A day at the top with Slade...then back in overalls mending somebody's
burst water pipe
YESTERDAY'S idol is back to plain Mr. Nobody today.In the hurly-burly of the pop world where stars are born one minute and forgotten the next, Frank Lea must have set some kind of record.
For a few dreamlike hours yesterday he flirted with fame, girls mobbed him, autograph hunters pounced.
The shy 18 year old was standing in for his 'hero', drummer Don Powell with the Slade pop group. This week he's back in overalls - mending burst water pipes in Wolverhampton. Twenty three year old Don is still in hospital following a car accident on Wednesday, his girlfriend, Angela Morris, passenger in the car died soon afterwards.
Frank, brother of the group's bass guitarist Jimmy was happy enough to bow out after his one night of glory at an Isle Of Man concert. "Don's the star not me." He grinned "I'm a nobody in the pop world and this week I'll be back in overalls mending somebody's burst water pipe. "People might point at me in the streets for a few days and I might find a few more girl friends than usual....but that's all I expect."
Gap-toothed Frank got his first, and he hopes his last chance to play with Slade when he went to Jimmy's house on Wednesday to repair a washing machine. He said: "The lads were all wondering who could take over as drummer while Don was in hospital. Jokingly, I said: 'Try Me.' and before I knew what was happening I got the job for just one night."
For the first few hours after the group slipped secretly into Douglas at the weekend nobody gave Frank a second look. Then the word got round. Girls who had bypassed him on the beach began to mill around asking for his autograph. Youngsters came to his room to take pictures, Champagne appeared at his table before he thought of asking for it.
Frank has been playing drums since he was 13, appearing with groups in pubs and clubs. "Don taught me everything I know about drumming." he said "He's a great bloke." The rest of the boys feel sorry for him.
Guitarist Dave Hill said he was glad he was never whisked off to the big time and then dropped after a few hours. He added: "Lots of good drummers would have given an arm to appear with us but we needed someone who can tune in to our wavelength. We've known Frank a long time. But make no mistake, if Frank thinks the fans are going wild about him he's wrong. They are simply cheering a stand-in.
"Don's the star and however hard they cheer, it is reflected glory. Fortunately Frank's on no ego trip." One man who understands the problem is Slade's manager, Chas Chandler, formerly of The Animals. "Frank, will just have to be content with just being a bridesmaid. He's a very good drummer but Don's the best and we would never replace him permanently."
"If Frank wants to make it in the pop business he'll do it the hard way with another group." And that's just what the stand-in "star" aims to do - by forming a semi professional group, Jack Rat, in Wolverhampton.
And Don? Yesterday a spokesman for Wolverhampton's Royal Hospital said he was "Much Better". Now he is expected to be back behind the drums in about two months. Dave Hill will visit him today, Jimmy and the other group member Noddy Holder saw Don on Friday, but he was unable to recognise them.
Said Chas: "Physically there appears to be little damage. he still can't talk to us although we have been visiting him, we have been told however that he is on the mend." meanwhile Don will not be told of his girl-friends death until "the doctors consider it advisable" said a spokesman for the group.
He will not be informed for a bit in the condition he's in with multiple injuries." he said. "We don't know who will break the news - it's a problem."
LAST NIGHT the group learned Don had spoken for the first time since the accident. Said Dave: "The news is really great."
Daily Express, Monday July 9th 1973
Original article researched, obtained and used with the kind permission of Slade In England official researcher and historian Sir Chris Selby.