29th August 1960
JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES
It was imperative for Bridgwater’s new Monday night showcase to hit the ground running so booking someone substantial for this “Grand Opening Night” was of prime importance. With this first concert Graham Alford could not have done any better. From a Rock N’Roll perspective there was an awful lot of mediocrity in the British charts during the early 60’s, especially when compared to the Beat Boom that at this point was still 3 years away. But in Kidd & the Pirates, fresh from a headlining appearance at Bristol’s Colston Hall the night before, The Top Twenty not only succeeded in obtaining the services of an artist that was currently in the charts (always a vital advertising tool) but they were arguably one of the best bands operating in the UK at this time, offering an energetic rock n’roll alternative to the teenage ballads that were permeating the pop charts. Johnny Kidd (real name Frederick Heath) began his career in the skiffle group Bats Heath & The Vampires in 1956 and via The Frantic Four, The Five Nutters and The Fabulous Fred Heath Band, formed The Pirates in April 1959. Kidd not only wrote his own material which, apart from Billy Fury and possibly Marty Wilde, was a comparative rarity back in the late 50’s, but over a period of time he & The Pirates developed a live act that revealed a showy, slightly threatening stage presence. His eye-patch may have been used to conceal a squint whilst the band’s striped jumpers undoubtedly milked the “yo-ho-ho” comic aspect of piracy somewhat but Heath also wielded knives and a cutlass on stage, a gimmick that no doubt kept all those punters in the front row on their toes. In fact, in these politically correct days of “Health & Safety” it’s interesting to note that Kidd was apparently forced to cease his swashbuckling antics as insurance cover became unobtainable. As guitarist Mick Green recalls “Johnny would take out a cutlass while I was doing a heavy blues solo and at the crescendo he would throw it at my feet and it would stick into the wooden stage as part of the act. Johnny had the cutlass raised above his head, I looked down at the stage and realised that where the lino had been worn away, it was not wood but concrete. I nodded my head and yelled “no” but Kidd thought I was really getting into it and just threw it and it landed inches from my foot and bounced into the audience”. The band had secured a residency at the Wandsworth Town Hall and despite a disastrous performance at the venue in front of an A&R man from HMV were duly signed to the label after being given a second chance. During this time, Kidd had embarked on a frantic 3-month period of songwriting but it wasn’t until “Please Don’t Touch” emerged that he was ready to release something of substance, though the first version of the song was issued by a band called The Bachelors on Parlophone (no relation incidentally to that treacly trio from Southern Ireland.) Kidd eventually released his own recording of the song on the 8th May 1959 as his first HMV release and achieved a No.24 hit, though there were suggestions that if it had not been for a national strike, it would achieved a higher chart placing. Heath however, failed to capitalise on this excellent debut and his follow-up was a sugary version of “If You Were The Only Girl In The World” that, whilst being a staple part of his live show, on vinyl made Kidd sound more like Max Bygraves than Brit rocker. The band was then re-shuffled in order to improve the strength of it’s musicianship and a new rhythm section of bassist Brian Gregg and top session drummer Clem Cattini replaced the original incumbents. Only guitarist Alan Caddy was retained from the previous band and this was largely due to his Royal College of Music background. On the 13th May 1960, the “new” Pirates convened at the Abbey Road Studios to record a testosterone-fuelled version of “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” for their next “A”-side. Having been informed by EMI that the reverse of this single could be one of their own choices, on the day before the session, Kidd and the band retired to a cafe called The Freight Train in Berwick Street, Soho (owned by skiffle star Chas McDevitt) and in approximately six minutes co-wrote arguably the greatest 60’s rock n’roll song in British music history. The song was “Shakin All Over” and despite co-writer Brian Gregg suggesting that the band were mildly embarrassed by it, EMI wisely decided to “flip” the single over, and it reached No.1 in June 1960, despite being voted a “Miss” on the popular TV programme Juke Box Jury. “Shakin All Over” was still in the charts at the time of their Top Twenty performance whilst the band’s follow-up single, the somewhat similar, but still rather splendid “Restless” was issued just 1 month later. Despite being thrust into the limelight on the strength of these records, Kidd once again struggled to maintain career momentum and subsequent releases proved unsuccessful, but unlike a number of artists from the early 60’s Kidd somehow survived the changing musical landscape and even though his Pirates eventually jumped ship, new recruits were press-ganged and what turned out to be THE classic Pirates line-up (including the legendary Mick Green on guitar) released an excellent version of Arthur Alexander’s “A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues” in late 1962 that pre-dated the Liverpool sound by several months and suddenly the band were back in business. They successfully negotiated the oncoming rush of Merseybeat by releasing two superb singles in 1963, both written by their new manager Gordon Mills. The first “I’ll Never Get Over You” deservedly reached the heady heights of No.4 whilst follow-up “Hungry For Love” got to No.20. But once again, instead of consolidating this success, Kidd’s career floundered, despite turning out some decent material in a number of styles that were the equal of many a Beat band. After guitarist Green left to join Billy J Kramer’s Dakotas, Johnny once more found himself out in the cold commercially, with the record buying public seemingly reluctant to accept the singer as anything other than a leather-clad rocker from the “old” school, a situation that was not helped when Kidd made a blatant attempt to recall the glory days by re-recording “Shakin All Over” in 1965. However, by 1966, Kidd was on the verge of a comeback with yet another, promising ‘New Pirates’ line-up but on the 7th October, upon returning from a cancelled gig, a motor car accident in Lancashire tragically killed the vocalist whilst also injuring Pirate Nick Simper. Along with The Shadows, Johnny Kidd’s music was more influential than any other British band from the early 60’s and if there were such a thing as a British equivalent of the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame then he would have to be in it. The Kidd story does not end with his untimely death however, as The Pirates (including Mick Green) re-united during the mid-70’s for a series of acclaimed albums and concert performances. Riding on the coat tails of pub rock, their abrasive take on R&B updated the original Johnny Kidd sound whilst complimenting other bands like Dr.Feelgood, who were ploughing the same musical furrow. (In fact Dr.Feelgood were named after a Johnny Kidd “B” side whilst their bug-eyed guitarist Wilko Johnson’s choppy, syncopated style was virtually a carbon copy of the Mick Green method of twanging.) Green remained something of a cult figure up to his death in January 2010 and played in Paul McCartney’s band when Macca decided to go all retro with his “Run Devil Run” album in 1999.
If “Shakin All Over” had been the only song that Kidd & The Pirates had recorded, they would still have been remembered for their services to British rock n’roll. As it happens the legacy they left behind is so much more than just one song and contains several gems that are certainly worth rediscovery.
The “Added Attraction” on this bill, as mentioned in the extremely small print in the advert above, was local band Larry Boyd & The Davericks (see 10th October entry below). Meanwhile, Graham Alford’s only memory of Kidd’s appearance was the singer’s admiration for the new coat of whitewash that was being applied as he was doing his Town Hall soundcheck. Kidd, prior to buckling his swash as a rock n’roller had been a painter and decorator. Incidentally, Kidd & His Pirates also appeared at the “5th Grand Opening Night” of Trowbridge’s Top Twenty on the 9th September 1960.
“Before performing at the opening of the “Top Twenty Club” at Bridgwater yesterday evening, rock n’roll star Johnny Kidd made a personal appearance at Acland’s record shop at 49 Eastover, Bridgwater. Placed high in the charts at the moment with his and the Pirates’ recording of “Shakin All Over”, Johnny signed discs and sheet music for many of the hundreds of teenagers who visited the shop between 12.30 & 1.30 p.m. One of Mr.Acland’s staff told the Mercury that there was no rowdyism, in fact the young people appeared to be too shy to go and talk to the singer. Future performers at the “Top Twenty Club” include The Shadows – whose recording of “Apache” now tops the hit parade, Russ Conway, Alma Cogan and other artists who record for E.M.I. All the stars who perform at the club will also put in personal appearances at Acland’s”
I’m not sure what happened regarding the promised appearance of the three E.M.I. artists mentioned above but unfortunately none of them played the Town Hall. Graham Alford, some 40-odd years later, admitted to being equally uncertain. Methinks it was either a spot of wishful thinking or an advertising ploy intended to drum up interest in the new venture. Instead, after the opening night’s blockbuster, the Top Twenty settled into a routine of booking artists that were not necessarily household names but who were nevertheless professional and more than capable of providing good entertainment.
5th September 1960
BRIAN FISHER & THE RAIDERS
ANNE BEVERLEY with The Four Strangers
Whilst it may be tempting to believe that the “Brian Fisher” advertised could have been the very same that ran a successful hairdressing salon in the town centre for many years and that Anne Beverley was in fact Sid Vicious’ mother…..that of course is not the case. This Fisher originated from that hot bed of Rock N’Roll – Southampton. A surprisingly high number of artists booked during the early Top Twenty days were from this part of the globe which suggests that a deal was struck between Graham Alford and the agency that owned the artists in question. Fisher & Beverley were both on the books of one Len Canham, a promoter who was at one point the manager of Southampton’s Royal Pier Pavilion and Canham was to provide the Top Twenty with several other performers. Brian Fisher, to my knowledge, never got as far as securing a recording contract but according to Pete Broyd, another Canham-ite and leader of the band The Blackjacks, he should have done. “He was a very mature singer for his age and at a time when the rest of us were trying to emulate Elvis or Cliff he did his own thing. He favoured Jerry Lee Lewis numbers but the song we all remember Brian for was ‘Do You Wanna Dance’. Brian was not one of the ‘pretty boys’ and perhaps for that reason he never quite made it” As early as 1962/63 rumour has it that Fisher had become weary of the music scene and had all but retired – but not before making a total of 5 appearances in Bridgwater. The (Four) Strangers were the proverbial backing band for practically all of the Southampton alumni and, as such, could possibly stake the claim of having played The Top Twenty more often than most. They were also, incidentally, Fisher’s ex-backing group. Their most well-known line-up comprised of bassist Brian Oram, guitarist Tony Collier and drummer Brian “Fergy” Ferguson (the “less than fab Four” seem to have lost a Stranger somewhere along the way.) Collier is a veritable veteran of the Southampton scene and what’s more is still out there if the World Wide Web is to be believed. Can currently be heard in a band called Wishful Thinking who have recently reformed, in Collier’s own words “after being apart for more than 150 years”
12th September 1960
JOHNNY SPENCER & THE CASUALS
PETE & THE DEVILS
Johnny Spencer & The Casuals were the first in a number of groups to play The Town Hall that hailed from that thriving metropolis Bristol whilst Gary Price would appear to have been a virtuoso member of The Casuals. As for Pete (and not forgetting of course his Devils) they were billed simply as a “local band” and were fronted, so rumour has it, by a guy called Pete Gibbs. Gibbs became an entertainer in Spain in the mid-1960’s and by 1966 was signed to Parlophone Records though he also released several singles on the continent. His greatest claim to fame would appear to be that prior to his European jaunt he was in a London band called The Cliftons, whose bass player was a certain Bill Wyman (see 29th November 1966)
*Price was hailed in the Top Twenty advert as a sax-alphonist.
26th September 1960
Kelly (real name Michael Pailthorpe) hailed from Selby and spent three years in the Royal Air Force before becoming an original member of the John Barry Seven as a vocalist/rhythm guitarist in 1957. After leaving in 1959 he sang at the infamous 2 I’s Coffee Bar in Soho where he was spotted by George Martin. Like a number of artists who played the Town Hall in the early days, Kelly appeared on the Parlophone label as a solo artist which is reasonably interesting as it dispels the myth that prior to The Beatles signing in 1962, Parlophone had no “pop music” roster as such and concentrated instead on releasing novelty and comedy records. Kelly’s debut single ‘Tease Me’ was released in April 1960 and was apparently written by the singer during a tube journey on the London Underground. It made the charts, reaching No.27 in May but failed to launch his career. This was primarily due to a car accident that unfortunately prevented Kelly from taking advantage of his success, delaying the release of the next record. Even though the single in question, “Listen Little Girl” (upon which Kelly sounds like a poor man’s Mel Torme) scraped into the bottom regions of the Top 50, the moment was lost. Two more 45’s – “With You” (November 1960) and the rather curiously titled “Cold, White & Beautiful” (June 1961) were issued but to no avail. Kelly was by all accounts not only an exemplary musician – he was a particularly fine chromatic harmonica player – but he also bore a passing physical resemblance to Buddy Holly (or Freddie Garrity depending on your point of view.) After one final solo single for Parlophone in 1965, he later joined the Hull band the Keith Herd Rhythm Group.
LYN TRACEY (“Miss Personality”)
Roberg was another singer that was on the Len Canham roster and in fact was one of Canham’s first signings. South African born, Tex (real name Arnie) was often referred to as “South Africa’s Elvis” and was later “discovered” playing at Butlins Holiday camp, eventually becoming one of a bewildering amount of artists that tried his luck cutting his musical teeth in Hamburg, Germany. Whilst helping to satisfy the ravenous appetite for “beat music” that had occurred in that city after the initial influx of a number of English bands, Roberg not only holds the apparent distinction of being the first act to play at the infamous Star Club, but he also rubbed shoulders with the Silver Beatles during their early sex & drugs period. “In spring of 1962, garish red posters announced that the times of village music were over. Manfred Weissleder was to open the “Rock and Twist Parade 62” – that is what the poster said – on 13 April 1962 with his ‘Star Club’ on Grosse Freiheit 39 in Hamburg. This was to be achieved by a “clustering of the European elite” consisting of The Beatles, Roy Young, The Bachelors, and the South African ‘Tex Roberg & The Graduates’. From May onward they were joined by ‘The Tony Sheridan Quartet’ and ‘Gerry & The Pacemakers”.
The heavily brylcreemed Davis (who looks about 14 in the picture below), was advertised by Graham Alford as “The most fantastic singing discovery since Cliff Richard” when the singer appeared at Trowbridge on July 12th 1960. He was also signed to Parlophone but his history is a little vague and consequently hard to track down. “You’re My Only Girl” backed by “Love Me” were released on that label in May 1960, with the latter a rather dodgy cover version of the Presley song penned by Lieber and Stoller. “Talkin In My Sleep” followed in June 1961 before he defected to Pye Records, with whom he cut another 3 45’s over a period of 11 months, but none of his releases saw any chart action. Listening to the rather scratchy version of “Love Me”, it’s easy to see why. Davis not only sounds like a Cliff Richard clone but with with his dodgy top register and a tendency to wander off key occasionally, it’s easy to understand why he wasn’t a great success. No doubt both sides of his debut single were performed during his debut appearance at the Town Hall and at least by Bridgwater’s standards he must have been something of a sensation as he, along with label mate Kelly, appeared at both Aclands AND Taylor’s Record Departments on the day of the gig.
10th October 1960
DALE RIVERS & THE RAMRODS
Not to be confused with the Connecticut band of the same name that had a huge hit with “Ghost Riders In The Sky” in 1960 or the UK equivalent formed during the same year that hailed from Carlisle, this was another Bristol based group. Band names were 10-a-penny back in these pre-Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours days, consequently it’s hard to distinguish between a potential who’s who of future superstars and an acne-ridden selection of hopefuls with dodgy hair-do’s and no fixed talent (see also “The Detours” and “The Paramounts” entries)
LARRY BOYD & THE DAVERICKS
Bridgwater’s very own and if you are a local child of the 60’s & 70’s you will remember Lazza as a permanent fixture in the annual Carnival concerts. Indeed, my very first exposure to the wonderful world of music stardom was watching Larry doing his best Tom Jones at one of the concerts in question. I can still see him now surrounded by some local beauties on stage – a frilly shirt, a gold medallion, and a gyrating hip movement so severe that he threatened to maim several members of the audience sitting in the front row. Larry, to my knowledge, still resides in Weston-Super-Mare and a nicer guy you will not meet. Local legend.
24th October 1960
PAUL HANFORD & THE RHYTHM SEEKERS
Yet another Parlophone artist, for whom he recorded 3, possibly 4 singles, Hanford missed out to Bryan Hyland on an English cover version of the excruciatingly twee “Itsy Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” but only after Hyland’s record was re-released by Decca in the UK in order to compete directly with Hanford’s effort which promptly sunk without a trace. Hanford’s single was produced by George Martin once again who was probably responsible for quite a lot of the Parlophone 45’s issued at this time but who, apart from gaining success in the comedy LP market most notably with Peter Sellers, couldn’t get arrested in the singles charts. His work on Hanford’s “Bikini” single became the subject of a discussion between the producer and Pete Murray on “Juke Box Jury” during which Murray criticized Martin of plagiarism as the 2 singles sounded practically the same. Martin lost the argument but to be fair he was fighting a losing battle as most British producers at the time, under pressure to release “hit” material, were having to compete against superior American releases, written by established songwriters, by using inferior English vocalists. Hanford released “Ev’ry Little Girl” during the same year as his Top 20 appearance but only his final Parlophone single, the uptempo “Memphis Address”, strayed from what appeared to be a succession of drippy ballads. After he released three singles for Oriole in 1962 and 1963 he promptly vanished off the face of the earth (from a career perspective anyway) at the tender age of 21.
The advert for this concert tantalisingly suggests that the male members of the audience were to be given a special treat this evening – an appearance of “Miss Itsy Bitsy” in her “bikini”. Whilst it is tempting to guess whether the young lady in question was part of the Hanford entourage or Elsie from the local chippy, one suspects that it was a small piece of poetic licence on behalf of the marketing department of The Top Twenty and was intended to advertise Mr.Hanford’s latest vinyl offering.
CLAY NICHOLLS & THE TEENBEATS
Also appearing on the bill were this rockin’ combo. I cannot provide any background on the Teenbeats I’m afraid but Clay Nicholls is of historical interest, though not becuase of anything that he achieved personally. Nicholls rubbed shoulders with at least two musicians, both of whom were effectively “stolen” from the man’s employment and who later achieved independent stardom elsewhere. Nicholls was born Vincente Tartaglia but despite his Italian origins, was actually Scottish. After moving to London he became another in the long list of hopefuls that frequented the 2 I’s Coffee Bar in Soho-A-Go-Go and eventually formed a band called The Blue Flames in 1958. Having been turned down by Larry Parnes after a so-so gig at the Shepherds Bush Gaumont, Nicholls and his band obtained a residency at a Butlins Holiday Camp in Filey, Yorkshire in both 1958 & 1959. Augmenting the 1959 line-up was a young spiky-haired cocker-nee guitarist obtained from The Spacemen Skiffle Group called Joe Brown. But, before the engagement could be completed, Brown’s talent was spotted by the aforementioned Mr.Parnes and he was whisked away smartish to become a back-up musician to the impresario’s “cavalcade” of stars. The Blue Flames disbanded soon after with Nicholls subsequently forming, or at the very least fronting, The Teenbeats, with whom he appeared at The Town Hall. Then in June 1961, The Blue Flames were revived by Nicholls for the umpteenth time, though on this occasion were augmented by a young pianist by the name of Colin Powell. The Nicholls/Powell association did not last long however. The band were spotted by Billy Fury during a rehearsal and, he promptly decided to purloin the Blue Flames lock, stock and keyboard player for his own personal use with Nicholls apparently now excess baggage. However, in the dog eat dog world of British pop music, nothing lasts forever, and in this case, the new line-up only survived on Fury’s payroll for approximately six months. Having obtained their services, so we are told, becuase the band had shared the same BF initials as the bequiffed scouser, Fury quite possibly came to the conclusion that this was a rather tenuous reason for employing them in the first place and he consequently fired the lot of ’em. The remaining musicians continued independently under the leadership of the aforementioned Colin Powell who, by now, was masquerading under the name Georgei Fame and Georgie Fame & His Blue Flames were born. The rest is, as they say, the proverbial history though as for Clay Nicholls, who knows? Another singer who seemingly has disappeared into the mists of time and who finally got lost in the fog.
31st October 1960
BARRIE JAMES & THE DOMINOES
Another singer off the “Parlophone Recording Artiste” production line though there was only one single to show for his association with that label. “As Far As I Can Tell” backed by “Hot Sunshine”, was released in May 1961. James was originally discovered at the tender age of 15 by impresario Carrol Levis (a “star-maker” who was the predecessor to people like Hughie “Opportunity Knocks” Green) But James spent three years away from show business to train as an apprentice jockey. “To train as a jockey or train as a singer, that was the decision Southampton-born Barrie James had to make when he left school” says his EMI Press Kit. After putting on three stone in weight, this curtailed his racing ambitions somewhat, so he returned to the giddy world of rock n’roll and joined forces with the skiffle group The Dominoes. When 2 members of that band left to go professional (see the next group to play The Top Twenty), James became part of the same Southampton scene that had spawned Brian Fisher, Tex Roberg & Anne Beverley. “Naturally, I’m in this to make a success, but if things don’t work out as I hope then I am quite prepared to go back to a daytime job” James says in his bio. As it happens things didn’t go as planned but thanks to promoter Len Canham, who was James’ best man at his wedding, he was given an agency to run called “Barrie James Enterprises”. However after the birth of his second child, he eventually retired from professional performances in 1964, with the agency, now called “Avenue Artists”, being run by Canham himself.
14th November 1960
THE BROOK BROTHERS
Barrie James & The Dominoes
From Winchester, Ricky & Geoff Brook were once hailed as the UK’s answer to the Everly Bros. Having attended Peter Symonds Secondary School, their career began with the proverbial skiffle origins, and after winning a talent contest held at Southampton’s Royal Pier, they left their band The Dominoes (see Barrie James) to sign to Top Rank Records, turning professional in the process. In 1960 they issued covers of the Four Brothers “Green Fields” and the Hank Locklin song “Please Help Me I’m Falling” both of which were produced by Tony Hatch, but then Top Rank went bust. When Hatch moved to Pye Records as their “in house” producer, he took the Brook Brothers with him and they managed 5 Top 40 hits between 1961 & 1963 with “Warpaint” their first and biggest smash, reaching No.5 in March 1961, two months before their 2nd Top Twenty appearance. Bearing a passing resemblance vocally to the aforementioned Phil & Don, the Brooks suffered mostly by recording a succession of bouncy, sappy, novelty pop songs, some of which were vaguely based on Everly melodies, but none of which were of a particularly high standard. If the siblings had had Chet Atkins as a producer and a songwriting team of the calibre of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant (or Phil & Don Everly for that matter) on their side, things may have been a tad different. As it was, they were given embarrasing material like “Ain’t Gonna Wash For A Week” which did at least reach No.13 in the charts, but they were eventually swallowed up by the beat group movement. Despite appearing in the film “It’s Trad Dad” alongside Helen Shapiro and Craig Douglas, entering a tune called “A Song For Europe” in the 1962 Eurovision Song Contest (which failed miserably, making it NOT a song for Europe after all) and changing their name to “The Brooks” they eventually disappeared into the black hole of light entertainment.
28th November 1960
Anne Beverley, Brian Fisher & the Raiders
Hunter is something of a mystery as Google searches reveal next to nothing about him though that’s probably because he had, like so many others, one of those “blink and you’ll miss him” careers. Here one minute, gone the next. There are suggestions that he worked for both Larry Parnes (more on him later) & Len Canham and that he once fronted a bunch of musicians collectively known as “The Giants”, but his history is cloudy to say the least. Bob James, one of the Southampton “crew”, described him as “extremely good looking with an average voice!” which, as “Lonely & Blue” suggests, may not be too far from the truth. This debut single was released by HMV in September 1960 but despite transferring to Fontana, a cover version of Billy Brown’s “Lost Weekend” from 1961, upon which Hunter sounds like a British version of Paul Anka, was the sum total of his attempt at stardom.
5th December 1960
Johnny Spencer & The Casuals
12th December 1960
Michael Cox was a scouser who had the good fortune to be taken under the wing of the mercurial Joe Meek, the man responsible for providing the first ever British record to make No.1 in the USA – The Tornadoes “Telstar”. “Telstar” did not appear until 1962 so Cox’s involvement occurred during Meek’s embryonic period as an independent record producer, one of the very first in the UK. Michael’s career took off when his 4 younger sisters wrote to ABC TV demanding an audition for Jack Good’s TV program “Oh Boy!”. Despite this rather forceful approach and the fact that Cox was not told about the letter, Good was sufficiently impressed to sign him up for the program that became “Oh Boy’s” successor, “Boy Meets Girl”. Good also effectively took over Cox’s career and obtained a deal for the singer with Decca Records, for which he recorded a couple of singles in 1959. Despite the fact that both songs failed to chart they are distinctive for featuring a backing band that included guitarist Joe Brown. Good then introduced the singer to Joe Meek after the producer had enquired about signing talent to his own, newly formed, Triumph record label and with Decca rather hastily deciding that Cox wasn’t quite what they were looking for, Michael became one of Meek’s first acquisitions. After Marty Wilde had generously offered a demo of a song written by John D.Loudermilk called “Angela Jones”, Cox recorded this rather tepid teenage tearjerker and it reached No.7 in June 1960.
Sounding pretty much like a lot of the pop fodder that was in the charts back in those days, it does not bear the trademark sound that set Joe Meek’s records apart from the rest and was the only sizeable hit to appear on his label before it was abandoned due to financial difficulties. In fact the single would have sold better, had it not been for Triumph’s miniscule budget which was unable to fund the demand for the record. Cox toured Scandinavia to some degree of success, and was apparently very popular in both Denmark & Sweden, where he was backed by one of Joe Meek’s regular bands. (This was either The Outlaws, who later featured guitarist Richie Blackmore, or The Checkmates – there seems to be some confusion as to who actually got the gig.) But his notoriety abroad could not be matched back in the UK and despite moving to His Master’s Voice and reaching No.41 with “Along Came Caroline” just 2 months before his visit to Bridgwater, his days as a chart-bound pop star were numbered. (“Along Came Caroline” incidentally was a blatant re-write of “Angela Jones” – so much so that the character appears in the song’s lyrics.) Cox also recorded for Parlophone but with little success, and continued his singing career sporadically until 1967. But he eventually decided to concentrate on acting and apart from kept busy with appearances in both TV plays and commercials, in 1966 he appeared opposite Wilfred Brambell & Sid James in the apparently awful James Bond spoof “Where The Bullets Fly” as a character called Lt.Guyfawkes. In 1976, he appeared in the filmed version of the musical “The Butterfly Ball” written by ex-Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover but soon afterwards Cox temporarily called time on his thespian career to work as a cruise ship entertainer. In later years he lived in both the States and New Zealand and worked regularly on New Zealand television under the name Michael James, a monicker that, according to one rock encyclopedia, was obtained following a mysterious experience with a ouiji board.
More poetic licence from The Top Twenty’s ad men (see Paul Hanford above.) This time they triumphantly acclaim “Wow! A date with “Angela Jones!” on the concert’s poster. This comment obviously refers to Michael Cox’s big hit and does not suggest in any way that Ms Jones herself would be available for a curry, a couple of pints of pale ale and a quick grope by the changing room doors.
The Hunters, at least by the time they had arrived in Bridgwater, were an above average instrumental band during a period when the charts were full of ’em. Formed out of a group called The Parker-Royal Five that were based in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, after band member David Meikle had left to form his own combo, his replacement Dave Sampson became the unofficial leader and with the assistance of Cliff Richard, he secured a record contract with Columbia. His first single, credited to Dave Sampson & the Hunters, was a smoky ballad called “Sweet Dreams” written by the vocalist in Wardour Street’s Curry Bazaar Indian Restaurant in 1959, reaching No.29 in May the following year. This line-up, with Sampson on lead vocals, released a series of singles without making much headway. Following the success of Cliff & The Shadows’ ability to hold down two successful careers at the same time, it would appear that the decision was taken to utilize the talents of The Hunters instrumental prowess, and after a swift change of record label, the single “Teen Scene”, heralded as their “new” Fontana release by the Bridgwater Mercury, appeared also during 1960. “Teen Scene” was in fact a fine cover version of an obscure USA hit originally recorded by Dicky Doo & The Don’ts. At this point, it’s hard to know whether Dave Sampson had left the band or whether The Hunters continued without him but as there are a couple of albums from this period, namely “Teen Scene” and “Hits From The Hunters”, both currently available, one must imagine that they enjoyed a healthy, if unsuccessful recording career as independent artists. The band also backed a number of British singers such as Bridgwater co-star Michael Cox, whilst in 1961, they appeared on a couple of occasions behind Cliff as The Shadows, when the latter were involved in a minor car accident. At least one of these performances included a slot on the prestigious Sunday Night At The London Palladium. There is no denying that they were an above average band, and on tracks such as “Golden Earrings” and in particular 1962’s “The Storm”, comparisons with Hank B and the boys are inevitable. But The Hunters suffered from a lack of both consistency and decent material, and come the beat revolution were left surveying the ruins of a once hopeful career. Guitarist Brian Parker and his ex-Parker Royal cohort David Meikle eventually re-invented themselves in the mid-60’s as co-founders of the band Unit 4 Plus 2. Consequently The Hunters fact file reveals two further items of interest, one of which is that Parker co-wrote the 4+2 hit “Concrete And Clay” and the other is that the band would appear to have had a particular liking for the pith helmet.