Feb 282011

I have always had a good memory for faces. Last night, while smoking a cigarette outside the Florida Theatre during the intermission of the Hot Tuna concert, I spotted a face that looked familiar. The man was balding and had well worn facial features.

“That’s the guy who came out of the audience and played bass at the Flo & Eddie concert,” I said to my wife. She was not so sure.

Well, there was only one way to find out. I walked across to the ash-tray and stubbed out my cigarette and as I came back, the man was half walking toward me.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Aren’t you the guy came out of the audience and played bass with Flo & Eddie?”

He looked at me with a slightly puzzled look on his face but confirmed my supposition. “You must have a good memory,” he said.

“I’ve always been good at remembering faces, ” I replied. “But I am not so good at remembering names.”

“I’m Jim Pons,” he said.

Jim Pons reunites with The Turtles

We chatted for a few minutes. Jim is retired now but told me he has formed a blues band and is getting it together. We both agreed that the beauty of music is that it is always with you.

He asked me if I played. I told him I played keyboards but poorly. I had piano lessons from the age of seven but gave them up at 11, a decision I have regretted all my life.

“I carried on playing the piano, buying Beatles sheet music,” I said. “I even bought the sheet music for So Happy Together.”

He smiled. Jim was the bass player for the Turtles and recorded that track.

I said that I wished I had continued with the lessons until I was 15 or 16 and then I would have been well set to become a decent keyboards player.

It turned out that Jim’s parents made him take piano lessons as a youngster and he gave them up.

I would have loved to have chatted longer and talked about Jim’s playing days with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention but it was time to head back inside the theatre for the second half of the show.

“You know, you could pass for George Harrison,” he said, as I held the door of the theatre open for him. “It was his birthday on Friday.”

“You are not the first person to have told me that,” I said. “I was in Las Vegas to get married when I first moved to the States and a guy across the street yelled, “George Harrison!””

Jim’s comment reinforced a similarity that goes back more than 50 years. When I first started at Hanley High School in 1964, which also coincided with me giving up the piano lessons, my classmates used to call me George because I resembled George Harrison, more so in those days when my hairstyle vaguely resembled a Beatle cut.

In the 1980s when I was photographing non-league football matches for The Reporter Group of Newspapers, the fans of Hyde United thought I resembled Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones. As I took up my position behind the goal, the fans would chant “Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman, Bill Wyman!”

I could never quite see the similarity myself but then again I hadn’t consumed three or four pints of Boddingtons.

Still, I can think of a lot worse people to resemble than Bill Wyman and George Harrison.