Musician was a big hit with Ali

WHEN musician Michael Rock jumped on a bus to travel 1,000 miles from San Francisco to Mississippi little did he know it would become the trip of a lifetime.

The 27-year-old folk musician from Canada decided to give his career a helping hand from one of the most famous men on the planet.

And those helping hands belonged to one of the most talented sportsmen the world has ever seen.

Michael, now 62 and living in Alpine Road, raced to the set of Freedom Road in Jackson to meet the legendary Muhammed Ali, who was staring in the film.

“I will never forget tracking Ali down to his film set trailer,” said Michael. “I had spent a year trying to get him on the phone.

“When I rang him via his agent I said please don’t hang up. This is an answer to a prayer.

“I would like to come and play you some songs. He said I was starting to sound crazy but if I made it to him I could play him the songs.”

It was the summer of 1978 and Ali was busy filming Freedom Road with Kris Kristofferson.

Micheal, who had one top 20 hit back home under his French Canadian stage name Michel, was hoping to impress the man they called The Greatest.

When he arrived he was shown to Ali’s trailer and after introducing himself started playing songs.

Micheal said: “He went crazy stomping his fist on the table saying “this is great, I’ve discovered me a star”.

“He arranged for me to record an album with full orchestra arrangements and two top session bands.

“The album is called First Flight of the Gizzelda Dragon. I stayed with Muhammad for a while, even flew on Concord with him to England to do promotions.

“One evening in his home, we sat and talked. I’d play a song and we would talk about it. He would say something I’d never heard him say on TV and I would play a song I wrote that fit the mood.

“At the end of the evening I said, ‘You know Muhammad, its a shame we didn’t have a camera on, cause this would have made a great show.”

“He said; ‘Michel, yes, there are lots of things I’d like to say, but people keep asking me about boxing, you get it together and we can do it.’ I did and we created a one hour show.”

The show was filmed in Los Angeles in February 1979 and was called With Love From Muhammed Ali but was never aired.

It features Michael interviewing Ali by the fire, singing songs and talking in front of an audience of children.

Michael thought it was lost until a former band member recently tracked him down to say he had found the original footage.

He is now negotiating a TV deal to screen the show and the album is now available on iTunes for the first time.

Micheal moved to England in 1980 and became a busker in Guildford. In 2003 he moved to Hastings where he has lived every since.

On Monday he will go to Hastings County Court to defend a council action to evict him from his allotment.

Michael argued that he should be allowed to grow just fruit trees on his plot but the council state it is not acceptable under the terms of his agreement.

He added: “I was thrilled to see the footage again after all those years. I thought it had been lost for good. It turned out to be the best bus ride I ever took.”