Hamilton & The Hamilton Movement, clockwise from front: Ron Thomas, Mick Fletcher, Gary Hamilton, Tony Sinclair, Mel Wayne, Dave Mahoney and (sitting down) Phil WainmanAll except Gary Hamilton (and John Droy, not in photo) were in The New Generation (version 2) backing Jimmy Cliff.
|Jamaican reggae singer Jimmy Cliff is best known to international audiences for the songs “Sitting in Limbo”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and “Many Rivers to Cross”, taken from the 1972 soundtrack album The Harder They Come. One of the first artists to introduce reggae to a wider audience, Cliff started performing in his native Jamaica during the early 1960s where he was spotted by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who brought him to England in October/November 1965.Over the next four years, Cliff worked the UK club scene with a series of backing groups – The New Generation, The Sound System, Dave Anthony’s Moods, The Soul System (aka The Attack), The Shakedown Sound (December 1966-February 1968) and The Wynder K Frog Band, playing a mixture of soul and R&B.Jimmy Cliff & The New Generation (November 1965-February 1966)|
Jimmy Cliff – lead vocals
Cliff’s first band, The New Generation, was a Birmingham group known as Roy Everett’s Blueshounds, whose most notable member was future Fairport Convention bass player Dave Pegg. The Blueshounds were good mates of The Spencer Davis Group, who put in a good word for the band when Chris Blackwell was looking for musicians to support Cliff on the road. In November 1965, Blackwell released The Spencer Davis Group’s “Keep on Running”, the band’s first number one single.
Around the same time, Blackwell signed The Blueshounds to the agency he co-ran, West End Promotions Ltd, which also represented The Steampacket, Hedgehoppers Anonymous, The Alex Harvey Go Soul Show, Millie Small, Ayshea Brough and the newly arrived Jimmy Cliff. With Pete Hodge(s) taking over from Roy Everett, The Blueshounds attended an “audition” recording session at Cecil Sharpe House in London on 23 November 1965 with promoter George Webb (The Spencer Davis Group’s agent) and DJ Alan Freeman. Also in attendance that day were Jimmy Cliff and Ayshea Brough, a young singer that George Webb was trying to launch on the scene, who’d been working with future Hedgehoppers Anonymous drummer Glenn Martin.
Passing the audition, The Blueshounds were renamed The New Generation and Cliff travelled up to Birmingham to stay with Dave Pegg’s family for about two weeks while rehearsals took place to ready the band for the road. Singers Ayshea Brough and Pete Hodge(s) were also added to the touring band and had their own vocal spots in the show.
The (incomplete) gig listing below, which is taken from Dave Pegg’s scrap book, shows that the band’s debut took place at the Ritz Ballroom in King’s Heath, West Midlands in mid-December. For most of these gigs, the band was billed as The New Generation, although the Marquee gigs list them as The Jimmy Cliff Big Sound. The only exception is a show at the Cue Club in Paddington, West London on 28 January where the band was billed as The Sound System, which may originally have been assigned for Cliff’s second support group (see below), although Dave Pegg’s version did honour this gig.
15 December 1965 – The Ritz Ballroom, King’s Heath, West Midlands
It’s not entirely clear why Jimmy Cliff & The New Generation went their separate ways in early February 1966. Dave Pegg’s diary shows that a gig planned for 6 February was cancelled and on 13 February he was back in Birmingham working with a new band – The Uglys.
The decision to find a second band to back Cliff on the road was probably made in mid-late January and Chris Blackwell already knew who he wanted for the job.
Jimmy Cliff & The Sound System/New Generation (February-July 1966)
Jimmy Cliff – lead vocals
The next group to back Jimmy Cliff on the road was also, somewhat confusingly, initially billed as The New Generation, although they also used the name The Sound System. Promoters added to the confusion by sometimes billing the band as The Jimmy Cliff Big Sound and The Jimmy Cliff Sound.
The Sound System, as they became around early January, had originally been called The Phil Wainman Band/Set. Phil Wainman, who years later found fame as a noted producer among other things, had first started out as a drummer in the early 1960s, working with The Hi Grades in Sweden and The Paramounts before linking up with the remnants of West London band, The All-Nite Workers around October 1965.
Ron Thomas, Mel Wayne and Dave Mahoney had all been members of this group, which had morphed out of Mike Dee & The Prophets in early-mid 1965. Mick Fletcher joined when it became The Phil Wainman Band/Set around October 1965 after playing in The Herd while Tony Sinclair and John Droy came in soon after, the former from Johnny Halliday’s band in France.
According to David Katz’s excellent book, “Jimmy Cliff – An Unauthorised Biography”, The Phil Wainman Band/Set secured a residency at Dolly’s Club in Jermyn Street in central London around November of that year. One night Chris Blackwell dropped in and introduced himself. After be-friending Wainman, he kept the musicians in mind as a support band for the Jamaican acts on Island Records’ roster, including Jackie Edwards, Millie Small and Owen Gray. Changing name to The Sound System, Wainman’s band started rehearsing with these acts in late January and one early gig, backing Owen Gray, took place at the New All Star Club in Artillery Passage near Liverpool Street station, London on 5 February 1966.
Around this time, it became clear that Cliff and the original New Generation would be separating so Wainman’s band started rehearsing with the singer when he wasn’t gigging with Dave Pegg’s group. After a few weeks’ rehearsals, Jimmy Cliff & The Sound System/New Generation debuted at the Marquee on 10 February, billed as The Jimmy Cliff Big Sound.
Over the next four and half months, Wainman’s band backed Cliff on the road, which included a package tour with The Who and The Spencer Davis Group in April 1966. It was during this time that Keith Moon spotted Wainman’s Red Sparkle Premier drum kit with two bass drums and decided to switch to the same set up two months later.
According to Wainman, Jimmy Cliff & The Sound System/New Generation were particularly popular in Grimsby and played there at least once a month. They also played four nights at the Penthouse. However, shortly after the California Ballroom gig in Dunstable on 1 July, Jimmy Cliff and The Sound System/New Generation went their separate ways.
It’s not clear who backed Jimmy Cliff for a series of gigs that took place at London’s Whisky A Go Go on 9, 16 and 23 August as no support band is listed in Melody Maker, but he was joined by Dave Anthony’s Moods and The Soul System (aka The Attack) at some point during this period. In December 1966, Jimmy Cliff hooked up with his next group, The Shakedown Sound with whom he worked with until February 1968. He then joined forces with Wynder K Frog.
As for The Sound System, the musicians joined forces with singer Gary Hamilton who was putting together a new version of Hamilton & The Movement (see future entry).
10 February 1966 – Marquee with Steampacket (billed as Jimmy Cliff Big Sound)
Copyright © Nick Warburton, 2012. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior permission from the author.
To contact the author, email: Warchive@aol.com
I’d like to thank the following for their help in piecing this story together: Dave Pegg, David Katz, Laurie Hornsby, Andy Neill, Ron Thomas, Phil Wainman, Mel Wayne and Brian Hosking.
Most of the live gigs above are taken from Melody Maker’s listing. The California Ballroom, Dunstable website also proved useful as did the Nottingham Evening Post. Thanks also to the Manchester Soul site for the Twisted Wheel gig.