To earn some extra cash pianist Mark Stanway became driver to the late Maurice Jones, the creator of Monsters of Rock at Donington.

This connection led to Mark becoming a member of rock giants Magnum for around 27 years. 

“Maurice lost his driving licence and he was organising tours for Iron Maiden and Def Leppard at the time and he paid me to drive him to gigs. Magnum were guesting on tour with Def Leppard and they were looking for a keyboard player so Maurice took me backstage at the gig,’’ said Mark. “And that was it.’’

Mark left Magnum, in 2016 and, at the time he had no idea that two years later he would have his own band out on the road.

Kingdom of Madness came about through a casual conversation with old pal Laurence Archer, also a former member of Magnum. The musicians both played in Grand Slam, a project set up in 1984 with Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy.

“We were at a Grand Slam gig and talking about the early years with our good friend, Richard Bailey, the original keyboard player with Magnum. We started thinking about working together,’’ said Mark.

The musician then began sounding out people to play in the Kingdom of Madness, named after the first Magnum album.

Mark recruited Mickey Barker who he said was the best drummer Magnum ever had.

Bass player with Black Sabbath and Whitesnake, Neil Murray, was next on board, followed by Mark’s friend, Chris Ousey vocalist with Snakecharmer.

“They were well up for it,’’ said Mark. “The last person I told was my wife, Mo Birch, but by then everybody had said yes - so it was meant to be!’’

Mo has sung with such stars as Robert Plant and The Firm.

“Mo’s harmonies with Chris are amazing, such tight, two-part harmonies. It’s exciting and we wanted it done properly,” said Mark, who is bringing the band to Swindon’s Level III in Commercial Road on Saturday, December 22.

The keyboard player said it was a bit sad to leave Magnum after so many years, but he is really looking forward to Kingdom of Madness gigs.

Although he stresses the band is definitely not in competition with the current Magnum band.

“We are not a tribute, as five of us have a legacy with Magnum. It is honouring Tony’s (Clarkin) writing of great songs, the early songs we love. Tony is writing and performing all his new songs with Magnum now. We don’t want to compete or rock the boat,’’ said Mark.

Kingdom of Madness already has a Facebook membership of more than 6,000 members.

During his time with Magnum Mark had some special highlights including supporting Ozzy Osbourne, Roger Walters Band, appearing at Reading Festival, opening Monsters of Rock Festival, appearing on Top of the Pops, playing London’s Hammersmith Odeon and having numerous chart hits.

“The arena tours with Ozzy were great, he was a Brummie like us so we got on. And there was always Sharon backstage wearing shades. They were often 20,000-people arenas, it was crazy.

“I was so proud when we sold out the NEC, people came to see Magnum and it was real buzz playing Hammersmith,’’ said Mark.

He said there were a lot highlights playing in such a high profile band but despite appearing on BBC’s Top of the Pops, four times he didn’t think the band really fitted the programme.

“It was a cattle market of spotty kids but the exposure it gave was priceless.

“We played on The Tube with Jools Holland - much more our thing.’’

The keyboard player was first taught to play drums by his father, who was a drummer in a swing band just after World War Two.

“He was Melody Maker drummer of the year in 1947,’’ said Mark.

The musician went on to have piano lessons and then discovered the electronic keyboard sound on John Mayall’s records - he had come home.

Kingdom of Madness have a season of dates booked already including A New Day Festival at Faversham, Rock and Bike Festival at Alfreton and on December 22 they will be in Swindon from 8.30pm. Tickets are £22 from 01793 534238 - Flicky Harrison