Now that the Top 20 was officially over after a hugely successful 6 year run, the Bridgwater Mercury’s redoubtable journalist Mike Guy busied himself with his regular pop column in our local rag, obtaining an “exclusive” interview with Graham Nash concerning the future of popular music and reporting on a local band’s success in the movies.

“After becoming a famous pop singer throughout Europe, Bridgwater’s Lee Grant (alias Peter Gibbs) and his group The Capitols have been signed to appear in a new British motion picture starring Boris Karloff and Catherine Lacey” Guy reported. The name of this blockbuster was “The Sorcerers”, a horror movie spoof, with Grant’s band “performing three numbers which they have specifically written for the film”  Produced by Raquel Welsh’s husband, Curt Well, Mike Guy had successfully obtained another “exclusive” interview, this time with singer Grant, in which he exclaimed that Ms Welch had specifically asked him to write a song for her “disc debut”. It would appear however that this first waxing by Ms Welch failed to materialise, which was probably for the best.

Meanwhile, sensing an opportunity after the demise of the Top Twenty, a couple of promotional companies were keen to take up the position vacated by Graham Alford’s venture and on the 24th January 1967 news began to filter through of a “New Pop Show for Bridgwater”.

A big new weekly pop show is to start in Bridgwater next month (February 6th) at the Town Hall on Monday evenings – and it will be launched by Hit Parade stars The Fortunes. The shows are to be run by Westside Promotions, of Street who will present non-stop “live” entertainment between 8-11 p.m. This news comes less than two months after the closure of The Top 20 Club which pulled out of Bridgwater after six years. Westside Promotions – rapidly becoming Somerset’s leading pop agency – was formed four years ago and has been staging beat spectaculars at Glastonbury for the past three years. They have also put on pop shows at Street and over a wide area of the South West, stretching to Newbury and Weymouth. Just about everyone who’s anybody in the beat business has been presented by Westside Promotions of Glastonbury. These include Paul and Barry Ryan, Wayne Fontana, Pinkerton’s Colours, The Four Pennies, The Fourmost, The Moody Blues and Billy J.Kramer.

6th February 1967

The origins of The Fortunes can be found in 1960 and the Moseley Grammar School in Birmingham. Pupils Rodney Bainbridge (aka Rod Allen) and Barry Pritchard were in a number of bands together and in early 1963 their group The Strollers were spotted by pop music promoter Reg Calvert. Augmented by Mike West, they were transformed into Robbie Hood and His “Merrie Men” with Messrs Allen & Pritchard suitably attired in boots and green tights for the duration. Calvert eventually realized that Rod and Barry were better suited to forming their own group and paired them with another of his ‘discoveries’ in the form of aspiring vocalist/guitarist Glen Dale. The trio, named The Cliftones soon developed the three-part harmonies that became a focal point of The Fortunes sound and they were later augmented by a drummer and keyboard player respectively. Re-named “The Fortunes Rhythm Group”, this 5-piece line-up won first place at a beat contest held at Edgbaston’s ‘Tower Ballroom’ and were signed to Decca Records in late 1963. Their first record release, confusingly credited to The Fortunes & The Cliftones, and made under the supervision of future Who and Kinks producer Shel Talmy ,was a cover of the Jamie’s 1958 U.S. hit ‘Summertime, Summertime’  that sounds as if it’s on the wrong speed. But it was their follow-up 45, ‘Caroline’  that achieved some notoriety when it was adopted by the pirate radio station Radio Caroline as its theme tune. Despite plenty of airplay, the record did not chart and two more 1964 releases, The Fab Four-ish “Come On Girl” and a cover of Johnny Ray’s 1957 ballad ‘Look Homeward Angel’ also failed to make their mark. Decca gave the band one last chance. The Fortunes fifth single was a new composition written by the then-unknown songwriters Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook. Initially disappointed to discover that an “unknown” artist had recorded their song they were richly rewarded when “You’ve Got Your Troubles’  provided the breakthrough for the band with the record reaching No.2 in the British charts in August 1965 and also climbing to Number 7 in the Billboard Hot 100. With a hit record under their belt, The Fortunes were now a “hot ticket”, consequently the follow-up ‘Here It Comes Again’ was specifically written for them by Les Reed and Barry Mason and the result was another Top 5 placing reaching No.4.  The year 1966 proved to be something of a mixed blessing. Their 7th single ‘This Golden Ring’ reached Number 15 in the charts but a couple of incidents saw them make newsprint for the wrong reasons. Firstly a minor scandal erupted when the group admitted during an interview that session musicians were responsible for the instrumentation on their hit singles and that the band had only supplied the vocals. Although this was common practice back then, it raised a few eyebrows and may have damaged the groups’ credibility among some music fans. A further, more tragic blow occurred in June 1966 when the Fortunes’ manager Reg Calvert who also owned Radio City, a pirate radio station located in the Thames Estuary, was shot to death during a confrontation with an employee of a rival pirate station. The Fortunes then entered a period of inactivity chart wise. Like many bands before them and particularly as they had always enjoyed a clean-cut image they struggled with the onset of the psychedelic era, and their record sales continued to decline as they found it hard to adjust to the changing trends. However, plenty of bookings were available on the lucrative ‘cabaret’ circuit and this became an increased source of revenue. In August of 1967, the Fortunes switched to the United Artists record label and released new singles consisting of self-composed material. The first of these was the excellent ‘The Idol’ written by Rod Allen and Barry Pritchard. Despite achieving heavy rotation on the pirate radio stations this sudden change of direction, did not achieve chart results but the group soon found new success in recording ‘advertising jingles’, most notably ‘It’s The Real Thing’ for Coca-Cola. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that The Fortunes career as a UK chart act was revived though there was a 2-year gap in which no singles were released at all. After achieving a minor hit in The States with their recording of ‘That Same Old Feeling’, a song that charted in the UK for Pickettywitch, another label move, this time to Capitol Records in 1971, and a reunion with Greenaway and Cook produced a No 15 hit with ‘Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again’. The comeback was complete when their next single, the Caribbean-flavoured ‘Freedom Come Freedom Go’ made Number 6 followed by ‘Storm In A Teacup’ (written by singer Lynsey de Paul) a year later also making it into the Top 10.

HIT PARADE stars The Fortunes headed a recent show at Bridgwater Town Hall presented by Westside Promotions, of Street. Deserving of bigger support than it received, it was virtually non-stop “live”‘ entertainment. The Fortunes lived up to their reputation for equalling their recorded sound on stage, and what a treat it was to hear immaculate, quality harmonising for a change. Newest member. Shel Macrae, could be a notable ballad singer in his own right if his interpretations of “Backstage”, “Just One Smile” and Andy Willams’s “May Each Day” are anything to go by. And Rod Allen is still the “face” in the contingent. Just listen to him and Barry Pritchard for unbeatable vocal teaming. Behind them, skinbeater Andy Brown establishes a consistent perky beat which should earn him more of the limelight. In view of the group’s title, it’s rather ironic that their fortunes have been so mixed. Contrary to recent reports, however, the group definitely has no intention of splitting up, even though they may feel a bit downhearted. At least they can look forward to an important future event. They will be on the bill with Tom Jones at a London Palladium charity concert on March 3rd given in the presence of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon. They’ve previously starred there on “Sunday Night at the London Palladium”, but never before played to Royalty. The Deep Line put up stiff competition for The Fortunes with a grand, varied couple of sets that mixed soul with comedy. A highlight was Adge Cutler’s “Drink Up Thy Zider”. Having been- going for a year, their name now takes them all over the West Country. It’s a large, modern aggregation made up of Mike Argent (lead guitar). Mike Durbridge (rhythm), Colin Elkin (bass), Jim Luxton (sax) Paul Carter (drums) and Richard Rogers (main vocals). MICHAEL GUY – Bridgwater Mercury

THE FORTUNES – The Idol (1967)

Just when it seemed that all was rosy on the live concert front, things very quickly started to unravel….

Westside Promotions of Street have, after only one show, decided to withdraw “for the moment”, a series of Monday night pop dances at the Town Hall, Bridgwater. This comes after only 200 young people turned up for their first beat concert starring chart group The Fortunes. The company were to have filled the chasm left by the closure of the Top Twenty Club in December and had booked in advance, four Mondays at the Town Hall. They planned to present each week almost non-stop “live” entertainment from two groups, including local attractions. A partner in the business, Garth Muton, said they knew they stood to lose out on the first dance, but they advertised it extensively and had expected to get a minimum of 300 at the venue. “If The Fortunes couldn’t pull in that number, Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs, who we booked for the following week, wouldn’t have done any better. And on this showing they would probably have done much worse than The Fortunes, who are a big name”. Garth went on; “We would have needed 283 people at the Johnny Carr dance just to break even. We get almost as many Bridgwater fans at our Glastonbury dance as came to see The Fortunes”.

But for every bad news, there was good news…

Bridgwater is to be the launching pad for a new pop campaign in the West Country which will bring top London groups like The Cream and The Move to dance halls.  Behind the project is Western Entertainments, a company formed by the promoter at the famous Starlite Ballroom, London, Mr. Peter Lyndsy. The Bridgwater dances will be held at the Blake Hall and, as can be seen in an advertisement elsewhere in this issue, they start this Friday (February 10th) with The Way Of Life as guest group. An entertainment agency has been set up under the management of Mr. Russell Powell to act as mediator between London and the working end of Western Entertainments, and they may open up offices in either Bridgwater or Taunton. In the most ambitious pop plan ever for Bridgwater, promoter Lyndsy aims to inject new life into West Country entertainments by bringing audiences the best of London’s music. As events gather momentum, such aids as soft lights and stage decorations will be used to add atmosphere. A spokesman for the company, Mr. John Powell said last week; “We feel the West Country is an oyster waiting to be opened up. Bridgwater is a good place to start and we want to run more dances in other towns in the South West, Besides presenting London groups we’ll also be on the look-out for good local groups at our dances”

10th February 1967

Western Enterprises entered into the fray by booking another Birmingham band that I must confess meant little or nothing to me at least initially. However, it turns out that they were of tremendous importance, primarily as they were responsible for introducing to the wonderful world of popular music, a drummer by the name of John Bonham.

As you would expect, their history is convoluted and involves several local bands that were all important in their own way yet none of which achieved any real notoriety and are all largely forgotten. In the early 1960’s singer Reg Jones had started out with a local Brummie outfit called The Counts while his younger sibling Chris played guitar with another local band called The Chantelles. Reg & Chris later joined forces in The Chantelles line-up until 1963, before Jones junior joined Danny King & The Jesters, which also featured bass player Chris ‘Ace’ Kefford (The Move) and drummer Barry Smith (aka Barry St John). Both St.John & King later became part of the Way of Life alumni. After a brief sojourn with a group called The Chucks, the Jones’ decided to form a new band and The Way Of Life became part of Birmingham’s rich tapestry of long lost beat bands. They had already asked lead guitarist Mick Hopkins and bass player Tony Clarkson to join with Hopkins something of a local legend, having previously worked with Gerry Levene & The Avengers (with Roy Wood and Graeme Edge), The Diplomats and The Nicky James Movement among others. Clarkson also had an impressive, local pedigree. All that was required at this point was a new drummer and after auditioning about 20 skin bashers for the vacant chair, John Bonham, who’d worked with both Clarkson and Hopkins in The Nicky James Movement, turned up and landed the job. Unsurprisingly Bonham had worked in a number of West Midlands bands during the early-mid 1960s, including, for a short while, another group that had appeared in Bridgwater previously, Pat Wayne & The Beachcombers. However, his tenure in The Way of Life was somewhat short-lived as he was unceremoniously sacked for playing too loud (sound familiar?). In 1966 The Way of Life signed with the Rik Gunnell Agency and recorded some tracks in London and, possibly sensing that the band were onto something, the following month Bonham convinced the Jones brothers to re-employ him so by the time this gig took place the line-up not only featured the Led Zeppelin man (undoubtedly STILL playing too loudly,) but also Reg & Chris Jones and Danny King (Tony Clarkson seems to have gone AWOL at this point in time). Despite the undoubted promise of the proverbial record deal, sadly one was not forthcoming though the band soldiered on as a gigging group until April 1968. Bonham, of course, had gone by then, but another notable band member, if only for a very brief period of time, was former Ugly and future Fairport Convention man Dave Pegg, who joined in September 1967 and lasted for about a month before leaving to join the Ian Campbell Folk Group. Apparently, that most unlikely of rhythm sections (Pegg & Bonham) played about 20 gigs together before going their separate ways.

This gig, like The Fortunes concert that had preceded it was supposed to be the start of another brand new venture, but just like it’s predecessor it didn’t last for very long.


The Bridgwater pop scene takes a gigantic step forward this week with the opening on Saturday of the town’s first discotheque at the New Market Hotel in Bath Road. For the past two weeks a team of people, including professional artists, have been engaged on the task of converting the ballroom into an exciting, atmospheric setting. The discotheque will have a bar and cloakroom facilities, and no structural alterations were necessary since the ballroom is already equipped with a stage and an excellent dance floor. Opening on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, music will be provided in stereo by a Seeburg juke box, constantly kept up-to-date with the latest and greatest hit parade sounds. The licensee of the New Market Hotel, Mr.Ernest Clare, and his wife, who have done so much to further the cause of pop here in Bridgwater by booking most of the top local groups for Friday night dances at their ballroom, are to be heartily congratulated on this new venture. Let’s hope that this discotheque gets the support it deserves.

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