Firstly I have to say "thanks very much ar' kid"
for the the many emails and a couple of nice comments I received regarding the July blog - Brummies Abroad. Makes an old git like me feel it's worth the effort.
However, that old adage "You can't please all of the people all of the time" is true at all times, so naturally there was a person who disagreed about a part of that blog, one line of it in fact, a geographical statement thrown out by me in what could be regarded as uncaring manner, so in the spirit of openness or Glasnost as them Russians say I herewith print the email in full.
There was no "blandness" about Wolverhampton or surrounding Staffordshire during the sixties. Speaking from experience, I know cos' I was there.
In Jun 67 myself and three other fellow Brummies culled from the D'Fenders, The Capitals and The Modernaires, joined forces and willingly signed with Wolverhampton's Astra-Allen Agency who had a rosta of 26 groups on their books all averaging around 30 well paid and promptly paid quality gigs per month.
We'd all had it with sleazy 'spiv' Brum agents and promoters (except of course Paula Bailey - bless her!!).
We did all do occasional cabaret, shared the billing with national and international artists and enjoyed it because the audience actually listened so, you had to be good! The money was good and paid on the nail.
The aforementioned 26 groups could prop up the bar with anyone I'd care to think of in Brum.
I have withheld the readers name but its worth sharing. I didn't mention Staffordshire or any other location outside of Wolverhampton in fairness?
I too was signed to Astra agency for a couple of years from 64 to 66, during the height of the beat group phase and they were a great agency indeed. I and my band mates of the day played all of their class venues in the Potteries and in Wolverhampton itself, The Civic Hall, The Woolpack and also played at the Ship and Rainbow, small but a good gig, playing loud Rhythm and Blues to screaming girls.
During this time I lived in Brum. During the birth of our group we, like any other band of the day, would play anywhere and do anything to get on a stage but after that it was a matter of choice, either play the music I wanted to play, or play the top ten for guaranteed pocket money but with little self reward.
TWO FAT LADIES
There were many, many working men's clubs in the area that had bands on between bouts of bingo and the preferred style of music for these clubs was light pop interspersed with some comedy element.
There was a ready market for this type of group so it's no surprise that groups from that area specialised in that type of act.
Really I am a tad ambivalent about the whole cabaret thing, horses for courses, but certainly not this horse.
Sure there were sleazy agents in Brum. It is the country's second largest city but there were and still are sleazy agents a plenty, there are still bland bands too. Anyway, if you are interested in Wolverhampton and its environs during the 60's they do have their own site called In Between Times, or is it In Between Bingo??
THE STRANGE CASE OF
GEOFF TURTONS HEAD
The Rockin Berries were a BIG band during the 60's with chart hits and touring with the likes of Roy Orbison. Before they gained national fame though they were a Birmingham band to be admired and looked up to if you were a little sproglet like me trying to climb the slippery ladder of music success. Firstly they were a great group and had a really polished act and Geoffs plaintive vocal tones could melt the heart of even a Brummie spiv agent.
With the advent of their massive No 3 chart hit "He's in Town", a brilliant song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King you would think that they would have acted a little more superior to the other Brummie groups as they had reached those massive heights of success but the truth is completely opposite, they continued to be nice guys and none more so than Geoff Turton who I spent some happy moments with up to the end of the 60's.
I think we all remember the "Paul McCartney is Dead and has been replaced with a look alike" nonsense that flew around after the release of Abbey Road with folk dissecting and interpreting anything they could about the LP cover, talking about him not wearing shoes etc etc.
However, not many people know that this type of LP cover controversy had occurred before, in 1964, when the Rockin' Berries first gained chart success. I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of outrageous conspiracy theories but I thought it best for you to see the photographic 'evidence' and dare to make up your own mind.
It had been reported at the Pie Stand, in the early hours of one vodka soaked morning, that there had been some friction in the band about Geoff taking the lead vocal for their biggest hit and reports were rife that Chuck Botfield had said that he had a big head that needed to be cut down to size. Everyone was talking about it in between mouth fulls of meat and potato pie.
The "head replacement theory" iconography came hot on the heels of their Thank Your Lucky Stars TV show when the producer had placed Geoff apart from the others.
He was then a good 8 inches taller than Chuck even without false perspective influences. Later on the sharp eyed audience had also noticed that Chuck was pointing his guitar at Geoff's head and, furthermore there was a thick red line passing through Geoffs neck, that had to be pertinent.
It came as a confirmatory shock when the following album cover appeared to confirm the head transplant controversy, appeared in the press with Geoff's head now balanced precariously on Chuck Botfields shoulder, AND shorter than he by 4 inches with his eyes rolled back in his head.
The Rockin Berries were suddenly nowhere to be seen and hadn't been at the pie stand for a while?
Now, the exhibit 2 photo was the real clincher that ratcheted up the rumour mill to fever pitch. It can be clearly seen that Geoff is actually holding his head away from his body and the others appear to be laughing? How spooky is that??
|How is he keeping that head in place?|
The whole of the Brummie band network were aghast three weeks later when the Rockin Berries came back off tour and the press announced that Geoff suddenly 'left' the band? Then a photo appeared some time later under the nom de plume of Jefferson but looked nothing like he did before and now spelled his name with a 'J' and it was only a head-shot....
I bumped into this Jefferson character at The Cedar Club and he kept
saying "Hello Bob, how you doing?" and then started assuring me that he was really Geoff Turton but with sideburns. He said the whole headless thing had been a big mix up in the press when a reporter had said he'd seen him "Legless and off his head" and one muso had spoken to another etc
I spent the whole of the night though sneaking peaks at his neck to see if there were any join marks.
Geoff or Jeff or both of them can be found doing the rounds of the theatres alongside Jasper Carrott and some other Brummies in a night of Stand Up and Rock. So if you should go and see him check out his neck for marks, you never know?
He still has one of the finest and individual voices in pop history and I'm glad you're still around Jeff or Geoff.
OK Guys me and Mrs Bob are packing our cases for our imminent holidays.
So until next month, be nice to each other.
I must stop taking these pills?