The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.

Interview - John Wilson of The Defiants

The Defiants
The Defiants. Left to right: Barry Saines, John Wilson

John Wilson was the lead guitarist of The Defiants, one of the youngest R&B bands to play at The Marquee Club during the mid 60's. The band played at the club for 5 nights, most of them supporting the legendary jazz saxist Dick Charlesworth. John Wilson talked to about his Marquee experience.

-What is the first image that springs to your mind when you hear the words "Marquee club"?

Scary, frightened, privileged, and the ultimate.

-Do you remember the very first time you ever visited the club?

I never went to the Marqee, only heard of it, never dreamed one day we would play there.

-In august 1964, The Defiants played at the Marquee club for the first time. Do you remember how you got your first gig at the club?

I can remember it well, Gloria Modica, the manager, said after we finished a gig at the Essex Arms Silvertown Way "you will be playing at The Marqee soon", we stood there and said, OK. Then, the following week were there. Then it sunk in.

-In 1964, you played at the Marquee supporting legendary jazz saxophonist Dick Charlesworth and the Big Blues band for four nights. What do you remember about him?

One of the nicest people we met.

-You also got to play at the club with Ziggy Jackson who started the Blue Beat label in 1960. What's the story about it?

At the end of our stint got a recording demo done with Ziggy Jackson, who was in the audience on one of our nights, which was nice. Before that Ziggy played for the Show Biz 11, I even know the line up, there was Tommy Steele, Glen Mason, Ziggy Jackson, Danny Blanchflower, L. Duquemin, P. Thomson, D. Oshea, R. Diomend, T. Mason, and good old Kenny Lynch. And Ziggy saw us playing at one of these matches, and after that he saw us at The Marqee. Then we ended up at his studios. He recorded "Little Millie", if I remember. As you say, Blue Beat records.

The Defiants

The Defiants playing at a match beetween Dagenham Dock V The show Biz 11, circa 1964

-What kind of repertory were The Defiants playing at the time?


-At the time, you were still schoolmates and the oldest of you was 14 years old. Correct me if I'm wrong but at that age you must have been really brave to play in front of so many young girls. What kind of audience did you use to have at the Marquee?

We were all born in 1947 give or take a few months, so in 1964 we were 17 years old and yes, it was brave and frightening. And when I got married in 1969 at the age of 22 years, we all called it a day. And, if I remember, the audience was various ages and you never knew what big names were there, ie Ziggy Jackson.

- As a member of the audience at The Marquee, is there any gig that you remember especially?

On one occasion I remember watching The Yardbirds on a night off and Jim McCarty?s footpedal to the basedrum snapped and he just carried on playing kicking it with his foot for about an hour, absolute electric for us to see that was showmanship.

-Do you think that playing at the Marquee was helpful for the career of the band?

Yes, we went on for another five years.

-Which is your personal memory of London's Soho scene during the 60's?

Frightening, but got used to it.

-What did you think when you heard about the demolishing of the original Marquee club building at 90 Wardour street in the 90's?


-Did you ever visit Wardour street again?

Yes, myself and my wife for 37 years visit quite frequently, but these days it's to the theatres, which is different don't you think?

-Have you ever told your children about the Marquee club?

Oh yes, both my kids, my son is just like me, he is in the music game and he has his own rehearsal room and recording studio Zootsuit Corringham Essex. And of course my grandson Mason, who is 7.

-If you had to define the effect that the Marquee club had on your life or on your musical career, how would you put it into words?

From the time The Defiants was formed I never knew what an impact the music game would have played in my life. I went on to teach guitar and I am still talking about the good times I had when I played at there to my kids and grandchildren, not bad now, I'm nearly 60.

Interview by K. Barroso, June 2006.
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