1974 Apartheid was still going strong! Nelson Mandela was still during time
in prison for his activist activities. The Original Bell/Arista Drifters landed
in south Africa to a tremendous welcome from fans who were ecstatic over
the Legendary group coming to South Africa to perform for them despite all
the political issues of entertainers visiting the country because of Apartheid.
For The Drifters this would be the first as far as an historical tour was
concerned. We would perform before integrated audiences and on the
band podium black and white musicians would play together.
This arrangement was a requirement that was unheard of at that time.
South Africa had some strange laws and practices during this period
when it came to social integration between blacks, Indians and whites!
but for the most part there was increased effort to keep us away from the ugly
side of life in that part of the world which for me was a signal to educate
myself more on what was going on there. We were so to speak goodwill
ambassadors but there was no hiding the scars of Apartheid.
The tour was sponsored then by The Quibell Brothers who now live in
Florida. On the show bill with us were Barbra Roy and Ecstasy Passion and
Pain and a Great South African Solo Artist The Late Margret Sengana.
Most of the Tour was situated around Capetown, Durban and Johannesburg
with stop overs in Botswana. In Botswana the clear signs of the ravages
of war were clear. Recently I ran into Ron Foster who was the Key board est
for Barbra Roy and we reminisce about those days. The audience attendance
were jam pack in all the shows we did. In Capetown we performed for
Dr. Christian Barnhard who as you might remember performed the first
revolutionary heart transplant at that time. Interesting some years later I
spent much of my time working and supporting then Britain's Queen
Elizabeth Heart Foundation charity.
In Capetown the social setting was very much a private one with black, white
and Indian professionals mixing under the radar of the security services
who's job it was to to keep such social gatherings from taking place.
In Johannesburg you had Hill brow a very cosmopolitan area in the heart
of the city up on a hill which all of the races of people integrated very
freely. We lodged while in Johannesburg at then a beautiful hotel called the
Landross Hotel which featured a unisex sauna where Apartheid ended when
you crossed it door step ( So Goes The Strange Laws During This period).
Part 2 of this historical tour will feature The show in it's entirety and some
of the political issues that surfaced around the visit.
Butch Leake (CORNER TALK REPORT)
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