2nd January 1961
Danny Davis/Tex Roberg
THE NEVITT BROS
Yet another booking from the Southampton roster managed by Len Canham. The Nevitt’s (Mike & Tony) were making their debut here and apart from a couple of faded photographs, the only other info about what was probably another Everly Bros inspired duo was the name of their backing band, The Jaguars.
16th January 1961
A great “double header” for this particular evening with two artists that were poles apart – a 60’s male crooner and a self-confessed raving loony from the North West of London.
Lance Fortune was another scouser, this time from Birkenhead – just a ferry ride across the Mersey. Fortune (real name Chris Morris) studied classical piano as a child but stricken with the desire to be famous, sacrificed a scholarship at a Welsh University to work as an odd-job man at the 2 I’s Coffee bar. Morris became one of many singers that formed part of the Larry Parnes production line. An ex-shopkeeper, “Mr.Parnes, Shillings & Pence” as he was called, was the Simon Cowell of the 1960’s and probably the most successful manager/agent/impresario in the UK at the time. Parnes template was to take a succession of young men* with a varying degree of talent and turn them into “stars” with each singer given a glamorous stage name that was apparently meant to highlight their individual personalities. Parnes groomed a plethora of male singers but his knack of spotting raw talent was somewhat hit and miss as he placed a heavy emphasis on image and the money-making capabilities of each performer. Even though Parnes artists Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Tommy Steele & Georgie Fame had careers that lasted for a sizable length of time, for every one of Larry’s successes there were two who didn’t quite make it and Fortune belongs in the latter category. The singer, who was not managed by Parnes but was discovered and re-named by him, threatened to make his mark when “Be Mine” got to No.4 in January 1960. Sounding like a dead ringer for the Buddy Holly-inspired John Barry production of “What Do You Want?” a No.1 for Adam Faith in 1959, “Be Mine” may well have been another Joe Meek presentation, but Barry arranged this track under the pseudonym Johnny Prendy. In April 1960, after the untimely death of Eddie Cochran, Fortune was one of 2 singers who replaced the American on his UK tour with Gene Vincent. Unfortunately, Fortune only made the Top Thirty just once more from a further 3 pizzicato string-laden single releases, subsequently his career became nothing more than a tiny smudge in the margins of UK rock n’roll history. Incidentally, the idea that Parnes’ choice of stage name was tailored to each singer is not entirely true as the monicker “Lance Fortune” was originally suggested as a possible name for Mr Clive Powell aka Georgie Fame.
* It may be churlish to suggest it, but perhaps there was an ulterior motive for Parnes’ interest in “young men” as Larry and indeed Joe Meek, were both homosexuals.
SCREAMING LORD SUTCH
Where does one begin? David Edward Sutch (or Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow as he later became known as) was born in Hampstead in 1940 and as a teenager was a plumber’s mate who developed an early passion for rhythm n’blues. A chance meeting with drummer Carlo Little in a coffee bar led to the formation of The Savages, though at this point there was no intention for Sutch to be in the band, as he didn’t have any musical talent whatsoever. An excessively eccentric character with exceptionally long hair (by early 1960’s standards that is), his arrival as a rock n’roll singer happened by chance. Carlo Little takes up the story “During a 12-bar rock and roll jam Bernie (the guitarist) screamed his guitar loudly. Excited by his playing Sutch went crazy with his head, his hair fell down, the full 18 inches, and screamed his head off “Yeah man!” It was such a funny sight that none of us could play any longer for laughing”. This appeared to make him the ideal candidate for the role of The Savages lead vocalist and he was consequently given the job. The fact that he couldn’t hold a note was of no importance. Almost from the outset Sutch & The Savages (with future Stones collaborator Nicky Hopkins on piano and Keith Moon an occasional drummer) built up a solid reputation as a live band within the capital city with Sutch it seems, doing his utmost to draw attention to himself. He adopted a “Wild Man Of Borneo” image by glueing a pair of thrift-shop buffalo horns to his motor-cycle helmet, whilst on stage The Savages honed a “horror-themed” stage show that was taken in part from the American artist Screamin Jay Hawkins and which eventually became their calling card. Apart from appearing as Jack The Ripper, Sutch would be carried on and off-stage in a black coffin with his skin painted a ghostly white and lips bright red. Knives, daggers, skulls and even the odd fake dead body were all used as props. If Johnny Kidd’s stage act was “slightly threatening” then Sutch made him look like Capt. Pugwash by comparison, however ridiculous it all may have been. His Top Twenty appearance featured all of these antics and maybe more but did not, it would seem, feature The Savages. Carlo Little had accepted a professional engagement with Dougie Dee and the Strangers and Sutch suddenly found himself on his own. A successful audition at the proverbial 2 I’s Coffee Bar however convinced the proprietor of that establishment Tom Littlewood to send him out on tour with Vince Taylor’s Playboys (more of him later) and it was this band that backed him on the gig. Sutch was, at this point, still not signed to a record label but later that year The Savages re-formed, Sutch met Joe Meek (yes him again) and signed to Pye Records, releasing his first single “Til The Following Night” (aka “My Big Black Coffin”) in the process. Sutch and The Playboys must have been quite a sight on the evening of the 16th January 1961. God knows what Lance “Mr.Clean Cut” Fortune thought of it all. There have been many nutters sighted in Bridgwater over the years but Sutch was the only one armed with a microphone and a 4-piece band.
Sutch hit the headlines just 2 months after this gig when he was caught eloping with the 17 year-old daughter of a policewoman, just the sort of behaviour that your mother always warned you about.
Sutch singles of note from the early 60’s all take advantage of the band’s “hammer horror” image and are as subtle as a bunch of Hells Angels gatecrashing a Tupperware Party. They include “Jack The Ripper” from 1963, a track that apparently attracted the latter day attention of Jack White from The White Stripes and for which, Sutch made a typically over the top promo film, whilst from 1964, “Monster In Black Tights”, “She’s Fallen In Love With The Monster Man” and “Dracula’s Daughter” were all issued in short succession. There are two problems with Sutch’s recorded output. The first is that, beyond the “shock” value that it apparently held back in the early 60’s, it can not be taken seriously, secondly it gets constantly overshadowed by the man’s rare talent for self-promotion, consequently it has consistently taken a back seat to his eccentric behaviour, which includes the following;
In 1961, he enters politics for the first time, with the formation of the “Sod Em All Party”. In 1963, the now re-christened “National Teenage Party” polls 208 votes at the Stratford-On-Avon by-election. In 1964, Sutch starts his own pirate radio station. “Radio Sutch” initially broadcasts from a fishing trawler situated in the Thames Estuary called the Cornucopia but 2 weeks later, he is forced to move his operation to the war-time gun platforms at Shivering Sands near Southend. A Royal Navy task force is eventually summoned to physically eject Sutch from the area. Apart from playing the usual array of popular beat music, Sutch broadcasts Mandy Rice-Davies reading excerpts from “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. In 1966, Sutch stands against Harold Wilson in the General Election at Huyton, Lancs and polls a creditable 585 votes. In 1968, Sutch tours America in a Rolls-Royce adorned with a Union Jack and during 1969, upon hearing that Elvis Presley is to make his comeback in Las Vegas, he successfully poses as the “British Ambassador for Rock N’Roll” and not only obtains press tickets, but secures a meeting with “The King” himself. Sutch releases his first album in 1970 entitled “Lord Sutch and His Heavy Friends”. This included cameo appearances by John Bonham, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and ex-Savage Nicky Hopkins. In a BBC “worst album ever” poll in 1998, the record receives an honorary mention, but Colin Larkin includes it in his book “Top 1000 Albums Of All Time”. In 1972, Sutch appears, along with several topless women, at 10 Downing Street with the intention of presenting Prime Minister Ted Heath with tickets for Wembley Stadium’s forthcoming “London Rock N’Roll Show” extravaganza at which the good Lord is scheduled to make an appearance. The police are called to intervene and several arrests are made but Sutch escapes prosecution as he is the only member of the entourage who is fully clothed. In 1983, he forms his beloved “Monster Raving Loony Party” and in 1991 surpasses politician Bill Boakes as the parliamentary candidate that has stood most times in UK election history. In 1994, he achieves his finest political result, with 1,114 votes at the Rotherham by-election. Finally, and sadly, in 1999, having suffered depression from the death of both his mother and her pet dog, Rosie, Sutch is found hanged at his Mum’s residence.
Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages – Jack The Ripper (1965)
23rd January 1961
Johnny Spencer & The Casuals
30th January 1961
The Nevitt Bros/Brian Fisher/
SHIRLEY GAYE & The Semi-Tones
Another Len Canham evening featuring “The New Teen Rave” The Nevitts, “Rocking Boy” Brian Fisher and “For The First Time Here – Glamorous TV Star” Shirley Gaye (pictured below with The Strangers & Barrie James)
13th February 1961
SANDRA McCANN/JOHNNY GREGG/MIKE STORM & THE COMETS/THE ANTONNES
With Bristol just a stone’s throw away, it made sense from a geographical perspective for the Top Twenty to tap in to it’s local music scene. To my knowledge, Johnny Spencer & The Casuals and Dale Rivers & The Ramrods had been the only Bristol bands to have played the Town Hall up to this point but here was the first evening to feature a number of acts that were predominantly from that city. On 16th December 1960, a concert called “Groups Galore” had played Bristol’s Colston Hall. This was a showcase evening for a lot of the city’s local bands, “even though not one of them had a recording contract, and some of the musicians were still in school”. Such was it’s popularity, “Groups Galore” became an bi-annual event for the next 5 years and was successfully revived in 2000 with the same line-up that had played the first gig 40 years previously. A well-publicised final performance of “Groups Galore” occurred in 2005. As for 4 artists mentioned above, it’s surprising just how little is known about them. As previously mentioned, most of these never got anywhere near a record contract, consequently their history is based on a life on the road and hundreds of gigs like this one. Sandra McCann was billed as “only 16 years old” at the time of this concert and was something of a Brenda Lee-a-like, Mike Storm was one of the original “Groups Galore” artists as were The Comets, the proverbial Bristol backing band (a Bristolian Booker T & The MG’s if you like.) They were apparently the first group from the Severn to swap their thimbled washboard for an electric guitar and played the Town Hall on numerous occasions, backing an array of different vocalists. They remained active for a considerable length of time, and did not hang up their plectrums until 2007.
A live performance of The Ventures classic recorded at The Colston Hall either in 1960 or 1961 during a “Groups Galore” concert. Note the few isolated screams from the female members of the audience and dig that guitar tremelo!!!
27th February 1961
PETE CHESTER & THE CONSULATES
Pete Chester was in fact the son of Charlie Chester, or “Cheerful” Charlie as he was known. A popular British comedian of the Arthur “‘Allo Playmates” Askey mould, as a child of the 60’s & 70’s I remember Chester as the genial host of the BBC Light Programme’s “Sunday Soapbox” which was first broadcast in 1969. Chester Jnr on the other hand was a drummer by trade, and was once a member of “The Five Chesternuts”, a band that hosted the talents of both Hank Marvin & Bruce Welch. One single, “Teenage Love” was the sum total of their recorded output. Marvin & Welch left to form The Drifters (that’s the UK version) or as most people know them, The Shadows. Despite losing out on the opportunity to be part of the Cliff Richard gravy train, Chester stuck around long enough to not only co-write his No.1 hit “Please Don’t Tease” but also pen a handful of songs that both Cliff and independently, the Shads recorded. Chester contented himself with a variety of backing bands and the odd single or two, one of which, “Ten Swinging Bottles” was lodged at No.14 when he made his one and only appearance at the Town Hall. Back in the days when you could make up an instrumental out of any old bollocks (and believe me, a lot of people did) Chester chose to “rock up” that old singalong classic “Ten Green Bottles”. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.
Incidentally, Charlie Chester has played Bridgwater too. He made a war-time appearance back in the 1940’s at the Palace as part of an ENSA concert.
With a name like Dickie Pride, he just had to be another member of the Larry Parnes stable and indeed he was. Richard Knellar was transformed into Dickie by the Parnes “star maker machinery” but he was actually discovered by Russ Conway in 1958 when the 16-year old was singing at a pub called “The Castle” in Tooting. Conway remembers “I dropped into a pub in Tooting and there was this incredible singer. I’d no idea who he was, but I was so impressed I talked to Larry Parnes about him. We went to see him the next week and took Lionel Bart with us. We were all so impressed that Larry decided to sign him on the spot.” As a youngster, the singer had enrolled at Croydon’s Royal College of Church Music and such was his vocal prowess he was being touted as a future opera star. The young Knellar however felt that skiffle offered a far more exciting career and after forming a band called The Semi-Tones, opera lost a potential Pavarotti. Still aged 16, he made his concert debut at the Kilburn Gaumont, at that point the biggest cinema in the UK and immediately made a huge impression with the music magazine “Record Mirror” providing him with the nickname “The Shiek Of Shake” due to the thunderous response he obtained from the audience. Signed to Columbia Records by Norrie Paramour, Pride made his debut in 1959 on “Oh Boy!” at age 17 and released his first record, a cover version of Little Richard’s “Slippin And Slidin” during the same year.
Pride had the raw ingredients to be a big name and according to various members of the Parnes’ entourage was the real deal, with Billy Fury, Joe Brown and Duffy Power all suggesting that he was the best singer of them all. Power says “Dickie was absolute magic on stage, completely spell-binding. On a tour you get a bit jaded listening to the same people singing the same things every night, but Dickie was the one the other singers went to the wings to watch. You couldn’t take your eyes off him.” So why wasn’t Pride a star? It has been suggested that he wasn’t pretty enough but the truth is he was a troubled man with a drink problem and a bad attitude that often resulted in an all too frequent tendency to use his fists when the mood took him. Hal Carter, Larry Parnes assistant, recalls; “Dealing with Dickie became more and more difficult. He was a genius in my opinion, but with a couple of flakes missing. The trouble was you never knew when you went in to the room whether you were going to get the genius or the madman. He had a tendency to hit out with his fists rather than talking and the slightest frustration would start him swinging. If he drank he didn’t just have a drink he got legless and he was into smoking dope very early on”. Apart from occasionally clashing with members of the audience, in 1959 he was up before the Crown Court for smashing windows and stealing a car, a story that not only hit the national press but which was also discussed in The House Of Commons. Not the sort of acceptable social behaviour you would expect from an impressionable young pop star. Two years later, having already been dropped from the Larry Parnes roster once before, Pride allegedly knocked out singer Terry Dene on stage after an argument over a girl. If his off-stage antics weren’t bad enough, his potential as a singer was never realised, primarily due to bad management. Apart from a minor hit in October 1959 with the sugary sweet “Primrose Lane”, Pride released only 5 singles between 1959 and 1960 and it would appear that neither manager nor record company had any idea as to what to do with him. In 1960 he was initially offered The Silver Beatles as a backing band before Parnes changed his mind and by 1961 Dickie’s career was already stalling, with the relationship between him and his manager further soured by a reluctance to allow Pride to sing anything more than the perfunctory three “hit singles” every night. In the early 60’s, the general consensus was that the only place to go beyond rock n’roll was cabaret so Parnes decided that he would make Dickie an “all-round entertainer”. He had already performed this trick successfully with Tommy Steele, so there appeared to be no reason why he couldn’t he do it again. An ill-fated album of “standards” and Tin Pan Alley tunes featuring the Eric Jupp Orchestra called “Pride Without Prejudice”, was the only release during the year of his Top Twenty appearance and was issued in the hope of salvaging his career. But this ill-fated attempt to make Pride the UK’s Bobby Darin didn’t sell in sufficient quantities and by 1962, Pride & Parnes had parted company for good. There’s not much of Dickie Pride’s legacy to remember him by but one of his “Oh Boy!” performances from 1959 survives and even though it only gives a glimpse of what he was capable of, it’s enough to suggest that he could have extended his career beyond the early 60’s under the right circumstances. As it was Pride drifted into obscurity and all we have left are a few urban myths that make it hard to distinguish fact from fiction. In 1962, he got a job as a storeman but during the following year made a “comeback” of sorts with a band called The Guvnors, that included fellow vocalists Nelson Keene and Bobby Shafto. It is said that Pride eventually ended up working as a coalman and gained a heroin addiction. Drug problems certainly dogged his life towards the end but the rumour that in 1967 he was committed to a mental hospital and given a lobotomy may be stretching the truth somewhat. He eventually died on 26th March 1969 after an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets, at the ridiculously young age of 27.
6th March 1961
JOHNNY CARR & THE CADILLACS
Billed as “versatile and dynamic”, Johnny Carr (real name Cornelius O’Sullivan) & his Cadillacs, were a Bristol based band that were formed in 1958 and apparently played alongside The Beatles at the Kaiserkeller club in Germany. They have been credited with having played various songs that became a staple diet of every Beat Band in creation, before anyone else did, including “Shout” (Lulu), “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Gerry & The Pacemakers) and “Twist And Shout” (The Beatles). If this is true, then it’s a pity that their good musical taste did not transform itself into nationalsuccess though it would appear they were very much in demand as a live band. Regarded by many as both the most popular and the best of Bristol’s beat groups, they were fondly remembered by many of the Top 20 patrons that I have spoken to, though this was partially due to the fact that they made a staggering 10 appearances between 1961 and 1963, more than any other artist. But despite being lauded as Bristol’s finest, their 60’s recording career yielded just two singles, Decca’s “Remember That Girl” from March 1964 and “Do You Love That Girl” from July 1965 on Fontana though Carr also released two singles under his own name in 1966 & 1967 respectively.
ROYSTON JONES & THE RAIDERS
Not one of Johnny Carr’s Bristol rivals, Royston came from Richie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame and John Cleese country, Weston-Super-Mare.
20th March 1961
VINCE TAYLOR & THE PLAYBOYS
Even though they didn’t know it at the time, The Top Twenty were on something of a roll. Following hard on the heels of Messrs Sutch & Pride, Vince Taylor was the latest artist who may only have secured a modest reputation at the time of his Town Hall appearance but in later years was revered by UK music enthusiasts as another one of those bona-fide rockers that was just a tad more exciting than your average male crooner. He was born Brian Holden in London in 1939 but was often regarded as an American vocalist as he had spent the period ’46-57 living in the US of A. Taylor’s father-in-law was the famous cartoonist Joe Barbera of Hanna-Barbera fame and apart from “managing” the singer, it was Barbera who brought Vince back to England when Joe was visiting on a business trip. Upon his arrival Holden auditioned at that musical mecca the 2I’s Coffee Bar, Brian became Vince, The Playboys were formed (featuring future Shadow Tony Meehan on drums) and by 1958 they were recording for the Parlophone label releasing “I Like Love” as the first single. With hindsight, Taylor was only a fair to middling singer but he was a good looking guy and after adopting a black leather image that Gene Vincent had previously popularised he and the band developed a dynamic stage act that was a cut above the rest of the competition and which included the extremely animated lead singer, all rubbery legs and exaggerated limb movements. On record however, Taylor enjoyed only modest success and by 1960 Parlophone had already dispensed with his services but not before the band had released what is generally regarded as a piece of Anglo-Rock N’Roll as good as anything that was being issued in the States at the time. “Brand New Cadillac”, a Taylor original, was relegated to the “B” side of a cover version of Johnny Ace’s “Pledging My Love” in 1959 but partially due to The Clash’s rendition of the song on their “London Calling” album it is rightly regarded as one of the most important releases in the history of British popular music.
Off-stage, Taylor was an awkward cuss who, allegedly, became the first “rock” star in the UK to be arrested for wielding a knuckleduster and who achieved the distinction of being fired by his own band on the eve of a lucrative gig at the prestigious L’Olympia venue in Paris in 1962. The Vince-less Playboys, now re-christened The Bobby Clarke Noise, travelled to France with Taylor in tow and, rumour has it, after sitting in with the band on the soundcheck he produced an extraordinary performance that not only saw him promptly re-instated as lead vocalist but automatically promoted to the top of the bill by the concerts organisers. France clutched the group to their collective bosom, and The Playboys enjoyed a purple patch playing in venues around Europe. But Vince was still proving to be more than a little unpredictable and during an appearance on the popular Dutch Television program “de Vuist” almost came to blows with the program’s host Willem Duys after he was told that the band were only allowed to perform one song. Taylor, having threatened physical violence, walked out and sulkily returned to France. The singer’s important position in British rock n’roll history has since been cemented by David Bowie when “The Thin White Duke” admitted that he had partly modelled his famous creation Ziggy Stardust on Vince after a series of incidents in the mid-60’s had given Taylor a somewhat dubious reputation. By 1964 the rebellious rocker had started to enjoy his new-found European fame and had got hooked on a variety of hard drugs, “losing his marbles” big time in the process. Wikipedia offers the following anecdote : A mixture of acid, amphetamines and alcohol proved fatal to his mind and in front of a full house, on the brink of becoming a huge international star, he had a break down – coming on stage and trying to evangelize the audience, he claimed to be the prophet Matthew, and he preached until the band agreed with everything he was saying. The audience pretended not to understand, thinking that it was part of the show. But after 15 minutes of running around with a towel on his head, and a few poorly executed songs, he began to wreck the whole stage like The Who, but this was before the set was even played. Taylor shortly afterward joined a religious sect with Bowie encountering him in London in the mid-60’s. Bowie says There was an American rock singer. I guess he would have come out of the late 50’s…late 50’s early 60’s, called Vince Taylor. Who possibly…well, I met him a few times in the mid 60’s. In fact, went to quite a few parties with him. Vince Taylor was trying to make his way in Britain. He couldn’t crack the States. He was a sort of real seedless character. So he decided to try and do it in England. And he was out of his gourd. Totally flipped. I mean, the guy was not playing at a full deck, at all. And he used to carry maps of Europe around with him. And I remember very distinctly, him opening a map out on Cherry Cross Rd. outside the tube station, and putting it down on the pavement, and kneeling down with a magnifying glass-and I got down there with him-and he was pointing out all the places where UFO’s were going to be landing over the next few months. And he had a firm conviction that there was a very strong connection between himself, aliens, and Jesus Christ. Those are the 3 elements that went into his make up and drove him. He basically went to France and became a huge rock star. And one night he decided he’d had enough. So he came out on stage in white robes, and said that the whole thing about rock had been a lie, and that, in fact, he was Jesus Christ. And it was the end of Vince, his career, and everything else. And it was that and his story which really became one of the essential ingredients of Ziggy and his world view. Despite Bowie’s comments, Taylor was not washed up entirely, and towards the latter part of the 60’s, Playboy drummer Bobbie Clarke organised a small one-month tour of France, billed as “Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers”. But there were problems throughout due to Taylor’s erratic behaviour that included, at the final gig, a personal premonition that the concert hall would “blow up” as soon as Vince took to the microphone. (Rumour has it that the electricity supply apparently short-circuited as Taylor began his opening song, but I think we can regard this story with some suspicion.) But he remained a popular artist and in late 1969, the magazines ‘Bonjour les Amis’ and ‘Disco-Revue’ began a campaign to get Taylor’s career back on track by asking its readers to write to record owner Eddie Barclay in the hope that he would give him another chance. Suitably convinced, Vince recorded a series of cover versions for the Barclay record label, and performed intermittently throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. During the end of his life, Taylor lived and worked in Switzerland as an aircraft engineer before finally succumbing to cancer in 1991.
On a more sober note, at the time of making his Top Twenty debut, backing band The Playboys were appearing for the second time having previously performed with Screaming Lord Sutch back in February. And talking of The Playboys, other than Tony Meehan, all of the following have appeared in this band at one time or another. The Shadows other drummer, Brian Bennett, Bennett’s fellow rhythm partner, bass player Brian “Licorice” Locking, Beatle collaborator Tony Sheridan, Georgie Fame and a very youthful Jimmy Page.
Vince Taylor – What’d I Say (1961)
There is an unconfirmed suggestion that this was recorded at L’Olympia in France on the 7th July 1961 with a pick-up band called “The Noise”. If this information is correct then this clip occurred just 3 months after his Town Hall appearance. The Town Hall bill for the 20th March also included two other artists, but both remain shyly elusive when it comes to providing information about their history.
Di, as the Top Twenty advert suggested, was billed as “The Girl With The Guitar”, and was apparently a regular member of the popular “Saturday Club” Radio programme. However a protracted search of the Saturday Club’s archive listings does not reveal MacKay as being part of it’s roster of artists. For the unitiated, “Saturday Club” started life on the 1st June 1957 as a program called “Saturday Skiffle Club” – produced by Jimmy Grant, hosted by the incomparable Brian Matthew and broadcast every Saturday from 10-10.30 a.m. After skiffle’s initial flourish began to wane, the program’s title was altered, the broadcast was expanded to two hours a week (10am to 12noon) whilst the emphasis, musically, was shifted to incorporate all forms of “teenage music”. As “Saturday Club”, the program first began it’s lengthy lifespan on the BBC Light Programme from October 4th 1958 and lasted until January 1969, an 11-year period that also included an 18 month-stint on Radio 2 towards the end of it’s history. It consisted mainly of “live” pre-recorded performances as there were restrictions on the amount of “Needle Time” allowed on Radio during the height of it’s popularity.
FRANK KELLY & THE CRESTAS
“Born and raised on my father’s farm in Titchfield, Hampshire, is the main reason for my love of the outdoor life” says 19 year old Frank Kelly. A recording contract was negotiated with Fontana and it was on Tuesday, 4th September that Frank had his first recording session. The Hunters who now support him on most of his engagements also accompanied him on two numbers at the session. The first was a medium paced ballad which has become a standard amongst Country and Western fans, which has recently been revived with great success in America entitled “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On”, and the other of their own compositions called “Cept Me”. Wherever he has appeared he has earned great praise and the future looks very bright for the Country boy making his debut with a Country & Western number.” So says the record company blurb issued upon the release of Frank’s debut single. This description certainly beats the “All Music Guide’s” suggestion that Kelly was just “another obscure Brit pop rocker”. Kelly’s backing band at the Town Hall, The Crestas, all hailed from Portsmouth, which could link this outfit to Len Canham though there is no evidence to suggest that they were managed by him. The Crestas (the first of two bands who performed at The Top Twenty under that name) had, by 1963, changed their name to The Hunters which automatically causes some confusion as some pop music historians believe that these are the very same Hunters that had performed at the Town Hall in 1960. Not so. (Another suggestion that Frank is none other than the actor who played Father Jack from Channel 4’s “Father Ted” comedy sitcom and who, incidentally, did have a career as a singer, are also well wide of the mark.) Both sets of “Hunters” recorded for Fontana with Frank and the boys releasing a total of 4 fairly nondescript singles on that label between 1962 and 1964. These included a blatant “Runaround Sue” rip-off entitled “I Saw Linda Yesterday” (also released by Craig Douglas) and a follow-up entitled “What Do You Wanna Do”, written by Mitch Murray, on which Frank sounds like a cross between Adam Faith and Billy J Kramer. The track included here, “Good And True” is the “B”-side of “Linda” and apart from a bad attack of the Buddy Holly hic-cups, features a guitar solo and instrumental passage that at least lifts the song from it’s mediocrity.
27th March 1961
Barrie James/The Nevitt Bros/Shirley Gaye & The Keytones
10th April 1961
Danny Davis/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye with The Strangers
24th April 1961
Johnny Spencer & The Casuals
Having named yourself after the capital city, you would think that this artiste would be a tad more popular but nay. No info on this lot I am afraid apart from the mouth-watering Mercury advert that states they were “a popular radio & TV vocal team”. So popular that no-one has ever heard of them.
8th May 1961
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
DEAN TORRENT & THE PRESSMEN
And not much on these either, though I am almost certain that they were local lads from good old Bridgy. The Pressmen may have included Pete Gibbs in their line-up, this being the same Pete Gibbs of Pete And The Devils fame (see 1960). The Pressmen also backed another local pop luminary called Jimmy Treharne during the early 60’s but there is no word on the mysterious “Dean Torrent” however.
15th May 1961
The Brook Brothers/Barrie James with the Semi-Tones
22nd May 1961
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
A major coup for the Top Twenty and probably one of the biggest acts to have ever played Bridgwater when one takes into consideration Fury’s standing within British pop music at the time. At this point in the man’s career, Fury had contributed a number of singles to the Top 20 chart with “Colette” reaching No.9 in 1959. However, “Halfway To Paradise” was released just one month before his Bridgwater appearance and thereafter Fury was a regular visitor to the Top 10 for the next 4 years. Born Ronald Wycherley on April 17th 1940, he was brought up in Dingle, a rough, predominantly working class area of Liverpool, and was a schoolmate of Ringo Starr’s at St. Silas Church of England. A sickly child, he contracted Rheumatic Fever in 1946 which weakened his heart valves, eventually contributing to his death at the age of 43. The story goes that, during one of his many visits to his local hospital, he overheard a doctor telling his mother that he would be lucky to reach the age of 30. The young Ronald took piano lessons at age 11 and at 14 was given his first guitar by his parents but was never particularly proficient on either instrument. As a teenager he obtained a job as a deck-hand on the Mersey tug-boat “Formby” and this coincided with a keen interest in country & western music and the formation of the Formby skiffle group which performed in local cafe’s in the city. A change of jobs in 1957 saw him working at the Joshua Reynolds department store and it was here that he began to gain a reputation as a budding songwriter. In 1958 Wycherley recorded 6 demos in a local studio situated at a house owned by one Percy Phillips (the same studio at which The Quarrymen recorded the following year). He also sent a tape of material, along with a photograph, to Larry Parnes but initially received no response. After entering, and failing, in a “Carroll Levis Discoveries” talent contest at the Liverpool Empire, the common “rock myth” story suggests that it was not until Ronald’s mother contacted Parnes personally that the impresario invited Wycherley to The Essoldo Theatre in Birkenhead on the 1st October where his “Extravaganza Show” was playing with Marty Wilde headlining. Wycherley had hoped that he might succeed in peddling some of his material to Parnes’ headliner, and backstage, the 18-year-old was asked to sing 5 of his compositions for his new admirers as an impromptu audition. Much to Fury’s amazement, 10 minutes later, the inexperienced and totally unknown teenager was performing in front of a half full theatre of very enthusiastic punters and a “star was born”. “Two thousand screaming teenagers held up the programme at Larry Parnes’ “Extravaganza” – which featured rock ‘n’ roll idol Marty Wilde – last Wednesday when an 18-years-old Dingle boy, Ronnie Wycherley, of 35 Haliburton Street, completed a three-minute spot in the star-studded programme. Ex-tugman Ronnie, with a little apprehension, took the stage at the Essoldo Theatre, Birkenhead, after the compere of the show said: “Larry Parnes has given breaks to young people in his time and tonight he has invited a young local boy to entertain you.” Wearing a two-tone Texan jacket and a guitar slung over his shoulder, Ronnie nervously walked on to the stage, and swung straight into the first number with an Elvis Presley inspired style. His three minutes were constantly punctuated by screams and shouts from hundreds of teenage girls, which were intensified at the least move of his body” (Also making his debut at this Birkenhead gig was another 18-year-old – a singer turned comedian by the name of Jimmy Tarbuck.) The idea that an unknown 18 year-old should be thrust into the limelight on a backstage whim seems a little fanciful. The more sober, and therefore, probably more accurate version of events is that Fury, backed by future Fourmost member Billy Hatton, had taken part in an audition that Parnes had held in the city centre, and had impressed sufficiently enough for the impresario to take him on. Consequently Fury knew that he would be singing at the Marty Wilde gig as that was part of the deal that Parnes had struck with the young singer. Whatever the turn of events, unsurprisingly, Ronald quickly became another of Parnes’ proteges and made his “official” debut in Stretford the following evening. The proverbial name change followed soon afterwards with Ron’s own choice of monicker – Stean Wade – being dropped in favour of the more dynamic Billy Fury. After signing to Decca Records, in 1959 Fury released his first single, the self-penned “Maybe Tomorrow” and quickly established himself as a new star. During the sixties Fury spent 258 weeks on the singles charts with 11 Top Ten hits and in 1961 alone, the year of his Top Twenty appearance, Fury’s singles were in the charts for a total of 50 weeks. Of all of the Presley pretenders, Fury was UK’s best – certainly more talented than Wilde and better looking than Cliff Richard, and according to the All Music Guide “was one of the very few English rock ‘n rollers of the period who could (and did, on stage and on television) stand alongside the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent with no apology or excuse for being there”. Fury had the Presley image well and truly sussed. His somewhat suggestive on-stage antics (he used his microphone as a sexual prop) were severely criticized by a number of individuals who believed he was responsible for corrupting the entire population of UK’s female youth. Consequently Billy was told to “tone-down” his act. He continued to write his own material and in 1960 recorded an album’s worth of his own songs, some of which were written under the pseudonym of Wilbur Wilberforce. Fury had successfully borrowed Presley’s look – the resulting album “The Sound Of Fury”, produced by Jack Good – did a more than capable job of replicating the man’s music. It was effectively the UK’s first rockabilly album and with Joe Brown doing his best Scotty Moore and Andy “Love Me Do” White on drums the record was and still is one of the most authentic rock n’roll albums produced outside America. (In an interview conducted in 1970, Keith Richards called it one of the greatest Rock N’Roll records of it’s era). Mr.Parnes however, was unsatisfied and in an attempt to make Fury a more palatable product, was responsible for a spate of cover versions that were chosen to “smooth out” Billy’s sound. Despite the overtly commercial material, Fury’s career continued to go from strength to strength. This was partially due to the fact that the songs covered were always intelligently chosen, but it was also because Fury had the talent to pull them off.
Fury never achieved a No.1 hit record, but both “Halfway To Paradise”, a Goffin/King number originally recorded by Tony Orlando, and “Jealousy”, reached No.2 in 1961. But in terms of Top 10 hits alone, 1962 and 1963 were his best years. 1962 also saw Fury make his acting debut in the film “Play It Cool”, a somewhat forgettable Teenploitation movie that was all part of the process of transforming the singer into “Mr.Versatility”, a role that Fury disliked but which was nevertheless expanded upon with numerous appearances in variety shows and the dreaded panto. In 1963, his “We Want Billy” album was one of the very first live records to be released in the UK whilst during 64 & 65, his single releases continued to chart, though less frequently than they had previously. During the mid-60’s Fury’s heart condition began to take it’s toll and in 1967 he required surgery which not only brought a premature end to his concert performances but effectively suspended his career for several years. During his convalescence, he discovered a love for birdwatching but in 1971 further, more extensive, surgery was required and with an increasing dependence on alcohol due to depression, Fury’s almost non-existent career suddenly put Billy in a somewhat precarious financial position. In 1973 he re-appeared in the public eye for the first time in a number of years with a cameo appearance as singer “Stormy Tempest” in the film “That’ll Be The Day” alongside Ringo Starr and David Essex but unfortunately, further surgery was required in 1976 and just 2 years later he was declared bankrupt, a situation that was only resolved after an agreement with the Inland Revenue saw Fury re-record his hits for K-Tel in 1978. Undoubtedly against doctor’s orders, but under pressure to keep the money rolling in, Fury signed a record deal with Polydor in 1981 and recorded a “comeback” album entitled “The One And Only”, but in March 1982, he collapsed at his farm, suffering partial paralysis and temporary blindness. He recovered from this latest ordeal, and remained determined to resurrect his career with a live TV show appearance and a national tour, but on 28th January 1983, he was found unconscious in his St.John’s Wood flat and pronounced dead on arrival at St Mary’s Hospital, London.
There is one other footnote surrounding this performance that should not be overlooked and that is Fury’s backing band. The advert states that Fury would be appearing with his own group – “The Blue Flames” – but who exactly were they? Fury had been known to change his musicians as often as he changed his socks. He almost obtained the services of The Beatles for a short tour back in 1960 but their rather shambolic audition proved conclusively that they weren’t ready to play in such exalted company and they were turned down. But with touring high on the list of Fury’s priorities in late 1959 Billy finally found a band that he could call his own……or rather he stole one. The Blue Flames were actually playing for another singer that has also graced The Top Twenty stage, one Clay Nicholls. And Nicholls and his Blue Flames featured a young pimply teenager on keyboards called Clive Powell. The story goes that Fury liked the band but more importantly also liked their name as their initials “BF” coincided with his own, so he promptly decided to use them. What Nicholls thought of this betrayal is anyone’s guess but as Fury was “A STAR” it would appear that there was nothing he could do about it. The Blue Flames changed personnel frequently with top session drummer Clem Cattini a member for awhile but one constant in the line-up appears to be the aforementioned Powell, an artist that Larry Parnes thought warranted some personal attention, hence the name change to Georgie Fame. Parnes eventually sacked the band as he thought they were too “jazzy” and Fury started using The Tornadoes instead but when did this happen? The Blue Flames family tree web-site has the band playing for Fury, then Clay Nicholls again (perhaps out of some sense of loyalty) in June 1961 and then Fury again during that very same month. This concert took place in May, the month before. So was Fame in the band? I think there has to be a good chance simply because of the advertisement suggesting that “The Blue Flames”, a name that Fame eventually claimed for his own, were on stage during this very evening.
There can be no doubt that Alford regarded this concert as being of prime importance. It was to be the final gig of their Spring season prior to taking a 3 month break and apart from laying on coaches for people living in Weston-Super-Mare and Burnham-On-Sea there was also a significant hike in the cost of the ticket, 7 shillings as opposed to the normal entrance fee of 3 or 4 bob. In the end, it backfired on them. The Top Twenty had been getting about 350-400 punters every Monday for quite some time, but on this occasion the undoubted star quality of the singer made no difference when it came to forking out hard cash and only 200 people turned up. There is an unsubstantiated rumour that during this concert, a male member of the 200-strong crowd took umbrage at a Fury comment that questioned the audience’s mentality whilst also doing nothing for the North/South divide. (Fury apparently dedicated a song to all the “suedes” in the audience – that’s the vegetable incidentally, and not a selection of fans from Stockholm.) The aforementioned punter, a market stall owner, armed himself with some brussel sprouts, no doubt during the interval, which were then pelted at the vocalist mid-way through a vocal performance. Fury – not a man to be trifled with – stopped the band mid-song, pointed to the guy in question and promptly told him to “F*** Off!”. Exit punter, suitably embarrassed with the band continuing the song where they had left it. True? Probably not, but it’s a good story nevertheless.
Billy Fury – Just Because (1961)
30th May 1961
“Bridgwater Borough Magistrates yesterday granted an application for a licence for a juke box for a cafe at 10 Clare Street, Bridgwater despite police opposition. Making the application on behalf of Mr.James William Ellick of 66 Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater, Mr.R.G.Ash said the juke box would be controlled by a switch behind the counter and it would be used only from 8 am to 6 pm. The cafe is closed at 6 pm. so there was no question of trouble with gangs of youths. Opposing the application, Inspector C F Searle said he was instructed to do so becuase of the type of instrument. Juke boxes were inclined to attract the rowdy element and sometimes gave rise to complaints in relation to traffic from the congregation of youths and motor-cycles. The chairman (Mr E L Kelting) told Mr.Ash that the magistrates wanted Mr.Ellick to realise that the matter would be reconsidered when the licence became due for renewal in March, should any kind of nuisance result.”
“When the police objected yesterday at Bridgwater Borough Magistrates Court to the proposed installation of a juke-box in a Bridgwater cafe, the tenant told the Magistrates it had been installed last January. Mr.Leslie Norman Iles, of the Sunshine Cafe and Guesthouse, Bristol Road, Bridgwater said that the people who had installed the machine had told him that they did not think music licences were required in Bridgwater. He had since seen in the Press a report of an application for a music licence in respect of another cafe, and he wished to be legally covered. In reply to the police objection that juke-boxes led to rowdyism and undesirables, Mr. Iles said he had had no trouble since his was installed. “The worst we get are the schoolchildren” he went on. “We have had a few teddy boys but we have had no trouble from them. The school children are the noisiest”
During August and September other concerts of interest sporadically appeared at The Town Hall. An arrangement with the West of England Jazz Society yielded a series of gigs, some of which ran alongside the Top Twenty for a short while. Bob Wallis & His Storyville Jazzmen were first to appear on 19th July and unsurprisingly this prompted a small Bridgwater Mercury review. “Despite the abundance of dark glasses, droopy sweaters and bearded faces, the true “traddie” was missing from the show and so accordingly was the atmosphere which pervades most concerts or festivals” suggested the Mercury’s “Trad Jazz” expert. (In other words, nobody turned up.) As far as my theory regarding the Mercury’s editorial bias against rock music is concerned, it’s worth noting that at this point The Top Twenty had been going for exactly one year but not so much as a word had ever been written about it, yet as soon as the more respectable Wallis & Co come to town, the newspaper sends a roving reporter post haste to cover the great event.
A couple of interesting items suddenly appeared in quick succession. On Friday 11th August “G.B. Rockshows Inc” promoted the appearance of “World Drum Beat Champion” Rory Blackwell. Blackwell’s grandiose global monicker had arrived via his successful attempt at breaking the world record for non-stop skin-bashing. If this suggests that he was nothing more than a novelty act then it is worth noting that Blackwell holds a distinctive position within the history of British popular music as he was the leader of the country’s first rock band. Ken Colyer’s Studio 51 in London’s Great Portland Street had opened on the 24th August 1956 with an appearance by Blackwell and on the 6th September at the same venue, “Rory Blackwell’s Rock N’Rollers” recorded the first ever rock n’roll session to occur in the British Isles. He was closely followed by the more authentic Tony Crombie’s Rockets but even though Blackwell wasn’t necessarily the best, he was certainly the first. I am not entirely certain as to what status Blackwell had achieved by 1961. I dare say he was more renowned for his exploits as a percussive marathon man than for any significant recordings that he might have made. Throughout it’s history, rock n’roll has been extremely unkind to those who steadfastly belong within a certain timeframe and who share a reluctance for change so chances are that Rory was already regarded as being part of the past by the time he played here but at least the guy had/has history on his side.
The Top Twenty finally re-appeared on Monday 4th September, but not before another “GB Rockshows Inc” presentation rocked the town (or at the very least gave it a slight shove.) During the first weekend of that month the Town Hall became the rockingest venue in Somerset as on Friday 1st September, just 3 days before The Top Twenty re-opened it’s doors to the public we were treated to an appearance of something obliquely called “ROCK N ROLL ALL STARS” – “London’s Greatest Touring Rock Show”. The rather bland advertisement promoting this mysterious event gave nothing away, and despite the ad’s rhetoric I haven’t been able to find out anything about this performance. Who were “G.B.Rockshows Inc” anyway? Judging from their rather grandiose title it could either have been a major London promoter with designs on taking over the country or a company run by some bloke from his upstairs bedroom in Dampiet Street. Answers on a proverbial postcard please.
In what must have been a flurry of activity, The Town Hall was hastily prepared for the next exciting episode of Rock N’Roll mayhem. Having finally cleared the theatre of discarded lipstick and piles of dandruff, The Top Twenty was back in action.
4th September 1961
Danny Davis/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye & The Semitones
On the 8th September, the West of England Jazz Society once again promoted a Town Hall concert as part of their Trad Jazz series, though this one was a little more significant as it featured George Melly with Mick Mulligan and his Band. This may have been Melly’s first appearance in Bridgwater but it was certainly not to be his last.
11th September 1961
The Antones/Sandra McCann/Mike Storm/Johnny Gregg & The Comets
18th September 1961
RICKY FORDE & THE CYCLONES
It would be tempting to promote Ricky Forde & The Cyclones as “Just another band from Bristol”, but thanks to an article from the “This Is Bristol” website, it is possible to throw some flesh onto the bare bones of their career. Ricky (real name Bill Green) was an ex-railway clerk who, by the very early 60’s, was fronting The Cyclones, a band that had gained some notoriety locally. In 1963 the group came to the attention of Peter & Gordon during one of the latter’s nationwide tours and whilst the folky duo were sitting at the top of the charts with “World Without Love”, word got out that Ricky and the boys were required as P&G’s touring band. Unfortunately, the deal did not involve Ricky being in the line-up and he was promptly made “surplus to requirements”. The price of Ricky Forde’s fame? An expensive overcoat given to him as a parting gift by Peter Asher. Forde, however, was not unemployed for long and very quickly hooked up with another local combo called The Marauders soon after. During 1964, Ricky was involved in a “controversial” Bristol-produced rock’n’roll play called “A Man Dies”, a piece that was co-written by a local church minister and which was heavily criticised for it’s so-called “blasphemous” content. The album of the show, which featured Forde reprising his stage performance, was recorded at the Abbey Road studios. Forde then joined forces with Brian Epstein, and obtained a number of bookings through Epstein’s NEMS agency. An attempt at a recording career followed with further recordings at Abbey Road taking place with George Martin at the helm but the only item that was released was the 1965 Parlophone single “You Are My Love”. Needless to say, it made no headway in the charts and indeed the only noteworthy fact regarding this song was that it was “almost” recorded by one of Forde’s idols, Roy Orbison. Which as facts go, is not a very good one.
25th September 1961
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
16th October 1961
JOHNNY & MIKE with THE SHADES (featuring Jackie London)
Johnny & Mike with the Shades were built around the respective talents of vocalist Johnny Cannon (John Symonds) and drummer/vocalist Mike Wayne (Michael Long.) Based in Bath, they were very much a “nearly” group that failed to hit the big time, largely due to a series of unfortunate circumstances. Formed in early 1959, Mike Wayne was originally with a band called The Pacific Five whilst Cannon drummed with local rivals The Dominoes. After the two joined forces, they turned professional in October 1962, but having gained a solid reputation and despite touring with some of the best in the business (The Everly Bros, Roy Orbison, The Rolling Stones), they remained a band waiting for their big break after a number of bad career moves served to cook their proverbial goose. Signed by Decca after an impressive performance on “Saturday Club”, they moved to London under the guidance of manager Jack Fallon and almost immediately the record company ushered the group into the studio, where a great deal of time and money was spent on the band’s recording of The Coasters “Poison Ivy” for debut single release. I say “band recording” but vocalists Cannon & Wayne were the only group members involved, “The Shades” having been told to kick their heels whilst session men like guitarist Big Jim Sullivan played their respective parts. The song was eventually ditched after a Decca big-wig took a personal dislike to the finished product. Allegedly boasting John Lennon & Paul McCartney as fans, manager Fallon refused to allow Brian Epstein to sign them to his impressive roster of artists and, just to rub salt into their wounds, they later they had the ignominity of having their arrangement of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” stolen by Gerry Marsden of Pacemakers fame after he’d heard the band perform the song at a club in Widnes (a song that had previously been “claimed” by Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs). Inevitably they faded into obscurity despite the occasional single release, including, as the “Cannon Brothers with The Shades”, the 45 “Turn Your Eyes To Me” which appeared on the ultra obscure BRIT label in 1965, peaking at No.36 in the Radio London Fab 40 chart. The band eventually called it a day in 1967 but drummer Pete Gavin survived however, later becoming an original member of Heads Hands & Feet alongside both Chas Hodges of Chas & Dave fame and one of the finest guitarist’s in the cosmos, Albert Lee, a man who originally cut his musical teeth with Dickie Pride.
23rd October 1961
PAUL CLAYTON & THE CORVETTES
Guess where this lot came from? Yep, you guessed it – Bristol!
13th November 1961
Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
27th November 1961
DUFFY POWER & THE DREAMERS
Power (real name Ray Howard) was yet another Larry Parnes discovery (Perhaps The Top Twenty only needed the appearance of 3 more Parnes singers to collect the set and receive a special certificate.) Power had been working in a laundry when he was discovered in 1959 at the tender age of 17. Parnes was in a London cinema, catching up on some local talent but witnessed the teenager winning a Saturday morning “jive” competition with his band Duffy & The Dreamers and promptly signed him to one of his “I’m-going-to-make-you-a-star-if-you-stick-with-me” contracts. Power’s career never really blossomed under his manager’s tutelage, partially becuase of a lack of decent material but also becuase Duffy was a bit of a rebel who lived the Sex, Drugs & RockN’Roll lifestyle way before the term had been invented. Dressed in leopard skin jackets and gold lame waistcoats, he was a great live performer but seemed unable to transfer his on-stage energy to the recording studio and his Fontana single releases – cover versions of songs like “Ain’t She Sweet”, “Dream Lover” and “Whole Lotta Shakin Going On”- were disappointing. Only one single was issued in 1960 and just 2 more appeared during the following year. With his career in the doldrums Power suffered from acute depression and during 1961 tried to commit suicide. His attempts to end it all were apparently interrupted by a friend’s phone call. A casual visit to a blues club eventually became a musical epiphany for Duffy, with Power suddenly realising the direction in which to take his career. He split with Parnes and later resurfaced a couple of years later alongside future Cream members Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker as a member of The Graham Bond Quartet/Organisation. Their 1963 recording of “I Saw Her Standing There”, one of the first ever Beatle covers, has been called “a milestone of British Blues”. Power later joined Blues Incorporated, a band of great historical significance from a UK perspective. Hosted by Alexis Korner, it has not only been heralded as Britain’s first blues/rock band, but it included within it’s constantly changing line-up, a host of musicians that were at the forefront of the 60’s British Rock movement. Duffy appeared on three of their albums – “Red Hot From Alex” (1964) “Sky High” (1966) and “Blues Incorporated (Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting)” (1967), but not long after his final stint with the band, the singer found himself out of work and, partially due to drug dependancy, became mentally ill.
Thankfully he recovered and worked as a session musician (he appeared on the soundtrack to “The Italian Job” in 1968) before finally releasing his one and only critically acclaimed album in 1973, a record that was co-produced by Andrew Oldham. I believe that Power had already parted company with Larry Parnes by the time he had made his Top 20 appearance, nevertheless his departure from the Parnes stable and the subsequent re-invention that followed makes him one of the very few artists who was single-minded enough to leave the straightjacketed world of screaming teenagers and substandard cover versions behind in order to take his career into his own hands.
4th December 1961
BOBBY ANGELO & THE TUXEDOS
Originating from Walton-On-Thames under the name of Bobby Vincent & The Shadows, singer Bobby Hemmings idolised the leather-clad Gene to such an extent that he adopted his surname. His backing band’s decision to choose a monicker that was synonymous with another well-known beat group from this period became a problem that had to be hastily rectified. So by early 1961, Vincent had adopted the Italian sounding Angelo whilst the backing band took their new identity, not from the dinner jacket, but from a new guitar that had recently appeared on the market. Their debut single for the HMV label, “Baby Sittin'” reached No.30 in August 1961 and was based on the distinctive sound of 16-year-old lead guitarist Pete Cresswell’s Stratocaster. Despite Cresswell’s star turn he was apparently paid just £5.00 for his troubles and wisely decided to vacate the Tuxedo’s guitar slot due to his lack of financial remuneration with drummer Mick Avory, later of Kinks fame, leaving with him. The follow-up, the Presley-inspired “I Gotta Have You”, ditched the Tuxedoes altogether – a session band taking their place in the studio.* Featuring female backing vocalists and a more confident Angelo lead, it failed to chart and that was effectively the sum total of the band’s endeavours. Having been unceremoniously dumped by the record company and their vocalist, The Tuxedoes at least found a career post Angelo, later re-emerging as “The Innocents” and becoming Mike Berry’s backing band whilst Angelo, along with a 2nd vocalist called Susan Terry, and no doubt a new bunch of Tuxedos in tow, returned for a 2nd Top Twenty performance in 1963, though at this point their music was probably already being regarded as old fashioned and out of date. Other than that, apart from a handful of solo releases for the Sonet label in Sweden, Angelo practically disappeared off the musical map. “Baby Sittin”, their 2 and a half minutes of fame, has since been regarded as being a cut above most of the music that was being performed by British acts at the time, though on reflection it was Cresswell’s twang factor that cuts through the mediocrity. The only insight into the group comes from bassist Dave Brown who offers the following “We mainly toured the South of England and Germany. It was sometimes bloody hard work but all in all great fun and I’m glad to have been part of early British Rock ‘n Roll however lowly a part that may be”. Brown, along with original Tuxedos Roger Groom and Colin Griffin formed a long-forgotten band called The End in 1967. Though their legacy amounted to just 2 single releases and an LP, they were managed and produced by Bill Wyman who incidentally co-wrote their 2nd single, the rather trippy “Shades Of Orange”. They toured with The Rolling Stones during the year of their formation as a consequence.
* This was, unfortunately, common practice throughout the 60’s (see Johnny, Mike & The Shades entry). Having signed on the dotted line, there were many musicians who suddenly found themselves on the musical scrapheap as “top” session musos were brought in to provide a more polished sound. Even Ringo Starr was told to shake a tambourine during the first Beatle recording whilst session man (and former Billy Fury drummer) Andy White played the perfunctory “Love Me Do” drum part which proves that it could happen to even the best of them.
11th December 1961
Royston Jones & The Raiders
18th December 1961
The last member of the Larry Parnes caravan to play the Top Twenty, Keene, real name Malcolm Holland was born in Farnborough and was one of 10 children. Never one of the stellar artistes in Parnes stable, he recorded three singles for HMV, with “Image Of A Girl” released in 1960, his biggest hit, reaching No 37 in the UK charts. “Keep Loving Me” appeared during the same year whilst “Miracles Are Happening To Me” was released in 1961. Unfortunately even divine intervention could make him a star and he disappeared into obscurity. According to that fountain of all knowledge Wikipedia, as of 2010, Keene was alive and well and living in Australia.
Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
Dean Torrent & The Pressmen
The final Top Twenty concert of 1961, as the advertisement clearly stated, was a “Christmas Spectacular” that not only boasted the talents of no less than 4 different artistes but was so damn exciting that even the balloons get a credit of their own, alongside something belwilderingly referred to as the “Yes & No Interlude”, whatever that was. Even though Nelson Keene was the undisputed “star” of the show, perhaps of more interest were the artists that appeared with him. Of these, Forde & the Cyclones from Bristol and Bridgwater’s very own Torrent & The Pressmen had appeared previously, but the addition of Carol Waterman “singing pop songs” (as if she would do anything else) is significant. For Carol was and in fact still is none other than Carol Lee-Scott aka Grotbags, the children’s entertainer from the 1980’s who shot to prominence on shows such as “The Rod Hull & Emu Show”. She was Bridgwater born and bred, the daughter of Scott Waterman, a garage owner, and his wife, Gladys (known as “Babe”) who ran a cafe. Carol learnt to play the piano by ear as a child, enjoyed singing and, on leaving grammar school at 15, worked in Taylor’s Record Shop, performing occasionally in pantomimes as well as on stage at the Town Hall. Her early involvement with the Top Twenty arrived through her connections with both Stan Barnett and Graham Alford and apart from the odd appearance, she also helped with the running of the club, by acting as temporary DJ on a little Dansette record player that served as entertainment between the Town Hall’s main acts. She eventually headed to London to find fame and fortune in her white Triumph Herald and sang in a pub band by night while working in the record department of Rumbelows by day. This was followed by 19 years of performing in holiday camps across Britain and in a variety of European destinations. She also sang in working men’s clubs in the North of England and at London cabaret venues as well as appearing in summer seasons with stars such as Max Wall, Arthur Askey, Tommy Cooper & Morecambe & Wise. Carol sadly lost her battle with cancer on the 4th July 2017 and was always regarded by those who met her as a genuine and lovely woman, with no pretensions or ego despite her considerable success. She should also be remembered as one of the very few people born in Bridgwater who succeeded in making a name for herself in the wonderful world of showbiz. It’s interesting to note however that her very first tentative steps towards that career were made on stage at the Top Twenty Club.