Tuesday, 1 March 2016


Ooo Eck!

I knew that once I had mentioned some drummers in the last blog, I would open myself up to reminders that I had forgotten to mention someone, I predicted it as such, and wasn't surprised to get various emails in short order.

Here's a couple more that deserve a mention.

The great thing about the early group scene were the names that groups invented for themselves to 'stand out from the crowd'.  For those who had emerged from the post-war days when bombed out buildings were still around in Birmingham, we looked to America for inspiration. Everything they had were things that we could only dream of having or owning.  Kind of glamour by association.  A great dearth of American car groups names abounded, they all started with 'The' then all you had to do was simply attach an american car name and Bobs yer uncle.  Such as The Fleetwoods, Cadillacs, Mustangs.

It was  the days of the Front Man and group format too, ie. Cliff and The Shadows.  Birmingham had Johnny Neal and The Starliners, amongst others, who were quite reasonably named I thought.  It didn't take long though for Brummie humour to emerge with the brilliantly named:
Tommy Hawk and The Hatchets

For some reason, other adopted american words included the political names like The Senators, The Congressmen and The Presidents.


Barry Reeves grew up in Kings Heath, the heartland of Brummie music, close to the great Ritz ballroom that hosted so many incredible acts that he must have seen and been influenced by.   He didn't play with the Starliners or the Hatchets but was the 16 year old drummer for Johnny Whitehouse and The Congressmen.  However, these Congressmen were not to be confused with the Black country band George E. Washington and The Congressmen I don't know which band had been first to set the Precedent, ho ho ho.   I guess there were probably another 10 bands using the name around the West Midlands

I'm afraid I never heard or saw Barry's Congressmen, I have asked all the Brummie knowledgeable people I know and sadly can't find much info on this particular band which is unusual for me.   I was probably a couple of years too young, but from those groups, there would be some individuals to emerge who would go on to make their mark in the world of music and Barry Reeves was in this club.
In his Congressmen days though he worked at Dudley Zoo, in the reptile house to be exact, and would cycle the 12.5 miles there and back every day!
Now we all like a praying mantis or two but this boy had musical ambition and was saving up his pennies to make the move to London. Within a couple of years he had saved enough to buy himself a Ford Popular and when in 1959, an opportunity to go 'pro' raised it's head with an audition to join The Checkmatesprevious backing group of Emile Ford, he waved farewell to the Chameleons and was one of the first to make the trip on the newly opened M1.   
Barry bottom right

Barry got the gig with the Checkmates and soon found himself in Hamburg, Germany playing at The Star and Top Ten clubs, he really was in the snake pit now!!  there were some slithery characters  around.  He also made his first TV appearance there and was told what it was like to be on 'the tele' and how to play to the cameras by The Beatles 
at a regular meeting place for British groups,
in Hamburg The Seamans Mission .

After his baptism of fire in the seedy but exciting haunts of Hamburg, Barry returned to London, to form the very prestigious band, The Ferris Wheel that had a massive reputation as a class act and and made several recordings including a cover of Vanilla Fudges/Supremes classic You Keep Me Hangin' On and the much vaunted LP "Can't Break the Habit", rated as a real classic of the time.  During this time he would visit the trendy haunts of London including, my favourite bar, The Bag O' Nails where he would first meet his future wife. 

Blossom Toes.  Barry left
From playing with the Ferris Wheel Barry took over the drumming spot in the poetically groovy, Psychedelic band Blossom Toes during 68/69.
This band was extremely well known and played all the big gigs with all the names of the day.

However, all things and trends pass and once again, looking for work he headed back out to Germany but this time to join the Les Humphreys singers, a large and successful vocal group formed in Hamburg on the lines of the Edwin Hawkins singers, not exactly rock n' roll, or the trippy music of his previous band but you gotta pay the bills and it came in very useful for Barry as Les Humphreys taught him to read music during his time with the group.  

Now back in Germany he was making drumming waves and was luckily recommended to band leader James Last by Last's bassist.  Now James Last might not be Rock n Roll but there aren't many bigger names in the world of music and the thought of playing in the company of so many great musicians must have been daunting.  Barry joined the band in 1970 as the percussionist and after 9 years filled the drummers spot.  In 1979, by chance, the band was joined in Japan by the girl he had first met at The Bag O Nails, the musically meticulous and stylish Madeline Bell. 

Barry and Madeleine
They rekindled their friendship, he fell, she fell, and they soon became a couple. They both left the James Last orchestra in 85 to pursue Madeline's cabaret career with Barry as her drummer/musical director and toured extensively, they married in 1988.  Barry unfortunately broke his arm in 2001 which prevented him drumming any longer but continued as manger for Madeline and the band.

Madeline said " Barry and I used to love talking about our early days and he took me to Dudley Zoo and the Lickey Hills, he also told me that the daily bike ride to Dudley Zoo and back was the reason he never exceeded 9 stone". 

Sadly, Barry passed away in February 2010, so although this small accolade from me is a little on the late side, it is never too late to highlight someone who surely and deservedly ranks amongst the best of all those great Brummie Drummers of the past.   

Many thanks to old friend Ken Reeves, who discovered he was related to Barry and contacted me about this great missing piece of Brummie music history. Many, many thanks to Madeline Bell for supplying some of her photos and memories, February isn't a good month for her for obvious reasons but for me learning about Barry was a nice journey of discovery.  I'm sure there's some guy at the Elephant House at Dudley Zoo saying "Im? Arr he wuz always tappin things so we poot im in with the Crickets"......

Once upon a time in Northfield, 1965 to be specific, a couple of 15 year old teenagers both with musical ambition formed a friendship and then both joined local band The Couriers at the same time when two members retired to get married and other things.  One of those new band members was guitarist Tony Russell and the other, drummer Paul Hancox.  A name change for the band was in order too and they became Shingles and they, like hundreds of other Birmingham bands played at all the various haunts and venues around the area for a year or two. As usual, members join and leave, as with any other group, one of those who passed through the ranks of Shingles was the great Brenda Bosworth.

Shingles eventually broke up and Paul quickly found himself another band to join but quickly
Paul Hancox Centre
got head-hunted to join the Manchester band The Mindbenders.  They recorded a cover version of The Boxtops "The Letter" which made a low entry in the UK charts at 43 with the original version scooting up the charts to the No 1 spot. 

Bad release timing I guess?

This was the straw that broke the camels back and the bassist left the band leaving Eric Stewart as the only original member.  
He and Paul relocated to Birmingham, stole Jimmy O'Neil from The Uglys and recruited songsmith Graham Gouldman with a vision of moving away from the Pop culture and going heavy.

I was somewhat bemused then, to hear the Mindbenders next and final single recording "Uncle Joe the Ice Cream Man", something that would have been more suitable for Hermans Hermits.   It was the end of the road for the band and Stewart called it a day and returned to Manchester to form Hotlegs.   

The Mindbenders, l-r Jimmy O'Neil, Paul Hancox, Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart

Paul found himself bandless but only for a short while.  Stan Webb had dissolved the Chicken Shack line up and had decided to move to a 3 piece line up and, like the Benders, go a bit heavier.    Paul was the ideal drummer to carry this off.   The band recorded an LP "Imagination Lady" in 1972 and hit the road.     
Chicken Shack l-r  Paul Hancox, Stan Webb, John Glascock
It is pertinent to add at this point that when Stan was looking for a heavy drummer Paul had been recommended to him by fellow Brummie  and shed builder John Bonham.

Stan left the band some time later citing musical differences but continued on with Paul for another LP.

Paul then went on to drum for a short while with Mungo Jerry in 75.

Today Paul lives in Bury but I have been informed that he is going to do a gig in Birmingham at The Roadhouse, Stirchley on Apr 15 along with Melvin Hancox plus bassist so if you are an old friend of Pauls or if you are into the heavy scene this will be just the gig for you.

Well we lost the great Pete Oliver way back in 2010 and there had been ideas made about doing a gig for him shortly after.  Well at last it has been announced for the night of Sunday 17 April at Knowle British Legion, entrance by ticket only, 10 pounds. The gig has been organised by courtesy of Pete's family who have come together to get some of Pete's old bands reformed for the night.   Sadly, owing to other commitments I won't be able to go myself but Pete pops into my thoughts on a regular basis so I shall be there in spirit.

I have it on good authority that there are only a 
few tickets left so buy NOW!!
Click on the Link Below for more info and tickets.

It has been recently announced that Jeff Lynne and his version of ELO,
will be filling what has become known as the 'legends slot' on Sunday Afternoon
at the Glastonbury Festival.   That should mean he'll have time for a nice cup of Ovaltine and an early night.    

"Take me back when there was no money"....yeah OK.

Well I think that's the drummers covered now!  
Next month we're crossing the pond to bring you more Brummies Abroad.

Take Care of the one you Love


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