Revised August 2020
NOTE: this is not the American 1960s recording group that had the same name.
Brian Betteridge guitar, vocal (left 1966)
Johnny Carroll guitar, vocal (left 1967)
Ron Dickson bass guitar, vocal
Steve (John) Price drums, vocal (left 1967)
Richard Brown guitar (joined 1966)
Keith Locke lead guitar, vocal (joined 1967)
Vaughn Thomas lead vocal (joined 1967, left 1968)
Tony Harrison drums (joined 1967)
Roy "Dripper" Kent lead vocal (joined 1968)
Ron Dickson has enjoyed a long life in show business. From 1962 when he joined his first rock 'n' roll group as a bass player, up to the present day fronting his own cabaret-style "Nightmare" horror show, Ron has seen it all.
A true veteran of the West Midlands pop music scene, Ron Dickson has rubbed shoulders with many well-known names in the business during his amazing career including years touring as part of the legendary "glam rock" band Light Fantastic. I'm proud to present Ron's story of "The Vogues" of which he was a member and fronted by the much loved local singer and comedian Johnny Carroll who sadly passed away in January 2020.
Ron Dickson takes up the story...
"In 1962 I joined "The Olympics" soon to become "The Vogues". I was a very naive but extremely keen 16 year old. John (Steve) Price from my home town of West Bromwich pushed for me to join the regular working band, or group as we used to refer to ourselves then, to replace their current bass player. I got the job along with my left handed "Burns Sonic" bass guitar, but I must admit I was a bit in awe of them as they all seemed so much older than me!
The line-up then was the power house John "Johnny" Carroll on lead guitar and lead vocals, a very well known Birmingham character often referred to as "The Singing Dustman", due to his day time job. Roger Smith was on rhythm guitar, John Price on drums and vocals, and myself Ron Dickson on bass guitar.
I remember my first Saturday working with them. In the afternoon we did a wedding, then a regular evening spot at "The Queen's Head" Erdington, followed by a spot in a nightclub in Birmingham. Wow! I think I earned more than my week's wages at my daytime job on that first Saturday with The Olympics. That year saw us gigging regular while holding down day jobs.
It was 1963 when rhythm guitarist Roger Smith decided to step down and take over as manager. He was replaced by Brian Betteridge on lead guitar and vocals from the Birmingham band "El Riot and The Rebels". Other members of that band went on to form The Moody Blues with great success.
In 1964 we entered the Rediffusion Television talent contest "Ready, Steady, Win". From 4,000 applicants we got through the heats and semi-finals to compete playing live in the final before a panel of judges, including Brian Epstein, Bill Haley, and radio DJ Brian Matthew. This was a very exciting event with a live studio audience.
The show was introduced by Keith Fordyce and Cathy McGowan from the sister television show "Ready Steady Go". Unfortunately we didn't win but came fourth. The winners were an R&B band called "The Bo Street Runners". They won 1,000 pounds, and a recording contract with Decca Records plus an appearance on Ready Steady Go.
We did get to record a track on the "Ready Steady Win" LP called 'Think Of Me', a song written by Johnny Carroll. The LP or album as we say today featured original songs from the bands in the contest and was produced by Mickie Most. We arrived at the studio and did what we thought was a one take run through. Unfortunately, I dropped a bum note on the bass line and was expecting to do another take, but Mickie said; "Ok lads, thank you, that's it!" So the song is on the LP complete with a bum bass note, never to be forgotten by, and often reminded of (in good humour), by drummer John Price.
In the year that followed we got a new manager, Birmingham business man Den Caney and new group name "Vogue". Unfortunately, the famous Vogue Magazine threatened to sue if we didn't change it, so we settled on a compromise "The Vogues".
A brand new image followed in the form of red and grey regency-style suits with frilly cravats, and finally giving up our day jobs and turning professional. We were working all over the UK and Ireland in all kinds of venues, and as a support act to many of the big names on the touring circuit.
I recall one time in Luton supporting Heinz Burt, the former bass player with "The Tornados" who had the big Number One hit record with their instrumental 'Telstar'. Heinz had left The Tornados to go solo, and had a hit with the song 'Just Like Eddie', a tribute to the tragic American rock 'n' roll star Eddie Cochran.
Heinz was a very good looking lad and very popular with the ladies. He asked John Carroll if he would run through the crowd with a coat over his head to trick the crowd into thinking it was him when he was announced to appear on stage. John, who was always game for a bit of fun, agreed to help.
As the announcement came over the PA, all the girls started screaming and John ran through the crowd in the direction of the stage. What Heinz hadn't told John was, although the women loved him their boyfriends hated him, so John ran a gauntlet of kicks, punches, and abuse from their boyfriends in the crowd, while Heinz craftily entered safely from the side of the stage, using John as his "punch bag" decoy!
1965 saw us recording at Olympic Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London, where we exchanged greetings in passing with The Beatles who were also recording there. They were in the main studio at Abbey Road. We had a sneak look at them recording before politely being asked to leave by their producer George Martin. I remember that Paul McCartney was playing the drums, no Ringo!
Our recording sessions in London resulted in an American single release on ABC Paramount Records. It was titled 'Golden Locket' a Johnny Carroll penned song, and 'Big Man' a new arrangement of a former hit record by the group "The Four Preps".
July 1965 once again saw us in the finals of the Melody Maker National Beat contest but losing to the "St Louis Union". This was very sad because we had beat them in the Semi Finals.
In August 1966, our first U.K. single was released on Columbia Records 'Younger Girl' that was a John Sebastian from the "Lovin' Spoonful" composition, with our own unique vocal arrangement and Brian on lead vocal. The B-side was titled 'Lies' with Johnny Carroll on lead vocal. The record was received well by the critics and public, but didn't make the much sought after charts.
Later that year, a disillusioned Brian Betteridge decided to leave. He was replaced by a very talented young guitarist Richard Brown who had been rehearsing with Procol Harum before joining us. However, gigs and more gigs up and down the country was starting to take its toll on the guys.
Johnny Carroll decided to leave and pursue what became a long and very successful solo career as a comedian. John was replaced by Liverpudlian Keith Locke who came up from London to join the group on lead vocals and guitar. Shortly after Keith joined and while still rehearsing, John Price also decided to leave. It was time for a new chapter in the life of The Vogues.
The new line up of The Vogues during 1967 was Richard Brown (lead guitar and vocals), Keith Locke (guitar and vocals), Vaughn Thomas from Wales (lead vocal), Tony Harrison (drums) from Winchester, and myself Ron Dickson (bass guitar and vocals). We continued gigging on a very regular basis, with a change of musical style influenced by the new members.
In 1968, Vaughn Thomas left to pursue a solo recording career, and we are joined by experienced front man and vocalist Roy "Dripper" Kent from the well-known Wolverhampton band Finders Keepers. Later that year we changed management and signed with the Wolverhampton-based Astra Agency (who also managed The 'N Betweens before they became Slade), and changed our name from The Vogues to "Light Fantastic" and so the next chapter begins (see Light Fantastic).
The original Vogues vocalist and founding-member Johnny Carroll sadly passed away this year on 20th January 2020. John was a great and loyal friend and a larger than life character, and is much missed. Rest In Peace the late great Johnny Carroll."
Copyright 2020 © Ron Dickson.
See Ron Dickson at www.nightmareshow.co.uk
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