From California And Montana With Lots 'N Between

If an alien had arrived in Britain in the 1960's it would have seemed as though virtually everybody under the age of thirty was a member of a group, related to a group member or had friends who were members of groups. That was the picture all over the country, not just around the major popular music locations of Liverpool , London, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle. Wolverhampton and its immediate area could boast more than its fair share of groups of all musical hues. It is now my intention to give a little more information about some of those local groups and other notable individuals and places in a sort of A-Z guide to the Wolverhampton music scene in the 60s. If a particular group or individual that you distinctly remember is missing or the facts are not exactly correct, then I apologise in advance.

Aaron's Rod

Previously known as Jam Sandwich, the group emerged in late 1969. It was apparently felt that the combination had gone as far as it could with its former pop style. The group took the opportunity of a stint at Hamburg's Top Ten Club to sort out some new musical arrangements and production. They returned to Britain with a new heavier sound and a five-piece harmony. The group was managed by Roy Kent. It included Kevin Bray on lead guitar, Phil Whitehouse on Hammond organ, John Waterfall on drums, Mick Farnell on bass and Pete Goalby as lead vocalist. They made their first local appearance in December 1969 at the Gibbons Brothers' works dance. Many local enthusiasts regarded the new group as one of the area's best. It was felt that they would undoubtedly gain a fair amount of commercial success. While this optimism did not prove to be absolutely correct, Pete Goalby was to prove a really outstanding vocalist. He was to sing later with Uriah Heep.

Jenny Wren. One of the area's more successful songbirds, actually making
it to the recording studio

Jenny Allen (Wren)

The name of Jenny Allen first came to local notice in 1964 when she was a mere 15 year-old. She was originally backed by a group called Les Jondors.

She signed a recording contract in 1965 and took the name Jenny Wren. She was still a pupil at the then Sir Gilbert Claughton School in Dudley. She apparently got her break as a result of Fontana's A&R man, Jack Baverstock, (so influential with Ambrose Slade) hearing her.

She released two records on Fontana, Chasing My Dreams All Over Town and The Merry-Go-Round Is Slowing You Down.

She appeared at the Civic with Manfred Mann and Wayne Fontana. Her later backing groups were called the Jackdaws, Outlook and Fashion.

Roger Allen

While he was not a member of any of the groups, he was one of the most influential and flamboyant personalities on the local music scene. It was impossible to know him and not have an opinion of him (good or bad, but never indifferent). He began promoting in a very small way from his front room in Merridale Street West in about 1963. He saw himself as Wolverhampton's own Brian Epstein. His earliest work was via the Social Club at Courtauld's where he did an engineering apprenticeship. His first group, the Strollers, developed out of Courtauld's. Later he had responsibility for some of the area's most successful groups like the Black Diamonds, Californians, Finders Keepers, his personal favourites, the Montanas, and the 'N Betweens.

He was one third of the PMA organisation (Perry/Maddocks/Allen). He formed his own agency with offices in High Street Tettenhall, hiring Maurice Jones who was the original manager of the 'N Betweens. He joined with Astra to form Astra-Allen. In November 1967 he announced he was leaving agency work because of the pressures of other business interests. Roger Allen was extremely successful in negotiating recording deals for his groups.

He managed to arrange an audition for the 'N Betweens with Fontana and to this day none of them has any idea how he managed it! It was just typical of 'Mad Dog Cole' as he was known to the group. He became their agent after their unfortunate experiences in the Bahamas. By that time he was part of the Nita Anderson Agency. In January 1968 he opened the Oasis Club in Berry Street. During the next few years he was to become involved in a number of business enterprises, including time-share in Tenerife and in Israel. All very typical of someone that Noddy Holder calls a '60s version of Del Boy'.
Strollers. The first group to benefit from the Roger Allen treatment were the Strollers, seen here at Pendeford Airport where they did much of their early rehearsing. (Tony Perry)


The group had its origins in Wombourne. It first gained recognition in the area as a result of a local council decision to stop them from rehearsing in the village hall because of the fire risk. They had created their own Ambassadors Dance Club in the village. They became residents at the Crystal Ballroom in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. This encouraged them to turn professional. Amongst the early group's members were Flash Stansford on drums and vocals and Alfie Smallwood on organ who together wrote a lot of the group's material. Nick Vance was one of the lead vocalists but he left shortly after the group made a demo disc. He had replaced Mark Wade. Other members were Arthur Cole on bass, Bill Pate lead guitarist and Steve Adey rhythm and vocals.

Ambassadors. Made Wombourne wake up to beat music and achieved the distinction of playing in Europe. They were seen by the author on numerous occasions, including their appearance on the Billy Fury bill at the Civic.
The group visited Germany and was relatively successful, being requested to stay an extra month and appearing on German TV. They also played US Air bases in Turkey with a girl vocalist from Birmingham named Vicki Holland.

It was while they were on their way to play in Turkey that they were involved in a near diplomatic incident. They were held at the Yugoslav Bulgarian border and made to play for the border guards to prove they were a pop group.

They appeared at the Civic Hall with Billy Fury and the Gamblers.

Ambrose Slade

The immediate precursors of Slade. The group had originally been called the Vendors and then the 'N Betweens. The group comprised Noddy Holder vocals, Dave Hill lead guitarist, Jimmy Lea on bass and Don Powell on drums. The name Ambrose Slade was introduced from the beginning of 1969 and was apparently coined by Fontana's Jack Baverstock. According to Jimmy Lea the name was a product of Jack's secretary christening her various possessions with names. Her handbag was Ambrose and her bag was Slade so Jack took the two names and created the new group. Apparently Jack Baverstock also felt that the old name implied an element of homosexuality. There had been some talk of the new name being Knicky Knacky Noo (the group's own idea). It was as Ambrose Slade that the group recorded the Beginnings album on Fontana, gained a new agent in John Gunnell and a new manager in Chas Chandler. While Beginnings did not sell too well, it did prove the versatility of the group. They played a wide range of prestigious London venues like the Bag O' Nails, the Red Car Jazz Club, the Marquee, the Temple (the former Flamingo) and the Speakeasy.

It was as Ambrose Slade that the four members of the group had their hair shaved and became regarded as symbols for skinheads (much to the individual members' annoyance).

It was thought that this image led to a decision by the Wolves to cancel an appearance by the group at the Wolves Social Club in December 1969. The image also affected relationships between the group and some of their contemporaries. It was not long after this that they became known simply as Slade.

Ambrose Slade. Seen here on the re-issued album cover of Beginnings.

Nita Anderson

People are apt to get the impression that the only entertainment agency operating in Wolverhampton during the 60's was Astra but that was not the case, there was also the Nita Anderson Agency. She began her promotional work in Sedgley, using the local Parish Hall. It was her promotions at the Ship & Rainbow that most punters best remember. She brought a number of very good acts to the Ship, including probably the most popular of all the performers at the venue, Raymond Froggatt. She managed a number of local groups, her first being Derry Ryan & Ravens who she heard playing at the Ellowes public house in Gornal. Other groups she looked after included Choice, Scarlet Religion and Revolver. It was while the 'N Betweens were with the Anderson Agency that they got their contract with Fontana and became Ambrose Slade. Some of the people who worked for Nita's agency in the 60s include Barry Dunn, the former vocalist with the Mountain Kings and the Cobras, Jimmy Powell who had some success in the early beat period with the Dimensions, Don Fardon who had a major hit with the record Indian Reservation in 1970, Keith Evans, the former drummer with the Californians and of course, the inimitable Roger Allen.


Previously known as the Sounds Of Three, comprising Mac Bailey (one of the area's most outstanding performers) and Phil Harris on guitars and Clive Simmonds on drums. They changed their name in August 1966. They were managed by Roger Allen. They supported both Neil Landon and Tiffany. For a small group they were known for having a full vocal sound.


The group was virtually 'adopted' by the United Services Club in Wolverhampton. The club's chairman, Ernie Roden, offered the group the facilities of the club for rehearsal. The group played at the club's social functions. They comprised Mike Perry on vocals, Ian Robbins rhythm, Paul Keteringham lead, Alan Hill drums and John Ellis on bass. The group came together in 1963. Very little was heard of them after early 1964.     .


One of the names used by the backing groups for Johnny Love. It was with the Arrangement as his backing group that Johnny played at Keele University's Royal Ball in 1967. He remained in the forefront of the local group scene for much of the second half of the 60s. He fronted the Sceptres and Love's Lot.


Although the group originated from Handsworth in Birmingham they played in the Wolverhampton area throughout the period. One of their first local engagements was during heavy snow in February 1964 at the Stage & Sportsman's Club which was located in Temple Street. They were a trio who played R&B (Sweet Little Sixteen/ Roll Over Beethoven/Farmer John) with a very solid beat in their early days. The group had Gary Tipton on lead guitar, Tony Jones on bass and Tony Felton on drums. They were one of the many local groups who cut a demo (She's Sure The Girl I Love/Zip A Dee Doo Dah) at the Domino Studios in Albrighton which belonged to Andy McLachlan. The group played at the first night of the Stage Door Club in Dudley. They spent a short time working with Johnny Washington. In 1965, after appearing at the Grosvenor House Hotel, they were offered the opportunity to play on a Mediterranean cruise liner. The group continued to perform in the area until the end of the decade.

Bachelor Four

One of the town's original pop groups (1962), including Tony and Alan Cropper, Derek Coppen and Bob Rowley.

Band Of Joy

First emerged on to the local scene in 1967, with their 'amazing' lead vocalist, Robert Plant. From the outset it was obvious to local punters that he was something special, although few would probably have agreed when he was lead singer with Listen. One night that is recalled by many punters was when the band was playing at the Ship & Rainbow and Robert Plant was forced to do an unaccompanied session because of an electrical fault. It proved to be tremendous. The band was involved in at least one controversy when Robert formed a second Band Of Joy from the group, Paper. It led to a dispute with the original group's management over the name of the group. The new group had Keith Hammond on lead, Paul Lockey on bass, John Thompson on drums and Chris Brown as organist. It was a much more blues-oriented group. It was in that form that they supported Tim Rose while on tour in 1968. It was in the summer of 1968 that Robert Plant left the group, along with the group's drummer at the time, John Bonham, and joined Jimmy Page's New Yardbirds which would become Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant did play for a very short time with another group called Obs Tweedle, immediately before joining Page. He still performs locally with Priory Of Brion.

Big Beats

Better known as the Wolves, they became the Big Beats after changing from their original name of Gerry Sinclair & Sellakats. The new name was probably part of the revamping of the group by their manager, Geoff Jacobs. He was a town dress shop owner who got involved in the emerging beat scene. He successfully pushed the group to the forefront by promoting appearances by well-known groups (Searchers at the Civic Hall in 1964) with his own group in support. He also managed to get the group TV appearances on For Teenagers Only. The original group included Frank Littleford on vocals, Darryl Smith on bass, John Eades on lead, John Taylor on drums and Wim Feder on rhythm. Pye signed the group in 1964. By the time the group released their first record they were called the Wolves.

Black Diamonds. The group best remembered by locals from the pre-beat days. Seen here with Sheila Deni who proved such a success during the group's visit to Germany.

Black Diamonds

For many Wulfiunians, they represent the original local pop group, although their origins lay in the skiffle craze of the mid-50s. Lead guitarist and vocalist Derek Coppen formed them in 1956 with Keith Lansley on drums, Brian Lansley on bass, Peter Emerson on rhythm. They were possibly the first local group to use electric guitars which might explain how they managed to get a 'residency' at the 'legendary' Milano coffee bar in Darlington Street.

During the next few years a number of personnel changes occurred with people like Malcolm Bradford, Pete Spooner, Les Parker, Bob Wilkins, Eddie Cheetham and Kevin Calloway playing with the group. They were one of the first local groups to visit Germany with a line-up of Pete Spooner, Peter Abberley, Roger Clarke, Keith Evans and Sheila Deni. That group was managed by Roger Allen and was to form the basis of the original Californians.

Black Velvets

The group originated from the Bridgnorth area. They had come together in the late 50s and continued to play into the early 60s. The lead singer was Selwyn Bowen who specialised in Karl Denver-style numbers. They played in the Wolverhampton area but they mainly concentrated in the surrounding rural areas of Worfield, Claverley, Enville, Kinver etc. Other members of the group were Alan Tarlin, Trevor Baker, Geoff Foxall and David Warboys.

Blues Ensemble

A Birmingham-based group which John Howells joined after leaving the 'N Betweens in 1966. They originated as a four-piece but developed into a seven-piece blues oriented group with John doing lead vocals. They had a very good sound and were regarded as something of a group's group. They were also known as Ensemble. They played many of the leading London clubs during 1966.


Group originated out of Walsall in about 1963 with Chas Peate as their manager. They were regarded as a very polished, professional group who impressed most observers. They so impressed the Who that it was suggested that they be signed by Robert Stigwood. They were originally formed by Norman Beddow, the brother of Len Beddow, who played with Danny Cannon and Herbie's People. The original group included Bernie Howell on lead guitar, Steve Shirley on bass, Roy Knight on drums and Percy Davies on organ.

Bossmen. One of the better local groups never to have made it. The organ playing of Percy Davies (foreground) was exceptionally good.
One of the group's later members was John Beattie who was a founder member of Ides Of March. They appeared at both the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and Marquee clubs in London. They disbanded in the summer of 1967 with Percy Davies, probably the most outstanding member of the group, seeking to form a new group. The group is possibly best remembered for the controversy that surrounded Percy Davies when he was refused admission to the Bilston United Services Club in 1966 because of his colour. The group who was playing that night, Herbie's People, cancelled their Thursday night sessions at the club in protest.

John Bradford

First came to local prominence as the lead singer of Brad Ford & Sundowners. He had more success as a member of the Ides Of March. His father Bob was the manager of the group. He left the group for personal reasons and pursued a solo career as John Ford. He recorded for Phillips from 1968 to 1970. His first record was Two’s Company, Three s A Crowd, part written by Willenhall song-writer Martin Hall. It was credited with being an exceptionally good first solo effort. In 1969 he released I Know It’s Love which had something of a Tom Jones style about it and sold quite well in local shops. He released three more records as John Ford. He later recorded as Eli Bonaparte.

Steve Brett & the Mavericks. The first local group to make a TV appearance. Here they are seen receiving instructions from producer Reg Watson, during rehearsals for For Teenagers Only. Mair Davies can be seen alongside Reg Watson. (Steve Brett)

Steve Brett (& Mavericks)

One of the originals of the local music scene. He formed his first group in 1957 but it was his success with the Big Beat Contest at the Gaumont in early 1962 which really brought him to local notice.

The group of Mavericks, which won the contest, comprised, Gary James on drums, Ricky Dene on bass and Rob Nelson on lead. Their victory came after the non-appearance of the Jaguars.

Steve was the first local pop entertainer to get on TV when he appeared on Up And Doing in June 1963 with Denny Laine & Diplomats and with Janice Nicholls as the compère. By October 1963 the Mavericks were appearing as the resident group on ATV's For Teenagers Only. The Mavericks at that time included the guitarist Dave 'Toffee' Holland who was going to gain international recognition as a jazz instrumentalist.

In October 1964 Steve took on a new set of Mavericks in the form of the Memphis Cut-Outs from Walsall. This new group included Neville 'Noddy' Holder. Steve recorded for Columbia and released three singles during 1965. The first record was Wishing, followed by Sad, Lonely And Blue and then Sugar Shack. While none of the records made any impact on the national charts, they were very popular in the local area. The group went over to Germany and split up on their return. Steve continued to play mainly C&W. He is still performing on the club scene in and around Blackpool where he now lives.

Steve Brett. Eat your heart out James Garner! (Steve Brett)

Tommy Burton Combo. Two line-ups of the great Mr. Burton’s boys. (Tommy Burton)

Tommy Burton

He was a legend! It is exceptionally difficult to quantify the importance of Tommy Burton to the local music scene. He was the example that so many young musicians followed in the early years of the local music scene. He established his Combo as a Rock 'n' Roll band, modelled very much on Bill Haley's Comets. He began playing shortly after leaving the RAF in 1958, although he had won a skiffle competition as Thunderfoot Burton and the Ravemen before his demob.

His early combo attempted to capture the original Rock 'n' Roll sounds of Bill Haley and others. His bands included some of the most outstanding local musicians of their time, people like Horace Johnson, Colin Burton, Dennis Harvey, Pete Graystone, Mac Bailey, Mac Woolley, John Garrett, Dave Holmes, Phil Harris, Scotti Wood, Don Maddocks, Brian Meacham and Trevor Worrall.

It was Tommy who began many of the music sessions at a wide variety of local venues like St. Paul's Hall, Staffordshire Volunteer and the Three Men In A Boat. About 1965 he decided that the way music was going was not really his scene and he returned to his first love, jazz. There were still times when the Combo re-appeared, especially at Shepwell Green, and they still showed that Rock 'n' Roll was alive and kicking. Throughout Tommy's last illness the Combo continued to perform. He died in 2000 and received an amazing New Orleans style funeral. A true great!

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