ROGER REMEMBERS –
The Carl Denver Trio (Carl, Kevin Neil, and Gerry Cottrell) were doubling Greasborough Social and the Scala in Doncaster, clubs about 12 miles apart, and the timing was tight. There was a very thick fog that night and no-one in the Scala, including me, expected them to turn up on time. We were wrong, Heaven only knows how they made it. When I moved to Manchester I met Kevin several times. The trio had disbanded, Carl had gone abroad, but Kevin was still in demand, being so well regarded as a fine musician. A brilliant guitar player, he could play trombone too, and was a thoroughly nice guy.
Meanwhile John Stokes had left The Bachelors after the break up with the McCluskeysand set up in business. The stage still pulled however, and there were folk pestering him to return, so he and Kevin got together to from John Stokes’ Bachelors, recruiting John Young to join them. Kevin set his stamp on the music, re-casting it and adding new material, they were off and never looked back. He loved to tell the tale of when they were heading up the pier at Southend, with all their props on a trolley and a gust of wind blew all their band parts off into the sea, giving him just a little time to rewrite them all before the show. Sadly Kevin was developing Motor Neurone Disease and died suddenly while they were touring in Australia in 2010. He was much missed and very widely mourned.
In Ireland in the ‘50s and’60s there were literally hundreds of Showbands working in Dance Halls all over the country, playing for dancing with a show spot on the programme. Some of the best ones made their way over here, and very good they were too, polished and professional. One of them, The Defenders, won Opportunity Knocks in 1966, and someartistes like Van Morrison and Dusty Young started in these bands.
Fashions came and went, and they went East – who remembers The Korean Kittens, or the Korean Sweet Dolls, or perhaps Lynn Rogers and the Maori Hi-Quins, or even the Maori Castaways , all so talented, superbly costumed and presented ?
Local bands thrived too (we used to call them beat groups) and the best of them were smartly dressed and very well groomed. In Yorkshire The Wolves and The Whales (Barry Santana was their drummer) were great favourites. A good girl singer fronting helped a lot – think Dawn & The D.J.s or Lulu & The Luvvvers, Lulu’s a survivor if ever there was one. Some other survivors are still around; it’s only a month or two since I saw Trevor Leeson from The Merseybeats on stage. There was the night I headed up to Northgate Club in Mexborough to see Tony Christie and The Trackers. Alas he’d signed his contract the week before and gone off to London, out of the clubs for good. Luckily The Trackers were still very good on their own.
Never say you’ve seen it all in clubland. Who would have thought that The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, with Vivian Stanshall would do so well at Greasborough Social Club that they were immediately re-booked, but Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band would hardly make an impression. Bob Miller & The Millermen were nothing short of a sensation, with bandsmen spread around the room standing on the tables. When The Searchers played Carlinghow Club the resident organist Don Sykes was itching to join in, and he did to good effect.
And even though it’s just over 40 years ago I clearly remember that night at Burnlee Club in Holmfirth when Frank Chislett and The Amazing Bavarian Stompers had over 100 people, many of them hardened clubmen, threading their way round the concert room headed by the Bingo caller beating time with a beer bottle on a tin tray.