Updated November, 2017Dean Forrester (Howard Bourne) lead vocal
Formed at Boldmere School near Erdington, The Evergreens played their first gig at Banners Gate Youth Club. Drummer Alan Buxton said; "We were paid 30 bob and borrowed a barrow to cart our gear up the Chester Road". The group at the time consisted of Alan Buxton, Dave Cole, Ed Gateley, and Nick Stevens. Alan Buxton remembers performing at Streetly Youth Club along with "Carl Fenn and The Mysteries" and "El Riot and The Rebels" (later to become The Moody Blues).
The line-up did not have a dedicated vocalist until Howard Bourne (Dean Forrester) joined. He recalled; "I originally sang with the Les Coates Band at The Ritz, Kings Heath, and then the Cliff Deeley Band at The Tower but when the era of the dance bands came to an end, I joined various groups. The main one being 'Dean Forrester and the Evergreens' based on Chester Road, Erdington, playing gigs at the Bull's Head, The Cavern, The Wheatsheaf on Coventry Road, The Mermaid on Stratford Road and the GKN Social Club."
The Evergreens, now billed as "Dean Forrester and The Evergreens" looked good in their green suits purchased from Chetwyns tailors on Navigation Street. West Midlands pop music entrepreneur Reg Calvert, who went on to great success with Brum band The Fortunes, kept The Evergreens busy with bookings when they became part of his own "stable of stars".
Howard Bourne said; "We were on the Reg Calvert circuit doing the Nuneaton Co-op Halls, Banbury Winter Gardens, Wellington, and performed on the Three Counties circuit every month." The group, like many others, were sent by their management over to Germany to perform at clubs where The Beatles had performed shortly before they became big stars. Howard Bourne remembers; "When the rest of the group decided to go to Germany, I chose not to go and we parted company." It's not known who replaced Howard as their vocalist for the German bookings.
Following a performance at The Sherwood Rooms in Nottingham, The Evergreens were approached by vocalist Mike West who went under the name "Robbie Hood" and was also managed by Reg Calvert. He convinced them to become his backing group as "Robbie Hood and The Merrimen". It should be noted that The Fortunes had previously done a stint with Mike West as The Merrimen.
An elaborate stage show was developed for Robbie Hood and His Merrie Men. The group were dressed in custom lincoln green tunics, along with boots and hats AND green tights to get that authentic Sherwood Forest look as was depicted on the famous TV show starring Richard Greene.
Alan Buxton recalled; "The guitarist would play the opening fanfare from the television theme tune, and Robby Hood would fire an arrow from his bow into a dartboard on the other side of the stage - or at least that's what he aimed for - and then make his grand entrance!"
Of course it wasn't long before the novelty of "Robbie Hood and his Merrie Men" started to wear off for both the audience and Robbie's band of outlaws who increasingly found it harder to be "merry" while performing their routine in full costume night after night. "We must have been mad!" said Alan.
Mike West eventually parted with The Evergreens who were replaced by another Brum group called The Sundowners.
Sources: 'Brum Rocked' book by Laurie Hornsby published 1999; plus assistance from Howard Bourne (Dean Forrester).
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