Butlins worker landed Glasto gig by turning up and asking

It’s a badge of honour for every aspiring band to say they’ve been chosen to play at Glastonbury Festival. Even with so many stages, large and small, now dotted across the sprawling Worthy Farm site, it’s a tough coup to achieve – but back in 1971 it was a dream that came true for a bunch of young wannabes from the village of Saltford, between Bristol and Bath. That was the year that Clive Laybourn and the mostly teenage troupe known as Zonkt got their lucky break and became the first act to perform at the chilled-out Glastonbury Fayre at Pilton. It’s an experience never forgotten by Clive, now aged 71 and living at Portishead, whose bold pitch, direct to Michael Eavis in the milking parlour, came up trumps.

Prompted by his good friend, Maurice Charles, Clive has been recalling his brief, but wonderful, time at Worthy Farm 50 years ago. Remembering tiny details as if it all happened yesterday, he’s painted a vivid picture of ‘Zonkt at the Fayre’ in a charming account that he’s agreed to share with Glastonbury fans all over world. : Unearthed colour photos show what it was like at the ‘cosmic’ 1971 Glastonbury

Over to you, Clive: “I drove my Bedford van to Minehead to do a seasonal catering job at Butlins holiday camp, where Status Quo were playing. After a couple of weeks I decided to take a gamble and travel to Pilton and arrived at Worthy Farm. It seemed very quiet considering the festival was imminent, but it was actually milking time, with the farmer, Mr Eavis himself, in the cow shed.

“I spoke with him about the possibility of our band playing. He said that if we had our own equipment – i.e. amps and a PA system – we could play for about 45 minutes in front of the Pyramid Stage as the first band, which is what we eventually did on the first day, the Friday. As I said, there were not many people about, but I met up with a guy called Andrew Kerr, who seemed to be the man responsible for logistics and setting up the site.

Close to the spot where Zonkt played their opening set, an impromptu music session in front of the Pyramid Stage 1971

“That day when I helped out it seemed so magical, with Glastonbury Tor in the distance and the beautiful natural setting.

So, there I was still at the farm and it was getting late. I got the OK to stay in the farmhouse overnight. The next day Hawkwind arrived from London.

Great news for me as I was a big fan of theirs. I knew Dave Brock, the lead guitarist, from his busking days. “As for Zonkt, we had done a few gigs around the Somerset area, mostly youth clubs, but also an arts centre in Bristol.

We would not be on the poster for the Fayre, nor get paid, but we were all excited about the prospect. I was 20 years old and the youngest member, Frank Swindells, was only 15, but an amazing guitarist for his age. : Glastonbury Festival: Rollcall of the legends since 1998 – from Tony Bennett to Barry Gibb

“Back to my good news: I spoke to my younger brother from a phone box in the village and, as it was summer holidays, the lads were all enthusiastic to play at the festival. I had to return home and check out some rehearsals for the classic ‘garage band’, although they actually took place in my parents’ lounge. As it was a large detached property, there was no problem with annoying the neighbours.

“Where we all lived in Saltford, there was a barn nearby where the Women’s Institute stored a large marquee. We borrowed the top section, which looked like a bedouin tent when it was erected, and pitched it quite near the left of the Pyramid Stage. I must say, after the festival it was returned as we found it.

The weather was great to begin with: no mud just yet! We all slept in our communal tent and in the morning were surprised to see that a couple of hippy types had also decided it was a good place to sleep! No problem.

“For us it was the day of our gig – fame at last.

I went backstage to see who was about and talked to a lad about my age. I found out later it was Steve Winwood, who was lead singer with a group called Traffic at the time. Early afternoon we set up our gear; the equipment we had was surprisingly good.

We did our short set in front of a crowd of a few hundred, our biggest audience by far. It all went very well, with no technical problems, which can happen to any band. “I was sort of the tour manager and the only one who could drive.

As with some of our previous gigs, I joined in with percussion and vocals. Some years later I became a drummer for various bands, playing mainly festivals and, with Electric Eye, supported The Cult at the Gower Coast in South Wales.

Butlins worker landed Glasto gig by turning up and askingLaid-back audience members wait in the sunshine in front of the first Pyramid stage at Glastonbury Fayre in June 1971

“After our gig, we watched some of the professional acts, such as Hawkwind and Quintessence. Some of us stayed for one more night, while two of the band were collected by their parents.

In those days the ‘hippy’ culture was not for everyone; in some of the local shops in Glastonbury town ‘No hippies’ signs were in the window. “We packed the tent into the van where we had stored our electrical equipment. It was raining now and it got very muddy in the field.

I had the foresight to buy some country travel tyres with a much deeper tread and, with all the weight on board, we had good traction. Most cars did not and we became the local ‘rescue truck’ for a few hours. We could have been employed all day in that regard!

Butlins worker landed Glasto gig by turning up and askingStill a massive music fan, a blurry Clive Laybourn visiting the Rolling Stones exhibition in London, pictured by his friend Maurice Charles

“When we got home we all realised how decent the festival experience had been, and we got a mention in the Sun newspaper briefly.

We did a couple more youth club gigs, but had to disband later in the year because of university commitments and the beginning of working life. Frank went back to school, but played in some very good bands. “So that was the end for Zonkt.

As they say, it was good while it lasted. Writing this 50 years after the event shows it must have been memorable!” Did your band grab a coveted slot at Glastonbury festivals in the past?

Do get in touch and let us know all about it – especially if you have pictures from the time. Email jackie.butler@reachplc.com If you love Glastonbury Festival as much as we do, you can sign up to the Worthy Welly newsletter here and have nostalgia and new stories about the festival delivered direct to you by email.

: Glastonbury Festival: Rollcall of the legends since 1998 – from Tony Bennett to Barry Gibb