Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vince Martin and the Vampires

Pete Clemons with memories from Vince Martin of the Vampires, Coventry 1950's / early 60's for the Coventry Telegraph.

Fangs for the Fangs for the music Vince!
Pete Clemons
OVER the years much has been written about the swinging 60s scene in Coventry. It was a very special time and, I personally, think it is very important to document as much about it as possible for future generations to understand and maybe even learn from. The same of course can be said for the 1950s but, with the passing of time, it is that bit more difficult to gain first-hand information from that period.

For people who grew up during that era it might appear as though the 1950s scene has all but been forgotten about. As such it is great to be able to have the odd conversation with people like Reg Holliday and probe them for anecdotes from then.

So what was life like back then for a teenager growing up through that era and who had a keen interest on the music at that time? A recent conversation between Reg, and some of his old friends from that era, began to bring back a lot of memories.

He was reminded that upon leaving school he was able to walk straight into a reasonably paid job as a trimmer at the Humber car factory. Back then he would spend Saturday mornings in Jill Hanson's record shop listening to, and buying, the latest chart hits.

The Sunday night concerts at the Hippodrome, during the mid-1950s, always attracted a capacity audience and provided a good mixture of pop stars, jazz bands and large orchestras such as Billy Cotton, Count Basie, etc. The concerts would finish at around 9pm and the younger generation would then pour out of the theatre and onto the 'Bunny Run' which was the then way of meeting members of the opposite sex. 

The 'Bunny Run' circuit took in Trinity Street, Ironmonger Row, The Burges and Corporation Street. The lads, it seemed, would stroll around this square in a clockwise direction while the girls would walk anticlockwise. This square included a couple of coffee bars and a few late night cafes. When I say 'late night' you need to understand that closing times in those days were 10.30pm. Each one of these establishments had a juke box and at least one pin ball table and became meeting places for those walking around on the 'Bunny Run'.

Reg's own record collection included the likes of Pat Boone, Guy Mitchell, Dean Martin, Johnny Ray, Nat King Cole and Frankie Laine. However, all those records would find themselves placed in the attic to make way for the skiffle sounds of Lonnie Donegan, Chas McDevit and The Vipers that began to appear during the second half of the mid 1950s. So influenced, was Reg, by this music that he set about creating his own music related evening. During March 1957 he decided to organise a charity show and had over 100 applications from teenagers who wanted to take part.

Seventy were selected and three shows were given at the Cheylesmore Community Centre. Two of those shows were for the Coventry and District Spastics Society and one for the Canine Fund.

About a year later Reg formed a small group to hold charity dances. He became the vocalist and the others were guitarists Robin Bailey (whose skiffle group had taken part in those earlier shows), Geoff Baker, Phil Packham and drummer Ronnie Cooke.

This group played for two all-night marathons in aid of funds for local charities and things went from strength to strength as they were invited to play for dances at Transport House, youth clubs, working mens' clubs and many other venues. The result of a challenge by another group at The Rialto Casino gave the group a half hour slot on Tuesdays and Fridays for two and a half months. 

This course of events was actually the embryonic stage for the formation of The Vampires who came together during 1959. Reg Holliday also changed his name to Vince Martin just as the band had formed. There was no particular reason why it should be Vince Martin. It just seemed to fit with the image of The Vampires at that time.

The band's initial line-up was Vince Martin, Geoff Baker, Phil Pack-Packham and Barry Bernard. However, depending on who you talk to that initial line-up may or may not have included Keith Parsons. 

What is for sure though is that by the end of 1960 The Vampires had the more stable line-up of Vince, Robin Bailey, and Barry Bernard on bass, guitarist John Buggins, drummer Keith Parsons and a second vocalist John Hounslow.

Their advanced bookings had spread to Warwick, Rugby and Leicester. In addition, the band never refused a request to play for charity if they were requested too.

So busy were The Vampires that they enlisted the services of Keith Parsons' elder brother, Bryan, as assistant manager. The band's progress was also shown by way of matching suits and upgrades to equipment such as microphones, guitars and drums.

Where the group failed though was in the area of amplification and this was highlighted when they failed a BBC audition for that very reason during 1960. Despite that setback they went ahead and purchased a van for the purposes of a holiday tour which was planned for the summer of 1961. During the lifetime of the band other local musicians performed for The Vampires. Johnny Washington, Alan Palmer and later on during 1963 Murray Winters and Sherlee Scott all passed through the band's ranks. The last recorded date I have for a Vampires gig was during 1965.

Vince, as he was more widely known by now, actually left The Vampires during the early 1960s. He became more interested in, and felt he could make a greater impact, with the promoting of concerts. As a result he firstly created Vince Martin Beat Groups. Then later on, during the 1962/63 period, he also started up an entertainment agency called the Big Three Enterprise and based them in Whitefriars Street. Big Three handled bookings for artists like Cilla Black, Lulu and The Hollies. 

Apparently Vince was always on the go and secured a lot of work and opportunities for a lot of young up and coming musicians in the Coventry and beyond. In fact he also organised tours for bands across the UK, Wales, and Scotland and even in Europe. Big Three also promoted for venues like the Embassy Club in Skegness.

At the turn of 1962/63 Big Three and VM rock bands joined forces and then, toward the end of 1964, they in turn teamed up with Mick Tiernan and Jack Hardy at Friars Promotions who had also been based in Whitefriars Street.

Between then this new venture would become known as Friars Promotions and Agencies. At about the same time they left their respective offices in Whitefriars Street and moved to new premises on the corner of Albany Road and Broomfield Road in Earlsdon.

Music trends may have been changing toward the end of the 1960s but Vince moved along with them. He still worked for Friars who, by now were promoting nationally known bands around the Midlands, but this was combined with working at venues like The Walsgrave Pub where he became the house DJ for several years from around 1967. This would continue through to the early 1970s where he eventually moved on to The Mercers Arms and became that venue's DJ in 1971.

Vince Martin remained in the music business till 1972. As everyone by now knew him as Vince he remained as such when he began his next venture in the holiday business. For that though, he combined his stage name and the surname he was born with and, thus, became known as Vince Holliday.

Says Vince, "Other than those that were part of the rock 'n' roll heydays I don't think that anyone can truly imagine just how big the Coventry and district music scene was. Some of the more popular bands were, at times, coping with two engagements per night / seven nights per week. As office manager for Friars Promotions I was responsible for the majority of their gigs and being a DJ I also shared the stage with these guys on a regular basis. 

"In those days we were just a "In those days we were just a bunch of young people having a good time and never did we imagine that some 50 years down the line we would have tribute events and people writing about us."

Today, and in his late 70s, Vince may not be as active as he was but still organises and gets involved with a lot of charity work for causes such as 'The Myton Hospice Appeal.' .' He also keeps a keen eye and looks after the interests of The Phoenix Rock 'n' Roll Band who he arranges gigs for as well as posts out occasional newsletters.

And throughout the vast majority of Vince's journey he has been accompanied by his wife Sue who really deserves special mention and praise as she has been at his side for over 50 years.

circa 1959-65 - Sources Broadgate Gnome /Rex Brough

Beat group

Line up: Vince Martin (vocals), Johnny Washington (vocals), Graham Sutton (bass), Alan Palmer(drums), Johnny Buggins, Robin Bailey, Barry Bernard.

Keith Parsons also drummed at one point.

Managed by Vince Martin of JRD Entertainments in Whitefriars Street.

From Pete Clemons in Coventry Telegraph

"The VAMPIRES formed during 1959 and existed till 1965. The band’s initial line up was Vince Martin, Geoff Baker, Phil Packham and Barry Bernard. However, depending on who you talk to, that initial line up also included Keith Parsons.

Several line-up changes occurred during the bands existence although, yet again, I have several differing lists of who was with them and at what stage they were in.

Although they differ, the names remain constant and Johnny Washington, Johnny Buggins, Robin Bailey, Alan Palmer and Ronnie Cooke all passed through the band’s ranks.

The venues they played included: the Bantam pub, Hen Lane; The Milano coffee bar, Radford Road, the Transport and General Workers Union HQ and the Police Ballroom. They also had a residency at the Lutterworth Working Men’s Club for 12-18 months on a Wednesday evening. http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/your-nostalgia-keresley-rock-fanatic-3036773


Vince Martin (Aka Vince Holliday)

From Rex Brough Memories from Modie Albrighton

"The singer in the Vampires was Vince Holliday who changed his name to Vince Martin. In

every band there is one that stands out and Vince was the one. Showman, salesman, front man and always had time to help other bands. Later he started an Entertainment Agency called the Big Three Enterprise in Whitefriars street bookings for people like Cilla Black, Lulu, and the Hollies. He also handled other bands like the Sorrows, Matadors, and the Tears. He was always on the go. He became the manager of the Peppermint Kreem"

Pete Chambers from the Coventry Telegraph - It's back to the 60s when The Vampires ruled the music scene.
AS THE former frontman of "Coventry's first rock 'n roll band," Vince Martin and the Vampires, I was pleased to be reminded in a recent Telegraph article that the group actually appeared at The Hawthorn Tree, Tile Hill, way back on January 6, 1963.

The band was originally formed in 1959 to take part in a fundraising concert for the Baginton Fields School for special needs children.

We proved so popular that we eventually went on to appear at many of the country's major venues, including Blackpool Tower, various holiday parks and the famous Belle Vue Ballroom with Jimmy Saville.

The career spanned a period of 15 years until finally forced to disband in 1973 due to the majority of the popular venues converting to bingo and the disco craze.

Many of the band's previous followers will no doubt be surprised to hear that all the original members of The Vampires are still alive and kicking.

We occasionally meet up at local jam sessions and the annual "Call Up The Groups" reunion and despite being OAPs, some of us are still involved in the music scene. 

VINCE HOLLIDAY Jon Washington is a popular recording artist currently living in Las Vegas, Phil Packham is currently a member of Coventry's first supergroup "Rock-It" and Allan Palmer has been in Commanding Officer of the Coventry Corps of Drums for many years.

As for myself, I have been booking manager for the popular "Phoenix Rock 'n Roll Showband" for the past two years and enjoying every minute of it.

May I, on behalf of all the many former local musicians from the Rock 'n Roll heyday, thank both writers Peter Chambers and Peter Clemons for their interest and contributions in respect of keeping the city's music history alive.

It's greatly appreciated and brings back a lot of brilliant memories for numerous Telegraph readers.

Vince Holliday (aka Vince Martin) William and Mary Cottages, Earlsdon Avenue South, Styvechale.


And from Pete Clemons in Coventry Telegraph - an article on Johnny Washington 

Vince of Vince Martin and the Vampires on the Radio

The first broadcast from 2015 on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. Vince talks about his memories of playing in Coventry's first Rock n Roll band and his role in Friars Promotions that put some many bands, artists and discos into Coventry's M & B pubs.

This is Vince Martin of the Vampires talking on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire about the band and Friars Promotions - March 2015

There more of Vince's broadcasts on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire to be found here 

Vince started Friars Promotions in Coventry - Read about it here

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