Mac makes his final mark
He is an in intriguing character and he’s just wiped off his drumsticks for the last time.
Well-known in the 60s music business but not a household name, Mac Poole has survived in a career spanning many years during which he played in a number of bands, as well as becoming a sound technician in his own right.
When Mac was diagnosed with throat cancer, a few years ago, doctors warned he’d need drastic treatment with severe side effects. But the 64-year-old Birmingham boy had other ideas, and he turned to alternative therapy to fight his illness.
“In 2001 I was touring the UK as a drummer with Joe Brown and Marty Wilde when I started getting sore throats. I put it down to working too hard, but one day in November, I felt a hard lump at the back of my tongue.
“My GP referred me straight to London’s Royal Marsden Hospital where they performed a biopsy. Within three days the hospital called back and told me I had throat cancer.
“When I heard the word cancer, I was stunned. I’d given up smoking decades ago, I ate a vegan diet, I rarely drank and saw myself as fairly fit. Not only that, but I’d had my tonsils removed as a child. But the consultant told me I had a smoker’s throat, caused by singing in smoky atmospheres,” Mac said.
The slow-growing, life-threatening tumour, couldn’t be surgically removed so he was told he would have to have radiation, then chemotherapy. The side effects would include losing his teeth, saliva glands and hair – and there was no alternative.
“I told them I didn’t want the radiation or the chemo. It’s my body, my cells. I have a choice. If I die, so be it.
“My wife Maria panicked – as an NHS haematologist, she believed in mainstream medicine – but I started reading books on whole food, biology, pharmacy and health. That’s when I came across Gerson Therapy, a nutrition programme that aims to activate the body’s ability to heal itself through organic food, natural supplements and detoxification.” In January 2002, Mac went to see a Gerson practitioner. He said the lump might be too big for Gerson to work but agreed I should go ahead.
“The diet is very strict. After porridge and berries for breakfast I’d have 13 fresh juice drinks, including carrot and apple and green pepper and lettuce, at specific times throughout the day – no meat, dairy produce, tea or coffee.
“But after six months my consultant, Mr Farrell, gave me some bad news. The cancer had grown to a T4 and spread to the roof of my mouth. I could now have surgery or, alternatively, I could have radiation and chemo, or just radiation. I opted for the latter.
“I felt I no longer had a choice, but I knew that my body was now much healthier and more able to cope with the treatment.
Every weekday for two months Mac had radiation treatment. He said the whole experience was terrifying, but he wanted to live.
“I was still heavily into the Gerson programme and most doctors on the ward thought I was nuts, especially as throughout the treatment I had carrot juice pumping into me through the stomach tube. But I knew it was helping my system to cope.
“After the treatment finished, I returned to Mr Farrell for regular six monthly check-ups, followed by yearly ones. Then, he gave me the all-clear.
“The carrot and apple juice must be doing it,” he said. And later I overheard him talking about me on the phone, saying, ‘It was such a large tumour, in a dangerous condition. I’m amazed he’s pulling through.’
“I can’t help but think I’ve convinced him there’s more to cancer treatment than they teach in medical school.”
The talented veteran drummer has played with many top musicians during a long career. He was asked to join Led Zeppelin, but he turned down the offer. He played in The Dangerfield Band:
In 1969, Mac joined the band Big Bertha when Cozy Powell quit. They split in Summer, 1971, but Mac was also playing for Marsha Hunt.
In 1970, the whole backing band left Marsha and formed Warhorse. In April 1972, he joined Gong, but left them after just three months In 1973, he was in Hungry Heart but they split after just one gig.
In 1973, he joined Huw Lloyd Langton in a new band called Magill, but that too was short-lived. Around 1976, Stan Webb, leader of Chicken Shack, started Broken Glass. In 1977, Stan Webb resurrected Chicken Shack, so Broken Glass split.
Nightlife was the next band, but in 1978, Mac joined Oval Exiles. Soon after, they teamed with Mickey Jupp, as Mickey Jupp And The Treatment:
In 1980, Mac Poole rejoined Nick Simper in a new band called Nick Simper’s Fandango:
In March 1987, two former members of ELO, Kelly Groucutt and Mik Kaminski, formed a new band, Orkestra, originally called Player, and Mac joined them, as they were old friends:
In 1993, Mac was playing in Paul Lucas band. Then, in 1996, Mac formed Rockin’ Horse, a quartet playing inside a rock and roll show called ‘Oh Boy! It’s only rock’n’roll’.
Tributes to Mac
One musician described Mac as ‘one of life’s nice guys and certainly one of the best drummers I have had the pleasure of playing with.
At a Heritage Foundation gig, at the London Palladium, Billie Davis and backing singers Julie and Emma were playing as part opf a show with tribute Cliff Richard performer Kytsun Wolf. He decided to hire the Palladium for one night, featuring The Rapiers, Jet Harris, Billie Davis, and The Vernon girls. The compere was David Hamilton.
“If it wasn’t for Mac the show would not have gone ahead.Behind the scenes, early on Sunday morning, Kytsun was told he could not use the sound system because they could not move the dials on the sound desk as it was set all the week for the currant show. I believe it was Chitty Bang Bang.
If Kitsun had called in another sound crew it would have cost so much that the budget would have gone well over the top. So Mac, at the last minute, drove to the Palladium and, with his son, rigged the theatre.
“Mac would not tolerate any musician who hadn’t learned his craft, although I have to say he would help anyone starting up, running regular jam nights.
“He was a fixer, putting in musicians work (only the best). He had a wardrobe for musicians and always insisted that they would be fitted out right for the performances although sometimes that would cause a problem when suits didn’t fit*;) winking.
“I would tease Mac about being the best drummer, apart from John Bonham, Led Zep, who Mac adored. He did jam with Led Zep.
“He liked to talk and would enthuse about situations kinda like: ‘A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre.’ I’m sorry Mac has had to hang up his drumsticks and I will miss him being there,” said Billie Davis.
“Watch Matthew Poole, who has been standing in for Dad. He has the magical touch that dad had in his playing. Well he would wouldn’t he!” Billie Davis.
“To my Friend Mac Poole: you are a better man than I am, Drum-a-din. You might as well keep your Halloween mask on as it will soon be Holloween night. If you aren’t drumming any more, you might consider putting some pebbles in a biscuit tin and rolling them down the stairs.”
That Boy John.