In the great global scheme of things, Rock N'Roll's origins are not that easy to track down. We know that it's an American invention, we also understand that it was conceived from a successful amalgamation of Rhythm N'Blues with some of the more vibrant strains of Country & Western. But it's emergence was not something that happened overnight, consequently it was always likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Theories abound as to what the first rock n'roll record may have been but no-one really knows for sure. As comedian Rich Hall recently put it “Trying to determine when rock n’roll was formed is like trying to work out when blue turnstopurple”. Tracing the UK's rock roots however is a little easier as pre-1956, we didn't have ANY kind of rock culture in this country at all. If we take a look at the records that reached the top of our singles charts during the 12 months that spanned the year of 1955, one discovers, hardly surprisingly, a proliferation of crooners both male and female. Some of these, such as Dicky Valentine and Rosemary Clooney, were descendants from the big band days, whilst Tony Bennett, Ruby Murray and our own beloved Jimmy Young, were carrying on the singing traditions that had been around for years but which were rapidly about to become out of date. On the 25th November Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock" suddenly appeared from nowhere to achieve No.1 status and remained in that position for 3 weeks before finally succumbing to the vocal charms of the aforementioned Mr.Valentine on the distinctly seasonal "Christmas Alphabet". One imagines that Haley's record, apart from sounding like nothing else that had preceded it, was regarded by many as nothing more than a "novelty hit" and there were certainly enough of those around in the charts at the time with which to keep it company. But as we now know, Haley's cameo appearance in our Top 5 unsuspectingly became part of a forthcoming musical "revolution" with the record positioned at the tip of a very large cultural iceberg. During the following year, the music of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Carl Perkins & Fats Domino flooded the UK airwaves and at that point all hell broke loose. Lonnie Donegan was UK's first musical pioneer, but even though the product he was peddling - skiffle - was based on black American music, it ironically became a predominantly British invention. It has been suggested that skiffle was "discovered" by the English trumpet player Ken Colyer after he had visited New Orleans in the early Fifties, but this isn't strictly true. The word "skiffle" had been around for about 30 years by the time Colyer had stumbled across it though it's origins remain obscure. A number of theories exist regarding it's birth, but in musical terms it would appear to have originated during the early part of the 20th century and was a combination of both jazz and blues as played by jug bands, a loose aggregation of musicians that used instruments such as the jug (fairly obviously), the washboard, the tea chest bass, the kazoo, the fiddle, and the musical saw, as well as more conventional instruments such as acoustic guitars and banjos. In order to add to the general confusion, this style of music was not actually called "skiffle" at all, but it does bare a very strong resemblance to the Colyer template that became so popular in the 1950's. As for the term "skiffle", it was one of many slang phrases primarily used to describe the music that was played at "rent parties" by black immigrant workers living in the cities of North America. It was first recorded in Chicago in the 1920's, and may have been brought there as part of the great African/American migration that occurred around this time. The first use of the term on record was in 1925 as performed by Jimmy O'Bryant and his Chicago Skifflers and thereafter it appeared as a general description for country blues records though the legendary Ma Rainey used it to describe her repertoire when performing to rural audiences. The term disappeared altogether from the American music vocabulary in the 1940's - Colyer's own version was somehow a mixture of all of the above, but was primarily a combination of two strains of Americana. Traditional American folk music and the blues. There may be claims that the British jazzer had invented a vibrant new genre when skiffle first raised it's head in 1954 but even though the majority of British audiences had not previously experienced this music first hand, this was not the great discovery that some people may have suggested. In was in fact a British take on a form of American traditional music that had largely been discarded and was waiting to be re-discovered. Having experienced New Orleans vibrant music scene personally, Ken Colyer's stint in America appears to have fired the young trumpet player's imagination to such an extent that he consequently returned to the UK in 1952 armed with a large selection of new/old songs and a great deal of enthusiasm.
Upon his return, artists like Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly were soon important names to drop with the latter, a twice-reprieved murderer, having been discovered by the pioneering musicologist Alan Lomax whose field recordings of Black American artists had begun to trickle across the Atlantic into the UK at roughly the same time as Colyer's return. With artists like Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson and the duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee playing in London during the early 50's the stage was set for a new music revolution in Britain. A host of young British jazz musicians began replicating this roots music in their own inimitable style whilst adding a few ideas of their own. Colyer’s brother apparently coined this "new" music "skiffle" and with the catalogues of various American artists being plundered unashamedly (it was Leadbelly who had recorded the original version of "Rock Island Line" and Anthony Donegan became "Lonnie" after he had appeared with Lonnie Johnson at the Royal Festival Hall in 1952), the music suddenly became a curious fusion of Black American rhythms, and England's own folk and jazz music traditions. The Brits, as they always have done, took what the Americans had originated and added their own unique twist to it, augmenting American arcania with a UK equivalent. Becuase of this, Alan Lomax himself has suggested that Skiffle was almost as British as the Union Jack. Donegan became Chris Barber's banjo player in 1953, and after Ken Colyer's return from the USA he too joined the line-up, his influence becoming so significant that the group changed it's name to accommodate Colyer's arrival. Donegan and two other members of the "Ken Colyer Jazzband" as they were now called, began introducing "skiffle" sessions during the interval at their gigs, and pretty soon these were proving to be exceptionally popular. KEN COLYER JAZZ BAND - This Train (1954) (live at The Royal Festival Hall) (this track, which incidentally starts after a 10 second gap, not only features Donegan prominently but also includes a brief description of skiffle's origins from Ken Colyer himself.)
Skiffle, however, didn't last very long. Donegan, buoyed by the success of these musical skits, had a No.1 hit with "Rock Island Line" in 1956 and by doing so created a huge wave of interest that not only spawned other professional skiffle bands like the Chas McDevitt Group and The Vipers but inspired teenagers all over the United Kingdom to take up thy washboard and rock. It's easy to see why skiffle was so popular. It was simple to play, infectious, rhythmic and perhaps most importantly, cheap. Musical instruments could be fashioned from bits and pieces discovered in your parents back garden. But on the down side, it was also repetitive with one skiffle song arrangement sounding much like another and even though the BBC popularised it by introducing the program "6:5 Special" to our TV screens in 1957, by the end of that year skiffle had already seen better days as a commercial success. Donegan continued to have hits but probably realised more than anyone that it was a dying art form and began recording novelty songs like "My Old Man's A Dustman" and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavour On The Bedpost Overnight”, the latter a song that Leadbelly would have undoubtedly killed for again, if only to avoid. As Karl Dallas writing for the encyclopaedia "The History Of Rock" stated "The record sales for the skiffle movement never reflected the level of mass participation. Skiffle was meant to be played, not listened to." LONNIE DONEGAN - Lost John (1955)
And skiffle was played, by thousands of individuals, the length and breadth of the country. From John Lennon's Quarrymen in Liverpool to The Dick Teague Skiffle Group in London featuring a young vocalist called Harry Webb. From Van Morrison's Sputniks in Belfast to the Roger Daltrey-led Detours featuring Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, also from the capital city. Even a young 13 year-old whippersnapper called Jimmy Page could appear on television playing skiffle as he did on the BBC-TV talent program "All Your Own" in 1957. (Host Huw Wheldon "And what do you want to do when you leave school?" Young Master Page "I want to do biological research") So what did all of this mean to a small market town like Bridgwater? Well, not a lot actually. Even though the sudden popularity of skiffle might have been responsible for creating a lot of would-be Presley’s there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that any of them came from my home town. Of course there must have been some individuals within the locality who picked up on the new fad but due to it's geographical location and size, a town like ours was never going to provide the UK with the "next big thing". Bridgwater was also a little slow in presenting both skiffle and rock n'roll to it's wild and willing audience, though in that respect it was also no different to any other town of similar size and stature. By all accounts the first attempts to create a “scene” based around this latest musical fad was a Rock N’Roll club that ran on a weekly basis at the old Rex cinema or "The Bug House" as it was referred to locally. Largely run by word of mouth, it provided the opportunity for local punters to dance to 78's played on an old wind up gramophone. The Top Twenty's Bridgwater story begins in 1960 but leading up to the period just before it's debut a quick thumb through the Bridgwater Mercury's archives confirms that for a small industrial town in the middle of Somerset, Rock N'Roll did not exist. "Trad Jazz" was supposedly the choice of music among young people at the time and even though it enjoyed a brief renaissance in the U.K. during the early 60's it was only as an alternative to the pop music that was still dominating the British singles charts. In June 1960 the Bridgwater Round Table put on an "Open Air Festival of Modern & Traditional Jazz" at The Rugby Ground at Taunton Road with Johnny Dankworth and his Orchestra as headliner. The festival was a financial disaster and reported a loss of £250.00, undoubtedly a lot of money in those days. As the Mercury reported "The festival had everything - except cash customers. Two top-line bands were engaged and every detail of organisation was perfect. But only 1,000 people passed through the turnstile instead of the 2,000 needed to clear expenses or the 6,000 hoped for. Mr.G.E.Horsey an officer from the Table told the Mercury "We thought we were giving the modern teenagers what they wanted, but we were wrong. Whether they don't want live shows and prefer their entertainment canned all the time I just don't know"
There could have been several reasons for the lack of interest shown but I would guess that the Round Table had simply misjudged what the "modern teenager" was actually listening to. Trad Jazz's resurgent popularity coincided with the appearance of Dankworth in our home town but as a "modern" culture it may have been marketed as a "young person's" music but it's image of bowler-hatted beardies wearing dickie bows and sparkly multi-coloured waistcoats always seemed far too square and middle-aged.
There was, it seemed, a gap in the teenage market but it took an individual from Wiltshire to fill it.
Graham Alford was a music enthusiast who, during late 1955/ early 1956 worked as a TV & radio apprentice in a shop called "Frank’s Radio & Television" situated in Fore Street, Trowbridge, his home town. For lunch, Graham's boss would depart for his customary one-hour break and the shop was left in the hands of the young teenager. Somewhat bored by the lack of frenzied shopping activity, Graham took advantage of the absence of his immediate superior by listening to records on the store's radiogram at full volume. This soon attracted an eager audience, the core of which were mostly old mates from his schooldays. Despite being just a lad himself, it did not take long for Graham to understand the old adage "supply and demand" and sensing that local kids wanted the opportunity to listen to chart music in a social setting, in October 1956 he booked a "record hop" in Trowbridge's Co-Op Hall, advertising the shindig by placing poster's in the town's local coffee bars and by taking out an advert in the local newspaper “The Wiltshire Times”. The Co-Op Hall boasted a capacity of just 80-100 but Graham's opening night attracted twice that amount. The local press reported the following;“A capacity crowd of popular music fans welcomed the opening night of the “Top Twenty Club” at the Co-Op Hall, Trowbridge, last Friday evening. The resident compere Paul Goldsworthy, began the evening by introducing a varied and interesting selection of the latest popular records. The crowded floor soon showed that the Club members preferred to dance to the music of their favourite artists. After the interval, the Two Plus One Trio was well received by the audience. They will be a popular Club band. The Top Twenty Club will be continuing this week with the resident team and new members will be welcome. Mr. G. Alford is the promoter, and records were supplied by W. H. Sims Ltd".
After enjoying a successful run that lasted for about 2-3 weeks, his Friday night bookings began to cause traffic problems in the town centre. Under pressure from the local constabulary and no doubt realising that a bigger venue was required to satisfy the social tastes of this new audience, Alford automatically switched his attention to the bigger Town Hall, which was not only double the size of the previous venue but was conveniently situated away from the traffic sprawl of Trowbridge's centre, thus alleviating any congestion problems. The cost of hiring the hall was a miserly £6.00 per night – money well spent. Once again The Wiltshire Times reported dutifully.“During the past few weeks the young people of Trowbridge and the surrounding district have been flocking every Friday evening to the Co-operative Hall where for three hours they have been able to listen to their favourite melodies, and coo over the latest singers. The numbers that have attended these meetings of the “Top Twenty Club” have far exceeded the wildest expectations of the organisers and as a result of the crowding at the present premises they have decided to hold all future meetings of the Club in the large hall of Trowbridge Town Hall. The organisers regret that there will be no club this week as the hall was booked before the club was formed, but next Friday, November 16th, the club will be held at the Town Hall, when a Latin American Band will be in attendance.”(The advert above included the following message; "The very large number of enthusiasts makes it necessary for The Top Twenty Club to move to a Larger Hall. The Club will in future hold meetings at The Town Hall, Trowbridge. Watch for details.")The potential of the Town Hall was a significant improvement on the Co-Operative’s cosy but cramped floor space with an opportunity to shoehorn approximately 400 brylcreemed boys and bobby-soxed girls onto it’s dance floor. Result? Another packed audience, with some kids queuing up during the afternoon of the Friday night bash. The average age of the typical Record Hop punter was 16-18 years old. No alcohol was consumed on the premises (though it was possible to sink a few beers in the local beforehand), it was free tea and sandwiches at the Co-Op Hall though Coca Cola was available at the bigger venue, courtesy of a local milk bar who, sensing an opportunity to make some money, quickly became a permanent fixture. Sandwiches and security were supplied by Alford's parents with Graham’s mother very much to the fore. Teens wearing the wrong haircut were omitted. Leather jackets were not permitted, belts were strictly off limits, stiletto heels were not allowed on the dance floor. Everything was kept on a very tight leash. Alford meanwhile was a veritable one-man band, in charge of the entire evening's entertainment. He DJ'd, spinning records that mostly came from an already sizable collection, the majority of which were purchased from W.H.Sims, the local Trowbridge record emporium, though such was Graham’s enthusiasm for music, other items were imported from the USA. As lighting equipment was not readily available back in those pre-disco days, the necessary club "atmosphere" was provided by a DIY rig that Alford had cobbled together from various bits of electrical equipment and which was operated by the pressing of keys in time with the music. A little later, as these weekly meetings became a regular fixture, professional equipment was purchased from the local Rank Organisation. During it's heyday, coaches came from Midsomer Norton, Bath and Radstock to these Trowbridge shows, with most of them filled with factory girls from the surrounding area. As one early Top Twenty punter stated"If you didn't get there at a reasonable time, you didn't get in"There were frequent punch-ups at these early gigs though whether they were inside or outside the premises is not known.
Business prospered, but Alford was always looking one step ahead. In hindsight, making the transition to live performances was a fairly obvious move, however the decision for introducing artistes to these teenage bashes was not arrived at by solid business acumen. Graham found these record-spinning evenings too much like bloody hard work. By combining live music with his DJ'ing it afforded him the opportunity to take a breather in between stage performances. Live bands had been part and parcel of the Top Twenty set-up from the very beginning. An early favourite were the “Two Plus One” Trio. The 2+1’s were a three piece from Trowbridge that featured Shorty Weston on piano, Vic Rees on Alto Sax and Carl Hoar on drums. They could be obtained for the princely sum of 30 shillings and were consequently relied upon to entertain the crowd by banging out a variety of rock n’roll standards whilst Graham lined up the next batch of 45’s. They were almost a permanent fixture at these early shows but gradually Alford began introducing other bands, most of which appear to have been taken from the local vicinity and the burgeoning skiffle scene. Bands like The Moonrakers from Devizes (whom Graham believes enjoyed the novelty of having a single released nationally), The Johnny Rebb Group, Johnny McEllen & His Trio, Jack Steeds & His Band, The Saints Skiffle Group, and the Rod Price Combo appeared frequently. The latter hailed from the thriving metropolis of the capital city and apart from apparently being recommended to Graham by someone connected to the 2 I’s Coffee Bar, in Compton Street, Soho, they arrived fresh from appearances on both “6.5 Special” and “Cool For Cats”. Price was a particular favourite with the female members of the audience who screamed uncontrollably at the singer’s performance. It is not known whether the latter would have been a professional group, but Graham would occasionally attempt to push the boat out and make an effort to bring in more established artist’s to Trowbridge, though the days of doing so on a regular basis were still some way off in the distance.
As an example, in order to celebrate the completion of the Top Twenty’s first season, on Sunday April 26th 1957, the Top Twenty Club welcomed Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band to Trowbridge with The Moonrakers as support. Bilk’s jazz band was, at this point, barely one year old, the clarinettist having originally played in Ken Colyer’s group from 1954 to 1956. Bilk was to eventually enjoy a string of 11 successive hit singles in the UK but at the time of his Trowbridge performance, Acker’s career was very much in it’s infancy and “Stranger On The Shore”, the song for which he is most remembered, was still 5 years away from it’s birth. On this April evening, for the sum of just 5 hard-earned shillings, you were promised 4 and a half hours of solid entertainment at what turned out to be a hugely successful concert. The Wiltshire Times were there and a report of the gig appeared in the May 3rd edition of the paper under the slightly bewildering title “JAMBOREE OF ROCK N’ROLL” From what I remember, Bilk wasn’t known for his Little Richard impersonations, but in these embryonic days of British popular music, you could book an act like the bowler-hatted Bilk, call it rock, and still get away with it.
"Last Friday a capacity crowd attended the Top Twenty Club at the Town Hall, Trowbridge, where as a climax to the season a successful Rock N’Roll Jamboree was held. The main attraction of the evening was the Paramount Jazz Band, which was supported by the Moonrakers Skiffle Group, with Paul Goldsworthy the resident compere. Under their leader, Acker Bilk, the Paramount Jazz Band played an exciting brand of jazz in the real New Orleans tradition. Some fine clarinet playing from Bilk and a good rhythm section gave the band a prodigious swing. They received a great welcome from the crowd, who certainly seemed to enjoy Bilk’s style of jazz. During the course of the evening the club promoter, Mr.Graham Alford, gave prizes to the first and last members to join the club. These were Miss Gloria Perrett and Mr.John Ingram respectively. A presentation was made to Mr.Grant for all the help he has given the club. Fourteen other prizes were given to the winners of the lucky balloons. From the opening night last October to last Friday, April 26th, the Top Twenty has had an amazingly successful run. The full houses week after week have proved that the organisers, Graham Alford, David Deverall and Paul Goldsworthy, have given the public what they want. Next winter it is hoped that this success will continue and no effort will be spared to give the young people of Trowbridge good value for their money. The organisers would like to thank many people for their kind help and co-operation during the last season. It is impossible to name them all, but there is room to thank the following; W.H.Sims Ltd for their kind assistance on the record side; Benjamin’s Music Saloon for the use of their piano, and The Milk Bar* for the excellent refreshments provided for the Jamboree. Also many thanks to the Council members and the Police Force for their co-operation. Mr.F.Farr (Franks) who supplied the amplifying equipment, Mr & Mrs Blaber, who ran the club’s cloakroom so efficiently, and last but not least, the doorman, Mr.Hervin”
* The Milk Bar in Trowbridge's centre, run by Jack Courtenay & his wife, and where "one cup of coffee used to last all night" was apparently the hottest joint in town for Trowbridge's teenagers.
The Top Twenty rumbled on through the latter part of the 50’s and seems to have stuck to a fairly rigid formula though Alford was not afraid to cash in on whatever was happening in the pop fraternity at the time. On 25th September 1957, there was a special “Tommy Steele evening” in celebration of the singer’s first year in showbiz. The Wiltshire Times advert seems to, perhaps deliberately, suggest that Steele himself was about to appear at the venue. The chirpy cockney entertainer, at the peak of his powers at this point in his career, was always going to be out of Alford’s league but this did not prevent the club owner from using the star’s name in an effort to attract teenagers to his regular Friday night bash.
October 1958 heralded the introduction of some artists that had not appeared previously with The Martell Bros (“UK’s answer to The Everly’s”) appearing on the 17th and The Coasters Skiffle Group (another group used frequently by The Top Twenty) appearing one week later. On the day of The Coasters gig, an interesting offer was made to Top Twenty patrons. “SEE US ON THE TV SHOW OH BOY!” On November 8th at London ITV Studios. “Oh Boy!” was the first television program to focus entirely on teenage popular music and was first broadcast on ITV in 1958, running for about a year. A Jack Good project, he had previously co-produced the show “6.5 Special” for the BBC, but became increasingly frustrated by Auntie Beeb’s insistence that the program’s high-spirited, energetic show format be toned down. The BBC incensed Good by introducing a mixture of jazz and classical music into the program along with slots for film, sport and current affairs. Jack resigned as an outcome, defecting to BBC’s rivals, ITV. Having retained the best bits of his old program but placing a heavier emphasis on the burgeoning success of Rock N’Roll, ABC gave Good two trial broadcasts in the Midlands for his latest venture and eventually granted him a 30-minute weekly slot that was broadcast live from the Hackney Empire. Placed in direct competition with “6.5 Special” on the other channel, it’s success was immediate and heralded the demise of Good’s old show which was still using skiffle as it’s musical template. Oh Boy’s resident musicians included Cuddly Duddly, Cliff Richard (who became a star due to his 20 appearances on the show), The Drifters (later to become The Shadows) and Marty Wilde whilst dancers The Vernon’s Girls (featuring Wylde’s future wife) added some sexy glamour to the proceedings. Despite it’s success, the show’s run on TV proved to be short lived. In 1959 ABC were informed that they could no longer use the Hackney Empire, and Good and his crew were shunted off to Manchester, which wasn’t a terribly successful move as the studio was ill-equipped to deliver the sort of show that Good demanded. ABC were also keen on a new program called “Boy Meets Girl”, which was effectively a watered-down version of it’s predecessor and after “Oh Boy’s” final broadcast on 30th May 1959, the new show, hosted by Marty Wylde, eventually aired 4 and a half months later.
OH BOY! - 4th April 1959
Songs featured; "It's Late" - Dean Webb - "He's My Own" - The Vernons Girls - "Good Rockin Tonight" - The Cutters & entire cast - "Long Gone" - Lord Rockingham's XI - "Charlie Brown" - Neville Taylor & The Cutters - "Oh Wait For It Baby" - Cherry Wainer
Regarding this latest Top Twenty extravaganza, it may well have been advertised under it’s banner, with the advert cleverly suggesting that the studio visit was “by courtesy” of Jack Good himself but it was not actually a Graham Alford booking. A local guy called Tony Price was behind the idea and having done a deal with a local coach hire firm to ferry the excited teenagers to their destination, he was allowed to use the Top Twenty as a front for the venture.
At this point in the proceedings, Alford was making in-roads into checking out people in the music industry who could help him to improve what was still a local business operating from the cosy confines of the sleepy Devon town. In this respect Graham proved extremely successful, going straight to the top and contacting directly some of the major movers and shakers of the British pop scene. Pretty soon Graham had begun to assemble a list of people that he felt could provide him with what he needed and first up was Tom Littlewood who ran the 2 I's Coffee Bar in London.
The 2 I’s will forever be regarded as an integral part of Britain’s pop music history. Situated at 59 Old Compton Street in the old Soho district of London it was originally owned by two brothers called Irani (hence the name) but on April 22nd 1956 it was re-opened by two ex-wrestlers, Ray Hunter and Paul Lincoln, the latter of which once worked under the name “Dr.Death”. It was Dr.Death and his cohort who came up with the idea of using the coffee house’s basement for live performances and skiffle band The Vipers (which included a young singer called Wally Whyton) became the first group to earn a residency there. During a break at a Vipers gig in September 1956, a young upstart called Thomas Hicks appeared on stage and launched into Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”. Agent John Kennedy had been invited to the venue by one of the coffee bar’s co-owners in order to check out the main attraction but after witnessing Hicks’ impromptu performance, Kennedy signed him up. A repeat appearance at the same venue was specifically arranged for Decca’s A&R man Hugh Mendl and within a month “Rock With The Cavemen” by Tommy Steele was in the shops and “Britain’s first rock star” was born.
From that moment on, The 2 I’s became synonymous with stardom and discovery and consequently 100’s of star-struck hopefuls flocked to the venue from all over the country in the hope of becoming the “next big thing”. Also appearing regularly at this Musical Mecca were promoters such as the previously mentioned Jack Good, Larry Parnes and Don Arden who consequently hoovered up any singers who were deemed to be good enough to make the grade and artists such as Cliff Richard, Terry Dene, Adam Faith, and Vince’s Eager and Taylor were all “discovered” by appearing there. Littlewood, a judo instructor by trade, took over the 2 I’s in 1960, and managed some of their artist’s including the unpredictable Vince Taylor who appeared in Bridgwater in 1962. Alford visited London by train, seemingly on a regular basis, and struck up a friendship with Littlewood, whilst also being introduced to Larry Parnes and others. These managers were keen on the idea of promoting their talent in the South West of England and consequently Alford was given access to some of them, though most of the more stellar singers were undoubtedly well out of his price range. One of the first acts that Alford was given was Tony Sheridan, not an established artist by any means but a useful Presley-inspired singer who primarily backed a number of the 2 I vocalists on guitar, one of which was a pre-Drifters Cliff Richard.
Sheridan had been a 2 I’s regular for 6 months and was also a permanent fixture on “Oh Boy!” but despite earning his spurs as a talented musician his somewhat erratic time-keeping earnt him the reputation of being somewhat unpredictable and untrustworthy. His band was given an engagement at The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany and even though Sheridan’s group eventually returned home, Tony decided to stay on. As it happened, some scruffy young urchins from Liverpool called The Beatles had just been offered an engagement at the nearby Indra club, and unsurprisingly, their paths crossed, with Sheridan being regarded by the Pre-Fab Four as something of a guitar hero. If you are familiar with your Beatle history, you’ll know what happened next. Alford, booked Sheridan to play at The Top Twenty on January 16th 1959 and again on May 1st, about a year before his German engagement, after which the guitarist did not return to this country for another 3 years. Sheridan’s part in Beatle history almost never happened as he was almost electrocuted at Trowbridge, receiving a nasty shock from his “live” guitar during the afternoon’s sound check. During the evening’s performance, Sheridan, like most of the artist’s to appear at The Top Twenty at that time, would play in 20 minute segments, interspersed with Graham’s discs and an appearance by the perennial “2+1 Trio” or some other support band. During his May performance, Sheridan appeared with The Lonesome Travellers and the equally wilfully obscure “The Boppers”
CHRIS ANDREWS - Move It (with Tony Sheridan on guitar)
After the 1959 summer break, The Top Twenty returned with a brand new logo that was directly lifted from the film poster of the recently released “South Pacific”. On September 18th 1959, Geoff & Ricky Brooks – probably the nearest that the UK ever got to a bona fide Everly Brothers duo - made the first of a bewildering 4 appearances spread over a 4-month period. The Brook Brothers returned on the 16th October, the 14th November and 11th December and even though there may just be the chance that their return visits were due to “popular demand”, one could not blame the Trowbridge faithful for feeling a large touch of déjà vu by the time of their pre-Christmas concert. Other concerts towards the latter part of The Top Twenty’s 3rd year of office included The Chequers on October 5th, Daryl Grant & The Descants on the 20th November and a couple of artists who were later to grace the stage at Bridgwater’s Town Hall – Brian Fisher (October 30th) and Dale Rivers (December 18th)
By 1960, Alford had introduced various items during the evening’s proceedings in order to keep his teen audience entertained and amused. One of these was the “Record Request” spot. A post box was provided within the venue so that both guys and gals could ask for their favourite record to be played for whoever their latest squeeze happened to be. The lucky recipients not only had their request aired but were also given free tickets for the next gig. After an evening that usually lasted 3 hours, the end of the live entertainment usually occurred at 10.45 but a cafeteria situated on the right hand side of the stage was sometimes open until midnight. Punters were eventually asked to leave by playing the National Anthem. This was sometimes a useful tool if audiences were proving a little reluctant to depart as a quick burst of “God Save The Queen” would soon send them scurrying out into the street!
1960 turned out to be a year of great change for The Top Twenty though from Trowbridge’s point of view it was more of the same with further appearances by performers that Bridgwater were later given access to. Tex Roberg and Shirley Gaye from Len Canham’s roster of Southampton artistes appeared on the 22nd January 1960, Lance Fortune from the Larry Parnes production line appearing just one week later whilst a special “Expresso Bongo” night – celebrating Cliff Richard’s debut film appearance – occurred on the 19th February. However after establishing himself at Trowbridge Town Hall, an association that lasted for some 14 or 15 years, during 1960 Alford began to expand his empire. Chippenham & Stroud were the next towns to be conquered, gigs being held at the Neeld Hall Chippenham on Saturday evenings for the first time on January 30th 1960 with a concert by those hardy perennials Geoff and Ricky Brooks. The Transcription Rooms in Stroud on Wednesdays were added a little later, though concerts here were more sporadic. Bridgwater became the fourth venue to host Top Twenty concerts and was chosen because of it's similarities in size and population to Trowbridge and the fact that it was only 40 miles from Alford's Wiltshire residence.
From what I understand, Graham was only interested in the Town Hall as a venue though the smaller Blake Hall was possibly sounded out as an alternative. Still a keen record buyer, Graham paid visits to the two record shops that Bridgwater had back in those days, Taylor's & Acland’s, and no doubt nonchalantly mentioned his interest in putting on gigs within the town. Stan Barnett, who was Taylor's record manager at the time, was enthusiastic and got involved, primarily in a promotional capacity, though he was one of the people responsible for providing the music that was played at the Top Twenty's gigs and was occasionally employed as a taxi driver for some of the artists, most of which arrived in Bridgwater by rail*. However, Bridgwater's other record shop, Acland's, were also a part of the Top Twenty’s set-up at least initially and one imagines that it was here that Graham first encountered Carol Waterman, an individual who played an important part during the Top Twenty's early 60's period and who worked behind the counter at Acland's at this time. With both shops being promised “in-store” appearances from some of the club's stars, advertising The Top Twenty’s brand was an obvious move for them to make. The Town Hall may have been an obvious venue to use under the circumstances, with it’s 400 plus capacity and a large stage area but alterations were required in order to house live concerts. Graham tackled the problem with his usual gusto, purchasing drapes and much needed lighting equipment.
*Another method of transport was the "Top Twenty" Commer Van, advertised beautifully here by the glamorous Stephanie Austin, a compere at the Trowbridge Town Hall.There were apparently 3 or 4 of these 10-seater vans used over a period of time, all custom made by the curiously named Hebdon Knees garage. With Stephanie in the above photo is the Hebdon Knees owner, John Knee.
With customary aloofness, the arrival of the Top Twenty was not heralded at all by the Bridgwater Mercury. It's "entertainment" section incorporated sport as well as the arts back in those days, consequently there seemed to be more interest in the exploits of Bridgwater Town Football Club and the latest local skittle league scandals - reviews were only provided for the terribly highbrow Bridgwater Arts Centre's "music club" concerts.
In the Mercury's 23rd August 1960 edition, headlines on the front page included stories about a female charged at Bridgwater Crown Court with infanticide and a "shock horror probe" tale of assault under the film-noirish title "Midnight Scene at Saltlands Avenue". These were placed either side of a photograph of young women parading their plum puddings outside the Brent Knoll Inn (I kid you not.) Lost forgotten films "The Challenge" and "Never Let Go" were appearing at the Odeon whilst "Goliath" featuring Steve Reeves - advertised under the banner "1000 women dream of his embrace" - was The Palace Theatre's blockbuster for the week. Also included was an advertisement for a brand new venture. Regardless of any disinterest the local press may have shown for the club, The Top Twenty began with an absolute belter and Monday nights were never quite the same again for the next 6 years.
29/8/60 Johnny Kidd & The Pirates/Larry Boyd & The Davericks 5/9/60 Brian Fisher/Anne Beverley with the Four Strangers 12/9/60 Johnny Spencer & The Casuals/Gary Price/Pete & The Devils (local group) 19/9/60 NO INFO 26/9/60 Keith Kelly/Danny Davis/Lyn Tracey/Tex Roberg/The Strangers and The Semi-Tones (backing bands) 3/10/60 No concert 10/10/60 No concert 17/10/60 Dale Rivers & The Ramrods/Larry Boyd & The Davericks 24/10/60 Paul Hanford and The Rhythm Seekers/Clay Nichols & The Teenbeats 31/10/60 Barrie James & The Dominoes 7/11/60 NO INFO 14/11/60 The Brook Brothers/Barrie James & The Dominoes 21/11/60 NO INFO 28/11/60 Danny Hunter/Brian Fisher & The Strangers 5/12/60 Johnny Spencer & The Casuals 12/12/60 Michael Cox/The Hunters 19/12/60 No concert 26/12/60 No concert
2/1/61 Danny Davis/Tex Roberg/The Nevitt Bros. 9/1/61 NO INFO 16/1/61 Lance Fortune & Screamin Lord Sutch 23/1/61 Johnny Spencer & The Casuals 30/1/61 The Nevitt Bros/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye 6/2/61 No concert 13/2/61 Sandra McCann/Johnny Gregg/The Antones/Mike Storm & The Comets 20/2/61 NO INFO 27/2/61 Dickie Pride/Pete Chester & The Consulates 6/3/61 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs/Royston Jones & the Raiders 13/3/61 No concert 20/3/61 Vince Taylor & The Playboys/Di Mackay/Frank Kelly & The Crestas 27/3/61 Barrie James/The Nevitt Bros/Shirley Gaye 3/4/61 NO INFO 10/4/61 Danny Davis/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye with The Strangers 17/4/61 No concert 24/4/61 The Londons/Johnny Spencer & The Casuals 1/5/61 No concert 8/5/61 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs/Dean Torrent & The Pressmen 15/5/61 The Brook Brothers/Barrie James 22/5/61 Billy Fury/Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
4/9/61 Danny Davis/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye & The Semitones 11/9/61 The Antonnes/Sandra McCann/Mike Storm/Johnny Gregg & The Comets 18/9/61 Ricky Forde & The Cyclones 25/9/61 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 2/10/61 No concert 9/10/61 No concert 16/10/61 Johnny & Mike with The Shades featuring Jackie London 23/10/61 Paul Clayton & The Corvettes 30/10/61 NO INFO 6/11/61 NO INFO 13/11/61 Ricky Forde & The Cyclones 20/11/61 NO INFO 27/11/61 Duffy Power & The Dreamers 4/12/61 Bobby Angelo & The Tuxedos 11/12/61 Royston Jones & The Raiders 18/12/61 Nelson Keene/Ricky Forde & The Cyclones/Carol Waterman/Dean Torrent & The Pressmen 25/12/61 No concert
1/1/62 No concert 8/1/62 Johnny, Mike & the Shades 15/1/62 Danny Davis/Gary & Lee/The Paramounts 22/1/62 No concert 29/1/62 Sandra McCann/Mike Storm/The Antonnes/Lee Scott & The Comets 5/2/62 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 12/2/62 Ricky Forde & The Cyclones 19/2/62 Royston Jones & The Raiders 26/2/62 A Demonstration of the dance "The Twist" 5/3/62 No concert 12/3/62 NO INFO 19/3/62 Dean Prince & The Dukes 26/3/62 Barrie James/Sandra Laine/The Strangers 2/4/62 NO INFO 9/4/62The Comets/Kim Taylor/The Antonnes/Mike Storm/Lee Scott 16/4/62 Ricky Forde & The Cyclones 23/4/62 NO INFO 30/4/62 The Shades 7/5/62 Mike Berry & The Outlaws 14/5/62 Dale Rivers & The Ramrods 21/5/62 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 28/5/62 Russ Sainty and the Fabulous Nu Notes
10/9/62 Duke D.Mond & The Barron Knights 17/9/62 Alan G.Read & The Statesmen 24/9/62 Colin & Bruce/The Detours 1/10/62 Barrie James/Pattie Knight/Gary & Lee/The Strangers 08/10/62 No concert 15/10/62 No concert 22/10/62 Dean Prince & The Dukes 29/10/62 Ricky Forde & The Cyclones 5/11/62 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 12/11/62 NO INFO 19/11/62 The Crestas with Mike Sagar 26/11/62 NO INFO 3/12/62 Erkey Grant & The Tonettes 10/12/62 Brian Poole & The Tremeloes 17/12/62 NO INFO 24/12/62 NO INFO 31/12/62 NO INFO
7/1/63 The Barron Knights 14/1/63 The Federals with Tony Bolton 21/1/63 No concert 28/1/63 Dale Rivers & The Ramrods 4/2/63 Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers 11/2/63 The Tartans 18/2/63 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 25/2/63 The Dowland Bros with the Soundtracks 4/3/63 The Detours 11/3/63 The Original Checkmates 18/3/63 NO INFO 25/3/63 Nick Troy & The Trojans 1/4/63 NO INFO 8/4/63 Jerry Williams & The Violents 15/4/63 NO INFO 22/4/63 Gary Landis & The Rebels 29/4/63 The Dowland Bros and the Soundtracks 6/5/63 Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers 13/5/63 Johnny Milton & The Condors 20/5/63 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 27/5/63 The Barron Knights
2/9/63 Sounds Incorporated 9/9/63 The Fourmosts 16/9/63 Colin & Bruce with The Detours 23/9/63 Johnny Milton & The Condors 30/9/63 The Fabulous Tuxedoes with Bobby Angelo and Susan Terry 7/10/63 No concert 14/10/63 No concert 21/10/63 Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders 28/10/63 NO INFO 4/11/63 Tania Day with the Rockin Rebels 11/11/63 Johnny Burnette/The Four Specs 18/11/63 NO INFO 25/11/63 The Lonely Ones with Gene Anthony & Johnny Keepings 2/12/63 Shane Fenton & The Fentones 9/12/63 No concert 16/12/63 The Swinging Blue Jeans 23/12/63 Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs 30/12/63 Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers
6/1/64 Carter-Lewis & The Southerners 13/1/64 The Rockin Berries 20/1/64 The Gamblers 27/1/64 No concert 3/2/64 Colin & Bruce with The Detours 10/2/64 The Dowland Bros with the Soundtracks/The Overlanders 17/2/64 The Rebounds with Vern Rogers 24/2/64 Chris Sandford and His Group 2/3/64 The Ramblers 9/3/64 NO INFO 16/3/64 Marty Wylde & the Wildcats 23/3/64 Eddie Langdon with the Cracksmen and "French Film Star" Brigitte Bond 30/3/64 NO INFO 6/4/64 Pat Wayne & The Beachcombers 13/4/64 Me & Them 20/4/64 Linda Laine with The Sinners 27/4/64 No concert 4/5/64 Robb Storme & The Whispers 11/5/64 The Barron Knights 18/5/64 NO INFO 25/5/64 The Rockin Berries 1/6/64 Rod & Caroline with The Solitaires 8/6/64 Dave Berry & The Cruisers 15/6/64 Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders 22/6/64 Tony Bolton & The Federals 29/6/64 The Pretty Things 6/7/64 Ray Starr & The Cherokees 13/7/64 The Rebounds
24/8/64 The Cockneys 31/8/64 The Pickwicks 7/9/64 The Rustiks 14/9/64 The Original Checkmates 21/9/64 The Discs 28/9/64 The Escorts 5/10/64 Them 12/10/64 No concert 19/10/64 No concert 26/10/64 NO INFO 2/11/64 Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders 9/11/64 The Mighty Avengers 16/11/64 NO INFO 23/11/64 Jimmy Powell & The Five Dimensions 30/11/64 Downliners Sect 7/12/64 The Paramounts 14/12/64 The Cymerons 28/12/64 Dave Curtis & The Tremors
4/1/65 Wayne Gibson & the Dynamic Sounds 11/1/65 Pat Wayne & The Beachcombers 18/1/65 Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders 25/1/65 No concert 1/2/65 The Long And The Short 8/2/65 Beat Merchants 15/2/65 Just Four Men 22/2/65 The Nashville Teens 1/3/65 Tommy Quickly & The Remo 4 8/3/65 Riot Squad 15/3/65 NO INFO 22/3/65 Naturals 29/3/65 Checkmates 5/4/65 NO INFO 12/4/65 Gamblers 19/4/65 No concert?? 26/4/65 The Who 3/5/65 No concert 10/5/65 Just Four Men 17/5/65 Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers 24/5/65 Toggery Five 31/5/65 Little Frankie & The Country Gentlemen 7/6/65 NO INFO 14/6/65 Shelley 21/6/65 The Dennisons 28/6/65 Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders 5/7/65 Doug Gibbons & The Outcasts 12/7/65 Cops N'Robbers 19/7/65 The Measles 26/7/65 The Remo Four/Pete Vicki & The Sabres (outside booking) 2/8/65 The Cherokees (outside booking) 9/8/65 Lancastrians 16/8/65 The Riot Squad 23/8/65 The Mojos 30/8/65 NO INFO 6/9/65 Bo Street Runners 13/9/65 The Birds 20/9/65 Meddy Evils 27/9/65 The Cymerons 4/10/65 No concert 11/10/65 No concert 18/10/65 The Small Faces 25/10/65 No concert??? The Shots???? 1/11/65 The Downliners Sect 8/11/65 NO INFO The Shots???? 15/11/65 Gary Farr & The T.Bones 22/11/65 The Measles 29/11/65 The Emotions 6/12/65 Hedgehoppers Anonymous 13/12/65 The Mark Four 20/12/65 The Sorrows 27/12/65 No concert???
3/1/66 The Pack 10/1/66 The Swinging Blue Jeans 17/1/66 Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich 24/1/66 Les Fleur De Lys 31/1/66 The Alan Price Set 7/2/66 The Beatstalkers 14/2/66 The Meddyevils 21/2/66 The Hot Springs 28/2/66 The Mindbenders 7/3/66 The Eyes 14/3/66 The Carnaby One Plus Four 21/3/66 No concert (Play @Town Hall) 28/3/66 Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich 4/4/66 Tony Rivers & the Castaways 11/4/66 NO INFO 18/4/66 Paddy, Klaus & Gibson 25/4/66 The Action 2/5/66 No concert 9/5/66 The Nite People 16/5/66 Diane Ferraz & Nicky Scott 23/5/66 The Paramounts 30/5/66 NO INFO 6/6/66 The Quiet Five 13/6/66 The Sons Of Fred 20/6/66 The Troggs 27/6/66 The Knack 4/7/66 The Voids/Lindsay Dear 11/7/66 Danny Clark & The Force West 18/7/66 The John Bull Breed 25/7/66 NO INFO 1/8/66 NO INFO 8/8/66 NO INFO 15/8/66 Pete Budd & The Rebels 22/8/66 The Quiet Five 29/8/66 NO INFO 5/9/66 NO INFO 12/9/66 That Group with Bob Martin & Denise 19/9/66 The Ides Of March 26/9/66 The People's People 3/10/66 No concert 10/10/66 No concert 17/10/66 The Children 24/10/66 NO INFO 31/10/66 Rob Chance & The Chancers 7/11/66 NO INFO The New Vaudeville Band ???? 14/11/66 Mike Raynor & The Condors 21/11/66 The Spectres
On the 5th December 1966, The Top Twenty became "The Bridgwater Discotheque"
29th August 1960 JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES It was imperative for Bridgwater's new Monday night showcase to hit the ground running so booking someone substantial for this "Grand Opening Night" was of prime importance. With this first concert Graham Alford could not have done any better. From a Rock N'Roll perspective there was an awful lot of mediocrity in the British charts during the early 60's, especially when compared to the Beat Boom that at this point was still 3 years away. But in Kidd & the Pirates, fresh from a headlining appearance at Bristol's Colston Hall the night before, The Top Twenty not only succeeded in obtaining the services of an artist that was currently in the charts (always a vital advertising tool) but they were arguably one of the best bands operating in the UK at this time, offering an energetic rock n'roll alternative to the teenage ballads that were permeating the pop charts. Johnny Kidd (real name Frederick Heath) began his career in the skiffle group Bats Heath & The Vampires in 1956 and via The Frantic Four, The Five Nutters and The Fabulous Fred Heath Band, formed The Pirates in April 1959. Kidd not only wrote his own material which, apart from Billy Fury and possibly Marty Wylde, was a comparative rarity back in these pre-Fab Four days, but over a period of time he & The Pirates developed a live act that revealed a showy, slightly threatening stage presence. His eye-patch may have been used to conceal a squint whilst the band's striped jumpers undoubtedly milked the "yo-ho-ho" pirate image somewhat but Heath also wielded knives and a cutlass on stage, a gimmick that no doubt kept all those punters in the front row on their toes! Incidentally, in these politically correct days of "Health & Safety" it's interesting to note that Kidd was apparently forced to cease his swashbuckling antics as insurance cover became unobtainable."Johnny would take out a cutlass while I was doing a heavy blues solo and at the crescendo he would throw it at my feet and it would stick into the wooden stage as part of the act. Johnny had the cutlass raised above his head, I looked down at the stage and realised that where the lino had been worn away, it was not wood but concrete. I nodded my head and yelled "no" but Kidd thought I was really getting into it and just threw it and it landed inches from my foot and bounced into the audience" Future Pirate Mick Green recalling an "incident" at the Cavern, Liverpool. The band had secured a residency at the Wandsworth Town Hall and despite a disastrous performance at the venue in front of an A&R man from HMV were duly signed to the label after being given a second chance. During this time, Kidd had embarked on a frantic 3-month period of songwriting but it wasn't until "Please Don't Touch" emerged that he was ready to release something of substance, though the first version of the song was issued by a band called The Bachelors on Parlophone (no relation incidentally to that treacly trio from Southern Ireland.) Kidd eventually released his own recording of the song on the 8th May 1959 as his first HMV release and achieved a No.24 hit, though there were suggestions that if it had not been for a national strike, it would achieved a higher chart placing. Heath, however failed to capitalise on this excellent debut and his follow-up was a sugary version of "If You Were The Only Girl In The World" that, whilst being a staple part of his live show, on record made Kidd sound more like Max Bygraves than Brit rocker. The band was then re-shuffled in order to improve the strength of it's musicianship and a new rhythm section of bassist Brian Gregg and top session drummer Clem Cattini replaced the original incumbents. Only guitarist Alan Caddy was retained from the previous band and this was largely due to his Royal College of Music background. On the 13th May 1960, the "new" Pirates covened at the Abbey Road Studios to record a testosterone-fuelled version of "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" for their next "A"-side. Having been informed by EMI that the reverse of this single could be one of their own choices, on the day before the session, Kidd and the band retired to a cafe called The Freight Train in Berwick Street, Soho (owned by skiffle star Chas McDevitt) and in approximately six minutes co-wrote one of the great rock n'roll songs in British music history. The song was "Shakin All Over" and despite co-writer Brian Gregg suggesting that the band were mildly embarrassed by it, EMI wisely decided to promote it as the next single and it reached No.1 in June 1960, despite being voted a "Miss" on the popular TV programme Juke Box Jury. "Shakin All Over" was still in the charts at the time of their Top Twenty performance whilst the band's follow-up single, the somewhat similar, but still rather good "Restless" was issued just 1 month later. Despite being thrust into the limelight on the strength of these records, Kidd once again struggled to maintain career momentum and subsequent releases proved unsuccessful, but unlike a number of artists from the early 60's Kidd somehow survived the changing musical landscape and even though his Pirates eventually jumped ship, new recruits were press-ganged and what turned out to be THE classic Pirates line-up (which included the legendary Mick Green on guitar) released an excellent version of Arthur Alexander's "A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues" in late 1962 that pre-dated the Liverpool sound by several months and suddenly the band were back in business. They successfully negotiated the oncoming rush of Merseybeat by releasing two superb singles in 1963, both written by future Tom Jones manager Gordon Mills. The first "I'll Never Get Over You" deservedly reached the heady heights of No.4 whilst follow-up "Hungry For Love" got to No.20. But once again, instead of consolidating this success, Kidd's career floundered, despite turning out some decent material in a number of styles that were the equal of many a Beat band. After guitarist Green left to join Billy J Kramer's Dakotas, Johnny once more found himself out in the cold commercially with the record buying public seemingly reluctant to accept the singer as anything other than a leather-clad rocker from the "old" school, a situation that was not helped when Kidd made a blatant attempt to recall the glory days by re-recording "Shakin All Over" in 1965. By 1966, Kidd was on the verge of a comeback with yet another, promising 'New Pirates' line-up but on the 7th October, upon returning from a cancelled gig, a motor car accident in Lancashire tragically killed the vocalist whilst also injuring Pirate Nick Simper. Along with The Shadows, Johnny Kidd's music was more influential than any other British band from the early 60's and if there were such a thing as a British equivalent of the Rock N'Roll Hall of Fame then he would have to be in it. The Kidd story does not end with his untimely death however, as The Pirates (including Mick Green) re-united during the mid-70's for a series of acclaimed albums and concert performances. Riding on the coat tails of pub rock, their abrasive take on R&B updated the original Johnny Kidd sound whilst complimenting other bands like Dr.Feelgood, who were ploughing the same musical furrow. (In fact Dr.Feelgood were named after a Johnny Kidd "B" side whilst their bug-eyed guitarist Wilko Johnson's choppy, syncopated style was virtually an updated version of the Mick Green method of twanging.) Green remained something of a cult figure up to his death in January 2010 and played in Paul McCartney's band when Macca decided to go all retro with his "Run Devil Run" album in 1999. JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES - Shakin All Over (1960)
JOHNNY KIDD & THE PIRATES - Restless (1960)
The "Added Attraction" on this bill, as mentioned in the extremely small print in the advert above, was local band Larry Boyd & The Davericks (see 10th October entry below). Meanwhile, Graham Alford's only memory of Kidd's appearance was the singer's admiration for the new coat of whitewash that was being applied as he was doing his Town Hall soundcheck. Kidd, prior to buckling his swash as a leather-clad rock n'roller had been a painter and decorator. Incidentally, Kidd & His Pirates also appeared at the "5th Grand Opening Night" of Trowbridge's Top Twenty on the 9th September 1960. "Before performing at the opening of the "Top Twenty Club" at Bridgwater yesterday evening, rock n'roll star Johnny Kidd made a personal appearance at Acland's record shop at 49 Eastover, Bridgwater. Placed high in the charts at the moment with his and the Pirates' recording of "Shakin All Over", Johnny signed discs and sheet music for many of the hundreds of teenagers who visited the shop between 12.30 & 1.30 p.m. One of Mr.Acland's staff told the Mercury that there was no rowdyism, in fact the young people appeared to be too shy to go and talk to the singer. Future performers at the "Top Twenty Club" include The Shadows - whose recording of "Apache" now tops the hit parade, Russ Conway, Alma Cogan and other artists who record for E.M.I. All the stars who perform at the club will also put in personal appearances at Acland's" I'm not sure what happened regarding the promised appearance of the three E.M.I. artists mentioned above but unfortunately none of them played the Town Hall. Graham Alford, some 40-odd years later, admitted to being equally uncertain. Methinks it was either a spot of wishful thinking or an advertising ploy intended to drum up interest in the new venture. Instead, after the opening night's blockbuster, the Top Twenty settled into a routine of booking artists that were not necessarily household names but who were nevertheless professional and more than capable of providing good entertainment. 5th September 1960 BRIAN FISHER & THE RAIDERS ANNE BEVERLEY with The Four Strangers Whilst it may be tempting to believe that the "Brian Fisher" advertised could have been the very same that ran a successful hairdressing salon in the town centre for many years and that Anne Beverley was in fact Sid Vicious' mother.....different Brian Fisher....different Anne Beverley. This Fisher originated from that hot bed of Rock N'Roll - Southampton. A surprisingly high number of artists booked during the early Top Twenty days were from this part of the globe which suggests that a deal was struck between Graham Alford and the agency that owned the artists in question. Fisher & Beverley were both on the books of one Len Canham, a promoter who was at one point the manager of Southampton's Royal Pier Pavilion and Canham was to provide the Top Twenty with several other performers. Brian Fisher, to my knowledge, never got as far as securing a recording contract but according to Pete Broyd, another Canham-ite and leader of the band The Blackjacks, he should have done. "He was a very mature singer for his age and at a time when the rest of us were trying to emulate Elvis or Cliff he did his own thing. He favoured Jerry Lee Lewis numbers but the song we all remember Brian for was 'Do You Wanna Dance'. Brian was not one of the 'pretty boys' and perhaps for that reason he never quite made it"As early as 1962/63rumour has it that Fisher had become weary of the music scene and had all but retired - but not before making a total of 5 appearances in Bridgwater. The (Four) Strangers were the proverbial backing band for practically all of the Southampton alumni and, as such, could possibly stake the claim of having played The Top Twenty more than anybody else. They were also, incidentally, Fisher's ex-backing group. Their most well-known line-up comprised of bassist Brian Oram, guitarist Tony Collier and drummer Brian "Fergy" Ferguson (they seem to have lost a Stranger somewhere along the way.) Collier is a veritable veteran of the Southampton scene and what's more is still out there. Can currently be heard in a band called Wishful Thinking who have recently reformed, in Collier's own words "after being apart for more than 150 years" 12th September 1960 JOHNNY SPENCER & THE CASUALS GARY PRICE* PETE & THE DEVILS Johnny Spencer & The Casuals were the first in a number of groups to play The Town Hall that hailed from that thriving metropolis Bristol whilst Gary Price would appear to have been a virtuoso member of The Casuals. As for Pete (and not forgetting of course his Devils) they were billed simply as a "local band" and were fronted, so rumour has it, by a guy called Pete Gibbs. Gibbs became an entertainer in Spain in the mid-1960's and by 1966 was signed to Parlophone Records though he also released several singles on the continent. His greatest claim to fame would appear to be that prior to his European jaunt he was in a London band called The Cliftons, whose bass player was a certain Bill Wyman (see 29th November 1966) *Price was hailed in the Top Twenty advert as a sax-alphonist. He apparently played the saxophone as well. 26th September 1960 KEITH KELLY Keith Kelly (real name Michael Pailthorpe) hailed from Selby and spent three years in the Royal Air Force before becoming an original member of the John Barry Seven as a vocalist/rhythm guitarist in 1957. After leaving in 1959 he sang at the famous 2 I's Coffee Bar in Soho where he was spotted by George Martin. Like a number of artists who played the Town Hall in the early days, Kelly appeared on the Parlophone label as a solo artist which is fairly interesting in itself as it dispels the myth that prior to The Beatles signing in 1962, Parlophone had no "pop music" roster as such and concentrated instead on releasing novelty and comedy records. His debut single "With You" appeared in early 1960 but it was the follow-up 'Tease Me' (which was apparently written by the singer on the London Underground) that made the charts, reaching No.27 in May. A car accident prevented Kelly from taking advantage of his new-found success, delaying the release of the next record and even though "Listen Little Girl" scraped into the bottom regions of the Top 50 in August 1960, the moment was lost. Kelly was by all accounts not only an exemplary musician - he was a particuarly fine chromatic harmonica player - but he also bore a passing physical resemblance to Buddy Holly (or Freddie Garrity depending on your point of view.) He later joined the Hull band the Keith Herd Rhythm Group and released one single for CBS in 1967. KEITH KELLY - Tease Me (1960)
LYN TRACEY ("Miss Personality") TEX ROBERG Roberg was anothersinger that was on the Len Canham roster and in fact was one of Canham's first signings. South African born, Tex (real name Arnie) was often referred to as "South Africa's Elvis" and was later "discovered" playing at Butlins Holiday camp, eventually becoming one of a bewildering amount of artists that tried his luck in Hamburg, Germany. Whilst helping to satisfy the ravenous appetite for "beat music" that had occurred in that city after the initial influx of a number of English bands, Roberg not only holds the apparent distinction of being the first act to play at the infamous Star Club, but he also rubbed shoulders with the Silver Beatles during their early sex & drugs period. "In spring of 1962, garish red posters announced that the times of village music were over. Manfred Weissleder was to open the "Rock and Twist Parade 62" – that is what the poster said – on 13 April 1962 with his 'Star Club' on Grosse Freiheit 39 in Hamburg. This was to be achieved by a "clustering of the European elite" consisting of The Beatles, Roy Young, The Bachelors, and the South African 'Tex Roberg & The Graduates'. From May onward they were joined by 'The Tony Sheridan Quartet' and 'Gerry & The Pacemakers". DANNY DAVIS ("Britain's Most Sparkling Teenage Artist")
The heavily brylcreemed Davis (who looks about 14 in the opposite picture), advertised by Graham Alford as "The most fantastic singing discovery since Cliff Richard" wh en the singer appeared at Trowbridge on July 12th 1960, also made records for the Parlophone label but his history is somewhat vague and consequently hard to track down. "You're My Only Girl" and "Love Me" were released on that label in 1960, the former just prior to the Town Hall appearance whilst the latter was a cover version of the Presley song penned by Lieber and Stoller. "Talkin In My Sleep" followed in 1961 and as the ad (right) suggests he was also signed to Pye, but none of his releases saw any chart action. Listening to the rather scratchy version of "Love Me", Davis not only sounds like a Cliff Richard clone but with all due respect, with his dodgy top register and a tendency to wander off key occasionally, it's easy to understand why he wasn't a great success.No doubt both of the 1960 releases were performed during his debut appearance at the Town Hall and at least by Bridgwater's standards he must have been a big star as he, along with label mate Kelly, appeared at both Aclands AND Taylor's Record Departments on the day of the gig. Danny Davis with the Bridgwater Mercury's Mike Guy @ Taylor's record store. DANNY DAVIS - Love Me (1960)
10th October 1960 DALE RIVERS & THE RAMRODS Not to be confused with the Connecticut band of the same name that had a huge hit with "Ghost Riders In The Sky" in 1960 or the UK equivalent formed during the same year that hailed from Carlisle, this was another Bristol based group. Band names were 10-a-penny back in these pre-Pinkerton's Assorted Colours days, consequently it's hard to distinguish between a potential who's who of future superstars and an acne-ridden selection of hopefuls with dodgy hair-do's and no fixed talent (see also "The Detours" and "The Paramounts" entries) LARRY BOYD & THE DAVERICKS
Bridgwater's very own and if you are a local child of the 60's & 70's you will remember Lazza as a permanent fixture in the annual Carnival concerts (full story hopefully to follow) 24th October 1960 PAUL HANFORD & THE RHYTHM SEEKERS Yet another Parlophone artist, for whom he recorded 3 singles, Hanford missed out to Bryan Hyland on an English cover version of the excruciatingly twee "Itsy Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini" but only after Hyland's record was rush-released by Decca in the UK in order to compete directly with Hanford's effort which promptly sunk without a trace. Hanford's single was produced by George Martin who was probably responsible for quite a lot of the Parlophone singles issued at this time but who, apart from success in the comedy LP market most notably with Peter Sellers, couldn't get arrested in the singles charts. His work on Hanford's "Bikini" single became the subject of a discussion between the producer and Pete Murray on "Juke Box Jury" during which Murray criticized Martin of plagiarism as the 2 singles sounded practically the same. Martin lost the argument but to be fair he was fighting a losing battle as most British producers at the time, under pressure to release "hit" material were having to compete against superior American releases, written by established songwriters by using inferior English singers. Hanford released "If You Ain't Got Love" during the same year with the uptempo "Memphis Address" appearing in 1961, however after he released one single for Oriole in 1963 he then promptly vanished off the face of the earth (from a career perspective anyway) at the tender age of 21. The advert for this concert tantalisingly suggests that the male members of the audience were to be given a special treat this evening - an appearance of "Miss Itsy Bitsy" in her "bikini". Whilst it is tempting to guess whether the young lady in question was part of the Hanford entourage or Elsie from the local chippy, one suspects that it was a small piece of poetic licence on behalf of the marketing department of The Top Twenty and was intended to advertise Mr.Hanford's latest vinyl offering. PAUL HANFORD - Itsy-Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (1960)
CLAY NICHOLLS & THE TEENBEATS Also appearing on the bill were this rockin' combo. I cannot provide any background on the Teenbeats I'm afraid but Clay Nicholls is of historical interest, though not becuase of anything that he achieved personally. Nicholls rubbed shoulders with at least two musicians, both of whom were effectively "stolen" from the man's employment and who later achieved independent stardom elsewhere. Nicholls was born Vincente Tartaglia but despite his Italian origins, was actually Scottish. After moving to London he became another in the long list of hopefuls that frequented the 2 I's Coffee Bar in Soho-A-Go-Go and eventually formed a band called The Blue Flames in 1958. Having been turned down by Larry Parnes after a so-so gig at the Shepherds Bush Gaumont, Nicholls and his band obtained a residency at a Butlins Holiday Camp in Filey, Yorkshire in both 1958 & 1959. Augmenting the 1959 line-up was a young spiky-haired cocker-nee guitarist obtained from The Spacemen Skiffle Group called Joe Brown. But, before the engagement could be completed, Brown's talent was spotted by the aforementioned Mr.Parnes and he was whisked away smartish to become a back-up musician to the impresario's "cavalcade" of stars. The Blue Flames disbanded soon after with Nicholls subsequently forming, or at the very least fronting, The Teenbeats, with whom he appeared at The Town Hall. Then in June 1961, The Blue Flames were revived for the umpteenth time, though on this occasion were augmented by a young pianist by the name of Colin Powell aka Georgie Fame. The Nicholls/Powell association did not last long however. The band were spotted by Billy Fury during a rehearsal and, being a big star, he promptly decided to purloin the Blue Flames lock, stock and keyboard player for his own personal use with Nicholls apparently now excess baggage. However, in the dog eat dog world of British pop music, nothing lasts forever, and in this case, the new line-up only survived on Fury's payroll for approximately six months. Having obtained their services, so we are told, becuase the band had shared the same initials as the bequiffed scouser, Fury quite possibly came to the conclusion that this was a rather tenuous reason for employing them in the first place and he consequently fired the lot of 'em. The remaining musicians continued independently as Georgie Fame & His Blue Flames. The rest is, as they say, the proverbial history though as for Clay Nicholls, who knows? Another singer who seemingly has disappeared into the mists of time and who finally got lost in the fog. My thanks to http://forgottenbands.blogspot.com/ for this info. 31st October 1960 BARRIE JAMES & THE DOMINOES Another singer off the "Parlophone Recording Artiste" production line but I have only been able to trace a couple of singles, "As Far As I Can Tell" and "Hot Sunshine", both released in 1961. James was originally discovered at the tender age of 15 by impresario Carrol Levis (an earlier version of Hughie Green) but spent three years away from show business as an apprentice jockey. He joined forces with the skiffle group The Dominoes when the members of the next band booked for the Top Twenty left that group to go professional and subsequently James became part of the same Southampton scene that had spawned Brian Fisher, Tex Roberg & Anne Beverley. James, at one point, "fronted" an agency called "Barrie James Enterprises" that had been set up for him by Len Canham, though after the birth of his second child, he eventually retired from professional performances in 1964, with the agency, now called "Avenue Artists", being run by Canham himself. BARRIE JAMES - As Far As I Can Tell (1961)
14th November 1960 THE BROOK BROTHERS Barrie James & The Dominoes ("back by popular demand") From Winchester, Ricky & Geoff Brook were once hailed as the UK's answer to the Everly Bros. Having attended Peter Symonds Secondary School, their career began with the proverbial skiffle origins, and after winning a talent contest held at Southampton's Royal Pier, they left their band The Dominoes (see Barrie James) to sign to Top Rank Records, turning professional in the process. In 1960 they issued covers of the Four Brothers "Green Fields" and the Hank Locklin song "Please Help Me I'm Falling" both of which were produced by Tony Hatch, but then Top Rank went bust. When Hatch moved to Pye Records as their "in house" producer, he took the Brook Brothers with him and they managed 5 Top 40 hits between 1961 & 1963 with "Warpaint" their first and biggest smasheroo, reaching No.5 in March 1961, two months before their 2nd Top Twenty appearance. Bearing a passing resemblance vocally to the aforementioned Phil & Don, the Brooks suffered mostly by recording a succession of bouncy, sappy, pop songs, some of which were vaguely based on Everly melodies, but none of which were of a particularly high standard. If the siblings had had Chet Atkins as a producer and a songwriting team of the calibre of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant on their side, things may have been a tad different. As it was, they were given novelty songs like "Ain't Gonna Wash For A Week" which did at least reach No.13 in the charts, but they were eventually swallowed up by the beat group movement. Despite appearing in the film "It's Trad Dad" alongside Helen Shapiro and Craig Douglas, entering a tune called "A Song For Europe" in the 1962 Eurovision Song Contest (it didn't win) and changing their name to "The Brooks" they disappeared into the black hole of light entertainment. THE BROOK BROTHERS - Say The Word (1960)
Our intrepid reporter Mike Guy with the Brooks at Taylor's (note "Top Twenty" advert in the background) 28th November 1960 DANNY HUNTER Anne Beverley, Brian Fisher & the Raiders ("The Shiek Of Shake") Hunter is something of a mystery as Google searches reveal next to nothing about him. There are suggestions that he worked for both Larry Parnes (more on him later) & Len Canham and that he once fronted a bunch of musicians collectively known as "The Giants", but his history is cloudy to say the least. Bob James, one of the Southampton "crew", described him as "extremely good looking with an average voice!" which, with only "Lost Weekend" for evidence, may not be too far from the truth though Hunter sounds like a British version of Paul Anka to these untrained ears. The song incidentally was originally recorded by American artist Billy Brown in 1960 for the Republic label. DANNY HUNTER - Lost Weekend (1961)
5th December 1960 Johnny Spencer & The Casuals 12th December 1960 MICHAEL COX Michael Cox was a scouser who had the good fortune to be taken under the wing of the mercurial Joe Meek, the man responsible for providing the first ever British record to make No.1 in the USA - The Tornadoes "Telstar". "Telstar" did not appear until 1962 so Cox's involvement occurred during Meek's embryonic period as an independent record producer, one of the very first in the UK. Michael's career took off when his younger sisters Diana, Susan, Jenny & Barbara wrote to ABC TV demanding an audition for Jack Good's "Oh Boy!" Despite this rather forceful approach Good was sufficiently impressed to sign him up for the program that became "Oh Boy's" successor, "Boy Meets Girl". Good also effectively took over Cox's career and obtained a deal for the singer with Decca Records. Cox recorded "Teenage Love", a Marty Wylde song, and "Too Hot To Handle" for the label in 1959, songs that failed to chart but which featured a backing band that included guitarist Joe Brown. Good introduced the singer to Joe Meek after Meek had enquired about signing talent to his own, brand new, Triumph record label and with Decca rather hastily deciding that Cox wasn't quite what they were looking for, Michael became one of Meek's first acquisitions. After Marty Wylde had generously offered a demo of a song written by John D.Loudermilk called "Angela Jones", Cox recorded this rather tepid teenage tearjerker and it reached No.7 in June 1960. Sounding pretty much like a lot of the pop fodder that was in the charts back in those days, it does not bear the trademark sound that set Joe Meek's records apart from the rest and was the only sizeable hit to appear on his label before it was abandoned due to financial difficulties. Cox toured Scandinavia to some degree of success, he was particularly popular in both Denmark & Sweden, and was backed by one of Joe Meek's regular bands. (This was either The Outlaws, who later featured guitarist Richie Blackmore, or The Checkmates - there seems to be some confusion as to who actually got the gig.) But his notoriety abroad could not be matched back in the UK and despite moving to His Master's Voice and reaching No.41 with "Along Came Caroline" just 2 months before his visit to Bridgwater, his days as a pop star were numbered. ("Along Came Caroline" incidentally was a blatant re-write of "Angela Jones" - so much so that the character appears in the song's lyrics.) Cox also recorded for both Pye & Parlophone but with little success, consequently during the mid-60's he eventually abandoned his singing career to concentrate on acting. In 1966 he appeared opposite Wilfred Brambell & Sid James in the apparently awful James Bond spoof "Where The Bullets Fly" as a character called Lt.Guyfawkes and was also kept busy with appearances in both TV plays and commercials. In 1976, he appeared in the filmed version of the musical "The Butterfly Ball" written by ex-Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover but soon afterwards Cox temporarily called time on his thespian career to work as a cruise ship entertainer. In later years he lived in both the States and New Zealand and currently resides in the latter, working regularly on New Zealand television under the name Michael James, a monicker that, according to one rock encyclopedia, was obtained following a mysterious experience with a ouiji board. More poetic licence from The Top Twenty's ad men (see Paul Hanford above.) This time they triumphantly acclaim "Wow! A date with "Angela Jones!" on the concert's poster. This comment obviously refers to Michael Cox's big hit and does not suggest in any way that Ms Jones herself would be available for a curry, a couple of pints of pale ale and a quick grope by the changing room doors. MICHAEL COX - Angela Jones (1960) THE HUNTERS The Hunters, at least by the time they had arrived in Bridgwater, were an above average instrumental band during a period when the charts were full of em. Formed out of a group called The Parker-Royal Five that were based in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, after band member David Meikle had left that band to form his own combo, his replacement Dave Sampson became the unofficial leader and with the assistance of Cliff Richard, he secured a record contract with Columbia. His first single, credited to Dave Sampson & the Hunters, was a smoky ballad called "Sweet Dreams" written by the vocalist in Wardour Street's Curry Bazaar Indian Restaurant in 1959, reaching No.29 in May the following year. This line-up, with Sampson on lead vocals, released a series of singles without making much headway. Following the success of Cliff & The Shadows' ability to hold down two successful careers at the same time, it would appear that the decision was taken to utilise the talents of The Hunters instrumental prowess, and after a swift change of record label, the single "Teen Scene", heralded as their "new" Fontana release by the Bridgwater Mercury, appeared also during 1960. "Teen Scene" was in fact a fine cover version of an obscure USA hit originally recorded by Dicky Doo & The Don'ts. At this point, it's hard to know whether Dave Sampson left the band or whether The Hunters continued without him but as there are a couple of albums from this period, namely "Teen Scene" and "Hits From The Hunters", both currently available, one must imagine that they enjoyed a healthy, if unsuccessful recording career as independent artists. The band also backed a number of British singers such as Bridgwater co-star Michael Cox, whilst in 1961, they appeared on a couple of occasions behind Cliff as The Shadows, when the latter were involved in a minor car accident. At least one of these performances included a slot on the prestigious Sunday Night At The London Palladium. There is no denying that they were a fine band, and on tracks such as "Golden Earrings" and in particular 1962's "The Storm", close your eyes and you would think that it's Hank B and the boys. But The Hunters suffered from a lack of both consistency and decent material, and come the beat revolution were left surveying the ruins of a once hopeful career. Guitarist Brian Parker and his ex-Parker Royal cohort David Meikle eventually re-invented themselves in the mid-60's as co-founders of the band Unit 4 Plus Two. Consequently The Hunters fact file reveals two further items of interest, one of which is that Parker co-wrote the 4+2 hit "Concrete And Clay" and the other is that the band would appear to have had a particular liking for the pith helmet. THE HUNTERS - Teen Scene (1960)