Mark Patterson from BBC Radio Foyle has been looking back on legendary bands from Derry recently. Today it was my turn to join Colum Arbuckle and Jim Whiteside to reminisce about Toejam. Although Colum and Jim were doing most of the story telling considering I was still in a nappy when Toejam hit the scene!
Toejam is formed for a bit of craic
In the 1970s, Dad came back from living in Canada. I may have something to do with this life decision to move home!
He had been playing with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (or “The Band”). And despite a whirlwind few years living a rock and roll lifestyle, after a few years in Stroke City he realised still had a little rock & roll left in him! Gerry and childhood friend Colum Arbuckle met up and decided to bring in Jim Whiteside as a drummer – the formidable rock three-piece that was Toe Jam was formed.
The time was right. Gerry had done the showband thing and wanted to move past playing covers. The trio crafted their own original songs and lyrics. It was heavier rock and roll with high pitched vocals from Dad. And so the Toejam sound was forged. It was new and experimental and rode the wave of how music was changing forever.
Fifty years later, thanks to Colum’s archive skills we have 20 home studio recordings of the band:
You can hear US rock influences as well as 1970s new wave coming in. Showing the melting pot of influences that the band had. As well as the entertainment swagger to keep the punters dancing!
As the 1970s drew to an end, disco and punk started to come in. The next wave in Derry was led by the Undertones and a certain Mickey Bradley. Gerry always maintained that if he was ever asked to play a wedding, he would stop playing in the band. Because it meant that for Toejam, rock & roll was dead. As disco started filling up the nightclubs, that fateful day came. Gerry hung up his guitar. And Toejam burned in a disco inferno!
But all was not lost. Dad’s career took a dramatic turn when he was interviewed on Radio Foyle shortly after taking on a role as editor for a local community newsletter. A producer heard him being interviewed and spotted his unique talent. Soon after, that’s where he took his rightful, natural place.
A hotbed for creativity and talent
As a cultural entity, Radio Foyle has contributed hugely to the region over the years and promoted Derry talent. Dad spearheaded those efforts through his support of local musical talent on his show. He had a platform and was always eager to use it to promote great acts that might not otherwise have achieved that exposure. To have Gerry’s backing was worth more than any money, because you had his endorsement, which was priceless.
It is no accident that Gerry, Colum & Mickey all ended up in Radio Foyle – as well as countless other musicians and artists. Radio attracts creative people and provides a channel for creativity.
I have many, many fond memories of Radio Foyle and the madcap stories, characters and brilliant content produced. Birds of a feather stick together.
Where would artists be without Radio Foyle?
Any real job Gerry ever had never lasted longer than a few months!