Copyright © Bill Clarke
Updated January, 2021
Roger Hall drums (left in 1967)
Joe Ellis guitar (left in 1967)
John Edwards tenor sax (left in 1966)
Bill Clarke bass guitar (left in 1968)
John Burnett trumpet (joined 1966, left 1968)
Barry Lunn organ (joined 1966, left 1968)
John Howells lead vocal (joined 1966, left 1968)
Frank Rudge tenor sax (joined 1966, left 1968)
John Barry baritone sax (joined 1967, left 1967)
Charlie Grima drums (joined 1967)
Vernon Perriera guitar (joined 1967)
Bob Chatwin trumpet (joined 1967)
Frank Fern saxophone (joined 1967)
John Hill bass guitar (joined 1968)
Chris Brown organ (joined 1968)
The "Wellington Kitch Jump Band" featured some well-known local musicians and performers from previous groups as well as some who would go on to join famous chart acts later in their careers. Founding band member Bill Clarke has written their story as follows:
The band was formed in 1965 when Joe Ellis, Roger Hall, John Edwards and Bill Clarke became the first four members of the group known as "Blues Ensemble". All experienced musicians, they agreed to turn themselves into a top seven-piece outfit playing the best in blues and soul.
They kept a look out on the scene and soon added John Burnett, a promising young trumpet player, and organist Barry Lunn, ex Misphits. All that was missing now was the right man to front the band. This position was aptly filled by locally popular blues singer John Howells who was previously lead vocalist from the top Wolverhampton group The 'N Betweens (later to become Slade).
It was at this point that the band was ready to progress and advance its music. They were approached by Phillips Records to cut their first disc with the Walker Brothers' Recording manager Johnnie Walker in charge. Unfortunately, nothing from the recording session was ever released.
In 1967, tenor sax player John Edwards left the band and was replaced by Frank Rudge from Giorgio and Marcos Men. Baritone sax player John Barry joined from The Locomotive boosting the band members to eight but, unfortunately, Joe Ellis left just before the band embarked on their German tour with the new name of "The Wellington Kitch Jump Band" under the successful management of Jim Simpson.
After returning from Germany the band made one more change. Drummer Roger Hall left the band and was replaced by the up and coming Charlie Grima. The band was now being used by top London agents to back American artists on their U.K. tours i.e. The Platters, The Impressions, and the very successful American blues singer Garnet Mimms. The band had now risen to new heights and were possibly one of the top three bands in the Midlands.
Charlie Grima recalled performing with Garnet Mimms; "He toured the UK frequently and always asked us to back him when he came over. We got on great with him. He had this old-fashioned patter when introducing an up-tempo number and said 'You know when I was younger, my Pa used to say to me son, when you get older and have yourself some fun. Well I'm three times seven, that makes me twenty one - you know what to do Charlie!' and that was my cue to count in the number."
Wellington Kitch performed at Coventry Locarno with "The Pink Floyd" who had just released their second single titled 'See Emily Play'. They also played at The Steering Wheel Club in West Bromwich on the same bill as The Spencer Davis Group and Cream. While performing in Newcastle at the legendary "Club a Gogo", a young fan Les Gilfilan who later became roadie for The Montanas remembered; "I saw them twice at the club and had a chat with them. Fantastic! I'm sure they had a female on vocals, and they had time to talk to a young Geordie lad on one of his first visits to the club."
By 1968 baritone sax player John Barry had left, guitarist/vocalist Vernon Perriera (from the Band of Joy) came in and the band was ready for a return to Germany, this time a tour of Berlin. The band were also now playing semi-resident at The Cedar Club in Birmingham as "The Cedar Set" as well as continuing to tour under their own name.
The Wellington Kitch Jump Band went over to Zurich for a month where they performed at The Hirschen Hotel. Charlie Grima said; "Loads of English bands played there. A blues outfit Breakthru, all pals of mine with their lead singer Gary Aflalo who was responsible for getting me into acting, and Earth who later became Black Sabbath."
It was during this period that a further recording session took place and a future "Number One" was all but guaranteed! Due to a disagreement between management and record company, the record was shelved and never released.
Because of this the band started to decline. Within weeks John Burnett, Frank Rudge and Barry Lunn all left the band. Two weeks later Bill Clarke left to join The Ivy League where he teamed up with former "Kitch" drummer, Roger Hall. With some new replacements the band carried on until the end of the year and then disbanded.
Note: the 1967-68 line-up of the Wellington Kitch Jump Band also featured former Band of Joy bass guitarist John Hill as well as trumpet player Bob Chatwin and saxophonist Frank Fern (this bit of info was sent by John Hill).
Charlie Grima went on to join the progressive rock outfit Ghost and later joined Roy Wood's Wizzard (see The Move) with whom he enjoyed much success. He later embarked on an acting career and is now teaching music in Kent. John Howells went on to do his own thing and is still singing in his own band.
Thanks to Bill Clarke and John Howells for supplying this exclusive story of the Wellington Kitch Jump Band. Some quotes are from Charlie Grima's book; "Aren't You Glad That It's Not Christmas Everyday?" published in 2015.
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