The Dystraction came from Reno, Nevada, its members were juniors in high school when they recorded their single in 1969:
Rick Yancey – lead guitar Rob Hanna – rhythm guitar Danny Herring – bass Scott Monroe – drums
Though young, they cut a great single of original hard rock on Coast Records 6969. Their connection to the Coast label out of Hollywood was Rob Hanna’s father, Bob Hanna, a member of the lounge trio the Esquires who had two releases on Coast. “Where Are We Now” is available on youtube, but I prefer the A-side, the slower and heavier “Wonder What Ya Feel”.
I’ve read the single had two pressings because the labels had songwriter Hanna listed before the band name, leading to confusion as to the group’s name. I haven’t seen the other version of this label, if you have a copy please contact me.
The Dystraction receive notices in the Reno Gazette-Journal, first on March 22, 1969.
Dystraction Releases Disk
The All-Reno youngster Dystraction hard-rock group has released its first record on the Coast label. Both sides of the single were written by the four-member group. “Wonder What you Feel” is the most popular song on the recording and the flipside is “Where Are We Now?”
The three Wooster High School and one Sparks High School students represented Nevada in Atlantic City last year after winning the state-side competition in the “Battle of the Bands.” Danny Herring plays bass, Rick Yancey plays lead guitar, Rob Hanna (son of Bob Hanna of the popular Esquires) plays rhythm and Scott Monroe plays drums for Dystraction. Terming themselves “Hard-rock” musicians, the youths will tour teen-age nightclubs in California and Oregon this summer with a probable engagement at the popular Sound Factory in Sacramento.
Then again on May 17:
For teen-agers only … a dance set to coincide with the Annual Custom Car and Boat Show at the Centennilal Coliseum May 16018. The Reno-formed, Reno-based Dystraction, featuring Danny Herring on bass, Rob Hanna on rhythm, Rich Yancey on guitar and Scot Monroe on drums, will feature new tunes of its own creation like “Where Are We Now,” “Wonder What You Feel” and “Nassar Blues.” The group should grow in prominence this summer with scheduled northwest tour.
On June 22, 1969 the Nevada State Journal covered the finals of the Reno area Battle of the Bands, with four winners going on to the state competition in Las Vegas the following week. The Dystraction was one of the winners, along with the Town Squires, Frog Rock and Jonathan Goodlife. The article included a couple of quotes from Danny Herring and a photo of the Jonathan Goodlife band, whose members were Jerry Werms, James Stipech, Steve Dunwoodie, James Mask and Terry Peterson.
Other bands in the competition included Chipped Beef on Toast, Wheet Straw Blew Grass, Chalk, Mr. Enzyme & the Electric Bean, Snow, and the Hellenic Invasions.
The Cosmic Tones came out of Bell Gardens, CA, the same town as the Nite Walkers. They cut one single for the Discovery label, “Gonna Build Me a Woman” / “Hold It”. Discovery later released a cool single by the Missing Links. Like the Missing Links, publishing was through Jarhill Pub. Co, (an amalgam R. Jarrard and James Hilton, who are credited on the Missing Links single).
Members of the Cosmic Tones were:
David Silva – lead guitar Morris Ochoa – rhythm guitar Terry Williams – rhythm guitar Alex Hernandez – bass guitar Vincent Hernandez – drums
Bass player Alex Hernandez sent me a photo of the group and told me about the Cosmic Tones:
My name is Alex Hernandez and I played bass in the Cosmic Tones in Bell Gardens, CA. I had wanted to play the guitar since I was about 5 years old. My uncle Chris asked me what song I wanted him to teach me and I said “La Bamba” by Richie Valens. He taught me this song and it was the start of my playing. When I was 13 I wanted to start a band so I started asking around and my friend Terry Williams was interested. He was 13 also and played rhythm guitar for us. My brother Vincent wanted to play drums, he was 14 years old.
We found David Silva who played lead guitar for us. He was a little older, he was 17 years old. We had a 5th addition in the band, Morris Ochoa and he was 14 then. He only stayed with us for about two months.
We all styled our hair back after ratting it up. We all used about a 1/2 can of Aqua Net hairspray before each play. After being together for about a month we had our first gig on Channel 34, a Mexican channel. We played an instrumental of “La Bamba” and it seemed to be a big hit.
We played songs such as “Whittier Blvd”, “My Girl”, “Land Of a Thousand Dances”. What a great time the ‘60s were. “Twist and Shout” was a favorite. We used to practice at any park that would let us, City of Commerce Park, Bell Gardens Park, Ford Park, and also at a park in Watts. We played at the junior high assemblies.
We also played in many battle of the bands and came in second at Ford Park out of around 12 groups. We played at the Cinnamon Cinder in Hollywood & at the Bob Hope telethon in Hollywood. We played at the Watts Festival and had a great time. We played at the White Front store in L.A. for two weeks after school to promote cerebal palsy research. We played at a teen club the Diamond Horseshoe in La Puenta, & for a CB club in Hidden Valley.
My Dad had us cut one 45 record and on side A was a song sung by my brother, “I’m Gonna Build Me A Woman” and side B was an original instrumental.
Our rival band in Bell Gardens was the Nite Walkers. They were a real good group and we all went to school together. We always tried to be better than them and they wanted to be better than us.
The group broke up after about two years and I started playing the upright bass in high school. I joined the Army for 8 years in 1971, My brother joined the Army in 1969 and went to Viet Nam.
We lost sight of David Silva, and Terry Williams holds a jam session up towards San Diego weekly. I don’t know where Morris Ochoa went, My brother retired with the railroad and now manages a trailer park. We are all in our mid ‘60s now but I do know we still enjoy music every day. I retired with FedEx freight in 2013.
The last play I had was with my brother’s group the TCB Flash which is one of the best Elvis groups in southern CA. I sang and played four songs for New Years in 2016 at the Grove Theater in Upland CA. My songs were “House of the Rising Sun”, “Hang On Sloopy”, “Gloria” and “Wooly Bully”. Had a blast from the past and the audience seemed to really enjoy the show.
Kenny Bernard – lead vocals Alan Griffin – lead guitar Colin Pullen – bass Phil Lanzon – keyboards Roy Manderson – drums
Hailing from South London Cats Pyjamas released two highly inventive yet extremely rare and collectable 45s for the Direction label during 1968. The quintet’s music bridged psychedelia and progressive rock with hints of soul/R&B and both releases were notable for their top notch production and the superlative musicianship of its players.
Trinidad-born singer Kenny Bernard had first come to prominence with R&B outfit The Wranglers during 1963. Formed around the Lewisham area, the previous year, the group subsequently recorded a lone single for the Pye label, “The Tracker”, which was released in August 1965. Around the same time, the musicians were captured live at the Ad Lib Club in Leicester Square for a rare acetate that years later found its way into the hands of Mark Lamarr. The DJ passed the live tracks to the Acid Jazz label, which released the recordings as the Kenny Bernard & The Wranglers Live ’65 CD in 2011.
When The Wranglers splintered a few months later, Bernard stayed with Pye Records and recorded a cache of stylish R&B/soul-inspired singles during 1966 and 1967, none of which troubled the charts. However, as Bernard noted in his autobiography, You Came Into My Life, he found going solo a daunting experience and missed working with a band on stage.
One night (the most plausible date is sometime in June 1967), the singer was out at the Scotch of St James nightclub in Mayfair with his old friend Pete Gage, former guitarist in Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band, when he heard that South London group, The Loose Ends, were looking for a singer to front the band.
Originally from Bexley Heath in Kent, The Loose Ends had cut a couple of singles for Decca Records with singer Alan Marshall at the helm before undergoing a major overhaul in October 1966, which left the singer with the name. Marshall’s manager Bryan Mason then linked him with Croydon outfit, The Subjects, who featured guitarist Alan Griffin, keyboard player Phil Lanzon and drummer Roy Manderson.
Over the next few months, The Loose Ends’ manager also started to bring in musicians from Bexley band, Bob ‘N’ All to replace outgoing musicians. These included new bass player Colin Pullen and second singer Bob Saker. However, shortly before taking up a residency at the Bang Bang Club in Milan in mid-January 1967, first Roy Manderson and then Alan Griffin dropped out to make way for new recruits. Both, however, kept in touch with Phil Lanzon.
Fast forward to early March and The Loose Ends were back in London, and with Alan Griffin back in the fold, the group performed at the Scotch of St James and the Speakeasy. Shortly after a gig at the Central London Polytechnic on 15 April, where they opened for The Savoy Brown Blues Band, singers Alan Marshall and Bob Saker took up soul legend Otis Redding’s offer to fly to the US to record at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals.
Left without their two front men, The Loose Ends, who’d brought Roy Manderson back on board after his replacement Tony Glyde had left to join first The Fenmen and then Simon K & The Meantimers, put out feelers for another singer. With Marshall and Saker out of the picture, the musicians also decided to revamp themselves as Cats Pyjamas.
After spending a month or so working up a stage set with Kenny Bernard, Colin Pullen recalls that the group’s debut gig took place at a college in Epsom, Surrey, which quite possibly could have been nearby Ewell Technical College Refectory, a popular local venue for up and coming bands to perform at.
Over the next few months, Cats Pyjamas gigged fairly incessantly, and one of the band’s most notable gigs during this period was an appearance at the Starlight Room at Boston Gliderdrome in September with The Original Drifters. Pullen also recalls playing in Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens during the first few months of the group’s existence.
However, in early December, Cats Pyjamas secured a crucial deal with the Rik Gunnell Agency, which most likely was brokered by their manager Pete Gage, who’d co-written one of the band’s standout songs, “Virginia Water” with Kenny Bernard and had previous dealings with the agency during his time with The Ram Jam Band.
Selected gigs: 13 August 1967 – Starlight Ballroom, Crawley, West Sussex with The Geranium Pond (Crawley Advertiser)
30 September 1967 – Starlight Room, Boston Gliderdrome, Boston, Lincolnshire with Original Drifters and The Magic Roundabout (Lincolnshire Standard)
22 October 1967 – Elm Hotel, Southend, Essex (Southend Standard)
2 December 1967 – Cliff’s Pavilion, Southend, Essex with John Walker and The Timebox and The Seychells (Southend Standard) 2 December 1967 – Luton Boys Club, Luton, Bedfordshire with Tramline (Evening Post: Hemel Hempstead)
The link-up with the Rik Gunnell Agency brought in steady stream of live work and importantly gave the band a regular spot to shine at the agency’s top Soho club, the Bag O’Nails on Kingley Street. It also led to a recording deal with the Direction label and, that same month, the musicians recorded a superb version of Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector’s “Baby, I Love You”, originally a top 30 US hit for The Ronettes in 1963, at Olympic Studio’s in Barnes.
To this listener’s ears, however, it is the flip, the Pete Gage/Kenny Bernard penned “Virginia Water” that is the more impressive recording. A psych/prog-rock masterpiece, the song, named after the Surrey commuter town, benefits greatly from Mervyn Conn’s excellent production and demonstrates the inventiveness of a band that is only a few months old.
Alan Griffin sets the scene with a sizzling “nosediving” guitar effect, which is soon buried in the rhythm section’s intricate, syncopated bass and percussion lines. The action then cuts back to the guitarist, who interjects with a series of strident riffs, signalling the arrival of Phil Lanzon’s majestic, prog-rock Hammond fills. As the brooding atmosphere threatens to spill over, Kenny Bernard joins the fray with his distinctive, powerful and soulful lead vocals.
The single, when released on 26 January 1968, should have been a massive hit, but instead sank without a trace. Perhaps “Virginia Water” would have fared better had it been promoted as the A-side but then again the band’s unique style, marrying psych-progressive rock with soul influences was probably far too inventive and dare I say it, “ahead of its time” to meet the narrow demands of the pop charts. Needless to say, breaking into top echelons of the charts was practically an impossibility anyway given The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others’ virtual stranglehold.
Interestingly, “Virginia Water” caught the attention of Scottish progressive-rock band, Writing on The Wall, who later recorded the track under an “unknown” title for their Power of The Picts LP.
Selected gigs: 15 December 1967 – Sibyllas, Swallow Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 16 December 1967 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 18 December 1967 – Kettering Working Men’s Club, Kettering, Northamptonshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 19 December 1967 – Pantiles, Bagshot, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 22 December 1967 – Roaring 20’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 23 December 1967 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 24 December 1967 – Beachcomber, Nottingham (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 26 December 1967 – Pantiles, Bagshot, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 28 December 1967 – Klooks Kleek, West Hampstead, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 29-30 December 1967 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 31 December 1967 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
2 January 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 5 January 1968 – “Big C”, 1 Camp Road, Farnborough, Hampshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 6 January 1968 – Cliff’s Pavilion, Southend (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 9 January 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11-12 January 1968 – Sibyllas, Swallow Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 13 January 1968 – Marquee, Wardour Street, Soho, London with The Gods (Tony Bacon’s Book: London Live) 13-14 January 1968 – Il Grotto, Ilford, Essex (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 15 January 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 17 January 1968 – Sibyllas, Swallow Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 19 January 1968 – Pantiles, Bagshot, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20 January 1968 – Margon’s College, King’s Road, Chelsea (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 21 January 1968 – Alex’s Disco, Salisbury, Wiltshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25-26 January 1968 – Sibyllas, Swallow Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 27 January 1968 – Holborn College of Law, Red Lion Square, WC1 (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 28 January 1968 – Kettering Working Men’s Club, Kettering, Northamptonshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 29 January 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
1 February 1968 – RAF Wyton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 2 February 1968 – Sibyllas, Swallow Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 3 February 1968 – Luton Boys Club, Luton, Bedfordshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 5 February 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 9-10 February 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 10 February 1968 – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, Essex with The Merseys and North Sea Bubble (Southend Standard) 13-15 February 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 16 February 1968 – Pantiles, Bagshot, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 17 February 1968 – Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, Essex with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 18 February 1968 – Carlton Ballroom, Erdington, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20 February 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 23 February 1968 – Boat 27, Sibyllas, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 24 February 1968 – Ceasar’s, Bedford, Bedfordshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 28 February 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
2 March 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 3 March 1968 – Beachcomber, Nottingham (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
Undeterred by the chart failure of their debut 45, Cats Pyjamas returned to Olympic Studios in Barnes with Mervyn Conn to record a follow up release. According to Rik Gunnell’s agency bookings, the group spent two days recording (4 and 5 March).
Colin Pullen remembers that The Steve Miller Band were recording tracks for Children of The Future in the studio next door and when Cats Pyjamas had finished their session they watched the San Francisco group at work.
During the sessions, Cats Pyjamas recorded two new Kenny Bernard songs, “Camera Man” and “Houses”. Bernard would revisit the pedestrian “Houses” in later years and but here the rest of the band give the song a semi-acoustic treatment complete with progressive organ fills. To this listener’s ears, the track wouldn’t sound out of place on The Small Faces’ Autumn Stone or Family’s Music From a Doll’s House. Far better is the raving Mod/prog cross-over “Camera Man” with its infectious chorus and stomping, driving beat.
Like “Virginia Water”, “Camera Man” demonstrates just how innovative Cats Pyjamas could be in the studio; unfortunately the group’s second outing would follow its predecessor into obscurity. The tragedy is that the group never got the opportunity to cut more material towards an LP.
Selected gigs: 7 March 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 8 March 1968 – Meridan Youth Club, Royston, Hertfordshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 9 March 1968 – Locarno, Swindon, Wiltshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11-12 March 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 16 March 1968 – Gaiety Ballroom, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 17 March 1968 – King Alfred, Bellingham, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20 March 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 23 March 1968 – Central School of Art, Southampton Row, WC1, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 24 March 1968 – Foseco Sports & Social Club, Drayton Manor, Tamworth, Staffordshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25-27 March 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25-27 March 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 29 March 1968 – Pantiles, Bagshot, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 30 March 1968 – Twickenham College, Twickenham, Middlesex with Mystic Romance (Melody Maker)
3 April 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Melody Maker) 5 April 1968 – Ministry of Health, Alexander Fleming House, Elephant & Castle, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 6 April 1968 – Stax Club, Cirencester, Gloucestershire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 7 April 1968 – Bull’s Head, Yardley, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 9 April 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11 April 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Melody Maker) 13 April 1968 – White Tiles Disco, Swindon, Wiltshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 14-15 April 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 19-20 April 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 21 April 1968 – Tower Ballroom, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25 April 1968 – Station Hotel, Selly Oak, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 26 April 1968 – Bolero Club, Wednesbury, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 27 April 1968 – Adelphi Ballroom, West Bromwich, West Midlands with The Happenings (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 27 April 1968 – Elbow Room, Aston, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 28 April 1968 – Carlton Ballroom, Erdington, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 29 April-3 May 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
4 May 1968 – Brave New World, Eastney, Hampshire (Website: http://michaelcooper.org.uk/C/birdcage.htm) 9-10 May 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11 May 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 12 May 1968 – Bull’s Head, Yardley, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 13 May 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 17 May 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 18 May 1968 – Dandylion Club, Cross Hands Inn, Brockworth, Gloucestershire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20 May 1968 – Yeoman, Stafford, Staffordshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 21-22 May 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 24 May 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 30-31 May 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
Released on 24 May 1968, “Camera Man” c/w “Houses” was another creative step forward but all was not well within the band. As Bernard later admitted in his autobiography, the singer was increasingly coming to blows with the rest of the group, both musically and personally. A rare high point was a month-long residency at the Stones Club in Madrid during June where Cats Pyjamas took over from Carl Douglas & The Big Stampede.
3 July 1968 – Hyde Park Hotel, Debs Ball, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 4 July 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 5 July 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 6 July 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 7 July 1968 – King Alfred, Bellingham, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 10 July 1968 – Elbow Room, Aston, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11 July 1968 – Station Inn, Selly Oak, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 12 July 1968 – Bolero Club, Wednesbury, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 13 July 1968 – Mothers, Erdington, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 14 July 1968 – Bull’s Head, Yardley, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 15-19 July 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20 July 1968 – Fellowship Inn, Bellingham, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 26 July 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 27 July 1968 – Petersfield Town Hall, Petersfield, Hampshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
3 August 1968 – Kirklevington Country Club, North Yorkshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 4 August 1968 – Beau Brummell Club, Alvaston Hall Hotel, Nantwich, Cheshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 9 August 1968 – County Hall, Weybridge, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 10 August 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 12 August 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 17 August 1968 – Swan Hotel, Yardley, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 23 August 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Melody Maker) 24 August 1968 – Twisted Wheel, Manchester with Ben E King (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25 August 1968 – Excel Bowling Alley, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25 August 1968 – Cellar Club, Hartlepool, County Durham (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 30-31 August 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
2 September 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 5 September 1968 – John Gunnell’s Wedding Reception, 55, Jermyn St, W1, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 8 September 1968 – Surrey Rooms, Kennington, Oval (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 14 September 1968 – Britannia Club, Nottingham (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 15 September 1968 – Pantiles, Bagshot, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11-13 September 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20-21 September 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 28 September 1968 – Rainbow Suite, Co-op, Birmingham (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 29 September 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
4 October 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 5 October 1968 – Fellowship Inn, Bellingham, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 6 October 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 11 October 1968 – Kingston College of Art, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 18-19 October 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 20 October 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 21 October 1968 – Rasputin’s, New Bond Street, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 25 October 1968 – Bag O’Nails, Kingley Street, Soho, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 26 October 1968 – White Hart, Acton, Middlesex (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 27 October 1968 – Mercer’s Arms, Swan Lane, Coventry, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 28-31 October 1968 – Playboy Club, Park Lane, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
1-9 November 1968 – Playboy Club, Park Lane, London (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings) 10 November 1968 – Swan Hotel, Yardley, West Midlands (Rik Gunnell Agency bookings)
Having returned to the UK after working in Madrid for a month during June 1968, tensions between Kenny Bernard and the rest of the band continued to grow and following some final gigs for Rik Gunnell in mid-November, the singer parted ways to resume a solo career.
Cats Pyjamas stuck together a bit longer but sometime in 1969 Colin Pullen left. Around November of that year, remaining members Alan Griffin, Phil Lanzon and Roy Manderson joined Geno Washington and worked as his Ram Jam Band until the spring of 1970. Griffin remained with the singer when he put together a new version that year.
Phil Lanzon, however, maintained the greatest profile over the succeeding years, later working with Grand Prix, Chris Spedding and Sweet among others before joining Uriah Heep in 1986 with whom he continues to play. Huge thanks to Colin Pullen (who kindly shared the Rik Gunnell Agency booking list), Alan Griffin and Phil Lanzon for providing information about the band.
In late 1969/early 1970, a motley crew of London-based musicians entered Trident Studios in the heart of Soho to record a lone, rare album for Fontana Records. Helmed by Indian-born musicians and childhood friends, singer Alan Marshall and keyboard player Bobby Sass, One had initially formed in early 1969 after a series of jam sessions at Marshall’s studio flat, located at 6 Denmark Street which he shared with manager Roger Burrow, a friend of Graham Nash’s.
Born in Lahore, Alan Marshall had quite the musical pedigree. Starting out with Bexley Heath, Kent R&B outfit The Loose Ends in the early 1960s, Marshall had cut two excellent singles on Decca before the original formation splintered in October 1966. Forming a new version with members of Croydon band The Subjects and another Bexley Heath area aggregation, Bob ‘N’ All, the new-look Loose Ends landed a short residency at the Bang Bang Club in Milan during January-February 1967.
When the musicians returned to London that March, they were spotted by Otis Redding at the Scotch of St James (or Speakeasy depending on who you speak to) and, ‘blown away’ by Marshall and co-vocalist Bob Saker’s duets, the soul legend took both singers back to the States to record two tracks at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals – “Johnny B Goode” and “Keep Pushing”. The plan was to couple the two recordings for a single on Atlantic but internal politics led to the tracks being shelved. Tragically, Redding died later that year.
Back in the UK, Alan Marshall reunited with guitarist Peter Kirtley who’d been playing with Alan Price’s band after leaving The Loose Ends the previous October. The pair decided to form a new group, Happy Magazine, and Marshall recommended his childhood friend Bobby Sass (not Bobby Tench under an alias which has often been misreported) to play keyboards. Unfortunately, after some tentative rehearsals, it was decided that Sass didn’t fit the band concept and he was dropped.
“He was a tremendous piano player and he loved Errol Garner. He and I grew up together in Karachi,” says Marshall. “Bobby didn’t make it in Happy Magazine. They didn’t like his style; he was too jazzy.”
Signed to Polydor, Happy Magazine cut three singles with Alan Price in the producer’s chair before splitting in early 1969. By this point, Marshall had moved into a studio flat on Denmark Street (aka as Tin Pan Alley) with his friend and manager Roger Burrow; Bobby Sass was a regular visitor. As the singer recalls, the doors were always open and musicians used to wander in.
This is the most likely explanation for how Antiguan-born drummer and percussionist Conrad Isidore entered the picture that spring. An incredibly gifted musician, Isidore had first come to prominence working with noted R&B outfit Joe E Young & The Tonics during 1967. It was here that Isidore worked with school friend and future band mate, bass player Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel, a former member of The Blue-Act-Unit, who also featured future Bob Marley sideman, Junior Kerr (aka Junior Marvin).
Isidore and Samuel soon moved on to form The Sundae Times with singer/guitarist Wendell Richardson. Produced by The Equals’ Eddy Grant, the trio recorded three singles and an LP, Us Coloured Kids, during 1968-1969 before the musicians went their separate ways. Somehow Isidore’s path crossed with Marshall and Sass and the drummer threw in his lot with the two Indian musicians.
Not long after, bass player Brent Forbes also joined the loose-knit set up. Originally from Salford, Greater Manchester, Forbes had previously played with The Rogues, who cut a lone single for Decca in December 1967. After changing their name to Sunshine in February 1968, the musicians turned pro and landed a residency in Turkey of all places. This was followed by a six-month stint playing clubs in Crete before the musicians returned to the drizzle of Greater Manchester.
At this point, Forbes joined a short-lived group called Zac, who moved down to London and cut an album’s worth of material at IBC Studios near Marble Arch. When this project failed to materialise, Forbes’s former band mate from Sunshine, guitarist Rod Alexander, who was managing Sound City on Shaftsbury Avenue, directed him to Marshall’s nearby studio flat.
The next musician to join was guitarist Kevin Fogerty, who had first come to prominence with Southport R&B group, Timebox. Fogerty appeared on the band’s early recordings but in the spring of 1967, he jumped ship and signed up with The Dave Davani Four, which is where he later met tenor saxophonist and flutist Norman Leppard.
Originally from Handscross in West Sussex, Leppard was 23 years old when he turned professional. “I was mainly a freelance musician, working with different bands, touring all over the place,” he says. “I was always busy. I did a fortnight tour with The Temptations”.
Sometime in 1968, Leppard auditioned for The Dave Davani Four and landed the gig, despite being up against about 20 sax players. “Kevin was with them before I joined them,” he adds. “I ended up sharing a flat with Kevin and his then girlfriend Jenny in Kennington.”
According to Forbes, the loose-knit group of musicians spent ages rehearsing material before album sessions commenced at Trident Studios in St Anne’s Court, Soho, encompassing the latest in 16-track technology.
“We spent weeks, months, it felt like forever, in this studio [in Denmark Street] and the band would go in and play,” recalls the bass player. “We’d do an arrangement one day and go in the next day and it would be totally different as music should be. Depending on the mood of everybody it would be totally different.”
Production was split between the band’s manager Roger Burrow and Alan Marshall and Bobby Sass, working with sound engineers Robin Cable and Roy Baker. Production supervision meanwhile was handled by Lee Hallyday, who’d recently recorded his brother Johnny’s self-titled LP in France. According to several band members, the sessions at Trident’s studios also featured Alan Marshall’s former band mate from The Loose Ends and Happy Magazine, Peter Kirtley, who provided lead guitar on several cuts.
“Kevin was on some of the tracks,” explains Leppard. “He was mainly on rhythm guitar I think. I am not sure he’s on all the tracks, but he’s definitely on most of them.”
Brent Forbes is quick to credit Isidore and Marshall as the key inspirations during the recording process.
“Whether he’s playing guitar, percussion, drums or singing, [Marshall’s] just a warm spirit,” he says. “Conrad was [also] a fantastic influence for me. Great feel. He sat down one day and said: ‘Brent the notes are all right but the feel’. He made me think about that and I managed to maintain it and got a reputation for it over the years.”
Judging by the track listing, Richie Havens was a huge influence on the singer, but Marshall is not entirely happy with how some tracks turned out. “There are a couple that I am not too keen on,” says Marshall. “It was marijuana fuelled and they went on and on like ‘Run, Shaker Run’ but we didn’t know any better. We were young guys.”
That may well be, but One’s storming cover of Havens’ “Don’t Listen To Me”, which opens the LP and third track, “Stop Pulling and Pushing Me” are inspired, extended workouts full of inventive playing and powerful instrumental passages. The musicians also do justice to “Cautiously”, an atmospheric reading of the ballad written by Maurey Hayden, singer, stand-up comedian and wife of Lenny Bruce. Alan Marshall and Bobby Sass’s “Near The Bone”, the band’s lone contribution to the song-writing stakes is also noteworthy.
According to Forbes, there were no left-overs from the album sessions, which is perhaps surprising considering how long the musicians spent rehearsing material.
With the sessions complete, Norman Leppard was invited to become a fully-fledged member of One. “After the album was done, they asked me to join the band, which I then did for quite a long time,” remembers the session player.
Fontana duly released the LP in the UK in late 1969, followed by continental releases in France, Germany and Spain. The label also issued several singles but like the LP, none of the releases charted, which is perhaps not surprising considering that One undertook very little live work to promote the records. One notable gig took place on 7 October 1969 when the musicians made a rare appearance on stage at Hatchettes Playground in Piccadilly.
During March-April 1970, the musicians got to meet Stephen Stills, who was in London to record sessions for his first solo LP. It’s not clear who in the band made the initial contact. Marshall says that he used to leave the flat door open and musicians used to wander in. One strong possibility is Roger Burrow, who of course was a friend of Graham Nash’s. Alan Marshall, however, is pretty certain that it was Bobby Sass who ran into Stills.
“I don’t know how he met Stephen [but] we used to go over to the house [in Elstead],” says Marshall. “[Stills] had Peter Sellers’ old house and we used to go out there and hang out.”
Impressed by Conrad Isidore and his friend Calvin Samuel, Stills recruited both for his solo LP sessions. In May 1970, no doubt concerned about the shortage of live work, the drummer jumped ship to join Manfred Mann Chapter 3.
“We didn’t do as many gigs as we should have,” admits Forbes. “We did a hop or two to [West] Germany and we probably did the Marquee. We never did enough work really. How on earth we existed [I don’t know] – I think Roger [Burrow] the manager helped support everybody.”
The German club in question was the Happy Cat in Eschollbrucken near Darmstadt, which is close to Frankfurt. However, the shortage of live work soon led to cracks in the group and by the summer of 1970 both Kevin Fogerty and Norman Leppard had also moved on.
Interestingly, while One’s revolving door of personnel changes continued at pace, Fontana issued a French-only ‘45, ‘How Much Do You Know” (adapted from Adagio Royal by F de Boivallee), which was credited solely to Alan Marshall backed by One’s ‘Don’t Listen To Me”.
By the time the single appeared, Alan Marshall, Bobby Sass and Brent Forbes had pieced together a new formation which included guitarist Jack Lancaster and drummer Terry Stannard.
“There was a guitar player called Jack Lancaster, [who had] the same name as the famous one in Blodwyn Pig and he came from Swindon. He came in and took [Kevin Fogerty’s place],” says Forbes.
“God knows what we did after that. I can’t remember doing many gigs. It was a time when Fat Mattress got £200,000 advance and just sat rehearsing. It was a time when groups could afford to do that.”
Stannard, meanwhile, also originated from Wiltshire where he’d worked with Calne group, The Pack during late 1966. In the summer of 1967, the drummer moved up to London where he briefly landed a gig with Freddie Mack & The Mack Sound (and may have spent a short stint with Herbie Goins). He then moved on to join Junior Kerr (aka Junior Marvin) and Linda Lewis in the short-lived White Rabbit. By mid-1968, however, Stannard had moved on. While it’s not clear who he played with in the interim, one of the bands was Mirrors featuring Boz Burrell and Nick Judd.
Forbes remembers the new formation cutting an LP for Johnny Hallyday at a studio near Marble Arch, which could well have been IBC, towards the end of the year. “I remember getting session money for it because I went home to my uncle’s and had a very nice Christmas,” says the bass player.
Not long after, in early 1971, One underwent yet another reshuffle. On this occasion, Alan Marshall and Bobby Sass put together a short-lived version featuring former Them/Trader Horne guitarist/singer Jackie McAuley, future Traffic bass player Roscoe Gee and drummer Glenn LeFleur, who like his predecessor Terry Stannard, went on to play with Kokomo.
“I don’t know how I met Roscoe and Jackie,” says Marshall. “I used to meet so many musicians because I used to leave the door open in summer and musicians would drift in. We had a PA and Hammond organ and drums all set up.”
The new formation played at the Speakeasy and also Strawberry Fields where according to Marshall, “Paul McCartney and those guys used to love hearing us.”
Unfortunately, the group wound down soon after with the musicians scattering to work in a diverse range of projects.
Marshall ended up joining Strabismus, which subsequently changed its name to Riff Raff when the singer’s former band mate from The Loose Ends/Happy Magazine, Peter Kirtley joined and also featured bass player Roger Sutton and keyboard player Tommy Eyre. However, Marshall quit before Riff Raff’s debut album was recorded and pursued a solo career before recording with Zzebra. He then joined Gonzalez in the late Seventies in time for their 1979 release, Move It To The Music. Based in Thames Mead, he has become a pastor but continues to busk in Stratford, East London.
His school friend Bobby Sass later moved to Australia but died in the 2000s. Kevin Fogerty also passed away, in December 2010. During the early 1970s, he worked for a while in The Tommy Hunt Band.
As for Norman Leppard, he joined Eric Delaney’s band after leaving One and also appeared on Jack McDuff’s Blue Note LP, issued in late 1970. He continues to work as a session player.
Conrad Isidore meanwhile became a noted session player, working with the likes of Joe Cocker, Linda Lewis, Terry Reid, Vinegar Joe and Eddy Grant to name a few. He also later played with Junior Marvin in his band Hanson and with Hummingbird. Isidore currently resides in Porvoo near Helsinki in Sweden.
Brent Forbes also landed on his feet and, immediately on leaving One, joined the West End show, Catch My Soul. Like Isidore, he later moved into session work, playing with Doris Troy, Jimmy Helms, Lulu, Locus, Jim Capaldi and Hudson Ford among others. From 1975-1980, he also landed regular work on West End shows like Rocky Horror Picture Show and Les Miserables. During this period, he also briefly performed with Herbie Goins and Zzebra. Later, he moved into TV session work, providing music for Young Ones, the Lenny Henry Show, Victoria Wood among others.
As for One, the group remains something of an obscurity. While the LP has been issued on CD by two different labels, neither appear to be official releases. Given the collectability of the record and the fact that a mint copy will probably fetch you close to £100, perhaps it’s time that the band was given a proper re-issue treatment, complete with detailed liner notes.
Many thanks to the following for their help with the story: Alan Marshall, Brent Forbes, Norman Leppard and Jackie McAuley.
I can’t find any info about M + M, other than the names on the two singles they released on Glass Records, M. Kane and M. Schools. I’ve tried other variations on their band name, M+M or M&M, without luck.
Although the songs feature a full group of guitar, bass, drums and even harmonica with one vocal, it’s possible this was a duo who overdubbed their parts to fill out the sound.
All four singles have “72” etched into the deadwax along with the Glass Records numbers, so I think that is likely the year of the recordings. Given that two of these are nearly four minutes long, a seventies date makes sense.
I have no idea where they came from, but lead vocals do have a southern sound to them. On the other hand, I bought these from someone in New Jersey and a different copy of the second 45 sold from a Brooklyn location.
I prefer the B-sides of each single. “She Shut Me Down” stands ouf among the four cuts for the melancholy feeling and tempo changes. “Where Is She” is the most upbeat of the four.
The Glass Records release numbers are:
F-201/2: “Your Turn to Cry” / “Where Is She”
F-203/4: “No More Crying” / “She Shut Me Down”
All songs written by M. Kane and M. Schools, no publishing listed.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who can throw any further light on this obscure Jamaican band who cut two rare 45s in Spain in 1968-1969. Singer Carl Douglas was also a member but judging by the picture sleeve of their two releases and the credits, he only appears to have been on the second release.
Douglas told me that the rest of The Explosion comprised musicians from Argentina, Colombia, France, Spain and Morocco. I also understand that Ellis, Simmonds and Evans were originally in a band called The Links who were regulars at Count Suckle’s Cue Club in Praed Street, Paddington.
The Secrets’ “Somethin Good For Me” / “Love” has as obscure an origin as any single out there. The band may have been from southern Illinois or eastern Missouri, but I don’t know anything definite yet. The only name I can associate with the group is Ivan White who wrote both songs.
“Somethin Good For Me” is lo-fi perfection, offering plenty of atmosphere over a chunky rhythm, a pleading vocal and a simple but apt lead guitar break.
“Love” slows it all down and substitutes accordion for the rhythm guitar. I’d put up a clip but my copy gets scratchy sounding on this side.
Released around 1967 on Raven 18569/70, with production credited to “Div – JLJ Enterprise”. This is a Rite release, as was the other Raven release I know of, Johnny Apollo “You’re Sixteen” / “Shake the Hand of a Fool” on Raven 17829/30 from a year or two earlier, with J. Hutcheson credited as director.
Rite 286 is found in the deadwax, an early Rite account number dating back to 1960. 286 was used for at least two other singles: the Harmony Echoes single “Wonderful Guest” / “Gospels Singers Heaven” on Echo CP-6759/60 from 1961, out of WFRX 1300 AM, West Frankfort, Illinois, featuring Joe Williams, Phyllis Williams, Rolla Martin and Don McCool.
Also for Amateur 11421/2, the Coachmen “Lonely Rider” / These Memories of You”, folk & pop from 1963 out of Maplewood, Missouri with J. Buchman credited on the label.
Maplewood is just west of St. Louis, and 115 miles northwest of West Frankfort. It seems possible the Secrets come from this area of southern Illinois or eastern Missouri.
I can’t afford to keep all these 45s … and I’m always looking for new ones. I’ll be selling 45s of many genres – garage, surf, r&b, international, soul, etc at the Allentown, Pennsylvania 45 & 78 rpm record fair this Saturday, April 1, 2017. If you haven’t been, there are more 45s than you can look through in three days, let alone one. Not sure my table # yet but if you come ask for Chris Bishop’s table. Or contact me ahead of time, I’ll be in town from Wednesday afternoon on.
1901 S. 12th St. ( S.12th & Vultee Streets ), Allentown, PA 18103