Category Archives: Ireland

The Wheels (The Wheel-a-Ways)


The Wheels, l-r: Victor Catling, Rod Demick, Brian Rossi, Tito Tinsley and Herbie Armstrong
all photos and clippings courtesy Victor Catling
Brian Rossi – organ, piano and vocals
Rod Demick – rhythm guitar and vocals
Herbie Armstrong – lead guitar
Tito Tinsley – bass
Victor Catling – drums

Updated September 2013

The Wheels came out of the same Belfast band scene as Them, playing at the famous Maritime Hotel in College Square North.

They began as the Golden Eagles, fronted by the charismatic singer Brian Rossi (Brendan Rosebotham, as noted on the songwriting credits to “Bad Little Woman”) and house band for the Plaza, one of the circuit of dance halls owned by the Mecca company. Van Morrison briefly played saxophone with the Eagles – previously he and Herbie Armstrong had been in the Manhattan Showband together. Some time after changing their name to the Wheels they were fired from the Plaza and in September 1964 began a club residency in Blackpool in northern England (just above Liverpool), where they built a strong following while sharing a house with the Rockin’ Vicars. In 1965 the Wheels’ rhythm guitarist Kit Carson quit the band, to be replaced by Rod Demick of Tony and the Telstars with Tony G. Ford, Robert Green, Ernie Graham and Chris Stewart.

EMI Columbia signed them to a singles deal in 1965. All three of their releases would be produced by Tommy Scott (Thomas Kilpatrick), a young Glaswegian who had been working with Them since producing “All For Myself”, the flip to Them’s third single “Here Comes the Night”.


The Wheels’ first recording, “Don’t You Know”
This label is the flip of the US release of “Bad Little Woman”, February 1966

Rossi ‘hopes to make his disc debut with a Van composition, ‘Gloria'”

At their first session at Regent Sound Studios they chose a good cover of Them’s “Gloria” for their first single, backed with Tommy Scott’s “Don’t You Know” (a song Them would also release, on the flip to their ’66 single “Richard Cory”). The single came out in September ’65. Also from this first session was a fine version of “Mona (I Need You Baby)” with Rod Demick on harmonica and Brian Rossi on lead vocals. It would show up in 1997 on Belfast Beat Maritime Blues along with several other unreleased gems by the Wheels.

The Wheels went back to Regent Sound Studios to record five songs, two of which would appear on their second 45, from February 1966, the originals “Bad Little Woman” b/w “Road Block”. Three other songs from that session had release on Belfast Beat Maritime Blues, “Send Me Your Pillow”, “You Got Me Dizzy”, and “I’m Leaving”.

“Bad Little Woman” was released simultaneously in the U.S. on the Aurora label (it was predicted to reach Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on February 5, 1966), which included the b-side from their first Columbia single, “Don’t You Know” instead of “Road Block”. The Aurora release renamed the group the Wheel-a-Ways, possibly to prevent their being confused with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, whose first chart single “Jenny Take a Ride” hit the charts in November of ’65.

What makes this single so fascinating is Columbia accidently sent Aurora a tape with a different take of “Bad Little Woman”. The Columbia version begins fast, with two guitars, organ and drums equal in intensity. The Aurora version starts at a much slower pace with room for intermittent guitar licks and harmonica bleats, and forgoes the organ.

With the line “and he don’t love you baby …” both versions accelerate for twenty seconds of rave-up, but the Aurora version achieves incredible velocity, with the guitars cranking out one of the best amp sounds I’ve ever heard recorded, while the vocals go completely into the red with distortion.

The band comes together for a last chord on the Columbia version, while the Aurora version ends quietly – a slow slide down a high guitar string to the final sound of a guitarist taking his fingers off the frets.

Judging by the audio quality and the assured pace of the band on the Columbia single, I’d say the Aurora version was recorded first, possibly meant to be a demo rather than a finished single. The timing of 2:20 on the Aurora label doesn’t make any sense, the song is 2:44.

The Wheels went back to Regent Sound for a third session, this time producing two covers of recent singles by other bands. “Call My Name” was another Tommy Scott composition, originally the A-side of Them’s seventh single, from March of 1966. “Tell Me (I’m Gonna Love Again)” had been A-side to the Graham Bond Organisation’s third 45, from April of ’65.

The Wheels version of “Call My Name” would show up as the b-side to their third single “Kicks” in August of 1966. It would also appear on the b-side of most UK promo copies of “Bad Little Woman”, though mislabeled as “Road Block”. A 1992 Record Collector article on the band erronously listed the mislabelled promo b-side as “Kicks” – impossible as the Feb. ’66 release date would have been a month prior to the Raiders’ release of “Kicks”!



The nearly solid sound spectrum during the song’s peak!

Notice for Aaron Shcroeder’s Aurora Records in Billboard, Feb. 6, 1965


“The Wheels say most of the English groups just hate showbands.”

Six-member version of the Wheels
from left: Tito Tinsley, Victor Catling, Rod Demick, Brian Rossi, Eric Wrixon and Herbie Armstrong

The Record Collector article and the notes to Belfast Beat Maritime Blues state that Brian Rossi left the band after the failure of the second single, and that Eric Wrixon from Them joined the group on keyboards. According to this chronology, Wrixon would be playing on the third Regent Sound session that produced “Call My Name”. However, since “Call My Name” was recorded in time to be on some promo copies of “Bad Little Woman”, then it’s likely Rossi was still with the band at the time of that session. If so, then it’s also probable that “Kicks” was the only session that included Eric Wrixon.

Curious as to who sang on the singles, I asked Rod Demick and he stated in an email that he sang lead vocals on the singles released by The Wheels. In an interview with Shindig magazine Rod specified that Brian Rossi sang lead on “Mona” and “You Got Me Dizzy”. Victor Catling wrote to me “Rod was the lead singer with that [hard r&b] style of music. Rod used one of those harmonica racks when playing. Brian Rossy sang ballads and rock numbers when we were on stage. Herbie and Tito also sang but mostly as backup singers. I never heard what happened to Tito.”

From their first Regent Sound Studios session, “Mona” has lead vocals simultaneous with the harmonica, and I don’t think either is dubbed, so that confirms Rossi on lead vocals and Demick on harp. It’s a step from that level of singing to what Rod accomplishes on “Gloria” (from the same session), “Bad Little Woman”, “Road Block” & “I’m Leaving” (these three from their next Regent Sound session).

Rossi was probably not with the band by the time they recorded their version of “Kicks”, so Demick is likely singing on that song, which is very different in style from their other recordings.


Cityweek, September 1, 1966

An article from the Belfast newspaper Cityweek in September 1, 1966 depicts a six-member lineup including both Wrixon and Rossi. This show is described as a short-lived reunion with Rossi before the band broke up in early ’67, but the article doesn’t mention anything about it being a reunion, nor does it suggest the band is about to break up. In any case, they did fall apart.

I know of only one version of the Wheels’ “Bad Little Woman” from that era, a great one by the Shadows of Knight. An obscure group called the Right of Way copied the Shadows of Knight version, unreleased until Norton’s Northwest Killers Vol. 3. This can only be a testament to how obscure this single was at the time.

After the Wheels, Rod Demick and Herbie Armstrong recorded two singles as the James Brothers for Page One Records in 1967, “Does It Have To Be Me” / “You Don’t Really Love Me” and “I Forgot To Give You Love” / “The Truth About It”. I haven’t heard either. Rod Demick switched to bass and with Herbie they backed Screaming Lord Sutch for a time, and then recorded two LPs together in the early ’70s. Demick has since played with many bands. Armstrong joined Fox and also Van Morrison’s band for a time, and then had his own groups.

Brian Rossi passed away in 1984. There are some photos of the Wheels within a tribute video created by his daughter Tamara Rossi; if anyone has access to better quality versions of any photos, please contact me at chas_kit@hotmail.com.

Thanks to Bruce Welsh for pointing out the first James Brothers 45 to me.

Special thanks to Victor Catling for the newsclips and photos seen here.


Victor Catling of the Wheels

Wheels Sessionography

Regent Sound Studios, Summer 1965:
Don’t You Know (b-side to first single, Columbia DB 7682, September 1965)
Mona
Gloria (a-side to first single, Columbia DB 7682, September 1965)

Unknown studio and date:
Bad Little Woman (A-side to US release as the Wheel-a-Ways, Aurora 157, Feb. 1966)

Regent Sound Studios, late 1965:
Bad Little Woman (a-side to second single, Columbia DB 7827, February 1966)
Send Me Your Pillow
You Got Me Dizzy
I’m Leaving
Road Block (b-side to second single, Columbia DB 7827, February 1966)

Regent Sound Studios, late 1965 or January 1966:
Tell Me (I’m Gonna Love Again)
Call My Name (b-side to third single, Columbia DB 7981, also shows up on some promo copies of their second single mislabeled as “Road Block”)

unknown session, probably without Rossi, so assume Demick on lead vocal:
Kicks (a-side to third single, Columbia DB 7981)


The Wheels, l-r: Victor Catling, Rod Demick, Brian Rossi, Tito Tinsley and Herbie Armstrong


Them


First UK EP showing lineup after November, 1964
From left: Alan Henderson, Pat McAuley, Van Morrison, Billy Harrison and Jackie McAuley
Van Morrison (harmonica, saxophone, vocals)
Alan Henderson (bass)
Billy Harrison (lead guitar)
Eric Wrixon (keyboards)
Ronnie Millings (drums)
1963

The group is formed in Belfast, Northern Ireland by Henderson (b. 26 November 1944, Belfast, N. Ireland), Harrison (b. 14 October 1942, Belfast, N. Ireland) and Millings (or Mellings), who have previously played in a local three-piece outfit, The Gamblers. The trio adds keyboard player Eric Wrixon (b. 29 June 1947, Belfast, N. Ireland) and a short while later completes the original line up with singer Morrison (b. George Ivan, 31 August 1945, Belfast, N. Ireland) from local band The Monarchs. Wrixon names the band after a 1950s B horror film.

1964

April (17) One of the first R&B/beat group’s in the province, Them quickly build a reputation as a strong live act holding down a residency at Belfast’s Maritime Hotel in College Square North. The group’s repertoire includes a blistering 15-minute version of Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light”, and a 20-minute improvisation of Morrison’s celebration of teenage lust, “Gloria”. (Although Morrison is credited for the song’s lyrics, Harrison and Henderson have contributed significantly on the musical side.)
(24) Them returns for a show at the Maritime Hotel in Belfast.
May The band attracts the attention of manager Phil Solomon (currently working with Irish pop trio The Bachelors), who is greatly impressed by the band’s live performances (and Morrison in particular). Solomon encourages Decca’s Dick Rowe to see the band perform at the Maritime, and Rowe in turn arranges a session in London. (The group have already recorded a four-track demo for local producer Peter Lloyd.)
(1) Them plays at the Martime Hotel, Belfast.
(8) The group appears at the Maritime Hotel, Belfast.
(15) Another show takes place at the Maritime Hotel, Belfast.
(22) The group returns for a show at the Maritime Hotel, Belfast.
(29) Them appear at the Martime Hotel, Belfast.
June Them relocate to London and a hotel in Portobello Road, where they hang out with their label mates The Poets.
July (5) The group enters Decca’s West Hampstead, London studios to begin recording, but the three-hour session is ridden with internal angst and Rowe decides to employ session musicians Arthur Greenslade (organ) and Bobby Graham (drums) to “fill out” the sound. Them records Slim Harpo’s “Don’t Come Crying Now” and Van Morrison’s “Gloria”, “One Two Brown Eyes” and “Philosophy”, which are all released over the next year. The band also records covers of “Groovin’”, “Turn On your Love Light” and “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” which are shelved. After the recordings, Wrixon is forced to leave (in part because his father objects to a disproportionate royalty split between the management and the group and in part because he is still at school and has ‘A’ levels to complete). Pat McAuley (b. 17 March 1944, Coleraine, N.Ireland) takes over the keyboard position.
September (4) The group’s debut single, “Don’t Start Crying Now” backed by “One Two Brown Eyes” is released but fails to chart.
October The group returns to the studio to record an electrifying version of Big Joe Williams’s blues classic “Baby Please Don’t Go”. Session guitarist Jimmy Page adds rhythm guitar to the recording (and does not play lead as some sources suggest).
(15) Them perform at the Zeeta House, Putney, London.
November (6) “Baby Please Don’t Go” backed by Morrison’s “Gloria” is released. Millings leaves and Pat McAuley moves onto drums.
December The short-lived (yet well photographed) new line-up appears on the popular TV show Ready Steady Go!

1965

January Pat’s brother Jackie (aka John) (b. 14 December 1946, Coleraine, N. Ireland) is added on keyboards as the group begins work on its next single, a recording of their new producer, Bert Berns’s “Here Comes The Night”. Some sources maintain that organ player Phil Coulter and drummer Alan White are brought in to play the McAuley brothers’ parts, but this is disputed by the band members. (Berns, an American producer working in the UK is impressed with Morrison as a vocalist and will continue to work with the group over the next few months.)
February Aided by TV appearances, “Baby Please Don’t Go” hits UK #10, while “Gloria” quickly becomes an anthem for the emerging US garage band generation. Decca releases an EP featuring both sides of Them’s debut single, the recent hit and Morrison’s “Philosophy” recorded during the July sessions.
(20) Them appear at the Club Noreik, Tottenham, north London.
(25) Them appear at Swindon’s Locarno Ballroom with The Knives and Forks.
March “Here Comes The Night” hits UK #2 and is the group’s most successful release. The band begins work on its debut album, but sessions are once again plagued with problems. Some sources suggest that the group’s three producers Bert Berns, Dick Rowe and Tommy Scott supplement the band with session players, although this is disputed by band members.
April (11) Them perform at the New Musical Express Poll Winners Concert at the Empire Pool, Wembley, London.
(17) Unhappy with the band’s direction and his personal treatment, Jackie McAuley leaves after a show at St Columbana’s Parish Church in Ballyhome, Northern Ireland and is replaced by ex-Cheynes member Peter Bardens (b. 19 June 1944, Westminster, London, England; d. 22 January 2002). Jackie McAuley moves to Dublin and learns to play guitar. He will rejoin his brother in a rival Them in December 1965.
May “Gloria” charts for a week at US #93, selling mostly in California where it hits Top 10 in some major cities. At this point Pat McAuley is briefly replaced by former drummer Ronnie Millings before he rejoins the group.
June (1) Them begin a UK tour at Tunbridge Wells Public Hall. (The tour will end on 21 June at the Beachcombers, Leigh and Bolton). Harrison has been replaced by Scottish guitarist Joe Baldi (b. Joseph Baldi, 16 March 1943, La Spezia Italy), who has played with Bardens in Hamilton King’s Blues Messengers. Pat McAuley is also replaced by Englishman Terry Noon, who has previously worked with Gene Vincent.
(11) The Morrison-penned “One More Time” fails to chart. Them’s debut album (The Angry Young) Them is released in the UK to coincide with the single but is another chart failure.
(26) “Here Comes The Night” hits US #24.
July Original Them member, Eric Wrixon completes his studies and joins The Kings Showband.
(15) Them perform at Salisbury City Hall, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
(26) Them appear at the Savoy in Southsea, Hants
August A second Berns song, “(It Won’t Hurt) Half As Much” is released but doesn’t chart. In the US the single’s b-side “I’m Gonna Dress In Black”, written by producer Tommy Scott under the pseudonym ‘Gillon’, is released instead but is not a success.
(4) The new line-up supports The Byrds on their debut UK tour starting at the Imperial Ballroom, Nelson, Lancashire.
(23) The tour ends despite many of shows being cancelled due to illness in The Byrds’ camp. Shortly afterwards, Baldi returns to Scotland and is replaced by Jim Armstrong (b. 24 July 1944, Belfast, N. Ireland) from The Melotones. Bardens also departs and forms The Shotgun Express. Bardens later moves into session work, records two solo albums for Transatlantic Records and then forms 1970s progressive/rock outfit, Camel. Original member Eric Wrixon fills in briefly but soon leaves to join Portadown band, The People. Former The Broadways keyboard/sax, flute player and vibes player Ray Elliott (b. 23 January 1944, Belfast, N. Ireland; d. June 1993, Toronto) takes over on a permanent basis. Terry Noon also leaves but will return briefly in November.
September Back in Belfast, Morrison and Henderson form a new version of Them with Armstrong, Elliott and new drummer John Wilson (b. 6 November 1947, Belfast, N. Ireland) from The Misfits. The band rehearses at the Martime for two weeks before making its live debut.
(1) While Morrison and Henderson have been reshuffling Them’s line up, former members Billy Harrison and Pat McAuley (now on keyboards) announce their own version of Them in London, which contains singer Nick Wymer (ex-Pink Faires), drummer Skip Alan (ex-Donovan) and bass player Mark Scott (ex-Adam Faith) in Belfast newspaper UlsterWeek.
(24) Morrison’s Them makes its debut at the Top Hat club, Lisburn, Northern Ireland where it does a 40-minute set. Shortly after a show at the Flamingo in Ballymena, the band returns to London and resumes work on its second album. The group’s debut album is released in the US as Them and hits #54.
October Skip Alan leaves the Harrison/McAuley Them to replace Viv Prince in The Pretty Things, who soon takes up Alan’s place in the rival Them for a few weeks.
(11) Them play at the Thorngate, Gosport, Hants
(15) Van Morrison’s Them plays at Zeeta House, Putney, London.
(19) Them appears at the Olympia in Paris, France. The group uses a stand-in drummer for John Wilson who is considered to be too young to travel.
November Morrison’s “Mystic Eyes” is belatedly released as a UK single but fails to chart. Billy Harrison leaves the rival Them to briefly replace Jim Armstrong in Van Morrison’s Them when the guitarist’s appendix burst. Terry Noon also returns briefly to sub for John Wilson before leaving again to join The Yum Yum Band and then moving into rock management, working initially with Honeybus. After French and Scandinavian dates, Harrison departs when Armstrong resumes his position. During the first few months of 1966, Harrison does session work for producer Joe Meek and then substitutes for Dick Taylor during The Pretty Things’ Norwegian tour. Harrison quits the music business in mid-1966 after playing with The Pretty Things in the Isle of Wight and joins the GPO.
(4) Pat McAuley’s rival Them registers the Them name. By now the group contains a new guitarist, known as Don.
December (2) When Prince leaves Pat McAuley’s rival Them, his place is taken by Ken McLeod.
(4) “Mystic Eyes” fares better in the States where it reaches #33.
(19) Wymer leaves the rival Them after a gig in Stoke-on-Trent. Soon afterwards, he is replaced by Pat’s brother Jackie McAuley on keyboards/vocals, who has been living in Dublin. Pat moves on to drums and Ken McLeod takes over guitar from Don who leaves in mid-January. On the same day, Van Morrison’s Them play at nearby Majestic Ballroom in Shropshire.


French EP showing original drummer Ronnie Millings (with shades)


Gloria reaches #1 on KRLA, April 14, 1965


early mention for band in KRLA’s Beat, May 19, 1965


Rare French EP showing short-lived line up from November 1965, from left: Billy Harrison, Alan Henderson, Van Morrison, Ray Elliott and Terry Noon


Them’s first UK LP, The Angry Young Them, Peter Bardens in pink shirt next to Van


First U.S. issue, featuring “Here Comes the Night”


Second U.S. cover to capitalize on “Gloria”

From KRLA’s Beat, April 30, 1966 (click for larger image)
from left to right: Ray Elliott, John Wilson, Jim Armstrong, Van Morrison and Alan Henderson
1966

January Them’s second album Them Again fails to chart in the UK. It contains two of Morrison’s best songs: “Hey Girl” and “My Lonely Sad Eyes”, as well as an edited version of Bobby Bland’s “Turn On Your Love Light”. Original Them member Eric Wrixon leaves The People, who have relocated to Blackpool, and joins another expatriate Belfast band, The Wheels, who record two singles for Columbia. In 1967, he moves to Germany with The Never Never Band and plays regularly at Hamburg’s Star club, supporting soul acts like Sam & Dave.
(1) Jackie McAuley makes his debut with the rival Them in Peckham, southeast London.
(3) Van Morrison’s group appear at the Shoreline club in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.
(4) Morrison’s Them play at the Assembly Hall, Aylesbury, Bucks.
(10) Them appear at the Labour Hall, Bletchley, Bucks.
(11) Morrison’s latest line up play at the Hut, Westcott, Surrey.
(27) Them appear at Whitehallcott, East Grinstead, Sussex.
February (4) The McAuley brothers’ Them record three tracks at a demo session: a cover of Graham Bond’s “I Want You”, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” and Jackie McAuley’s “Movin’ Free”.
(18) The rival Them perform at the KB Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark with The Pretty Things.
March Morrison’s version of Them’s cover of producer Tommy Scott’s “Call My Name” fails to chart. Wilson leaves and is replaced by David Harvey (b. David Tufrey 29 July 1943, Bude, Cornwall, England). Wilson works with Belfast groups, Derek & The Sounds and then Cheese. In the late 1960s, he joins guitarist Rory Gallagher in Taste before forming Stud in the early 1970s.
(7) The McAuley brothers’ Them appear at the Club Continental, Eastbourne.
(9) The rival Them lose their court case and change name to “Some of Them”.
April Morrison’s Them’s final session produces a cover of Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory” and Morrison’s “Mighty Like A Rose”. “Gloria” is re-issued and climbs to US #71.
(16) The Shadows Of Knight’s version of “Gloria” hits US #10.
May Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory” is the group’s last official single but is not a success. Morrison is particularly annoyed by its release, preferring his own song “Mighty Like A Rose” as a prospective single. In the US, Tommy Scott’s “I Can Only Give You Everything” is released as a final single and is quickly adopted by US garage bands like The MC5 as a punk anthem. Them Again reaches US #138.
(14) Dave Harvey joins Them for a show at Decca Entertainment Centre, Ashton-under-Lyne, England. Soon afterwards, the band flies out to New York to begin its debut US tour, with the first show in Arizona.
(27) Some of Them record two tracks with Kim Fowley – “Gloria’s Dream” and “Secret Police”. On the same day, Van Morrison’s Them appear at the Rollarena, San Leandro, California.
(30) Some of Them perform in Blackpool. On the same day, Van Morrison’s Them begins a residency at the Whisky-A-Go Go, West Hollywood, California.
May (31)June (17) Morrison’s Them performs at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, California, where they are sometimes supported by The Doors.
(13/15) Some of Them record further tracks in London.
(18) On the last night at the Whisky, The Doors’ vocalist Jim Morrison joins Van Morrison’s group on stage for a 20-minute improvisation of “Gloria”.
(19) The band discovers that the club has been willing to pay the group $10,000 per week. However, due to their management deal with Phil Solomon (whereby they have agreed to play for $2,000 a week minus a 35% management fee and a guarantee), Them have received considerably less than they think they should. This causes a lot of bitterness between the group and Solomon, and as a result Them inform promoter Bill Graham that they will only play at their forthcoming Fillmore concert if they are paid in advance.
(21) Some of Them appear at Balliol College, Oxford.
(23) Morrison’s Them appear at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium with The New Tweedy Brothers. After their performance, Morrison meets his future wife Janet Planet who accompanies the band on the rest of the tour. (She will be the inspiration for Morrison’s Astral Weeks.)
(26) Morrison’s group is supported by The Association at the Oakland Auditorium, Oakland, California.
(27-29) Some of Them move to Denmark where they perform as Them. The group performs three shows in Copenhagen and finish their final recordings. Over the next five months, the band gigs in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. In the last week of July, the band is briefly joined by former Them member Peter Bardens on keyboards, allowing Jackie McAuley to come up front as lead singer.
July (1-2) Morrison’s Them perform at the “Beat On The Beach”, Santa Monica, California with The New Generation.
(8-9) Them appear at the Waikiki Shell, Kapiolani Park, Honolulu, Hawaii.
(23) The band performs at the Strand Theater, Modesto, California.
(28) Morrison’s group is supported by The Doors and The Count Five at the Starlight Ballroom, Oxnard and (in the evening) the Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara, California.
(29-30) Morrison’s Them is supported by The Sons Of Champlin at the Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco.
August (9) The McAuley brothers’ Them play at the Complain-LA-Tour jazz festival in Belgium.
(19-21) Morrison’s group performs at the Losers North, San Jose, California.
(23-28) A further set of dates take place at the Losers North.




KRLA’s Beat, April 23, 1966
Click above for larger image and
here for jump


KRLA’s Beat, June 25, 1966
Click for larger image

KRLA’s Beat, September 24, 1966
September (2-3) Them performs at the Longshoreman’s Hall, San Francisco.
(9) They appear in Fresno, California. Shortly afterwards, Morrison and Henderson return to London to sort out business matters with Solomon while the others return to Los Angeles. However, when their visas expire a few weeks later, Armstrong, Elliott and Harvey also return to Belfast. A new Them line up featuring Morrison, Henderson and Armstrong plays Derry Embassy Ballroom with Morrison’s cousin Sammy Stitt on drums but the show is so bad that Morrison leaves. He continues to work some new songs that will later comprise his masterpiece Astral Weeks. Morrison also returns to occasional live work in a new outfit dubbed, Van Morrison and “Them Again”, which features former Atlantics and Delltones’ guitarist Eric Bell alongside Joe Hanratty (drums) and Mike Brown (bass) from local group The Alleykatzs. “Them Again” debut at the Square One in Belfast and also play at Queens’ University’s rag ball before playing further gigs throughout Ireland. The band soon implodes and Morrison concentrates on a solo career. Eric Bell meanwhile moves to Glasgow and plays with The Bluebeats for two years.
(17) The McAuley brothers’ group, now dubbed The Belfast Gypsies score a minor US hit when “Gloria’s Dream” hits #124.
November (5) The McAuley brothers’ Them play their final date in Stockholm.
December Armstrong, Elliott, Harvey and Henderson decide to carry on with Them’s name, now that Morrison has abandoned the name and is pursuing a solo career. The group recruits a new vocalist Ken McDowell (b. 21 December 1944, Belfast, N. Ireland), previously a member of Belfast group The Mad Lads, who have recorded a number of singles for Decca Records, as well as a lone release “I Went Out With My Baby” as Moses K. & The Prophets. The new version of Them writes to Carol Deck, Californian editor of Flipmagazine (who had given the band some encouraging reviews during its US tour) asking for help, and she in turn introduces them to Texan producer Ray Ruff, who has his own indie label, Ruff Records.

1967

January Major Minor Records releases “Gloria”, backed by another Morrison song, the acoustic “Friday’s Child” as a UK single. The McAuley brothers’ Them implodes and Jackie McAuley returns to Dublin and forms Cult with singer/songwriter and guitarist Paul Brady.
March A second Major Minor single “The Story Of Them” is released. Morrison signs a solo contract with Bert Berns and travels to New York to record for his Bang label. This will result in an immediate US hit “Brown Eyed Girl”, which makes #10. After Berns’ death in December 1967, Morrison will sign with Warner Brothers and record the classic Astral Weeks, which proves to be the beginning of an illustrious career.


The Belfast Gypsies, released as Them


Rare French EP with Belfast Gypsies listed

Them in Checkmate Studios, Amarillo, 1967, from left: Ray Elliott, Alan Henderson, Dave Harvey, Ken McDowell and Jim Armstrong
Photo from the collection of Tom McCarty
August Nearly year after the band’s final performance, the McAuley brothers’ group The Belfast Gypsies have a belated album release on the Swedish label Sonet as Them Belfast Gypsies. Relocating to Amarillo, Texas, Henderson’s Them release their debut single without Morrison, a cover of Tom Lane’s “Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen)” / “Square Room” on Sully Records before a nation-wide distribution deal is struck with Tower Records.

Above and below, first record by the Amarillo, Texas based Them


September Starting off in Amarillo, Henderson’s group kicks off a tour and gigs for 65 days straight. The gruelling tour, which sees the band take a day off before working another 38 days straight, takes the musicians up to Canada across to the west coast and then down to Los Angeles, where Them begin work on its first album without Morrison.
November Henderson’s Them release a second 45, the band composition “Walking In The Queens Garden” b/w “I Happen to Love You” on Ruff Records.
December Tower issues two singles, one includes newly recorded versions of “Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen)” and “Square Room” and the second reissues the Ruff 45.
(8-10) The band appears at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, West Hollywood, California with Love and Blue Cheer.

KRLA’s Beat, May 6, 1967


The McAuley brother’s group

Poster from Amarillo, 1967, from left: Jim Armstrong, Dave Harvey, Ken McDowell, Ray Elliott and Alan Henderson.
Poster from the collection of Tom McCarty

1968

January A new album, Now And Them is released featuring Them’s reply to the Doors’ “The End”, the extended raga piece “Square Room”.
February Tower reissues the Ruff 45 of “Walking In The Queens Gardens” but its success is limited to the West Coast.
April “But It’s Alright”, an out-take from the album is released as a single but doesn’t sell. The group’s incessant touring prompts Elliott to quit the band while Them are in New York. He returns to Belfast briefly before working with an Irish showband in Leeds alongside guitarist Eric Bell from “Them Again”. Bell soon returns to Belfast to replace guitarist Gary Moore in The Shades of Blue before working with the Dublin-based The Dream showband.
May (24-25) Henderson’s Them appear alongside The Incredible String Band at the Kaleidoscope, Hollywood, California.
July The title track from their forthcoming album Time Out For Time In is released but is not a success.
August (14-15) The band plays with Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention at the Electric Theatre, Chicago. Them also performs at the Baton Rouge Festival on a bill that features Freddie King.
November Them’s second album Time Out Time In For Them is released. It has been recorded at Los Angeles’ Gold Star studios in the wake of Elliott’s departure and features session drummer John Guerin on a number of tracks. A single “Waltz Of The Flies” is extracted but fails to chart.

1969

March Them’s final single, a cover of the traditional Corinna is released but fails to chart. Unhappy with Ruff’s management and production, Armstrong and McDowell leave and return to Belfast where they put together Sk’Boo with Ricky McCutcheon and Colm Connolly. Henderson, meanwhile, remains with Ruff in L.A. and continues with the Them name; using guitarist Jim Parker and drummer John Stark from Amarillo band, The Kitchen Cinq, he produces two further albums: Them (1969) and In Reality (1970) for the Chicago label Happy Tiger. David Harvey also stays behind in California but will leave the music business.
June After working briskly throughout Ireland and the British mainland, Armstrong and McDowell shelve Sk’Boo (after a farewell gig in Wolverhampton) and return to the US. Based in Chicago, the duo recruit an American rhythm section comprising bassist Curt Bachman (ex-The Buckinghams) and drummer Reno Smith formerly of Baby Huey and The Babysitters in a new group called Truth, which becomes house band at Beavers. The band tours extensively around the Chicago area for the next 18 months, and also contributes several songs to the soundtrack for Pat Mulcahy’s film Cum Laude Fraud (later released as College For Fun And Profit), before being offered a recording deal with Epic Records. Ex-Them member Ray Elliott rejoins the band during its lifespan but subsequently leaves after contributing to some recordings and returns to England.
July (26) Them and Truth* both appear at the Eugene Pop Festival, Hayward Field, University of Oregon, Eugene alongside Alice Cooper, The Doors and others.

* Neal Skok and I have been trying to find out for some time now what “Them” this was — there is a slim chance it was the Tower Records ensemble. But the “Truth” that is listed for this gig is most definately not the Chicago-based Truth comprised of the ex-Them gents (whose CD Neal and I put out on his “Epilogue” label in ’94). This “Truth” was a NW teen rock band – and of course there were several Christian bands that used that name in the ’60s and later.
– John Berg

October Having returned from Germany and joined The Trixons showband, original Them member Eric Wrixon joins guitarist Eric Bell from the short-lived “Them Again” in the original Thin Lizzy. He leaves in early 1970 and returns to Germany to play with Junior Walker, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy among others.

1970

January (21) Truth play at the New Cellar, Chicago alongside The Mauds.
March Having moved to Beirut in Lebanon with The League of Gentlemen the previous year, former Them member Jackie McAuley returns to England and forms Trader Horne with Judy Dyble, who has previously worked with the original Fairport Convention. The duo release the album, Morning Way, which features contributions from former Them member Ray Elliott. When Trader Horne split later in the year, McAuley forms the short-lived One with Rosko Gee and Adam Marsh before starting on a solo album..


Japanese sleeve with Alan Henderson’s Them



1971

February Truth return to Belfast for a working holiday before sessions in London begin later that month. Unfortunately, Epic Records undergoes a change in management and following a communication problem, Truth’s band members fall apart before they have a chance to enter the studio. Elliott subsequently moves to Canada (where he dies in June 1993 in Toronto), while Bachman and Smith return to the US. Armstrong and McDowell move back to Belfast where Armstrong joins the Civil Service and McDowell becomes a member of The College Boys. (Truth’s private recordings and studio sessions from Chicago are later released by Epilogue Records as The Truth Of Them And Other Tales in 1995.)
March Jackie McAuley releases his eponymous debut solo album on the small Dawn label, before later working with bands Wand and Mackeral Sky. He also spends four years working with Lonnie Donegan. Jackie’s brother Pat (who turns down an offer to play with Marc Bolan), sadly dies in a drowning accident in Donegal on 11 August 1984.

1972

August Compilation album Them Featuring Van Morrison hits US #154.

1973

After working with cabaret singer Roly Stewart, Jim Armstrong has rejoined Ken McDowell in The College Boys in the early 1970s. The pair then join Reunion before working with another former Them member John Wilson in Bronco. The pair also form the band Spike, which works at the Pound club in Belfast. Wilson subsequently becomes Northern Ireland’s top session drummer.



Repackages their first two U.S. LPs minus two tracks each.
1974Backtrackin’ released only in the U.S., featured obscure b-sides and songs not previously available in the U.S.: “Richard Cory”, “I Put a Spell on You”, “Just a Little Bit”, “I Gave My Love a Diamond”, “Half as Much”, “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Hey Girl”, “Don’t Start Crying Now”, “All for Myself” and “Mighty Like a Rose”. All the tracks except the last, however, were in simulated stereo.

1978

Armstrong leaves Spike and forms his own band Light, who record an eponymous album on the small Mint label in Ireland only.

1979

Billy Harrison reforms Them with original keyboard player Eric Wrixon. Initially, Harrison intended to complete the group with John Wilson, who’d played drums on Them Again album, together with bass player Jackie Flavelle and singer Mel Austin but Wilson and Flavelle drop out prompting him to bring in drummer Billy Bell. He also brings back Henderson, who has spent several years working on his Connecticut farm. Them move to Germany where they hold down a residency in Hamburg. While there the group records the album Shut Your Mouth for Teldec/Decca before Jim Armstrong and Brian Scott from Light replace Harrison and Wrixon. However, after a brief tour of Germany the group splinters. Armstrong reunites with Ken McDowell in a new version of Sk’Boo, who release one single “It’s A Hard Road” for the small Cuecomber label.


From left: Joe Baldi, Terry Noon, Peter Bardens, Van Morrison and Alan Henderson from summer of 1965
1980Harrison emerges with the solo album Billy Who? on the German Vagabond label. He then abandons a music career and become a marine electrician. Jackie McAuley spends most of the 1980s and 1990s working with Poor Mouth, who release a number of albums, including Gael Force. In 1982, he co-writes “Dear John”, which is a hit for Status Quo.

1989

Original member Eric Wrixon forms The Belfast Blues Band with another former Them member, John Wilson.

1994

Jackie McAuley emerges with a new solo album, Headspin. Guitarist Jim Armstrong meanwhile has formed The Belfast Blues Band with original Them member Eric Wrixon. His former band mate, Ken McDowell has continued to work with Sk’Boo and then plays with Hens Teeth before forming The Kenny McDowell/Ronnie Greer Band in the early 2000s.

1998

Jackie McAuley releases another solo release, Shadowboxing.

2000

Jackie McAuley puts out another solo release, Bad Day At Black Rock. McAuley subsequently joins The Harbour Band, who release the album Live In The Spirit Tour in 2003.

2003

The Ken McDowell/Ronnie Greer Band release the album, Live At The Island. Jim Armstrong leaves The Belfast Blues Band and reforms The Jim Armstrong Band.

Sources:

Clayson, Alan. Call Up The Groups – The Golden Age Of British Beat, Blandford Press, 1985, pages 168-170.
Doggett, Peter. “Them”, Record Collector # 149, January 1992, pages 112-116
Du Noyer, Paul. “Heart & Soul Of Van Morrison”, Mojo Magazine, November 1993, page 84.
Gray, Michael. Mother – The Frank Zappa Story, Plexus, 1993.
Grushkin, Paul D. Art Of Rock – Posters From Presley To Punk, Artabras, Cross River Press Ltd, 1987.
Harper, Colin. Sleeve notes to CD Belfast Beat, 1998.
Harper, Colin and Hodgett, Trevor. Irish Folk, Trad & Blues – A Secret History, Cherry Red Books, 2004.
Hodgett, Trevor. “Them After Van Morrison”, Record Collector #89, pages 52-57.
Hogg, Brian. “Van Morrison & Them”, Strange Things Are Happening, Vol 1, #4, Sep/Oct 1988, Bam-Caruso Books, pages 6-14 and 20.
Housden, David Peter. The Castle, Love #9, December 1995, page 28 and 57.
Housden, David Peter. The Castle, Love #10, 1996, pages 6-7.
Rees, Dafydd and Crampton, Luke. Guinness Book Of Rock Stars, 2nd Edition, Guinness Publishing, 1991, page 528.
Rogan, Johnny. CSN&Y – The Visual Documentary, Omnibus Press, 1996, page 10.
Shaw, Greg. The Doors On The Road, Omnibus Press, 1997, pages 14 and 172.
Turner, Steve. Van Morrison – Too Late To Stop Now, Bloomsbury, 1993, pages 49 and 60.
Unterberger, Richie. “Belfast Gypsies” article in Ugly Things issue 23.
Whitburn, Joel. Bubbling Under Hot 100 1959-1985, Billboard Researchers Inc, 1985.
Sleeve notes to the Deram Anthology The Story Of Them – Featuring Van Morrison, 1997.
Sleeve notes to Epilogue CD, The Truth Of Them And Other Tales, 1995.
Melody Maker, March 5, 1966, page 13.
News clippings from KRLA Beat.

Thank you to John Warburg, Nigel Norman. Tom McCarty and Mike Markesich.

Copyright © Nick Warburton, 2009. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author.

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Japanese sleeve with wrong photo showing the Scottish group, the Poets