Fabulous 208, 8th June 1968
THE FAMILY DEE
“Dave was very religious – he loved going to church. He always said he was going to be a priest. ‘I’m going to give up my life to God’, he’d say. I’d tell him if he wanted to give his life up to anyone, he could give it up to me!” And Mrs. Harman burst out laughing.
Dave Dee’s mum is slight and pretty, incredibly young-looking to be the mother of such a big son. As for his dad, every time he smiles at you – and that’s often – there’s Dave! They’re a very nice family, this; close, able to talk to one another. So who better to talk about Dave than his mum and dad?
“He was a happy, contented baby. I’m sure all mothers say that, but he must have been or I wouldn’t have been able to have a part-time job, hairdressing. It was war-time, of course, and when the sirens went I’d wrap him up and rush down the stairs – he was never bothered.
“My husband was away in the army and I was living with my father. Dave called him Dad because he’d hear me call him that; his own father was ‘Daddy’. David only saw him when he was on leave, of course, and one day he asked where Daddy was. A friend told him he was in France with the girlies – and after that, that’s what he told everyone!
“He was eighteen months before he could walk. He used to crawl along on his bottom – he was very tubby. The garden gates were gone because it was war-time, and he’d be down the garden path and off. The times I found him near the main road – once sitting right in the middle playing, with all the traffic round him!
“Once he could walk, that was when the nightmares started. There was nothing you could do to stop him, he was just adventuresome. I’d watch him out the window, and the minute I turned my back, he’d be off, as fast as he could run.
“I’d give him my old ration books to play with. One day a workman saw him running off down the road with a ration book and a penny. ‘I’m going shopping for Mummy!’ he said. He’d seen me do it! Often I’d find him by a river near our home, which really frightened me. One day I was chasing him, and lost him. He’d hidden in a tar bin! (Dave came in and heard that bit. His face split in that familiar grin as he looked at his mother. “I remember watching you through a little hole in the side,” he said.)
When he was two he could listen to a song on the radio and memorise it. ‘Shall I sing you a song Mummy?’ he’d say – and it was quite good! Put him to bed and he’d really create. One day we had friends in, and David kept going out of bed and coming downstairs to see what was going on. In the end I marched him off to bed and said ‘You get up once more and I’ll give you such a hiding!’
“He grinned at me. ‘Would you my darling?’ he said. He was the cheekiest little monkey!
“While I was out at work, a friend looked after him, and she spoilt him a bit. If I grumbled at him, he’d go upstairs and pack this little suitcase. ‘I’m going to live with Auntie, Auntie doesn’t grumble at me!’ I just let him go; he either came home later or I fetched him – he’d have forgotten all about being grumbled at.
“When he was four, I put him in a private nursery school. I was so worried that first day – but it was me who did the crying! Dave rushed off into the school without even saying goodbye. He loved it. When he was five-and-a-half, my husband came home, and he wanted Dave to go to an ordinary school. He’d done very well at kindergarten – in fact they offered to reduce the fees if we kept him there! At the local junior school they put him with his own age group, but after a while they moved him up higher.”
“I used to meet him off the bus when he was younger,” said Dave’s dad. “You should have seen him! He went off on the morning all clean and tidy, and smart. And he’d come home with his shirt out of his trousers, tie under one year, stockings down to his ankles and cap hanging off!
“One day I couldn’t beieve my eyes when I saw him. He was dressed in all different bits of clothing. They used to go for nature walks at school. It was winter and the river was iced over. Everyone had been told not to go near it. Dave had! And he’d fallen right through the ice!”
“Dave’s always loved animals,” said his mum. “His first word wasn’t Mummy or Daddy – it was bow wow! We were a waifs and strays home. Anything hurt was brought home. We had a jackdaw in a box in the mounge for ages; some boys had hurt it. Dave was terribly upset, he can’t bear anything to be hurt. A little while back, he knocked a cat down driving. He stayed with it half the night until the vet came.
“Another tiem there were five puppies which were going to be put to sleep if homes couldn’t be found for them. Dave wanted one. I told him we just couldn’t – I was out at work all day, you see. He said if homes weren’t found for them, he was bringing them all home, all five of them. I was frightened to come home that day in case there were puppies all over the place, but homes had been found.”
“Do you remember the first cup of tea he made us? Mr Harman asked her. “It had about a million tea leaves floating on the top and was almost stone cold! ‘Didn’t you boil the water?’ I asked him. ‘Oh, I couldn’t wait that long,’ said Dave. Of course, we had to drink it!”
Even we he was tiny, he liked messing around in the kitchen,” said his mother. “Often I’d get in to find that Dave had put the dinner on for me. When he was about nine, one night we had baked potatoes. He put them on top instead of in the oven, and the fat caught fire! When we got home, the walls and the ceiling were black – and Dave was hiding in the garden! It took us all night to clean up.
“When he was about twelve, he had this crush on a girl at his school. He’d come down the road carrying her satchel for her, and keep telling me about her ‘pretty long hair’. He had a large group of friends. They’d go over this folly and have picnics and make tree-houses and all that. The times he came home with the seat of his pants missing!”
“Once he was sitting on the floor so I wouldn’t see!” laughed Dad. “He liked school, but he wasn’t a brilliant scholar. He liked history – and sport, any sort of sport.
“At school, he made records for the 100 yardsand 200 yards – and they’re still standing. He got a shield for swimming, too, and he was in the rugby and cricket teams. He’s always been football-crazy, too. He’s always played football, but stopped in the last two years because getting injured wouldn’t help the group.
“When he was twelve, he applied – right off his own bat – to go to a tehnical college. First we knew about it was when we got a letter about an interview. Dave lived there for three years as a boarder – it made them stand on their own feet, they had to look after themselves, serve their own meals, etc. He was going to be a carpenter first, then he changed to heating and plumbing. Then when he was sixteen, he applied to join the police force.
“We were away on holiday, and when he came home a neighbour pushed this letter into his hand. I’ve never seen him quite so chuffed as he was he knew he’d been accepted! He’d always been a cub or scout – got all his badges except the Queen’s Badge – and I think that helped.
“It was some time before he got his uniform and then he didn’t tell me. I answered the door one evening and there stood this copper. ‘Mr Harman?’ he asked, I was shaking, wondering what I’d done. Then I realised it was Dave!
By then it was obvious he was keen on music. He’d been in the church choir for years and he could sing then!” he added with a grin. “And he had a go at playing an accordian.”
His mum took up the tale. “While he was still at college, he took a summer job on a farm to save up for a guitar. He was helping to bring in the harvest – it was man’s work, humping round 200 pound bags of grain. But he got his guitar – for £25, bought me some perfume and some cigarettes for his dad.”
Dave came in then wanting to know “what lies you’ve told about me!” And the three started talking over old times. About the time when Dave and his group travelled to gigs in a Ford 8, the drums starpped on top, two people plus two guitars in the front, the other two squashed in the back either side of the amplifiers with their stage suits hanging down either side! And about when Dave’s group, The Boppers, wanted to change their name. Their stage suits were years old, but had to be kept and they had “B” on them. So the new name had to start with B! Eventually they became Dave Dee and The Bostons, the name they kept right up to the first record.
“But let’s be honest,” said Dave. “You weren’t pleased when I left the police force and went into pop, were you?”
“All of us were thrilled when Dave was a policeman,” I was told. “And upset when he left.
“It was the security really, early retirement and all that. And he only did jobs afterwards like working in a factory, cleaning windows, driving a crane, anything to earn money so he could carry on with the group. But it was Dave’s own life.”
“And now,” I asked, “do you still think Dave made a mistake when he left the police.” They looked at Dave and at each other. And the proud expressions on their faces answered for them.
[Next week Dave Dee begins an exclusive series of articles in which he comments frankly on the things that most interest him and you.]
The following week (June 15th, 1968), Dave Dee started his first “Dave Dee Digs” column in Fabulous 208, which would last into 1970.
All the scans above coming from this particular issue of “Fabulous 208″ have been kindly provided by RL Daly.