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 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.
London-based West Indian soul outfit, Joe E Young & The Toniks recorded a superb, ultra-rare, and highly collectable, LP called Soul Buster! for Vicki Wickham’s small Toast label during 1968 before splintering when singer Colin Young joined British chart toppers The Foundations, subsequently singing lead on the UK #2 hit, ‘Build Me Up A Buttercup” and UK #8 hit, “In The Bad Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me)”.
The band’s career is shrouded in mystery and very little is known about its tangled history, not to mention its origins. What we do know, however, is that Colin Young was born in Barbados on 12 September 1944 and first came to London for a holiday with his father in the mid-Sixties (most likely during 1966). A former bookkeeper, Colin Young presumably gravitated to the Stoke Newington/Tottenham area of the city as that was where Antiguan-born bass player Calvin Samuel and drummer Conrad Isidore were both living after moving to London as kids.
Samuel’s first notable musical outfit appears to have been The Blue-Ace-Unit, formed sometime in late 1965/early 1966 with future Bob Marley sideman, Junior Marvin, who at the time used the name Junior Kerr and played keyboards rather than guitar. Apparently, it was Kerr who coined Samuel’s nickname ‘Fuzzy’ after the musician used a fuzz box on his bass.
When Kerr departed to join Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers, Samuel hooked up with another Antiguan immigrant, guitarist Wendell Richardson, who’d grown up in Tottenham after moving to the UK at the age of 11. This may (or may not) be the same band that Richardson refers to on his website as The Four Aces.
During the summer of 1966, school friends Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel and Conrad Isidore linked up with Richardson and three other musicians to form The Toniks. These were fellow West Indians, Richard London (organ) and Tony Bauman (sax), and a second sax player, Denis Overton, who is most likely the same South African-born musician who had previously played with John O’Hara & His New Playboys during 1965-1966 and then briefly worked with Liverpool band, The Roadrunners.
Incidentally, Richardson, Samuel and Isidore were also close friends with The Equals and apparently Eddy Grant used Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel as a session bass player on some of The Equals’ recordings. He would later produce and pen material for all three musicians in their post-Toniks band, The Sundae Times.
Billed as either The Toniks or The Tonicks, the sextet quickly found work gigging across the north London club scene in venues that catered for the city’s burgeoning West Indian population. British music magazine, Melody Maker, lists the following gigs for the band, which included a few forays into central London. The New All-Star Club near Liverpool Street railway station became a favourite haunt.
7 September 1966 – Tiles, Oxford Street, London
11 September 1966 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London with The Pilgrims
5 October 1966 – Zebra Club, W1, London
8 October 1966 – Club West Indies, Stonebridge Park, Middlesex
9 October 1966 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
17 November 1966 – Whisky A Go Go, London
3 December 1966 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
9 December 1966 – Beachcomber Club, Nottingham (Nottingham Evening Post)
17 December 1966 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
25 December 1966 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
26 December 1966 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London with The Sugar Simone Show
Judging by the gigs listed above and below, it appears that Colin Young may not have joined forces with The Toniks until early January 1967. Unless, that is, his billing as frontman didn’t start until this month. As the list below makes clear, some gigs continued to be attributed solely to The Toniks/Tonicks. The gigs below are all from Melody Maker unless otherwise stated.
As well as the New All-Star Club, Joe E Young & The Toniks also became regulars at Count Suckle’s Cue Club in Paddington and the Roaring 20’s in Carnaby Street, Soho. Joe E Young & The Toniks also started to venture further afield to play gigs nationally.
According to Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band guitarist Pete Gage, who would work with the band later in the year, it was Colin Young’s manager Ken Edwards, who owned the Cue Club who renamed the singer Joe E Young.
8 January 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
28 January 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
28 January 1967 – California Ballroom, Dunstable, Bedfordshire with Dave Berry & The Crusiers and The Crestas (website: www.california-ballroom.info/gigs/) (Billed as the band only but unlikely that Colin Young wasn’t fronting them)
28 January 1967 – Chalk Farm, London with The Vaudeville Band, The Soft Machine and The Hectic Poets (Billed as the band only)
4 February 1967 – Ricky Tick, Hounslow, Middlesex (Poster)(Billed as The Tonicks featuring Joey Young)
5 February 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Joey Young & The Tonicks Band)
11 February 1967 – Birdcage, Eastney, Hampshire (Dave Allen research)
11 February 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
17 February 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
17 February 1967 – Roaring 20’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, London
19 February 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)
24 February 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)
25 February 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
25 February 1967 – Roaring 20’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, London
17 June 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London (Billed as John Lee Hooker & The Tonicks)
24 June 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London with The Toys (Billed as the band only)
9 September 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
9 September 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)
15 September 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
23 September 1967 – Royal Links Pavilion, Cromer, Norfolk with Soul Concern (North Norfolk News)
24 September 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
28 September 1967 – Klooks Kleek, West Hampstead, London
13 October 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as The Tonicks Band)
From late October-mid-November 1967, Melody Maker reports that Joe E Young & The Toniks were resident band at the New All-Star Club but did not say if this was every night. In early November, Ruby James & The Stax were also residents.
21 October 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as The Tonicks with Joey Young)
21 October 1967 – Ram Jam, Brixton, London
23 November 1967 – Klooks Kleek, West Hampstead, London
Sometime around October/November 1967, Joe E Young & The Toniks landed a recording deal with Vicki Wickham’s Toast label. Paired with former Ram Jam Band guitarist Pete Gage as an arranger, the band started to record material for an LP with producer Tommy Scott, which appears to have been cut over several sessions, starting in late 1967 and culminating with a final session in mid-1968.
According to Gage, it was Vicki Wickham (Dusty Springfield’s manager) who approached him via Rik Gunnell to arrange and produce Joe E Young & The Toniks. Gage believes that session players, which possibly included keyboard player Tim Hinkley and guitarist Ivan Zagni, who’d previously played with Mike Patto in The Chicago Blues Line and worked with his girlfriend Elkie Brooks in early 1968, may have been employed on some tracks. He also thinks that Colin Young’s friend Jimmy Chambers and Trinidad-born singer Ebony Keyes may have contributed vocals to the sessions.
Two of the earliest tracks to be recorded were two Pete Gage songs, co-written with Ebony Keyes (aka Kenrick Pitt), “Lifetime of Lovin’” c/w “Flower In My Hand”. Paired as a single, the tracks were issued on Toast in January 1968 but did not chart. Incidentally, the single also saw a South African release on the Continental label.
8 December 1967 – Burton Constable Stately Home, Hull, Humberside
9 December 1967 – Enfield Technical College, Enfield, Middlesex with Ten Years After (Poster)
9 December 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
10 December 1967 – Ram Jam Club, Brixton, London
11 December 1967 – Hull University, Hull, Humberside
16 December 1967 – Royal Links Pavilion, Cromer, Norfolk with The Rubber Band (North Norfolk News)
23 December 1967 – Royal Lido, Central Beach, North Wales
25 December 1967 – Co-Op, Addlestone, Surrey
25 December 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London with Ronnie Jones, Owen Grey, The Youth and Herbie Goins
26 December 1967 – Shelimar Club, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
30 December 1967 – Israeli Student Association, West Hampstead, London
2 March 1968 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
30 March 1968 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
31 March 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London with Count Suckle Sound System (Billed as Tonicks Band)
12 April 1968 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
21 April 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)
22-25 April 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London with Count Suckle Sound System
26 April 1968 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London
Sometime around April 1968, Wendell Richardson and Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel departed to form The Sundae Times, who landed a record deal with President Records thanks to their friendship with Eddy Grant. Conrad Isidore also participated but appears to have continued to play with Joe E Young & The Toniks simultaneously. It’s not clear why the two musicians quit the group they had helped to form but the fact that session musicians were employed on some of The Toniks’ studio recordings may have been a contributory factor.
Trinidad and Tobago-born siblings Kelvin Bullen (lead guitar) and Hugh Bullen (bass), who had started out with Reading, Berkshire band, The Soul Trinity, took Richardson and Samuel’s places.
Colin Young – lead vocals
Kelvin Bullen – lead guitar
Hugh Bullen – bass
Richard London – keyboards
Tony Bauman – saxophone
Denis Overton – saxophone
Conrad Isidore – drums
One of the first series of gigs that the new members appeared on was a short tour that Joe E Young & The Toniks participated in supporting American soul legend Aretha Franklin. Also on the bill was Johnnie Walker, Robert Knight and Lucas with The Mike Cotton Sound. One of the highlights was a show at what later became the Hammersmith Odeon in May 1968.
4 May 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)
17 June 1968 – Barn Club, Bishop’s Stortford, Herts (Steve Ingless book: The Day Before Yesterday)
27 July 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Joey Young & The Tonicks Band)
18 August 1968 – Railway Hotel, Wealdstone, Middlesex
Melody Maker lists some gigs under the name The New Toniks, which may or may not be the same band. The ‘new’ prefix suggests that a new formation was put together and this writer would welcome any further information.
Selected gigs (New Toniks):
22 August 1968 – White Hart, London
23-25 August 1968 – Scotland
25-26 August 1968 – Manchester
27-28 August 1968 – Recording
According to Melody Maker, Colin Young joined The Foundations in late September and made his debut at Aberdeen University on 4 October 1968. By this point, Conrad Isidore had already jumped ship to commit to The Sundae Times full-time. With the band splitting, the Bullen siblings ended up joining Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers.
With the album ready to release, Toast quickly shipped a second single in November 1968, pairing the soul classic, “Sixty Minutes of Your Love” with Lennon & McCartney’s “Good Day Sunshine”.
Around the same time, the label also belatedly issued the Soul Buster! LP, highlights of which include one of the best covers of Darrell Banks’ “Open The Door To Your Heart”. Sadly, it was all too little, too late. With few copies pressed and scant promotion, the LP slipped out unnoticed. In subsequent years, however, it became a highly prized collector’s item, not least due to the band’s personnel and individual members’ post-Toniks career.
In a final, last gasp, Toast paired “Good Day Sunshine” with the year old “Lifetime of Lovin’” for a final single, issued on 31 January 1969, but it also failed to dent the charts.
Besides Colin Young’s chart success with The Foundations, original members Wendell Richardson, Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel and Conrad Isidore all went on to greater things.
Richardson was a founding member of Osibisa and subsequently worked briefly with Free. The guitarist also released a solo LP, Pieces of a Jigsaw in 1972.
During his time with The Sundae Times, Isidore also played and recorded with Alan Marshall’s band One, who released a rare eponymous LP for Fontana. After a stint with Manfred Mann Chapter 3 during 1970, he 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 appeared on Stephen Stills’ first two solo albums, thanks to his connections with Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel, who landed the gig after Stephen Stills reportedly caught Samuel playing at the Bag O’Nails in March 1970 (possibly in PP Arnold’s backing band).
The bass player was hired for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, appearing on the single, “Ohio” and subsequently worked in Stephen Stills’s Manassas before also finding work as a session player, including with Graham Nash, Rita Coolidge and Taj Mahal. Samuel later wrote and recorded songs with Marianne Faithfull and Stevie Winwood and worked with The Alvin Lee Band and Tumbling Dice with Mick Taylor and Nicky Hopkins. In 1999, he self-released two CDs, This Train Still Runs and Love Don’t Taste Like Chicken.
Latter day member Kelvin Bullen went on to work with Swiss rock band, Toad, while his brother Hugh found success with the highly revered British funk band, Gonzalez after a spell in Italy with Herbie Goins. Hugh Bullen also cut an Italian solo LP, Feeling, in 1978.
Colin Young meanwhile went solo and recorded for Pye Records. He later joined UK group Mercy, Mercy who had a hit with “It Must Be Heaven” in the 1980s. Since then he has participated in various Foundations reunions.
Many thanks to Pete Gage for his recollections. I would be particularly interested to hear from anyone who can add or correct any of the information here.
A noted yet relatively obscure late 1960s rock/soul outfit formed by three former members of Joe E Young & The Toniks around April 1968, who cut a great lone LP, Us Coloured Kids, and a handful of singles for President Records.
Born in Antigua, guitarist Wendell Richardson had moved to London at the age of 11 and grown up in Tottenham. During 1966, he befriended fellow Antiguan-born musicians Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuel and Conrad Isidore, who were living around Stoke Newington, and the trio formed The Toniks (later joined by singer Colin Young aka Joe E Young). Through the local West Indian population, the trio got to know Eddy Grant and his band The Equals and became firm friends.
Having lost interest in The Toniks, Richardson and Samuel jumped ship in April 1968 shortly after the band’s debut single on Toast, “Lifetime of Lovin’” c/w “Flower In My Hand” had been released. Isidore, however, remained with The Toniks but agreed to help out on the pair’s next project, The Sundae Times, who landed a deal with President Records thanks to their connection with The Equals (Ed: Samuel reportedly played bass on some of their recordings).
With Eddy Grant producing and penning the trio’s first release, “Baby Don’t Cry” c/w “Aba-Aba”, The Sundae Times’ debut was issued by President on 7 June 1968 but failed to chart in the UK. In the US, the single appeared on the small Seville imprint the following month. German and Spanish releases also followed but somewhat bizarrely it was in Israel where The Sundae Times made the biggest impact. Released as the A-side, “Aba-Aba” broke into the top 10.
With The Sundae Times starting to pick up gigs and with further hits potentially in the pipeline, Conrad Isidore left The Toniks around September 1968 to commit to the project full-time. In retrospect, it was a sensible move as singer Colin Young quit The Toniks soon after to join British hit-makers, The Foundations.
With Isidore fully committed, The Sundae Times began work on an LP for President Records’ subsidiary Joy during the autumn of 1968 with Eddy Grant producing. Richardson dominated the song-writing, penning the tracks, “Angels In The Sky”, “Adam and Eve”, “Electric Tree” and “Jack Boy”, which graced the A-side of The Sundae Times’ second single, issued on President on 22 November 1968. Coupled with “I Don’t Want Nobody”, a Richardson co-write with Isidore and Samuel, the single failed to chart.
The three musicians also collaborated on three other tracks on the LP, “Take Me Back Again”, “Psychedelic Dream” and “Do You Know What Love Is”. Samuel meanwhile penned two tracks, “On The Run” and “Live Today”, which belatedly headed up The Sundae Times’ final single outing (issued on 13 March 1970), and was coupled with Eddy Grant’s “Take Me Higher Baby”.
By then, Samuel and Isidore had been snapped up by Stephen Stills for sessions for his debut solo LP. Samuel was working with PP Arnold at the time and Isidore was working with Alan Marshall’s band One, who’d cut a lone LP for Fontana during 1969.
While Samuel subsequently landed a gig with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (replacing Greg Reeves), Richardson formed Osibisa and Isidore joined Manfred Mann Chapter 3.
The Sundae Times’ own LP, Us Coloured Kids, had slipped out on Joy Records during 1969 and has since become an extremely rare, yet highly collectable item thanks in part to the Eddy Grant connection.
6 October 1968 – Mistrale Club, Beckenham Junction, Kent (Poster)
2 November 1968 – Weymouth Pavilion Ballroom, Weymouth, Dorset with The Firestones (Dorset Evening Echo)
13 December 1968 – Fishmongers Hall, Wood Green, Middlesex with The Action (Melody Maker)
For more on the band members’ post career, see the Joe E Young & The Toniks entry on Garage Hangover. I’d be interested if anyone can add or correct any information below.
Born in Jamaica in 1949, Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr Richards Jr, moved to London as a young teenager and at the age of 16 appeared in The Beatles’ movie, Help!
Based around the Stoke Newington area in North London, Kerr was inspired to learn the Hammond organ after hearing Booker T & The MG’s “Green Onions” and soon befriended local musicians, Calvin Samuel (bass) and Conrad Isidore (drums).
Together with Samuel, who he allegedly nicknamed “Fuzzy” because the musician played his bass through a “fuzz box”, the pair formed the short-lived Blue-Ace-Unit in late 1965/early 1966. The outfit played clubs around North London for about a year before Kerr moved on.
Around October 1966, he joined Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers (where he met guest singer Linda Lewis) and it was during this period that Kerr saw Jimi Hendrix playing at the Bag O’Nails in Soho. Inspired by his incendiary guitar work, Kerr started to practise guitar in his free time.
During September 1967, Kerr left Herbie Goins to form The Junior (Pretty Boy Kerr) Group. The Aldershot News lists the band playing at the “Big C”, a popular club on 1 Camp Road, Farnborough in Hampshire on 4 November. It’s not clear who else was involved in this band and whether it was the same line-up of musicians that became White Rabbit but Linda Lewis was featured as singer.
In July 1967, Polydor Records had issued Linda Lewis’ debut solo single, “You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet” but it had not been a chart success.
Towards the end of the year, Kerr and Lewis put together White Rabbit, which comprised lead guitarist Andy Rickell from Calne, Wiltshire groups, The Pack and J P Sunshine, and his friend (and former Pack member) drummer Terry Stannard, who’d recently been working with Freddie Mack & The Mack Sound. A photo of the group reveals that the group was a sextet and this author would be interested to hear from anyone who can add any further details about this short-lived band.
During the early months of 1968, White Rabbit toured France and Italy but after their return from the latter in April, Kerr decided to leave and briefly re-joined Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers for a few months.
In the late summer of 1968, Kerr ran into guitarist Mike Piggott, who had just left The System Soul Band, led by singer Ivan Sinclair. The pair formed a new outfit, Junior’s Conquest, who landed a regular gig at the Pheasantry on the King’s Road in Chelsea.
With drummer Pete Dobson and a bass player, who was replaced by John Best, Junior’s Conquest played together for about six months, including a show at the Broken Wheel in Retford, Nottinghamshire on 5 October 1968 and the popular West End club, Hatchettes in Piccadilly on 22-23 November 1968. However, according to Piggott, Kerr increasingly started to play guitar and after a short tour of Sweden in late 1968/early 1969, the group splintered.
While he was fronting Junior’s Conquest, Kerr had also participated in the London production of Hair on Shaftsbury Avenue, which debuted on 27 September. It was here that he met singer Marsha Hunt whose band he briefly worked with in 1969. The following year, Kerr would work with Keef Hartley and then move to the US before subsequently changing his name to Junior Marvin and finding fame with Bob Marley during the late 1970s.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who can add any further details to Kerr’s 1960s career.
A fascinating, yet short-lived band that included a number of notable musicians who went on to greater things.
The original White Rabbit line-up came together circa November 1967 around singer/Hammond organist Junior Kerr and singer Linda Lewis, who’d met earlier that year as members of Herbie Goins & The Night Timers. Junior Kerr, incidentally, had started out with The Blue-Ace-Unit while Lewis had performed with John Lee Hooker in 1964 and sung with The Q-Set before they backed Maxine Brown and then Ronnie Jones.
The band’s guitarist Andy Rickell and drummer Terry Stannard had both previously worked together in Calne, Wiltshire band, The Pack during 1966 with future White Rabbit singer Rod Goodway. The trio had also played with another, albeit short-lived, Wiltshire group, Flower of Wisdom between February-June 1967.
When Flower of Wisdom broke up, Terry Stannard moved to London where he joined Freddie Mack & The Mack Sound, which is probably how he ran into Junior Kerr, who’d formed his own band, The Junior ‘Pretty Boy’ Kerr Group around October 1967. In fact, Stannard may well have been a member of this band after working with Freddie Mack (and possibly may have been with Herbie Goins briefly).
Meanwhile, Rickell and Goodway began working with the studio project J P Sunshine, which they kept together after Rickell joined White Rabbit (possibly also after a short stint with Herbie Goins) and Goodway was invited to replace Art Wood in the post-Artwoods band, St Valentine’s Day Massacre between January-April 1968.
The original version of White Rabbit was completed with two additional musicians, a bass player and possibly an organist, who may well have been Mick Aron. This author would be interested to hear from anyone who can throw any further light on the band’s formation.
After a short Italian tour, and billed as Junior Kerr and Linda Lewis and White Rabbit, they performed at the “Big C” club in Farnborough on 24 February 1968 before travelling to France to perform.
On their return, Junior Kerr departed to re-join Herbie Goins and subsequently form his own band, Junior’s Conquest. In later years, he would change his name to Junior Marvin and work alongside Bob Marley. Terry Stannard also departed, later working with Mirrors (with Boz Burrell and Nick Judd), Alan Marshall’s band One and Kokomo among others.
Linda Lewis and Andy Rickell meanwhile pieced together a new version of White Rabbit during late April 1968. Rickell recruited his former Pack and J P Sunshine colleague, singer Rod Goodway, who’d left St Valentine’s Day Massacre, to replace Junior Kerr.
The pair also recruited drummer Ron Berg, who interestingly had also played with Freddie Mack & The Mack Sound (alongside Stannard) during mid-late 1967. To complete the new version, they added Cyprus-born bass player Pete Pavli and organist Mick Aron, who may well have been in the original formation.
Almost immediately, the new White Rabbit left the UK for the south of France and performed at the Papagayo Club in St Tropez for three weeks, starting in the first week of May. The musicians were back in London for a notable gig at the Middle Earth club in Covent Garden, opening for Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band on 25 May. The group also opened for The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in the following months.
In September 1968, however, Rod Goodway and Linda Lewis both left, the latter to embark on a successful solo career after fronting Ferris Wheel where she played alongside future Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliott. Pete Pavli also left to join High Tide while Mick Aron went on to work with Pete Brown.
Andy Rickell and Ron Berg kept the band going until November of that year, bringing in a number of musicians, including guitarist/singer Peter Jennings, who subsequently joined the group that became Cressida. On the band’s demise, Ron Berg joined Mick Abrahams’ post-Jethro Tull group, Blodwyn Pig while Rickell later joined The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
This author would be interested to hear from anyone who can add any further information. Huge thanks to Rod Goodway for photos and background information.