SITTING quietly in the dark, virtually unnoticed by the youngsters arriving at the small hall in Lymington for that night’s concert was one of the world’s biggest rock stars. A man more used to playing to half a million fans rather than just 400.
It was only when he strolled out into the spotlight on stage that the audience realised they were about to witness one of the most remarkable nights of Jimi Hendrix’s life.
Those privileged enough to be there on that date – 31st May 1969 – would never forget it. At the time Hendrix was the highest paid musician in the world; he headlined Woodstock the same year and the Isle of Wight festival the next.
Responsible for getting the great man to play at The Malt Loft, a former grain store at the top of town, was Lymington-based music and club promoter Dave Burningham.
He had transformed the loft into The Chords Club where he staged Saturday night concerts so local youngsters could have “somewhere to go where they could hear great music”.
As he puts it: “Well, they certainly did that night! I had booked a band called Eire Apparent from Belfast which Jimi part-managed together with Chas Chandler from Eric Burdon’s rock band The Animals. I’d advertised the gig in the A&T but no one arriving that night expected Jimi himself to be there.
“I had been told by Chas that there was a remote chance Jimi might come to see the band as he was in Ireland at the time. When I walked into the hall and saw him sitting there I could hardly believe it.
“When he went on stage it was just incredible. As it dawned on the audience it was actually Jimi they went crazy.”
Dave (75) describes the Jimi Hendrix gig as “a jewel of a historic event”. Incredibly, following it Jimi and Eire Apparent headed round to Dave’s parents’ house in Southbourne Road, Highfield, Lymington, where his mum Mabel made them cups of tea and bacon sandwiches.
As Dave laughs: “That was real rock and roll!” adding “I actually found Jimi very quiet and shy and humble, as if he hardly was aware of the iconic musician he was and certainly not anything like his stage personae.
“The next year he invited me to the IOW festival and I went backstage to see him.”
A hand-drawn poster of the Eire Apparent gig was recently posted on social media by Dave’s younger sister Lois who lives in Switzerland. It went “viral” bringing Dave new attention from Hendrix fans all over the globe.
But it was not just Jimi Hendrix that Dave managed to bring down to Lymington to perform during his career as a top musical promoter.
Elton John, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Long John Baldry, Procol Harem, Manfred Mann Band, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash and Long John Baldry all appeared at Dave’s clubs.
Even the Rolling Stones put in guest appearances when Bill Wyman performed countless times with his own band “Moon’s Train.”
Carefully stored away near his Bournemouth home, Dave has unique photos, posters, and tape recordings dating from those times.
Dave describes it as a: “A kaleidoscope of coloured historical musical events over decades.”
As a boy growing up in London, Dave would eagerly await his dad Ken’s return from the EMI factory where he worked. He often brought home 78s of Bill Haley and the Comets. Elvis Presley and Little Richard among many other stars at that time.
Dave said: “I had a wind-up record player and I can still picture the actual record labels. I was so excited listening to music, it was all I ever thought about.”
But a career in showbiz was something Dave could never have dreamed about then. After his parents moved down to Lymington he went to Brockenhurst Grammar before applying to join Loughborough University to train as a PE teacher.
But he changed his mind at the last minute and instead joined Barclays bank as a junior clerk.
Dave was so good at the job he was earmarked as a future manager. But in his spare time he had started putting on discos and concerts – something that didn’t go down well with his boss at the bank.
Dave revealed: “Banks had a very stuffy image then, and being involved with anything to do with music was very frowned upon.
“My first disco was called The Power of Two and it became hugely popular. I ran it at St Thomas’ parish hall and sometimes at a room above the Angel pub.
“Soon I progressed to putting on live concerts at what I called the Chords Club which at first was also held at the parish hall.
“That’s where Elton John and Rod Stewart appeared.
“Elton, then called Reg Dwight, appeared on the keyboards for Long John Baldry’s band Bluesology in December 1966. I’ve got the photo to prove it!”
“Rod Stewart was guest vocalist as he had been in LJB’s band Steampacket. Elton was very quiet and reserved while Rod just mucked about making everyone laugh.”
It was at the bank that Dave first met Bill Wyman when he came into the Lyndhurst branch of Barclays to cash a cheque for £25 in the early ’60s.
Dave said: “I recognised him instantly but I followed bank procedure of asking for ID which Bill provided in the form of his driving licence.
“I then rang up his local bank in Kent to ask them if the customer was good for the money. When I told the girl on the other end the name she said ‘Yes’ then screamed ‘You do know who he is? He’s one of the Rolling Stones!’
“I gave Bill his money and he smiled at me and said ‘You’re quite young to be doing this.’
“I told him that actually music was my first love. I said I had a great collection of it at home and that I also ran a disco in Lymington.
“He said ‘That’s interesting, I love music as well’ I asked him to come over to my home to listen to some of my collection. He arrived that night and we sat up until 3am the next day, listening to loads of stuff, kept going with my mum’s famous bacon sarnies.”
That meeting was the start of a remarkable friendship that endures to this day. Bill went on to become best man at Dave’s wedding in Lymington to wife Sue in 1970 and is godfather to the couple’s two sons Lee-Jay and Ross.
Dave said: “Bill used to often come and stay at my parents’ Lymington home and if word got round the road would be blocked with fans.
“It was actually reported by the A&T newspaper at the time, that one morning we woke to find six girls camped in two small tents on my parents’ front lawn!
“Another time Bill came down with Keith Richards and they decided they wanted to go 10-pin bowling which was all the rage.
“A friend who ran a security company locally managed to get 10 lanes closed off for us at the Top Rank bowling alley in Bournemouth for midnight.
“The funniest thing was that as I was going to the toilet I bumped into Rod Stewart who had just finished a gig in the town. He put his arm round me, looked at Bill and Keith and said: ‘One day I’m going to be as famous as those guys!’”
‘Tears started rolling down my face’
Shortly after meeting Bill, Dave realised he had to make a choice about his future. He said: “The bank manager sat me down and told me how I could have a wonderful career with a generous pension at the end but I would have to give up my music business.
“I told him I couldn’t do that, at which point he said ‘but you get a gold watch when you retire!’ That did it for me, I was out the door soon after.”
Dave was now free to plough all his time into what he loved most – music. A career that has spanned six decades.
Dave says he has never been fazed by meeting superstars. He said: “I’ve always found they just want to be treated like anyone else. Through Bill I’ve regularly met all the Stones and they’ve just talked to me like an old friend.
“One time I was sitting with Keith Richards backstage at a Bournemouth concert when he played me some guitar riffs, then asked me what I thought of it. I said it was great – it went on to become their massive hit Satisfaction. For me that is a priceless memory.”
Dave’s life is littered with such moments. He credits much of his success to the woman who has been at his side for nearly 50 years, wife Sue, of whom he says: “She is my true rock. I owe her so much.”
Recalling how they met, he said: “Sue walked into the Chords Club one night and I just fell instantly in love with her. At the time she was dating singer Cat Stevens and I ‘stole’ her from him.
“He was very forgiving because he actually sang his hit Morning Has Broken at our wedding. We got married at St Thomas’ in Lymington and Bill was best man. He attended with girlfriend Astrid Lindstrom, and the whole of Lymington had to be closed off because of the crowds.
“I have a great photo of Bill and Astrid at the wedding where they look just pure rock and roll.”
Besides his music career, Dave also built up a hugely successful estate agency and insurance business after taking over Bishops in Lymington. But music was always his first and greatest love.
‘She is my true rock. I owe her so much’
Five years ago Dave was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just six months to live. He was given the awful news on his 69th birthday, hours before he was due to celebrate by going to see Bill in concert at Poole Lighthouse.
He said: “We had seats dead centre and Bill dedicated the whole performance to us. He had no idea what I had just been told.
“A very spooky thing happened because Sue and I are massive fans of the Everly Brothers, and their guitarist Albert Lee was playing with Bill. He looked at Sue then sat at the piano and sang Crying in the Rain which just summed up how we were feeling.
“After finishing, he looked at Sue again and said: ‘That was for you.’ I didn’t want to tell Bill about my cancer but I did eventually.
“When he was later diagnosed with cancer himself I was just gobsmacked. Luckily we are both still here! For me that has been down to the absolutely excellent, outstanding care I have received from the incredible consultants and teams at Bournemouth Hospital.”
‘I feel truly privileged and blessed’
Of all the great concerts he has put on during his life, Dave is most proud of the charity concert he staged on Valentine’s Day 1989 to raise money for children in Kampuchea, now known as Cambodia.
He said: “I turned on the TV and there was a special report on Blue Peter about the plight of the starving children. Tears started rolling down my face.
“I decided I would put on a mini Live Aid in the New Forest to help. Bill agreed immediately to headline it and soon I had signed up a whole host of stars to appear. When I phoned Blue Peter they couldn’t believe it.
“The show’s then-presenter Caron Keating hosted it and it was broadcast by the BBC.
“It was held at Ringwood recreation centre and when I saw how many people had turned up I cried. We managed to raise £11,000 which was a huge sum at the time as it translated to £100,000 in Cambodian money.”
Thanks to his newfound fame on the internet Dave is now inundated with requests to share memories of his music days. He also sells memorabilia to people all around the world from an online store which he set up after wife Sue was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, choosing also to retire from business at the same time.
Dave’s Stones collection alone is so impressive – including 400 hours of tape recordings – that when Bill was writing his first autobiography Stone Alone he moved into his friend’s home to research it.
It’s quite a treasure trove from something that started as a collection of 78s by an excited music-mad schoolboy.
Looking back to his early days at Lymington parish hall, Dave said: “I was just a youngster enjoying sharing music with others and look where it took me.
“But most of all I feel truly privileged and blessed, to have been able to have been give so many people so much enjoyment. As they say in the music business – it’s been quite a ride!”