Jimi Hendrix Bought Our Cooker. Continued

Finders Keepers made some records, the most famous of which was called Light. Alan Clee was the lead guitarist with the group (as he still is) and he remembers the making of that record very well:

"We were convinced that Light would be a hit. It was produced by the great Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers and we were sure that if he was involved, it was sure to work. The sound was great but there was something lacking, probably Scott’s total interest to be honest."

Finders Keepers. The group are pictured 'relaxing' in their suits in a West Midland park.

"I never played on the recordings. It had to be session men, that was the rules set by the Union. I didn't really mind because the fellers who did play were excellent, certainly better than me."

"I did play on the Brumbeat LP when we were the Strangers. I remember at one point when Les Reed asked me to play a B flat augmented. I hadn't the foggiest idea what he was talking about and I told him so. He just sang it."

Roy (Dripper) Kent thought the whole process of making a record was interesting to say the least:

"To see the whole thing come together was an education in itself. We had whole orchestras in the studios and backing vocals by people like Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway and Joe Brown‘s wife. It was great. They were all there for us and Scott Walker was just one of the boys."

"The whole recording took some time because of the double tracking etc. Nowadays it’s all done automatically."

"When we recorded there was always a chart clause in the contract. In other words, the higher up the charts it might get, the more you would receive in money. It was quite exciting just to see such contracts."

Another local group who made it to the recording studios was Lady Jayne and Royaltee, known as Royalty on the record. Anna Terrana (Lady Jayne) was another performer who found the recording process 'special':

"We made the record on CBS and to go down to the recording studios was really awe inspiring. I found making a record one of the most interesting things I have ever done. The session men were so accomplished. You rated some of the group musicians but they were not the same standard as those fellers."

"The record was supposed to capture a Mamas and Papas sound and I feel it did just that. While it was not much of a hit, it was great just to make the record. Like so many others, it was the making of a record which was the ultimate aim."

Without any doubt the most successful group to emerge from this area was Slade but they first entered the recording studios as the 'N Betweens and then as Ambrose Slade.

Lady Jayne & Royaltee.  The group possessed one definite advantage, their pretty lead singer Anna Terrana. Here we see the lads surrounding their greatest asset. (Anna Terrana)

The first recording by the 'N Betweens (John Howells/ Mick Marson/Dave Hill/Dave 'Cass' Jones/Don Powell) to be made in a 'proper' studio was actually released by the French Barclay label. The group had been auditioned at the Le Metro in Birmingham. The record comprised four tracks on an EP, the tracks being Take A Heart / Feel So Fine / Little Nightingale / You Don’t Believe Me. Whilst the record was released by Barclay in France, it was actually made at the Pye studios in Britain. According to John Ogden:

"The 'N Betweens have put down four raving tracks for the Barclay company from France. The tracks have a typical 'N Betweens sound with a hard driving bluesy beat."

'N Betweens. Another at home shot of one of the area's best groups. This was before the split which was going to tear the group asunder. (John Howells)
The strange thing was that the four tracks which John Ogden had witnessed being recorded were not the four tracks which the company released as an EP by the 'In-Betweens'. He had been in the studios during the making of I Wish you Would / Can Your Monkey Do The Dog? / Ooh Poo Pa Doo / Respectable which were four hard, driving, bluesy numbers. Apparently Bobby Graham who was the A&R man for the record session felt that the four numbers which were released by Barclay were more 'acceptable' to the French record-buying public. The recording was not released in Britain.

The next time the group went into a recording studios, it was with a very different line-up. The new 'N Betweens comprised Noddy Holder/Dave Hill/Jimmy Lea/Don Powell. The record session took place in 1966, as Jimmy Lea recalls:

"We were playing at Tiles Club in London and we noticed a strange looking feller with a big hat and feather boa. He was about 6feet 5 inches in height so it was difficult not to notice him. He was an American named Kim Fowley. He told us he wanted to arrange a recording session for us. I was over the moon."

"We went into Regent Sound in Denmark Street to record You Better Run and Evil Witchman. The Rolling Stones had recorded there and the Beatles had done demos there so it had a pretty good track record.

The only problem was that You Better Run had also been released by Robert Plant’s group Listen and its production was more professional than ours, using session men. Still we got plenty of airplay, if not huge sales."

'N Betweens. After the split in the ranks the new group with Noddy Holder and Jimmy Lea posed for a publicity shot. It was shortly after the recording of You Better Run.

It was in 1969 that the next 'incarnation' of the 'N Betweens appeared on record. This time they were Ambrose Slade and under the recording tuition of Jack Baverstock, an A&R man for Fontana. It was Jack who christened the group with their new name, as Jimmy Lea explains:

"Jack Baverstock had heard our version of Journey To The Centre Of Your Mind, the Ted Nugent number, and another instrumental which we called Blues In E. Irving Martin had produced both tracks for us. Jack rang up and told us he wanted to make an album with us. We just could not believe it. Apparently it was the instrumental he rated as quite distinctive because of the stomping sound."

"Jack was not happy with the group’s name and insisted we change it. The notion of Ambrose Slade came from his secretary having a handbag named Ambrose and a cap named Slade!"

"Jack wanted us to record an album of our own stuff. That was going to prove quite difficult since we were not writing much stuff at all. It was only after Chas Chandler took us on and made me realise the importance of writing your own material that we began seriously to write numbers."

"It was as Ambrose Slade we produced the single of Genesis and Roach Daddy and the Beginnings album. I suppose that album was the first one made by any Wolverhampton group."

Herbie's People (the former Danny Cannon and the Ramrods) began their record career in 1965 with Sweet And Tender Romance. The background to that record is described by Dan Robinson:

"We used to rehearse in the Toc H building in Bilston which was ideal because it was cut off and allowed you to make as much noise as you liked. Anyway, one day a feller named Bill Bates came past and heard us and introduced himself. He was a song-writer and had had a bit of success with a number called Will I What? for Mike Sarne. It turned out that he was the brother-in-law of Ken Lewis out of Carter-Lewis and could arrange an introduction for us."

Danny Cannon & Ramrods. Possibly the only local group to play the Royal Albert Hall. They went there as part of a TOC H festival. (Len Beddow)
"We went down to Denmark Street and did a four-part harmony for Carter-Lewis. That’s how we came to start recording. Sweet And Tender Romance was Bill’s number. He wrote under the name of Johnny Powell."

"We changed the group s name to Herbie’s People which at that time was the name of Len Beddow’s brother s group. They became the Bossmen, another very good group."

"The only trouble with recording was that you could not please yourself and do it as you might wish. It was very much a case of following orders. You spend a fair amount of time trying to impose your individuality on a record but it’s only the really big stars who get to do that. Too often the records which came out were the product more of the record producers than the artists."

One of the strangest recording situations involving Herbie's People surrounded a song called Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. Jones. The record which got into the charts was by Manfred Mann and had the surname James in place of Jones. Dan Robinson explains what happened:

"We heard the demo of the number and were really keen on it. We recorded it and waited for it to be released. While we were waiting the version by Manfred Mann was released and got into the charts. The introduction of the James instead of Jones was caused by Paul Jones having just left the group and there being a desire to prevent any embarrassment."

"Our version was released in America on the Okeh label but it failed to register. I'm convinced that our version could have made it over here if there had not been competition from an established group like Manfred Mann. It certainly hurt us."


Len Beddow also feels that the suppression of that record had an important effect for the group:

Herbie's People. In the recording studio, although this one seems to be down the garden shed rather than in Denmark Street. Notice the egg boxes and tools! (Len Beddow)

"When we came back from Germany we released a record called One Little Smile which was OK but nothing special. Then we heard Semi-Detached and felt that we had got the number to give us the hit. The record was excellent, but when the other version came out it knocked the stuffing out of us. I don't believe we ever properly got over that disappointment."

While groups had their disappointments and let-downs, the actual achievement of obtaining the record contract and issuing a number of records was the ultimate for many members of groups. When they had set out on the long and hard popular music road, their main goal was Abbey Road or another of the major recording studios. As Roger Allen says:

"Every group wanted to make a record and become successful. It was my job as a manager to help the group achieve that goal. Once that was achieved, then the group moved on to the next stage."

The next stage often depended on the success or failure of the record. If the record was deemed a turntable hit (regularly played on the commercial radio stations and on Radio One), it was necessary to make sufficient public appearances to help that record become a chart hit, if possible. The appearances would vary in nature but would almost certainly include promotional work, radio and TV appearances, concerts and package tours supporting other more successful performers, all of which would invariably take the group further and further out of the local area in an attempt to get their 'names, faces and sound' known to a much wider audience.

The more successful the group, the more such work would become available. Once again, if we take the Beatles as an example we see how in a very short time they were 'lost' to their Liverpool roots (they made their last Cavern appearance in August 1963), as were so many of the other hit-makers lost to their particular 'bit' of the provinces. The Beatles topped the charts, headlined package tours across the country, appeared very regularly on radio and TV, even the Royal Variety Performance, and were soon reigning supreme in America. Their success became a model to which most others aspired (at least in their dreams). In the cold light of day, most groups were a little more realistic.

In their early days, the beat groups from the Wolverhampton area set their first sights on gaining a toehold on the emerging, and rapidly flourishing, Birmingham beat scene. To play at either the Plaza in Old Hill or in Handsworth or the Ritz in King's Heath (the 'Regan Circuit') was seen as being tantamount to recognition of a group as possessing genuine 'potential' , especia1ly as it was quite likely that you would be playing alongside successful chart groups from Merseyside or Manchester. Hardly any of the groups who reached the Top Thirty during the years 1963 to 1964 failed to play at one or other of the 'formidable' Ma Regan's venues.

John Howells remembers the first time the ‘N Betweens met Ma Regan:

"We had changed our name from the Vendors to the 'N Betweens and had started doing more R&B stuff. We wanted to broaden our horizons somewhat and so we went and did an audition for the Regan circuit. We had been told that Mrs. Regan was not always easy to please but she seemed to like us and our style and we got a regular Monday spot at her venues. That meant that you would have to play at two of the venues during the evening, involving a quick hike across from Old Hill to Handsworth etc."

Graham Gomery feels that being accepted on to the Regan circuit was an important step forward for the Soul Seekers:

"Getting an audition with Ma Regan was possibly a part of winning the Big Beat Contest, I'm not really sure. Whether that was the case or not, the important thing was that when you started to play on that circuit you got an opportunity to meet and hear other, better groups and that could only be beneficial to you. Coming around on that revolving stage at the Plaza Old Hill was a real event. You felt like a star, especially when you might be following a group like the Beatles, Big Three or Merseybeats etc."

The Express & Star columnist described Ma Regan as 'a softly spoken Irish ex-school teacher who uses the same psychology with the groups as she did with school pupils, discipline and organisation' and the Plaza Old Hill as the 'principal venue in the area for up and coming groups '. It is not surprising therefore that local groups felt that the first step towards success was acceptance by Ma Regan and the opportunity to play at one or other of her venues. It was thanks to an appearance at the Plaza in Old Hill and the personal recommendation of Ma Regan that the Strangers got an offer from Decca to appear on the Brumbeat album.

As links between the Astra Agency and other similar organisations in other parts of the country developed so the interchange of groups became fairly commonplace. As Roger Allen describes with regard to the Montanas and groups from Stoke:

"They could easily fill the King s Hall in Stoke, the Queen s in Burslem, the Torch in Tunstall or the Place and Placemate which were run by a feller called Kevin Donovan who always wanted the Montanas because they were such a big draw card around Stoke."

"In return we would often get groups from Stoke like the Marauders or the Black Orchids with Vince Everett who we knew would go down really well at the Cleveland Arms, Woolpack or Connaught."

"Of course the first big draw from Stoke had been Roy Grant who had originally come down with Terry King and the Saints about 1962 or so. He actually needed a backing group so I grabbed him to front the Strollers. He was an exceptional talent. He had a voice just like Roy Orbison and was a real favourite with audiences in Wolverhampton."

Giorgio and Marco's Men never joined the Astra Agency. They were signed to ADSEL in Birmingham and as a result they played a lot more around the second city and other venues.

Strollers. One of the most exciting voices amongst the early local groups was that of Roy Grant (on the floor). He sounded very much like Roy Orbison. (Tony Perry)

A fairly regular set of dates for the group was on the Silver Blades Ice Rink circuit. As Giorgio Ucellini says:

"We were signed to ADSEL, an organisation which had large offices in Five Ways in Birmingham. Most of their links were in and around Birmingham and their other groups were from that area.

They had a link with Silver Blades and so we got to play all over the country at the ice rinks. I remember we played at Streatham Ice Rink. Most of those engagements were on Sunday afternoons or evenings."

Mike Crook, the manager of the group, insists that many of the gigs which they got were a product of various 'special' factors:

"Signing to ADSEL did open the door to venues outside Wolverhampton, but at the same time other factors were important. The Catholic Church link helped the group, the Italian link helped and the general tidy, polished approach of the group gained them entry to gigs like the Musicians' Union Dance or several golf club functions."

Both the Montanas and the Californians were signed up to package tours involving the Walker Brothers largely as a product of the links with Maurice King's Capable Management that Roger Allen had made. A number of other very successful performers were involved on those tours. The Montanas' lead singer Johnny Jones, tells about the group's experiences on their package tour:

"On the back of our second single, That’s When Happiness Began, we got to do a six week nationwide tour with the Walker Brothers, Troggs, Dave Dee, Dozy etc. and Clodagh Rodgers. To us at that time it was the pinnacle, real big cheese. It was what we had been after from the start, the record deal, the package tour, TV etc."

"We travelled around in a tour bus and the only PA system was our little 50 watt Vox which was kept in a storage compartment under the bus. It was only used in big halls which lacked their own PA system like Dundee and Sheffield You imagine that happening nowadays."

"When we played halls where they had their own PA systems it meant that possibly the purest and best pop singing voice of the 60s, namely Scott Walker, sounded so weak and puerile. It was ridiculous. It s no wonder that he would fly off the handle with those conditions."

Montanas. They got the opportunity to tour with the Walker Brothers, a group who possessed possibly the most distinctive voices of the decade in Scott walker. Here we see the Monts posing with the three Walkers.

"Scott Walker actually cut my hair on that tour and the next day he refused to go on. Amidst all the hubbub, he looked over to me and asked if my hair was OK. My hair was apparently more important to him than refusing to go on and disappointing crowds of kids who had come specifically to see him."

The Californians were on one of the 'strangest' package tour line-ups in popular music history - Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, Jimi Hendrix and Engelbert Humperdinck !!!! John O'Hara well remembers that package tour:

"That must rank as one of the weirdest line-ups ever. I should think the audience must have found the whole thing incredible. You'd have those who were Humperdinck fans, Scott Walker fans and then there were those who wanted to see Jimi Hendrix or Cat Stevens. I cannot believe there was anyone who actually had come to see all of them. In which case, there was no way that any member of the audience would be fully satisfied"

"I would not have missed any of it for the world Jimi Hendrix was hard going for many of the audience but he was a fantastic showman He put everything into his performance, although he was not my cup of tea. I loved listening to Scott Walker’s voice, it had so much soul and feeling. The Brothers split up shortly after the tour."

Keith Evans describes how he, and the other Californians, 'experienced' the Experience:

"We went out after many of the performances with Jimi and the other members of the Experience, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, for a meal. They were really nice guys. We had met Noel Redding in Germany where he played for some time before joining Jimi Hendrix."

"Like most everybody else, I could never understand how that package came together. The mere thought of having Release Me performed on the same bill as Purple Haze or Matthew and Son and Make It Easy On Yourself, quite remarkable. It must have had something to do with using the large cinemas and therefore expecting a wide cross section of audience."

Mick Brookes had joined the Californians by the time of that tour, March 1967, and he describes the sort of money which the group received for that package:

"We were on just 25 quid a week for that tour. A normal week would bring in about 60 or 70 quid It seems strange doesn't it that we got less for performing alongside such big stars, twice a night, than playing local venues. Still, a year later and I reckon groups would have paid hundreds just to be on the same bill as Jimi Hendrix."

"It was during the tour that Release Me went to No.1 and there was some commotion about who should be the top of the bill. Anyway, it made no difference to us, we still opened the evening. I think we did pretty well on that tour.”

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