Top Twenty Club

A history of artists that appeared at Bridgwater's Town Hall - 1960-1966

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Location: Bridgwater, Somerset, United Kingdom

Rapidly-approaching-old-fartdom individual who is simply trying to spread the music gospel - A male Singing Nun if you like......actually on second thoughts....

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Beginnings

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

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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)

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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.

The Concerts


1960

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

1961

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

1962

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
9/4/62 The 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

1963


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

1964

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

1965

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???

1966

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"

The Artists 1960


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 1962/63 rumour 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 another singer 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)

The Artists 1961

2nd January 1961
Danny Davis/Tex Roberg
THE NEVITT BROS
Yet another booking from the Southampton roster managed by Len Canham. The Nevitt's (Mike & Tony) were making their debut here and apart from a couple of faded photographs, the only other info about what was probably another Everly Bros inspired duo was the name of their backing band, The Jaguars.
16th January 1961
A great "double header" for this particular evening with two artists that were poles apart - a typical 60's male crooner and a self-confessed raving loony from the North West of London.
LANCE FORTUNE
Lance Fortune was another scouser, this time from Birkenhead - just a ferry ride across the Mersey. Fortune (real name Chris Morris) studied classical piano as a child but stricken with the desire to be famous, sacrificed a scholarship at a Welsh University to work as an odd-job man at the 2 I's Coffee bar. Morris became one of many singers that formed part of the Larry Parnes production line. An ex-shopkeeper, "Mr.Parnes, Shillings & Pence" as he was called, was the Simon Cowell of the 1960's and probably the most successful manager/agent/impresario in the UK at the time. Parnes template was to take a succession of young men* with a varying degree of talent and turn them into "stars" with each singer given a glamorous stage name that was apparently meant to highlight their individual personalities. Parnes groomed a plethora of male singers but his knack of spotting raw talent was somewhat hit and miss as he placed a heavy emphasis on image and the money-making capabilities of each performer. Even though Parnes artists Marty Wylde, Billy Fury, Tommy Steele & Georgie Fame had careers that lasted for a sizable length of time, for every one of Larry's successes there were two who didn't quite make it and Fortune belongs in the latter category. The singer, who incidentally was not actually managed by Parnes but was discovered and re-named by him threatened to make his mark when "Be Mine" got to No.4 in January 1960. Sounding like a dead ringer for the Buddy Holly-inspired John Barry production of "What Do You Want?" a No.1 for Adam Faith in 1959, "Be Mine" may well have been another Joe Meek presentation, but Barry arranged this track under the pseudonym Johnny Prendy. Unfortunately, Fortune only made the Top Thirty just once more from a further 3 pizzicato string-laden single releases, subsequently his career became nothing more than a tiny smudge in the margins of UK rock n'roll history. Incidentally, we can dispel the idea that Parnes' choice of stage name was tailored to each singer as the monicker Lance Fortune was not the sole property of the Birkenhead balladeer. It was originally given to another Parnes artist before Fortune's career took off. Lance Fortune Mk II (or Mk I in this case) was none other than Clive Powell aka Georgie Fame.
LANCE FORTUNE - Be Mine (1960)

* It may be churlish to suggest it, but perhaps there was an ulterior motive for Parnes' interest in "young men" as Larry and indeed Joe Meek, were both homosexuals.
SCREAMING LORD SUTCH
Where does one begin? David Edward Sutch (or Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow as he later became) was born in Hampstead in 1940 and as a teenager was a plumber's mate who developed an early passion for rhythm n'blues. A chance meeting with drummer Carlo Little in a coffee bar led to the formation of The Savages, though at this point there was no intention for Sutch to be in the band, as he didn't have any musical talent whatsoever. An excessively eccentric character with exceptionally long hair (by early 1960's standards that is), his arrival as a rock n'roll singer happened by chance. Carlo Little takes up the story "During a 12-bar rock and roll jam Bernie (the guitarist) screamed his guitar loudly. Excited by his playing Sutch went crazy with his head, his hair fell down, the full 18 inches, and screamed his head off "Yeah man!" It was such a funny sight that none of us could play any longer for laughing" This appeared to make him the ideal candidate for the role of The Savages lead vocalist and he was consequently given the job. The fact that he couldn't hold a note was of no importance. Almost from the outset Sutch & The Savages (with future Stones collaborator Nicky Hopkins on piano and Keith Moon an occasional drummer) built up a solid reputation as a live band within the capital city with Sutch it seems, doing his utmost to draw attention to himself. He adopted a "Wild Man Of Borneo" image by glueing a pair of thrift-shop buffalo horns to his motor-cycle helmet, whilst on stage The Savages honed a "horror-themed" stage show that was taken in part from the American artist Screamin Jay Hawkins and which eventually became their calling card. Apart from appearing as Jack The Ripper, Sutch would be carried on and off-stage in a black coffin with his skin painted a ghostly white and lips bright red. Knives, daggers, skulls and even the odd fake dead body were all used as props. If Johnny Kidd's stage act was "slightly threatening" then Sutch made him look like Capt. Pugwash by comparison, however ridiculous it all may have been. His Top Twenty appearance featured all of these antics and maybe more but did not, it would seem, feature The Savages. Carlo Little had accepted a professional engagement with Dougie Dee and the Strangers and Sutch suddenly found himself on his own. A successful audition at the proverbial 2 I's Coffee Bar however convinced the proprietor of that establishment Tom Littlewood to send him out on tour with Vince Taylor's Playboys (more of him later) and it was this band that backed him on the gig. Sutch was, at this point, still not signed to a record label but later that year The Savages re-formed, Sutch met Joe Meek (yes him again) and signed to Pye Records, releasing his first single "Til The Following Night" (aka "My Big Black Coffin") in the process. Sutch and The Playboys must have been quite a sight on the evening of the 16th January 1961. God knows what Lance "Mr.Clean Cut" Fortune thought of it all. There have been many nutters sighted in Bridgwater over the years but Sutch was the only one armed with a microphone and a 4-piece band.
Sutch hit the headlines just 2 months after this gig when he was caught eloping with the 17 year-old daughter of a policewoman, just the sort of behaviour that your mother always warned you about.
SCREAMING LORD SUTCH - My Big Black Coffin (1961)

Sutch singles of note from the early 60's all take advantage of the band's "hammer horror" image and are as subtle as a bunch of Hells Angels gatecrashing a Tupperware Party. They include "Jack The Ripper" from 1963, a track that apparently attracted the latter day attention of Jack White from The White Stripes and for which, Sutch made a typically over the top promo film, whilst from 1964, "Monster In Black Tights", "She's Fallen In Love With The Monster Man" and "Dracula's Daughter" were all issued in short succession. There are two problems with Sutch's recorded output. The first is that, beyond the "shock" value that it apparently held back in the early 60's, it can not be taken seriously, secondly it gets constantly overshadowed by the man's rare talent for self-promotion, consequently it has consistently taken a back seat to his eccentric behaviour, which includes the following;
In 1961, he enters politics for the first time, with the formation of the "Sod Em All Party". In 1963, the now re-christened "National Teenage Party" polls 208 votes at the Stratford-On-Avon by-election. In 1964, Sutch starts his own pirate radio station. "Radio Sutch" initially broadcasts from a fishing trawler situated in the Thames Estuary called the Cornucopia but 2 weeks later, he is forced to move his operation to the war-time gun platforms at Shivering Sands near Southend. A Royal Navy task force is eventually summoned to physically eject Sutch from the area. In 1966, Sutch stands against Harold Wilson in the General Election at Huyton, Lancs and polls a creditable 585 votes. In 1968, Sutch tours America in a Rolls-Royce adorned with a Union Jack and during 1969, upon hearing that Elvis Presley is to make his comeback in Las Vegas, successfully poses as the "British Ambassador for Rock N'Roll" and not only obtains press tickets, but secures a meeting with "The King" himself. Sutch releases his first album in 1970 entitled "Lord Sutch and His Heavy Friends". In a BBC "worst album ever" poll in 1998, the record receives an honorary mention, but Colin Larkin includes it in his book "Top 1000 Albums Of All Time". In 1972, Sutch appears, along with several topless women, at 10 Downing Street with the intention of presenting Prime Minister Ted Heath with tickets for Wembley Stadium's forthcoming "London Rock N'Roll Show" extravaganza at which the good Lord is scheduled to make an appearance. The police are called to intervene and several arrests are made but Sutch escapes prosecution as he is the only member of the entourage who is fully clothed. In 1983, he forms his beloved "Monster Raving Loony Party" and in 1991 surpasses politician Bill Boakes as the parliamentary candidate that has stood most times in UK election history. In 1994, he achieves his finest political result, with 1,114 votes at the Rotherham by-election. Finally, and sadly, in 1999, having suffered depression from the death of both his mother and her pet dog, Rosie, Sutch is found hanged at his Mum's residence.
23rd January 1961
Johnny Spencer & The Casuals
30th January 1961
The Nevitt Bros/Brian Fisher/
SHIRLEY GAYE & The Semi-Tones
Another Len Canham evening featuring "The New Teen Rave" The Nevitts, "Rocking Boy" Brian Fisher and "For The First Time Here - Glamorous TV Star" Shirley Gaye (pictured below with The Strangers & Barrie James)
13th February 1961
SANDRA McCANN/JOHNNY GREGG/MIKE STORM & THE COMETS/THE ANTONES
With Bristol just a stone's throw away, it made sense from a geographical perspective for the Top Twenty to tap in to it's local music scene. To my knowledge, Johnny Spencer & The Casuals and Dale Rivers & The Ramrods had been the only Bristol bands to have played the Town Hall up to this point but here was the first evening to feature a number of acts that were predominantly from that city. On 16th December 1960, a concert called "Groups Galore" had played Bristol's Colston Hall. This was a showcase evening for a lot of the city's local bands, "even though not one of them had a recording contract, and some of the musicians were still in school" Such was it's popularity, "Groups Galore" became an bi-annual event for the next 5 years and was successfully revived in 2000 with the same line-up that had played the first gig 40 years previously. A well-publicised final performance of "Groups Galore" occurred in 2005. As for the above 4 artist's, it's surprising just how little is known about the bands and singers that originated from the banks of the Severn and who played The Top Twenty. As mentioned above, most of these groups and singers never succeeded in signing a record contract, consequently their history is based on a life on the road and hundreds of gigs like this one. Sandra McCann was billed as "only 16 years old" at the time of this concert and was something of a Brenda Lee-a-like, Mike Storm was one of the original "Groups Galore" artists as were The Comets, the proverbial Bristol backing band (a Bristolian Booker T & The MG's if you like.) They were apparently the first group from Bristol to swap their thimbled washboard for a plectrum'd electric guitar and played the Town Hall on numerous occasions, backing an array of different vocalists. Like a lot of the artists above they were still active until recently though the band finally called it a day in 2007.
THE COMETS - Walk Don't Run (live)

A live performance of The Ventures classic recorded at The Colston Hall either in 1960 or 1961 during a "Groups Galore" concert. Note the few isolated screams from the female members of the audience and dig that guitar tremelo!!!
27th February 1961
PETE CHESTER & THE CONSULATES
Pete Chester was in fact the son of Charlie Chester, or "Cheerful" Charlie as he was known. A popular British comedian of the Arthur "'Allo Playmates" Askey/Max Miller mould, as a child of the 60's & 70's I remember Chester as the genial host of the BBC Light Programme's "Sunday Soapbox" which was first broadcast in 1969. Chester Jnr on the other hand was a drummer by trade, who was once a member of "The Five Chesternuts", a band that eventually evolved into The Drifters (the UK version) or as most people know them, The Shadows. Despite losing out on the opportunity to be part of the Cliff Richard gravy train, Chester stuck around long enough to co-write his No.1 hit "Please Don't Tease" with Shad Bruce Welch. After that it would appear that Chester contented himself with a variety of backing bands and the odd minor hit or two, one of which, "Ten Swinging Bottles" was lodged at No.14 when Chester made his one and only appearance at the Town Hall. Back in the days when you could make up an instrumental out of any old bollocks (and believe me, a lot of people did) Chester chose to "rock up" that old singalong classic "Ten Green Bottles". Yes, it is as bad as it sounds.
PETE CHESTER & THE CONSULATES - Ten Swinging Bottles (1961)

Incidentally, Charlie Chester has played Bridgwater too. He made a war-time appearance back in the 1940's at the Palace as part of an ENSA concert.
DICKIE PRIDE
With a name like Dickie Pride, he just had to be another member of the Larry Parnes stable and indeed he was. Richard Knellar was transformed into Dickie by the Parnes "star maker machinery" but he was actually discovered by Russ Conway in 1958 when the 16-year old was singing at a pub called "The Castle" in Tooting. Conway remembers "I dropped into a pub in Tooting and there was this incredible singer. I'd no idea who he was, but I was so impressed I talked to Larry Parnes about him. We went to see him the next week and took Lionel Bart with us. We were all so impressed that Larry decided to sign him on the spot." As a youngster, the singer had enrolled at Croydon's Royal College of Church Music and such was his vocal prowess he was being touted as a future opera star. The young Knellar however felt that skiffle offered a far more exciting career and after forming a band called The Semi-Tones, opera lost a potential Pavarotti. Still aged 16, he made his concert debut at the Kilburn Gaumont, at that point the biggest cinema in the UK and immediately made an impression. Signed to Columbia Records by Norrie Paramour, Pride made his debut in 1959 on "Oh Boy!" at age 17 and released his debut record, a cover version of Little Richard's "Slippin And Slidin" during the same year.
DICKIE PRIDE - Slippin' And Slidin' (1959)

Pride had the raw ingredients to be a big name and according to various members of the Parnes' entourage was the real deal, with Billy Fury, Joe Brown and Duffy Power all suggesting that he was the best singer of them all. Power says "Dickie was absolute magic on stage, completely spell-binding. On a tour you get a bit jaded listening to the same people singing the same things every night, but Dickie was the one the other singers went to the wings to watch. You couldn't take your eyes off him." So why wasn't Pride a star? It has been suggested that he wasn't pretty enough but the truth is he was a troubled man with a drink problem and a bad attitude that often resulted in an all too frequent tendency to use his fists when the mood took him. Hal Carter, Larry Parnes assistant, recalls; "Dealing with Dickie became more and more difficult. He was a genius in my opinion, but with a couple of flakes missing. The trouble was you never knew when you went in to the room whether you were going to get the genius or the madman. He had a tendency to hit out with his fists rather than talking and the slightest frustration would start him swinging. If he drank he didn't just have a drink he got legless and he was into smoking dope very early on". Apart from occasionally clashing with members of the audience, in 1959 he was up before the Crown Court for smashing windows and stealing a car, a story that not only hit the national press but which was also discussed in The House Of Commons. Not the sort of acceptable social behaviour you would expect from an impressionable young pop star. Two years later, having already been dropped from the Larry Parnes roster once before, Pride allegedly knocked out singer Terry Dene on stage after an argument over a girl. If his off-stage antics weren't bad enough, his potential as a singer was never realised, primarily due to bad management. Apart from a minor hit in October 1959 with the sugary sweet "Primrose Lane", Pride released only 5 singles between 1959 and 1960 and it would appear that neither manager nor record company had any idea as to what to do with him. In 1960 he was initially offered The Silver Beatles as a backing band before Parnes changed his mind and by 1961 Dickie's career was already stalling, with the relationship between him and his manager further soured by a reluctance to allow Pride to sing anything more than the perfunctory three "hit singles" every night. In the early 60's, the general consensus was that the only place to go beyond rock n'roll was cabaret so Parnes decided that he would make Dickie an "all-round entertainer". He had already performed this trick successfully with Tommy Steele, so why couldn't he do it again? An ill-fated album of "standards" amd Tin Pan Alley tunes featuring the Ted Heath Orchestra called "Pride Without Prejudice", was the only release during the year of his Top Twenty appearance and was issued in an attempt to salvage his career. But this ill-fated attempt to make Pride the UK's Bobby Darin didn't sell in sufficient quantities and by 1962, Pride & Parnes had parted company for good. There's not much of Dickie Pride's career to remember him by but one of his "Oh Boy!" performances from 1959 survives and even though it only gives a glimpse of what he was capable of, it's enough to suggest that he could have extended his career beyond the early 60's under the right circumstances. As it was Pride drifted into obscurity and all we have left are a few urban myths that make it hard to distinguish fact from fiction. In 1962, he got a job as a storeman but during the following year made a "comeback" of sorts with a band called The Guvnors, that included fellow vocalists Nelson Keene and Bobby Shafto. It is said that Pride eventually ended up working as a coalman and gained a heroin addiction. Drug problems certainly dogged his life towards the end but the rumour that in 1967 he was committed to a mental hospital and given a lobotomy may be stretching the truth somewhat. He eventually died in 1969 after an accidental overdose of sleeping tablets, at the ridiculously young age of 27.
DICKIE PRIDE - Bye Bye Blackbird (1961) - From the ill-fated "Pride Without Prejudice" album

6th March 1961
JOHNNY CARR & THE CADILLACS
Billed as "versatile and dynamic", Johnny Carr (real name Cornelius O'Sullivan) & his Cadillacs, were a Bristol based band that were formed in 1958 and apparently played alongside The Beatles at the Kaiserkeller club in Germany. They have been credited with having played various songs that became a staple diet of every Beat Band in creation, before anyone else did, including "Shout" (Lulu), "You'll Never Walk Alone" (Gerry & The Pacemakers) and "Twist And Shout" (The Beatles).
Regarded by many as both the most popular and the best of Bristol's beat groups, they also seemed to go down particularly well at the Top Twenty making a staggering 10 appearances between 1961 and 1963, more than any other artist. But despite being lauded as Bristol's finest, their 60's recording career yielded just two singles, Decca's "Remember That Girl" from March 1964 and "Do You Love That Girl" from July 1965 on Fontana though Carr also released two singles under his own name in 1966 & 1967 respectively. As of this moment, they are still going strong, though unsurprisingly perhaps, Carr is the only original member remaining.
ROYSTON JONES & THE RAIDERS
Not one of Johnny Carr's Bristol rivals, Royston came from Richie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame and John Cleese country, Weston-Super-Mare.
20th March 1961

VINCE TAYLOR & THE PLAYBOYS
Even though they didn't know it at the time, The Top Twenty were on something of a roll. Following hard on the heels of Messrs Sutch & Pride, Vince Taylor was the latest artist who may only have secured a modest reputation at the time of his Town Hall appearance but in later years was revered by UK music enthusiasts as another one of those bona-fide rockers that was just a tad more exciting than your average male crooner. He was born Brian Holden in London in 1939 but was often regarded as an American vocalist as he had spent the period '46-57 living in the US of A. Taylor's father-in-law was the famous cartoonist Joe Barbera of Hanna-Barbera fame and apart from "managing" the singer, it was Barbera who brought Vince back to England when Joe was visiting on a business trip. Upon his arrival Holden auditioned at that musical mecca the 2I's Coffee Bar, Brian became Vince, The Playboys were formed (featuring future Shadow Tony Meehan on drums) and by 1958 they were recording for the Parlophone label releasing "I Like Love" as the first single. With hindsight, Taylor was only a fair to middling singer but he was a good looking guy and after adopting a black leather image that Gene Vincent had previously popularised he and the band developed a dynamic stage act that was a cut above the rest of the competition and which included the extremely animated lead singer, all rubbery legs and exaggerated limb movements. On record however, Taylor enjoyed only modest success and by 1960 Parlophone had already dispensed with his services but not before the band had released what is generally regarded as a piece of Anglo-Rock N'Roll as good as anything that was being issued in the States at the time. "Brand New Cadillac", a Taylor original, was relegated to the "B" side of a cover version of Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love" in 1959 but partially due to The Clash's rendition of the song on their "London Calling" album it is rightly regarded as one of the most important releases in the history of British popular music.
VINCE TAYLOR & THE PLAYBOYS - Brand New Cadillac (1959)

Off-stage, Taylor was an awkward cuss who, allegedly, became the first "rock" star in the UK to be arrested for wielding a knuckleduster and who achieved the distinction of being fired by his own band on the eve of a lucrative gig at the prestigious L'Olympia venue in Paris in 1962. The Vince-less Playboys, now re-christened The Bobby Clarke Noise, travelled to France with Taylor in tow and, rumour has it, after sitting in with the band on the soundcheck he produced an extraordinary performance that not only saw him promptly re-instated as lead vocalist but automatically promoted to the top of the bill by the concerts organisers. France clutched the group to their collective bosom, and The Playboys enjoyed a purple patch playing in venues around Europe. But Vince was still proving to be more than a little unpredictable and during an appearance on the popular Dutch Television program "de Vuist" almost came to blows with the program's host Willem Duys after he was told that the band were only allowed to perform one song. Taylor, having threatened physical violence, walked out and sulkily returned to France. The singer's important position in British rock n'roll history has since been cemented by David Bowie when "The Thin White Duke" admitted that he had partly modelled his famous creation Ziggy Stardust on Vince after a series of incidents in the mid-60's had given Taylor a somewhat dubious reputation. By 1964 the rebellious rocker had started to enjoy his new-found European fame and had got hooked on a variety of hard drugs, "losing his marbles" big time in the process. Wikipedia offers the following anecdote : A mixture of acid, amphetamines and alcohol proved fatal to his mind and in front of a full house, on the brink of becoming a huge international star, he had a break down - coming on stage and trying to evangelize the audience, he claimed to be the prophet Matthew, and he preached until the band agreed with everything he was saying. The audience pretended not to understand, thinking that it was part of the show. But after 15 minutes of running around with a towel on his head, and a few poorly executed songs, he began to wreck the whole stage like The Who, but this was before the set was even played. Taylor shortly afterward joined a religious sect with Bowie encountering him in London in the mid-60's. Bowie says There was an American rock singer. I guess he would have come out of the late 50's...late 50's early 60's, called Vince Taylor. Who possibly...well, I met him a few times in the mid 60's. In fact, went to quite a few parties with him. Vince Taylor was trying to make his way in Britain. He couldn't crack the States. He was a sort of real seedless character. So he decided to try and do it in England. And he was out of his gourd. Totally flipped. I mean, the guy was not playing at a full deck, at all. And he used to carry maps of Europe around with him. And I remember very distinctly, him opening a map out on Cherry Cross Rd. outside the tube station, and putting it down on the pavement, and kneeling down with a magnifying glass-and I got down there with him-and he was pointing out all the places where UFO's were going to be landing over the next few months. And he had a firm conviction that there was a very strong connection between himself, aliens, and Jesus Christ. Those are the 3 elements that went into his make up and drove him. He basically went to France and became a huge rock star. And one night he decided he'd had enough. So he came out on stage in white robes, and said that the whole thing about rock had been a lie, and that, in fact, he was Jesus Christ. And it was the end of Vince, his career, and everything else. And it was that and his story which really became one of the essential ingredients of Ziggy and his world view.
Despite Bowie's comments, Taylor was not washed up entirely, and towards the latter part of the 60's, Playboy drummer Bobbie Clarke organised a small one-month tour of France, billed as "Vince Taylor and Bobbie Clarke backed by Les Rockers". But there were problems throughout due to Taylor's erratic behaviour that included, at the final gig, a personal premonition that the concert hall would "blow up" as soon as Vince took to the microphone. (Rumour has it that the electricity supply apparently short-circuited as Taylor began his opening song, but I think we can regard this story with some suspicion.) But he remained a popular artist and in late 1969, the magazines 'Bonjour les Amis' and 'Disco-Revue' began a campaign to get Taylor's career back on track by asking its readers to write to record owner Eddie Barclay in the hope that he would give him another chance. Suitably convinced, Vince recorded a series of cover versions for the Barclay record label, and performed intermittently throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. During the end of his life, Taylor lived and worked in Switzerland as an aircraft engineer before finally succumbing to cancer in 1991.
On a more sober note, at the time of making his Top Twenty debut, backing band The Playboys were appearing for the second time having previously performed with Screaming Lord Sutch back in February.
And talking of The Playboys, other than Tony Meehan, all of the following have appeared in this band at one time or another. The Shadows other drummer, Brian Bennett, Bennett's fellow rhythm partner, bass player Brian "Licorice" Locking, Beatle collaborator Tony Sheridan, Georgie Fame and a very youthful Jimmy Page.
VINCE TAYLOR & THE PLAYBOYS - What'd I Say (1961)
video
There is an unconfirmed suggestion that this was recorded at L'Olympia in France on the 7th July 1961 with a pick-up band called "The Noise". If this information is correct then this clip occurred just 3 months after his Town Hall appearance. The Town Hall bill for the 20th March also included two other artists, but both remain shyly elusive when it comes to providing information about their history.
DI MACKAY
Di, as the Top Twenty advert suggests, was billed as "The Girl With The Guitar", and was apparently a regular member of the popular "Saturday Club" Radio programme. However a protracted search of the Saturday Club's archive listings does not reveal MacKay as being part of it's roster of artists.
For the unitiated, "Saturday Club" started life on the 1st June 1957 as a program called "Saturday Skiffle Club" - produced by Jimmy Grant, hosted by the incomparable Brian Matthew and broadcast every Saturday from 10-10.30 a.m. After skiffle's initial flourish began to wane, the program's title was altered, the broadcast was expanded to two hours a week (10am to 12noon) whilst the emphasis, musically, was shifted to incorporate all forms of "teenage music". As "Saturday Club", the program first began it's lengthy lifespan on the BBC Light Programme from October 4th 1958 and lasted until January 1969, an 11-year period that also included an 18 month-stint on Radio 2 towards the end of it's history. It consisted mainly of "live" pre-recorded performances as there were restrictions on the amount of "Needle Time" allowed on Radio during the height of it's popularity.
FRANK KELLY & THE CRESTAS
"Born and raised on my father's farm in Titchfield, Hampshire, is the main reason for my love of the outdoor life" says 19 year old Frank Kelly. A recording contract was negotiated with Fontana and it was on Tuesday, 4th September that Frank had his first recording session. The Hunters who now support him on most of his engagements also accompanied him on two numbers at the session. The first was a medium paced ballad which has become a standard amongst Country and Western fans, which has recently been revived with great success in America entitled "Send Me The Pillow You Dream On", and the other of their own compositions called "Cept Me". Wherever he has appeared he has earned great praise and the future looks very bright for the Country boy making his debut with a Country & Western number." So says the record company blurb issued upon the release of Frank's debut single. This description certainly beats the "All Music Guide's" suggestion that Kelly was just "another obscure Brit pop rocker". Kelly's backing band at the Town Hall, The Crestas, all hailed from Portsmouth, which could link this outfit to Len Canham though there is no evidence to suggest that they were managed by him. The Crestas (the first of two bands who performed at The Top Twenty under that name) had, by 1963, changed their name to The Hunters which automatically causes some confusion as some pop music historians believe that these are the very same Hunters that had performed at the Town Hall in 1960. Not so. (Another suggestion that Frank is none other than the actor who played Father Jack from Channel 4's "Father Ted" comedy sitcom and who, incidentally, did have a career as a singer, are also well wide of the mark.) Both sets of "Hunters" recorded for Fontana with Frank and the boys releasing a total of 4 fairly nondescript singles on that label between 1962 and 1964. These included a blatant "Runaround Sue" rip-off entitled "I Saw Linda Yesterday" (also released by Craig Douglas) and a follow-up entitled "What Do You Wanna Do", written by Mitch Murray, on which Frank sounds like a cross between Adam Faith and Billy J Kramer. The track included here, "Good And True" is the "B"-side of "Linda" and apart from a bad attack of the Buddy Holly hic-cups, features a guitar solo and instrumental passage that at least lifts the song from it's mediocrity.
FRANK KELLY & THE HUNTERS - Good And True (1963)

27th March 1961
Barrie James/The Nevitt Bros/Shirley Gaye & The Keytones
EASTER PACKAGE SHOW ("Win the monster Easter Eggs in the jiving competition!")
10th April 1961
Danny Davis/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye with The Strangers
24th April 1961
Johnny Spencer & The Casuals
THE LONDON'S
("Popular Radio & TV Vocal Team")
Having named yourself after the capital city, you would think that this artiste would be a tad more popular but nay. No info on this lot I am afraid apart from the mouth-watering Mercury advert and it's brief description of The London's talents.
8th May 1961
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
DEAN TORRENT & THE PRESSMEN
And not much on these either, though I am almost certain that they were local lads from good old Bridgy. The Pressmen may have included Pete Gibbs in their line-up, this being the same Pete Gibbs of Pete And The Devils fame (see 1960). The Pressmen also backed another local pop luminary called Jimmy Treharne during the early 60's but there is no word on the mysterious "Dean Torrent" however.
15th May 1961
The Brook Brothers/Barrie James with the Semi-Tones
THE BROOK BROTHERS - Warpaint (1961) (entered charts 1/4/61)

22nd May 1961
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs
BILLY FURY
A major coup for the Top Twenty and probably one of the biggest acts to have ever played The Town Hall. At this point in the man's career, Fury had contributed a number of singles to the Top 20 chart with "Colette" reaching No.9 in 1959. However, "Halfway To Paradise" was released just one month before his Bridgwater appearance and thereafter Fury was a regular visitor to the Top 10 for the next 4 years. Born Ronald Wycherley on April 17th 1940, he was brought up in Dingle, a rough, predominantly working class area of Liverpool, and was a schoolmate of Ringo Starr's at St. Silas Church of England. A sickly child, he contracted Rheumatic Fever in 1946 which weakened his heart valves, eventually contributing to his death at the age of 43. The story goes that, during one of his many visits to his local hospital, he overheard a doctor telling his mother that he would be lucky to reach the age of 30. The young Ronald took piano lessons at age 11 and at 14 was given his first guitar by his parents but was never particularly proficient on either instrument. As a teenager he obtained a job as a deck-hand on the Mersey tug-boat "Formby" and this coincided with a keen interest in country & western music and the formation of the Formby skiffle group which performed in local cafe's in the city. A change of jobs in 1957 saw him working at the Joshua Reynolds department store and it was here that he began to gain a reputation as a budding songwriter. In 1958 Wycherley recorded 6 demos in a local studio situated at a house owned by one Percy Phillips (the same studio at which The Quarrymen recorded the following year). He also sent a tape of material, along with a photograph, to Larry Parnes but initially received no response. After entering, and failing, in a "Carroll Levis Discoveries" talent contest at the Liverpool Empire, the common "rock myth" story suggests that it was not until Ronald's mother contacted Parnes personally that the impresario invited Wycherley to The Essoldo Theatre in Birkenhead on the 1st October where his "Extravaganza Show" was playing with Marty Wylde headlining. Wycherley had hoped that he might succeed in peddling some of his material to Parnes' headliner, and backstage, the 18-year-old was asked to sing 5 of his compositions for his new admirers as an impromptu audition. Much to Fury's amazement, 10 minutes later, the inexperienced and totally unknown teenager was performing in front of a hall full of very enthusiastic punters and a "star was born". "Two thousand screaming teenagers held up the programme at Larry Parnes' "Extravaganza" - which featured rock 'n' roll idol Marty Wilde - last Wednesday when an 18-years-old Dingle boy, Ronnie Wycherley, of 35 Haliburton Street, completed a three-minute spot in the star-studded programme. Ex-tugman Ronnie, with a little apprehension, took the stage at the Essoldo Theatre, Birkenhead, after the compere of the show said: "Larry Parnes has given breaks to young people in his time and tonight he has invited a young local boy to entertain you." Wearing a two-tone Texan jacket and a guitar slung over his shoulder, Ronnie nervously walked on to the stage, and swung straight into the first number with an Elvis Presley inspired style. His three minutes were constantly punctuated by screams and shouts from hundreds of teenage girls, which were intensified at the least move of his body" (Also making his debut at this Birkenhead gig was another 18-year-old - a singer turned comedian by the name of Jimmy Tarbuck.) The idea that an unknown 18 year-old should be thrust into the limelight on a backstage whim seems a little fanciful. The more sober, and therefore, probably more accurate version of events is that Fury, backed by future Fourmost member Billy Hatton, had taken part in an audition that Parnes had held in the city centre, and had impressed sufficiently enough for the impresario to take him on. Consequently Fury knew that he would be singing at the Marty Wylde gig as that was part of the deal that Parnes had struck with the young singer. Whatever the turn of events, unsurprisingly, Ronald quickly became another of Parnes' proteges and made his "official" debut in Stretford the following evening. The proverbial name change followed soon afterwards with Ron's own choice of monicker - Stean Wade - being dropped in favour of the more dynamic Billy Fury. After signing to Decca Records, in 1959 Fury released his first single, the self-penned "Maybe Tomorrow"
and quickly established himself as a new star. During the sixties Fury spent 258 weeks on the singles charts with 11 Top Ten hits and in 1961 alone, the year of his Top Twenty appearance, Fury's singles were in the charts for a total of 50 weeks. Of all of the Presley pretenders, Fury was UK's best - certainly more talented than Marty Wylde and better looking than Cliff Richard, and according to the All Music Guide "was one of the very few English rock 'n rollers of the period who could (and did, on stage and on television) stand alongside the likes of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent with no apology or excuse for being there" Fury had the Presley image well and truly sussed. His somewhat suggestive on-stage antics (he used his microphone as a sexual prop) were severely criticized by a number of individuals who believed he was responsible for corrupting the entire population of UK's female youth. Consequently Billy was told to "tone-down" his act. He continued to write his own material and in 1960 recorded an album's worth of his own songs, some of which were written under the pseudonym of Wilbur Wilberforce. Fury had successfully borrowed Presley's look - the resulting album "The Sound Of Fury", produced by Jack Good - did a more than capable job of replicating the man's music. It was effectively the UK's first rockabilly album and with Joe Brown doing his best Scotty Moore and Andy "Love Me Do" White on drums the record was and still is one of the most authentic rock n'roll albums produced outside America. (In an interview conducted in 1970, Keith Richards called it one of the greatest Rock N'Roll records of it's era). Mr.Parnes however, was unsatisfied and in an attempt to make Fury a more palatable product, was responsible for a spate of cover versions that were chosen to "smooth out" Billy's sound. Despite the overtly commercial material, Fury's career continued to go from strength to strength. This was partially due to the fact that the songs covered were always intelligently chosen, but it was also because Fury had the talent to pull them off.
BILLY FURY - Turn My Back On You (1960) - From "The Sound Of Fury"

Fury never achieved a No.1 hit record, but both "Halfway To Paradise", a Goffin/King number originally recorded by Tony Orlando, and "Jealousy", reached No.2 in 1961. But in terms of Top 10 hits alone, 1962 and 1963 were his best years. 1962 also saw Fury make his acting debut in the film "Play It Cool", a somewhat forgettable Teenploitation movie that was all part of the process of transforming the singer into "Mr.Versatility", a role that Fury disliked but which was nevertheless expanded upon with numerous appearances in variety shows and the dreaded panto. In 1963, his "We Want Billy" album was one of the very first live records to be released in the UK whilst during 64 & 65, his single releases continued to chart, though less frequently than they had previously. During the mid-60's Fury's heart condition began to take it's toll and in 1967 he required surgery which not only brought a premature end to his concert performances but effectively suspended his career for several years. During his convalescence, he discovered a love for birdwatching but in 1971 further, more extensive, surgery was required and with an increasing dependence on alcohol due to depression, Fury's almost non-existent career suddenly put Billy in a somewhat precarious financial position. In 1973 he re-appeared in the public eye for the first time in a number of years with a cameo appearance as singer "Stormy Tempest" in the film "That'll Be The Day" alongside Ringo Starr and David Essex but unfortunately, further surgery was required in 1976 and just 2 years later he was declared bankrupt, a situation that was only resolved after an agreement with the Inland Revenue saw Fury re-record his hits for K-Tel in 1978. Undoubtedly against doctor's orders, but under pressure to keep the money rolling in, Fury signed a record deal with Polydor in 1981 and recorded a "comeback" album entitled "The One And Only", but in March 1982, he collapsed at his farm, suffering partial paralysis and temporary blindness. He recovered from this latest ordeal, and remained determined to resurrect his career with a live TV show appearance and a national tour, but on 28th January 1983, he was found unconscious in his St.John's Wood flat and pronounced dead on arrival at St Mary's Hospital, London.

There is one other footnote surrounding this performance that should not be overlooked and that is Fury's backing band.  The advert states that Fury would be appearing with his own group - "The Blue Flames" - but who exactly were they?  Fury had been known to change his musicians as often as he changed his socks.  He almost obtained the services of The Beatles for a short tour back in 1960 but their rather shambolic audition proved conclusively that they weren't ready to play in such exalted company and they were turned down.  But with touring high on the list of Fury's priorities in late 1959 Billy finally found a band that he could call his own......or rather he stole one. The Blue Flames were actually playing for another singer that has also graced The Top Twenty stage, one Clay Nicholls. And Nicholls and his Blue Flames featured a young pimply teenager on keyboards called Clive Powell.  The story goes that Fury liked the band but more importantly also liked their name as their initials "BF" coincided with his own, so he promptly decided to use them. What Nicholls thought of this betrayal is anyone's guess but as Fury was "A STAR" it would appear that there was nothing he could do about it. The Blue Flames changed personnel frequently with top session drummer Clem Cattini a member for awhile but one constant in the line-up appears to be the aforementioned Powell, an artist that Larry Parnes thought warranted some personal attention, hence the name change to Georgie Fame.  Parnes eventually sacked the band as he thought they were too "jazzy" and Fury started using The Tornadoes instead but when did this happen? The Blue Flames family tree web-site has the band playing for Fury, then Clay Nicholls again (perhaps out of some sense of loyalty) in June 1961 and then Fury again during that very same month. This concert took place in May, the month before.  So was Fame in the band?  I think there has to be a good chance simply because of the advertisement suggesting that "The Blue Flames" a name that Fame eventually claimed for his own were on stage during this very evening.

BILLY FURY - Halfway To Paradise (1961)

There can be no doubt that Alford regarded this concert as being of prime importance. It was to be the final gig of their Spring season prior to taking a 3 month break and apart from laying on coaches for people living in Weston-Super-Mare and Burnham-On-Sea there was also a significant hike in the cost of the ticket, 7 shillings as opposed to the normal entrance fee of 3 or 4 bob. In the end, it backfired on them. The Top Twenty had been getting about 350-400 punters every Monday for quite some time, but on this occasion the undoubted star quality of the singer made no difference when it came to forking out hard cash and only 200 people turned up. There is an unsubstantiated rumour that during this concert, a male member of the 200-strong crowd took umbrage at a Fury comment that questioned the audience's mentality whilst also doing nothing for the North/South divide. (Fury apparently dedicated a song to all the "suedes" in the audience - that's the vegetable incidentally, and not a selection of fans from Stockholm.) The aforementioned punter, a market stall owner, armed himself with some brussel sprouts, no doubt during the interval, which were then pelted at the vocalist mid-way through a vocal performance. Fury - not a man to be trifled with - stopped the band mid-song, pointed to the guy in question and promptly told him to "F*** Off!". Exit punter, suitably embarrassed with the band continuing the song where they had left it.
BILLY FURY - Ain't Nothin Shakin'(1964)
video
30th May 1961
"Bridgwater Borough Magistrates yesterday granted an application for a licence for a juke box for a cafe at 10 Clare Street, Bridgwater despite police opposition. Making the application on behalf of Mr.James William Ellick of 66 Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater, Mr.R.G.Ash said the juke box would be controlled by a switch behind the counter and it would be used only from 8 am to 6 pm. The cafe is closed at 6 pm. so there was no question of trouble with gangs of youths. Opposing the application, Inspector C F Searle said he was instructed to do so becuase of the type of instrument. Juke boxes were inclined to attract the rowdy element and sometimes gave rise to complaints in relation to traffic from the congregation of youths and motor-cycles. The chairman (Mr E L Kelting) told Mr.Ash that the magistrates wanted Mr.Ellick to realise that the matter would be reconsidered when the licence became due for renewal in March, should any kind of nuisance result."
June 1961
"When the police objected yesterday at Bridgwater Borough Magistrates Court to the proposed installation of a juke-box in a Bridgwater cafe, the tenant told the Magistrates it had been installed last January. Mr.Leslie Norman Iles, of the Sunshine Cafe and Guesthouse, Bristol Road, Bridgwater said that the people who had installed the machine had told him that they did not think music liecences were required in Bridgwater. He had since seen in the Press a report of an application for a music licence in respect of another cafe, and he wished to be legally covered. In reply to the police objection that juke-boxes led to rowdyism and undesirables, Mr. Iles said he had had no trouble since his was installed. "The worst we get are the schoolchildren" he went on. "We have had a few teddy boys but we have had no trouble from them. The school children are the noisiest"
During August and September other concerts of interest sporadically appeared at The Town Hall. An arrangement with the West of England Jazz Society yielded a series of gigs, some of which ran alongside the Top Twenty for a short while. Bob Wallis & His Storyville Jazzmen were first to appear on 19th July and unsurprisingly this prompted a small Bridgwater Mercury review. "Despite the abundance of dark glasses, droopy sweaters and bearded faces, the true "traddie" was missing from the show and so accordingly was the atmosphere which pervades most concerts or festivals" suggested the Mercury's "Trad Jazz" expert. (In other words, nobody turned up.) As far as my theory regarding the Mercury's editorial bias against rock music is concerned, it's worth noting that at this point The Top Twenty had been going for exactly one year but not so much as a word had ever been written about it, yet as soon as the more respectable Wallis & Co come to town, the newspaper sends a roving reporter post haste to cover the great event.
A couple of interesting items suddenly appeared in quick succession. On Friday 11th August "G.B. Rockshows Inc" promoted the appearance of "World Drum Beat Champion" Rory Blackwell. Blackwell's grandiose global monicker had arrived via his successful attempt at breaking the world record for non-stop skin-bashing. If this suggests that he was nothing more than a novelty act then it is worth noting that Blackwell holds a distinctive position within the history of British popular music as he was the leader of the country's first rock band. Ken Colyer's Studio 51 in London's Great Portland Street had opened on the 24th August 1956 with an appearance by Blackwell and on the 6th September at the same venue, "Rory Blackwell's Rock N'Rollers" recorded the first ever rock n'roll session to occur in the British Isles. He was closely followed by the more authentic Tony Crombie's Rockets but even though Blackwell wasn't necessarily the best, he was certainly the first.
I am not entirely certain as to what status Blackwell had achieved by 1961. I dare say he was more renowned for his exploits as a percussive marathon man than for any significant recordings that he might have made. Throughout it's history, rock n'roll has been extremely unkind to those who steadfastly belong within a certain timeframe and who share a reluctance for change so chances are that Rory was already regarded as being part of the past by the time he played here but at least the guy had/has history on his side.
RORY BLACKWELL - Fabulous (1961)

The Top Twenty finally re-appeared on Monday 4th September, but not before another "GB Rockshows Inc" presentation rocked the town (or at the very least gave it a slight shove.) During the first weekend of that month the Town Hall became the rockingest venue in Somerset as on Friday 1st September, just 3 days before The Top Twenty re-opened it's doors to the public we were treated to an appearance of something obliquely called "ROCK N ROLL ALL STARS" - "London's Greatest Touring Rock Show". The rather bland advertisement promoting this mysterious event gave nothing away, and despite the ad's rhetoric I haven't been able to find out anything about this performance. Who were "G.B.Rockshows Inc" anyway? Judging from their rather grandiose title it could either have been a major London promoter with designs on taking over the country or a company run by some bloke from his upstairs bedroom in Dampiet Street. Answers on a proverbial postcard please.

In what must have been a flurry of activity, The Town Hall was hastily prepared for the next exciting episode of Rock N'Roll mayhem. Having finally cleared the theatre of discarded lipstick and piles of dandruff, The Top Twenty was back in action.
4th September 1961

Danny Davis/Brian Fisher/Shirley Gaye & The Semitones
On the 8th September, the West of England Jazz Society once again promoted a Town Hall concert as part of their Trad Jazz series, though this one was a little more significant as it featured George Melly with Mick Mulligan and his Band. This may have been Melly's first appearance in Bridgwater but it was certainly not to be his last.
11th September 1961
The Antones/Sandra McCann/Mike Storm/Johnny Gregg & The Comets
18th September 1961
RICKY FORDE & THE CYCLONES ("A new up and coming group")
It would be tempting to promote Ricky Forde & The Cyclones as "Just another band from Bristol", but thanks to an article from the "This Is Bristol" website, it is possible to throw some flesh onto the bare bones of their career. Ricky (real name Bill Green) was an ex-railway clerk who, by the very early 60's, was fronting The Cyclones, a band that had gained some notoriety locally. In 1963 the group came to the attention of "chart toppers" Peter & Gordon during one of the latter's nationwide tours and whilst the folky duo were sitting at the top of the charts with "World Without Love", word got out that Ricky and the boys were required as P&G's touring band. Unfortunately, the deal did not involve Ricky being in the line-up and he was promptly made "surplus to requirements". The price of Ricky Forde's fame? An expensive overcoat given to him as a parting gift by Peter Asher. Forde, however, was not unemployed for long and very quickly hooked up with another local combo called The Marauders soon after. During 1964, Ricky was involved in a "controversial" Bristol-produced rock'n'roll play called "A Man Dies", a piece that was co-written by a local church minister and which was heavily criticised for it's so-called "blasphemous" content. The album of the show, which featured Forde reprising his stage performance, was recorded at the Abbey Road studios. Forde then joined forces with Brian Epstein, and obtained a number of bookings through Epstein's NEMS agency. An attempt at a recording career followed with further recordings at Abbey Road taking place with the one and only George Martin at the helm but the only item that was released was the 1965 Parlophone single "You Are My Love". Needless to say, it made no headway in the charts and indeed the only noteworthy fact regarding this song was that it was "almost" recorded by one of Forde's idols, Roy Orbison.
25th September 1961
Johnny Carr & The Cadillacs ("Just back from their German tour")
("Don't miss the finals for the most originally-dressed couple")
16th October 1961
JOHNNY & MIKE with THE SHADES (featuring Jackie London)
Johnny & Mike with the Shades were built around the respective talents of vocalist Johnny Cannon (John Symonds) and drummer/vocalist Mike Wayne (Michael Long.) Based in Bath, they were very much a "nearly" group that failed to hit the big time, largely due to a series of unfortunate circumstances. Formed in early 1959, Mike Wayne was originally with a band called The Pacific Five whilst Cannon drummed with local rivals The Dominoes. After the two joined forces, they turned professional in October 1962, but having gained a solid reputation and despite touring with some of the best in the business (The Everly Bros, Roy Orbison, The Rolling Stones), they remained a band waiting for their big break after a number of bad career moves served to cook their proverbial goose. Signed by Decca after an impressive performance on "Saturday Club", they moved to London under the guidance of manager Jack Fallon and almost immediately the record company ushered the group into the studio, where a great deal of time and money was spent on the band's recording of The Coasters "Poison Ivy" for debut single release. I say "band recording" but vocalists Cannon & Wayne were the only group members involved, "The Shades" having been told to kick their heels whilst session men like guitarist Big Jim Sullivan played their respective parts. The song was eventually ditched after a Decca big-wig took a personal dislike to the finished product. Allegedly boasting John Lennon & Paul McCartney as fans, manager Fallon refused to allow Brian Epstein to sign them to his impressive roster of artists and, just to rub salt into their wounds, they later they had the ignominity of having their arrangement of "You'll Never Walk Alone" stolen by Gerry Marsden of Pacemakers fame after he'd heard the band perform the song at a club in Widnes. Inevitably they faded into obscurity despite the occasional single release, including, as the “Cannon Brothers with The Shades”, the 45 “Turn Your Eyes To Me” which appeared on the ultra obscure BRIT label in 1965, peaking at No.36 in the Radio London Fab 40 chart. The band eventually called it a day in 1967 but drummer Pete Gavin survived however, later becoming an original member of Heads Hands & Feet alongside Chas Hodges of Chas & Dave fame and one of the finest guitarist's in the cosmos, Albert Lee.
JOHNNY, MIKE & THE SHADES - This Boy (from "Saturday Club") (1963)

MP3 courtesy of Shades bassist Noel Lawrence.
23rd October 1961
PAUL CLAYTON & THE CORVETTES ("Another Great New Discovery Group")
Guess where this lot came from? Yep, you guessed it - Bristol!
13th November 1961
Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
27th November 1961
DUFFY POWER & THE DREAMERS
Power (real name Ray Howard) was yet another Larry Parnes discovery (Perhaps The Top Twenty only needed the appearance of 3 more Parnes singers to collect the set and receive a special certificate.) Power had been working in a laundry when he was discovered in 1959 at the tender age of 17. Parnes was in a London cinema, catching up on some local talent but witnessed the teenager winning a Saturday morning "jive" competition with his band Duffy & The Dreamers and promptly signed him to one of his "I'm-going-to-make-you-a-star-if-you-stick-with-me" contracts. Power's career never really blossomed under his manager's tutelage, partially becuase of a lack of decent material but also becuase Duffy was a bit of a rebel who lived the Sex, Drugs & RockN'Roll lifestyle way before the term had been invented. Dressed in leopard skin jackets and gold lame waistcoats, he was a great live performer but seemed unable to transfer his on-stage energy to the recording studio and his Fontana single releases - cover versions of songs like "Ain't She Sweet", "Dream Lover" and "Whole Lotta Shakin Going On"- were disappointing. Only one single was issued in 1960 and just 2 more appeared during the following year. With his career in the doldrums Power suffered from acute depression and during 1961 tried to commit suicide. His attempts to end it all were apparently interrupted by a friend's phone call. A casual visit to a blues club eventually became a musical epiphany for Duffy, with Power suddenly realising the direction in which to take his career. He split with Parnes and later resurfaced a couple of years later alongside future Cream members Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker as a member of The Graham Bond Quartet/Organisation. Their 1963 recording of "I Saw Her Standing There", one of the first ever Beatle covers, has been called "a milestone of British Blues". Power later joined Blues Incorporated, a band of great historical significance from a UK perspective. Hosted by Alexis Korner, it has not only been heralded as Britain's first blues/rock band, but it included within it's constantly changing line-up, a host of musicians that were at the forefront of the 60's British Rock movement. Duffy appeared on three of their albums - "Red Hot From Alex" (1964) "Sky High" (1966) and "Blues Incorporated (Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting) (1967), but not long after his final stint with the band, the singer found himself out of work and, partially due to drug dependancy, became mentally ill. Thankfully he recovered and worked as a session musician (he appeared on the soundtrack to "The Italian Job" in 1968) before finally releasing his one and only critically acclaimed album in 1973, a record that was co-produced by Andrew Oldham. I believe that Power had already parted company with Larry Parnes by the time he had made his Top 20 appearance, nevertheless his departure from the Parnes stable and the subsequent re-invention that followed makes him one of the very few artists who was single-minded enough to leave the straightjacketed world of screaming teenagers and substandard cover versions behind in order to take his career into his own hands.
DUFFY POWER - What Now? (October 1961 - B-side of "No Other Love")

4th December 1961
BOBBY ANGELO & THE TUXEDOS ("Jivers please note : Jiving competition tonight!!!!!")
Originating from Walton-On-Thames under the name of Bobby Vincent & The Shadows, singer Bobby Hemmings idolised the leather-clad Gene to such an extent that he adopted both his surname and some of his stage mannerisms. His backing band's decision to choose a monicker that was synonymous with another well-known beat group from this period became a problem that had to be hastily rectified. So by early 1961, Vincent had adopted the Italian sounding Angelo whilst the backing band took their new identity, not from the dinner jacket, but from a new guitar that had recently appeared on the market. Their debut single for the HMV label, "Baby Sittin'" reached No.30 in August 1961 and was based on the distinctive sound of lead guitarist Pete Cresswell's Stratocaster. Despite Cresswell's star turn he was apparently paid just £5.00 for his troubles and wisely decided to vacate the Tuxedo's guitar slot due to his lack of financial recompense with drummer Mick Avory, he of Kinks fame, leaving with him. The follow-up "Don't Stop", ditched the Tuxedoes altogether - a session band taking their place in the studio.* This song also featured female backing vocalists and a more confident Angelo lead that incorporated that well-known vocal technique known as the "Holly hiccup" but despite another authentic rock n'roll guitar break that temporarily lifted the song from the doldrums, the change of direction didn't work and the single failed to chart. And that appears to be the sum total of the band's endeavours. Having been unceremoniously dumped by the record company and their vocalist, The Tuxedoes at least found a career post Angelo, later re-emerging as "The Innocents" and becoming Mike Berry's backing band in the process (see Berry entry) whilst Angelo, apart from a handful of solo releases, disappeared off the music map altogether. "Baby Sittin", their 2 and a half minutes of fame, is a little more authentic than most of the music that was being performed by British acts at the time so it's strange that their career should have had such a short shelf life. The only insight into the group comes from bassist Dave Brown who offers the following "We mainly toured the South of England and Germany. It was sometimes bloody hard work but all in all great fun and I'm glad to have been part of early British Rock 'n Roll however lowly a part that may be."
* This was, unfortunately, common practice throughout the 60's (see Johnny, Mike & The Shades entry). Having signed on the dotted line, there were many musicians who suddenly found themselves on the musical scrapheap as "top" session musos were brought in to provide a more polished sound. Even Ringo Starr was told to shake a tambourine during the first Beatle recording whilst session man (and former Billy Fury drummer) Andy White played the perfunctory "Love Me Do" drum part which proves that it could happen to even the best of them.
BOBBY ANGELO & THE TUXEDOS - Baby Sittin' (1961)

11th December 1961
Royston Jones & The Raiders
18th December 1961
NELSON KEENE
The last member of the Larry Parnes caravan to play the Top Twenty, Keene, real name Malcolm Holland was born in Farnborough and was one of 10 children. Never one of the stellar artistes in Parnes stable, he recorded three singles for HMV, with "Image Of A Girl" released in 1960, his biggest hit, reaching No 37 in the UK charts. "Keep Loving Me" appeared during the same year whilst "Miracles Are Happening To Me" was released in 1961. Unfortunately miracles don't always happen as even divine intervention could make him a star and he disappeared into obscurity. According to that fountain of all knowledge Wikipedia, as of 2010, Keene was alive and well and living in Australia.
NELSON KEENE - Image Of A Girl (1960)

Ricky Forde & The Cyclones
Dean Torrent & The Pressmen
CAROL WATERMAN
The final Top Twenty concert of 1961, as the advertisement clearly stated, was a "Christmas Spectacular" that not only boasted the talents of no less than 4 different artistes but was so damn exciting that even the balloons get a credit of their own, alongside something belwilderingly referred to as the "Yes & No Interlude", whatever that was. Even though Nelson Keene was the undisputed "star" of the show, perhaps of more interest were the artists that appeared with him. Of these, Forde & the Cyclones from Bristol and Bridgwater's very own Torrent & The Pressmen had appeared previously, but the addition of Carol Waterman "singing pop songs" (as if she would do anything else) is significant. For Carol was and in fact still is none other than Carol Lee-Scott aka Grotbags, the children's entertainer from the 1980's who shot to prominence on shows such as "The Rod Hull & Emu Show" (full story hopefully to follow).