2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life

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Little Richard………comes to Manchester in 1963

I played in a support band at one of his shows.Management pulled us off as the Teddy Boys in the audience, jiving with each other, didn’t appreciate our Motown covers. Not quite as bad as The Blues Brothers being bottled but you get the idea!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

In 1963 I was fifteen years old and just getting into my stride with pop music. There was little opportunity to listen to pop music as the BBC rigidly controlled the airwaves and looked down on popular music with considerable distaste. The best we could aspire to in those days was “Family Favourites” on the radio (on Sunday dinner time, thats midday for those who live in the south), which would very occasionally play something “new”. Most of the time it was music requested by families (many in the forces) and was of the 30s, 40,s and occasionally 50s eras.

In 1963 the Beatles had begun to make waives and not long after the “beat boom” exploded with bands pouring out of many major cities, but particularly Liverpool.

Many of the British bands had been influenced by American R&B, country blues and gospel music (It was Bonnie Raitt who said…

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Remembering the Astoria Ballroom in Rawtenstall, Lancashire

Walking round the Farmers’ Market in Rawtenstall yesterday and playing hide and seek with my grandson I suddenly spotted these mosaic tiles on the edges of a large planter.

I realised it was a tribute to the old Astoria Ballroom. If I’d seen the plaque first, commemorating the mosaic being opened by Bobby Elliott – a Burnley lad who drummed for The Hollies – I would have realised.

So here are tributes to some of the bands which played there from dance bands to The Hollies, The Four Pennies, the Spencer Davis Group and The Who (but no mention of the Walker Brothers). I remember it well from playing there. Happy days!p1040283p1040284 p1040285 p1040287 p1040288




Beat music

SCAN01611964 and my favourite music magazine, alongside the New Musical Express, was BEAT monthly. Beat was the name used at the time for popular music (not a reference to the beat generation).

This is my oldest surviving copy, No. 14, the August 1964 issue, priced at 1s 6d (or 7.5p in “new” money). It’s obviously been well-read judging by the sellotape repairs.

On the front cover is George Harrison and on the back the Bachelors. Strange bedfellows you might think but there was a lot of variety at the time.SCAN0162

Brian Poole and the Tremeloes were pictured inside the front cover, famous for their cover of the Contours “Do You Love Me”.

Underneath the editorial column on p3 – which congratulated the Animals for having a hit with “House of the Rising Sun“. A 4.5 mins long record almost unheard of the time- was a feature on Merseybeat bassist Johnny Gustafson formerly of the Big Three (famous for “Some Other Guy” which everybody copied including the Beatles).

Another member of a Liverpudlian group, Chris Curtis of the Searchers was next up for a full page feature (the only non-scouser in the group he came from Oldham).

Then its a piece called “Backstage with the Stones” describing what happens before and after at a concert. In those days they wore their street clothes on stage.

Then 2 pages on Lulu and the Luvvers, this month’s “Group of the Month“. A full page photo and then a write-up on 15-year old Lulu and her 5-piece backing band.

Next up is a piece on the Downliners Sect, described as one of the finest R n B bands in the country, sharing a page with Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders, a Birmingham outfit who had a single out calledOh what a sweet thing that was”

SCAN0163This was followed by a full page advert for Rickenbacker guitars, Very tasty but no prices mentioned. They refer to the Beatles Rickenbacker sound in the advert although ironically George Harrison is shown with a Gretsch on the front cover. FYI John Lennon’s Rickenbacker was valued at $800,000 in an auction held by Ringo Starr last year.

Then we have a couple of pages of information about groups touring schedules and the results of the Individual Pop Poll. George Harrison topped it ahead of Paul, Brian Jones of the Stones, John Lennon and Hank B Marvin.

The rest of the list comprised members of the Searchers, Wayne Fontana, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Merseybeats, the Moody Blues, the Animals, the Hollies, Manfred Mann, and Brian Poole and the Tremeloes, with solo artists like Joe Brown and the only American in there, Chuck Berry. 

Also on this page a discussion about long hair and whether it was a good thing basically contrasting the Stones with the Dave Clarke Five. Do you remember the flack you got if you grew your hair long?

Centre spread was a posed picture of the Searchers holding their drummer across some railway tracks! Make of that what you will.

SCAN0164A page of gossip about most the the groups already mentioned opposite a full page advert for Vox amps. Yes I did have a Vox AC30 treble boost and foolishly sold it along with my pink stratocaster! If only …

What else, well a page shared by the Swinging Blue Jeans and the Hollies then a page on “Player of the Month” who was Denny Payton, sax player with the DC5 and who, allegedly, was told  by Cassius Clay that he was the next prettiest man in the world.

Moving to the back pages now with a page on John, George and Rickenbacker which happens to mention the price of John’s 1996 model as 159 guineas (or£238.50 in today’s money) at a time when people earned on average £18 a week or £960 a year. A house cost £3,360 and it would take 3 month’s pay to buy a Ricky – or any other top brand guitar for that matter.

Next a page devoted to the Animals and their hit with “House of the Rising Sun” in which they admit changing the lyrics to avoid problems with the BBC (as experienced by the Sundowners‘ earlier version which was true to Josh White‘s original story of a brothel).

No magazine would be without its record reviews. New discs mentioned this month included: The Merseybeats “Wishing & Hoping, the Searchers “Some Day we’re gonna love again, the BeatlesA Hard Day’s Night“, Manfred Mann’sDo Wah Diddy”, Freddie & the DreamersJust for you“, the HoneycombsHave I the Right“, and LPs by the Beatles and Cliff & the Shadows.

And let’s not forget the letters page where you could win £2 for the best letter, in this instance one complaining about the now “rusty mersey sound” and how the best groups have changed their style.

If you’re still with me the next page is devoted to the Honeycombs with the focus on drummer Honey Langtree “a very pretty 20-year old” whose brother plays bass guitar.

Tucked away at the bottom of the page is the Popularity Poll of Groups which give you a flavour of what was happening in 1964.

  1. The Rolling Stones – joint top with
  2. The Beatles
  3. The Shadows
  4. The Hollies
  5. The Dave Clark Five
  6. Brian Poole & the Tremeloes
  7. The Pretty Things
  8. The Searchers
  9. Peter & Gordon
  10. The Merseybeats
  11. Manfred Mann
  12. The Swinging Blue Jeans
  13. Gerry & the Pacemakers
  14. The Mojos
  15. Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders
  16. The Four Pennies
  17. The Yardbirds
  18. The Bachelors
  19. The Kinks
  20. The Animals

How many of those do you remember and how many are still around today?

And finally a piece on the Barron Knights who made a living out of parodying other groups in the style of a show band.

As I said earlier a wide range of artists at a time when British pop music ruled the world.


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Elvis – don’t be cruel!

A verse written by Elvis for his hairdresser Homer Gilleland in the early 70s went up for auction in Los Angeles inNovember. Mr Gilleland was Elvis’s hairdresser for twenty years and said Elvis often recited the verse to him. He asked Elvis to write it down so he could show his friends, which he did and signed it EP. Mr Gilleland said it demonstrated Elvis’s sense of humour.

The poem goes:

As I awoke this morning, when all sweet things are born

a robin perched on my window sill to greet the coming dawn

He sang his sweet song so sweetly and paused for a moment’s lull.

I gently raised the window and crushed his F*****g skull”

A spokesman for the auctioneers said “This poem is really quite shocking and not something you would expect from the King. He obviously never intended for it to be published” You don’t say!


Rock ‘n Roll favourites that never hit the charts in the UK

music_square_icon_1600_wht_7971That esteemed publication Vintage Rock published a fascinating article this month called “40 Rock ‘n’ Roll hits that missed“.

Some great songs that never made it into the UK charts. I’m not going to list them all – you can buy the magazine for that – but here are some that resonate with me for various reasons, mainly because I played them in various groups I performed with.

Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry (1958) was  Berry’s 6th million-seller in America but amazingly it never even dented the UK charts. Although autobiographical Johnny has also been said to refer to his pianist Johnnie Johnson (although Johnson didn’t actually play on this record).

Every group in the 60s played this with its memorable intro (alleged to be copied from Louis Jordan’sAin’t that just like a women“) and later generations will remember it from the film Back to the Future.

Louie Louie by Richard Berry (1957) but recorded by over 300 artists including the Kingsmen for whom it was a hit. One of the most recorded songs of all time (for which he eventually received substantial royalties) and another firm favourite with groups in the 60s. Just 3 chords and a set of maracas was all you needed to get the crowd going.

What’d I say by Ray Charles (1959). I remember this was on the jukebox at the corner cafe (alongside Johnny Kidd and the Pirates) and was one of those 12-bar blues tunes with a riff that lent itself to a twangy guitar. I was so pleased when I learned to play it. And with the call and response pattern it must rank as an early soul tune.

Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day (1958) reached No 2 on the American charts. Another upbeat 12-bar blues format song  popular with groups after the Hollies covered it in the early 60s. (I think our singer got a bit fed up with all that tweeting in the end.)

What I didn’t know was that Bobby Day was the original Bob in Bob and Earl who made that fabulous soul record Harlem Shuffle (which I also played).

Do You Wanna Dance by Bobby Freeman (1958). Another Bobby who had a top 5 hit with this in America. I knew it from the cover by Cliff Richard and the Shadows who released it as a B side in 1962. Another 3 chord song which was easy for groups to play.

I didn’t know there was a false ending on the original (where the song is brought back in on an ascending arpeggio similar to What’d I say) until I watched it on YouTube. Unfortunately it’s an embarrassing setting with Freeman dressed as a circus master serenading a baby elephant. Almost as bad as Elvis singing Hound Dog to a hound in a top hat!

Shout by the Isley Brothers (1959) was the record which made Lulu and the Luvvers famous in 1964 and a precursor to Twist and Shout which the Beatles recorded in 1963. Never performed Shout but loads of groups did and we succumbed to performing Twist and Shout (again with that arpeggio device towards the end). The Isleys made more  great records after that.

La Bamba by Ritchie Valens (1958)was based on a Mexican folk song from the state of Veracruz and made the American top 40. Similar in structure to Twist and Shout but with the Mexican flourishes which were a gift for a guitarist. It was a double sided single with Donna (a hit for Marty Wilde in the UK).

Hippy Hippy Shake by Chan Romero (1959). Romero was seen as a successor to Ritchie Valens and recorded this just two weeks after his death. Another 12-bar blues format song with a catchy riff that made it popular with groups it became a hit for the Swinging Blue Jeans in 1963.

Money (that’s what I want) by Barrett Strong (1960) reached No 2 in the R & B charts. Written by Berry Gordy and one of the first, if not the first, record released on Tamla Motown records. Popular with groups for its raunchy riff and its call and response format it was covered by most British groups including the Beatles and the Searchers. I was taught to play it by a scouser on a coach journey to a Butlins holiday camp who told me it was popular down the Cavern.

Old Black Joe was a song written by famous 19c songwriter Stephen Foster and was the first song I learned to play when I got a real guitar in 1961. I assumed – wrongly -that it was a gospel/plantation song along the lines of Lucky Old Sun (recently recorded by Bob Dylan) and probably from the same songbook.

My Dad encouraged me to learn it probably because he liked Paul Robeson who sang it. I didn’t know it had been recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis or become a rockabilly staple and I don’t think my Dad ever found out either! I never performed it but here is Jerry Lee’s version:

So thanks again for the inspiration for this post Vintage Rock magazine

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Walker Brothers played Rawtenstall Astoria 50 years ago

WalkerBros-240765It’s hard to believe it’s 50 years since the Walker Brothers were due to play at the Imperial Ballroom in Nelson, Lancashire. From memory I think that gig was cancelled and they later played at the Astoria Ballroom in Rawtenstall, Lancashire in early August – according my reliable source Ken Stott.

They were supported on that occasion by local group The Avalons. So I was there sharing a dressing room with these affable Americans.

They weren’t actually brothers but we didn’t know that at the time and with their good looks, Beatles-style hair and great singing voices were a deserved hit in the UK. Their big hit at the time, and their first UK No 1, was “Make it easy on yourself”

They were bigger in the UK than back in America and I saw a YouTube of Tom Rush performing their 1975 hit “No Regrets” which he wrote. He introduced it by saying that it wasn’t his best song but an English group had a hit with it and it paid for his sons’ education.

So some Americans thought they were an English group. More info here 


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50th anniversary of supporting the Who

Never to be forgotten night supporting the Who at the Astoria in May 1965

Never to be forgotten night supporting the Who at the Astoria in May 1965

It’s 50 years today since I played with The Avalons at the Astoria Ballroom in a little town called Rawtenstall in Lancashire.

We were supporting a top group from London which had already had chart success and appeared on TV. They were The Who.

The ballroom was packed and everyone was eagerly anticipating the headliners. We played our set, as did the other supporting group The Imps, and then enjoyed a very loud performance from the Who. But not before we had to do another set. Keith Moon had gone walkabout in Rawtenstall borrowing our drummer’s jacket.

Beforehand we’d been sharing a backstage area with them and they were a friendly lot. Keith Moon was probably the friendliest whereas Pete Townshend kept himself apart a little bit. He was drinking red wine from the bottle unaware that Keith Moon had urinated in it!

Roy, our drummer remembers that Keith Moon gave him a handful of drumsticks, which he still has, and a beater for a bass/kick drum. He also got to play Keith Moon’s Ludwig kit as they stripped down his own and took it off stage to make room for the Who’s. It was after Roy commented to Keith about the solid sound of his bass drum that Moon put down to the beater that he gave it to Roy (later sold with the drum kit). Crazy but generous.

The Who was using an old ice-cream van (the ones with the elevated roof) as their transport which was quite interesting. One of their road crew offered to sell us a Vox 100 watt amplifier (something beyond our wildest dreams as we were using Vox AC30s and don’t think we’d seen one so big).

I think he wanted £100 for it but apart from the fact we didn’t have that kind of money the amp was stencilled all over with the name of the TV show from which it had been “liberated”.

My friend David, our vocalist, remembers the night vividly and looking back he thinks even then they were a competitive lot which gave rise to some of the tension.

However you’ve got to agree the Who were, and still are when they perform, a great rock band and it was a privilege to support them on that night 50 years ago.