Goblin Ready Meals And Ambrosia Creamed Rice. Continued

Steve Brett & the Mavericks. The second set of Mavericks which included Noddy Holder (far right) and Pete Bickley (second on the left). It was this group which travelled to Germany as Steve's backing group during his second visit. (Steve Brett)

Steve Brett visited Germany on at least two occasions, with the two versions of the Mavericks. It was during his first visit that he played on Hamburg's famous Grosse Freiheit, at the Hip Club:

"My first visit to Hamburg was after For Teenagers Only came off the air. We managed to get a season at the Hip Club in Hamburg and of course every English group wanted to play in Hamburg, like the Beatles, especially on the Grosse Freiheit where the Star Club was located."

"I remember before we left for the Continent, Gary’s mother made him have all the injections, as if he was going to darkest Africa. Anyway, as a result of those injections he had to spend some time in a Birmingham hospital."

"Dave Holland couldn’t come over to Germany because he was too young to get a work permit. We had to leave him behind and find a replacement."

"While in Hamburg we lived in a hotel, not a three star to say the least, but at least it was better than we expected Anyway, the one day we were told by the lady proprietor that she had not received any money from the promoters and we were thrown out. We had to sleep in some really grotty bunks in the club after that."

"We complained to the German Police and they actually closed the club because they were intent on getting the promoters for a series of offences. In fact, the promoters drove us to Ostend and dumped us there with our instruments on the dock side. It was only because we bumped into the Ford Racing team that we managed to get over to Dover. My mom paid for us to get back to Wolverhampton from Dover."

"During the second visit to Germany with the new Mavericks, I was arrested and put in prison after an accident in Frankfurt.

I was put in a cell with about a dozen other foreigners. Eventually, I was the only one left in the cell because all the other blokes had been moved on. I did manage to get to see the British Consul and after a night in the cells I was able to get back to the group.

They were not too happy since they had no idea where I had been and I had all the passports on me.

That accident was probably the beginning of the end for that group of Mavericks."

Steve Brett & the Mavericks. The group posing for the cameras for one of their publicity shots. (Steve Brett)
The last set of reminiscences about Germany come from Len Beddow who went there with Herbie's People (Danny Cannon and the Ramrods):

"After we made our first record we felt that we must be on our way to the big time and it was logical to go to Germany and play like most every other British group. We went to Dusseldorff but it was not quite as glamorous as we expected. We broke down on the way in Belgium, and we really suffered while we were there."

Herbie's People. On stage in Germany. Notice the requisite leather cap, shades and black polo necks. It was the uniform for British groups at the time. (Len Beddow)

"I remember us stopping one night and saying to each other that we would laugh about our experiences one day in the future. I think I'm still waiting to have that good laugh. Anyway, the hours were horrendous, we used to get one meal a day which we shared, standing up, at the Schnellessen (Quick Eat), our living accommodation was chronic with us all living in the same room together and with our heating being our own primus stove which we had taken out with us. We had also taken some tins of food and they became our emergency rations. It seemed we were constantly in an emergency."

"Danny had taken a packet of Quaker Oats and he would not let anyone else share those oats. He swore blind that he needed the oats, his dried milk and his sugar regularly if he was to keep his voice for the eight hours we were performing at night. One day we hid the packet and Danny went berserk. If we had not admitted to taking it, he would have set about Aye Up (our name for him) the janitor who we swore must have pinched the packet."

"I suppose it was rather like being in a POW camp or like those kids in Lord Of The Flies who turn on each other. It was all quite frightening and a great test for the group’s individual friendships. If any group could withstand the privations of life in Germany in the 60s, they could withstand most anything.”

Visits to Germany and other parts of the Continent by local groups were to continue throughout the 60s and even into the first few years of the 70s.

Such visits were to prove most important in the learning cycle for those groups. In many cases, as expressed by so many of the group members, the time spent in Germany usually helped to 'tighten up' a group and make them much more professional.

Apart from those groups mentioned above, other local groups who visited Germany included:

Herbie's People. Same German stage, same uniform. This time they are supported by the Union Jack! (Len Beddow)
aka Shades Of Night
Giorgio & Marco's Men
Johnny Love & Sceptres aka Love's Lot aka Arrangement
Poverty Incorporated
Band Of Joy
System aka Jam Sandwich aka Aaron's Rod
Scarlet Religion (as Jimmy Powell's backing group the Dimensions)
Tangerine Flake
Cardboard Replica
Despite the hardships and difficulties experienced by most groups during their 'tours of duty' on the German club scene, there is fairly unanimous agreement that the positives far outweighed any negatives. The increased tightness of sound which is mentioned by most observers was the greatest gain and worth the long hours, cramped living conditions and frugal diet. Once back in this country most of the groups felt that they were better prepared for the changing British music scene and the all-important search for the elusive recording contract, especially if the group had the benefits of astute management.

The smallest of groups invariably had managers right from their earliest beginnings. In many cases, it was a parent, close associate or even a member of the group who took on such a role and concentrated on getting increased numbers of bookings for their charges. As the scene became more professional, the nature of management changed correspondingly. It was no longer sufficient for a group to have a well-meaning, but semi-professional manager, it now required an 'organisation'. Possibly, the main reason once again for the change was the Beatles and their manager, Brian Epstein. As John Lennon stated after Epstein's death in August 1967:

“We'd never have made it without him, and vice versa.”

Brian Epstein was responsible for the record department of his family's NEMS chain of stores. In fact, by 1961 he had made NEMS into the largest and most comprehensive record store, not only in Liverpool but in the whole of the North of England. It must therefore have come as something of a surprise when a young man named Raymond Jones walked into his store on October 28th 1961 and requested a copy of My Bonnie by a local group called the Beatles and the store did not have a copy of the record. When he discovered that the group was playing at the Cavern in Mathew Street, he went around and became 'intoxicated' by their sound and more especially, their appearance.

By the middle of December he had signed them to a management contract and set out to get them established with a record company. Although he failed to get contracts with a number of companies, most notably Decca, he persevered and finally he managed to get the 'famous' audition with George Martin in June 1962. Once the contract with EMI was signed, it would seem that Epstein entered into a world that he really did not understand and despite the successes of some of his other Liverpool signings like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer etc. he became increasingly unstable and in August 1967 he committed suicide.

Cavern. Where it all began for the Beatles, for the Liverpool Sound and indirectly for most every other group in the country, including Wolverhampton.
While his life ended in such a tragic manner, he did create a model and set a standard that many young, burgeoning group managers attempted to follow, both nationally and locally.

In the early days it was enough for the manager or agency to get the group work for the next few evenings, later it was not enough unless the group was working for the next few months, was involved in negotiating record and media contracts and appearing on national package tours.

It is possible to cite a number of examples within the local area.

In the earliest days of the Beat Boom, new groups seemed to appear daily. Some were good, many were bad and the majority were indifferent, but they all needed managing. One of the smaller groups in the area was the Rockin' Rustlers and their 'manager' was Barry Hodgson. He describes how he got involved and the nature of his work for the group:

"I got involved almost by accident. I was an apprentice at the time and worked with a member of the group. He told me that they were only playing about twice a week and getting about two quid for the evening. I decided to try and get them more bookings in return for 12.5% of the takings. It was agreed and so I began travelling around to find new gigs and getting up to about twelve pounds for the group. They were over the moon whenever I managed that."

"I used to take them to their bookings in a Ford prefect and a Bond three-wheeler I had. I would never stop for the gig because I would go off and try and get them new bookings. I would help them set up and pack away. I became a sort of manager and roadie."

"The group had quite big aspirations but I don't think there was really much likelihood of them making it because they basically lacked the required musical ability and also the stickability which was needed to keep down full-time jobs and play in a group at night. The one exception was Mick Brookes who was a genuinely good guitarist as he proved later with the Californians."

"I used to travel quite far a field and try to search out venues where we had not played before and where it seemed they didn't have groups on normally. I would go to pubs, WMCs, Social Clubs, schools, anywhere that I considered we could get a gig."

"Once you got to the new venue you searched out the social secretary and worked on him. The obvious ploy was to tell him that you had been to one of his rivals and they had offered so much, but if he offered more then you would play there instead. It very often worked."

Rockin' Rustlers. An excellent example of one of the local groups who would never really succeed but were intent on playing, anywhere! The lead guitarist on the extreme right is Mick Brookes (later of the Californians). (Barry Hodgson)

"We used to play at wedding receptions, fetes, birthday parties, any occasion in fact. I would keep an eye on the Express & Star for the announcements of forthcoming celebrations and contact the people as quickly as possible. It became quite common for people to book live bands for their personal celebrations."

"The most common gig was a dance at one of the pubs in the area like the Bushbury Arms on Showell Circus or at a Youth Club like St. Giles in Willenhall. That venue became one of the most famous and I still have no idea how John Squires used to be able to book so many top groups to play for him and the club. He was one of the biggest fans and champions of the 'N Betweens."

"I set up an index system which included the names of the venues, the social secretaries, licensees or the right people to contact, the telephone numbers and the fee etc. It was rather like an early form of data base. Many of the bookings would come by word of mouth when a social secretary or someone would come over to you at another gig and tell you how desperate they were for a group on a particular evening. Remember in those days all the pubs and clubs wanted to have a group playing."

"I suppose the group made one serious attempt to gain greater recognition when it was arranged for them to go over to Hollick & Taylor in Birmingham and make a demo. The demo was sent off to one of the TV companies, probably ATV, to be included in a national group competition called Ready Steady Win. We never heard anything else about it. I suppose that and Mick Brookes leaving the group probably hastened the end of the Rockin' Rustlers."

"We were just a very small part of a growing business and we needed an organised system. It is not surprising that the bigger the group the greater the need for a centralised system. You can see why Astra and other local agencies succeeded if they offered a group a means of getting bookings, receiving fees etc. and leaving the group just to play the music."

Barry Hodgson did not stay in the music business, although he did have some involvement with another group, a little later, called the Syndicate. They were a group of apprentices from Stewart and Lloyd's and included Percy Davies who was to become a member of both the Bossmen and the Ebonies.

Perhaps the most intriguing local example of a group manager was Michael Crook who managed Giorgio & Marco's Men. He became the parish priest at St. Mary and John's Church on Snow Hill in Wolverhampton in 1963:

"I arrived in February 1963 and was asked on my first Saturday morning by a group of local teenagers from the parish, if I would continue to run the flourishing Youth Club which was based in Tempest Street, by the side of the Gaumont. I agreed."

"The club had its own group which included Marco Ucellini, Mike O'Dowd, Peter Burns and Podge Birkett. They used home-made instruments and amplifiers and were not too bad at all, especially Marco who was a very talented musician."

"The group started to get bookings at other Catholic Youth Clubs like St. Mary’s on Cannock Road and down at St. Peter and Paul’. As I had an estate car at the time I started to take them and their instruments to their gigs. I suppose it was that involvement which ultimately led to my becoming their manager."

"One person who deserves a lot of credit for the later success of the group was Bishop Cleary who remained very supportive of the group and actually agreed to loan the money which I used to supply them with their new instruments and amplifiers. The amplifiers came from a friend of mine who owned an electrical business in Sutton Coldfield, the new instruments came from Yardley’s in Birmingham."

"Obviously my parish commitments meant that I could not always take the group to bookings, so it was fortuitous that a later member of the group, named Rex, was involved in the motor trade and able to get hold of a diesel van which became the group’s van. He drove it as well. Another parishioner, who was a sign writer put the group’s name on the side of the van."

"My position as a priest worked to the advantage of the group in many cases because I was able to get into some places via the dog-collar which otherwise I would never have got into. It also opened doors with certain performers like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, and Dusty Springfield."

"We never had any links with Astra in Wolverhampton. We worked through ADSEL in Birmingham (Arthur Douglas Smith Enterprises), although I can't remember how the link came about. It was through ADSEL that the boys got to do the Silver Blades Ice Rinks quite often."

"When we were featured in Midland Beat I remember I had to try and get local companies to buy advertising space in the paper. Once again my dog-collar was advantageous and I managed to get King’s, His Casuals and D 'Anna’s to take space."

Giorgio & Marco's Men. St. Mary & John's finest. A group which evolved from the church Youth Club and became extremely popular all over the Midlands and further afield. They were one of the few local groups not to be managed by Roger Allen or Astra. In the foreground are Marco and Giorgio Ucellini.
"I do feel that having a priest as a manager was advantageous to the group on the whole.

It gave them a distinctiveness, it opened many doors which would otherwise have remained shut and it helped to keep their image wholesome which also meant that they were able to get some bookings which other groups could not get.

Ultimately I could not remain the manager because of my occupation and personal matters."

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