"Alex's pie stand" as it was known, was a popular spot in central Birmingham during the 1960s for band members to get a hot meal after a late night engagement. Groups met at Alex's and exchanged stories, discussed future plans, and caught up on the latest music news. As well as hot cups of tea, hamburgers and hot dogs, the place served the famous 'Fleur de Lys' steak & kidney or chicken & mushroom hot meat pies that many Brummies will remember.
Nigel Busby wrote... "My father-in-law and his pals used to go to Alex's on their motorbikes or combo's after dancing at one of the many dance halls in the city. Apparently the owner knew someone who worked at Fleur de lys pies and had an arrangement for getting the pies direct from the factory each week. People used to go to various different dance halls and sometimes miss each other, but knew they would meet at midnight at Alex's for a pie."
In memory of Alex's Pie Stand I will be posting on this page the latest BrumBeat related news and stories. Also mentioned here are the latest updates to www.brumbeat.net. If you have any BrumBeat related information that you would like to share, please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: Please don't contact me if you're looking for old friends or band mates. That's what FaceBook is for and if they aren't on it they probably don't want to be contacted. Privacy is a concern. I won't give out contact information unless there's a VERY good reason.
A well known group on the famous "Regan Circuit" of West Midlands venues, The Blue Stars shared billing with The Beatles on no less than three different occasions!
The band were also one of five talented and lucky line-ups selected to record on Decca's legendary "Brum Beat" album compilation of local groups issued in 1964.
The Blue Stars lead guitarist Bob Bowman went on to enjoy a long career in music as member of such diverse groups as "Sundance", "Luv Machine", "Penny Farthing", and "The Raymond Froggatt Band" in addition to playing on records by Glenn Hughes and Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green. Bob was recently interviewed by BrumBeat contributor Brian Nicholls who wrote this exclusive story of The Blue Stars that can now be seen by clicking HERE.
"If all the ex members of Sight and Sound met up they could fill Birmingham town hall!" says former Nightriders and Idle Race drummer Roger "Ollie" Spencer. Roger - now a successful comedian - was one of several talented musicians who went on to greater things following their time in Sight and Sound. They were managed by well-known West Midlands music promoter Mike Carroll.
Sight and Sound were originally known as "The Sombreros" who formed in Birmingham during the early 1960s around the same time as "Beatlemania" was starting to catch on in the UK. The group underwent a number of transitions that saw them evolve from rock 'n' roll to a "Beach Boys" type harmony line-up, "flower power" pop group, and finally to polished cabaret and comedy performers.
Line-up changes became almost routine for Sight and Sound during their years of performing. Despite this, they made some good records before various members went on to join The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, Wizzard, or enjoy successful solo careers in their own right.
I would like to thank Roger Spencer and other former Sight and Sound members who have contributed to their story that can now be seen exclusively on the BrumBeat website by clicking HERE.
Sad news concerning Moody Blues founding member Ray Thomas who passed away at age 76 on January 4, 2018. Ray was known as a songwriter, group vocalist and flute player by which he added a distinctive sound to this much-loved Birmingham-formed band during their decades of international success.
Mike wrote or co-wrote dozens of songs for the Moody Blues including the classic 'Legend Of A Mind' inspired by controversial LSD pioneer Timothy Leary. It was Ray and keyboardist Mike Pinder who formed the group early in 1964 at Erdington's Carlton Ballroom along with guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Graeme Edge and bass guitarist Clint Warwick.
Ray Thomas was born in Stourport on December 29, 1942 and grew up in Pype Hayes, Birmingham where he began his long music career during the "skiffle group" era of the late 1950s. His first band formed with school friends was called "Saints and Sinners" but he soon turned professional fronting "El Riot and The Rebels" who were well-known rock and roll performers throughout the West Midlands during the early 1960s. The line-up included future Moody Blues members John Lodge and Mike Pinder.
Following a stint in "The Krew Kats" with whom Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder performed in Germany, they returned flat-broke to Birmingham where they persuaded Denny Laine to join them in forming a new blues-based group. The line-up was initially called "The M&B Five" in a failed attempt to get sponsorship from the local Michells and Butlers brewing company. A year later, they were at the top of the record charts with a smash hit titled 'Go Now' and a new name "The Moody Blues". The rest as they say, is history (for the full story click here).
Though the band faltered following their initial success, the addition of new group members John Lodge and Justin Hayward resulted in the recording of a ground-breaking album in 1967 titled 'Days Of Future Passed' that began a decade of million selling records and world tours. Denny Laine went on to success when he joined Paul McCartney's group 'Wings'.
Ray Thomas recorded a couple of well-received solo albums in the 1970s but never strayed far from The Moody Blues. If Mike Pinder represented the band's spiritual consciousness, then Ray Thomas was its sense of humour. Never one to take himself too seriously, he composed the song 'Veteran Cosmic Rocker' - a popular track that poked-fun at ageing rock stars on their acclaimed 1981 come-back album Long Distance Voyager. He recently recorded with life-long friend John Lodge for a track on his latest CD.
Ray Thomas toured the world with The Moody Blues for more than thirty years until his retirement from the group in 2003 due to health concerns. He recently spoke of his battle with prostate cancer saying; "I urge all males to get tested NOW. Don't put it off by thinking it won't happen to me. It needs to be caught early. It's only a blood test - a few minutes out your day to save yourself from this disease."
Although Ray was known to have struggled with some serious health issues during the last several years, the original Moody Blues group members were looking forward to a reunion at their long-awaited "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" induction in America this year.
My condolences go out to the family and friends of Ray Thomas. He will be missed.
The official web site for Ray Thomas can be accessed at www.raythomas.me
The Beatles unveiled their influential 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' LP in June 1967 and pop music would never be the same again! "Flower Power" ruled, the BBC launched Radio 1 and the "Summer of Love" unfolded to the sounds of hip new groups like The Move and Traffic, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Pink Floyd.
"The Summer of Love" is a name widely applied to the social phenomenon that took place in 1967 during which time pop music was elevated from just an entertainment to a legitimate art form. Believe it or not, it all happened 50 years ago but much of the music made then is still just as popular today.
If you're a fan of West Midlands bands, you'll be happy to know that a lot of those groovy sounds were created by local groups who were at the cutting edge of the new music revolution during the 1960s.
1967 was the decade's high-water mark in terms of new and creative ideas both culturally and musically. The Beatles sang the year's anthem 'All You Need Is Love' amid ever increasing protests against war alongside the social struggles for human equality and understanding. This was a lot of heavy stuff going on against a cold war backdrop - but it was fun too.
To celebrate this colourful time of spiritual and artistic enlightenment, we'll have a look at more than a dozen great records by West Midlands bands - some of which made the charts in 1967 as well as some that didn't but should have. Peace and love to you all!
To see the BrumBeat "Summer of Love" 50th Anniversary Special, CLICK HERE.
Yes it's true! There aren't many bands named after a famous football team but The Wolves certainly were. They made some good records too as the first pop group from Wolverhampton during the 1960's to be signed to a major record label.
Very little information was known about this group until now - surprising considering their significant contribution to the 1960s West Midlands music scene as the first Wolverhampton group to gain record chart potential. PYE Records founding member Alan Freeman described the group as... "The biggest thing since The Searchers"
Managed by local businessman Geoff Jacobs, it was his idea to change the group's name from "The Big Beats" to "The Wolves" for which he actually obtained permission from the team! I'm grateful to local music historian and guitarist Brian Nicholls for sending the story of The Wolves written in his own words with assistance from Slade historian Chris Selby and shown here exclusive to the BrumBeat web site. Brian was also a member of West Midlands 60s pop/rock group Varsity Rag.
To see the story of The Wolves click HERE.
Though typical of many young Birmingham groups who formed during the early 1960's, The Boll Weevills (later known as 'The Seed') were also to include prolific drummer Malcolm "Mac" Poole who went on to have a respectable career in music - after turning down a chance to play drums in Led Zeppelin!
I'm grateful to Boll Weevills founding member John Rowlands for sending the story of the group written in his own words and shown here exclusive to the BrumBeat web site. John was also a member of Brum 60s pop/rock group The Exception who had some of Birmingham's best musicians in their line-up.
To see John's story along with rare group photos from his own collection click HERE.
A popular and significant group from Dudley were The Strangers with some of their line-up going on to greater things musically. They were one of the first bands to be promoted under the "Brum Beat" banner in 1964 following their inclusion on Decca's BRUM BEAT record album that featured some of the best local groups.
The opening track on the Decca BRUM BEAT LP was recorded by The Strangers. It was a catchy original song composed by their vocalist Roy "Dripper" Kent titled 'What A Way' and was certainly good enough to have been released as a single in its own right. The Strangers evolved into Finders Keepers during 1965.
With the recent passing of Strangers founding member Alan "Cleebo" Clee, local guitarist and rock music historian Brian Nicholls interviewed some of the surviving group members who contributed their stories and rare photos to make the best bio of this significant band to date.
To read the story of The Strangers exclusive to the BrumBeat web site, click HERE.
With the recent publicity surrounding the infamous 'Stairway To Heaven' court case, it's only fitting that Robert Plant should be featured on BrumBeat in his first professional recording group called Listen. Their photo shown here from the July 1966 'Midland Beat' newspaper has from left to right; Geoff Thompson, John Crutchley, Robert Plant, and Roger Beamer.
Robert Plant (who was born and raised in West Bromwich) joined the Walsall-based Listen in 1966. This young group were popular with the girls - no doubt due to their good looks and smart mod-styled image. They performed high-energy versions of Tamla Motown and soul songs throughout the West Midlands, Birmingham and beyond. This was years before Robert Plant became part of Led Zeppelin and went on to find international fame as one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time!
To read the full story of Robert Plant and Listen, exclusive to the BrumBeat web site, click HERE.
A significant influence in the development of West Midlands pop music is the impact of 'Skiffle' during the 1950s, long before the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Cliff and The Shadows, or even Elvis.
Home-made Skiffle music was the 'punk rock' of its day although this raw, energetic style of playing owed more to the music than the fashion. Popularised by singer Lonnie Donegan, his skiffle anthem 'Rock Island Line' issued in 1956 inspired countless teenagers to take up the guitar.
Local rock music historian and guitarist Brian Nicholls of 60s group Varsity Rag examines the impact of Skiffle as told through the experiences of Mick Blythe and Les Parker who went on to form one of the earliest rock 'n' roll bands in the Wolverhampton area called The Tremors.
To read the story of The Tremors exclusive to the BrumBeat web site, click HERE.
Can YOU solve the mystery of this 10 inch record album recorded in 1969? Do you know the band who recorded it? Maybe you were part of that group and actually played on it! The record label shows hand-written a line-up called "Little By Little" who played on the recordings but the mystery only goes deeper as a label on the sleeve indicates the group's name was to be changed to "Henry".
Record collector Jonathan Simpson recently acquired the record and has tried to track down (to no avail) information about the band who made these recordings. He says; "I recently acquired a 10" album by a band called 'LITTLE BY LITTLE' on the Hollick & Taylor label. It is housed in a plain card sleeve with 2 typed labels. The first is of the track listing. The other explains the recording was made in the Spring of 1969 and the line-up had been added to and that their name was to change to 'HENRY'. It also has a contact address in Stourton. The music is very keyboard based almost psychedelic and the dead-wax matrix numbers are HT LP1174-A and B on the B-side."
As Birmingham's oldest recording studio, Handsworth-based Hollick & Taylor was well-known during the 1960s which included making recordings for films and TV. Now known as Grosvenor Studios, many groups went there to make high-quality demonstration recordings (demos) with some being good enough to be issued officially by the major record companies.
This record label suggests that 'Little By Little' was probably a local band. Records bearing this type of handwritten H&T label were pressed in only limited quantities so this could be the only existing copy of the LP. There may even be a Led Zeppelin connection with the record as the lady who originally owned it claimed to have dated Robert Plant in the mid 1960s says Jonathan.
If anyone reading this has any information about a group called "Little By Little", or "Henry", or knows something more about this record, please e-mail me at email@example.com and I will be sure to post the info solving the mystery on Alex's Pie Stand.
Yet more sad news in January with the passing of Birmingham musician Geoff Nicholls who was 68. Geoff was probably best known as keyboard player for the world-famous Brum band Black Sabbath for more than 20 years and was also guitarist in the hard rock band 'Quartz'. Geoff's career started in the 1960s when he played in pop group World Of Oz and then as a member of Johnny Neal's Starliners.
Geoff Nicholls was born on February 29, 1948 in Birmingham UK and grew up in Kingstanding. He had an early interest in playing guitar and piano which led to him performing in a few local bands during the 1960s including The Boll Weevils. Geoff was working as a gas fitter when he decided to "turn pro" and joined the Birmingham-based psychedelic pop group World of Oz in 1968, replacing David Kubinec on keyboards during the recording of their first and only album.
The World of Oz line-up also included guitarist Chris Evans and drummer David Reay both from Danny King's Mayfair Set and bass guitarist Tony Clarkson from The Exception. World of Oz had managed to get a recording contract on Deram Records but despite promotion and recording an album with three singles, they split in 1969 before gaining major success.
Geoff then joined well-known veteran Brum vocalist Johnny Neal in his band called The Starliners with whom he appeared on Hughie Green's popular "Opportunity Knocks" ITV television talent show. Notorious pop music manager Don Arden signed Johnny Neal and The Starliners to a contract and they recorded the song 'Put Your Hand In The Hand' in 1970 which sold well despite not making the UK charts. The single's underrated B-side titled 'Now' was an original composition by Geoff Nicholls.
Despite high-profile gigs and touring abroad with The Starliners, Geoff wanted to play heavier music so left in 1974 to help form a Brum-based hard rock band called "Bandy Legs". Along with vocalist Mike "Taffy" Taylor and bass guitarist Derek Arnold who had played in 1960s Brum band Lemon Tree, the line-up also included former Idle Race guitarist Mike Hopkins. Bandy Legs changed their name to "Quartz" after signing with Don Arden's JET Records label in 1977 and recorded their debut album produced by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi.
Quartz with Geoff Nicholls gained a loyal following. They played as support group on Black Sabbath tours, performed at the famous Reading Festival, and recorded two more critically acclaimed albums but were unable to get that elusive "big selling record". For Geoff Nicholls though, things would change considerably when he was asked by Tony Iommi to help out with Black Sabbath in 1979.
Black Sabbath was in chaos when Geoff Nicholls came on board. Ozzy Osbourne had just been fired from the group. Geezer butler had also left and Bill Ward was going through "personal problems". The group had just started to record a new album in America so Geoff initially helped out on bass guitar and then keyboards. Former 'Rainbow' vocalist Ronnie James Dio joined the band, Geezer Butler returned and the album was finally completed.
Issued under the title 'Heaven and Hell', Black Sabbath's new album was a big success as was their tour to promote it. It's regarded by many fans today as one of their best records. This began a more than 20 year association with Black Sabbath for Geoff Nicholls who was on all their albums and tours until 2004.
In the years following Black Sabbath, Geoff Nicholls continued to write and play music which included touring with former Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin with whom Geoff had also recorded with legendary drummer Cozy Powell. Although he didn't smoke, Geoff was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago and despite treatment, passed away on January 28, 2017.
My condolence goes out to the family and friends of Geoff Nicholls. Johnny Neal who was a long-time friend of Geoff's has written a few words as follows:
Geoff's partner Gloria is a good friend of my wife, Maggie and they regularly attend a spiritualist church so I have been kept up to date with Geoff's condition, but it was still an almighty shock when he finally passed.
The memories I have got of Geoff are wonderful as he joined my band and became an integral part of it at the height of "Johnny Neal and The Starliners" fame and we went on via Opportunity Knocks to get a recording contact and release "Put Your Hand In The Hand" which was released world-wide.
I recorded Geoff's song "Now" on the South African Teal label and it got to Number 10 in the charts, which number was also on the B side of Put Your Hand In The Hand.
Incidentally, Geoff only lived round the corner from where I am living now and whenever I was over here I used to visit him and help out with the vocals of songs that he was writing as he was a prolific songwriter. Before he passed I told him that I was getting the demos I had made for him onto one disc - how prophetic was that?
Roger Craythorne who was the drummer in the band in those days and who now lives in South Africa would like to be mentioned and sends his deepest condolences. Incidentally, my band during that time was myself, Geoff Nicholls, Roger Craythorne and Barrie Gray.
Johnny Neal 2017
Some sad news concerning Birmingham-born drummer Mike Kellie who passed away on January 18 at age 69 following an undisclosed illness. Mike was known as a founding member of the acclaimed 1960s group 'Spooky Tooth' and the influential punk rock band 'The Only Ones'. In addition, Mike played with many famous names as a session musician.
Born on March 24, 1947, Mike Kellie had learned to play drums by age 14 when he got his first drum set and first gig at St. Michaels Youth Club in Hall Green. After playing in a local beat group called "The Phantoms", Mike joined his first professional band Pat Wayne's Beachcombers in 1966, replacing John Bonham (who later found fame with led Zeppelin).
Along with Beachcombers saxophonist Bryan "Monk" Finch, Mike joined The Locomotive who were formed by 'Midland Beat' news photographer and jazz musician Jim Simpson (see Black Sabbath) and fronted by well-known Birmingham vocalist Danny King. This line-up also included future Traffic member Chris Wood.
Mike Kellie joined a Carlisle-based line-up called The V.I.P.'s when Steve Winwood recommended him to the group who urgently needed a replacement drummer for a tour of France and Germany where they performed at the famous Star Club in Hamburg. The V.I.P.s later became the psychedelically-styled "Art" and recorded a now highly-collectable album titled Supernatural Fairy Tales after signing to Chris Blackwell's then-new Island Records label in 1967.
Art moved to London, becoming part of the hip "underground" scene and changed their name to "Spooky Tooth". Now fronted by songwriter Gary Wright, Spooky Tooth recorded well-received albums with some of their songs covered by well-known groups including The Move, Joe Cocker, and Judas Priest. Mike remembered; "It was an enjoyable time. Gary was American and had a wicked sense of humour which mixed well with our hard nosed no frills approach to life"
Mike's next project was a Brummie "supergroup" called Balls formed by former Move and Moody Blues members Trevor Burton and Denny Laine along with Steve Gibbons from The Uglys (Mike played drums on Steve's first solo LP). Mike left Balls to re-join Spooky Tooth for an American tour where they built up a loyal following and toured for a few years. This line up included former Deep Feeling guitarist Luther Grosvenor who later found fame as "Arial Bender" in Mott The Hoople.
Mike Kellie played on Peter Frampton's first solo album along with Spooky Tooth guitarist Mick Jones who went on to form the hit group 'Foreigner'. Other musicians on the album were Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, and Klaus Voorman. George Harrison recruited Mike Kellie to play on some tracks recorded by the Apple Records band 'Splinter'. Mike's notable studio work included recordings with Jerry Lee Lewis, Joe Cocker, the Who's Tommy film soundtrack and Traffic's song 'Rainmaker' from their album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
In 1976, Mike Kellie once again found himself at the head of a new music revolution when he helped form and played drums in the influential punk/new wave band 'The Only Ones' fronted by vocalist Peter Perrett. Mike met Peter by chance at a recording studio in London. He recalled; "I remember the feeling when I first heard Peter's demos. I knew I wanted to play in a band with him. It was a delight to hear meaningful romantic lyrics with an edge and powerful melodic musical settings. I made up my mind that, whether he liked it or not, I was going to form a band with this guy."
The Only Ones attracted a sizeable cult following resulting in them recording three albums along with a number of singles. Probably their best known song is titled 'Another Girl, Another Planet' that has since appeared on many compilations. This association led to Mike Kellie recording with former New York Dolls guitarist/vocalist "Johnny Thunders" along with former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones.
The Only Ones disbanded in 1981 - due to escalating drug use according to Mike who said; "I always enjoyed a smoke but was getting caught up in a very ugly hard drug scene. There's no doubting the seductive effect of heroin but I found I had to give up all sense of self respect and vanity, two qualities which every functioning human being need to some degree. I was not prepared to sell my soul."
Mike Kellie gave up the rock star life and retired from music for almost 20 years. During that time he relocated near Toronto Canada before returning to the UK where he reportedly worked as a shepherd up in the wilds of Scotland and Wales. In 1999 Mike was persuaded to join a Spooky Tooth reunion which included a new album and touring in Europe. The year 2007 saw The Only Ones re-unite with Mike for a tour of the UK, Europe and Japan.
In recent years, Mike Kellie recorded a solo album issued on CD titled 'Music From The Hidden' on which he sang and played most of the instruments himself. Famous guests on the album included friends from his old Brum Beat days such as Steve Winwood, Gordon Jackson, Bill Hunt, and Steve Gibbons.
My condolence goes out to Mike's family and friends. His web site can be seen at: mikekellie.com
A big "THANK YOU" goes out to The Birmingham Mail and reporter Mike Lockley. The campaign to re-unite the Spencer Davis Group is gathering strength! The July 17, 2016 issue of Birmingham's popular Sunday Mercury newspaper featured a generous double-page spread in support of the petition to get the band back together for a concert at Birmingham's Town Hall.
Birmingham Mail reporter Mike Lockley wrote the brilliant piece following an interview with John Woodhouse of the BrumBeat web site. To view the on-line version, click www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/legendary-spencer-davis-group-reunite-11614830
I've had dozens of e-mails in support of the reunion as a direct result of the Birmingham Mail/Sunday Mercury story. However, more support from fans is still needed as part of this 'grass roots' plan to re-unite the group. Please e-mail me in support of the Spencer Davis Group reunion and please tell others about it too. The more names on the petition, the greater the possibility for a reunion concert at Birmingham Town Hall. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or CLICK HERE for more information.
It is with deep regret that I post this sad news about legendary Brum vocalist Jimmy Powell who passed away at age 73 on May 13, 2016. Jimmy was the first R&B singer to break out of Birmingham when he recorded a high-energy version of Buster Brown's 'Sugar Babe' issued as a single by Decca Records in 1962.
Easily one of the most powerful vocalists to emerge from the West Midlands, Jimmy Powell was a dynamic performer who was popular in the early London blues and 'Mod' scene and was likely an influence to many aspiring singers. Though Jimmy went on to make some great records that unfortunately missed the charts, he seems to be remembered in rock music history more for his association with other famous names than for his own success.
As one of the original vocalists for The Rockin' Berries, Jimmy's London-based group called 'The Dimensions' included a young and then-unknown Rod Stewart in their line-up. Musicians who played on Jimmy's records included "Big" Jim Sullivan and Clem Cattini as well as Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (later of Led Zeppelin). Jimmy Powell insisted he was the one who played the harmonica on Millie Small's big hit record 'My Boy Lollipop' although it's an issue that remains controversial.
While having a reputation for sometimes owing money to those who played in his groups, Jimmy Powell was never short of great musicians to back him. An outstanding live performer, Jimmy always gave 100 percent to those who were lucky enough to see him on-stage. His records remain highly collectible and continue to attract fans in many countries.
I was very fortunate to interview Jimmy in 2008 and found him to be a wonderful character with some great memories of the old days. He also spoke proudly of his sons who had their own bands (to see the Jimmy Powell BrumBeat interview click HERE)
When Jimmy Powell's recording of 'Sugar Babe' was released as a single in 1962, few would have realized the significance of it as the first pop music single by a Birmingham vocalist. This historic event began a flood of great records by Brum bands and performers that continues to this day.
The recent closure of Wall Heath's venerable 'Kingfisher' Country Club as a live performance venue has brought back a flood of good memories to many of those who enjoyed going there. During the 1960s, the Kingfisher near Kingswinford on Kidderminster Road was a great place to see famous pop groups along with the best local bands.
Drinking, dining, comedians, cabaret, and dancing to great live music made "a night out" at The Kingfisher a major attraction back in the day before beer at home and the big screen TV. But surely one of the most memorable nights at the Kingfisher was in 1967 when Jimi Hendrix and his band took the stage by surprise following a concert in Wolverhampton.
Local rock music historian and BrumBeat contributor Brian Nicholls has written a great tribute to 'The Kingfisher' that can be viewed by clicking HERE.
Legendary drummer Pete York has played professionally for more than 50 years and intends to keep on going! Back in the 1960s, Pete was part of Birmingham's famous chart-topping Spencer Davis Group. They were known as "a group's group" but there's no doubt that Pete was and still is "a drummer's drummer".
Though many will remember the Spencer Davis Group for having launched Steve Winwood's long and successful music career, their classic records like 'Keep On Running', 'Gimme Some Loving' and 'I'm A Man' remain hugely popular to this day. Few however may know that the group emerged from Birmingham's thriving jazz scene as it was during the early 1960s.
Not content to rest on his success with Spencer Davis, Pete York went on to play with some of the world's most famous and talented musicians. I have been very fortunate to recently interview Pete York who answered questions that I'm sure will be of interest to fans of the BrumBeat web site.
To see this exclusive BrumBeat interview with Pete York, click HERE
I regret to post this news of Mick Walker who passed away in February 2016. Mick was a member of the influential Walsall beat group The Redcaps who were well known throughout the West Midlands during the 1960s and recorded some singles for Decca Records. The Redcaps line-up shown in the group photo shows from left to right; Mick Walker (bass guitar/vocal), Mick Blythe (lead guitar/vocal), Alan Morley (drums), Dave Walker (lead vocal/guitar), and Mac Broadhurst (saxophone).
My condolence goes out to Mick's family and friends during this sad time. Local rock music historian Brian Nicholls who played in Varsity Rag has known Mick for many years and has sent a tribute as follows:
It is with a heavy heart that I report the sudden death of Mick Walker. Mick passed away unexpectedly in his sleep during the night of 24th February, 2016. He leaves a wife and a nine year old daughter.
Mick, alongside his twin brother Dave, were founder members of Walsall's iconic group The Redcaps. He has since led an interesting life being a member of a jazz trio, a solo artiste on cruise ships, a film stunt man, personal body guard to Elton John and Freddie Mercury and, of recent past, a very successful after dinner speaker and finally, lead singer and bassist with 'The Salopian Dudes' (a reincarnation of The Redcaps).
All of us stood in awe watching The Redcaps who stood comparison with the world's finest. I knew Mick personally and can say that life is the richer for that. Thank you mate, God Bless and may you Rest in Peace.
Mick Walker with The Salopian Dudes and The Redcaps can be heard on YouTube at; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwfPx28a0T4
Making a record that would get played on the radio was the ultimate goal for many bands and musicians during the 1960s. Few however, knew much about the technical side of recording and even those lucky enough to go into a proper recording studio might be mystified by the activities of lab-coated technicians and engineers.
'Griffin Radio' located in Bristol Street, was one of the first shops in Birmingham to sell professional quality recording equipment that could be used at home. Peter Griffin owned and operated the shop from 1950 to 1977. He sold the legendary BEOCORD 2000 De Luxe (pictured here) - one of the first domestic multi-track recorders. It was used to make demonstration (demo) recordings by many local musicians, some of course who went on to become famous recording artists or work in the record industry.
Award-winning film maker Paul Griffin has a special interest in the history of Griffin Radio as it was his grandfather Peter who ran the shop. Paul's father Steph Griffin and his uncle Jim later set up 'Griffin Audio Visual' and his uncle Bob continued to run 'Griffin Audio'. Paul is working on a film project and would like to hear from any West Midlands musicians who remember Griffin Radio or owned the Beocord 2000 De Luxe.
If you have relevant memorabilia, photos or stories to contribute to this film project, you can contact Paul at: email@example.com You can also visit Paul's web site at: www.griffinproductions.co.uk You might even get an appearance in Paul's new film!
Super Slade fan Christopher Selby has spent years researching the early history of this world-famous band from the West Midlands. In addition to having his own web site dedicated to them, Chris has now started a facebook page to document and collect information about the group when they were originally known during the 1960s as The 'N Betweens.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Slade members performing together for the first time as the 'N Betweens. Chris describes his project as follows; "2016 sees the 50th anniversary of the meeting of four musicians who would go on to form the greatest rock group the UK has ever produced - Slade. Don Powell, Dave Hill, Noddy Holder and Jim Lea would gather together in the early months of 1966 to form a new version of The 'N Betweens. This facebook page will attempt to chronicle their adventures."
You can participate on this facebook page by writing your own memories of The 'N Betweens from those days or sending scans of memorabilia, gig advertisements, or even photos if you have them. Chris is particularly interested in documenting as many of the group's 1960s performances as possible.
Chris invites you to take a look and maybe contribute your own memories to the history of this legendary band at; https://www.facebook.com/Slade1966
Music fan Annie Hollinshead loves British music to the point of starting a museum dedicated to her heroes who composed and played on some of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. Taking things a step further, Annie's vision is to now include all genres of British music. Great news is this museum may be located in or near Birmingham!
The Music Heritage Museum Project will be no ordinary museum displaying only dusty memorabilia viewed under glass. Annie's vision is to create a "hands-on" environment where in addition to static exhibits, will allow the visitor to experience and interact. My personal view is that Birmingham is the perfect location for this due to the many musical genres that developed here during the 1960s and beyond. From rock 'n' roll to reggae, heavy metal to new wave, the West Midlands has it all.
The idea for a music museum began in 2008 when Annie Hollinshead staged an exhibit of Led Zeppelin fan memorabilia at Knebworth House stately home. Another exhibit in Birmingham followed, and after the success of those exhibits, the project to create a comprehensive all genre UK music museum became the focus. Since then, many changes have taken place but the project remains on course. There is now interest from the Birmingham Council, and acting advisers Traci Dix-Williams (Director of Operations at the Ironbridge World Heritage Museums), and cultural heritage company Barker Langham.
The project is described in Annie's own words; "From creation to the studio, from the studio to the stage, from the stage to the world. Here, music fans will find much more than memorabilia in glass cases. Experience your favourite music as never before as you find yourself in decades past (and present) mixing a track in a studio, walking the red carpet to a music event, working with the road crew, taking photographs, designing album art or writing a song. It will be a hands-on experience!"
For more information about the Music Heritage Museum, you can visit the official web site at: www.musichm.org
Birmingham songwriter and author Laurie Hornsby has teamed up with veteran rock musician Dave Scott-Morgan to compose and record a new song dedicated to the Christmas season. Laurie is well known for his excellent books 'Brum Rocked!' and 'Brum Rocked On!' that told the story of Brum's 1960s music scene.
During the last decade, Laurie has teamed up with various musicians from the BrumBeat era to help perform many of the great songs from the 1960s live on-stage. Dave Morgan played guitar in several significant Brum bands during the 1960s including The Uglys and wrote songs with Carl Wayne that were recorded by The Move. During the 1970s and 80s, Dave helped form the rock band 'Magnum' and also recorded/performed with the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) on international tours (see Dave Morgan BrumBeat feature story).
Laurie and Dave's collaboration is entitled 'Come The Three Kings' and also features Dave's wife Mandy on backing vocals. The recording includes percussion played by Hossam Ramzy who has worked with among others, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. The record will be released in early November 2015 and credited to 'Scott - Morgan and Hornsby' (available for download on iTunes or CD via Amazon with a video on YouTube CLICK HERE).
For more information about Dave's amazing music career, you can visit his web site at: www.scottmorgan.co.uk
Esoteric Records has celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the release of the very first Moody Blues album with the issue of a re-mastered double-CD set of 1965's 'The Magnificent Moodies'. Included with the many rare and previously-unheard bonus tracks, are long-forgotten recording sessions for a second proposed Moody Blues album that was never released!
To many Moody Blues fans around the world (and there's a lot of them), 1967's orchestrated master work 'Days Of Future Passed' is considered to be the band's first "proper" album. Others of course will recognize 1965's 'The Magnificent Moodies' to be their first but if things had gone according to plan, their second abandoned LP may have bridged the massive gap from their original beat-styled "R&B" format, to the progressive "cosmic philosophers" many fans at the time imagined them to be.
To read more about The Moody Blues 'lost' album, and 'The Magnificent Moodies' 50th anniversary remastered double-CD set, click HERE.
Former pop star Charlie Grima has written a book about his life and music career experiences while playing drums in Birmingham's chart-topping glam rock band 'Wizzard' (see The Move) as well as for other local groups. Malta-born Charlie was also an active participant in the exploding West Midlands pop music scene during the 1960s.
"After a few years of friends encouraging me to write about my times in this business of showing off, I decided to give it a go." says Charlie. 'Aren't You Glad That It's Not Christmas Everyday?' (an obvious reference to Wizzard's seasonal favourite record) forms the title of Charlie's new book. I haven't yet read this book but am certainly looking forward to doing so (JRW).
Some of the other groups Charlie played drums for was the Wellington Kitch Jump Band, The Ghost, and Mongrel. He also embarked on a successful acting career and worked as a music teacher. You can check out Charlie's own web site at www.charliegrima.com
Charlie's book can be ordered from Amazon in paperback and Kindle (just punch in the name Charlie Grima), all major on-line book stores, or from high street book shops.
Birmingham lost a tangible piece of its rock music history when the remains of the Ritz Ballroom in King's Heath were demolished in January 2015 to make way for new development. The Ritz was one of four venues operated during the 1960s and 70s by the famous promoters Joe and Mary "Ma" Regan who were instrumental in the development of the West Midlands music scene.
Many famous names performed at The Ritz during the 1960s including Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Pink Floyd. Mary Regan famously pre-booked The Beatles (for a modest fee) to play there in February 1963 by which time the group were number one in the record charts. Needless to say, it was a sell-out event!
Loads of well-known local groups also performed at The Ritz including some who went on to become world-famous like The Moody Blues, The Spencer Davis Group, and The Move. Queues forming around the block were commonplace at The Ritz Ballroom during its heyday as so many waited to go inside and see their favourite bands or performers.
The Ritz finally closed its doors in the 1970s to become a bingo hall before falling into disuse and later conversion to shops. Sadly, the building was severely damaged by fire in 2013. Good news is a community arts centre is planned to be built on this historic site (for more information see the 'King's Heath Walk of Fame' web site at: www.kingsheathwalkoffame.org.uk).
David Cheetham who sent the photo wrote; "My wife used to go there most Sundays in the 1960s to see the up and coming Birmingham bands, such as Spencer Davis, Robert Plant etc. Also saw Julie Driscol, Long John Baldry - who flicked ash on her head while standing behind her, also PJ Proby, Alan Price and Wilson Picket, plus anybody who's around in the 60s going from there to the Brum Cavern and the Plaza at Handsworth."
Many bands from the West Midlands went down to London during the 1960s to perform at rock venues or clubs there in the company of groups like The Kinks, The Who, Manfred Mann, Georgie Fame, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and lots more.
Rock music journalist Nick Warburton (see www.nickwarburton.com) has often supplied information to the BrumBeat web site. He's interested to hear from anyone who played at the London clubs or any audience members who remember going to see bands there. The list includes; The Bag O'Nails, The Black Prince Hotel, Blaises, The Boathouse, Botwell House, The Bromel Club, Burtons, The Cromwellian, Coronation Hall, Glenyln Ballroom, Goldhawk Social Club, Hatchetts Playground, Marcam Hall, The Revolution, The Scotch of St. James, El Partido, Sibyllas, The Speakeasy, Tiger's Head, The Walton Hop Playhouse, and The Witchdoctor.
If you can help with this project, please send your recollections of the above listed venues to Nick Warburton at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, you can visit the Garage Hangover web site to find out more about the clubs listed above.
Some exciting news is that 1960s Brum band The Exception now have their long-neglected catalog of recordings compiled for a high-quality official release on a new CD from RPM Records (Retro 956) distributed by Cherry Red Records.
The Exception were something of a local "supergroup" to those familiar with the background of their members. The core of the band consisted of drummer and lead vocalist Alan "Bugsy" Eastwood. A prolific songwriter, Alan's involvement in the Birmingham music scene began with 'The Plazents' in 1963 who later became The Brumbeats after being signed to Decca Records. Roger Hill was one of the top-rated guitarists in Birmingham who had also played alongside Alan in The Brumbeats.
Additional band members were bass guitarist Dave Pegg who had spent time with Steve Gibbons in The Uglys (along with Roger Hill), and went on to perform with The Ian Campbell Folk Group before becoming a pivotal member of the acclaimed Fairport Convention. Later band members included John Rowlands from The Boll Weevills, and Malcolm Garner from The Andicaps.
Despite touring Europe with The Equals, and a recording contract that saw the release of several inventive singles and an album, The Exception never quite managed to score a chart breakthrough and the band split in 1969 after a number of personnel changes. Multi-instrumentalist Alan Eastwood would also record a solo single and later an album for the President Records label. Sadly, Alan Eastwood and Roger Hill are no longer with us so this forthcoming CD will be a fitting tribute to their talent and contributions to the West Midlands music scene.
Project co-ordinator John Reed, who has several BrumBeat-related CDs to his credit, has done a fine job on The Exception CD package as well as with Alan Eastwood's super-rare solo LP from 1971 titled 'Seeds' that is also now re-mastered and re-issued on CD by Cherry Red Records. Both of these CDs include previously unissued recordings.
An in-depth review of The Exception CD package is now available on the BrumBeat web site by clicking HERE. You can also visit the RPM/Cherry Red Records web site at www.rpmrecords.co.uk for more details.
With original 1960s Fenders and Gibsons changing hands for the price of a new car, many guitar makers are taking opportunity to cash-in on the demand. But is that terrific-looking anniversary re-issue, or battered road-worn replica really worth the asking price?
Those wishing to re-capture their miss-spent youth by getting the sort of guitar they always wanted - or sold for fifty quid many years ago, now have more options than ever before - and without having to rob a bank! Beware before buying though, as what may seem 'too good to be true' often turns out to be just that.
It's not so easy these days to tell the difference between a poor-quality guitar re-issue and a superior one. The 'Made In USA' versions are preferred, but many will argue the ones 'Made In Japan' may actually be better in some cases. A higher price tag might also not be the best indicator of a quality instrument so it definitely pays doing some research to save money and avoid disappointment from 'impulse-buying'.
Resident BrumBeat guitar expert 'Bulls Head Bob' has offered assistance to those looking to purchase the classic re-issue guitar of their dreams. Bob's May 2014 blog goes into some detail concerning this subject and is well worth a look. You can check it out by clicking HERE.
To help stir your memories, West Midlands rock music historian and regular BrumBeat contributor Brian Nicholls sent scans of his early 1960s Fender Guitar catalog. You can see a PDF file showing some pages from it by clicking HERE.
BrumBeat star Jeff Lynne was presented with his own 'star' on 'Birmingham's Walk of Stars' along Broad Street in March 2014. Jeff, as many will know, is front-man and creative force behind Birmingham's world-famous 'Electric Light Orchestra' (ELO) whose records have sold in the millions. Prior to that, Jeff was in local 1960s hit group 'The Move'.
Pictured from left to right is Birmingham Lord Mayor Mike Leddy, Jeff Lynne, and long-time friend Jasper Carrott (who also has his own star). Previous "BrumBeat" recipients of the award include Roy Wood, Bev Bevan Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi.
Jeff Lynne's formidable music accomplishments along with producing and performing with other legendary musicians are too many to be listed here but you can visit the official Face The Music web site at www.ftmusic.com for details. Coincidentally, Jeff is also soon to be recognized on Hollywood's famous 'Walk of Stars'.
Jeff Lynne's involvement in the BrumBeat music scene goes way back to the early 1960s when he formed his first band called 'The Andicaps'. He later joined as guitarist for 'The Chads' before replacing Roy Wood in Mike Sheridan's 'Nightriders'. This band, re-named 'The Idle Race' in 1967, made some good records under Jeff's direction, but it wasn't until 1970 when Roy Wood invited Jeff into The Move after Carl Wayne left that his incredible songwriting talent first scored success in the charts.
Although Jeff has lived in the USA for many years, he was pleased to accept the honour saying; "This is marvellous having your own town recognize you. I never thought anyone would make such a fuss about me because I've been away for such a long time. Birmingham is more fun as it's my home town. I still miss a lot of mates here."
Some sad news concerning the passing of local musician Alan Poyner who was an early participant in Birmingham's 1960s music scene. Alan played guitar as a member of 'Johnny Starr and The Planets' who developed into 'Billy King and The Nightriders' and later Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders. In his later years, Alan ran the APEX REHEARSAL STUDIOS in Halesowen. Alan's brother Dennis has requested this news be shown on Alex's Pie Stand (see the following below):
I wish to inform you of the passing of my Brother, Alan Poyner. Alan formed the group known as 'The Planets' which was the springboard for Mike Sheridan and The Night Riders'. He was friends with most of the group members over the years, his best friend being "Big Al" (Johnson). He spent most of his life doing one thing or another in the music industry, it was the love of his life.
Caring for many years of his life for his wife Hazel, Alan still found time for his passion - music. Since the early 90s up until his death, he ran his own rehearsal studio's in Halesowen called 'Apex Studios' where he was loved by all who rehearsed there. His death was sudden just as he was in the process of turning a spare room into a venue where his customers could play to live audiences to help them with their confidence etc. He was always there to help any budding musician. I know some of the musicians he knew would like to know of his passing.
Regards - Dennis Poyner
Written by Paul Rees. Published by Harper Collins 2013.
What makes a rock star? If the Beatles can be said to have defined "Pop" music during the 1960s, then surely Led Zeppelin defined "Rock" music as we know it today.
Like it or not, Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven' remains one of the most played records ever and is regularly voted as the top rock song of all time. For those who don't know, it was co-written by Robert Plant who also sung the lead vocal as front-man of that legendary band and who also happened to be from West Bromwich.
The "Black Country" located to the West side of Birmingham, was also home to Led Zeppelin's drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham, thus making the area famous for producing one half of what many claim as "One of the greatest and most influential bands of all time!" Accolades aside, Hollywood's 'Sunset Strip' must have seemed light years away to a young Robert Plant and John Bonham as they struggled vainly to make it in local bands during the mid 1960s. Yet within a year, after hooking up with guitar-star Jimmy Page and bass guitarist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, they found success beyond their wildest dreams.
So, what does make a rock star you may ask. 'Robert Plant - A Life' is the first book dedicated to telling Robert Plant's life story rather than just another book about Led Zeppelin. It details his early days growing up and at school, his discovery and love of American blues music, his first failed attempts to make it as a singer, and then his ultimate rise to stardom. The book continues Robert's life through both career triumph and personal tragedy along with Led Zeppelin's demise and his on-going journey as a solo artist.
Robert Plant's early West Midlands bands are mentioned in some detail, including 'The Delta Blues Band', 'Black Snake Moan', 'Crawling King Snakes', the mod-styled 'Listen' (with whom Robert made his first recordings), and the legendary 'Band Of Joy' line-up that also included John Bonham. However, it was keyboard-player Bill Bonham's Walsall-based group 'Obs-Tweedle' that Robert Plant was in at the time of his discovery by ace session player and Yardbirds' guitarist Jimmy Page. And the rest is history as they say.
Paul Rees is an acclaimed music writer whose work is published in a variety of well-known newspapers and magazines. Paul was editor of the music publications 'Kerrang!' and 'Q Magazine' for 12 years and as such interviewed hundreds of famous musicians. 'Robert Plant - A Life' is based on Paul's own interviews of Robert Plant along with personal accounts from many others who knew him, from his early days, up to the present time. Those interviewed from the 1960s 'BrumBeat' era include Gary Tolley, Stan Webb, Dave Pegg, Laurie Hornsby, Bill Bonham, Jim Lea, Trevor Burton, and John Crutchley to name but a few.
The book is well over 300 pages but by the time you're halfway through, you've only reached the part where Led Zeppelin ends and our hero begins his solo career at the ripe old age of 32! There's lots more to come though, with all the ups and downs of Robert's solo projects, and his well-deserved status as one of the best rock vocalists of all time. Is it only coincidence that both Noddy Holder and Rob Halford are from the very same area? Maybe it's something in the local beer.
Anyway, Paul Rees has done a fantastic job of pulling all this together and believe me, you will find it hard to put this book down once you start reading. 'Robert Plant - A Life' is well recommended for all fans of Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin, and in fact for anyone who wants to know the answer to that question 'what makes a rock star?'
Although not directly from the Birmingham area, this Evesham-based group known as Cats Eyes had their 'second home' in the West Midlands during the 1960s where they performed and recorded frequently. The group had an amazing dozen singles issued between 1968 and 1972, also under the name of 'Spode'.
Some of you may remember Cats Eyes from their many live broadcasts on BBC radio, or appearances on popular TV shows like 'The Golden Shot' or 'Lift Off With Ayshea'. The group performed at many of the well-known venues in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich, and Redditch. I'm grateful to Cats Eyes founding member Doug Alcock who played drums in the band, for sending their story that can now be read here exclusively on the BrumBeat web site.
Alderlea Boys School in the Shard End area of Birmingham certainly produced its share of pop stars during the 1960s including The Bobcats, ELO's Jeff Lynne, and Magnum's Tony Clarkin. Tony's first band were 'The Boulevards' who gained respect from their fans and other local musicians during the early 1960s by playing their own kind of music rather than just copying the hits of the day.
The Boulevards may well have been ahead of their time as far as pop music was concerned. The band's passion for the 'blues' may have secured them a more dedicated following than many other young groups in those days. To those who appreciated a good live performance, The Boulevards certainly made their mark in setting themselves apart from bands who had to perform like "human jukeboxes" to get the most bookings.
Tony Clarkin of course moved on to bigger things after The Boulevards, but the other group members also stayed in the music business and most continue to perform on stage to this day. I'm grateful to The Boulevards guitarist Ken Pickett who remembers those early days and has sent much information about the band that can now be seen presented here exclusive to the BrumBeat web site. To read The Boulevards story, click HERE or see them listed in the Brum Beat MAIN INDEX.
Imagine if you can, what it would be like playing in a band during the 1960s and having to share the dressing room with The Beatles, or Roy Orbison, or Dusty Springfield - just to name a few!
If that isn't exciting enough, then imagine going down to "swinging London" and meeting the manager of The Kinks and The Troggs who then demands an immediate recording audition! Pete Trickett who played drums in a Smethwick group called 'Formula 1' experienced all of this and remembers those days well.
Formula 1 were an ambitious young Birmingham band who set their sights on the big-time during an era when almost anything seemed possible. You can now read their story thanks to Pete Trickett who provided most of the information about the group and presented here exclusive to the BrumBeat web site. Click HERE or see Formula 1 as listed in the Brum Beat MAIN INDEX.
You won't find much mentioned about 'The Renegades' in Brum Beat history other than they contributed a track to the legendary DIAL Brumbeat LP from 1964. However, The Renegades WERE one of Birmingham's biggest pop music exports to Finland and Italy during the 1960s!
Fronted by charismatic vocalist Kim (Mike) Brown, along with lead guitarist Denys Gibson, drummer Graham Johnson, and bass guitarist Ian Mallet, The Renegades gained many fans in snowy Finland where their success rivaled that of The Beatles. The Renegades were certainly part of the West Midlands music scene during the early 1960s so it's a mystery as to why their records didn't chart in the U.K.
It is fitting that The Renegades finally receive their due recognition on BrumBeat.net thanks to their loyal fans in Finland who have e-mailed me to get them included on this web site - especially Esko Havia who has provided most of the information about the group. Click HERE to read the story of The Renegades and their remarkable success on the Continent during the 1960s or see them listed in the Brum Beat MAIN INDEX.
After leaving the Moody Blues in 1966, Birmingham's own 'rock 'n' roll gypsy' would have to wait several years before once more attaining the heights of fame and recording success he had at one time dreamed about. Denny Laine's immediate post-Moody Blues career seemed cursed by false-starts and bad luck which in turn wasn't helped by Denny's own somewhat restless nature.
'The Electric String Band' was just one of the projects Denny Laine was involved in during the later 1960s. The former Moody Blues front-man's unforgettable vocal performance on their classic hit record 'Go Now' had made him a star. Why then did he appear to walk away from pop star success after years working so hard for it starting in the back-streets of Birmingham with his first professional band called Denny Laine and The Diplomats? To read the answer to this and many other questions you may have about Denny Laine's amazing musical career, click HERE or see Denny Laine listed in the Brumbeat MAIN INDEX.
Many thanks to rock music journalist Nick Warburton for assistance in preparing this exclusive feature on Denny Laine.
From 'The Twist' to 'Gangnam Style', popular dance crazes come and go. A rock 'n' roll group from West Heath started their own dance craze called 'The Bends' during the early 1960s. The Bends or 'Benz' was danced by Sonny Rhy and The Rivals enthusiastic following of mostly female fans wherever the band could be found performing around Birmingham.
Dennis Burgess (A.K.A. Sonny Rhy) well remembers those days back in the early 1960s and so it is thanks to him that the story of Sonny Rhy and The Rivals can now be told. Dennis has sent some great information about the band along with photos from his personal collection that can now be seen exclusively on the BrumBeat web site. For those readers who would like to learn how to dance The Bends, or discover some of Birmingham's early rock 'n' roll history, click HERE or see 'Sonny Rhy and The Rivals' listed in the Brumbeat MAIN INDEX.
This early 1960s Birmingham group is significant as the first "professional" band that guitarist Tony Iommi played in according to his official autobiography published in 2011. Of course, many will know that Tony Iommi is a founding member of Brum's internationally acclaimed and influential group Black Sabbath - the band credited as inventing the style of rock music that became known as 'Heavy Metal'.
The photo shown here of the Rockin' Chevrolets line-up is the only picture known to exist of this historically significant band. Neil Cassin was the lead singer of The Rockin' Chevrolets and as such was the first vocalist to be backed by guitarist Tony Iommi in a professional group. I'm grateful to Neil's son Darren for writing and sending information about his dad's band, including permission from him to show this rare photo on the BrumBeat web site. Neil also sent along his own recollections of what it was like back in those days as the front-man of The Rockin' Chevrolets.
With recent exciting news of a Black Sabbath re-union, plus sad news concerning Tony Iommi's cancer diagnosis, it's only fitting that the Rockin' Chevrolets should be recognized for their place in rock music history. I'm sure that fans of the BrumBeat web site will join me in wishing Tony well for his treatment and recovery. To read the story of The Rockin' Chevrolets that can now be seen exclusively on the BrumBeat web site, click HERE or see them listed in the Brumbeat MAIN INDEX.
Do you remember a late 1960s band from West Bromwich called Mother Earth? They were a four-piece blues/rock outfit with the line-up of Preston Davies (lead guitar), Keith Langford (bass guitar), Phil Smith (lead vocal), and John West (drums).
Mother Earth were certainly popular in the West Midlands for a time as they were managed by "Pop" Brown whose son Chris played keyboards in Robert Plant's Band Of Joy. Mother Earth played on the same bill with many well known local groups such as The 'N Betweens, The Idle Race, The Gift and even the visiting Fleetwood Mac. Later band members included Paul Lockey who also went on to join The Band Of Joy, and Mick Reeves who tragically died young as bass guitarist for doomed Midlands 1970s rock group 'Possessed'.
Phil Smith went on to make records in the 1970s with his rock group 'Eastwood'. Phil has sent information about Mother Earth and is helping write their story for preservation on the BrumBeat web site. Unfortunately, Phil doesn't have a photo of the band, so if anyone out there remembers them and has a photo of the line-up or stories to share, please send a scan of the photo or other information about the band to myself John Woodhouse at email@example.com
I would like to thank everyone who has supported and contributed to the BrumBeat web site during its first decade on-line. You know who you are and should be justifiably proud of what you have helped to create. Without you, this web site would not exist today. Unfortunately, and to my dismay, I have discovered material copied directly from the BrumBeat web site - without permission - and pasted onto other web sites!
The material taken from the BrumBeat web site includes copyrighted text and photos - most of which originated from various contributor's private collections who had entrusted them to me for viewing exclusively on BrumBeat. There is one major web site that has displayed content from BrumBeat - after permission to do so was denied! The web masters of the offending site proceeded to copy and paste dozens of bios from BrumBeat under direction of a certain individual who has claimed to represent the BrumBeat web site. This individual did not have the right to approve such action and does not represent the BrumBeat web site in any way.
This is very disturbing to me as I had thought the offending web site to be a respectable one and may even be publicly funded! The BrumBeat web site has NEVER received any funding, and while there is some income generated from Google Ads, it's not enough to pay for web hosting or domain name. I have to pay the balance from my own resources which I don't begrudge as maintaining this site is still a rewarding experience for me. To be contacted and supplied with information, great stories, and photos from so many interested people is the real reward. What started more than ten years ago as an enjoyable hobby has become a passion that I would like to continue for years to come.
I have on occasion, granted permission for a band bio or parts thereof to be shown on other legitimate web sites or fan sites for non-profit purposes. I have spent countless hours of my own spare time writing band bios and features which I don't mind sharing with visitors to the BrumBeat web site. You can probably understand then if you were in my position, how it would feel to have your own work taken and used elsewhere without your authorization.
Some time ago, I requested the web master of the major offending website to remove the band bios taken from BrumBeat but at this time, they have not done so. Therefore, if action is still not taken, I will be posting the name of that web site onto Alex's Pie Stand. Keep checking this page!
Black Country author and former 'pop pioneer' Ralph Oakley was recently interviewed by local rock music historian Brian Nicholls. As a veteran of the West Midland's early rock 'n' roll scene and founding member of Wolverhampton's acclaimed recording group The Montanas, Ralph's memories of those days will be of interest to many. Indeed, the list of members who were in bands that Ralph Oakley played in, reads almost like a who's who of the 1960s black country pop/rock music scene.
Pictured here in 1959 with his prized American white Fender Precision bass guitar, Ralph Oakley was one of many teenagers back in those days who followed their dream to be in a famous group like Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Also interviewed by Brian Nicholls is local pop singer Kate Mulraney - formerly of The Cyclones - who was one of the first women in those days to participate in what was then very much a male dominated music scene. Brian is himself a veteran of that same scene as having played guitar in a number of local groups such as Varsity Rag during the 1960s.
To see Brian Nicholls' interview with Ralph Oakley and Kate Mulraney as presented here for the first time and exclusive to the BrumBeat web site, click HERE or see it listed on the BrumBeat FEATURES page.
Fans of Birmingham's internationally acclaimed band Traffic will be interested to know that a new book on the life of Jim Capaldi is to be published in June of 2012. The book will be produced by Genesis Publications - a publisher famous for their high-quality limited edition books.
Jim Capaldi who passed away in 2005 from cancer at age 60, was a founding member of Traffic, the influential Brum group who also included Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Chris Wood. It was Jim who collaborated with Steve Winwood to write most of Traffic's classic songs including their first U.K. hit record 'Paper Sun' in 1967. As the first band to be signed to the legendary 'Island Records' label, Traffic subsequently enjoyed great success with their critically acclaimed albums, especially in America where they gained a large following.
Jim Capaldi was no stranger to the 1960s 'Brum Beat' scene as his previous bands The Hellions and Deep Feeling were very much part of the local music landscape. Jim Capaldi's widow Aninha says; "Jim was always telling me about the great days of the 60s in the club scene in Birmingham and how many fantastically talented rock musicians came from this area too, Worcestershire in the heart of the British Midlands." This new book from Genesis Publications is titled 'Mr Fantasy - The Lyrics of Jim Capaldi'. Comments reproduced here from the Genesis web site concerning the book is as follows;
This new Genesis edition with copies signed by Aninha Capaldi - and by your choice of legendary singer songwriters Robert Plant or Steve Winwood - celebrates the work of Traffic and its late drummer, poet and founder member: Jim Capaldi.
"The arrival of Traffic's songs and the imagery of Jim Capaldi's lyrics brought us adventures and characters that vibrated through the psychedelic underground..." Robert Plant.
Originally inspired by The Beatles, Jim would eventually write for The Eagles and come to play alongside George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix amongst many others. Now, within a hand-crafted edition, Jim's hand-written lyrics are reproduced for the first time in facsimile alongside photographs and recollections from over 30 contributors - uniting an incredible array of pre-eminent musicians such as Donovan, Pete Townshend, Brian May, Paul Rodgers, Alice Cooper, Jon Lord, Dave Mason, Yusuf Islam, Paul Weller, Tom Petty, Joe Walsh and many more.
For more information about this new book on the life of Jim Capaldi, visit the Genesis Publications web site at: www.genesis-publications.com/book/mr-fantasy/deluxe
Exciting news for fans of this legendary Brum group is the long-awaited release of their live concert performance recorded in 1969 at the famous Fillmore West in San Francisco, California. This is significant as the only 'complete' recording of a Move concert known to exist!
While the group's 'Live at The Marquee' performance is familiar to fans, technical problems with the initial recording resulted in vocal overdubs before its release on the rare 'Something Else From The Move' EP in 1968. Various BBC recordings managed to capture some of the Move's 'live' energy (albeit in a controlled studio environment), but no complete fully 'live' performance of this group known for their explosive energy on stage has been available until now. A couple of the tracks recorded live at The Fillmore; 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' and 'Open My Eyes' were included on the fantastic 'Move Anthology' Box Set in 2008.
Recorded during the Move's hectic (and only) tour of the USA in October of 1969, the group at that time consisted of Carl Wayne, Roy Wood, Bev Bevan and Rick Price. The existence of the 'Fillmore tapes' was only confirmed about a decade ago by former Move front-man Carl Wayne who intended to release the recording but tragically passed away before the remastering could begin. Carl's widow Sue has given her permission for the release of this historic recording that will serve as a fitting tribute to both Carl and the band. The following is from the official press release:
"Over 100 minutes of previously unreleased Move live magic recorded at San Francisco's Fillmore West."
LIVE AT THE FILLMORE 1969 - Right Recordings RIGHT116. iTunes & Online released worldwide 19th December 2011 with a two CD set released worldwide on 13th February 2012.
SPECIAL OFFERS & NEWS FOR MOVE FANS! Pre-order special offer - signed CDs by Bev Bevan, exclusive limited edition t-shirt plus Move collectors edition postcard available direct from the Right Recordings website www.rightrecordings.com/products/162-the-move.aspx (Move fans enter promo code Move1969 at checkout stage for free postage worldwide).
Click HERE to see a detailed review of 'The Move Live at The Fillmore 1969' exclusive to the BrumBeat web site or see the BRUM BEAT REVIEWS page. For more information about this release, visit the Face The Music web site at: www.ftmusic.com or see the official website of The Move at: www.themoveonline.com
If you've followed the exploits of Bulls Head Bob over the last few years, you will doubtless be addicted by now to his monthly blog. This BrumBeat insider covers everything related to BrumBeat from the point of view of someone who was not only there when it was all happening, but was also an active participant in a number of significant local bands during the 1960s.
Bulls Head Bob leaves no stone un-turned in his quest to cut through the myths and legends of the BrumBeat era. He gives credit where credit is due to those both well-known and unknown. Gritty and controversial he may be, but he gets right down to the cold, hard, TRUTH and that's no bull!
The latest blog by Bulls Head Bob examines The Spencer Davis Group as a fine example of what made bands sound so good back in those days. Be sure to check this one out if you haven't already done so. Bob has also contributed great stories and features to the BrumBeat web site including the popular SIX OF THE BEST series as well as the recent Moody Blues - Go Now story by producer Alex Wharton, and the story of the historic Shakin' All Over by Johnny Kidd and The Pirates' Brian Gregg.
Unfortunately, the true identity of Bulls Head Bob must remain a secret at this time - although for a pint or two of Ansells Mild he may be persuaded to reveal a few clues says his mate 'Nobber' down at the pub. The latest Bulls Head Bob blog can be seen at: www.bullsheadbob.blogspot.com
In terms of significance, the Band of Joy are highly rated in West Midlands rock music history. Many fans of Led Zeppelin will know that both Robert Plant and John 'Bonzo' Bonham were part of the Band of Joy line-up but amazingly, very little is known or has been written about this legendary group until now.
Just published in 2010 is the book 'The Band of Joy' by Harry Barber. This is the first book I know of to be dedicated to a group that has over the years achieved a status of near mythical proportions. It's a story that would have been difficult to write by any one of the former band members - especially when you consider the number of different line-ups that existed. Fortunately, Harry Barber is more than qualified to write such a book as he was involved as roadie with the group in almost all its different incarnations.
Harry Barber (who was also drummer for 1960s Brum group Paint), spent five years researching and writing The Band of Joy story - drawing from his own gig diary, collection of press cuttings, and a remarkable memory of his time on the road with the band. Each of the different line-ups is fully documented - no easy task as he says there were six distinct versions of the band during the 1960s "...and at one time, two versions with the same name at the same time"!
Harry Barber's Band of Joy is well recommended to fans of Led Zeppelin and of course anyone else who is interested in the West Midlands music scene of the 1960s. Copies of the book are available on eBay or go to Harry Barber's Band of Joy web site at: http://bandofjoy.com. To read a full review of The Band of Joy book, click HERE or see the Brum Beat REVIEWS page.
If you are a fan of Dave Mason, you may be interested in this very rare 45 rpm single from 1963. Dave Mason, who along with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood, formed the legendary Brum group Traffic who had world-wide success in the 1960s & 70s.
Dave Mason later had a successful solo career of his own but few fans may be aware that his first recording was with a young Worcester band called The Jaguars before he joined forces with Jim Capaldi in The Hellions. The Jaguars recorded an original song written by Dave. It was a catchy instrumental number titled 'Opus To Spring' and sounded very much in the same vein as 'The Shadows'. Dave's guitar virtuosity on the recording is evident even back then. The single's B-side 'The Beat' was co-composed by Dave with the group's drummer Roger Moss.
The Jaguars did not have a recording contract, but paid for the recording themselves and had singles pressed on the Worcester-based 'Impression' label. The group then sold the records to fans at their gigs. It was an unusual method of promotion for a band back in those days but is common practice for un-signed groups today. As can be imagined, original copies of The Jaguars 45 are now highly prized by record collectors and examples in un-played or 'mint' condition are rarer still.
Terry Thomas has owned and operated 'Mister Tees Records' shop - based in Kidderminster for more than 30 years. He recently acquired some original copies of The Jaguars Opus To Spring 45. Terry says: "Not a large quantity, just a few from the widow of the record shop owner who issued it in the early sixties. They are nearly 50 years old and in their original box unplayed". If you are interested in purchasing one of these rare singles, Terry can be contacted by phoning 01562 515291 days, or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Possibly the most important Brum Beat record ever made, 'Go Now' was the first song recorded by a West Midlands group to gain international recognition and finally establish Birmingham on the world's pop music map. Although a couple of other local groups such as The Applejacks and Rockin' Berries had charted earlier, their success was confined mainly to the UK without impact on the all-important North American market.
While bands from other cities in the UK - Liverpool, London, Manchester and even lowly Newcastle - had spearheaded the famous 1960s "British Invasion", Britain's second city had to wait until an obscure local group known as The Moody Blues made it to the top spot with their version of a little-known R&B composition. Although The Moody Blues did not write the song, they made 'Go Now' as much their own in the same way The Animals had done with 'House Of The Rising Sun'.
The Moody Blues' classic version of Go Now is very well known but the story behind the making of that record is not. Brumbeat insider Bulls Head Bob recently interviewed former Moody Blues manager and record producer Alex Wharton who told Bob the story of that legendary recording session. This fascinating story exclusive to BrumBeat.net, can now be read by clicking the link HERE or see it listed on the Brumbeat FEATURES page.
Bulls Head Bob's blog can also be seen at www.bullsheadbob.blogspot.com
One of the great "lost" groups to emerge from the West Midlands music scene of the 1960s, Deep Feeling have at last received recognition with the release of a CD to document and preserve their recorded legacy. Known as an exciting live act, Deep Feeling evolved from The Hellions beat group who formed in Worcester.
To fans of the legendary band Traffic, Deep Feeling will be remembered as the group that Jim Capaldi fronted before joining Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, and Chris Wood for their critically acclaimed journey to international stardom. While Deep Feeling could indeed have been considered as the "blueprint" for Traffic, their line-up of Jim Capaldi, Gordon Jackson, Luther Grosvenor (Spooky Tooth/Mott The Hoople), Dave Meredith, and Poli Palmer (Blossom Toes/Family) combined much individual musical talent in their own right.
For an exclusive in-depth review of Deep Feeling's Pretty Colours CD, see the BrumBeat REVIEWS page or click HERE. For additional information visit the Sunbeam Records web site at at: www.sunbeamrecords.com
What do The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and The Who have in common? Well for one, they all performed at Smethwick Swimming Baths (Thimblemill Baths) during the 1960s along with loads of local bands such as Carl Wayne and The Vikings, The Brumbeats, The Uglys and many more. The baths were one of Birmingham's top venues for hosting events in the 1950s and 60s.
After more than 70 years in operation, the baths continue to be a valuable asset to the community. As one of the former top entertainment venues in the city, concerts, dances, and even boxing tournaments used to be held at the baths. For special events, the water from the main bath would be drained and a specially sprung maple dance floor would be assembled over the empty pool. Andy Moore who is the Duty Manager at Smethwick Swimming Centre (Smethwick Baths, Thimblemill baths) has been doing some research into the bath's colourful history.
Andy says the management at the baths are actively trying to keep the history of the centre alive. "Some things we have done so far are Backstage Tours of the baths for the public (you get to see the plant room, secret tunnel, and WWII air raid shelter), and ghost hunts (we are one of the most active locations in the country with 11 ghosts on site). There's also arranged tours of the baths for the local schools. The next step for us is to inform people of the great musical heritage that the baths has. From the tours that we have done so far, we have many stories from the public about the gigs they saw at the baths and this info needs recording with pictures to help bring it alive for the younger generation."
If you have any photos or posters/memorabilia of bands or artistes performing at Smethwick Baths, Andy Moore would love to hear from you. Please e-mail him at: email@example.com or phone 0121 429 1421.
The Circle Records company has released an album of previously un-issued 1960s recordings by the West Midlands group Breakthru. Until now, the band's recorded legacy was known only by a rare single 45 release from 1968. The group was never happy with the single as it was not a good representation of what their sound was like at the time.
Breakthru were known for performing exciting music while providing their own psychedelic light show to further enhance a larger-than-life image on stage and create for their audience a truly memorable experience. The group were certainly used to playing in front of large audiences as they performed at a number of outdoor music festivals during the latter part of the 1960s. Breakthru were denied having an album of their own released despite all the members contributions of original songs - many of which were recorded by the group in various sessions between 1967 and 1970. Now - for the first time - you can hear these recordings in a wonderfully prepared package titled "Breakthru - Adventures Highway".
To see an in-depth review of Breakthru's 1960s recordings now released on Circle Records, click HERE for the Brum Beat "Reviews" page on this web site or visit the Circle Records web site at at: www.circlerecords.co.uk
As one of the original founding fathers of the Brum Beat scene and with a career in music spanning 50-plus years, Mike Sheridan has seen it all. Still going strong today as one half of a performing duo alongside his wife Suzie, Mike Sheridan recently launched his very own web site that he hopes will help clear up much of the mis-information that has been written about him over the years.
"I was so fed up of reading all of the other (web sites), some of which were completely wrong, so I thought I'd put it right" says Mike. For those who don't know, Mike Sheridan fronted the legendary Brum band The Nightriders who along with Carl Wayne's Vikings and the Spencer Davis Group, were one of the top-rated performing bands in the West Midlands during the first half of the 1960s.
The various respected guitarists in The Nightriders over the years included Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne - both to find fame in the hit groups The Move and Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) respectively. Though not to reach the charts himself, Mike Sheridan was very much involved in the developing Birmingham music scene and has a long list of recordings to his credit. He even appeared on Top Of The Pops as a member of Roy Wood's chart-topping band Wizzard!
You can now visit Mike Sheridan's very informative web site at www.mikesheridan.org.uk 'The Official Mike Sheridan Website' that details his career starting at his musical roots in Brum and up to the present day. Also included is latest information on where you can catch Mike on-stage still performing the great rock 'n' roll classics that inspired himself and so many others.
Note: Mike Sheridan's wife Suzi is also in business designing professional quality websites. To find out more, write to firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © John R Woodhouse