The Rogues unwittingly caught the zeitgeist. We started playing Irish music just as landlords were deciding to have Irish themed pubs and bars, and wanting live music. We also developed a unique sound by mistake; the acoustic guitar went through a Marshall amp because that’s all we had, I played the banjo like a guitar because I couldn’t really play the banjo properly and, after that first gig, we used a drum machine because Craig was busy playing with another band. We’d tried with me playing my bass drum whilst singing, but I couldn’t keep the beat going for long enough before my leg ached, so scrapped that idea. We’d augmented the band by adding the other Martin (from the Rhythm and Blues band) on guitar so that I could play more twiddly bits on the banjo and mandolin and we’d learned loads of new songs. We even had a rehearsal at my school after work one day. Another feature people loved was how we all swapped instruments for different songs; again a happy accident because none of us could sing and play bass so ‘Big Martin’ (as we ended up calling him, as opposed to ‘Little Martin’) and I had to swap depending on who sang lead vocals.
We managed to get a second gig when ‘Big Chris’ who was landlord at The Charter Arms moved to take over The Tabard on Herringthorpe Valley Road. He wanted to put on an Irish night and asked us to play. We treated it more as a practice really as we hadn’t actually worked out what key everything should be in, we just guessed – but we had another great response from people there and decided to try and make a proper go of it.
We determined from the start that we weren’t going to use an agent if at all possible (17.5% for a phone call? No chance!) so Martin (big) and I spent a few nights going round the local pubs who we knew had live music, saying we had an Irish band and offering to do a gig. We said we’d do it for next to nothing, but unfortunately, no one was willing to take a chance on a new band so it was back to the open-mic nights.
Then we got the chance. Martin had a phone call from Pete Jones, an established local Country artist that he knew through his dad, who said he had a gig at the George And Dragon pub in Wentworth, but was ill and wasn’t able to do it. He’d heard that we’d got a band together and asked if we wanted to fill in for him. It was a Monday night so the money wasn’t great but we could have it if we wanted. We wanted. When we arrived, the place wasn’t really busy at all but there was a group of about nine or ten lads from the village, sitting round where we had to set up, feet on the chairs and pints on the tables. Somehow we knew it was make or break. From the very first song, “I’ll Tell Me Ma”, they were with us, clapping along, stamping on the floor and banging their pint glasses on the tables. They chatted happily with us between sets and said how refreshing it was to have something different. It became the first of many lively (sometimes to the point of dangerous) nights at the George And Dragon and prompted many phone calls from people who’d heard about what a good night it was, asking us to play at their pub. Early in 1994 we were asked by John, landlord at The Station in Parkgate if we fancied having a residency there every Thursday night. We played there for over two years, whilst offers of gigs came rolling in from all over the place. The Rogues had arrived!