When The Ravens rocked The Langdon

In November1964 Syd Alder, owner of Port Alfred’s Langdon hotel on the west of the Kowie River, welcomed the Ravens rock band from Grahamstown (now Makhanda) to audition or do trial runs as the hotel resident band for the 1964/1965 Christmas holiday.

ROCKING RAVENS: The Ravens band heats up prior to a wedding party in the Graham hotel ballroom in November 1964 prior to heading to Port Alfred and a Christmas-season agreement at the Langdon hotel. The members are, from left, Doug Pashley, Gavin Reid, Sid Penney, Piet Gerber and Peter Muddle. Photo: SUPPLIED

The auditions were bop sessions and youths’ dances over weekends, and the Ravens five-man attire was positive and all set to rock! The band’s supervisor was Dudley Raven (after whom the group was called) and the members were Piet Gerber (vocals), Doug Pashley (lead guitar), Gavin Reid (drums), Peter Muddle (bass guitar) and Sid Penney (rhythm guitar). Gerber and Penney were operating at the time; the other 3 were Graeme College students.

The Ravens rocked the rafters of the outside dance flooring and the auditions went so well, that they got news by phone the following week that they had actually been reserved for 3 weeks over Christmas1964 The agreement required Friday and Saturday night dances, plus Wednesday night ‘mixed drink hour’ music of a more suppressed nature.

Prior to the auditions, the Ravens had actually gotten motivating compliments from the well known Staccatos band from Johannesburg who had actually been on an across the country trip of South Africa. The Ravens were an assistance act for the Staccatos at a jam-packed Grahamstown City Hall, and the Staccatos were satisfied with the regional band.

Having formerly supplied the music for myriad functions in Grahamstown, the Ravens were eagerly anticipating ‘striking the Kowie’ and rocking the Langdon. They had actually even played a couple of tunes prior to the cinema at His Majesty’s Theatre (HM) throughout period at a Saturday afternoon matinee.

RAVENS FANS: While they dipped into the Langdon hotel in Port Alfred over the 1964 Christmas holiday, 2 members left the Ravens band and 2 brand-new members later on changed them. Here, 4 Ravens are with Assumption Convent students while establishing their devices for a February 1965 performance at the school. L to R: Errol Fellows, Gene Smith, Gavin Reid and Sid Penney. Not present for the picture: Doug Pashley. Photo: SUPPLIED

The five-member Ravens band came to the beautiful setting of the Langdon hotel in Beach Road along with the Kowie. Today it’s the Ferryman’s hotel and not the ‘Grand Old Lady’ it was back in1964 The three-storey hotel was within a simple walk of the hugely-popular West Beach which drew in crowds of holidaymakers from up north and somewhere else over the vacation duration.

Back then, rock bands throughout the nation used ‘uniforms’ and looked oh so wise on phase. The Ravens’ clothing made up satin-type waistcoats (black for the singer, intense red for the others), black pants, white t-shirts and black bow ties.

Those who understood the Langdon in the 1960 s and 1970 s, and those who pass the contemporary Ferryman’s understand that there’s a parking lot in between the hotel itself and Beach Road. Listed below the parking lot were the covered outside dance flooring and yards. The dance flooring featured a roofing and was surrounded by a low wall and fence– perfect for summertime!

There was a phase for entertainers and electrical plugs galore for amplifiers and other devices.

Band members had sufficient space to move about on phase and dancers had sufficient space to gyrate and twist to the music of the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Ventures and all the others of that age.

Numerous tables and chairs were spread about the adequate yard, with simple access to the bar location. The dance flooring buzzed and the bar buzzed, the Ravens raved and rocked while the customers danced– and the waiters waltzed and scampered backward and forward, trays in hand, with beverages of the brewed kind. Oh, Christmas time in the Kowie!

Occasionally, Langdon management made spaces offered to the Ravens– simply among the benefits for the stars, you understand! Langdon management as soon as organized a ‘larney’ dance for older folk on its dance flooring, so the Ravens crossed the river for a rock ‘n roll night at the Lagoon Café, where the Royal Alfred Marina is now. In this time singer Piet Gerber and guitar player Peter Muddle left the band, however Gavin Reid and Doug Pashley took control of the singing. Not long after, Gene Smith (vocals and guitar) and Errol Fellows (bass guitar) signed up with the Ravens and showed a big acquisition.

ICON: The beyond the Ferryman’s hotel, in Port Alfred, where The Ravens were at the heart of Christmas in the Kowie. Submit picture: ROB KNOWLES

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve were the very best nights for the Ravens: the crowds numbered a number of hundred– and young boy, did they celebration! The streets and lanes near the Langdon were loaded with cars and trucks night after night– so too the beachfront locations.

The Nash Rambler offered band transportation, amongst Morris Minors and Minis, perhaps likewise a Studebaker Lark and a Chrysler Valiant. There were likewise Ford Anglias, Ford Cortinas, plus Vauxhalls, Triumphs, and Borgwards– possibly likewise a ‘buzz-bike’ or more, maybe a Santa Maria 50 cc or a Puch. Keep in mind, that was the period of jukeboxes, LP records, Coke drifts, stovepipe denims, ducktail hairstyles, luminescent socks and Chappies chewing gum!

Syd Alder has actually given that handed down, so too have Dudley Raven, Peter Muddle, Doug Pashley and Gene Smith. Gavin Reid resides in Cape Town, Errol Fellows in Durban; he still plays bass guitar, while I, Sid Penney, continue to reside in Makhanda. Absolutely nothing was ever become aware of initial vocalist Piet Gerber as soon as he left the band.

Every time the author drives past the Langdon (oops, the Ferryman’s) he keeps in mind the delighted, carefree days of youths bopping, rocking and twisting away on the dance flooring.

And now all that is simply a memory, covered by a parking lot.

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