Updated February, 2009Johnny West (Malcolm Scott) lead vocal, harmonica
'Johnny West and The Sunsets' were one of Birmingham's many rock 'n' roll groups who performed at social clubs and pubs during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In that pre-Beatles era, bands almost always featured a lead singer or "front man" who would usually go under a stage name or alias.
Johnny West was vocalist Malcolm Scott from Kingstanding and his backing group 'The Sunsets' came from Sutton Coldfield, Stirchley and Erdington. John Miller who played drums in The Sunsets and later Catch 22 has written their story as follows:
"Early in 1962 Johnny West and The Sunsets formed as a group. Their main choice of music was chart-based and meant keeping up with the Top 20. This included a mixture of American rock 'n' roll as well as hits by the main groups of the day from Britain. The American artiste's featured strongly and were very popular. Our group played numbers by Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and of course the great Elvis.
Our lead guitarist Bob Fellows was a big Shadows fan (complete with a much-coveted Fender Stratocaster guitar and Vox amp) so our sets included a lot of their numbers. Later on, the songs that really went down well were by The Beatles who had exploded onto the music world. Also in demand were numbers by The Searchers, The Dave Clarke Five, and Cliff Richard.
Our first booking was a social club in Tamworth-Staffs which is now a Witherspoon Pub. I remember having stage fright as I counted in our first number and literally froze for about 30 seconds!! Fortunately, all went well in the end. Please note the red "sparkle suits" looked great under stage lights but the trouble was the material could split very easily. Everyone in the group split their trousers at some time or other!
Johnny West and The Sunsets played mainly at Social Clubs around West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Dudley, and Bilston Town Hall at one stage. There was a thriving pub scene in the sixties so Saturdays were almost guaranteed pay nights. Other venues included The Tyburn Inn, Hen and Chickens (Langley), The Queens Head in Erdington, The Swan (Yardley), and The Golden Cross (Short Heath).
Malcolm Scott (Johnny West) also has memories of those days: "I had been inducted into the rock 'n' roll world by my friend the late Terry Wallace from The Vikings. I was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly, Billy Fury, Gene Vincent and Cliff Richard, so we performed much of their material. It was 1963, we had plenty of gigs and one of our regular gigs was St Peter's Church Hall, Maney, Sutton Coldfield known locally as Maney Hall.
Like many of the support bands at the time we had no stage suits, a leather jacket and jeans was the norm. Our agent contacted my father who handled our bookings and offered our group a gig at Maney Hall supporting a fairly new recording group, The Beatles. Stage suits were a must and a condition of that gig so as we had no stage suits we lost the gig. We never lost another gig due to the lads visiting a gents outfitters at Aston Cross and getting fitted with the red sparkle suits."
Eventually, different musical preferences started to affect the band and it resulted in members leaving and going on to join other bands. I joined The Rocking Renowns which evolved into CATCH 22. Once again as a young man I really enjoyed that period in my life. I have no idea what happened to the lads in Johnny West and The Sunsets but I enjoyed their company and thank them for the memories. I have quite a few photo's in my album of them."
As for Johnny West, Malcolm picks up the story: "As John says, different music preferences did effect the band. The Sunsets broke up way before their time, the thing I have always regretted. I tried my hand at blues and did support Lee Dorsey at a gig in Birmingham but I never considered myself a blues singer so I called it a day in late 1966. I never met up again with the lads from The Sunsets but the memories are still with me!"
Copyright © 2008 John Miller with additional contribution from Malcolm Scott.