It is with deep regret that I post this sad news of legendary Birmingham vocalist and performer Gerry Levene who passed away in December of 2011. Gerry was one of the founding figures of the early 'Brum Beat' music scene and enjoyed a high profile locally during the 1960s with his group "The Avengers".
Born and raised in Birmingham, Micky Gibbs (Gerry) attended Upper Thomas Street School in Aston where he excelled in sports such as football and boxing. He seriously considered boxing as a career before choosing rock 'n' roll music to which his natural talent as an entertainer was well suited.
Gerry's first band developed into "The Avengers" during the early 1960s with the line-up of John Watson (guitar), Mike "Sprike" Hopkins (lead guitar), Jim Onslow (bass guitar), and a young drummer named Graeme Edge.
Gerry Levene and The Avengers found themselves incredibly busy with bookings all over the West Midlands as well as in the Liverpool where they also performed at the famous "Cavern Club". The Avengers became friends with The Beatles whom they met there regularly and at The Iron Door Club following their late night engagements.
John Watson left The Avengers to be replaced by a very young Roy Wood on guitar from a local group called "The Falcons". In 1963, Gerry Levene and The Avengers signed to Decca Records to record a single at their studios in St. John's Wood in London. Unusually for that time The Avengers were allowed to play on the A-side of the single with Gerry, covering U.S. bluesman Willie Lee Perryman's 'Doctor Feelgood'.
This recording is significant in rock music history as the first to feature Graeme Edge on drums. It's also the only record release to feature both Graeme Edge and Roy Wood - future members of The Moody Blues and The Move respectively. For the B-side track recorded a few weeks later titled 'It's Driving Me Wild', Gerry was backed by studio session players which included Big Jim Sullivan. Sadly, the single didn't chart.
Although Gerry Levene and The Avengers continued to gain fans and fame with appearances on radio and TV shows like Thank Your Lucky Stars, Roy Wood had left earlier to join Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders while Jim Onslow later went on to join their major rivals The Diplomats.
Gerry Levene and Graeme Edge teamed up with Denny Laine to start a new blues-based group that was to become The Moody Blues although Gerry left them early on after falling out with Denny Laine. Gerry kept busy for the next few years performing with various new line-ups of The Avengers before taking a job with the Top Rank organization.
Gerry Levene continued to make records during the later 1960s with local groups "Crossbones" and "The Hinge". He also recorded as a solo artist under the name "David Lincoln" for the Pye Records label. An excellent single by David Lincoln; 'Hold Back The Daybreak/That's All Any Man Can Say' (composed by prolific hit-makers Tony Macaulay and John Macleod) came out in 1970 and probably would have charted if Pye had spent more time and money on promotion.
Despite a lack of record success, Gerry Levene remained in the music business and continued to perform throughout the 1970s and the following decades as a popular solo act and in tribute bands. Gerry never lost his love for performing music and entertaining on the stage.
Gerry battled bowel cancer for years, eventually arranging and performing in fund-raising concerts along with other veteran Brumbeat performers in efforts to raise money for medical research of this often fatal condition. Though sadly, Gerry's battle finally ended in December, his fighting spirit will be remembered as an inspiration to all who knew him. He will be missed.
You can visit Gerry's web site at: www.gerrylevene.co.ukBack to BRUM BEAT FEATURES PAGE