From January 1962 through to the summer break in May, The Top Twenty seemed to be treading a little water. A lot of the bands that appeared were either making return visits or were part of the Bristol/Bath/Southampton set-up that had served Graham Alford so well previously. It wasn’t until the very end of the year that we saw some fresh faces and by then, the seeds of a new era in British popular music were beginning to grow.
8th January 1962
Johnny, Mike & The Shades
15th January 1962
GARY and LEE
If you are a music enthusiast with a keen sense of rock history then you will know that “The Paramounts” was the original name of what later became Procol Harum. Based in Southend and formed in 1959, their original line-up featured Robin Trower, Chris Copping, Mick Brownlee, Bob Scott and the 14-year old Gary Brooker, all of whom were members of the group that famously scored a No.1 hit in 1968 with “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. It is extremely unlikely however that the band that shared the stage with Danny Davis & Gary and Lee on this day in the Top Twenty’s history are one and the same due to at least two reasons. The first is the proliferation of local artists that were booked by Graham Alford during this period. The second, and most convincing piece of evidence is that The Southend Paramounts did not turn professional until 1963 and hardly ventured outside of the Southend area gig-wise until that year. I have been unable to unearth evidence of any other band called The Paramounts, but that hardly suggests that the band operating under this name on the 15th January 1962 were “skipping the light fandango” in Bridgwater’s Town centre 6 years before reaching the toppermost of the poppermost. Chances are they were part of Len Canham’s Southampton agency, but of course this could just be a selection of scruffy herberts whose previous live appearance was in the Crown Inn’s skittle alley. Regarding Brooker & Co, we only had to wait another 2 and a half years for the more infamous Paramounts to play as they turned up at the Top 20 in December 1964. As for “Gary & Lee”, the only information available is from a faded programme of a gig at which they provided support for Jet Harris. “Gary & Lee are better known in their home town of Gosport as Derek & Alan Knight. Their first step on to the ladder of success was taken when a Portsmouth promoter raved about a tape recording of the boys” And there I was thinking that it was an impromptu performance by the Top Twenty bouncers. Incidentally tonight’s jiving competition was judged by Danny Davis.
29th January 1962
Sandra McCann/Mike Storm/The Antones
LEE SCOTT & The Comets
Another appearance by the West Country’s own Funk Brothers, The Comets – this time backing yet another lost and forgotten Bristolian vocalist.
5th February 1962
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
12th February 1962
Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
19th February 1962
Royston Jones & The Raiders
26th February 1962
Paul Clayton & The Corvettes
The advert above highlights within it’s small print that lost and forgotten group Paul Clayton & The Corvettes (making their second appearance at The Town Hall) but there are two other reasons for including it here. Firstly the nation’s fascination for “The Twist”, a dance craze that refused to go away and secondly the reference to the TWW TV program “Discs A Go-Go” or “the gayest coffee bar in town” as it was billed. “Discs-A-Go-Go” was the brainchild of a producer called Harry Hargreaves and featured a very young Tony Prince prior to his defection to Radio Caroline. Co-hosting the program was Kent “Hello grappling fans” Walton several years before he became particularly well known as the commentator for the Saturday afternoon wrestling, a curiously essential viewing habit that practically every male between the ages of 50-60 has a fond memory of. Discs-A-Go-Go was the successor to another long-forgotten TWW pop programme called “Now!” and was recorded at both their Bath Road studios in Bristol and, I believe, in Cardiff also. It was franchised out to a number of local television companies such as Tyne Tees, but to my knowledge did not appear in London and various other parts of the UK. Artists gave “in-the-studio” performances in front of a live audience, an idea which was later used to particularly good effect by the most memorable of all 60’s pop programmes, “Ready Steady Go”. Whilst a dance troupe called The Gojo’s enthusiastically frugged to the latest 45’s, “Discs A Go Go” also had a rather cheesy method of presenting records by artists who were unable to appear. A series of cartoon drawings of a fox were used to illustrate the theme and the lyrics of the song. With alarming originality the animal was called “Gogo” and if you wrote to the TV station you became the proud owner of a free “Discs-a-Go-Go” badge. Apparently, for some local punters at least, “Discs-A-Go-Go” was as much a part of the local scene as the Top Twenty with various patrons recalling frequent visits to the Bristol TV studios for the weekly Wednesday taping of the show. As for The Twist, unlike most dance crazes (and there were an awful lot of them in the 60’s) it overstayed it’s welcome and by 1963 was still being promoted locally with frequent twisting competitions held at both The Town Hall and The Odeon.
When dances like the “twist” and all its later developments are introduced, the young accept them eagerly and without question, while their parents raise their eyebrows or smile indulgently for a while and then take them up with almost equal fervor, ostensibly in order to project the youthful image themselves. What they fail to realize is that such dances have their origin in pagan fertility dances that were performed in times past as a part of immoral religious rites. And just as they were designed to arouse the sexual emotions of the participants in the religious orgies, so their modern-day counterparts contribute to the loosening of moral inhibitions. Those who subscribe to the modern morality that allows for premarital sex relations have no objection to this. But what of those who have no such end in view, who may be indulging themselves simply because it is the custom? Such ones should not deceive themselves. They are still affected emotionally in the same way. Stimulation of this sort inevitably leads to improper inclinations, and those who entertain wrong desires can be just as completely overtaken as the twenty-four thousand were in succumbing to the Baal of Peor in the days of Israel.-Num. 25:1-9.”
So to recap…..on the 26th February 1962, Bridgwater Town Hall was subjected to a demonstration of a new dance craze followed by a sex orgy free-for-all. And, leaving the missus behind, you popped over to the Duke for a couple of pints didn’t you?
19th March 1962
DEAN PRINCE & THE DUKES
Yet another proverbial Bristol band.
26th March 1962
Barrie James/The Strangers
There is a strong possibility that Sandra had appeared at the Town Hall previously but not as a “headliner”. She was part of the never-ending supply of Southampton based artists and is, in fact, the bouffant-bedecked female spotted in the Dezo Hoffman photograph of Barrie James (see 1960) who, as it happens, appeared on this very same bill with the female singer.
9th April 1962
The Comets/The Antones/Mike Storm/Lee Scott
For Kim Taylor, see Sandra Laine above. A Bristol equivalent, one would imagine, of the Southampton chanteuse and billed as an “attractive newcomer”.
16th April 1962
Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
30th April 1962
The Shades (with Johnny & Mike + Young Jackie London)
7th May 1962
MIKE BERRY & THE OUTLAWS
Mike Berry (real name Michael Bourne) was a native of Northampton and progressed from skiffle group “The Rebels” to a band called “Kenny Lord & The Statesmen”. Whilst with the latter, a demo was delivered to both Jack “Oh Boy!” Good and Joe Meek both of whom were sufficiently impressed to jostle for Berry’s attention. Meek eventually got the singer’s vote by suggesting that he could become the British Buddy Holly despite the fact that Berry’s voice sounded like the strangulated larynx of Adam Faith, who also fashioned himself on Buddy’s vocal mannerisms. In the end it was a rather macabre marketing idea that eventually got Meek the gig. He suggested releasing an album featuring a picture of the singer superimposed onto a ‘ghostly’ photograph of the deceased Buddy, an idea that Berry obviously approved of but which, fortunately, never happened. Meek immediately provided Bourne with the surname Berry (Holly – Berry geddit?) but the teenage singer spent months waiting for Meek to come up with a sure-fire hit with which to launch his career. The first single release, a fairly lame cover version of the Goffin/King classic “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, failed to capture the public’s imagination though in retrospect it was a poor choice of song, being more suited for a female singer. (It’s “B” side “My Baby Doll” was such a blatant copy of the Holly style that I’m surprised Buddy’s producer Norman Petty did not sue for plagiarism.) Finally in October 1961, 9 months after signing up with the eccentric producer, Joe Meek released the rather gushy “Tribute To Buddy Holly” and it reached the heady heights of No.24 in the UK singles chart. Whilst the song’s sentiment may well have been genuine Berry was criticised for cashing in on Holly’s unfortunate death but then, in fairness, he wasn’t the only one. (Tommy Dee’s appalling “Three Stars” is just one song that springs to mind.)* Despite the controversy, Berry’s heartfelt “tribute” was given a seal of approval from two very important sources with Holly’s parents writing Mike a personal “thank you” letter whilst the great Buddy himself, so it is said, gave the song the thumbs up by pronouncing the record a hit from beyond the grave at a specially arranged seance. The fact that the tune was written by part-time spiritualist Geoff Goddard may be no coincidence. Berry released 3 singles in 1962, but despite both “It’s Just A Matter Of Time” (which appeared 3 months before his Top 20 performance), and “Every Little Kiss” failing to chart, persistence paid off when “Don’t You Think It’s Time” reached No.6 in December. Berry had employed Australian impresario Robert Stigwood as his manager at some point of his career and the decision was eventually taken to update his sound by parting company with Joe Meek during 1964. Berry’s first single produced by Stigwood (though confusingly recorded for Meek’s company RGM Sound), the self-penned “On My Mind” was an excellent example of British Beat, but generally the move was not successful for either party and appearances in the Top 40 soon ceased altogether. Apart from an unexpected Top 10 hit in 1980 with the Chas Hodges produced ballad “The Sunshine Of Your Smile”, Berry is better remembered in later years as an actor having appeared as Mr.Peters in “Worzel Gummidge” from 1979 to 1981 and as Joe Spooner in the BBC TV program “Are You Being Served?” As for Berry’s Town Hall gig, the singer went through a number of backing bands during the 60’s, with Bobby Angelo’s Tuxedoes (under the name “The Innocents”) supporting Berry for awhile, but the band that played The Town Hall – The Outlaws – not only became his regular group, they also recorded a variety of cowboy-themed Joe Meek instrumentals under their own name and by 1964 boasted the talents of Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame as their guitarist. Blackmore was not at the Town Hall gig in 1962 but Chas Hodges of Chas & Dave fame was, as he was an original member of the band. In later years, Berry, to his credit, continued to make attempts at longevity. These included co-writing a song for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988 (it was voted 2nd) and auditioning, unsuccessfully, for “The Voice” in 2016. As of this date (January 2019) Berry and his current brand of Outlaws are still treading the boards.
* In later years, Berry traded heavily on being a Buddy clone, consequently his web-site calls Mike “Britain’s Buddy Holly” which is probably taking things just a little too far. However it also mentions that Berry appears every year at Paul McCartney’s annual birthday party that celebrates the bespectacled American’s birth, so if it’s good enough for Macca, then who am I to argue?
14th May 1962
The Ramrods (and Dale Rivers)
21st May 1962
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
28th May 1962
RUSS SAINTY & THE FABULOUS NU NOTES
East-Ender Russ was born Alfred Sainty in Leyton, April 1938. Demobbed in 1957 having spent two years driving for the Royal Signals Regiment, Alf frequented his local pub The Antelope and took up with a local band called The Bobby Monroe 5, becoming their lead singer. (Around this time, Sainty apparently changed his christian name after being told by his girlfriend that Alfred wasn’t “rock n’roll enough”) A visit to London with his father led to Russ passing a successful audition at the 2 I’s coffee bar and he became a regular performer at the Compton Street venue for about a year, during which he was backed by Tony Sheridan & his band. In 1959 Sainty passed a BBC test audition and this led to more than 500 radio appearances. He became a regular on The Saturday Club and also appeared on “Easy Beat” and “Pop Go The Beatles”. In August 1958 Sainty was head-hunted by a teenage quartet called The 4 Teens, who needed a lead singer and subsequently the band became The Nu-Notes in the process. Sainty’s first single release “Happy-Go-Lucky-Me” appeared on Top Rank during 1960 but after the label went under, Russ found it difficult to hold down a regular contract and over the space of 3 years appeared on Decca, HMV & Parlophone. Decca’s “Too Shy” (1960) and “Don’t Believe Him, Donna” (1961) were followed by a couple of singles on HMV during the year of his Bridgwater appearance, though at the time of appearing at the Town Hall, Sainty had not released a single for over a year. The band are best known for their association with the famous California Ballroom in Dunstable, they were in fact the first band to appear there on the 12th March 1960, eventually making a total of 338 appearances. (Sainty’s nickname was “King Of The Cali”). Russ also enjoyed a summer season at the Bognor Regis branch of Butlins in July of 1960 but despite regular live work, and sporadic single releases they failed to make any impression as a studio band. In 1965, Sainty became a photographic model and during the height of Carnaby Street’s domination of “Swinging 60’s” fashion, he was featured in a number of glossy magazines. This led to Russ working for advertising companies and a prominent role in a TV ad for “Worthington E” bitter. But apart from that the only other interesting fact is that The Fabulous Nu-Notes line-up included three guitarists of note. In 1961 super session man Big Jim Sullivan was replaced by Roger Dean, who later turned up in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, whilst original guitarist Rhett Stoller apparently penned the “Match Of The Day” theme music! Russ and his Nu-Notes eventually split in 1964.
At this point, The Top Twenty paused once again for the summer months but during the break in it’s transmission, parts of the film “Tom Jones”, starring Albert Finney & Susannah York, were filmed in Castle Street from the 24th to the 27th August.
21st August 1962
FILM-MAKING IN BRIDGWATER – Castle Street is the location area
“Scenes for the £400,000 screen version of Henry Fielding’s “Tom Jones” will be shot in Castle Street, Bridgwater this week-end and members of local amateur dramatic societies will be employed as extras.The production unit – from Woodfall Films – will be on location in Bridgwater from Friday until Monday and people in the Castle Street area are being advised by the police on parking and other traffic problems which might arrive. Keystone of the Woodfall company is Tony Richardson who moved from a successful career in the theatre and TV to produce and direct the much lauded “Look Back In Anger” both on stage and on screen. “Tom Jones” reunites Richardson with the author of “Look Back In Anger”, John Osborne, who is said to have turned Fielding’s rambling novel into a fast-paced, humour-filled script that retains all the boisterous flavour of 18th century England. Acting the part of Tom Jones is 25-year-old Albert Finney who impressed audiences in his first starring role in the Richardson-produced Woodfall film “Saturday Night And Sunday Morning”. The female lead is played by blonde Susannah York”
28th August 1962
“TOM JONES” COMES TO TOWN” – Bridgwater provided ideal background for part of £400,000 film. “The clatter of hooves and the rumble of horse-drawn carriages have once again echoed – for the first time in possibly 50 years – in Castle Street and King Square, Bridgwater where on Friday and throughout the week-end scenes reminiscent of the 18th century have been witnessed by crowds of townspeople. With the horses and carriages came all the latest techniques of the film industry and Bridgwater’s little Georgian corner was given all the necessary treatment to make it look exactly like as it may have looked in the 1700’s. Hundreds of townspeople went along to watch a unit from Woodfall Film productions filming scenes for the £400,000 film version of Henry Fielding’s “Tom Jones”. It was the first time ever that Bridgwater had been chosen as a location for a big film and when “Tom Jones” comes to the local screen there will certainly be full houses at each performance. The scene at Castle Street which was filmed on Friday morning showed Tom’s father arriving by coach at a house in London”. Tom Jones” was given a Royal Premiere in front of the Duke Of Edinburgh in July 1963.
7th September 1962
On the Friday before the Top Twenty re-opened, Royston Jones & The Raiders made a return visit to the Town Hall but on this occasion as the headliners for a “Friday Jive Night”. It would seem that the popularity of this “teenage music” was beginning to spread.
10th September 1962
DUKE D.MOND & THE BARRON KNIGHTS
After the proverbial three month lay off, the club returned with a band billed as “A Fabulous Group with a New Sound – Saxes & Electric Vibes”. Under normal circumstances, this rather unusual instrumentation would be uncommon, but when it is attached to a combo more noted for it’s belly-laughs than beat music, it would suggest that something doesn’t quite add up. The Top Twenty’s advertising department sometimes had the habit of getting things wrong when describing the musicality of their latest acquisition. As an example, the stock definition “Vocals – Instrumentals – Comedy” was used so often to describe an artist’s assets that one gets the impression that this description was employed in the absence of any known information about the band in question. However in the case of this concert, the advert is, ironically, spot on. “The Knights Of The Round Table” (as they were originally called) started out as a “harmonizing vocal group” from Leighton Buzzard with early singles “Let’s Face It” (1962 – Fontana) Columbia’s “Jo-Anne” (1963) and a cover of Mel Torme’s “Comin Home Baby” (1964) seeing no chart action whatsoever whilst playing it straight musically. They remained, at least for the time being, a pop group with comical overtones and it wasn’t until they went to Hamburg to play the Top Ten club (literally half the club that the Top 20 was) that they changed their musical focus and returned with a new “cabaret” image that was annoyingly close to “light entertainment”. This concert therefore took place before they found their niche as a band with a show-biz sense of humour and the propensity to mimic other artists.
The first of two big breakthroughs occurred in 1963 when they were spotted at a gig in Liverpool by Brian Epstein and were asked to support The Beatles on their debut UK headlining tour, culminating in a hugely successful appearance at The Fabs Christmas Show. Their second came in 1964 when “Call Up The Groups”, an item that had been a highlight of their stage act, reached No.3 in the charts. The single was based around the idea of pop artists being conscripted into the armed forces (conscription actually ceased in 1960) and featured impersonations of a number of bands performing their recent hits but with the lyrics suitably altered to fit the subject matter. Despite having to overcome 17 copyright infringements, the single launched the Barron Knights career and from this point on they played things almost entirely for laughs. Other hits followed in a similar vein including “Pop Go The Workers” and “Merry Gentle Pops” in 1965, though 1967’s “Lazy Fat People”, written by Pete Townshend, failed to make an impression. Finally during the height of punk rock, both “Live In Trouble” & “A Taste Of Aggro” reached the Top 10 in 1977 & 78 respectively. Bill Wyman remembers being inspired when seeing the group at an Aylesbury gig in 1961, in which they employed an electric bass, the first that he had seen and they are one of a few bands who have supported both the Stones & The Fab Four. As for the Bridgwater Mercury’s billing, Duke D Mond was the pseudonym of band member Richard Palmer who died in April 2009, whilst the most well-known line-up included Barron Anthony (Anthony Osmond), Leslie “Butch” Baker and um….Pete & Dave (Pete Langford & Dave Ballinger). The Barron’s played the Top Twenty on 4 separate occasions, with their final appearance taking place just 2 months before their breakthrough hit. They are still going too, though Pete Langford is the only original member left.
17th September 1962
ALAN G.READ & THE STATESMEN
“One of the founding fathers of the Bristol scene. I first met him in 1958 when he fronted The Cemetry Skiffle Group! Been mates ever since. He was also guitarist in Daryl Grant & The Descants, and was with me in The Franklyn Big 6. He & I went on in the late sixties to promote gigs in Bristol, particularly @ The Old Granary. Al wrote a great book about that, still available. He was a presenter on BBC Radio Bristol for many years”
Mike Tobin aka Mike “Boppin” Tobin, veteran of the Bristol music scene, one time member of Mike Tobin & The Magnettes (1957-1964) and The Franklyn Big 6 (1965 to either 1967 or 1968). Was once manager of Yatton’s one and only Stackridge.
18th September 1962
As a result of the decision by the Minister of Housing and Local Government, Bridgwater is to have it’s first “Teenage Club”. It will be at 23-25 St.Mary’s Street. The club will be run by Mr.Ivor Richards who was informed last week that an appeal against Bridgwater Town Council’s refusal to permit change of use of part of the present garage premises, formerly Holley’s, had been upheld.
24th September 1962
COLIN & BRUCE (“From TWW’s “Looking For A Star”)
This could have been interesting as The Detours were the name of a skiffle band formed by The Who’s Roger Daltrey and which featured a line-up that included both Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. It would be nice to think that there is a possibility that this might have been Daltrey’s embryonic Who line-up but…..it isn’t. If I hadn’t got so carried away by what I thought was an exciting discovery I would have noticed that the advertisement lists this group as an instrumental band (They were in fact Colin & Bruce’s backing musicians and, I believe, were from Alford’s home town of Trowbridge.) The Detours returned in March 1963 with Pete Townshend still nowhere to be seen. However in April 1965………….
27th September 1962
Another independent gig at The Town Hall this time featuring the mysterious Tony Martell & the Troubadours with the equally obscure David Whitfield & The Rapids.
1st October 1962
Barrie James/Gary & Lee/The Strangers/PATTIE KNIGHT
The inevitable return of the Southampton posse. Pattie was the latest in a long line of female singers, following hard on the stiletto heels of Shirley Gaye, Anne Beverley etc. Portsmouth-born, she left school at just 16 in either 1961 or 62 and after playing in a local band was snapped up by the Canham-crew to appear as a member of the Barrie James entourage.
6th October 1962
On the opening weekend of the month the first in a series of “Jive Nights” took place, expanding upon the idea that had first appeared at the Town Hall back in September. However on this occasion, there were some significant changes in the shape of a new promoter, a new venue and a new evening for what became a regular weekly occurrence. “Bridgwater Entertainments Ltd” were responsible for providing a weekly rota at The Blake Hall of Roller Skating on Monday nights, Big Time Bingo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a live band on the Saturday evening. Only local bands or groups from the surrounding area played these evenings, suggesting that whilst these concerts were more frequent, the promoters didn’t have as much clout that the Graham Alford Agency had. Gigs during this month were Jimmy Treharne and The Pressmen on the 6th, The Mustangs on the 13th October, the proverbial Royston Jones & the Raiders from WSM on the 20th October and The Silver Stars Group on the 27th October.
22nd October 1962
Dean Prince & The Dukes
29th October 1962
Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
5th November 1962
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
19th November 1962
MIKE SAGAR & THE CRESTERS *
After yet another period of booking the familiar and not so famous, this lot appeared. Originally from Bramley in Yorkshire, they enjoyed minimal chart action with “Deep Feeling” (No.44 in December 1960) and followed this up with the rather curiously titled “The Brothers Three” in 1961, which was recorded with the Mike Sammes Singers. This release received the equivalent of the Juke Box Jury hooter amongst the record buying public. The band included one Richard Harding on lead guitar, an individual revered in local circles as a budding Eric Clapton.”He’s probably the best undiscovered guitarist in the world, an absolute top class player by any standards, and has been since the 60s. “He plays better than just about anyone you can think of, and was a kind of underground legend in the 60s and 70s. I still remember his version of the Brubeck hit “Take Five” with awe – the Cresters were a total knockout, I have an old tape of them playing some instrumentals which is amongst my most treasured musical possessions.”So says a member of Sheffield Forum.co.uk. Apart from releasing an instrumental of the Frankie Laine hit “Jezebel” under his own name in 1961, Harding in later years could be heard twanging merrily in a country group called Dillinger.
Also advertised this evening was another “Twist Contest”, the 323rd to have appeared in the Town Hall during 1962 alone. “£2 2s for the Best Couple : £1 1s for the next best two” * The Top Twenty’s advertisement erroneously spelled the band’s name as “The Crestas” though, ironically, this became the correct spelling circa 1965 after Mike Sagar’s departure.
November’s “Jive Concerts” at The Blake Hall were as follows; 3rd – Jimmy Treharne & the Pressmen 10th – The Mustangs 17th – Dave Whitfield & the Rapids 24th – Tony & the Fabulous Tycoons
3rd December 1962
ERKEY GRANT & THE TONETTES
From Manchester, the All Music Guide confirms their obscurity but suggests that they had a “punkish” sound which must have set them apart from a lot of the other bands that were treading the boards in 1962. At some point during a career that refuses to yield any hard facts, they apparently recorded The Coasters song “Girls, Girls, Girls” but their only release of significance appears to be the excrutiatingly naff “I Can’t Get Enough Of You” for Pye Records in 1963, under the name Erkey Grant & The Eerwigs. Released with a passable version of another Coasters classic “I’m A Hog For You” on it’s flip, it’s hard to believe that this track was passed over in favour of an A-side that sounds like The Kinks backing Spike Milligan on lead vocals. Incidentally, note obligatory “indoor-shade-wearing” photo (left), a sure sign of a rock n’roll rebel if ever I saw one.
10th December 1962
BRIAN POOLE & THE TREMELOES
The first band to appear at the Top Twenty with connections to the beat-group boom of 1963 though at this point in their career, the group hadn’t really hit their stride. The Tremoloes (as they were originally spelt – though the advert calls them The Tremiloes) were formed in Barking, Essex in 1958 and made their debut at Ilford Palais in 1960. Poole was originally a Buddy Holly imitator complete with horn-rimmed glasses but after joining forces with The Trems they appeared regularly on radio, turning professional in 1961. On 1st January 1962, they famously became the band that Decca Records chose to sign instead of The Beatles primarily becuase they were based in London. Faced with the choice of signing either a bunch of scousers situated 175 miles away from “Decca Central” in the capital city or some good old East End boys, rumour has it that Decca’s A&R man Dick Rowe left the final decision to his assistant Mike Smith and the rest, as they say, is history. Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, but to give Smith some credit, geographical distance was an important factor back in those pre-motorway days whilst it’s just possible that the band had given a better performance than the Fab Four who were understandably nervous on the day in question. Brian Poole was quickly established as the group’s “leader” (another trend that The Beatles successfully bucked) and after a stint as a backing band for both The Vernon’s Girls (“The Locomotion”) and, believe it or not, Jimmy Savile (on a not very politically correct cover of Ray Stevens’ “Ahab The Arab”) they released a handful of unsuccessful singles of their own namely “Twist Little Sister” and “That Ain’t Right” in 1962 and “A Very Good Year For Girls” and “Keep On Dancing” released in January and March 1963 respectively. Poole and The Tremeloes consequently appeared at the Town Hall with their career stubbornly refusing to take off.
By June however, a change of musical direction resulting in a heavier emphasis on Rhythm & Blues paid handsome dividends as first “Twist And Shout” (No.4) and then “Do You Love Me?” (No.1) stormed the charts. “Twist And Shout” may well have been a cover of a song popularised by the Isley Bros, but it was, in effect, a carbon copy of the version that The Beatles had recorded for their debut album “Please Please Me” 4 months earlier. The irony should be fairly obvious when one considers Decca’s decision to choose the Barking boys ahead of the best band in the world.
Despite The Trems decision to beef up their sound, they were never really convincing as a rhythm n’blues based band especially when compared to the more robust groups that appeared during this extremely intense period of British music history. Poole & The Tremeloes however continued to pick up the odd hit single here and there with both Roy Orbison’s “Candy Man” and “Someone Someone” reaching the Top 10 in 1964 but after the comparative failure of two good cover versions of songs originally recorded by a new wave of American artists, namely The Strangeloves “I Want Candy” (No.25) and The Rascals “Good Lovin'”, Poole eventually left to pursue a solo career in 1966, a move that normally would have meant curtains for his backing group. But whilst Poole’s stab at stardom floundered to the extent that he gave up music altogether to become a butcher, the addition of Chip Hawkes (Chesney Hawkes’ dad) gave The Tremeloes a new lease of life and in 1967 alone they achieved no less than 3 gold records including the No.1 “Silence Is Golden”, a cover of a discarded Four Seasons b-side. The Trems sporadically continued to pepper the Top 10 with hits up to 1970 but then made the unwise career choice of changing their image, denouncing their previous music and dismissing their old fans as “morons”. Damage done, the only option remaining was to slip quietly into the cabaret circuit.
Brian Poole & The Tremeloes – Do You Love Me? (1963)
December’s Blake Hall concerts; 1st – Jimmy Treharne & the Pressmen 8th – Rod & The Cortinas 15th – The Mustangs & Mike Allard & The Tremors 24th – Tony & The Tycoons 29th – Johnny Rush & the Raiders 31st – The Tornados (no not the “Telstar” mob, this lot were from Blandford Forum)
It has become apparent whilst researching this blog that the list of artists that appeared in Bridgwater is not as complete as I’d hoped it would be. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I have been informed of several “eye witness” reports regarding Town Hall performances by musicians that I have no knowledge of ever playing our home town, and even though these reports should sometimes be taken with a very large pinch of salt there is evidence to suggest, particularly when the memory appears to be so vivid, that they actually happened. Secondly, there are so many missing dates in the Top Twenty calendar that one imagines that some of them must have been filled by a concert that, for whatever reason, was never publicised in the local newspaper. In order to corroborate these “lost” performances I am currently in the process of cross-checking these missing dates with the Trowbridge and Chippenham Top Twenty gigs that took place during the same period. Graham Alford was sometimes known to cut costs by obtaining an artist’s services in a “block booking” that would require the performer in question to play more than one TT venue over the space of a week. In these circumstances, discovering who had played a Top Twenty gig elsewhere just a few days before or after the missing Bridgwater date in question may provide me with a clue as to the likelihood that we were included in their tour itinerary. Unfortunately, the evidence that I have obtained so far only serves to confuse rather than clarify though it does appear that from 1963 onwards, a pattern begins to emerge, particularly where the more established performers are concerned, with Bridgwater “sharing” the booking with other venues. However this does not explain why artists such as Johnny Burnette or Sounds Incorporated, for example, seemingly played Bridgwater but nowhere else. The idea behind this addendum is to discuss the possibles and maybes, the performers who “may” have graced us with their presence, depending on the strength of the information provided. Artist’s not appearing in this section however include The Shadows, Alma Cogan and Russ Conway, all of whom were mentioned in a Bridgwater Mercury dispatch back in 1960 as possible contenders for future gigs but who were never seen in the vicinity of the Town Hall and The Byrds, Rod Stewart & The Faces and, perhaps most implausibly, Jim Reeves whose “appearances” have been provided by people who, whilst remaining convinced of their first hand knowledge of these concerts, appear to have developed a second hand memory of such events having taken place.
The chances of the lovable cockney geezer having played Bridgwater are pretty strong. There have been two “sightings” in total with the most intriguing evidence being offered by Stan Barnett, the ex-Taylor’s employee who was heavily involved in the organisation of the Bridgy branch of the Top Twenty during it’s infancy. Stan says that Joe Brown was invited back to his house for an after gig knees-up that undoubtedly included copious amounts of jellied eels and pie & mash whilst Joe banged out “Roll Out The Barrel” on the Barnett’s old joanna*. Brown played Trowbridge, along with Dean Prince & The Dukes, on February 9th 1962 and Chippenham on December 1st 1962 with Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs in tow. The latter date looks promising as the 26th November 1962 gig is absent from the Bridgwater diary.
* As it turns out, Brown was born in Lincolnshire but was brought up in the East End of London.