OUR recent nostalgia spread marking the 50th anniversary of the Weeley Festival of Progressive Music has led to an extraordinary follow-up - the memories of Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi.

Mr Rossi recently spoke to freelance journalist, broadcaster, editor and author Jason Pettigrove, based in Holland-on-Sea, and shared recollections of the rock festival that took place across the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1971.

Among the nuggets of information was the revelation that Beatles icon John Lennon was there in secret.

Mr Pettigrove has kindly given us the exclusive after reading our piece written by Gordon Walker, making use of pictures from Ray Clark’s book The Great British Woodstock - The Incredible Story of the Weeley Festival 1971.

Status Quo were on the bill with Rod Stewart and the Faces, T Rex, Rory Gallagher, Barclay James Harvest (with 40-piece orchestra), Stone the Crows, Lindisfarne, Van der Graaf Generator, Colosseum, Stray, Mungo Jerry, King Crimson, Curved Air, the Groundhogs, Mott the Hoople, Al Stewart, Caravan, Juicy Lucy, Edgar Broughton and Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come.

“I do remember Weeley quite well,” said Mr Rossi.

“I think we were due on at something like midnight.

“However, for everybody trying to get anywhere near the festival, it went completely pear-shaped. There was traffic everywhere and it was murder.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Jason Pettigrove

Journalist Jason Pettigrove

“We tried to get there about eight o’clock in the evening and arrived at probably midnight, maybe a bit after, and didn’t get on until about nine in the morning.

“It was ridiculous. We looked out there and everyone was asleep.

“People go on about all-nighters but, no matter what their intentions are, most festival-goers want to go to sleep at some point. We went on and they were all asleep, so I just started shouting at them.

“It was the most messed-up thing ever, starting with the idea of a few thousand people and ending up with loads more.

“I’ve got no idea if there was any backstage structure, but what I remember is it was total chaos for the most part.”

Mr Rossi says he and his band were excited to play at Weeley, which was licensed for attendance by just 10,000 music lovers but ended up attracting between 130,000 and 150,000.

He said: “There was certainly this idea of ‘Oh come on let’s go to a festival,’ and that feeling really started to grow that year (1971).

“We happened to hit the period right.

“It (Weeley) happened to come along at a point when we were developing well.

“Something happened that was really fortuitous for us and that was the perfect timing.

“We hit it dead right, even if we walked on and the punters were all asleep.

“The truth is that in the lead up, there was a buzz going around about the band and word of mouth was much more prevalent in those days.”

Weeley was part of the Quo’s Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon tour.

“What drove me was the idea you were always fighting for this goal (of fame),” added Mr Rossi.

“Suddenly, we were selling records all over the place and, back then, the band was very creative and ‘teamy.’

“We used to do a lot of rehearsing and changing things up between myself, Rick Parfitt and Alan Lancaster. It was magic.

“Weeley was quite a nice sounding set. Our songs were very much of that time and worked well.”

Mr Pettigrove asked Mr Rossi about the rumour Lennon was secretly backstage at Weeley.

“It’s true,” said the Quo frontman.

“I was a bit bashful about going near John Lennon.

“Everybody was like ‘You’ve got to be where Lennon is’ and I thought ‘No, I can’t do that to him’.

“Or should I say I can’t do that to me.

“Rick and Rod were big friends at the time and I got on very well with Marc (Bolan) and T-Rex, too.”