Updated March, 2020
Keith Hughes lead guitar
Bob Mansfield bass guitar (left in 1965)
Ken Price vocal
Paul Stevens rhythm guitar
Pete Trickett drums
Mel Stanton bass guitar (joined in 1965)
"The great things about those days was supporting many big names at the time, sharing the stage and dressing room with such stars as The Beatles, Tom Jones, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney, Dusty Springfield, The Everly's and so on...!" recalls Formula 1 drummer Pete Trickett.
It was 1962 in Smethwick, Birmingham when five local teenagers (the oldest being 18) formed their own rock 'n' roll group - known as "Formula 1" (sometimes incorrectly written 'Formula One'). This line-up consisted of vocalist Ken Price, guitarists Keith Hughes and Paul Stevens, bass guitarist Bob Mansfield, and drummer Pete Trickett.
The young group soon became adept at copying the hits of the day to a point where they found themselves in considerable demand. Pete Trickett takes up the story: "We became part of the bigger Birmingham music scene, playing all the usual venues such as The Ritz (King's Heath), The Plaza (Old Hill), The Plaza (Handsworth), The Carlton Ballroom (Perry Barr) and The Mackadown Pub (Kitts Green)."
Formula 1's engagement opening up for 'The Beatles' was of course a memory that Pete Trickett will never forget; "The Beatles gig was at the Old Hill Plaza. It had a revolving stage with us occupying one half and The Beatles on the other! They performed their latest hit at the time, this being From Me To You."
As well as opening for other acts, Formula 1 were frequently called upon to back visiting artists who sometimes toured without a regular backing group other than perhaps a keyboard player. Some big names included Roy Orbison, Dusty Springfield, Gene Pitney, and The Everly Brothers with whom they often shared the same dressing room recalled Pete.
These exciting brushes with fame would only inspire the members of Formula 1 to try a shot of their own at making the hit parade. "We recorded a demo disc at Hollick & Taylor recording studio in Handsworth" said
The group's persistence led them down to London and the famous "Tin Pan Alley" on Denmark Street. Pete Trickett remembers; "While having a coffee in a local cafe, the obliging owner suggested we give the pop impresario Larry Page - manager of The Kinks and The Troggs at the time - a visit!"
"Within ten minutes, we were in the reception of Larry's office asking if he would like to indulge in a quick listen to our disc. Much to our surprise, we were invited upstairs to his office and our demo record popped onto his turntable. After sitting in silence whilst listening to our efforts, more silence followed. Larry then asked if we could possibly play here now... Live!"
"We did have our gear with us in the van so moments later, Fender Stratocasters, Gibsons, Vox amps, drums etc. were all duly assembled. We belted out two or three rock numbers - all very bewildering to us at least. As the last chords faded away, more seconds of silence followed... Larry Page then saying "Your record was CRAP! ...however, YOU sound a thousand times better!" A record contract was set up within 30 minutes!"
Larry Page soon arranged a recording session and had Formula 1 record a version of The Kinks catchy song 'I Just Can't Go To Sleep' as composed by Ray Davies. The record was issued on the Warner Brothers label in April of 1965 along with a track entitled 'Sure Know A Lot About Love' for the B-side.
Pete Trickett; "The sessions for our first record release were done at Regent Sound Studios, London in late September 1964. Jimmy Page actually played with us on 'Just Can't Go To Sleep'. He was top session player at the time. He used the same small (ultra rare) Burns transistorized amp on our tracks. Jimmy played the middle eight solo using a then new 'wah Wah' foot pedal. He was brought in to beef up our sound a bit. The rest of us all played on the record too."
"Incidentally, a young guy was standing near me while we were recording that day. Turns out he was Mitch Mitchell who later became drummer for The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He had been brought in to replace me for the session if I hadn't been up to scratch. Happily he wasn't required. Mitch was even generous enough to pay me a few complements on my drumming so cheers Mitch!"
The group got to promote their single on the ATV pop television show "Thank Your Lucky Stars" but despite hopes for success, the record didn't sell much outside of the Midlands area. Pete Trickett said; "However, the record was also released in the U.S.A. where it rose to the dizzy heights of number 92 in the Billboard/Cashbox hot 100... wow!"
Hopes for record success were high when Formula 1's second single came out just three months later. The A-side was titled 'I Have Love' while the B-side was a track called 'Want To Meet A Girl Like You'. Wether due to a lack of promotion or otherwise, the record's failure to chart made it seem all the more that Formula 1 was not destined for the hit parade. Pete Trickett; "Although we felt this was a better record than the first one, sales proved worse!"
In late 1965, Formula 1's bass guitarist Bob Mansfield left the group and was replaced by Mel Stanton from a local band called The Chucks who had just returned from Germany. "Mel was one of the best players in the U.K. at the time" said Pete. Despite this, there were no more records from Formula 1 with the group disbanding by the end of the following year.
The members went off in different directions with the majority continuing to perform in local bands. Vocalist Ken Price joined the Brum group Young Blood that had drummer Cozy Powell with whom he toured Germany and later went into the business side of music after joining Brian Yeates (formerly of The John Bull Breed) to form the entertainment agency "Yeates and Price".
As for drummer Pete Trickett; "Through the later 1960s, I played professionally in many other bands including 'The Stacks' and 'The Stax Movement' - The Stacks being managed by Bev Bevan (of The Move)."
Pete still plays drums occasionally to this day with his present passion for music being jazz standards. Aviation enthusiast Pete also volunteers as a guide at the Battle of Britain Visitors Centre at RAF Coningsby where he's known to fly in a real Spitfire on occasion.
Pete Trickett has many great memories of the 1960s West Midlands music scene but surely the experience of sharing the stage and dressing room with The Beatles, Roy Orbison, and Dusty Springfield would be hard to beat!
Thanks to Pete Trickett and Alan Bolt for assistance in writing this story of Formula 1.
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