Revised August 2013
Tom Jones lead vocal
Bob Doyle bass guitar, vocal
Clive Griffin lead guitar
Roger Harris keyboards
Dave Hennessey drums
Tony (Hunt?) rhythm guitar
John (?) saxophone
This seven-piece 1960s Birmingham-based band had Tom Jones as their lead vocalist! Yes it's true, though the Tom Jones in question was not the internationally famous singing star known to reside in Las Vegas.
Tom Jones 'saw the light' when back in 1962 he witnessed a second on the bill act from Liverpool perform their yet to be released first single called 'Love Me Do' at the BRS Club on Bromford Lane. Tom thus became one of the first of many inspired by The Beatles to take up a career in rock 'n' roll. Tom has written his own story of The Conchords as follows:
Firstly, this is no leg pull, my real name is Tom Jones. Born John Thomas Jones, and if you ever read that book 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' you would know why "John Thomas" was never used and everybody called me Tom! Born and raised in Marsh Lane, Erdington, but a true "blue-nose" and educated at George Dixon's Grammar School, Edgbaston where I learned to read music and during which time I became head choirboy at St. Martin's in The Bullring, Birmingham.
The chief organist at St. Martins was head music teacher at George Dixon's and took all the best of the school choir with him to the church choir. So having sung Handel's Messiah in front of the TV cameras with CBSO I didn't have much in the way of nerves in front of an audience. My first love was rock 'n' roll and I was lucky enough to see my own hero, Eddie Cochran at The Hippodrome just two weeks before he died.
When I left school in 1962, I started an apprenticeship at Serck Radiators on the Warwick Road, Greet. Every Thursday we used to go to The Charles Russell Hall or as it was also known, BRS Ballroom on Bromford Bridge. The last Thursday night in September 1962 we saw Denny Laine and The Diplomats, followed by a new band (to us) called 'The Beatles'. Whilst the top of the bill act were on (Buddy Britten and The Regents), we stood at the coffee bar drinking Tizer while talking about rock 'n' roll with two guys we met there called John and Paul. During the second set (The Beatles) played several numbers by Chuck Berry plus their own first record, released a week later called 'Love Me Do'. This experience set me thinking - and by chance early in 1963, the boss's secretary asked me if I knew anybody who wanted to be a singer in a rock 'n' roll band!
An audition was held at 'The Sydenham' on Golden Hillock Road opposite the BSA factory. After belting out 'Please Don't Touch' and 'Sweet Little Sixteen' with four lads known as 'The Conchords' I was in. We also auditioned for two new members to form a "band" rather than a "group" so took on a saxophonist and keyboard player. The band that evolved during the spring of 1963 was Clive Griffin (lead guitar), Bob Doyle (bass guitar), Dave Hennesey (drums), Roger Harris (keyboards), Tony? (rhythm guitar - I think his surname could have been Hunt), John? (saxophone), and myself Tom Jones (lead vocal).
We soon hit the better venues and became passing friends with the regulars on the usual circuit including Ma Regan's at 'The Plaza' and 'The Ritz' although we became better known in the Solihull area. We progressed to top of the bill at Solihull Civic Hall when The Applejacks hit the road following their hit single with 'Tell Me When' early in 1964. We also supported such bands as 'Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers'.
A major gig we did was on the Birmingham Hippodrome backing Christine Holmes and supporting 'The Seekers' (original Aussie group), along with Mark Wynter and The Applejacks. We also built up a reputation of being a good blues band playing for the U.S. Airforce at RAF Gaydon. Much of our set was based around the lesser known numbers of Eddie Cochran and Chuck Berry.
We put a demo tape together in a scout hut in Hall Green and sent it to Polydor Records who offered us a contract. Unknown to us a couple of our "arrangements" found their way onto the "Live at Leeds" album by The Who. These were 'Summertime Blues' and 'Shaking All Over', surprisingly over 5 years after the demo tapes were sent in.
The only record released by us was a single 'You Can't Take It Away' with 'Let Me Walk With You' on Polydor BM 56059. The label issue date given is 1966 but it was definitely cut in 1965. There is a distinct leaning towards northern soul in the track A-side. Note that the record company had also altered the name including a hyphen so it read "CON-CHORDS". Unfortunately some of the band had a strong leaning towards that type of Soul/Motown stuff The Beatles had recorded on their first two albums and this caused a change in direction after hearing Cliff Bennett's versions of some great similar soul stuff.
Note: an acetate pressing of The Con-chords recorded at Hollick & Taylor was recently discovered. Dating from the early 1960s, the two tracks on it were 'I'm Okay' and an instrumental titled 'Magambo'. (JRW)
We went our separate ways in late 1965 (Roger Harris went on to join Danny King's Mayfair Set and Bob Doyle went on to play bass in Blaises and later Sight and Sound). I got married and lost interest in the music scene for a few years but bumped into Roy Wood several times with Jeff Lynne at St. Andrews. I often wonder if that night back in late September 1962 when I saw The Beatles was the first time Denny Laine ever met Paul McCartney which resulted in the eventual formation of 'Wings'?
During the early 1970's I met up with Jimmy Onslow and Big Al Johnson of their new band called 'Devil's Canyon' and did a couple of gigs with them in what was known as "The Second City Rock 'n' Roll Show", standing in for Mike Sheridan and Gerry Levene or possibly Danny King.
Many thanks to Tom Jones for sending The Conchords story and for permission to show it here exclusively on the BrumBeat web site along with images of the group.
Copyright © 2011 Tom Jones
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