Mark a year or so later asking if we knew anything a particular lady whom he thought had propositioned him as we were loading out that night. She'd made an observation about helping him put his organ away or similar (fah-nar, fah-nar). It turns out poor Mark had made numerous return trips to the venue (a golf club) in the hope of bumping into her again.

Mark became news in 2011 (photo bottom left) when he was prosecuted for killing a neighbour’s Alsatian dog that was badly attacking Mark’s. He was cleared, quite rightly.

Emma Wilkinson

(Lead Vocals, 2007-2010) - Emma was a wonderful, natural singer and was a major asset to the band during her stay.

She has a truly natural ability to deliver a song, i.e. with soul and commitment, never sounding like she was only 'going through the motions'. Whether singing live or recording she always hit things right on, and never needed a second take, or multiple rehearsals. She had some personal difficulties and had to drop her commitment to the band, which we understood.

I’m glad to say Emma fully recovered and became a lot happier. She settled down with her partner and they had a baby in 2013. I hope she still sings occasionally; that superb voice needs to be heard!  We miss her greatly and wish her all the very best.

Photos show Emma at our first rehearsal Spring 2007 (top) and at Emma’s last gig with us October 2009.

Ant Collins

(Second guitar and vocals, 2012 - 2014)

After Jim Mercer left Laurie and I auditioned some guitarists, of which Anthony was the best in terms of skills, experience and likely fit in terms of band chemistry.  We made a good choice; Ant fitted in well, was very enthusiastic, played reasonable guitar and was always cheerful. But sadly he was also capable, along with Helen (below), of being duplicitous and treacherous as I discovered later.  He and Helen had been secretly rehearsing with another band two or three months before the last lineup of Skyline folded, the only reason for the secrecy being to trouser the money form the last few gigs. This sort of behaviour goes on with bands however, but it’s still disappointing when someone you regarded as a friend does something so shitty.

Photo: Ant at an open air gig in summer 2013.

Helen Durkin

(Lead Vocals, 2012 - 2014)

Helen was our lead singer until April 2014.

This was only the second band Helen had played in (and it showed occasionally), although she had performed in amateur shows, etc. since school. Although being with us for almost two years during which we all gelled pretty well together and made some good music, Helen became gradually dissatisfied with some of the inherent constraints in a band, e.g. she always thought that the lead vocalist should be much louder in the mix than anything else, and she also wasn’t comfortable with our using the support of backing tracks. Our musical tastes were very different also. All in all a happy parting of the ways from my perspective!

Photos top: Helen in 2012, bottom: in March 2014

Click to return to My Music Journey page

Christine Seal

(Lead Vocals, 2016 - 2017)

Christine found her love of singing at Primary school, then continued in choirs and folk clubs, progressing ultimately to sing with the Rugby Philharmonic Choir. Her favourite singers are Alison Moyet, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush and Harry Nilsson, plus many more.  Her music tastes are equally various: soul, funk, lounge jazz, electro pop, and the New Romantics - she’s a  big 80s music fan.  Christine has a seven year old black Labrador named Benji: “He has a grey beard…he should probably be in the band.”

Christine left the band in 2017 in order to move home to Devon.