It's So And So And The What's Its. Continued
Play In A Day. It was the elixir of life to so many of the early groups. Just follow the instructions of Bert Weedon and you too could be twanging your way to the top of the charts!

"Mick made a pretty good job of that guitar despite it being quite crude in design. It did us for the time being, especially as there was no way we would be getting a new proper guitar."

"Mick fixed a broken cello shaped guitar belonging to a feller named Roy Fullard. The neck had got broken and Roy offered it to me for 30s. It had cost about nineteen quid, or three weeks wages.

That meant we had two guitars. We started to attack Bert Weedon’s book. Later we used Keith Papworth’s book which showed you a lot of quite intricate chord sequences. In that way we progressed with our playing."


Many young guitarists found it impossible to find a teacher, others did not use Bert Weedon's book so they resorted to trial and error. They listened to the records and then tried to copy them. It must have taken hours for those records to be played and for each chord sequence to be learnt, but this became quite a normal procedure for many of the budding rock and pop musicians. One local player who does recall following such a time-consuming method is John Howells who was the original lead singer with the Vendors who later evolved into the 'N Betweens:

"I started playing direct from school. I'd watched Danny Cannon for some time because he was rather like the Bilston super star. Once I got hold of a guitar I was away."

"I used to try and learn a few chords to begin with and then use those to play along in my own rough way with the records of the time. I would listen to the radio and copy that as well. It was simply a case of trial and error and try and try again."

"Mick Marson (another member of the original group) also got hold of a guitar and began to do the same as me. We would exchange notes and ideas. I'd known Mick for years and we'd been to Etheridge School together. Next, we started getting the sheet music for all the hits from Bilston market."

"Mick bought a Watkins 80 from the Band Box on Snow Hill and I went to Birmingham to buy a Futurama. Don Powell (drummer with the group) started to play along with us. He'd been to school with us as well. In that way the early group began."

When Les Parker joined the Tremors, the lead guitarist was Mick Blythe (later to join the Redcaps) who was an absolute stickler for getting everything correct:

"We would listen to the record and Mick would get us to practise it over and over again until he was satisfied that it was right. He wanted the sound, the chord changes, the echo right. He would keep doing it until he was satisfied that the group had it just perfect. It s not surprising that Mick was one of the most outstanding guitarists around the area at the time."

He also recalls that as a member of the Black Diamonds he was in a group which was making a very determined attempt to emulate Cliff and the Shadows:

"Pete Spooner was the lead singer at the time and he modelled himself on Cliff, appearing in the most outrageous clothes for the time. He would wear gold lame suits and sell a song to the girls, very much like Cliff. Mind you, he was a good looking bloke."

"We had moved on as a group from the early skiffle days with new instruments which had tremolo arms which provided us with more of the twangy sound which Hank Marvin could get. We were using amplifiers which provided us with quite a decent sound, even if they were only 15-30 watts."

"I had moved from the big string bass to a bass guitar. I remember seeing Buddy Holly and the Crickets and deciding that what I wanted was a bass guitar like they had in that group. My father made the body of my first bass guitar. It had strings which Band Box got from America. I put the name Remington on the top of that first bass guitar."

Black Diamonds. In Pete Spooner the Black Diamonds had one of the most extrovert of lead singers. The local girls apparently loved him! (Wolverhampton Chronicle)
Black Diamonds. It was their whole hearted approach which won so many fans over to the Black Diamonds.
Black Diamonds. The Gaumont would fairly shake on a Saturday morning once the Black Diamonds got going.

Other groups also realised that increased amplification was a must, if they were going to gain any sort of success, even of a limited nature.

Tommy Burton described those early 'amplified' days with the Combo and the need for D.I.Y:

"I'd got a 15 watt Selmer True Voice amp which was probably made shortly after the war, so it was already old in those early days. It had one 12 inch Goodman speaker in it. The bass player had got a bigger version of the True Voice and Colin (Burton) had made a linear amplifier from a kit with a couple of speakers. I bought a linear amplifier but I needed a couple of speakers. I got two Goodman speakers and I wrote to the manufacturers telling them what I planned to do. Goodman wrote back and told me I needed a four foot square back-up board for both speakers. I thought 'what the hell are they about, I could never fetch and carry that load of stuff. So I crammed them into a box I had made. They were blowing the suspension however. My next idea was to get some 7inch plain wood and knock it all around the inside of the box and put draught excluder all around it, sealing the speakers in. It did the trick. A few years later VOX introduced pressurised cabinets which were just like my old box."

Watkins Dominator. What group could possibly want all of 17 watts from their amplifier?

John O'Hara tells of the precarious state of things during his earliest days on the group scene with Johnny Ford and the Classics:

"We had a little Watkins Dominator, one little triangular amp with two people singing, three guitars which all played through the same amp. It used to bump right across the stage."

Len Beddow describes a not too dissimilar experience with the early Ramrods:

"We used to try and find something which sounded in tune and just sing along to it. We didn’t think it sounded too bad. It was as a result of such 'rehearsing' that we got our first gig. We got paid ten cigarettes each, probably Woodbines. We had a little 5 watt amp and we were all plugged into it. We had one jack plug and five sets of leads."

"About three months later someone came along and asked us how we tuned the guitars. We looked at each other and the general answer was that the guitars were tuned we bought them. We did not realise that they had to be tuned each time you used them. It was only after tuning them that we realised why Danny was always singing out of tune!"

Mo Foster had been tinkering around with radios and their various components since he was quite young. His intention was to produce a sound mixer. It was when he heard Rebel Rouser by the American guitarist Duane Eddy that he really became interested in developing 'echoey' sounds from instruments. Duane Eddy recorded his famous 'twang' sound in a 2,100 gallon water tank in Phoenix, while Apache was recorded in a tiled room in Abbey Road which was outside the main building. Mo started to record the Tradewinds in his bedroom at home in Brewood with a Grundig TK5 tape recorder. The first recording was the group's rendition of Cliff's Living Doll. He next used the school gymnasium and then the hall in his parents' bungalow. Finally, like so many young groups of the time the Watkins Copycat tape echo was used. It cost just over thirty eight pounds.

The number of groups which existed around the local area showed a steady increase during the first few years of the 60s. They became increasingly more professional with better stage presentation, amplification and instrumentation. While the groups which existed at that time could never claim the same degree of support that existed for groups after the emergence of the Beatles and the Beat Boom in 1963-64, they still had their fans who rated them superior to other local groups and on a par with many of the better known performers who were making it into the charts.
Watkins Copicat.  To achieve those all important echoey sounds.
Here are some of the comments made by fans about their particular favourites from those early years:

"Bilston had the Ramrods and we thought they were tremendous. There was no way that we considered that they came from Wolverhampton. Remember in those days Bilston was a separate town.”

"The Town Hall on a Saturday night was buzzing whenever the Ramrods played. Danny Cannon was great. He could really rock it up. I remember that he used to do quite a few of the old Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochrane numbers. That was my type of music."

Danny Cannon & the Ramrods. To many Wulfrunians and certainly most Bilstonians there was no group like the Ramrods! (Len Beddow)

"I thought that the Ramrods were definitely the best of the local groups. In fact, I would argue that Wolverhampton had no group capable of living with the Ramrods in those early days.”

“It was rock 'n' roll that we wanted, not some of that ballad stuff which was becoming quite popular at the time. Whenever the Ramrods were on anywhere near to home then I would be there. You could be sure of a really good rocking night.”

"I'd go to the Dorchester and the Scala because they were near to each other and I lived in Penn fields so it was easy just to walk along Lea Road and on to Penn Road. You would go past the Central Boys Club and on into Worcester Street or Temple Street, according to where you were going. I would only go though if the Tommy Burton Combo was on. They were the only Wolverhampton band who could play real rock 'n' roll.”

“Tommy Burton and the Combo were the first rock band I ever saw. It was at the Staffordshire Volunteer in the days when Mr. Alexander kept it. While the place was quite rough, it was worth the hassle just to see Tommy.”

“I still go whenever the Tommy Burton Combo play at the Shepwell Green Social Club. They still sound great and can still play numbers like Piltdown Rides Again and some of those Bill Haley numbers better than anyone.”

"He was never a rocker but Steve Brett had a great sound. He became a Country and Western singer I suppose you could say, but in the early days we thought of him as a bit of an Elvis. I remember he used to do a really good version of Welcome To My World, the old Jim Reeves number.”

“Steve Brett and the original Mavericks had some really top musicians in it. I remember seeing Dave Holland playing guitar with Steve and I saw him only recently at Ronnie Scott’s Club in Birmingham. He’s played with some of the top jazz musicians in his time but he started with Steve Brett.”

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