Joe E Young & The Toniks

Colin Young – lead vocals

Wendell Richardson – lead guitar

Calvin ‘Fuzzy’ Samuel – bass

Richard London – keyboards

Tony Bauman – saxophone

Denis Overton – saxophone

Conrad Isidore – drums

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.

Selected gigs:

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.

Selected gigs:

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

4 March 1967 – Harvest Moon Club, Guildford, Surrey (Aldershot News)

4 March 1967 – Roaring 20’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, London

5 March 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)

7 March 1967 – The Place, Hanley, Staffordshire (Poster)

16 March 1967 ­– Roaring 20’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, London

18 March 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

23 March 1967 – Roaring 20’s, Carnaby Street, Soho, London

23 March 1967 – Klooks Kleek, West Hampstead, London (Geoff Williams research: Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek book)

24 March 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)

25 March 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

27 March 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

31 March 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

8 April 1967 – Bluesville, St Thomas’ Hall, Brentwood, Essex (Essex Chronicle)

9 April 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)

16 April 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

14 May 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)

22 May 1967 – Queen’s Ballroom, Wolverhampton, West Midlands (Express & Star)

29 May 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London with Nyla Rose

2 June 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

17 June 1967 – Gaiety Ballroom, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire with The Kinsmen (Website: http://peterboroughimages.co.uk/music/?p=8130) (Billed as the band only)

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.

Selected gigs:

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.

Debut single promotion. Courtesy David Else

Selected gigs:

8 December 1967 – Burton Constable Stately Home, Hull, Humberside with The Amboy Dukes, Ferris Wheel, Roger Bloom’s Hammer, Gospel Garden and The Mandrakes

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 Union at the Skyline Ballroom, Hull, Humberside with The Moody Blues and The Gods

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

30 December 1967 – Cue Club, Paddington, London

31 December 1967 – “Big C”, 1 Camp Road, Farnborough, Hampshire

31 December 1967 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Passage, E1, London

13 January 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London (Billed as Tonicks Band)

9 February 1968 – New All-Star Club, 9a Artillery Page, E1, London with James and Bobby Purify

10 February 1968 – Club A Go Go, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear with Hylton Ks (http://www.readysteadygone.co.uk/club-agogo-newcastle-2/)

2 March 1968 – Burton’s, Uxbridge, Middlesex

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.

Left to right: Kelvin Bullen, Richard London, Hugh Bullen, Colin Young, Conrad Isidore (sitting), Denis Overton and Tony Bauman

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.

Selected gigs:

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)

22 June 1968 – Gaiety Ballroom, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire with The Soul Mates (Website: http://peterboroughimages.co.uk/music/?p=8130)

22 June 1968 – Cue Club, Paddington, London

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

Colin Young joins The Foundations. Courtesy David Else

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.

Thanks to David Else for this image.

13 thoughts on “Joe E Young & The Toniks”

  1. Re Joe E Young & Toniks (Tonicks)
    I have an early line up as – Colin Young, Anthony Barman ( must be Bauman), Oscar Knight, Sam Southwell & John Seally. I don’t know what instruments they played and can’t find where I got this info from.
    I also have a press cutting (with photo) for “Joe E Young & The Tonicks latest release “Barefooting In Chinatown” from 67, but no label given and no trace of this anywhere else. It would appear to be an advert put in one of the music papers (MM or Record Mirror) by their management. How could I upload a copy of this for you ? I have a similar ad for “Lifetime Of Loving” which still spells the name Tonicks.

  2. Pete Gage sent me some further info on Ebony Keyes, which I thought I would add for readers:

    He was originally Kenrick Des Etages – from Trinidad living in Sydenham South London as a car mechanic. He changed his professional performing name to Ebony Keyes but still writing as Des Etages for Pye Records – later he changed again to Lee Vanderbilt – close friends with Jimmy Chambers – George Chandler – Tony Jackson (Paul Young’s backup singers). He crops up in the London session singer scene for several decades. Lee died last year I heard from a massive heart attack after doing his morning jog. RIP – a lovely guy – great great voice who loved me for getting him started in the business.

    1. I’m sad to hear that Lee passed away. I went to play the Zoom club in Frankfurt, Germany with him when he was Ebony Keyes…the promoter thought he was a black piano player 🙂 The Senate were the other band on the bill…later to morph into The Average White Band. Lee was a lovely guy, very gentle and a sweet singer in the Sam Cooke style. RIP Kenrick Des Etages .

  3. A bit more from Pete Gage on the LP sessions:

    The LP I did was peppered with session muzos – Tim Hinkley definitely on keyboards – Ivan Zagni I think on one or too – I think Elkie [Brooks] got to sing on some of it – I think Ton Ton – Eddie Thornton took on some trumpet and maybe even Harry Becket did some flugel. I rather thought everybody got the credits but maybe – just maybe Vicki Wickham didn’t want non members of the band acknowledged. Other than CBS studios and my budget in meltdown… it was a stressful time. Shame because I really thought this was the record which would get them and I into the big time British Soul league

    1. Yes, I did play on those sessions and I remember Eddie “Ton Ton” Thornton and the wonderful Harry Becket. Pete seems to think that Ivan Zagni played on the sessions but I don’t remember him being there. I don’t think we played on more than 4/5 tracks but Pete would know more about that. It was a quite stressful project for Pete who was getting flack from the members of the band over the use of session players and pressure from the record label over the cost. Under the circumstances I think he did a great job. I’m sure Elkie and Le Vanderbilt did some backing vocals.

  4. Hello Nick I dont get it brother Hugh and myself did and played the recordings of LP Soul Bustin ! Funny that Pete Gage doesn’t remember or make any mention ( why else are we on the cover ) unfortunately brother Hugh passed away last November . Please get the facts right cheers Kelvin.

    1. Hi there

      Really sorry to hear about your brother. I think Pete is saying that some of the tracks were recorded with session players; not all of the LP. Some of the tracks were cut before you and your brother joined, judging by the dates.

  5. Found a missing gig for the band, which I think is 20 April 1967. The gig took place at the Skyline Ballroom, Hull (Hull Daily Mail). Others on the bill were The Goodtime Loosers, The Dawnbreakers, The Family and The Mandrakes

  6. A few more gigs just credited to The Tonicks, both taken from East Kent Times & Mail, which covers Margate

    20 October 1967 – Rendevous Club, Margate with The Coloured Raisins

    4 November 1967 – Dreamland, Margate with The Vogues

  7. Colin Young recorded an interesting LP and single for Trend in 1971, the LP being issued maybe only in Italy. The other members were Steve Bingham, Roger Cawkwell, Laurie Jellyman, Graham Preskett and Jean Roussell

  8. a couple more gigs from 68 –
    11/05/68 – Finsbury Park Astoria with Aretha Franklin, Robert Knight & the Knight Brothers, Lucas & the Mike Cotton Sound

    13/05/68 – Purley Orchid with Robert Knight & the Knight Brothers

    I saw both gigs, but can’t remember if the Tonicks were backing Robert Knight or not ! Knight had the original US hit with Everlasting Love (Love Affair)

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