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.

Classix line up on TV talent show
By Pete Clemons

FOR those with extended memories you will remember that Opportunity Knocks was a television talent show hosted by Hughie Green that ran from the mid 1950s through till 1978.

The show was revived again in the 1980s by, first, Bob Monkhouse, and then Les Dawson. The winning acts on Opportunity Knocks were decided by way of a public vote. And this was done by completing a post card, in your own handwriting, and posting it off. Quite often the winners would then go on to appear again on the next show.

To give an idea as to how the acts had done the studio audience reaction to each act was measured by a 'clap-o-meter', however this only an indicator and did not count towards the final result.

The programme was normally recorded the Friday before transmission, so votes had to be in by Thursday in order for them to be manually counted before the following day's show where the results were read out. With technology moving on, telephone voting was introduced for the revived series to make that process quicker. So in effect, and as you have probably guessed by now, the whole show was an archaic version of Britain's Got Talent or The X-Factor.

The Mad Classix was another of Coventry's popular beat groups who existed from the early to mid 1960s. And August 1964 saw them appear on Hughie Green's version of Opportunity Knocks. As far as I can ascertain they were the first Coventry group ever to appear on a television programme that was relayed nationwide throughout the country.

The band had been put forward for the show by promoter Vince Martin. And for their appearance the band travelled second class, with Vince, up to Manchester where they stayed overnight. The Classix rehearsed and recorded the performance the day before it went out at ATV studios in the city.

The full line-up of the band at the time of their TV appearance was Ron Smith (lead guitar), John Davies (bass), Dave Norris (rhythm guitar), Brian Fowdrey (tenor sax), Gerry O'Brian (drums) and Johnny Wells (vocals).

The group's manager, Phillip Newton, revealed prior to the showing that the six band members would be appearing on the television each with a silver streak dyed in their hair. The streaks were apparently added by a hairdressing salon in Bell Green and were given the thumbs-up at the make-up department of the TV studios when the band went along there for the screen test.

Apparently this gimmick also proved to be popular with the queues of fans that would form outside the New Inn at Longford at the time as they began to mimic the band who had a regular Thursday night residency at the venue. For the Opportunity Knocks show The Mad Classix performed a song called 'Keep on Looking' which had been written by lead guitarist, Ron Smith and, according to the local press at the time, its release as a single depended on how it was received on the show.

The Classix did not win but performed really well and far from disgraced themselves. They finished a very creditable runner-up to body builder Tony Holland who had been on a roll on the show with several wins under his belt for his routine that included flexing his muscles to the sound of the 'Wheels Cha Cha' music.

However, Hughie Green must have seen something in the band because, during the proceedings, he made them an offer. It was along the lines of, he would make them stars, if they all shaved their heads and re-named themselves The Eggheads.

It was apparently a genuine offer but after some serious consideration the band politely turned the chance down.

The Mad Classix had plenty of history before, and after, the Opportunity Knocks experience though. They first formed during early 1962 and were known as The Tornadoes but after the Joe Meek band of a similar name sold more than five million copies of the track 'Telstar' they had to change name. They then went on the road simply known as The Classics. The earliest example of the word 'Mad' being added to their name, that I can trace, was toward the end of 1963 for a gig at the Coventry Flying Club. 

The first six months of 1964 saw The Mad Classix tour Germany where they teamed up with German band The Rattles who were incredibly popular in their native country as well as gaining chart success here in the UK with a song called 'The Witch'.

Guitarist Dave Norris was not available for this tour so the band had recruited Beverley Jones. Life on the road was uncomfortable, yet enjoyable at the same time, but Beverley yearned for home.

1964 also saw The Classix not only appearing in Coventry but, due to their exposure on TV, also saw them take on a five-date tour of Wales and a nine-date tour of Scotland.

1965 would prove to be just as busy for The Classix. And July of that year saw them expand by adding ex-Chad's band member and sax player, Johnny Williams, to the line-up.

The same year also saw the band go back to Germany for a further tour. It was while there for that particular tour where they eventually recorded a seven-inch single which would be released in December of that year.

The songs included on that single were its A side 'My Hunny Bunny with 'It's Never Too Late' selected for the B side. Both compositions were credited to Brian Fowdrey and released on the Storz record label. As far as I understand this record was only ever released in Germany. However, the advent of the CD has made rare release more accessible. And, as such, 'My Hunny Bunny' can be nowadays be found on two releases 'Tommyknockers Beat Club volume 9 (Reelin and a Rockin till the break of day' and '60er Rare Beat - volume 2'. Ron Smith left in April 1966 and was replaced by Jeff Lynne for a short while and then later in the year and after having all their equipment stolen the band finally split toward the end of 1966.

For more detailed and revealing information on the band, as well as being a tremendous read in general, I can thoroughly recommend bass player, John Davies' recently released book 'The Mad Classix - A History'. It is available to purchase now from the 2 Tone Centre on Ball Hill.
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.

Fifty Years of Folk!
by Pete Clemons.

WHEN you look back at Coventry and Warwickshire music history from the early 1960s it soon becomes apparent that folk clubs have been an important and plentiful part of it.

I completed a very quick straw poll of all the various folk clubs to have existed within Coventry and Warwickshire along with the different venues that had supported them during this period and the total easily reached 150. And this did not begin to include the various 'open mics', festivals, singarounds and acoustic sessions. One of the pioneers of the folk scene was Barry Skinner who sadly passed away in October 2012. Barry was one of the first professional folk singers, not only in Coventry, but also in England. He began his involvement in folk music in 1962 and opened the Coventry Folk Club with his group The Troubadours.

As far as I can research it, Coventry Folk Club opened at The Binley Oak in March 1962, although it seems one existed as far back as 1961 at the Umbrella Club. Either way, this means that we have just passed an impressive 50 years of performing a music style, enjoyed by a cross section of music lovers, and one that continues to flourish within the city.

The evidence for this dating comes from a letter Colin Armstrong, himself a stalwart of the Coventry music scene, recently showed me.

The letter dates from 1967 and is signed by Barry Skinner, and another of the founding members, Dave Coburn. It states, in the logo on the letter heading, when the club was formed. The letter then goes on to inform members that the club was moving from its then current home of The Craven Arms to the new one of The Queens Inn in Primrose Hill Street.

So every Saturday night for at least 18 months the Coventry Folk Club was the only one of its kind in existence. The next club of importance to spring up was the Tavern Folk Club in 1964. Founded by Ben Arnold, the Tavern Club held regular Sunday night sessions at The Swanswell Tavern.

Other notable clubs from those early years include the Balladeer Folk Club (known slightly later as The White Lion Folk Club) held at The White Lion in the Leofric Hotel, The City Arms Folk Club and The Taverners Folk Club in Nuneaton which held a regular club night on a Tuesday evening.

These clubs were not just confined to attracting the popular local folk musicians but they very quickly established themselves nationally. Visiting artists such as Shirley Collins, Sandy Denny, The Strawberry Hill Boys (later known simply as The Strawbs) and the Ian Campbell Folk Group all being guests at these clubs.

Toward the end of the 1960s the Coventry and Warwickshire folk scene was growing at a tremendous pace and it would be just too difficult to list all the clubs that sprang up around this time but one that I feel needs to be given a special mention would be the City Arms Folk Club in Earlsdon. This club first sprang up in 1966 and was initially hosted by Paddy Roberts.

However, by 1967 it was in the hands of popular musicians Rob Armstrong and Rod Felton who successfully ran this popular club for a good number of years. Rob and Rod would then go onto form the equally popular New Modern Idiot Grunt Band.

The 1970s continued where the 1960s left off and the city venues such as The Rude Bear Folk Club were now attracting musicians the calibre of rag time player Dave Bennett, guitarist and singer songwriter John Shanahan and the bluesy folk of Mick Stuart. There was also, by now, a rich mix of traditional folk, floor singers and comedy. The Rude Bear was another of Rod Felton's ventures but this time he was partnered by Dave Coburn and was one of those clubs that, for whatever reason, tended to change venue on a regular basis.

By now Rob Armstrong along with wife Pip had joined forces with Colin Armstrong to form Music Box who recorded the wonderful 'Songs of Sunshine' album. Another phenomenon was also happening. And this was that folk bands were going more and more electric as popularised, I guess, by Fairport Convention of whom current Coventry resident Dave Swarbrick was once a leading member. And Warwickshire was fortunate to have two of the most popular of these bands by way of Dando Shaft and Fresh Maggots, both of whom produced a series of critically acclaimed and wonderful albums. Another aspect to the folk scene in Coventry is the dancing. The Peeping Tom Ceilidhs still take place almost every month at the Massey Ferguson Social Club as they have done since 1976. Peeping Tom are a veteran folk-rock Ceilidh band and regarded as one of the finest in the country. 

The early 1980s saw one of the more popular folk clubs in Coventry up sticks and move away to the surrounding countryside. The Wurzel Bush club had initially started at The Fletch in 1973 and attracted musicians like Noel Murphy, Hamish Imlach, Diz Disley, Martin Wyndham Reed, Magna Carta, Victoria Wood and Jasper Carrott and then moved out to Brinklow. The Wurzel Bush club eventually folded in 2007 after an incredible run of 35 years if you trace the club back to its roots.

The 1980s also saw the Kenilworth Folk Club set up the highly acclaimed and very popular Sunday night at the Burnt Post, a venue that some years later saw Coventry folk club moved to towards the end of the 1990s. A variety of diverse guests that included Sneaks Noise, Mick Cullen and Richard Digance performed there. Back in town regular club nights were continuing at The Biggin Hall on the Binley Road. These were organised by the Henley College club, and hosted by Folklore, and this was another club who tended to move on a regular basis and can claim the New Phoenix at the end of the 1970s and Alderman Callow school as past homes.

The onset of the 1990s saw the return of another popular out of town venue in the shape of The Denbigh Arms Folk Club, Monks Kirby.

The pub had originally been the home of The Gaels club back in 1968 and also where the origins of the Wurzel Bush were formed back in 1972.

Another long lasting club that was formed in its current format during the 1990s was the Bedworth Folk club. Today they continue to meet on the second Wednesday of every month and have residencies at the Old Black Bank and Bedworth Rugby club. Folk on the Fosse also held many successful sessions at various venues such as the Eathorpe Park Hotel and the Woodhouse and included guests such as The Oddsods, Meet on the Ledge, Kevin Dempsey and Gilly Darbey.

Of course you cannot talk about folk music in these parts without the name Pete Willow cropping up into conversation. For over 40 years he has been active as a soloist, band member, club organiser, promoter and journalist. In fact I have shamelessly based the title of this piece after an article Pete wrote many years ago when folk music in Coventry and Warwickshire was a mere 15 years old back in 1977.

And finally, to bring the story right up to date, the activities of folk clubs since the turn of the century need to be mentioned. Nowadays the venues may not be as plentiful but the regular nights are still as popular. The Tump Folk club, for example, began in life in 2002 in Brinklow before settling in its current home at The Humber. 

Long established clubs, The Styvechale and Warwick folk clubs continue to hold regular singarounds and regular guests. Not so much tradi-tional folk, but more acoustic sessions are regularly held at the Maudsley for their Ditch the TV events, the Royal Oak in Kenilworth foLK PIONEER: The late Barry Skinner for 'Kristy Gallacher presents' events and also at Taylor Johns House.

The local festivals are also very much part of the local scene. Held in July, Warwick Folk Festival has been going since 1979 while Bedworth Folk Festival is even older. It started in 1977 and takes place on the last weekend of November. Both attract big international names and entice thousands of visitors to the respective towns.

All in all a remarkable 50 years that has produced many clubs, many memories and many memorable moments. Thanks to all involved!

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