SHARD END - BIRMINGHAM
Updated November, 2019
Jeff Lynne guitar (left in 1965)
Rob Reader bass guitar (left in 1964)
David Walsh drums (left in 1964)
Dave Watson guitar
John Kerton lead vocal (joined in 1964)
Kevin "Kex" Gorin drums (joined in 1964)
Dave Merrick bass guitar (joined 1964 - left 1966)
Robert "Willie" Watson harmonica (joined 1964 - left 1965)
Jake Commander guitar (joined in 1965)
Malcolm Garner bass guitar (joined in 1966)
Mike Heard lead guitar (joined in 1966)
This band is significant in rock music history as the first to feature Jeff Lynne who would go on to eventually lead the world-famous "Electric Light Orchestra" (ELO). The Andicaps were formed in early 1963 by four teenagers who lived in the Shard End area of Birmingham.
Bass guitarist Robert (Bob) Reader and drummer David Walsh were both pupils at Alderlea Boys Secondary School. The guitarists David Watson and Jeffrey Lynne both lived on Shard End Crescent.
Jeff Lynne was born in Birmingham on December 30, 1947 and lived with his parents in a council house at 368 Shard End Crescent. While a schoolboy, Jeff went to a Del Shannon concert at Birmingham Town Hall and was so impressed, that joining a band became his main ambition. Roy Orbison was another early influence on the young Jeff Lynne as well as Chuck Berry, The Shadows and later of course, The Beatles.
Jeff's natural talent for music enabled him to master the piano and guitar. He spent many hours practicing in the front room of his parent's house where he also experimented making recordings using an old tape recorder. This early experience in home recording would prove valuable later in his career.
Rob Reader recalled; "I was only fourteen and still at school when Jeff formed the Andicaps and I became the group's bass player. Jeff was a self taught guitarist and even taught me to play bass."
Jeff, Rob and Dave first got together playing Spanish guitars before purchasing whatever electric instruments they could afford. What the line-up lacked in financial resources, they certainly made up for in enthusiasm.
The band was originally called "The Rockin' Hellcats" but Dave Walsh (who had only a drummer's practice pad) had to save up for a set of drums which resulted in his idea to re-name the group "The Handicaps". This was wisely amended to "The Andicaps" and so avoid offending those with a disability.
Shown at top of this page is the historic first photo of the Andicaps taken by Dave Walsh's Dad. The line-up from left to right is Dave Walsh, Dave Watson, Jeff Lynne, and Rob Reader. The young group proudly show-off their new instruments including Jeff's "Burns Sonic" electric guitar.
The Andicaps rehearsed regularly at the Shard End Community Centre and it was there where Dave Walsh's dad got them their first gig to play at a dance for which the band was paid the sum of five pounds. The Andicaps were well received so ended up playing there every Friday.
In these early days, the band performed only instrumental numbers by groups such as "The Shadows" and "The Ventures". Jeff Lynne at that time did not have the confidence to sing in front of an audience and in any case, the band could not afford their own PA system.
Dave Walsh remembers; "The Harlequin Pub was roughly halfway between my house and Jeff's. The Modernaires were the resident band and other groups also played there on Tuesday nights. All the Andicaps were too young to get in so me and Jeff would hang around the doors outside immediately adjacent to the bandstand and were able to get a good listen."
"It also afforded the opportunity to talk to the bands when they loaded and unloaded their gear into the pub. We were soon able to blag our way in and always stood 'nerdlike' right in front of the band so Jeff could see what "Mo" (Maurice Jones) was playing on lead and I could drool over the subtleties and completely effortless relaxed style of Tony Finnister's playing."
The Andicaps must have been good as they were soon interviewed for a story in a local newspaper where it was mentioned the group had spent almost 300 pounds on equipment! The story went on to say that Jeff Lynne was writing songs for the group to perform on-stage. One of his early efforts was an instrumental number written for the band entitled 'Andicapped' but even then, Jeff showed an interest in classical compositions.
The Andicaps performed a version of Tchaikovsky's famous 'Swan Lake' as an up-tempo arrangement apparently entitled 'Saturday Night At The Duck Pond' - probably the same as "The Cougars" record that reached the charts in 1963. However, the Andicaps' performances featured mostly songs that were hit records played on the radio at the time.
By now, "The Shadows" had been replaced by "The Beatles" as Jeff Lynne's favourite band so many of their songs were incorporated into the Andicaps' shows. A lead singer was now considered an essential part of the band with John Kerton being enlisted as vocalist. The Andicaps started to play many more gigs around Birmingham including weekly bookings at the Regal Cinema in Handsworth where they played sets in between the Saturday matinee picture shows.
Rob Reader said; "Most of our gigs were in and around Shard End. So as we were all too young to drive, getting gear around was a challenge. On one occasion we had to play at a wedding reception in Nechells. Drummer Dave Walsh's dad was a lorry driver so all the gear went on the back of his lorry while we travelled on the number fifty five bus to the venue. Happy days!"
As with many amateur bands who formed at a young age, there was some pressure after leaving school to find "proper jobs". Jeff went to work in a factory but did not give up his dream of becoming a professional musician.
Dave Walsh left the Andicaps in 1964. According to Dave; "Jeff and I were always falling out (nothing new there!) and I was propositioned to join The Boulevards who were rightly regarded as the best band on the Shard End/Kinghurst estate". Dave later helped to form the Brum band Second City Sound who had a hit record in 1966 with the classically-styled 'Tchaikovsky One'.
Jeff Lynne soon brought in Kevin "Kex" Gorin on drums and Dave Merrick as bass guitarist to replace Rob Reader who was also leaving. Dave Watson's brother Rob Watson joined the Andicaps for a short time as harmonica player which gave the band a more blues-based sound.
Despite winning second place at a local competition for "Band of The Year", Jeff Lynne had musical ambitions that lay beyond what The Andicaps provided and longed to "turn pro" with an established band. It was to this aim that Jeff left the Andicaps at the end of 1964 and joined a well known local group called "The Chads" as replacement for their departing lead guitarist Mick Adkins (see The Chads).
The remaining Andicaps voted to carry on, so after enlisting Jake Commander to replace Jeff Lynne on lead guitar, they got a proper manager and started undertaking many more bookings. The band went over to Germany in May of 1966 with their van having a large Union Jack flag painted on it.
John Kerton recalls; "In Germany we watched England win the World Cup before we went on stage. Lucky for us we did not get beaten up!" The Andicaps also visited Lapland in 1966 becoming only the second British group to perform there.
Bass guitarist Dave Merrick left the Andicaps and was replaced by Malcolm Garner. Jake Commander also went and was replaced by Mike Heard from the John Bull Breed, a local group that had future Moody Blues member John Lodge in their line-up.
While touring in Finland, The Andicaps recorded a single that was issued on the Sonet label at the end of 1966. The A-side was a song titled 'It's So Fine' by Carter/Lewis of the hit harmony group "The Ivy League", while the B-side 'You Make Me Happy' was composed by guitarist Mike Heard.
As well as headlining, the Andicaps also opened up for and supported many famous bands and performers who were big at the time. Despite the large amount of bookings undertaken by the band, lead vocalist John Kerton left the group in 1967.
By this time, the pop music scene was undergoing some radical changes. Within a year, the remaining Andicaps also decided it was time to explore new musical avenues and the group disbanded.
Malcolm Garner joined the "Jasper Stubbs Gloryland Band" and later joined The Exception. Kex Gorin went on to play drums in the well-known Brum band "Magnum" whose first album was produced by his former Andicaps bandmate Jake Commander. Jake would also work for the Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) in the 1970s under supervision of Jeff Lynne. Sadly, Kex Gorin died from cancer at the end of 2007 (see Kex Gorin feature).
John Kerton fronted the successful U.K. function band "Red Sun" who were the resident band at the Birmingham Locarno for eight years. He then went on to become band-leader on the luxury ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II. These days, John is Director of his own company JLP Events in the U.K. (see www.JLPevents.co.uk).
Jeff Lynne, after his time with The Chads, joined Birmingham's legendary Nightriders who became the psychedelically-styled Idle Race in 1967. Despite making several critically acclaimed records under Jeff's leadership, The Idle Race were unable to break into the charts. Jeff Lynne left to join The Move at the invitation of Roy Wood during the winter of 1970.
By 1972, The Move had evolved into the "Electric Light Orchestra" (ELO) and fronted by Jeff Lynne, they became one of the most successful British rock bands of the 1970s. Jeff's many musical accomplishments are beyond the scope of this website so for more info, please visit Rob Caiger's official "Face The Music" website at www.ftmusic.com
As for the other original Andicaps members, drummer Dave Walsh following his time with the Second City Sound, went to live in the USA where he became an airline pilot. Andicaps guitarist Dave Watson left music to become a successful commercial artist and advertising director. Andicaps bass guitarist Robert Reader who turned 70 years old in 2019, lives in Cyprus where he retired with his wife Janet a decade ago.
Thanks to Dave Walsh, Robert Reader, John Kerton, Jake Commander, and Timo Rauhaniemi for assistance in preparing this story of The Andicaps.
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Copyright © John R Woodhouse