Larry & Jimi: Let me stand next to your Fire

SMOKE ON THE WATER by Deep Purple is a famous song about the true story of when in 1971, Frank Zappa and his band The Mothers of Invention played a gig at Montreux only for the gig to be abandoned when a disastrous fire swept through the venue. The heat from fire was so intense that it melted much of the onstage equipment!  (Hear more in this interview)

Drumming for Zappa that night was the legendary Liverpudlian drummer Aynsley Dunbar, who almost became drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but lost out to Mitch Mitchell on the toss of a coin.

An only slightly similar story played out when Larry (at that time known as ‘Larry Arends’) and his band Wimple Winch supported the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Stockport, Greater Manchester. This was at the newly opened venue ‘The Sinking Ship’ on Sunday 12th February 1967.

The Sinking Ship was owned and run by Wimple Winch manager Michael Carr. It was in Royal Oak Yard behind Little Underbank in central Stockport. Read more at  Tales from The Sinking Ship .

Larry and Wimple Winch lived there and it was very popular with the local mods and scooter boys and girls.

It seemed the perfect base for the band. Perhaps too perfect.

LAWRENCE KING: “Wimple Winch was formed out of the ashes of the band Just 4 Men when Parlophone dropped their option to re-sign us. We had only done a few gigs when we met our future manager, Mike Carr, who was in the process of opening up a venue in Stockport. I knew him from school days so the rapport was good and after a discussion amongst ourselves we teamed up with him and began to help get the club ready for the opening.

In return we acquired the band residency at the club, although when Mike announced he was calling it The Sinking Ship I did feel a slight foreboding that it was a name tempting providence. However the address Royal Oak Yard had a ring to it, and having office and flat space above it meant we could keep all the business side of things under one roof and a big bonus was we could use the place for rehearsals whenever it was closed.

The ‘Ship was an assortment of wine storage cellars which were converted into a night club. It was very much akin to The Cavern in Liverpool, for sound and atmosphere. The [brick] building backed on to other buildings whose entrances were in another road that ran behind Royal Oak Yard. It was indeed cold there sometimes, however once it got full-ish the place was hot and condensation used to run down the walls.

So with a guaranteed two or three gigs a week, no need to move the gear when rehearsing, living space above and an office to tout for gigs from it looked like we had turned another corner!

Despite rapidly starting to attract punters to the club, it seemed a good idea to try and book a major chart act to really launch the club, however acts that were even reasonably ‘famous’ were charging prohibitive fees for an appearance. However one agent we knew suggested a new band who were due to have the first single released and … a basic affordable fee was agreed.

At first, Mike Carr was worried that he should have spent more on a ‘name’ but after ‘Hey Joe’ was in the Top Ten it was a full house.

On the night Hendrix appeared, we were the support act. I remember distinctly that Redding and Mitchell arrived first in a minibus [driven by Gerry Stickells] with the gear. Hendrix came in by rail with his girlfriend and we went and picked them up [from Manchester] and then drove them into Stockport [only 6.1 miles away]. There was no sign of manager Chas Chandler.

For weeks afterwards, the sound Jimi created echoed around the place, despite one band member who actually thought that we had blown Hendrix away! Needless to say l disagreed and could only remember wondering how big could he actually become?

Jimi’s influence was immediate though as I noticed everyone turned up the volume a few notches after that night and this move in itself injected more life into our music.

Afterwards, we drove Hendrix back into Manchester and took him to a well-known watering hole [Rails nightclub] were we spent a couple of hours drinking and talking music until his train was due in. When we last saw Hendrix (cape flowing) on the platform at Piccadilly station boarding that early morning express train to London he was engaged in a hot dispute with his girlfriend as they disappeared into their carriage.”

In 1967, there was a fire at The Sinking Ship. Carr wasn’t there at the night of the fire. Dee and myself had to escape from the upstairs flat using knotted sheets, and Dee carried Carr’s pet dog out. A lot of our gear was ruined that night and a refusal by the insurance company to pay for new instruments signalled the beginning of the end for the band.

It was the end of the Sinking Ship and, as a result the end of Larry’s band Wimple Winch – the fire destroyed the group’s housing and equipment and, as a result, Fontana Records decided to drop them.

Wimple Winch’s final single was the song ‘Rumble on Mersey Square South’ inspired by their time there.

More info about Wimple Winch on their Wikipedia page:


VIDEO Extract: Live in Paris 1970

The opening Track only from our concert in Paris for French TV – less to download if you are having difficulty with the full concert download elsewhere on this site.