David Bowie auditions musicians for The Buzz

A second day of auditions was held on 6 February 1966, for David Bowie to recruit new members of a backing band, following his split from the Lower Third.

Drummer John Eager had been recruited during a first day of auditions on 3 February 1966, and bassist Derek Fearnley joined shortly afterwards.

The second day of auditions also took place at London’s Marquee Club. Among those taking part was guitarist John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson was recruited.

I turned up as instructed at The Marquee on Saturday at 10.30am with my guitar, dressed in my best outfit comprised of a natural suede leather ‘battledress’ jacket, matching suede jeans and blue clogs. Now these clothes were more or less standard issue in Gothenburg, but I quickly realised that I had inadvertently moved well ahead in the fashion stakes in London, in fact I think the gear probably got me the gig.
John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Bowie & Hutch

Bowie was impressed with Hutch, and invited him to join the band. Hutch also brought in keyboard player Derrick Boyes – who was known as Derek Boyes throughout his time with Bowie – to complete the line-up of the new band, which was named The Buzz.

My first impression was that The Marquee Club was much smaller than I had expected, and it was very dark, apart from the stage where I could see that a band was getting ready to do their audition. Spike Palmer came over to me and introduced himself. Spike was an enthusiastic, capable and experienced roadie, having previously worked for The Rolling Stones, and I took to him immediately. He pointed out ‘David Bowie’ to me; David was talking to a prim chap in a very tight suit – apparently he was David’s manager and his name was Ralph Horton.

The band on stage were ready and they started their audition as Spike gave me my instructions, “When it’s your turn up there, just play some Rhythm and Blues licks.”

As I listened to Spike a group of people walked into the club, one of them carrying a guitar case. Spike told me that this guy was the guitarist from Van Morrison’s original Irish band Them and that he had come to audition for David. I decided that I would have no chance in company like this, but as I was here with a Telecaster round my neck I thought I had better give it my best shot, and anyway get it over with. I had hardly noticed what the auditioning band had done or that they had finished their short set. I took to the stage alone and, feeling not a little strange, did as Spike had instructed. I played a bit, and then a voice from the darkness shouted, “Play some Bo Diddley.”

My ‘Bo Diddley’ was pretty good as I had been doing it for some time with Dave Kirby, and with The Apaches in Sweden, but without bass and drums I thought it sounded a bit weak in the empty Marquee Club. My R&B licks had seemed even more exposed in the otherwise silent club so I was relieved to hear another shout from the darkness, between riffs: “Okay, that’s fine, thank you.”

I left the stage and put my Telecaster in its case and it was to my amazement that Spike walked over, with his grin on full, and told me, “David says you’re in.” Spike also said that David and his manager were considering the band that had preceded me, and would I consider joining the ready-made band if they agreed? I said that I would, so Spike went off to consult the band. They apparently said ‘no thanks’ to the suggestion and were told that in that case ‘thanks for coming and good afternoon’. I was even more amazed at this turn of events and when I asked why the famous Them guitarist was not auditioning I was told, “David wants you in.” I had to settle for a permanent state of gobsmacked for the rest of that day. It was not until years later that I was told that it was Jimmy Page who played the great guitar licks on the early Them records.

Spike took me over and introduced me to David, and to Ralph Horton. I liked David right away, his enthusiasm was infectious and he was obviously experienced experienced in the hard world of Rock and Roll in London. This was what I had come for, no more Mickey Mouse provincial stuff for me, I had it made – I was in a London band, maybe even heading for the big time.

John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Bowie & Hutch

Bowie and Hutch continued working in the groups Turquoise and Feathers, and in the duo David Bowie and Hutch. The guitarist joined the Spiders From Mars for some live performances in 1973.

Last updated: 16 May 2022
David Bowie auditions musicians for The Buzz
Live: David Bowie and the Buzz, Mecca Ballroom, Leicester
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