The Story of Legay: With Dave 'Moth' Smith

Rob Townsend was replaced by 15 year old Dave ‘Moth’ Smith, who was playing in a Leicester band called Vfranie. Prior to Vfranie, the band were called Cert X, a mod loving outfit influenced by Tamla Motown and the Small Faces.

Moth, along with the rest of the band, embraced the Leicester mod scene, frequenting most of the cafes, bars and live music venues on a regular basis. In September 1967, not long after the departure of Rob Townsend, Moth received the call from Legay to join them. He had been spotted by John Knapp, who had seen him play with Vfranie at The Green Bowler on Churchgate. When Moth joined Legay, he was just 15. He had seen Rob Townsend play when he was in The Broodly Hoo, with The Farinas also on the bill. For Moth, Rob Townsend was a good drummer who provided Legay with a solid footing. Although initially Moth’s style was not as heavy or as proficient as Rob Townsend, it didn’t take him long to adapt to it.

Unknown venue. (Yvonne Kennett)

“We used to go down to the mod places and ponce around, drinking our vodka and limes or rum and blacks…”

Moth

Moth left Vfranie and went professional with Legay after having an audition at the Nite Owl. His first gig with the band took place at the ‘Owl’ on a Sunday afternoon, a couple of months after he had joined. The arrival of Moth led to period of stability within the band, allowing them to focus completely on developing their image, sound and writing new material. Within a couple of months of Moth joining, Legay started to play more established venues, including Blazes, The Speakeasy and The Marquee.

“Moth had to follow both Legay Rogers and Rob Townsend so he probably felt a bit of an outsider...”

John Knapp

In November 1967, Legay played The Teenage Fair, an exhibition for young people which was held in Gothenburg. The fair was the first of its type held in Europe and was similar in format to those being held in the USA. Organised by Ted Aspudd and Liz Korallus, the fair showcased fashion, music, furnishings, cars and recreational pursuits. The event culminated in a music festival which, along with Legay, included Traffic, Blossom Toes, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Paul Jones, Tom & Mick & Maniacs, Jerry Williams, Vanguards, Young Ideas, Jade Hexogram, May Flowers, Lucas, Thom McJohn and others. The fair drew a large audience but also resulted in protests due to its commercial nature. Legay wasted no time in sampling the delights of the Gothenburg night life including going to see Lucas, one of Sweden’s top bands at the time, who were supporting The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

“One of the bands on the bill that night had a woman dancing around on stage, she was wearing a newspaper dress. Someone cut it off, it caused an absolute scandal…”

Robin Pizer
De Montfort Hall, 1967. (Yvonne Kennett)

In 1968, Legay had the breakthrough they were looking for when they signed to Fontana Records. David Sandison, once a journalist for the Leicester Chronicle, was working for Phillips and instigated the deal with Fontana (Sandison had previously written about Legay for the Chronicle and was a fan of the band). In total, the band recorded No-One, Steam Driven Banana, In Love Again and Tracy Took a Trip. The record was produced by Dave Dee, singer with Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, who had a number one single in 1968, The Legend of Xanadu. The end result of the Philips sessions was the release of the single No-One / The Fantastic Story of The Steam Driven Banana. The tracks, both written by Robin Pizer, were recorded in one session and went straight to number one in the Leicester charts, beating Manfred Mann’s Mighty Quinn, which was also released on the Fontana label. The success of the single was mainly due to the huge advance orders it received from fans across the city and county. No-One was released w/e February 9th, 1968 along with singles from HP Lovecraft (The White Ship), Dave Berry (Just As Much As Ever), James & Bobby Purify (Do Unto Me), Long John Baldry (Hold Back The Daybreak) and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch and Titch (The Legend of Xanadu). Prior to the release of No-One, Legay played what many consider to be their seminal gig at The Casino on February 4th The gig was completely sold out with Legay struggling to get access to the stage. Although Legay were with Klock Agency, the release of No-One highlighted the need for them to also be signed to a London based agency, allowing further access to venues outside of the East Midlands.

“It was fantastic just to see The Who, never mind support them, they were the most exciting band around…”

Moth

In between recording Tommy at the IBC Studios in London, The Who played Leicester’s Granby Halls to promote their album, The Who Sell Out, and the single, The Magic Bus. Legay supported them along with Family, Joe Cocker and Spring. Since the early days of playing Motown, Legay were heavily influenced by the look and sound of The Who. It was at a Who gig at the St George’s Ballroom, Hinckley, in March 1966 that one of Rod’s unique shirt designs caught the attention of Roger Daltrey. The Who’s singer took a fancy to the purple and white design and offered to buy it for £4.00. He bought it but he had to give Rod a grey crew necked jumper in which to go home with. Daltrey was photographed on a number of occasions afterwards wearing that shirt.

In March 1969, Legay, along with Van der Graaf Generator, supported The Moody Blues at Loughborough University. The gig would prove to be the last under the name of Legay. By the summer of 1967, the band had become increasingly aware of the West Coast sound that was emerging from the USA. This new influence on the band triggered yet another dramatic shift in their sound. Slowly, they began to drop their psychedelic persona in favour of the West Coast sound.

“We went out of the pop scene and into an underground, West Coast hippy scene…”

John Knapp
Melton Drill Hall. (Yvonne Kennett)

As the look, sound and feel of Legay had all but disappeared, the next obvious step was a change in name and identity. In March 1969, the band visited the London home of David Sandison, their long-time friend and supporter, who suggested they be called Gypsy Moth. It was later shortened to Gypsy. The band played their first official gig supporting Led Zeppelin at Klooks Kreek, London, on April 1st, 1969. Gypsy signed to the United Artists label and released two albums, the eponymously titled first album being released in 1971 and Brenda and the Rattlesnake in 1972. Gypsy also released four singles of which one, Changes Coming, was banned by the BBC for being ‘too political’.

After eight years rehearsing, gigging and recording as both Legay and Gypsy, the band eventually split up in 1974. All of the band members went their separate ways, most remaining in music until eventually moving on to other careers outside of the industry. The most notable developments from the band split was John Knapp teaming up with John Butler and Moth in 1979 (along with Lee Strzelczyk and Tommy Willis) to form Flicks, releasing one album, Go for the Effect. Legay fans John Butler and Geoff Beavan would later go on to form Diesel Park West with Moth and Rick Willson.

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