David Altham and Pink Floyd
David Altham from Little Shelford has talked about his involvement in the formative days of Pink Floyd.
David rubbed shoulders with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Syd Barrett in the 1960s as Pink Floyd was taking shape.
David, who died in February 2021, played with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour in a blues rock band called Joker’s Wild.
David was a founder member of Jokers Wild with Tony Sainty (bass) and Clive Welham (drums). David played guitar and vocals, as well as the saxophone. Here is the story in David’s words. “There were 3 of us and looking for a lead guitarist.
“We were told about this guy – went to see him at a pub in the Newmarket Road. The band was quite raw but he could play a bit. That was David Gilmour. He was quite expressive. We asked him if he wanted to join us and he said yes.
“We were quite a good band, doing covers. We started doing Beatles covers and then Beach Boys covers. David could listen something four and five times and just play it straight away.
“We made a couple of records in 1965. We did a session for one hour in a studio in London, One was a cover of Why Do Fools Fall in Love with Don’t Ask Me on the other side. I haven’t got a copy. I have a tape of it. Its very valuable and sought after now. Record Collector magazine said in 1996 that a copy was worth around £1,000 but that’s maybe because there were only 50 pressed. We also did a 12 inch single 78rpm with 5 tracks.”
2 "Walk Like a Man"
3 "Don't Ask Me (What I Say)"
5 "Beautiful Delilah"
“We played around Cambridge for about 3 years. We used to play every Wednesday at the Victoria Ballroom above the Victoria cinema in the Market Square. It got us gigs elsewhere – we were quite popular.
“We did almost have a hit. Jonathan King produced us and we recorded two songs. One was You Don’t Know Like I Know, a Sam and Dave song. The other was How Strong My Love Is, an Otis Redding song. David Gilmour sang on both. He sang the really well.
“Decca were keen to release our record. But then the original was released here by Sam and Dave, and went into the top 20 so we had missed our chance.
“We got a manager in London who finished up getting us playing at a couple of clubs in Marbella for two months. But after that I had had enough so I left. The remaining members went to France playing as Les Fleurs. I wanted to come back to Cambridge to focus on horse racing. When I got back I remember Syd Barrett being around quite a lot. I got to know him. He had a cutting sense of humour but he wasn’t my cup of tea.
“A gang of us went on holiday to the south of France in a jeep. Me, David Gilmour and Syd ended up staying in this house together. It was owned by this French girl David knew. He was very popular with the girls. We called him Big Lips. We lived on cheap red wine and crisps. Syd got me listening to Bob Dylan.
“When we came back to England, Syd seemed out of it all the time with sleeping pills and things. Sometimes Syd wouldn’t show up for gigs or he would just perform with his back to the audience. The band asked David to come along and cover for him with Pink Floyd. So Pink Floyd started easing David in.
“After that David starting working more and more with Pink Floyd and I lost touch with him.
“I went to work with a racehorse trainer in Berkshire.
“I read an interview with David talking about his days in Cambridge. He talked about forming a band called Jokers Wild. I want everyone to know that’s not right- he was the last one in. (Wikipedia says that Jokers Wild were formed by David Gilmour.)
“I did buy his solo lp. He’s a good instrumentalist and musician but I didn’t really like the album.
“I last Saw David Gilmour at his 50th birthday party in London – he is a good man who has helped a few people out along the years.
“I’ don’t envy him and his success. I’ve had a good life. I went to India as a hippy and then I imported handicrafts from India.
"I now live in Cambridge. But I still think back to my days in Little Shelford. I was born in Camping Close Cottage (Church Street) and then lived in Ivy Cottage in Whittlesford Road. And I captained the village cricket team for a while.”
According to Wikipedia, these are the songs recorded by Jokers Wild, featuring David Gilmour and Dave Altham on vocals:
7 "Walk Like a Man"
8 "Don't Ask Me (What I Say)"
10 "Beautiful Delilah"
The single had "Don't Ask Me (What I Say)", backed by "Why Do Fools Fall in Love”
Read more about Pink Floyd and their Shelford links
Photo l to r: Willy Wilson, David Altham, David Gilmour, Ricky Wills