Saturday, 1 February 2014


Howdoo Brummies, Brummies Abroad, Muso's and Boozo's,

When writing about the Brumbeat music days of Birmingham - the 60's in reality, I like to think that I am honest and I say what I believe as one of the hundreds, if not thousands of musicians who were a part of the music scene, whilst, at the same time, acknowledging all the Brummies who went to all those great Birmingham venues as members of the audience and whose enthusiasm for the vibrant, ever changing music scene of those days, made playing such a thrill.   

One of the more historic Brummie gigs was of course The RITZ,
Kings Heath.  In 2012, a blue plaque was attached to the wall of the old building rightly denoting it's existence and importance in the world of music.   The ceremony commemorating the event was attended, almost exclusively, by a ton of old muso's, (see photo) mainly from those Birmingham 60's bands and I wrote an article about the event. 
Click below: 
Ritz ceremony with many 60's musos and a couple of UB40

If you haven't read the article, I said I was disappointed with the way that the 60's local Brummie musicians who had been the mainstay of this venue had been all but ignored.  Two years on and I have recently received this e mail from the promoters of the Kings Heath Walk of Fame and, as I'd had my say, I thought it only right to give everyone out there a chance to see the reply.  I have removed some advertising content from the text,

To Bulls Head Bob

"Sadly your comments regarding the Musical Heritage of Kings Heath have only recently come to our attention.  Had we seen them sooner we would have been in touch immediately to ask for your guidance.

Much of what you say is true.

Bob Prew and myself, as residents of Kings Heath, have taken it upon ourselves to try our best to protect, archive,display and generally cherish the musical heritage of Kings Heath.  The rebirth of interest in York Road's (Kings Heath), music scene came about over a cup of coffee in the Kitchen Garden Cafe, one of the many independent businesses in York Road, when talking to other local independent shop and business owners, who still thrive on the talent of the 60's/70's performers.

After some research we quickly realised that our investigations had opened a 'Pandoras Box' of interest, and we were soon in contact with, and able to reunite The Modernaires.   It was a sweet and emotional occurrence, which will no doubt be repeated later this year when their pavement plaque (star 9 goes down.  (I bet you didn't know that the drummer still has his original kit stored up in his loft.).

With the help of performers, musicians, fans and visitors to The Ritz  we are gathering an archive to be proud of, involving all of the folk that you mentioned in your 'rant'.

We have used the passage of time to involve as many of the early local bands and performers in our Lazy Sunday Afternoon productions. 

We are supporting local and up and coming artists (30+ in our 6 gigs to date and all full houses I might add).

We agree that the local authority has missed the boat, but this was in no way ever going to be a commercial venture.   Our ticket prices are kept very low and the majority of performers come just for the pleasure of playing/singing.

Sadly, as you are no doubt aware, the original Ritz building has been fire damaged and at present we are awaiting information with regard to it's future, although we have been assured that the City of Birmingham Civic Trust Musical Heritage Plaque No 1, will be returned to the frontage of the new-build in some way.

We have a programme of gigs for 2014 forming as we speak and we know that once again, those who played, danced and romanced in The Ritz all those years ago will pack Fletchers Bar on York Road, directly opposite the fire damaged site of the original building, to reminisce and enjoy the music.

We were 'stung' somewhat, reading your article, perhaps you would like to see our stars before calling them 'cheap'.   We have worked very hard to re-generate the excitement of those wonderful days.

We decided early on, that only folk who lived, worked or had played in Kings Heath would go down as 'Stars'. 

We don't make money, we don't want to make money, we cover our costs...just, and we are happy that the local authority are not involved.

We will be really pleased to hear your comments and advice regarding other

performers who have played at The Ritz and who you feel should be honoured with a 'Star' provided, that is, you don't mind our contact being somewhat out of date.

We look forward to hearing from you.
Ken Whittaker
Bob Prew


Thanks Ken and Bob for your email and I acknowledge your efforts in trying to 're-create the old days'.         

I am slightly peeved that you thought that the first article was a 'rant'.  

The word 'rant' implies a bitter complaint about something trivial whereas, I and obviously all those musicians who had attended The Ritz ceremony consider it important to acknowledge Birmingham's own musical history, the greatest era of creativity and Rock music the world has ever seen, the Sixties, the era of BRUMBEAT, the era of live music, when every pub and dance hall in Birmingham had bands playing there practically every night.  That will never happen again but it was a Golden Time for those that did live through it all at 'The Ritz '.

I thought a plaque affixed to The Ritz would have been sufficient, with maybe another one beneath that, listing who had played there, both famous chart acts and, more importantly, those great Brummie bands from the City and the West Midlands area.  

However, as Ken and Bob point out, the local businesses do indeed thrive on the talent of the 60's/70's so it is to their betterment to have Stars spread down the street to increase the footfall of various shop frontages so of course it's a commercial venture, not an act of generosity.   There are entrance charges but the visitors who pay to get in generally perform for the pleasure of it.  I don't have any problem with any of that, hard work and initiative should be rewarded. Ken and Bob take the time to promote these events and appear to be supporting local talent so that's a positive.  

Below is Ken and Bobs 'Walk of Fame' web page, I was hoping to read about the involvement of some of the old bands as mentioned in the email but couldn't find anything.  Nonetheless, this is the place for you to get more information if you want it.
Thanks very much also for their offer, for me to suggest some deserving names for 'star' consideration.  I'm afraid I'm going to pass on that.  I do suggest however, that readers of this Blog make contact with Ken and Bob on their website to suggest some names of the old great Brummie bands for their consideration.  I imagine that every one of Ma Reagans bands will think they deserve to have a star but that would not be true in the sense of being one of Brums finest.   
Beware of 'THE STROLLERS' effect.

Occasional visits by Ken and Bob to the original and the best Birmingham 60's music
Website... www.Brumbeat.Net might be a good place to start when looking for those who have some merit for their consideration.

Lastly, I have to say that I did make contact offering my help both individually and through a third party who is a regular blog visitor, as soon as I had heard about the proposed plaque to The Ritz?   

All of the above aside, I wish Kings Heath and Ken and Bob well and to say that it is somewhere for those who remember The Ritz to arrange a get together and swap some war stories or for members of old bands to arrange a re-union if you want to. 


Spookily, The Ritz caught fire on the same night as a concert, across the road occurred, marking the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles having played there.

copyright.  Birmingham Mail.
What a sad sight, I can remember standing in front of that stage on the left of the picture as an audience member and also standing on it as a musician several times. So my perspective is from both viewpoints.   My older Sisters and Brother had been regulars there in the 50's so The Ritz had been a familial thing for us and so many others like us.  

I had seen a lot of brilliant chart bands there but The Moody Blues triumphal return to play in their home town with 'GO NOW' at No 1 in the charts, was a memorable night to have seen one of the best Brummie R&B groups in the country in action.  Denny Laine spitting out the lyrics, a great R&B driving sound  It was brutal...The real Moody Blues

I'VE BEEN STUNG!  Lastly, as I explained to Bob and Ken, I did not say their star was 'cheap' I said the Walk of Fame was  'a cheaper version' which has nothing to do with the quality of the product they provide (The Star).   There is already a Walk of Fame on Broad Street, which gets most of the publicity and attention in Birmingham so this one at Kings Heath along with other areas of Brum that have this thing in their own planning stages like Erdington, will have a lesser impact than that in the City Centre. Here's a picture of Toyah's star, it's outside a Sports shop so perhaps you might want to jog down there, stand on it, then buy yourself some new trainers whilst you are there.   


From iconic places to iconic faces.  The Ritz was certainly an iconic place for us Brummies and some of Films most iconic characters, from the epic film the Wizard of Oz, were the Munchkins who were a real part of that films magic, no CGI then, just real people.   We were treated to some great acting performances from one of the 'featured' group of Munchkins.

in the centre of the above picture is the last surviving munchkin,
Jerry Maren (centre) who is now 93 years old.   

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say to Jerry, "God Bless you mate, I loved those little characters you portrayed and your performance enriched my life and convinced me that magic was real.  I Still think that way too!".

How sad to say goodbye to the fabulous Pete Seeger who died earlier this week.   His incredible songs graced our lives through his enormously long career.   

I remember him appearing on Sunday Night at The London Palladium singing songs like 'Little Boxes', no more than lovable little ditties that the British people truly warmed to in those days.   However Pete Seeger was so much more than a writer of light hearted, comedic songs, he was a true fighter against injustice and hypocrisy.  His song 'Turn Turn Turn' was one of the most recorded by other artists of the 60's, the greatest success being the version by The Byrds.
If you have never taken the time to hear him perhaps he will be worth your investigation too! 

Whats the difference between a drummer and a Savings Bond?
 - One will mature and earn money.

Take Care.

Copyright:  Bullsheadbob

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