"Alex's pie stand" 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.
Along with 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 BrumBeat. If you have any BrumBeat related information that you would like to share, please send to: email@example.com
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.
As one of the most significant groups in West Midlands rock music history, "The Band of Joy" have a complex story with changing line-ups, having at one time two versions of the group active at the same time! Formed during the so-called "Summer of Love" in 1967, the band was to include vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham who both went on to international stardom in Led Zeppelin.
Shown above in the 1968 group photo left to right are; Kevyn Gammond, Robert Plant, John Bonham, Chris Brown, and Paul Lockey.
When considering the band's significance, it's surprising that so little is written about them. The first (and only) book devoted to the Band of Joy was published more than ten years ago by their roadie Harry Barber. Most recordings by Robert Plant with the Band of Joy also remain officially unissued which is surprising considering their historic importance and obvious interest to those who are fans of Led Zeppelin and Robert Plant.
The Band of Joy has passed into rock music legend, leaving stories in their wake - some true and others blurred by the mists of time. Only those who were there may know for sure, so I'll be happy to hear from anyone who can add to the story. This story of Robert Plant and The Band of Joy can now be seen exclusive to the BrumBeat website by clicking HERE.
Paul Fleetwood would like to hear from anyone who remembers his band who performed around Dudley, West Midlands during the early 1960s. They were unusual for having two lead vocalists. Paul has sent photos and his own story of the group that can now be seen on the BrumBeat web site.
The line-up was called "Sound Advice" who were formed at a youth club at Saint Andrews Church in Netherton. They performed at pubs and clubs, Dudley Town Hall, Stourbridge Town Hall, and Kidderminster Town Hall as well as the famous "Old Hill Plaza". They were active until 1966 after which the group members moved on and gradually lost touch with each other.
After more than 40 years, Sound Advice guitarist Paul Fleetwood re-connected with drummer Bruce Brigden resulting in them both playing together again in a band. If anyone knows what happened to the other Sound Advice members, Paul would like to hear from you. You can write to firstname.lastname@example.org. The story of Sound Advice can now be seen by clicking HERE.
Sad news regarding the passing of Spencer Davis (Davies) on October 19, 2020 whose 1960s pop group was one of Birmingham's best and provided inspiration for so many other local musicians.
"The Spencer Davis Group" is pictured here on the Smallbrook Queensway by Midland Beat photographer Jim Simpson. Left to right; Steve Winwood, Muff Winwood, Pete York, and Spencer Davis.
While born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, Spencer Davis was an "honorary Brummie" who greatly contributed to the developing local music scene during the early 1960s beat group era by introducing "Rhythm and Blues" to the local audiences. He also provided a nurturing and relatively safe environment for a young Steve Winwood to grow and develop an immense musical talent during his time in the band - and what a time that was!
Spencer Davis went to Birmingham University where he studied languages and later taught at Whittington Oval Junior School in Yardley while singing and playing blues on his 12 string guitar at night in local pubs and clubs. He sometimes performed as a duo with future Fleetwood Mac member Christine Perfect (McVie) who lived in Bearwood.
Spencer then met 14 year old Stevie Winwood and his older brother Mervyn "Muff" who were performing at the time as the "Muff-Woody Jazz Band". Along with his friend Pete York who was an aspiring jazz drummer, Spencer Davis convinced the Winwood brothers to join them. Spencer said; "Discovering Steve singing in a pub in north Birmingham was a revelation. As he was too young to transport himself, I said; I'll pick him up for gigs. But his brother said; I'll switch from guitar to bass, bring him to rehearsals, and play as well ! That's how we formed."
The famous Spencer Davis Group line-up was now Spencer Davis (vocal, guitar, harmonica), Steve Winwood (vocal, lead guitar, piano), Muff Winwood (vocal, bass guitar), and Pete York (drums). They were initially known as "The Rhythm and Blues Quartette".
Long before the easy convenience of today's social media, it was "word-of-mouth" that caused lines to form around the block at the Golden Eagle pub on Hill Street in Birmingham where the Spencer Davis Group secured a residency in 1963. Many punters had to be turned away, such was the demand to get in. Spencer Davis recalled; "I found teaching by day and playing by night too much. Once or twice I almost fell asleep while taking class. So I spoke to the others and we decided to gamble by turning full-time professional."
In February 1964, they performed at Birmingham Town Hall in support of American blues star Sonny Boy Williamson along with The Yardbirds and Long John Baldry (a young Robert Plant was in the audience). Island Records founder Chris Blackwell signed them to a contract with their records issued on the Fontana label but it was a busy first year touring up and down the country while their singles gained a foothold in the charts.
The first 45 by The Spencer Davis Group was a cover of the John Lee Hooker song 'Dimples' that sold well in the West Midlands but largely ignored elsewhere. Chris Blackwell had Jackie Edwards write A-sides for the group to record with the energetic 'Keep On Running' going to Number One nationally at the end of 1965, incredibly knocking The Beatles from the top spot in the charts. This was followed by 'Somebody Help Me', another chart-topper the following year.
Steve remembers Spencer as like an "older brother" in those early days, in fact the already married Spencer Davis was seven years older! Not that it mattered much as the scholarly and articulate Davis volunteered to do all the interviews with reporters and thus allow the others to spend more time in bed as the story goes. His fluent language skills in French and German also endeared the Spencer Davis Group to fans on the continent where they performed on many TV shows.
Despite this, it was always young Stevie Winwood who attracted the most attention on stage - especially from the girls! He became the main focus of the group and went on to write 'Gimme Some Lovin' and 'I'm A Man' - both big hits for the Spencer Davis Group. Pete York said; "I think it was hard for Spencer to come to terms with Steve's great talent. Competition would have been pointless. Spencer used to feature on two or three numbers in the show which he performed well, but the fans, especially the girls, just loved Steve."
Some fans were not too surprised when Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group to form the highly successful Traffic in 1967. The group carried on with new members to replace Steve and Muff who also left to work for Chris Blackwell, but despite the release of new singles and an underrated album, the hits dried up. However, the Spencer Davis Group provided the theme tune for the popular children's ITV show "Magpie" under the name "The Murgatroyd Band".
The Spencer Davis Group split in 1969 and Pete York formed the acclaimed duo "Hardin and York" with keyboardist Eddie Hardin. Spencer Davis moved to America where he did session work in California and played coffee houses with Birmingham folk musician Peter Jameson with whom he also recorded an album. A few years later, he returned to the UK to form a new line up of the Spencer Davis Group. They toured and recorded a couple of albums during the 1970s.
When interviewed at the time Spencer said; "The main requests at the shows are for 'Keep On Running', 'Gimme Some Lovin', and all the old hits. We enjoy playing them and people have always asked us to do them. When Pete and Eddie were together they were always asked to do the old Spencer Davis numbers and it was the same for Pete Jameson and myself. We just couldn't leave them out."
Spencer Davis returned to America where he has since lived for decades on the West Coast in California, recorded solo albums, and occasionally toured with various new line-ups of the Spencer Davis Group in both the USA and Europe. During the 1990s, he toured North America as part of the "Classic Rock All Stars" band. In fact, Spencer never stopped performing until a few years ago when his health declined and eventually confined him to a wheelchair.
In 2016, I was fortunate to interview drummer Pete York who expressed interest in re-uniting the original line-up of the Spencer Davis Group for a concert at Birmingham Town Hall. I contacted the Birmingham Mail and received support from reporter Mike Lockley who wrote a two-page feature on the group that was published in the Sunday Mercury.
I have received more than 200 e-mails from fans around the world in support of the Spencer Davis Group reunion - many from those who remembered seeing the group perform in Birmingham all those years ago. Sadly, the reunion can't happen now although it was wonderful to discover there are so many who have fond memories of the band (click HERE to read the Pete York interview).
Pete York said; "Now that he's gone I wish he could have had more recognition for what we all did together. At the time we had our hits we were on top of everything but when the star fades the world soon forgets. There should have been some kind of celebrity celebration while he was alive but now it's too late. They keep talking about a Star on the Broad Street Walk of Fame. He would have loved that."
Jim Simpson was an early supporter of the Spencer Davis Group and was the first to photograph them as reporter for the local "Midland Beat" newspaper. A jazz fan and trumpet player, Jim also played in the hit group Locomotive and went on to discover and manage Black Sabbath who were promoted by Jim's "Big Bear" agency of local bands. Jim Simpson recently spoke with Pete York who paid tribute to Spencer Davis and this interview can be seen on YouTube by clicking on the video link below.
Years ago, when Spencer Davis was interviewed for Midland Beat he said; "We would never have made it without our fans in Birmingham. They have been behind us right from the start and the way they have always turned out to hear us has been a constant spur."
My condolences go out to the family and many friends and fans of Spencer Davis. His contributions to popular music should not be forgotten.
Mystery BrumBeat personality "Bulls Head Bob" has written features on The Spencer Davis group over the years and his musicians-eye-view of the group is well worth reading and can be seen by clicking HERE. See also more about The Spencer Davis Group by clicking HERE
Hard to believe it's now forty years since the sad passing of West Midlands drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham who died at the age of only 32 on September 25, 1980. John was best known as drummer for "Led Zeppelin", the rock group he helped form in 1968 and who went on to become one of the most famous bands in the world, selling well over 200 million records!
The Led Zeppelin line-up also included guitarist Jimmy Page, and bass guitarist/keyboardist John Paul Jones who were both well-known session musicians during the 1960s from playing on many hit records of the day. Their vocalist Robert Plant was born in West Bromwich and his first professional group was called The Listen who performed throughout the Birmingham area.
John Bonham is recognized as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) rock drummers of all time whose sound and style remains an influence to this day. In fact he regularly tops the list of greatest drummers in music magazines, books, on radio and TV, and in popular votes by rock music fans.
There's many reasons why John Bonham is known as the greatest rock drummer. His early influences were the great jazz drummers like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, but John was mainly self-taught.
Gaining a reputation early on as one of the most powerful drummers around, John Bonham got the sack when playing in Pat Wayne and The Beachcombers for "playing too loud". Maybe his controlled and accurate release of power while playing drums was a reflection of the racing cars and hot rods he admired from an early age and so famously collected later in his life?
Despite his worldwide fame, many don't know that John was born and raised in the West Midlands town of Redditch where he lived for most of his life and where an impressive memorial by acclaimed sculptor Mark Richards was finally erected during 2018 in recognition of his formidable legacy.
John Bonham's first professional band was called "The Senators" with whom he made his first record in 1964 when a teenager. The line-up also included Terry Beal (lead vocal), Graham Dennis (rhythm guitar), Bill Ford (bass guitar), and Trevor McGowan (lead guitar). The band was one of fourteen featured on the now-rare "Brum Beat" album issued by DIAL Records in an effort to showcase the best local beat groups from Birmingham.
Bill Ford remembers those days well including the unforgettable occasion when John first joined the group. Although the Senators were an early step along the road to fame and fortune for John Bonham, Bill and John formed a lasting friendship and kept in touch after they left the band and up until John's life ended so tragically.
Bill Ford, who provided the exclusive story of The Senators as shown on the BrumBeat website (see The Senators), recently participated in an excellent video production celebrating the life of John Bonham compiled by the "John Bonham Memorial Friends" and produced by Redditch Media Services.
Bill is shown in the video sharing his memories of John Bonham along with others who were interviewed including Birmingham's own Move and ELO drummer Bev Bevan, and famous "Vanilla Fudge" drummer Carmine Appice.
These interviews, pictures, and narration provide fascinating insight into a little known chapter in the life of John Bonham during which time he emerged as one of the greatest rock drummers of all time - or should we say THE greatest?
This tribute to John Bonham video is now available to be seen on YouTube for free and can be accessed by clicking on the link below.
Thanks to Derek Cooke for supplying the John Bonham Redditch Memorial photo.
Ron Dickson is a veteran of the West Midlands pop music scene. He has seen it all during his amazing career in the business including years touring as part of the legendary "glam rock" band Light Fantastic. I'm proud to present Ron's story of 1960s Brum group "The Vogues" of which he was a member and fronted by the much loved local singer and comedian Johnny Carroll who sadly passed away in January 2020.
Johnny became known as "The Singing Dustman" during the early 1960s due to his daytime job, while at night he fronted a locally successful rock 'n' roll band called "The Olympics". They changed their name to The Vogues after coming fourth place in a talent contest sponsored by the popular television show 'Ready, Steady, Go!' that gave the band national exposure on TV.
The Vogues gained a recording contract in 1966 that led to the release of a few singles along with much touring throughout the UK, often in support of many well-known artistes. Although very popular with the girls, Johnny Carroll left to pursue a long and successful career in comedy. The Vogues carried on with new members and eventually evolved into the recording group Light Fantastic who toured the UK and abroad throughout the 1970s.
Ron Dickson who played bass guitar in The Vogues has sent their story that can now be seen exclusive to the BrumBeat web site by clicking HERE.
Sad news that long-time Rockin' Berries guitarist Bryan "Chuck" Botfield passed away on July 30, 2020 at the age of 76. It was Chuck who helped form this well-known Birmingham band in 1959 and named them after American rock 'n' roll star Chuck Berry while also adopting his hero's first name.
Born on November 14, 1943, Bryan Botfield met future Rockin' Berries vocalist Geoff Turton while at Turves Green Boys School where they both played clarinet in the school band. Taking up guitar, Bryan went on to Moseley College of Art and while there, played in a skiffle group called "The Bobcats" who had future Fleetwood Mac member Christine Perfect (Christine McVie) on piano.
After college, Chuck Botfield worked for a photography shop before forming a rock 'n' roll band and "turning pro". They became known as "The Rockin' Berries" before powerful Birmingham vocalist Jimmy Powell was added to the line-up. It wasn't until the group went over to Germany for a second time in 1962 that vocalist/guitarist Geoff Turton joined the band with new bass player Roy Austin along with existing members Chuck Botfield (lead guitar), Clive Lea (vocal), and Terry Bond (drums).
When interviewed by Laurie Hornsby for his brilliant "Brum Rocked!" book, Chuck Botfield said; "In Hamburg, Geoff Turton joined as a backup guitarist to fill out the sound. We were doing loads of Chuck Berry material at the time and I wanted that 'chunk chunk' vamp on the bass strings going while I soloed."
"As we played one night, I was aware of a fellow near the stage watching my fingers intently whenever I played a lick. We did 'Roll Over Beethoven' and the fellow asked to see me after our set. It was George Harrison. He asked me to show him the guitar break I'd been playing. We sat there in the dressing room and I taught him note for note what I'd played."
The Rockin' Berries were one of Brum's first successful pop groups. They spent a total of 41 weeks in the U.K. national records chart from 1964 to 1966 starting with 'I Didn't Mean To Hurt You' that was followed shortly after by 'He's In Town' that went all the way to Number 3. A year later they again made the Top Five with 'Poor Man's Son'. Regular appearances on popular TV shows like "Ready, Steady, Go!" and "Thank Your Lucky Stars" helped them gain a large following of fans.
Chuck Botfield was rather underrated as a guitarist. He could easily be recognized on-stage picking leads on his distinctive cherry red Gibson ES-335 guitar in contrast to Geoff Turton strumming his Epiphone. Chuck's fast and fluid lead guitar style was a distinguishing feature on many of The Rockin' Berries recordings and is well worth checking out as can be heard on their excellent "They're In Town" the Pye Anthology double-CD collection.
Like many hit groups in those days, the Berries relied on professional songwriters for their material which put them at a disadvantage, but while other bands struggled to survive in a changing pop music scene, The Rockin' Berries went on to thrive for decades on the cabaret circuit.
Their successful mix of music and comedy (aided by Clive Lea's talent as an impressionist) ensured they were never short of work. They became one of the most in-demand performing groups in the country with high-profile bookings ranging from summer seasons at holiday resorts to Christmas pantomimes in support of many famous names.
Although the Rockin' Berries line-up was to change a number of times, Chuck Botfield remained the only consistent original member throughout the band's more than 50 year career. Their 2015 "Back to The Music" tour of the UK included Geoff Turton along with former Move and Wizzard bassist Rick Price. Sadly, this tour turned out to be their last with Chuck Botfield.
My condolences go out to Chuck Botfield's family and friends. He will be missed. For more information, go to the official Rockin' Berries facebook page where you can leave a tribute message.
To see more about The Rockin' Berries, click HERE.
While the new "Rock 'N' Roll" was taking America by storm during the mid 1950s, it was "Skiffle" music that was making an impact with teenagers in Britain during that time. "Big bands", "jazz", and adult oriented singers appealed to an older audience, but young people soon embraced home-made skiffle music as their own form of musical self-expression.
The group photo of The Falcons skiffle group shown here was taken in 1958 at The Blue Gates Club in Smethwick. It shows from left to right; Ron Drew, Tony Haines, Arthur Rogers, and John Keeling.
King of the skifflers was popular UK musician Lonnie Donegan whose big selling hit records 'Rock Island Line', 'Cumberland Gap' and 'My Old Man's A Dustman' were a major inspiration for so many to pick up a guitar, play drums, or even beat out a rhythm on a washboard! Many famous British rock musicians of the 1960s and 70s took their first steps onto the stage in this way.
Known to most of their many fans as "The Mods", this band were famous in dance halls across the West Midlands during the 1960s. They were formed during the "Skiffle" boom of the 1950s, but it was their ability to pack the dance floor while performing their own brand of American style "Rock 'n' Roll" that made them one of Birmingham's most successful performing groups.
The Modernaires were also one of the first to influence many young local rock 'n' roll musicians - some years before other highly respected bands like The Redcaps and The Spencer Davis Group arrived on the scene. They even had a record out on RCA Victor - the same label used by Elvis Presley! The Mods founding member and guitarist Maurice "Mo" Jones has sent wonderful memories and photos of the group that can now be seen along with their story by clicking HERE.
The Redcaps were one of those groups who were to prove an influence on many young West Midlands musicians and performers during the early 1960s. Their talented vocalist Dave Walker, who formed the band along with his brother Mick, fell under the influence of "The Blues" at an early age and we're not talking about the famous Birmingham City FC, but rather the uniquely American music form that many British musicians couldn't get enough of as the decade progressed.
While the name of Dave Walker may be obscure to most rock music fans, just lookup "Idle Race", "Savoy Brown", "Fleetwood Mac", or "Black Sabbath" and you will discover that Dave was once fronting all four of these influential bands! If any of those famous names interest you, then do check out the amazing musical journey of Dave Walker that can now be seen exclusive to the BrumBeat web site by clicking HERE.
Where were you in 1962 when a catchy record titled 'Love Me Do' by some unknown Liverpool band called "The Beatles" was first played on the radio? Though not everyone will remember that historic event, it was to change the course of popular music for all time. For many teenagers throughout the West Midlands, The Beatles and other groups like them who promoted the new "Mersey Sound" signalled a call for action!
Less than a year earlier, a young engineering apprentice named Keith Perry assembled his school friends and said; "Why don't we form a group?" A great idea of course, although none of them had any experience playing electric guitars or drums, let alone sing. However, they started practicing and in nine months were playing their first paid gig at St. James Youth Club in Wednesbury. The timing was perfect as there would soon be plenty of work for bands who looked and sounded like "The Fab Four".
Taking the name "The Invaders" (later changed to "The Penthouse Suite"), Keith's group performed shows throughout the West Midlands during the 1960s and also in support of many other bands local or famous. Music historian and BrumBeat contributor Brian Nicholls interviewed Keith Perry and has written his story that can now be seen exclusive to BrumBeat by clicking HERE.
Although promoted as a London band, the group that became "The Bruisers" were formed in Birmingham. They started out as "The Beachcombers" and became the house band at Joe and Mary Regan's Handsworth Plaza where they backed many visiting performers.
It was as backing group for London hit-making vocalist Tommy Bruce that The Bruisers found fame and went on to have a hit record of their own. Their guitarist/vocalist Peter Green became a successful songwriter and record producer under the name of "Peter Lee Stirling". He also had his own recording career and eventually experienced international success in the 1970s when he changed his name again, this time to "Daniel Boone".
To see the story of The Beachcombers, The Bruisers with Tommy Bruce, and Peter Lee Stirling, click HERE.
Well-known Black Country comedian Ian "Sludge" Lees started his long entertainment career as a "pop singer" in the early 1960s during which time he fronted a number of significant bands. "The Telstars" was Ian's first working group that also included drummer Colin Corbett who along with music historian Brian Nicholls has written the story of The Telstars that can now be seen on BrumBeat.
Colin Corbett had music lessons on piano from age eight and later took up guitar during the "Skiffle" craze, but it was playing drums that interested him the most during his time performing in "The Sundowners", "Dante and The Infernos", The Telstars and other bands. Maybe it was this natural feeling for rhythm that eventually led him and his wife Rita to becoming qualified ballroom dance instructors!
You could say that it was "dancing" that enabled Colin Corbett to travel for years and see the world on cruise ships and not as a performer or member of a famous band! Local rock music historian Brian Nicholls who played guitar in 1960s group Varsity Rag is a regular contributor to BrumBeat. The story of The Telstars that he wrote with Colin can now be seen exclusively on BrumBeat by clicking HERE.
This band from Bilston were active during the first half of the 1960s during which time they gained a dedicated following of loyal fans. One of the group members would go on to bigger things musically as lead guitarist in the popular Wolverhampton recording group The Californians.
As with many young West Midlands bands formed in the early 1960s, The Cobras were very much influenced by American rock 'n' roll. This was followed by "Cliff and The Shadows" who so many British groups at the time strived to emulate. The Cobras faced stiff competition from other local bands, but their dedication to high quality performances paid off so they were never short of bookings - and they worked day jobs too!
Two original group members, guitarist Mel Brookes and drummer Terry Rhodes, have told their own story of The Cobras with photos from their private collections along with wonderful memories of the 1960s "Black Country" music scene that can now be seen exclusively on BrumBeat by clicking HERE.
Mick Lawson has enjoyed a full-time career in the music business for over five decades during which time he has toured the UK, Europe and America. He has played on fifteen albums, five singles, and formed his own record label and music publishing company with over two hundred self-penned songs along the way!
Having formed his first group in 1959, Birmingham-born Mick was inspired, like many others at the time, by the early American rock 'n' roll stars (Elvis, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry) along with "Cliff and The Shadows" and Brum's own Spencer Davis Group.
After learning his trade on-stage in The Shanes, Mick Lawson later joined The D'Fenders (who were recently featured on BrumBeat) and then Varsity Rag who were voted one of the Top Six most popular groups in the area. While not a big fan of the "pop music" scene, Mick's performing career went in a completely different direction when he discovered the music of Bob Dylan.
BrumBeat contributor, guitarist, and local music historian Brian Nicholls has known Mick Lawson from the early days of the 1960s West Midlands music scene. Brian interviewed Mick for an exclusive feature on his long and varied music career that can now be seen by clicking HERE.
It was fifty years ago when Birmingham's own multi-talented Steve Winwood formed a "supergroup" that soon threatened to collapse under the staggering weight of expectations placed upon them. Although only twenty one years old at the time, Steve was already a seasoned pro in pop music terms having fronted two brilliant and successful bands.
The guitarist in this new group was none other than Eric "Slowhand" Clapton, the drummer was the legendary "Ginger" Baker, and bass guitarist was Ric Grech ...? Anyway, with Steve Winwood fronting the band on vocals and keyboards, they were of course destined for huge success, really - how could they not be?
While time was running out for the 1960s, Steve's new group performed for FREE at London's Hyde Park to an audience of thousands. The line-up also recorded a multi-million selling album that immediately caused more controversy for it's cover artwork design than for the music it contained!
You can now see the amazing but true story of this supergroup exclusive to the BrumBeat web site by clicking HERE.
A major benefit concert took place on June 23, 2019 for Move founding member Trevor Burton whose health declined suddenly last year, forcing him to retire from performing live music - a profession he has enjoyed for more than 50 years!
Trevor Burton is best known as guitarist/vocalist in Birmingham's famous hit pop group The Move who shot to fame during the British "psychedelic" era of the 1960s. It was actually Trevor and bass guitarist Chris "Ace" Kefford who formed the band following a chat with David Bowie at Brum's "Cedar Club" in late 1965. They approached guitarist Roy Wood to join them along with vocalist Carl Wayne and drummer Bev Bevan.
Following a run of acclaimed hit records that included 'Night Of Fear', 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow', 'Flowers In The Rain', 'Fire Brigade', and their Number One 'Blackberry Way', Trevor Burton decided to leave the band in 1969. He went on to play and tour with many other famous musicians before embarking on a solo career during the 1980s fronting his own "Trevor Burton Band" with whom he established a reputation as a brilliant blues guitarist.
The Trevor Burton Band were well-known for decades on the Brum live music scene with line-ups that included many other talented local musicians. While no stranger to health concerns in the past, Trevor had to give it up last year when serious illness affected his ability to play and has now confined him to a wheel chair. Funds raised from the benefit will help towards making Trevor's house more accessible for him to cope with his now limited mobility.
The Trevor Burton Benefit Show was on Sunday June 23, 2019 at The Robin 2 Hotel in Bilston. A great night was had by all at the sold-out event largely organized by Trevor's long-time musician friend Maz Mitrenko who was also the MC.
It started off with a performance by Andy Fairweather Low - the acclaimed songwriter, record producer, session musician, and sideman to some of the biggest names in the business.
Andy first found fame as vocalist with the 1960s pop group "Amen Corner" who also toured the UK with The Move and The Pink Floyd in support of "The Jimi Hendrix Experience" in 1967. His rousing rendition of Amen Corner's big hit 'Paradise Is Half As Nice' at the benefit had the audience singing along to the catchy chorus.
The legendary Raymond Froggatt along with his long-time guitarist Hartley Caine performed a laid-back set in his own unique style. Other well-known local performers playing at the benefit were Emma Jonson, The Climax Blues Band, and "The Trevorless Burton Band" who all gave wonderful performances that were enjoyed by the enthusiastic audience.
A big highlight of the evening was "The Roy Wood Rock & Roll Band". Following Roy's performance of his well-known "Wizzard" hits, it was a real treat for those attending to see Roy play some early Move hits with plenty of opportunity for the audience to join in and have a good sing along.
In addition, a rare appearance was made by Move founding member Ace Kefford who was back-stage with Trevor Burton to lend his support for the duration of the show. Trevor, Ace, and Roy together signed an electric guitar that was the prize in a raffle held at the event.
Thanks to Derek Cooke for permission to show these photos from the Trevor Burton benefit. Some of his videos can also be seen on YouTube.
A crowdfunding page for donations is also set up at; www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/trevor-burton-1
Sad news regarding local musician Danny Gallagher who passed away on March 3, 2019. Irish born Danny was part of Brum's developing pop music scene from the early days of rock 'n' roll, into the 'beat boom' through the 'soul' and 'progressive' scene and beyond. Danny's son Nathan informed me of his passing.
One of Danny Gallagher's first bands was The Solitaires who recorded a song for the legendary DIAL Records "Brum Beat" album in 1964. Danny went on to perform in the Birmingham groups Traction and Frosty Moses who were critically acclaimed and came very close to national success.
You can read the story of Danny Gallagher on the "Brumbeat Features" page by clicking HERE.
"The D'Fenders set a benchmark that was an example to all of us" says Brian Nicholls - and he should know! This early 1960s Birmingham group went through a few line-up changes but retained their high-quality of performing throughout the West Midlands and beyond.
Bass guitarist Jon Fox went on to form the progressive group Cathedral and later joined Coventry's hit group "Jigsaw". The D'fenders guitarist Mick Lawson formed the folk duo "Evensong" and toured with Bruce Springsteen! He still performs today as "Emmitt Till".
Possibly the most tragic event ever in the history of rock 'n' roll happened on February 3, 1959. It's now 60 years since the sad death of influential rock 'n' roll star Buddy Holly (age 22) along with rising stars Richie Valens (age 17) and J.P. Richardson "The Big Bopper" (age 28) who all died together in a plane crash half way through an arduous winter tour of midwest states in the USA.
The influence Buddy Holly had on young West Midlands musicians was considerable. He inspired so many to take up the guitar and join or form bands. Some will remember when "Buddy Holly and The Crickets" performed at The Gaumont Theatre in Wolverhampton and Birmingham Town Hall in March of 1958.
In remembrance of this tragic 60th anniversary, BrumBeat contributor and local music historian Brian Nicholls who was guitarist in 1960s group Varsity Rag, has written a great feature on Buddy Holly and his visit to the UK including Birmingham and Wolverhampton that can be seen by clicking HERE.
One of the great British pop music television shows of the 1960s, "Thank Your Lucky Stars" was often recorded at the Alpha ATV/ABC studios in Aston Birmingham for ABC Weekend Television. Many will remember watching this on Saturday night to catch a view of their favorite music stars and hear the latest records.
This iconic show that ran from 1961 to 1966 was typical of the time in that it showed mimed performances to a young teenage audience, predominantly girls, who were often instructed to "SCREAM AS LOUD AS YOU CAN..." when the stars took to the stage. Many in the audience were lucky local pop music fans who applied for free tickets and went on the Inner Circle 8 bus to the studio on Aston Road.
The biggest recording stars of the day were featured such as Billy Fury, Adam Faith, Cliff and The Shadows, Susan Maughan, The Vernons Girls, and Jess Conrad. American stars also made appearances including Gene Vincent, Bobby Vee, Gene Pitney, Brenda Lee, and The Crickets. Some of the performances were pre-recorded and inserted into the show if the artist was unavailable.
The program reached its height of popularity during the "Mersey Beat Boom" of the early 1960's when many Liverpool bands were featured including of course The Beatles who made their second national television appearance on the show in January 1963. Other great bands featured were The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Animals, and The Who.
Thank Your Lucky stars also created stars of its own, possibly the most memorable being teenager Janice Nicholls from Wednesbury who helped present the "Spin a Disc" part of the show on which she and others on the team of "judges" would rate the latest records on a scale of one to five.
Janice would memorably say; "Oi'll give it foive" in a strong Black Country accent that was soon a catch phrase. Janice became a regular on the show. She later married Brian Meecham who fronted his own group called Brian Gulliver and The Travellers who were well known locally.
Legendary UK broadcaster Pete Murray presented Thank Your Lucky Stars when the show first aired in April 1961. He was soon joined by radio disc jockey Keith Fordyce who also hosted the show until he left in 1965. Various "guest" presenters and DJs included such well known names as Alan Freeman, Jimmy Young, and Jimmy Savile.
The best known host on Thank Your Lucky Stars was Brian Matthew who joined in 1962 and is remembered today as the longest running broadcaster on the BBC with an incredible career spanning more than 60 years! His position on the show was taken in 1965 by British pop star Jim Dale who went on to a long acting career which included appearances in the famous "Carry On" comedy films.
Pop groups from the West Midlands were also featured on Thank Your Lucky Stars. These included; Keith Powell and The Valets, The Redcaps, Pat Wayne and The Beachcombers, The Sundowners, Gerry Levene and The Avengers, The Applejacks, The Brumbeats, The Wolves, The Rockin' Berries, The Moody Blues, The Spencer Davis Group, The Fortunes, The Uglys, and The Craig.
Sadly, very little video remains today of Thank Your Lucky Stars despite the hundreds of episodes made. As with many British TV shows made during the 1960s, shortsightedness along with pressure to economize resulted in the expensive video tapes re-used, erased, or thrown away. This could be why the program has been mostly forgotten in contrast to other similar shows of which more footage still exists.
A book by Birmingham author Kevin Mulrennan titled; "Thank Your Lucky Stars - A History of ABC Weekend Television's Pop Show" and published by Amazon is full of information about the show. This book includes a brief history, episode guide, personal recollections of those who were on the show, and even a complete script from October 1962.
There's also a "Kindle" electronic edition of Kevin's book available on Amazon for a much reduced price of the paperback version. Click HERE for more information.
A TRIBUTE to IAN LEES who passed away at age 74 on July 30, 2018. Ian was a well-known Black Country comedian and entertainer who used to make regular appearances on the popular "Tiswas" children's TV show.
Some may not know that Ian began his long performing career during the 1960s as a pop singer who fronted a number of significant West Midlands bands.
Ian Lees made several records with the groups he was in - including one that made the charts in America. Like many of his generation, Ian was heavily influenced by the early rock 'n' roll stars. He knew from an early age that "getting a microphone in his hands and entertaining people" was something he always wanted to do. To see the BrumBeat Ian Lees tribute click HERE.
This world-famous band's origins can be traced back to the West Midlands music scene of the 1960s. While Birmingham's own Black Sabbath is usually credited for inventing the style of music known as "Heavy Metal", Judas Priest gave this heavy sound a mass popularity as demonstrated by making many million selling records and gaining legions of fans!
Founding members Alan "Al" Atkins and Michael "Bruno" Stapenhill were both from West Bromwich as were Kenny "KK" Downing and Ian "Skull" Hill while "Metal God" Rob Halford was from Walsall and Glenn Tipton hailed from Blackheath.
Their early musical influences included "Cream" and "The Jimi Hendrix Experience". The Judas Priest name came from a Bob Dylan song! As you will see, the band underwent many line-up changes before reaching their level of worldwide success.
Amazingly, Judas Priest are still going strong as they prepare to celebrate their 50th anniversary of making heavy metal. I'm proud to include the early history of this influential band on the BrumBeat web site. So put on your black leather jacket and get ready to do some "headbanging" as you read the incredible story of Judas Priest by clicking HERE.
The folk music boom of the 1960s was well served in Birmingham by a variety of groups including this popular trio who performed under the name of "The Southeners"
Bass guitarist in The Southeners was Terry Wallace who founded Birmingham's legendary rock 'n' roll group "The Vikings" during the late 1950s.
The Vikings were fronted by a number of dynamic vocalists including Carl Wayne and became the foundation for The Move. Guitarist Robbie Harper played in The Brumbeats and talented vocalist Cheryl Wallace was Terry's wife.
I'm happy to present the story of The Southeners as told by the original group members who sent some amazing photos to go along with wonderful memories of their days performing together.
To see the story of The Southeners, click HERE.
Pete Bonner of psychotronrecords.com recently came across a rare Brum Beat related record and has uploaded it to YouTube. The EP is on the Handsworth-based Hollick & Taylor recording studio label who were well-known during the 1960s for recording local bands.
There's no indication on the label as to the name of the group or when it was recorded. A listen reveals that the recording was likely made during the first half of the 1960s. Pete and I would like to know more about this record and who played on it. Have a listen and let us know if you can provide any information. The identity if it can be found will be revealed on BrumBeat. Please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
This talented actress and world-famous Coronation Street star was once a hit-making pop singer! Though not typically playing an active role in the 1960s West Midlands live music scene, Walsall-born Susan Nicholls first found fame as part of that legendary Brummie television series "Crossroads"
It was fifty years ago in 1968 when Sue enjoyed pop music success at the hands of well-known producer and songwriter Tony Hatch who along with his wife Jackie Trent produced hits for The Searchers and Petula Clark amongst many others including Wolverhampton group The Montanas.
The true story of Sue Nicholls and her hit record can now be seen on the BrumBeat web site by clicking HERE.
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.
Ray 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 new band "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, Ray composed the song 'Veteran Cosmic Rocker' - a popular track that poked-fun at ageing rock stars on the Moodies 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 2017 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.
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."
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?'
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.