Del Bromham (Stray)

He’s a man who’s been there and done it. In a career now spanning an incredible six decades, he’s rubbed shoulders with many of the greats, toured with Maiden, and is still writing, recording and performing fresh and exciting music, both with Stray and with his Blues Devils. You can bet your life he’s seen a thing or two!

My own introduction to Del’s work came via longstanding Stray fan Rich Harper, who writes:

“When I was a teenager, Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin were the big bands, but I fell in love with Stray. They didn’t get the breaks they deserved, but they produced some fine albums. Saturday Morning Pictures was, and always will be, my favourite as it was that album that led to my lifelong love of the band.

It was actually my elder brother, Chris, who got me into Stray. He used to listen to John Peel with the radio hidden under his pillow when we were teenagers, and heard some tracks from Saturday Morning Pictures on the show. He bought the albumfrom Henry’s Records in Southampton, the shop that had everything you’d never heard of, but if you asked for it, they had it, and they had Stray albums.

Once I’d worn the stylus out on our record player, I invested my paper round money in their debut album Stray, with the excellent ‘All in Your Mind’, and then their second album Suicide. I collected every cutting, every advert and Stray was the first live band I saw. Their light show and pyrotechnics were awesome for the time. I still remember Del playing in a skintight catsuit covered with mirrors, a human glitterball.”

And so, without further ado, I’m very proud to kick off the Words and Music Q&A Series with the ‘glittering’ Del Bromham.

What does rock music mean to you?
To me it sums up a specific energy and excitement which comes from ‘rock music’. I would have to say, though, I am not keen on putting music in pigeon holes, because I’m sure fans of blues, soul and jazz would say the same thing about their genre of music.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
For me, personally, a stereotype. Something I never got into although it did appear to become a way of life for some! There are those that have lived the ‘sex drugs and ‘rock ‘n roll’ lifestyle like they are acting a role out in a real life stage play. Unfortunately many have suffered along the way playing the part!

First artist to make an impression on you?
I would have to say Steve Winwood. I was about 13 years old and went to a Saturday Morning Pictures matinee and the first feature on was about up and coming groups. One group was The Spencer Davis Group featuring a 15 year old Steve Winwood. Firstly I was blown away by the talent that was oozing from him and encouraged that someone in my sort of age group was out there doing it and becoming successful. His career with Blind Faith, Traffic and solo proved that he’d definitely got what it takes.

An album, band or song that means a lot to you?
For me The Beatles, their album Revolver, and then later from them ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. I could not believe what I was hearing when I first heard that track. I’ve listened to it literally millions of times over the years, and in headphones you seem to find something different in there every time. Amazing George Martin Production

An artist or album that has stayed with you over time?
I bought an import album back in 1974/75 by Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland titled The California Album. Something about that album and his voice … just recently in my blues solo set I’ve been playing my version of his song ‘This Time I’m Gone for Good’.

Dylan or Morrison?
Dylan  …. written so many songs!

What do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
If this is a serious question, then it depends what kind of person you are. If you are not a conversationalist or you just freeze in awe or embarrassment, then you’ve blown it. Sometimes the response you get from the individual will lead you on to other subjects.

I’ve never been short of a few words but I do recall one time when I was rendered speechless and that was when I met Steve Winwood. I was (still am) such a huge fan and I’d thought of so many things I’d like to talk about should I ever get the opportunity to meet him and when I did, I just couldn’t speak properly. I felt so embarrassed I just had to walk away. All evening I was in the same gig, same dressing room, but still couldn’t summon up what I needed to get into the conversation I’d always wanted to have with him.

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan?
Steve Marriot was another artist I’d admired since I was a teenager. For Stray and for many youngsters in the 60’s The Small Faces and Marriot in particular was our voice. The way he sang, the way he moved, the clothes he wore… he was the whole package … we were ‘The Mods’, first time around, and we could relate to all of that. Sadly only a couple of months before he tragically died in a house fire, we spent some time talking about guitars, about music and how we used to go to Carnaby Street and other stores, because that’s where we’d read The Small Faces used to buy their clothes. It was like we’d known each other for years. I was looking forward to our next meeting which sadly was never to be!

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
I’ve had many, but one that springs to mind was a female fan from many years ago when I used to play in her area in the north of England (I won’t say where in case she reads this!). She told me how I used to stay with her at her mums house and how we were engaged!!!! SHOCK, HORROR …. SHE EVEN INTRODUCED ME TO HER FRIENDS AND HER HUSBAND!!!!!!!! The fantasies some people have, eh?

What makes a rock gig special?
The audience ….. small or large, if they are with you and appreciative, that’s all you can hope for.

Your most notable gig as an artist?
That’s a hard question, because I can think of many. Back in 2003 we (Stray) were fortunate enough to open for Iron Maiden on some of their European tour dates. I know there were those in the business who did not think we could do it and who thought that we were probably past our sell by date. We played stadium shows to 10,000 people up to 100,000 people, and every show was a success. The Maiden management said we had got the best reception from a Maiden audience they’d seen. I must confess, before the tour started I began to wonder whether we’d bitten off more than we could chew, but it was a great success. It really came home to me the night we played The Katowice Stadium in Poland. 17,500 rock fans went wild … I’ll never forget it!

Your most notable gig as a fan?
I’ve got to say you ask some difficult questions. However,  I have to refer to my first meeting with Steve Winwood which I spoke about earlier. It was in the very early days of Stray. We were young kids who were learning the trade as we went along. On this particular night we opened for Traffic at The California Ballroom, Dunstable, I couldn’t believe my luck. I found their performance and musicianship totally mesmerising. I’d never seen a band like it. I don’t think I slept properly for months thinking about that show. I loved Winwood’s guitar playing and, in particular, the guitar he was using at that time. I eventually found a similar guitar, a Gibson Firebird, which over the years has now become associated with me and my style of playing. I’ve used one since 1969 and still use the Firebird today.

Rock music – music for all or a tribal affair?
Well, it should be for all to enjoy, but you can’t please everyone!

Rock music – the spawn of the devil or a force for good?
The blues always had this thing about being the devil’s music and a many of the metal-type rock bands have adopted it. Me, personally, I believe it can only be a force for good!

How do you view what you do as an artist?
There have been times over the years where I have made compromises in order to try and please as many people as possible, but it cannot be done. So now my first priority it to please myself, or at least be comfortable with what I do and hope as many people as possible will enjoy what I do. I think it’s for the audience or listener to decide if I am an artist or not … I’d like to think I am.

Is there a particular piece of music, or album or performance for which you would most like to be remembered?
That is a tricky one. Most of the Stray fans would probably say the first album with the track ‘All in Your Mind’. I am particularly happy with the last Stray album Valhalla. However, this is the sort of question which might be more appropriate when I’m about to retire or on my death bed. Neither of which I’m planning in the near future. I have just finished recording my next solo album to be titled 9 Yards, there are some personal songs on there, a couple written specifically for, and about, my two daughters, so there are two people there who  will remember something in years to come!

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
I suppose it is how you would define the term rock, because personally you go to any large venue with a rock act performing and there is always a big audience. Look at Iron Maiden for example; worldwide their audiences have never been bigger. The problem with media and television, particularly in the UK, is that they are driven by what someone tells them to write or what might be deemed fashionable at the time. The irony of it is that the rock just keeps on rolling!

Stray live

The current Stray line-up on stage (L-R: Del Bromham, Karl Randall, Stuart Uren)

Visit the official Stray website at: http://www.stray-the-band.co.uk/

Photos of Del and Stray on stage by Linny Meakins.

Back to Words and Music Q&A Series page

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