|It was hoped that such venues
would help improve their playing abilities and create a
greater degree of professionalism, as well as widening
their listening public. Few groups in those early years
believed that they would become stars or be 'discovered'
by record company executives but they did hope that they
would get more regular work, even residencies at some
venues. In that way the groups would earn more money
which could be 'ploughed' back into group funds for new
instruments, speakers, amplifiers, better transportation
or stage clothes etc.
At the same time as groups were seeking new venues, many
of those venues' managers, owners and promoters, aware
of the growing competition from rival establishments,
were anxious to find new, live entertainment to satisfy
their customers. The popularity of rock 'n' roll music
meant that groups who could re-produce those sounds were
likely to be in demand. Not surprisingly, one of the
first local groups to be approached by a promoter and to
play regularly at one venue was the Tommy Burton &
Ravemen/Combo. They started performing at
Brierley Hill Town Hall
on Saturdays. As Tommy himself describes:
approached by a guy named Tommy Farnell who told me that
he was promoting the dances at the Town Hall in Brierley
Hill and he wanted to know if I would be interested in
performing there, as soon as I was demobbed from the RA
"Once I was
out of the RAF I got the original set of lads together
and we started to play at the Town Hall on Tuesdays and
Thursdays and for the Saturday Night Record Hop, as it
was called. That was early in 1958. The kids were intent
on hearing Rock 'n' Roll, so we supplied them with what
they wanted. It was not long after that we started to do
alternate Saturdays at Kidderminster Baths."
were a very common feature of life in most towns at the
end of the 1950s and into the 1960s, but it was less
common for civic authorities to accept rock 'n' roll
music as part of the regular Saturday evening diet.
Tommy Burton was fortunate to have met a promoter with
foresight. It was Tom Farnell who also promoted St.
Paul's Hall in Merridale Street West (now the Church
Of God), the first regular Wolverhampton venue which
Tommy Burton started to play with the Combo.
always a good night at St. Paul’s. There had been dances
there for some years but we were probably the first
group to play rock music there. We got a lot of regular
customers who came most weeks. The Combo enjoyed it
there because of the enthusiasm of those customers."
taught Tommy Burton that there was more money to be made
from promoting a venue than from merely playing at a
venue. Also if he was responsible for the promotion then
he could guarantee work for the Combo. It was not long
after he started his regular sessions at St. Paul's for
Tom Farnell therefore that he sought to 'open' other
venues. He realised, as did others, that the larger
public houses were promising venues, especially those
which were near some of the larger housing estates which
had been built during the 1950s. Most of those areas had
very regular bus services (more customers were bus
passengers than car drivers at that time) and had a
large host community of young adults and teenagers.
venture into promotion at a public house was at the
Three Tuns on Stafford Road, close to the Wobaston,
Fordhouses and Rake Gate estates. It was on a main road
and therefore offered an ideal situation. The venue did
not prove too successful for the Combo because of the
regular 'bother' which occurred between some of the
customers. The Three Tuns was also the first regular
venue for Steve Brett & The Mavericks, as Steve
like so many other groups, playing at the local school.
In our case, it was Northicote. Next, we played any of
the Youth Clubs that would have us. We then progressed
to the Three Tuns on Stafford Road. Our time there was
organised for us by Bob Lightwood’s dad who was a local
comedian. We stayed at the Tuns for some time."
our time at the Three Tuns, although some nights it got
a little hairy with some of the customers. Every Friday
night we would pack up earlier because there was always
going to be a barney between one particular husband and
wife and we wanted to watch it."
"It was while
we were at the Tuns that Bob got his Watkins Dominator
amplifier and I plugged it in during a rehearsal
session. It started to hum, I thought it was the
microphone but when I grabbed the mic I got this
almighty electric shock. Luckily the circuit blew. It
was only a two pin socket but I was really lucky"
it was our final night at the Tuns when a brawl broke
out which was just like something out of the Westerns. A
table came hurtling across the room and landed just in
front of us. We packed up our stuff and hightailed it
out of the pub."
led the way for many groups when he started to play at
the Staffordshire Volunteer on Bushbury Estate.
He got the agreement of the licensee, Jim Alexander,
and began a regular Wednesday evening at the Vol",
followed by Sunday lunch-times when he replaced the trio
who had played there for some time. It was a successful
"We played at
the Volunteer on a Wednesday night and while it was
quite rough at times, it was a good night and we started
to get people in from all over the area. The Sunday
lunch-times were even more successful. We used to have
queues outside the pub with loads of fellers there. We
had coaches from Liverpool and London coming for those
sessions, no word of a lie."