TWENTY YEARS OF BAND HISTORY: 1959 to 1979
The following is an account of the bands I played with over the twenty years: 1959 to 1979.
By Mick Allen
I first discovered “Arthur Seaton’s” music shop in Kent Avenue, Ashford, about 1957 and managed to get my parents to buy me my first guitar for the enormous sum of £6.
The first music I played was skiffle, which I used to play, on my £6 guitar, at the South Ashford Youth Club with friends from school. Shortly after this Cliff Richard came on the scene with his first hit “Move It”. I soon managed to copy the now famous intro, along with probably every budding guitarist in the UK.
Another favourite hit at that time was “Peter Gunn” by Duane Eddy. After this it had to be an electric guitar and amp.
The first electric guitar and amplifier also came from “Arthur’s”. It was a Rosetti guitar and a Dallas or Watkins amp, I’m not sure which. The guitar and amp together cost about £36. Now the “Move It” intro sounded a bit more like Hank Marvin.
The first band I played with was in 1959, I don’t remember the band having a name, although I imagine it would have. However, we spent several months rehearsing most evenings until we had enough songs and instrumentals for our repertoire. I can only remember playing one gig. which was at Willesborough Labour Club. We also did an audition for “Home Grown” but were unsuccessful.
The line-up for this band was: Dave Thomas - singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Trevor Grice - rhythm guitar, Laurence Grice - bass guitar, Colin Henson - drums.
DAVE PENFOLD AND THE ESCORTS
“Dave Penfold and the Escorts” were formed about 1960. The line-up was Dave Penfold - singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Tony Waters - rhythm guitar, Laurence Grice - bass guitar and Ian Spratt - drums. We played very few gigs, mainly at the 3J’s Club, which was upstairs at the Market Hotel in Ashford. I can also remember one or two private parties we played at. After a few months Dave Penfold moved away from Ashford, after which, for a short while, we were fortunate to have as our singer Dickie Lee (real name Dick Garforth) who had been singing with “The Travellers“, who for reasons not known to me, had recently broken up.
“The Escorts” finally came to an end when Dickie Lee turned pro and moved away to the Midlands, a place called Clifton Hall, where, I believe, he became one of the “Clifton Hall Stars“, a band from which “The Fortunes” were formed.
The above photo of “The Fortunes” shows Richard Garforth, alias Dickie Lee, alias Glen Dale in the centre.
Incidentally, after several chart successes with “The Fortunes“, “Glen Dale” as Dickie was now called, left “The Fortunes” to take up a solo career, his first solo recording being a cover from a Beatles album, “Eight Days a Week”.
With “The Escorts” breaking up, Laurence Grice, Tony Waters and Ian Spratt joined forces with Ken Evans from Maidstone on lead guitar to reform “The Travellers” with new singer Pat Barry from Canterbury.
One of “The Travellers” regular gigs was the old “Toft’s Club” in Bouverie Road West, Folkestone. A brilliant place!
PAT AND THE CHEETAHS
“Pat and the Cheetahs” were formed in 1961, the original line-up being: Pat Cahill - singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Mick Startup rhythm guitar - Geoff Playford - bass guitar, Buster Osmond - drums. The band played all over Kent as a semi-pro band with the odd gig in London and beyond.
After several months, Buster Osmond left the band and was replaced by Ian Spratt on drums from the once again broken up “Travellers“.
This photo, from a Kent Messenger newspaper cutting, is of “Pat and the Cheetahs” appearing on the ITV talent show “Home Grown”, recorded at the White Rock Pavilion, Hastings in 1962, the song performed being “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.
The line-up from L/R is: Pat Cahill - singer, Ian Spratt - Drums, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Mick Startup - rhythm guitar, and Geoff Playford - bass guitar.
One of the more memorable weekends for the band was playing at Orpington one Saturday evening, a gig given to us by a London agent, we were asked, by the agent, if we could be on board the “Royal Daffodil” at Chatham by 09.00 the next morning to play on a show called “Rock Across The Channel”. The ship sailed from Chatham, across to Southend and then along the north Kent coast and across the channel to Calais. We were one of about ten bands plus the star of the show “Gene Vincent” who was accompanied by “Sounds Incorporated“.
Strangely we were asked, by the agent, to play as the “Shades”. It didn’t dawn on us until sometime later, when we realised that more punters were watching us than any of the other bands, that seeing us playing a great number of “Shadows” hit’s the French punters, of whom there were probably several hundred, believed we were the “Shadows“. Crafty agent or what?
Sometime towards the end of summer 1962 “Pat and the Cheetahs” broke up when Pat Joined with Noel Redding, Pete Kircher and Bob Hiscocks from “The Lonely Ones” and eventually formed “Neil Landon and the Burnettes”.
Pat Barry and the Travellers
“The Travellers” were once again reforming towards the end of 1962. The new line-up being: Pat Barry - singer, Tony Waters - rhythm guitar, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Ian Spratt - drums and John ‘Andy’ Andrews - bass guitar from the now defunct “Lonely Ones”.
“The Travellers” once again played a few times at the old “Toft’s Club” where they proved quite popular with their wide ranging repertoire. This was the start of the “Beatles” era and we played most of their songs that had been released at that time as well as many of the late 50’s and early 60’s rock and pop songs.
Another gig popular with the band was “The Prince Of Wales Youth Club” in Canterbury, where we played quite frequently. We also played most of the regular venues around East Kent.
Alas, again “The Travellers” did not last because I (Mick Allen) was asked to take the place of Noel Redding who had left “Neil Landon and the Burnettes.”
NEIL LANDON AND THE BURNETTES
This photo of “Neil Landon and the Burnettes” was taken by the well known photographer “Dezo Hoffman”. It was an attempt at copying what is now one of the most famous album sleeve photo‘s, “With The Beatles”. The photo was taken in January 1964 just before our first trip to Germany the following month.
The line-up from L/R is: Neil Landon (Pat Cahill) - singer, Kevin Lang - bass guitar, Pete Kircher - drums, Mel Simpson - organ, Mick Allen - guitar.
The band was originally formed, about late 1962, from two local Kent bands, Pat the singer from “Pat and the Cheetahs” and Pete Kircher, Noel Redding, and Bob Hiscocks, from “The Lonely Ones”. This line-up lasted for about six months until Noel and Bob both left the band.
Mel Simpson (from London) joined the band on organ and Mick Allen on guitar in about April 1963.
Photo: the original lineup of Neil Landon and the Burnettes (L/R Noel Redding, Neil Landon, Pete Kircher and Bob Hiscocks) with the prototype Burns Bison guitars which gave rise to the name of the band.
The band played through the remainder of 1963 without a bass guitar, this was OK because Mel Simpson played the bass riffs on the organ pedals. During this period we toured around England and a couple of weeks in Scotland including Wick in the far north, Oban on the west coast and Aberdeen in the east.
In January 1964 we were booked to play the Storyville Club in Frankfurt, Germany. The owner of the club, Jon Marshall, insisted we had five in the band, so being as we were playing for a couple of weeks in the Manchester area, we auditioned and enlisted the very capable Kevin Lang (from Manchester) on bass. Incidentally, Kevin’s brother Bob was the bass player with Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.
The photo above shows the band playing the Storyville Club, Frankfurt in February 1964, the line-up from L/R being: Kevin Lang on bass, Neil Landon singing, Pete Kircher on drums and Mick Allen on Guitar, Mel Simpson on organ out of picture.
While playing at the Storyville Club during February 1964, we had a visit from Marshall Chess, the boss of the Chess Record Company in the USA. He wanted a British band to record the song “High Heeled Sneakers” to be released in Europe and he asked us to do it. However, this never came about because we had become so popular at the Storyville that they asked us to stay another month and when eventually we returned to the UK the song had already been released by the original American singer, Tommy Tucker.
At the end of March 1964 it was back to England for two months of one nighters around the country, until in June we were back in Germany again, this time at the Storyville Club in Cologne. Unbeknown to the band, one of the punters made a recording of us playing Chuck Berry’s “Bye Bye Johnny.” This only came to light in 2007 when Kevin Lang, who I had recently discovered on the internet and am now in regular contact with after 40 or more years, contacted a friend in Germany to ask if he had any more photo’s of “The Burnettes”. The guy did not have more photo’s but had a recording made by a friend. Kevin sent me the recording, which we both thought was quite good, and I made it into a video and put it on Youtube. You can hear it by clicking on the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0jk6sjXWo0
The photo above of Pete Kircher and Mick Allen at the Storyville Club in Cologne, in June 1964, was probably taken about 3.00 AM judging by the way
they’re playing with heads down and looking completely exhausted. We had to play every day of the month, from 8.00 o’clock in the evening until 1.00 o’clock in the morning, except Saturday when we carried on to 3.00 AM. Also two hours matinee on Sunday afternoon. Each hour was 50 minutes playing and 10 minutes break. It had been the same in Frankfurt.
This time we only played the one month in Germany and then it was back to touring in England. However, we had only been home a fortnight when we were suddenly called back to Germany again to play at a club, Hous Da Musica, in a town called Wuppertal. What a dump this was compared with the Storyville Clubs.
At the end of August 1964 I (Mick Allen) left the Burnettes and Noel Redding returned on guitar.
THE SHADES OF BLACK
“The Shades of Black” started life as “The 4 Shades of Black” in 1965. Within a very short time they became a popular band around the Ashford area as well as further afield.
The photo above, from a newspaper cutting, shows the band with the original line-up of from L/R: Mick Startup - bass, Dick Presley - drums, Roger Perry - rhythm guitar and singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar.
The above photo of “The Shades Of Black” was taken at Douglas Weaver’s studio in Ashford. The line-up from L/R being: Roger Perry - singer, Peter Terry - drums, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Mick Startup - bass guitar.
“The Shades Of Black”, like most bands, was a band of several changes apart from Mick Allen and Mick Startup who were with the band at the beginning in 1965 until its demise in 1968.
The first drummer was Dick Presley from Sturry who was with the band for a few months. After that came Peter Terry from Tenterden who stayed for several months before he moved to Torquay. Then followed Tim Relf from Challock on drums and later Les Sampson.
Trevor Hills joined on Vox Continental Organ and Mike Smith from Sittingbourne joined on tenor sax. “The Shades Of Black” played all over Kent and further afield. One gig we played on alternate Mondays for several months was “Tiles” in Oxford Street.
One Monday evening when we turned up, a doorman at “Tiles” said he was pleased it was us playing as he couldn’t put up with “that other band.“
“That other band” who played alternate Mondays was none other than “Pink Floyd” who, I believe, had only recently formed, it was their “Sid Barrett” era.
There were several singers after Roger Perry left the band, one of these was Dick Paul from Folkestone who stayed for only a short spell, one or two others I don’t remember, and then there was the excellent singer from Pluckley, Tony Excel.
On Saturdays we were very often playing a village hall, and we had quite a regular following that would turn up at the different villages.
A favourite venue of the band was “Bridge Country Club” where we played on several occasions. Another favourite being “The Leas Cliff Hall” where we often played as support band to many top bands.
Another singer with “The Shades Of Black” who I forgot to mention earlier was the very good showman and sometimes keyboard player, Mick Christmas, seen above on the left of the photo playing keyboard. I’m not sure exactly when Mick joined the band but he was singing with the band in its final year when we became more of a dance band with the addition of a trumpet player, whose name I forget, who combined well with saxophone player Mike Smith.
Unfortunately, because of problems with the younger members of the band wanting to play heavy rock music and us older members wanting to play a wider range of music types, the band expired completely. This was such a shame because we had been very successful, especially with the bigger line-up and expanded repertoire. “The Shades of Black” could have been very successful in Germany.
For several months Mick Christmas and myself (Mick Allen) carried on gigging as a duo around a few clubs and pubs but this eventually came to an end when I was offered the job of lead guitar with “The Purple Pennants” an Ashford band, who had arranged work playing American bases in Germany. This was very much what I wanted to do, another chance to play in Germany.
THE PURPLE PENNANTS (KANZA KONA SOUND)
The eventual line-up of the band which was to leave for Germany about the end of April 1969 was: Graham Johns - singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Paul Ovenden - rhythm guitar, Mick Fallon (from York) - bass guitar, Ray Gardiner - drums.
We spent several weeks rehearsing, and then one day, Paul Ovenden, who was self appointed leader of the band and owner of the Volkswagen van we were using to transport the bands gear, turned up at rehearsal with the van painted in psychedelic colours and the name “Kanza Kona Sound” painted on either side. This is the new name for the band, he announced to the rest of us.
Days before leaving for Germany, Paul announced that the agent had cancelled the work for May and at the moment there was nothing for us after that. (Must have been the silly name that put him off). After some discussion and because we had all given up our jobs we decided that we would go to Germany anyway.
On reaching the office of the agent, Heinz Schneider, in a small town called Butzbach, just north of Frankfurt, Herr Schneider, who was surprised to see us, apologised for the work for the month of May falling through, but said that he would probably be able to get us a few gigs to start with, and if we went down well, there would be full time work to follow.
As it turned out we were very well liked on the American bases, and worked in Germany for the rest of the year, sometimes with two very skimpily dressed go-go dancers on stage in front of us! Phew!
The photo above of me (Mick Allen) was taken in one of the American Forces clubs we played at. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of the whole band or the dancers.
The photo below is of me and Mick Fallon the bass player, who hails from York, taken by one of our gogo dancers at a pavement café in Mannheim.
This picture above was taken at a barbecue we attended on the banks of the Rhine near Mannheim, given by several GI’s and their wives or girlfriends. Some of us followed the example of the Americans and swam in the river.
The photo above is of singer Graham Johns and myself (Mick Allen) and was taken at Butzbach.
The band played in Germany until the middle of December and then came home for Christmas. Coming home turned out a mistake because some members of the band did not want to go back again in the new year and that was the end of another promising band.
THE FOUR JUST MEN
The line-up for this band was: Frank Lineker - singer and rhythm guitar, Robin Reynolds - singer and bass guitar, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Ray Gardiner - drums.
This was one of my favourite bands, both Frank and Robin were very capable singers and produced some very nice harmonies. Ray on drums was excellent after playing hundreds of hours in Germany with “The Kanza Kona Sound” the previous year, ditto myself (Mick Allen).
Initially we played gigs around Kent but eventually decided to get work in Germany. Like the previous year it was a case of getting ourselves out there, calling on Heinz Schneider the agent, and getting a continuous supply of work for as long as we wanted, or so we thought. Unfortunately things didn’t work out like that because the American government had cut back on its entertainment bill for its armed forces, meaning there wasn’t as much work available in Germany.
We stayed for a couple of months doing the odd few gigs, but we were not earning enough money to keep going, so we had to return home.
We were all disheartened and the band broke up.
“Festival” was formed about 1971 and the line-up was: John ‘Andy’ Andrews - singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Mick Startup - bass guitar, Steve Elliot - drums.
We played most of the usual gigs around East Kent, including many occasions at the Leas Cliff Hall as support band to several top rock bands.
Whilst playing at the Leas, we were very often joined by old friend Noel Redding of “Jimmy Hendrix Experience” fame, who came on stage and played bass during our rendition of ‘Hey Joe’.
Another favourite gig was the original dance hall at the Neptune, Dymchurch, which unfortunately burnt down.
For reasons I forget, “Festival” only lasted about a year.
“Deep South” was a Country Music band that we formed sometime around 1972. The line-up being: Tony ? - singer, Mick Allen - lead guitar, Mick Startup - bass guitar, Steve Elliot - drums.
The band quickly became established on the local Kent scene especially in the country music clubs around the north Kent towns.
One of our more local gigs was at the Neptune, Dymchurch, in their new hall which replaced the one that burnt down. In the audience on one occasion was John ’Andy’ Andrews, who sang with our previous band “Festival”. Of course Andy had to get up and do a few numbers of the more rock idiom, which went down as well as, if not better than the country music.
After some discussion, it was decided Andy should rejoin the band therefore giving us a much wider repertoire.
This was very successful for a few months until Tony, the country singer became disillusioned because of the increasing percentage of rock numbers we were playing and decided to leave the band, who immediately reverted to “Festival” again for the band name. I believe this band must have expired about mid 1974 because the night before my son Mark was born on 27th August 1974, I was accompanying a duo called “Mick and Jackie” at a holiday camp at St. Michaels Cliff, near Dover.
I find it very difficult to remember the bands I played with in the 1970’s, perhaps because of the fact that I had other responsibilities from 74 onwards. I remember playing in a band with Frank Lineker singing, Ray Gardiner on drums, Pete Wisbey on bass and myself playing lead. However, I cannot remember the name of this band or exactly when we played together and I don’t believe this band lasted very long. I do however remember another band I played in was called “White Lightning.”
“White Lightning” was formed from the remnants of another band “The Huntsmen” who had recently broken up after making quite a name for themselves over several years playing in the Kent area. They had been a bit old fashioned in their music as well as their dress. They all wore bright red Jackets.
They asked me to join about 1975. There were 3 guys from the Huntsmen in this new band: Paul Young on drums, Alan Smith on bass, ? ? on rhythm guitar and they were joined by John (Jock) Russell singing and myself (Mick Allen) on lead guitar.
We spent several nights rehearsing over several weeks before we had sufficient songs and instrumentals to do a gig but eventually we got there.
Our first gig was a Christmas ball for The Metal Box Company in Dover and the venue was the Dover Town Hall. This gig had been booked to “The Huntsmen” who had played at the previous Christmas Ball.
This turned out to be the most embarrassing gig of my musical career as well as a let down to the organisers of the ball. The evening started with a disco before we went on to do our first stint. Our repertoire was mostly country rock music, this seemed to go down well with most of the younger audience but not with the older punters and the organisers. To be quite honest although we were applauded for most numbers, mainly by the younger audience, the band was not that brilliant. We were only as good as can be expected from a band playing their first gig together, very unpolished. Anyway, we finished our first stint and the disco started again. We were in a room back of the stage having a drink when the organisers came to see us. Of course they wanted to know why they didn’t get “The Huntsmen” with their red coats. After it was explained to them that “The Huntsmen” were now defunct, they said that they did not want us to play any more and that they were not going to pay us. I thought this was fair enough, I just wanted to ‘get the hell out of there!’
After this baptism of fire the band turned out quite successful and we soon started to get gigs. A most notable one being the social club of The British Gypsum Company at Mountfield in Sussex. We played this gig several times and always went down very well. The band was going strong after about 6 months when John Russell, the singer announced that he’d got a job on the north sea oil rigs and so wouldn’t be able to play any longer. Another band bites the dust!
The Same Size
All members of this band, excepting myself, came from Lydd, they had been playing together for some time when they asked me to join about 1978 shortly after I and my family moved from Ashford to St. Mary’s Bay.
The line-up was: Les Freathy - singer and rhythm guitar, Mike (Tinker) Tordoff - bass and some vocals, Keith Pope - rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Pete Wisley - drums, and myself Mick Allen - lead guitar. This bands most notable gig was in France.
Lydd was twinned with a small town in France called Etrechy, south of Paris.
We were asked by the mayor of Lydd if we would like to play at the Saturday night dance when the twinning society visited Etrechy for several days. This we did, all travelling on the coach with our wives and had a very nice few days, including a trip to the Eiffel Tower.
The photo below, taken from a French newspaper, shows the band playing at the dance in Etrechy.
The “Same Size” played 2 or 3 summer seasons at ‘Silver Sands Holiday Park’ in Camber. This involved playing at the clubhouse on Friday and Saturday nights for about 16 weeks or so.
Sometime about the end of 1978, Pete Wisley left the band and we enlisted Steve Elliott, also from Lydd, to take his place on drums. About the same time Keith Pope also called it a day.
In September 1979 I started working as a bus driver which entailed working a shift system. Because of this I left the band and have not played in a band since.
As I mentioned previously, I have recently been in contact with Kevin Lang, bass player with “The Burnettes” in 1964/5, who originally lived in Manchester but now lives in Bath and is still playing in bands and has a collection of about 50 guitars, mainly basses.
I have also just been put in touch by email with Roger Perry, singer with “The Shades of Black” from 1965 to 67, who has lived in Canada since 1969 and has just recently started doing a few solo gigs in his local bar.
Mick Startup is another old muso I’ve recently contacted after several years. Mick, like me, has retired gracefully from playing in bands.