Tuesday, November 5, 2013


This time around Pete Clemons delves back the very early 70's and catches up with a band called Barnabus, who have recently reformed, for the Coventry Telegraph.

Back on the Same Barnabus.
Pete Clemons 

THE last few years have seen a low key but welcome return to the live music scene of local rock band Barnabus.

Despite a hiatus of almost 40 years this three-piece retain the exact same line-up that once graced venues such as The Walsgrave and The Plough on the London Road.

Barnabus, originally formed in Leamington, were and still are John Storer on lead guitar, Keith Hancock on bass guitar and Tony Cox on drums. They initially came together in 1970 when John and Keith, who had recently split from covers group The Jay Bee Kay Pees aka The JBKP's, joined forces with Tony who himself had just left The Rockin' Chair Blues Band.

The Rockin' Chair Blues Band who last performed during the late 1960s, were themselves a popular act back then, and regularly seen at venues such as the Drumbeat Club at the Globe Hotel in Warwick. They were also on the bill for the 1969 weekend music marathon staged at the Umbrella Club in Queen Victoria Road alongside bands such as The Chris Jones Aggression, Wandering John, Dando Shaft and many others. The Rockin' Chair Blues Band lineup was completed by Martin Johnson on bass, lead guitarist Stuart 'Digger' Davies and Jim Gault on rhythm guitar and they played a mix original material and covers by the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

When Barnabus started out with live dates there was confusion over the band's name. It seems as though the band's booking agents, for whatever reason, tried to get the band to change their name to Barnabas Legge and actually heavily advertised them as such. But despite the confusion the band members insisted they remained as Barnabus. Initially Barnabus played rock and blues covers. But the band soon began to develop a guitar led heavy rock style that was quite prevalent at the time. They also wrote some very good original material and began to build up their own repertoire. This was done with the help of a young lyricist and poet named Les Bates whose work was once described as being articulate, and, a lot better than a lot of 'name' bands around at the time.

During 1971 Barnabus recorded an album at Monty Bird's studios, in Snitterfield near Stratford upon Avon (aka Bird Sound Studios). These studios later became better known locally as Tank Studios. Monty himself was joined by Bob Young, a local entrepreneur who had formed the Sunshine Music agency and also ran a folk club/venue. He then formed an outfit named 'A Band Called George' (Bell label recording artistes). Tank Studios also ran their own independent record label and produced several releases in the mid to late seventies.

Then, in 1972, the band had a major breakthrough. Barnabus went on to win the Midlands heat of the Melody Maker Rock & Folk contest. The judges at the competition included Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi, both of Black Sabbath fame. This success led to the band furthering their growing reputation resulting in them breaking away from the gigging circuit around Coventry and Warwickshire. Barnabus also gained several notable support slots for bands such as Man, Trapeze and the Edgar Broughton Band. This led to the band gaining further work as far away as London. They even supported Hawkwind at the Coventry Locarno in Coventry during April 1972. But, despite being so close to making it into the big league, it was all short lived and Barnabus split up a year or so later during 1973.

Wind forward 35 years to 2008 and Tony, who had become disillusioned with the whole music scene, suddenly rediscovered his old mojo again. And this meant the purchase of a new drum kit after selling his old one when Barnabus disbanded.

However, the need to play live again had already returned to John Storer and Keith Hancock who, during 2002, had already reformed The Jay Bee Kay Pees. And incredibly during 2007 the original line-up of the band that also included guitarist Bob Chimes and drummer Pat Branagan performed together for the first time in almost 40 years. The Jay Bee Kay Pees (JBKP's) continue today to be very popular around Leamington and district performing at many pub gigs and charity functions.

Tony resumed drumming duties for a Bob Dylan tribute band called The Bob Phillips Dylan Rhythm Band. This band also included Keith Hancock on bass. So the natural progression then was for Tony, John and Keith to reform Barnabus. This happened in 2009 and if you search youtube you will find some really excellent clips from that reunion gig at the Kingswood Tavern in Nuneaton.

Tony's main musical outlet nowadays though is blues rock band The Hoochmongers where he was reacquainted with old college friend and Rockin' Chair Blues Band bass player Martin Johnson. The Hoochmongers are essentially a rock band who play a varied blues based set. A typical set ranges from classic rock to blues standards to rock 'n' roll. They have a well maintained website and the gigs page is kept right up to date.

Barnabus have also been featured on a recent compilation release. 'Casting The Runes - The Recorded British Abyss 1969-1976' contains several Barnabus tracks such as Apocalypse and Resolute. This release though is on vinyl only and not on CD. It has been compiled from reel to reel tapes and acetates and was limited to 200 copies.

The LP includes some incredibly obscure and hard to find heavy rock tracks and, incidentally, also included is a track by another local outfit 'The Edgar Broughton Band'.

A more recent Barnabus reunion took place at The Zephyr Lounge' adjacent to The Assembly in Spencer Street, Leamington, during August 2013 with hopefully more gigs in the future.

Drums - Tony Cox
Lyricist - Les Bates
bass - Keith Hancock
Guitar - John Storer

"The rock band Barnabus formed in 1970, in Leamington Spa, when pop covers band the Jay Bee Kay Pees split. Lead guitarist John Storer and bass guitarist Keith Hancock, enrolled drummer Tony Cox from the also recently defunct Rockin' Chair Blues Band. Barnabus started out playing covers from bands such as Black Sabbath, Trapeze, Deep Purple, to name but a few, but before long they progressed to writing their own numbers, with the help of a young lyricist/poet called Les Bates. They played all over the local area and in London. They were the support act for several "name" bands of the time - Man, Edgar Broughton, Trapeze. They even supported Hawkwind at the Coventry Locarno, and in 1971 recorded an album at Monty Bird's studios, in Snitterfield near Stratford Upon Avon. Barnabus won the Midlands heat of the Melody Maker Rock & Folk contest, in 1972, where the judges were Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi. The band eventually split up a year later, but reformed for a few charity gigs in 2009. All the members now play in other bands, but still play the occasional gig together. The band were promoted by their booking agents as Barnabas Legge although the band stuck with Barnabus themselves."

Some Text from the Hobo A to Z of Coventry bands

"Band Name Tony Cox has cleared up the confusion about the name of the band. The band's name was Barnabus but
" Barnabas (sic) Legge was the name our booking agents tried to persuade us to use, unsuccessfully!" Says Tony.
On the Broadgate Gnome site and originally on here there was an entry for both bands names as it wasn't clear if they were two bands with similar names. The spelling of the name was different too. Thanks for that clarification Tony.

Tony Cox explained
" Keith, John & I formed the band in 1970 following the demise of our previous bands, The JBKP's(K&J) and The Rockin' Chair Blues Band (me).

We started out as a rock covers band but soon started writing original material, aided by lyricist Les Bates. We had a bit of success, as well as the Melody Maker thing, we supported a several "Name" bands of the time, such as Man, The Edgar Broughton Band, Trapeze and Hawkwind.
The band split up in 1973 but got together again 3 years ago to play a few reunion gigs, mainly for charity."

Leamington based rock outfit. Played the Walsgrave 31st Dec 1970 and Tuesday 26th Jan 1971 (Silk Disco). Won Melody Maker 'National Folk/Rock Contest' early 1972. In 1970, as can be seen from the above advert in Broadgate Gnome, they played Henry's Blues House at the Mercers Arms. Just a few of their many gigs.

Tony Cox adds " The demand for 60s/70s original prog rock is not great and so we don't gig that often!! However John & Keith play in a 60s "pop" band called the JKPs and are always busy in the Leamington area. Keith and I also play in a Bob Dylan tribute band called The Bob Phillips Dylan Rhythm Band which gigs occasionally, but Dylan music is also a bit of a niche market. So to keep busy, I also play with a blues rock outfit called Hoochmongers, and our bass player is the very same Martin Johnson from The Rocking Chair BB days!! so we've gone full circle"

An early version of America by Barnabus

More tracks on Youtube by Barnabus - click through
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC1h4fuTc10 Apoclypse 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwDrScZ-W5E Resolute 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ra1Qb_20WI War Drags 1971

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BSirixSFig Don't Cry for me Lady

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvdeDkX3P5o Perdita

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saCKDzG7fJg Clasped Hands

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jA8JuwCcc4 Gas Rise

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvPPfC1OEoY Mortal Flight

And you know, there maybe even more - versions from 1971 and recently on youtube.

Look up the Hoochmongers and the individual muscians too.

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