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It’s remarkable and rather frightening to think that Canvey’s finest – Dr Feelgood – have been playing a Christmas show in Ipswich virtually every year for the last three decades. In those early days of their festive visits the much missed Lee Brilleaux was at the helm and they packed out the Grand Hall of the Ipswich Corn Exchange. To use one of Lee’s favourite expressions those shows were ‘the business.’ Many people thought he was Dr Feelgood and they could be forgiven for thinking that given his huge presence on stage.
Lee left this mortal coil in 1994 and after a year off his bandmates during the last five years of his life – Phil Mitchell, Kevin Morris and Steve Walwyn – reconvened, drafting in Pete Gage as the group’s frontman. The former Ipswich psychiatric nurse had an impossible act to follow but he gave it his best shot and for my money did a very good job.
For many Dr Feelgood fans the loss of Lee signalled the end of their interest. However, slowly but surely Lee’s remaining colleagues, along with Pete, re-established the Dr Feelgood brand and it remains strong to this every day. Next year the man who replaced Pete Gage – Robert Kane – celebrates his 20th anniversary with Phil, Kevin and Steve and during all that time the group have played Ipswich on almost every autumn/winter tour as well as headlining the BBC Radio Suffolk stage at Ipswich Music Day.
This month they return to Venue 77, the function room at the back of the Gardeners’ Arms pub in the Fore Hamlet area of Suffolk’s county town. For the past few years the place has been packed to see the current day Dr Feelgood ripping the joint up. As promoter of their Venue 77 gigs I always try to give extra value for money by ensuring there’s a top local support act. Last year, for example, the blues duo Tim Aves and Martin McNeill opened the show while in 2016 it was the wonderful blues-rock trio Hot Tramp. This time special guests on the evening of Thursday, December 20 will be the excellent rock’n’roll act J.S. and the Lockerbillies who I’ll also be working with on New Year’s Eve at the annual Beer And Co Hootenanny at St. Peter’s-by-the-Waterfront.
For so many local music fans Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a visit by Dr Feelgood in the run up to the big day. That’s certainly the case for me too and I very much hope to see you at Venue 77 five days before Santa does the rounds. If you can’t be there, let me take this opportunity to wish you and yours all the best for Christmas and the New Year.