Thursday, September 26, 2013

Roddy Radiation

This time Pete Clemon's has focused on Special's songwriter / guitar player - Roddy Radiation (Roddy Byres) who formed one of the earliest punk bands in 1975 - The Wild Boys, who had two tracks on the 1980 compilation Sent from Coventry and went on (post Specials) to form a string of Rock a Billy bands. Pete's article for the Coventry Telegraph will tell you more.

Rebel man Roddy still riffing

Pete Clemons on Roddy Byers of The Specials, The Bonedigger and The Skabilly Rebels

He has more than a hint of James Dean in his appearance and from what little I know of him personally he is a fairly reserved sort of person.

But as a guitarist, Roddy Byers is far less so. It is on a stage that he really cuts loose. He has a controlled aggression which is, at the same time, incredibly innovative.

Of course as Roddy 'Radiation' he is without doubt better known for his lead guitar and song writing activities within The Specials. But, for me, he saves his best work for the other bands he has fronted since The Specials split back in 1981.

Those bands have included The Tearjerkers, The Bonediggers, The Raiders and, more recently, The Skabilly Rebels. And these groups have provided the vehicle for his love of 1950s rock 'n' roll and rockabilly.

The Tearjerkers were in fact up and running while The Specials were still in existence during 1981 and were an outlet for songs Roddy had originally written for The Specials but had been rejected.

Roddy's music has always had that early Elvis Presley/Gene Vincent feel to them and maybe that style just never suited The Specials.

The Tearjerkers had several lineup changes but at the time of recording they had been made up of Roddy (vocals/guitar), Mark Byers (vocals/guitar), Joe Hughes (vocals/bass), Pete Davies (drums) and a wild accordion player called 'Slim Tearjerker', aka Clive Pain, who also contributed to the vocals.

During 1978 'Slim Tearjerker' had achieved the accolade of being named 'Champion Blockhead' when he was selected by Ian Dury in a New Musical Express competition and befriended the likes of The Clash and The Specials which led to his friendship with Roddy.

As well as playing for The Tearjerkers, Slim also turned out for bands like The Boothill Foot-Tappers, The Rough-House All-Stars and The Skiff Skats. He also wrote what he described as a 'masterpiece of a love song' titled 'You're Too Bloody Good For Me'.

The Tearjerkers recorded for Chiswick records where a couple of songs 'Desire'/'Western Song' were released as a single. Some of their other recorded material can nowadays be found on compilations such as 'The Chiswick Story - Adventures of an Independent Record Label 1975-1982' and 'Don't Let the Hope Close Down', a benefit album for the famous London music pub venue The Hope and Anchor not to be confused with the one that once stood at the ring road end of our own Whitefriars Street.

Locally the band played regularly at venues such as The General Wolfe and The Freemasons Arms and the line-up did change several times during their existence. The Tearjerkers eventually split up in 1987 because there had been no major recording success.

Next up for Roddy were The Bonediggers. Again this band was fluid but during its existence the main musicians behind Roddy included David West (vocals/guitar), Sam Smith (bass), and drummers Gaz Muldoon and Jim Pryal. A great piece called 'Bonediggin' was used as the band's signature tune.

The Bonediggers were regulars at the the Tic Toc club and had their unofficial base at The Dive (Lady Godiva) pub. Demos were recorded at The Depot studios at the rear of the Belgrade theatre.

And, in 1990, a three-track EP released on the Rimshot Record Label featured a track called 'De Angelo' and also included a new version of old favourite 'Desire'.

Roddy left The Bonediggers during September 1993 but soon returned to the action with a group called The Raiders.

At the time Roddy was quoted as saying 'Whereas The Bonediggers was Hank Williams meets The Clash then The Raiders are The Clash meets Hank Williams. A good time rock 'n' roll band with a punk attitude'.

In addition to Roddy on guitar The Raiders were Sam Smith on bass, Gaz Muldoon on drums, Badger on Sax and Ian Toughie on guitar and although short lived they still managed to record a sixtrack tape and fulfilled live dates at venues like Sir Colin Campbell and The General Wolfe.

An excellent 18-track anthology CD was released during 2005 which brings together recordings from the above period in either original form or a re-worked format.

It really is a great release and a lot of these songs are still played live today.

In fact the track 'Lorraine', albeit performed on this CD by The Tearjerkers, originally dates back to Roddy's pre-Specials band The Wild Boys. 'Lorraine' was also one of two contributions from The Wild Boys to the compilation album 'Sent From Coventry' that was released towards the end of the 1970s/early 1980s.

For almost ten years now Roddy has fronted The Skabilly Rebels and they play exactly what the label says. Ska and rockabilly complete with a mix of punk, country and blues.

Backing Roddy over the years of this venture is long time musical partner Sam Smith on guitar, the late Iain Howard also on guitar, Jaynie Jones on keyboards, Mac on bass and Drew Stansall on sax, both Paul Ayriss and Terry Downes on drums and many, many others.

2009 saw The Skabillys release their debut CD, which was recorded at Moonbase Studios in Earlsdon and contains 16 tracks of which some are more up to date workings of songs heard during his years as a Tearjerker/Bonedigger such as 'Black Leather Jacket' and 'Judgement Day'.

February and March 2012 saw Roddy complete a 12-date tour of California, Reno, Nevada, and Phoenix, Arizona over in the USA. Rather than take the normal band Roddy teamed up with American talents such as Danny Dean of Danny Dean and the Homewreckers and billed themselves as the U.S. Skabillys and, between them, played a mix of past and present and new songs from Roddy's songbook.

Roddy is undoubtedly his own man or, for want of a better phrase, a true rebel. He was one of the very first people in Coventry to discover punk rock and regularly visited London during its early days as 'pub rock'.

This was well before that particular genre had left the capital. I am convinced that, some day, history will give him the same 'hall of fame' treatment afforded to other musicians from that era. One that I think he richly deserves.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Mad Classix (Coventry band in 1960's)

Pete Clemons focuses Coventry 60's band The Mad Classix for his latest Coventry Telegraph article.

circa 1964-66 
Pete Chambers Godiva Rocked to a Backbeat

R&B/Beat group
Line up: Brian Fowdrey (Saxophone), Ron Smith (lead guitar), Dave Norris (rhythm guitar), Johnny Wells (vocals), John Davies (bass), Gerry O'Brian (drums)

Formed around 1964, they quickly worked up material, switching from 'beat' to more blues influenced material. They cut demos around the middle of 1964 (including 'Keep On Looking'), hoping to impress EMI or Decca. They Appeared on 'Opportunity Knocks' in June of that year and had their hair dyed specially for the appearance with one white streak!

Toured Germany (where they released a single in December 1965) and added Johnny Williams (Sax) from The Chads whilst there in July 1965.

Ron Smith Left in April 1966 and was replaced by Jeff Lynne for a short while. He left the band and joined the Nightriders in Birmingham who became Idle Race - then to the Moveand ELO.

They split later in 1966 after having their gear stolen.

Single: Honey Bunny (Germany 1965)

Pete Chambers - Godiva Rocked to a Backbeat
"Known for the mad stage antics, they played 6 months in Germany and the above single. Bev Jones was once a member and married lead vocalist Johnny Wells. Ron Smith says " I wouldn't have missed the German tour for the world. It was hard for me because I had a wife and family at home. We worked three to four hours a night, six days a week and rehearsed on the 7th. Yes it was hard work but an opportunity I couldn't miss."

And from Pete Chambers Backbeat article - Cov Telegraph
Outrageous Mad Classix lived up to their name

FAMED for their on-stage antics and a fabled tour of Germany The Mad Classix were a sextet who always lived up to their name.

In 1958 Ron Smith had purchased his first guitar, and the skiffle sound of that era was now giving way to a more sophisticated music that we know as rock 'n' roll.

Ron, along with his new guitar, had become a founding member of the Coventry band The Tornadoes. By 1962 a name change had become incumbent to them when the great Joe Meek had created Telstar by the band he called The Tornadoes.

So Coventry's Tornadoes became The Classics, and they continued to find work in places like the Wyken Pippin and their sleek presentations and acrobatic stage antics gained them a residency at The Walsgrave.

They hooked up with Friary Promotions and took on sax player Brian Fowdrey who was working at the agency.

By now the band had grown to a …" 

Tom Long added in a comment recently

Hi Trev,

Thought you might like to know this, as a addition to The Mad Classix story.

On Saturday 29/9/2012, Brian Fowdrey, the saxman and founder member of The Classix wed his partner of many years.
The original members of the band got together (minus the singer, who died a while back), and gave a half hour performance.
I had the honour of performing with them, as Gerry, their drummer hadn't played for over 30 years! We persuaded Gerry to play a couple of numbers with them, though.
Ironically, the first gig I did with Jason and the Canaenites was as support for The Classix, at The General Wolfe in Foleshill back in the 60’s!

Cheers, Tom Lane

Mad Classix with Bev Jones. Pic via Pete Chambers Godiva Rocked to a Backbeat

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Sabres (Coventry band)

Pete Clemons now looks back at one of the top Coventry bands from the 1960's - The Sabres - for his latest Coventry Telegraph article.

circa 1963 - 1965 Source Broadgate Gnome
Formed 1960 (according to Pete Chambers) and 1963 to Broadgate Gnome!

Beat group

Line up: "Q" Martin Cure (vocals), Steve Jones (guitar), Terry Wyatt (guitar) (From The Zodiacs), Graham Amos (bass),Paul Wilkinson (drums).

Formed in March 1963 for a charity concert in aid of Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital, they were managed by Frank Jones, father of the guitarist. Hard gigging band they took part in the 150th birthday celebrations for Sir Robert Fossett's Circus, including an 8000 mile trip of Eastern Europe !. (they became only the second British group to play behind the Iron Curtain, in Czechoslovakia. (See Martin Cure's comment below).

They also appeared on the BBC's Welsh Programme, Southern and East Anglia TV .

They made demos for Parlophone although they were eventually signed to Philips by bandleader Cyril Stapleton.

From Pete Chambers Godiva Rocked to a Backbeat

" The Sabres became part of Sir Robert Fossett's Circus in 1962 and toured with it for 7 months. We did a 15 minute set to drag the older kids in and it was during the Jelly Baby craze that Ringo of the Beatles had initiated. So kids would throw tons of Jelly Babies at us! Our set was immediately followed by the Elephants and their keeper hated us because the elephants didn;t like walking on Jelly babies and it was hard to get them to perform. It was an interesting 7 months, we learned a lot of things as we were part of the circus we all had to muck in and help put the tents up. Though I don;t think we ever fitted in but it was all good press for us. Martin Cure."

Frank Jones was their manager and father of Guitarist / songwriter Steve Jones. He created some fantastic press stories, much of it unfounded. Like the one about us travelling 8000 miles to tour Eastern Europe and being the second British band to play Czechoslovakia.None of it was true but it was great press and got us noticed!"

Drummer Jim Pryal adds " The Sabres appeared on 'ATV today' and changed their name to 'The Flying Machine' shortly after. Paul Wilkinson, the drummer went to Cardinal Wiseman Secondary Boys school as I did. He was a good drummer. "


Sept 2013 - Pete Clemons wrote this article for the Coventry Telegraph

Big Top fun for The Sabres.
Pete Clemons 

SEVERAL years before The Rolling Stones had the idea of hiring a big top from Sir Robert Fossett to film their own rock 'n' roll extravaganza, the theme of a beat band touring with a circus had already been achieved by The Sabres, a beat band from Coventry who existed between late 1962 and 1965.

The roots of The Sabres can actually be traced all the way back to about 1960 when Watery Lane resident Frank Jones formed 'Watery Lane Youth Club' in an attempt to stimulate and create activities for son Steve and his friends, rather than see them hang around on street corners.

The club was based in the garage of Frank's house and initially attracted a handful of youngsters who spent two nights a week in a secure environment playing board games and being provided with soft drinks and crisps.

Another function of the Watery Lane Youth Club was to act as a safe haven for any youngsters who for whatever reason had drunk too much and needed a place to sober up before going home to their parents.

In essence, the whole place allowed kids to let off some steam and to generally have a good time.

However, word spread about the club it suddenly found itself attracting youngsters from as far as Keresley Village, the Dales in Holbrooks and even Exhall. So popular it became that some 18 months after the club formed the membership was in excess of 300 and had to be relocated to new premises in New Road just off Bennetts Road.

As a youngster Steve Jones' real passion was in music and in particular rock 'n' roll. And like a lot of teenagers back then in the late 1950s and early 1960s he was eager to own a guitar and form a band. And through the club, that his father had formed, that dream became a reality as Watery Lane Music Group grew from within the youth club with several of its members showing an early interest. As a result, it was that music group which was responsible for the birth of The Sabres.

The initial line-up of The Sabres was Steve Jones (guitar), Kevin Smith (guitar), Graham Amos (bass), Paul Wilkinson (drums) and "Q" Martin Cure (vocals). Terry Wyatt joined the band slightly later when he left The Zodiacs and was a straight replacement for Kevin Smith.

Frank Jones went on to become the band's manager and booking agent and The Sabres soon secured residencies at venues like The General Wolfe and the New Inn at Longford and built up a considerable following. And during August 1963 they headlined a gig in the Lower Precinct which, due to a huge downpour, was dubbed as 'Rockin' in the Rain'. Despite the horrible conditions the crowd that gathered was tremendous.

Apart from gigs gained in Coventry The Sabres were now securing work in places like Morecombe, Skegness, Mablethorpe, Stoke-on-Trent, the 2I's coffee bar in London and on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

Steve Jones recalls the Isle of Sheppey gig well as it seemed as though the whole of the youth club had followed the band down there in a convoy from Coventry. And don't forget these journeys would take six or seven hours to complete as these were the days of the trunk road and long before the M1 and other motorway routes had been completed.

January 1964 even saw The Sabres perform at a special 'Coventry Sound' concert held at Coventry Theatre. Although headlined by Brian Poole they featured alongside the likes of The Mighty Avengers, The Mustangs, The Matadors and several other top Coventry bands.

TV work also came the band's way as they appeared on a programme called 'For Teenagers Only' recorded at the Birmingham TV studios.

April 1964 then saw The Sabres embark on the circus tour that kept them on the road for seven continuous months. The tour came about from responding to an advert in 'The Stage' magazine.

Sir Robert Fossett's circus had clocked up 150 years that particular year and to help celebrate the occasion a special tour had been devised. And this particular tour required a beat band to open for the main event and to entertain the teenagers.

The Sabres were judged to have been the best of the 33 bands that had applied for the position by the general manager of the circus Harry Allison. As the band was considered a part of the circus they were also expected to muck in and help put the tents up and muck out the elephants and lions.

The circus began in Wales and toured the whole country from April through to the end of October 1964. The deal was that The Sabres would complete a 15-minute set but as the tour progressed and the band's popularity increased, their performances would run for much longer and in front of audiences of upwards of 3,500.

During its travels the circus picked up considerable TV coverage.

And The Sabres appeared on the BBC's Welsh Programmes well as Southern and East Anglian TV.

The Sabres already had an established fan club prior to the circus tour. It was run by a fan in St Giles Road, Exhall but as the tour progressed so did the membership as it was inundated with letters. At its height the fan club rose to over 4,000 members. Steve Jones' mother also proudly kept a scrapbook packed with clippings and photos of her son's activities.

Such was the success of the tour and the publicity that surrounded it meant that, when they returned home, the band received an official welcome by the then Lord Mayor, Tom Whiteman on November 2, 1964. The Sabres had been advised not to take their instruments as the council house parlours were not big enough. But this advice fell on deaf ears as Graham Amos took his bass guitar along and the Lord Mayor was photographed with it.

Circus manager Harry Allison also confirmed that The Sabres had had a fantastic reception up and down the country and, in an attempt to bolster his and the band's reputation, made up some amazing stories. One in particular was about them travelling 8,000 miles to tour Eastern Europe and being the second British band to play Czechoslovakia which was then behind the iron curtain. Of course none of the stories was true but it made for great publicity.

After the circus tour, the bookings didn't dry up entirely, but the work was not there as it had been beforehand. They did get some gigs at the Boston Hippodrome in the run up to Christmas '64 and there had been talk of a tour to Germany which never materialised. 1965 saw The Sabres back at the New Inn and the Heath Hotel. They had also gained summer season bookings in Morecambe, Lancashire.

However, mid-1965 saw Terry Wyatt return to The Zodiacs. With dates to fulfil the band regrouped as a four-piece and found a new name 'The Peeps'. Suddenly the whole image of the band changed as they went from wearing suits to wearing denims and their next adventure began.

Nowadays Steve Jones, who also spent time with Pinkertons Assorted Colours and The Flying Machine, no longer tours but his passion is still apparent as he is happy joining in on improvised jamming sessions at either his house or at those of his musical friends.

Wyatt also in The Zodiacs. They Became The Peeps in 1965.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

50 Years of the Coventry Folk Scene

After a summer break, Pete Clemons is back with an article on the Coventry Folk Scene.

View some of the sources and artists on this Hobo - Coventry Folk Scene blog.