The Sounds of the Sixties
Bristol & West Country Bands - Music of the 60's
In the heady days of the early 1960’s, a time of massive change and innovation in the world of popular music. Fuelled by the excitement and electricity surrounding the new sounds of the time.
Merseybeat stars head down south - With the Merseyside inspired "Beat Boom" in full swing, the big stars in Bristol this week in 1963 had to be from up north.
Topping the bill at the Colston Hall were Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas who had just had a couple of massive hits with Do You Want to Know a Secret (No.2) - a Beatles' written ditty - and Bad to Me (No.1).
You certainly got your money's worth in those days. Also on the twice-nightly bill was Tommy Roe, an American who had shot up the charts with Sheila and the Folk Singer, plus a string of lesser acts. Tickets ranged from four shillings and sixpence to 10 shillings and sixpence (average wages were then about £10 a week).
The end of the month would see Freddie and the Dreamers, the Searchers and Brian Poole and the Tremeloes (who were riding high in the charts with Do You Love Me) invading the city. The Tremeloes had previously reached No.4 with that "oldie, but goodie" Twist and Shout - a raucous number recorded by the Beatles on their first album.
Topping the bill was Roy Orbison, who had just made the top 10 with In Dreams and Falling. His Blue Bayou would reach the No.3 spot on September 19. Top tickets, in the balcony, would set you back 12 shillings and sixpence.
In 1963, the smallish, local venues were still torn between promoting beat music or jazz. Local bands Johnny Slade and the Vikings plus Dean Prince and the Dukes were on stage at Clifton's Victoria Rooms, with the Chinese Jazz Club at the Corn Exchange booking the Alan Elsdon Jazz Band.
"Thomas Alstone", the man with his finger on the pulse, tells us that local instrumental band the Eagles (and stars of the Bristol-made film Some People) were about to try their hand at vocals as well.
The result, on the Pye label, was an updated version of the Helston floral dance called Come on Baby, to the Floral Dance. I don't think it made the charts. If you really wanted to know what was going on in the city in 1963 then the newly published Bristol Beat was the thing to read. Billed as "Young Bristol's entertainment paper", it cost six pence.
This magazine informed us that the best- selling single in the city was She Loves You by the Beatles. Runner-up was Billy J Kramer's Bad to Me. Other top sellers were Wishing by Buddy Holly and I'm Telling You Now by Freddie and the Dreamers.
If classical guitar was you thing then Julian Bream was playing at Stourhead gardens on the Sunday evening. The two guinea tickets included soup, cheese, French bread and a glass of wine.
Back in the city - the Centre to be precise - comedian Jimmy Edwards was getting astride a horse to promote his autumn spectacular at the Hippodrome. If none of this was your cup of tea then how about a trip to the movies to see some really big stars - a trio in fact.
At the ABC you could join the queue to see Marlon Brando, Trevor Howard and Richard Harris in Mutiny on the Bounty. And in September 1963, Bristol Zoo had its very own stars on show to the public - the only pair of white tigers in the world (outside India).
Bristolians were huge fans of Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas.
Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs
The original Bristol Comets and special guest star Sandra McCann. Formed in 1958 and playing Hamburg’s Kaiser Keller Club alongside The Beatles, Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs are the authentic sound of the ’60s. It was said that The Cadillacs were performing Twist and Shout, You’ll Never Walk Alone and Shoutlong before they became hits for The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Lulu.
Formed in 1958. Lineup: Vocalist; Lead guitar; Rythm Guitar; Bass guitar; Drums Dave Purslow. For many years considered by most to be the most popular 'pop group' in Bristol. Every teenager knew of them. A very polished group fronted by the stong vocals of Johny Carr (Con Sullivan), they had a solid style and had that certain charisma that got them noticed. This was what took them to Hamburg's Kaiser Club and playing alongside The Beatles, Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs became the authentic Bristol sound of the 60s.
The Cadillacs were performing songs like Twist and Shout, Youll Never Walk Alone and Shout before they became hits for The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Lulu. In the early 1960s the drummer was Dave Purslow, a very large gentleman. John rennie writes: Downend had a very popular R & R club which was every Wednesday I think. Knowle had serious Saturday evening dances at the community centre featuring top local groups. Speedwell TA hall had some big dances, one easter I remember starring Johnny kidd and the Pirates with Johnny Carr and the Cadillacs supporting. There was a memmorable local group R & R concert at the old Cabot cinema (before it closed down) in Filton along the same lines as the ones at the Colston hall. What about the rag week mersey versus avon beat shows at the Vic rooms in the early 60,s I hope this stirs some memories. Regards John Rennie.
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Chet And The Triumphs
This Bristol band once supported The Beatles at The Bath Pavilion in the early sixties. The drummer was Graham Nicholson, who lived in West Park Road, Downend. His practice sessions could often be heard when you passed by on the pavement outside. His father was an inspector on the buses, based at nearby Staple Hill Depot.
John Coldrick lived a few doors away, also in West Park Road. He often passed by when we children were playing in the street outside our house on the corner of West Park Road and North Street. He always had a cheery word for us and took it in good spirit when we called out cheeky things about teddy boys and suchlike. A thoroughly nice young man. Regards Fray Bentos
Email to the webmaster: Hi, just looked through your website,brilliant! i saw a picture of Johnny Coldrick, with his band The Triumphs. I knew john in the early 60s and would love to get in touch with him.can you help? Regards Paul Newman....would be good to hear from anyone with contact details.
Email to the webmaster: I have great memories of the Glen ballroom and the club next door called Cupids Bar. Also the bouncer at the door of the Glen being David Prouse (of Darth Vader fame)I often would have a quick dance with him which looked strange as I was barely five feet tall and he was probably at least six seven. I now live in Australia but have great memories of Bristol, which I return to on a regular basis. I was also married for nineteen years to a member of the rock band Chet & The Triumphs. Regards Pam and Gary O'keefe
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Once described as a 'West Country Billy Connolly, although he probably came first', Bristolian singer and raconteur Fred Wedlock has been performing in folk clubs and concerts since the late 1960s. He was born in Bristol, England, on 23rd May 1942 and had various jobs, including being a teacher, before turning professional in the early 1970s. He is related to 'Fatty Wedlock of Bristol City FC fame. Fred had various albums on small labels issued in the 1970s, and became widely known early in 1981 when his single The Oldest Swinger In Town hit the UK charts, rising to no. 6. Unfortunately he has never maintained that success, but the song is almost guaranteed to be played at family gatherings such as wedding receptions, as the middle-aged uncles and aunts take to the floor to gyrate after a few drinks.
The chances are that if you were asked to name a clarinet player, the first name that would spring to mind is Acker Bilk. Somerset-born Acker became world famous in May 1962 when he became the first British artist to top the US pop music charts, paving the way for other acts from the UK, such as a then still unknown band who were to have a fair amount of success on both sides of the pond a year or so after Acker's trailblazing hit - The Beatles!
Acker's US chart-topper Stranger On The Shore had topped the British chart some six months earlier, following its use as the theme tune of the eponymous BBC children's TV series. The record, which would nowadays be described as easy listening, perhaps seems an unlikely double number one on both sides of the Atlantic, but in those pre-Beatle days the charts contained a fairly eclectic mixture of ballads, rock 'n' roll and Dixieland-style 'trad' (short for traditional) jazz.
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Pete Budd and the Rebels
Pete Budd and the Rebels Line up: Lead guitar/vocals, Rythym Guitar, Saxophone, Bass and Drums. Pete Budd, then apparently voted as the 'best guitarist in the West' (according to the local pop music magazine 'The Western Scene') succeeded Les Watts as the lead vocalist and guitarist. Ivor Newick played drums and there was also had a saxophinist.
'Somerset Born And Proud' Pete later replaced Reg Quantrill as the Wurzels' guitar and banjo player. One of the trio who continued after Adge Cutler's death, he was the only member of the 1970s Wurzels who actually comes from Somerset. His is the distinctive lead voice on all of their 1970s chart hits, including their number one smash Combine Harvester and the follow-up hits I Am A Cider Drinker, Farmer Bill's Cowman, etc. Pete is still with the band today, and therefore the second longest serving current Wurzel after Tommy Banner. Pete started out in the band Pete Budd and the Rebels and also made a few records in the 1960s in a band called The Rainbow People. Pete was running a pub/restaurant in the West Country for a while. A keen fisherman, Pete emigrated to Devon a while back. His voice has been heard in recent years singing on the TV commercials for Ambrosia Creamed Rice.
The original and indisputably the greatest Wurzel of all time, and the brains behind the whole concept. Born 1930 in Nailsea, north Somerset. Held a series of jobs before becoming a Wurzel, including working as road manager for famous clarinet player Acker Bilk (who is also from Zummerzet) and his Paramount Jazz Band, working in a cider mill (Coates of Nailsea), and working on building a power station in North Wales. Spent a year in Spain working as an agent looking for property. During his time there he grew to love the country and the Spanish way of life, as well as becoming fluent in Spanish. Formed the Wurzels in 1966 and continued to gig and record with the band until his career was sadly cut short by his untimely death in 1974, when he overturned his MGB sports car at a roundabout while driving himself home from a gig. Buried in Christchurch, Nailsea.
One of Bristol's own first-generation rock 'n' roll bands the Comets they had supported such acts as Gene Vincent and Billy Fury. The Comets were almost certainly the first Bristol based band to make the enormous leap from Skiffle to amplified music, and thus paving the way for countless other local bands in the late fifties - early sixties.
A talent contest at the Glen Ballroom in 1958 in which the Sapphires, a vocal group, and the Comets were competing. Their sound blew everyone away that night. They not only sounded great, they looked great as well, dressed like quintessential rockers of that era.
In 1960 a unique show took place at The major concert venue in the city of Bristol, England....The Colston Hall. 2000 fans packed the place on December 16th to witness the best of the cities young Rock,n,roll bands & singers, even though not one of them had a recording contract, and some of the musicians were still in school ! Such was the popularity of local bands, when there was no such thing as a disco. let alone MTV, and when there was very little "pop music" on the then austere stiif upper lip Radio.
Andy Perrott (acoustic guitar and vocals) started out as half of the 'Antones' with Tony Sweet and has featured in several local rock'n'roll bands including the 'Echoes' and the legendary 'Bristol Comets'. Andy left the music business for a twenty year sabbatical but returned in 1984 as front man with the reformed 'Comets'.
Tony Dodd (electric guitar and vocals) started his career in music at about the same time, as guitarist for 'Mike Tobin and the Magnets'. Unlike Andy, Tony has been playing continually since those heady days with the Magnets, including a band in the USA where he lived for three years. Locally Tony held down a residency at the renowned 'Dug Out' club and his bands include 'Hugget' and 'Dodds Army', and he is now a member of the Bristol Comets'.
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The Eagles were formed by Terry Clarke www.terryclarke.com/ (lead guitar), Johnny Payne (rhythm guitar), Michael Brice (bass), and Rod Meacham (drums), all students at Connaught Road School in Bristol. Their name came from the youth organization, the Eagle House Youth Club, to which they all belonged. The quartet played local dances, parties, and bingo halls, performing during the intervals between the sessions at the latter, often for whatever was in the hat that was passed around.
The Eagles were a Bristol music quartet active from 1958 through the mid 1960s.
Led by guitarist Terry Clarke, who used a homebuilt custom instrument, the group included drummer Rod Meacham, bassist Michael Brice, and Johnny Payne on rhythm guitar. Playing primarily instrumental rock, they began their career in Bristol playing local venues such as dance halls.
They were launched into the world of professional music in 1962 upon being noticed by composer Ron Grainer, probably best remembered for his theme to Doctor Who. Grainer was interested in The Eagles for a film project he was working on, Some People, about a fictional Bristol band not unlike themselves. The Eagles contributed to the Some People soundtrack, and became Grainer's protegees, recording new versions of some of his film score work like the theme of the Maigret television series. The Some People soundtrack reached No.2 on the EP charts, and remained on the charts for a stay of 21 weeks.
The Eagles were awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Trophy for their work on the film, and soon after were signed to Pye Records, at the time among the top three labels in Britain. After releasing the singles 'Bristol Express' and 'Exodus', The Eagles embarked on a major tour of England along with more established acts Del Shannon, Stevie Wonder, Johnny Tillotson, and Dionne Warwick.
The tour world lasted much of 1963, during which their debut album, Smash Hits From The Eagles was released in the UK and the United States. The following year brought their most successful single and the one for which they are best remembered today, a vocal rendition of 'Wishin' And Hopin'' backed with 'Write Me A Letter'. Unfortunately, 1964 also brought a pair of tragedies which ultimately led to the end of the group: Grainer went blind, and Meachum suffered a nervous breakdown. Soon after, in late 1964, the band went their separate ways.
After The Eagles Clarke continued in the music business, with the band Pickettywitch and later as a session musician and solo artist, working with such artists as Michael Messer, Willie Nelson, Joe Ely, The Band, and Johnny Cash. He released nine solo albums between 1990 and 2006, on Transatlantic Records and various labels. Payne returned to Bristol and continued to play with local bands.
The Eagles' music is available on many compilations of the era, and in 1998 Sanctuary Records released a massive 61-track two-disc compilation set Smash Hits from The Eagles and The Kestrels, by far the most accessible overview of the Eagles' music today.
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Teach the world to sing - Rogers Cook and Greenaway
Britain's best ever song-writers hail from Bristol, well Fishponds/Kingswood namely Rogers Cook and Greenaway. They used to be David and Jonathan in the sixties, wrote 'If you like alot of chocolate on your biscuit join our club' and Cookie formed Blue Mink. Later he went to Nashville where he become the only Briton ever to be inducted into the Country Hall of Fame.
Bristol’s Rolling Stones
Mick and Keith, Brian and Bill and, of course, Charlie were already world-famous as the Rolling Stones, pop music’s favourite rebels, by the autumn of 1965. They’d just celebrated their biggest hit of all, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ when word came through that a Bristol band were claiming that they, not Jagger, Richards, Jones, Wyman and Watts, were the original Rolling Stones.
And it was all too true. Bristol’s Rolling Stones were the three Stone brothers who’d formed their own skiffle band at the height of the Lonnie Donegan era and played gigs like the Bristol Press Ball in 1957. Skiffle came from American blues music which often featured light travelling heroes described as rolling stones, so it was a good title.
The washboard group had changed their name to the Stone Brothers to avoid confusion when Mick, Keith and co. sprang to fame after taking their name from bluesman Muddy Waters’ classic ‘Rolling Stone’, but the matter still rankled. ‘We have no desire for the Jagger Stones to change their name. We only want to establish that the Bristol Stones are entitled to the name and were the first Rolling Stones,’ the group announced.
Top rock promoter/agent Tito Bums, then representing Mick, Keith and the rest chortled, ‘This would make a wonderful film.’ The Bristol Stones even consulted lawyers, but the matter ended quietly and amicably. . . and almost no one remembers the original Rolling Stones.
In the 1950s, Bill, his brother Ken and an unrelated Stone (Brian) formed a skiffle group. Their father was Moss Stone; not surprisingly, they called themselves The Rolling Stones. On the demise of the skiffle boom, they broadened their repertoire to include country and western . In 1965, there was a legal battle with the other 'Stones' which resulted in them being unable to continue with their name. A publicity leaflet for the Bristol Stones band at the time said 'Bill Stone plays a very fine banjo and can perform equally well Liszt's Liebestraum or Bye Bye Blues. Bill is a devotee of the great Eddie Peabody' (an American plectrum style player)
The Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra
The bands who put our city on the map THE Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, so the story goes, first got together after Fred Wedlock's 1968 New Year party at Clifton's much lauded Troubadour Folk Club in Waterloo Street. The "Piggies" as they were affectionately known, derived their unusual name from a specific location up the Gloucester Road - the section that goes uphill from the old Bristol North swimming baths to the turning just before Horfield prison.
Composed of musicians from other local groups the band weren't in fact an orchestra at all but comparable to Viv Stanshall's Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band or the zany Temperance Seven. John Turner (yes, the radio presenter and newspaper columnist) came from the Downsiders, Barry Back and Andy Leggett from the Alligator Jug Thumpers and Dave Creech from the Elastic Band.
Their music, which has been described as 1920s jazz and blues, actually sounded more jug band. Unbelievable sounds emanated from a collection of hot water bottles, plumbing pipes and the like. With a good dose of comedy thrown in, it all seemed to go down well. A music paper even labelled the "Piggies" the band "most likely to succeed". Things were looking up. With the Plastic Dog agency handling their gigs, a well received album, PHLOP, was released in 1970 on the Village Thing label. This was the year that John Turner left to be replaced by bass player Wild Bill Cole.
The band's next album, Piggery Jokers, was recorded in Cornwall in 1973, had its distinctive cover put together by artist Rodney Matthews in a unique, self designed font. Now it was Barry Back's time to call it a day being replaced by Jon "Wash" Hays on washboard. Then Andy Leggett left, too. But the "Piggies" weren't ready to call it a day just yet. Dave Paskett, Richie Gould, Pat Small and Henry Davies, plus guitarists Chris Newman and Robert Greenfield came on board (plus, on occasion, a fine guitarist called Diz Disley who had tasted fame with folkie guitarist and singer Martin Carthy and legendary fiddler Dave Swarbrick).
All these musicians featured on the next album, imaginatively called The Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, 1976. The music press were very kind. A Melody Maker hack wrote: "The Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra must be one of the most popular acts on the folk scene. Their spontaneous humour and good time songs have held many an audience anchored to the floor in wonder."
Three years later, despite a loyal following and much touring, the "Piggies" decided to throw in the towel. But still it wasn't the end. In 1988, the band reformed, by request, to play at Trowbridge's popular Village Pump Festival.
The gang were so well received and had so much fun that they decided to stay together, add Pat Small and singer Hannah Wedlock (Fred's daughter) to the line-up and go on tour again. Out of it came yet another album, Back On The Road Again. This was in 1991, the year Jim Reynolds and Dave Griffiths joined the band. The following year, Musical History, a compilation album consisting of a selection of tracks taken from 1968 to 1992, was released.
Barry Back, who had been the driving force behind the "Piggies" reunion, sadly died in 1992 and, shortly after, the band decided to pack up for good. Al Read, in his excellent book about the Granary Club, says that the band's first single on the Village Thing label, Shake That Thing/ Cut Across Shorty, can be bought for 47p.
One of the better bands was the Retreads, and were constantly booked to play most of the big venues, and played together with some of the bigger names of the time, Hollies, Searchers, Gene Vincent etc etc.
Jim Durcan, rhythm guitar, Derek Martin lead guitar and Ron Chappell on bass guitar, John Watson on drums. The band was soon signed up for Germany and spent a couple of years working the clubs there and under the management of the Star Palast owner Manfred Woitala, but returning every so often to play the Bristol scene.
While in Germany Jim had an accident and left the band, returning to his hometown Dursley in Glos, in the lineup at that time was a brilliant German pianist Jerry B, (Barthold Dunker) who made a great hit with the fans when the band once more returned to Bristol and on a longer tour covering the whole of the south of England.
After years in Germany and a few gigs in Sweden the Retreads returned to Bristol where eventually the band broke up. ( late 1966 ) Ron and Derek stayed in England and John Watson decided to go back to Sweden.
The Corvettes by Dark Haloun
I joined the corvettes as lead guitarist after Dave Fahy and Ray Truscott left for richer rewards. Steve Thynne had taken over as singer and rhythm guitarist. Geoff Fothergill played bass and Dave " Bocker" Box was on drums. We played most of the halls round Bristol and the villages within a fifty mile radius. Didn't do much for my uni studies but it was fun.
Strictly a covers band, but weren't they all back then. Alan B Williams drove the van and acted as roadie. He was chronically late, and we always told him that we were starting an hour before we really were. Geoff tried to teach me to drive in his Morris Minor, though without much success. When Steve moved on we got Alan Dale in as singer and Mike Morley( I think, memory is not what it used to be) on rhythm guitar. We discovered that Alan could sing a strong falsetto and started to do three part harmonies: Beach boys, Four seasons. It was a point of difference given that there were so many bands doing the same stuff. I was transferred to London and left the band in the mid-sixties.
Kinda lost touch with the guys after that. In 1973 I moved to Perth in Western Australia with my Aussie wife. Played in several bands over the years. For the last four years I've played lead in a sequenced trio, still doing the old fifties and sixties stuff. At 75 years of age it gives me an interest and keeps me off the sreets. Sorry I have nether photos nor memorabilia of the band but the memories remain undiminished. Dark Haloun
Anyone out there name any more ?
Can you Help ?
Does anyone remember the Glen Ballroom, Locarno, Dug Out, The Granary Club, Town's Talk, Corn Exchange or any 1960s clubs or dance halls in Bristol?
I've tried to find info & Pictures of it but no luck so far. We used to go ballroom dancing there back in the 60's. There was a club attached to it but you had to be 18 to get in, they played rock 'n'Roll their as apposed to the 'Proper' dancing in the ballroom.
Does anyone know if any of the Discs a gogo programmes were kept by the old TWW company.I would love to see us doing the Bristol Stomp again!
Anyone have any memories of the Mods & Rockers era and the coffee bars or the local West Coast Hells Angels in Bristol back to a time when British built motorcycles ruled the road ?
As a 51-year old Brisolian stuck in a 1960s timewarp, how many people recall the Monday night sessions between 1966 and 1968 at the then New Bristol Centre in the Locarno ballroom? (sadly now demolished) As I recall, this was THE place in Bristol at the time for 14-18-year-olds, with the entrance fee being 3s 6d for a session from 7pm to 10.30pm.
Records were provided via DJ (anyone recall names?) and there were two bars, The Bali Hai, where if you could stand tiptoe and lower your voice, you might get served with a half of cider by a waitress in a mock grass skirt!
Music was generally Top 30 stuff with a sprinkling of rarer Stax, Atlantic and Motown items which kept the Mods happy, and I am sure many a long-term relationship was started on the dance-floor.
Luckily, prior to demolition I was allowed in, and now am the proud owner of the Bali Hai mock Totem Poles which adorned the entrance to the bar, and also the sign from the Gents Stag Room - my partner thinks I'm crazy!
Chris Powell, Bradley Stoke
Danny Clarke and the Jaguars, Dean Prince and the Dukes, Jonny Slade and the Vikings, Mel Taylor and the Trek a beats, Dee Stars Predictions, A J and the others. The Road Runners.
The Quad. Mark Roman and the Javelins , Franklin big six, The Exiles, Mike Starr and the Citizens. The Blue Sound. The Lincolns, The Travellers The Concords The Ramrods. Dale Martin and the Mysteries. The Retreads The Strange Fruits The Burlington Berties. Venues the Vic rooms Carwadines Cool for cats (Yate) Bath pavilion the Corn Exchange the all nighter and all the church halls.
Mods and Rockers
Email from Chris Powell to me: I was a 17 year old Mod living in St George/ Hanham at the time (1968/9). Most of us rode Lambrettas or Vespas, and The Rockers (or Greasers as we called them) rode old Vincents or Triumphs.
Generally there wasn't any problems although it did kick off big time in the Summer of 1969 around the Centre- there were running battles for 2 or 3 nights and anyone on either a scooter or motorbike was considered "fair game"
A meeting was arranged on College Green between the Pascoe brothers (Willie and Angellino?) who were the "Ace Faces" in the Bristol Mod movement, and the leaders of the Rockers (names N/K)- there was the customary handshake and peace reigned thereafter. In all honesty, most of the "trouble" was built up by the media, as mainly Mods and Rockers were good friends. Indeed, I still have Lambrettas to this day and occaisionally meet Rockers of that era whilst out and about and chinwag over the good old days!
Main "Mod" places were- The Locarno; The Top Rank; The Never on a Sunday Cafe in Fairfax Street: Aunt Gemimas; Coke and Clobber; Beau Brummels on The Centre; The Weigh Inn (spelling) on College Green.
The Rockers used to hang out at The Starsreach Cafe in Staple Hill.