Reggie King - The Ultimate Action Man RIP

Written by Dave Edwards
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Like any other young mod in the early 80’s, I became mesmerised by The Action the moment I’d heard their version of The Marvellettes’ I’ll Keep Holding On at the first gigs and clubs I attended, and listened to older mods speaking in hushed tones about this seemingly mythical group from Kentish Town.  Getting the album The Ultimate Action seemed a necessity and from the moment it hit my turntable it very rarely left.  Having a recommendation from Paul Weller on the back no doubt helped shift a few copies but the music within those grooves would have left no-one in doubt as to how good they were.  I wanted to hear more and searched desperately for any snippet, picture or record by them.

At that point the thought of ever seeing them play live didn’t enter my head, they were a band that no longer existed and besides, there were new bands to go and see. As time passed, the band's legacy seemed to grow and one promoter, Slim Chance, had tried his hardest to get the group back together, his attempts thwarted by reports that Reg King had died years before.  In a strange twist of fate, Slim told me to check out a band called Dog that was he promoting one night “Right up your street” he told me. And he was right, I ended up managing them. One night at rehearsal, it transpired that they knew a guy who reckoned he knew the Beatles, The Stones and George Martin  back in the day.  “His name's Reggie” they told me “reckons he sang in a band called The Action.”  My jaw dropped “You know Reggie King?” I asked. “Yeah, he drinks in our local working mens club in Thamesmead, always making up stories about knowing the Stones and Beatles” came their reply. It was time for their jaws to drop as I told them that Reggie wasn’t “reckoning” and that he did indeed know the Stones and the Beatles and that George Martin had produced five singles for them.  “I have to meet him, bring him to a rehearsal” I begged and so the following week, I was sitting in The Bridge House on Borough Road, waiting for the band to arrive. 

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There’s a tap on the window where I sat and I’m beckoned outside to see the band stood in a semi-circle around Reggie King, recreating an Action pose. Reggie looked remarkably similar to the pictures of him in the Sixties, a full head of hair, albeit slightly longer and unkempt while he wore a suit that had long since seen better days but there was no mistaking that this was Reggie King, lead singer of The Action, owner of a voice that was in the same league as Steve Marriott's and Winwood. And he was here, in my local pub, standing before me.  Now I’m not usually one to be lost for words but I have to admit that I was so in awe of this man, I was speechless. It’s no secret that Reg enjoyed a jar and after a couple of beers, Reggie was coaxed into singing a couple of songs with Dog.  “Come on Reggie, give us a song”.  “Okay, do you know I Like To Boogie?” Reg enquired, as he reached for the microphone.  After a couple of verses, the guitarist starts playing Land Of A Thousand Dances, Reggie can’t resist and before long is organising the band and directing them to get the arrangement that The Action used to do. All too soon, the curtain came down on a magical evening and I call Mark Raison, editor of the classiest fanzine of the time - Something Has Hit Me - named after an Action song. He too managed a band and by chance had happened upon The Actions' guitarist Pete Watson. I recall him dropping the phone three times when I told him I had met Reg and got his details for him.  Mark went and interviewed him for his fanzine and then Reggie seemed to disappear again for a few years until Rob Bailey tracked down the rest of the band and pulls the biggest rabbit out of the hat by getting The Action back together for a few gigs.

Aside from the gigs, the only other time I saw Reggie was on London Bridge Station in 1999 on the day Manchester United won the Champions League. I was off to do a day's work in Erith where Reggie had just come from on his way to Rogue Studios in Bermondsey to record with Quant.  I was standing in line at the information desk when a slightly dishevelled figure just barged past me to the front of the queue. Yep, it was Reggie, decked out in the mohair suit and desert boots that he’d been wearing for the recent gigs with his full head of hair still remaining in place, almost untouched since the Sixties. I shook his hand and wished him luck as he ambled on his way towards a platform bound for South Bermondsey. And another strange twist of fate, I’ve recently met up again with Dave Bassey, the lead vocalist with Dog who possesses a voice that could quite comfortably sit alongside Steve Marriott's and Winwood and also Reggie King's.  Dave introduced Reggie to me back in 1994. Sadly, Reggie lost a battle with cancer on 8th October 2010.  Rest in peace Reggie,  you were the ultimate Action Man.

Read 5679 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 April 2021 13:23
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