Tamworth Bands - History 1960-1990

Jim Twigg

Jim Twigg, drummer with The Three Spirits (a top Tamworth band of 1962-63) here relives those exciting days and gives a great incite into what it was like for a new band in the early 1960s.

The Three Spirits

The Three Spirits - Pete Vickery (rhythm guitar and vocals), Barry Crowe (bass guitar), Jim Twigg (drums)
The Three Spirits - Pete Vickery (rhythm guitar and vocals), Barry Crowe (bass guitar), Jim Twigg (drums)
Photograph courtesy: Tamworth Herald

At the end of 1961, early 1962, a friend of mine was playing drums with some other mates at the Youth Club in Albert Road and after a while got fed up with it and asked me if I would like to buy his drums and have a go.  Well, as he was keeping his drums at my house and he only wanted £5 for them, I said yes.  Off I go round to the Youth Club and start making a noise with some of the guys there.  For a period of time there were people dropping in and out, but we did put a few numbers together and played on the Youth Club stage regularly as payment for letting us practice there.  Eventually Pete (Vickery) and Barry (Crowe)  turned up, we were impressed with Pete as he had a 15 Watt Vox, very posh in those days, and along with a singer called Bob Ballard (later of The Blackouts - Ed.) we became a stable band.  We called ourselves 'Danny Coral and The Surfriders,' can you believe it! 

One night, when we were practising, a guy turns up and asks us if we would like to go round to the 'Semms' and do a spot as one of the bands had failed to turn up.  Well, for us it was like being asked to play at Wembley Arena and panic set in.  The guy said he would pay us £5 and we only needed to bring a snare drum and our guitars as we could use the other bands kit.  So off we went and it was a good experience, we enjoyed it and so it appeared did everyone else.  This encouraged us to get out and do some more gigs, which we did.

As I said, at the end of '62 Vince Baker turns up and we start getting our gigs from him.  At the end of '62 he arranges for us to play at The Matrix Hall in Coventry, which I later found out was Matrix Engineering's works canteen.  Anyway, we had heard that it was a large venue, probably the biggest we had played at, so we thought we had better go and have a look to see if we could fill it with sound.  We had heard there was a gig on so off we go.  We were walking up to the door and there was a sign over the top saying "Just returned from Germany "The Beatles."" (17th November 1962 - Ed.)   We thought 'what a great name,' so in we go.  The hall was pretty large with a proper stage, lighting and curtains and we thought it would be OK.  There was a 'Cliff Richards and The Shadows' type band on who were OK, but we didn't know if it was the Beatles.  The band finished their set and then a mighty fight breaks out, being sensitive chaps we kept well out of the road and the bouncers finally sorted it out, well it sorted itself out, the bouncers just stopped it spreading to innocent bystanders.  We were just deciding whether to leave or not when there was then an almighty "clank" from behind the curtains.  We all looked at each other as if to say 'what the hell was that.'  Of course it was 'The Beatles' and they simply blew the place apart.  After the set we went backstage to have a chat and find out where they came from and who was their agent as we thought Vince should definitely book them as they were the next big thing.  And the rest is history, I think they appeared at Tamworth in early '63. (February 1st 1963 – Ed.)

The Beatles so impressed us that we decided to change our set and throw out all of the pop stuff and concentrate on the blues and R 'n' B stuff.  Around about this time Bob Ballard left and as there were only three of us we changed our name to 'The Three Spirits.'  For the next two years we played up and down the country at venues organised for us by Vince.  We went as far north as West Hartlepool and Middlesboro, we also did Manchester, Liverpool and most places in the Midlands.  We only did dance halls, night clubs, colleges and universities as we thought our type of music would not go down well in pubs and clubs.

Click here to go back to the top of the page.Bands We Supported
I’m struggling to remember all of the bands we played with but here goes in no particular order:

Top of the list:

  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Hollies
  • Freddie and the Dreamers
  • Alexis Corner's Blues Band
  • The Big Three
  • The Bachelors
  • Kenny Ball
  • Acker Bilk
  • The Searchers
  • Big Dee Erwin (American blues singer)
  • Tommy Bruce and The Bruisers
  • Screaming Lord Sutch

There must be more but I'm struggling.

The Three Spirits continued, up to the end of 1964. Anyway, Barry left to do some promoting with Vince and I think there were some musical differences, not unusual in a band.  Dave Mason and Bob Broadhurst then joined us from another local band, whose name I cannot remember (Johnny Silver and the Cossacks – Ed.).  Obviously it was now a four-piece band and we changed our name to 'The Spirits'.  This band continued until early/middle 1966 when we finally broke up.  This band was a great band but we didn't have Vince Baker behind us and I can't remember why we parted company.  Obviously without Vince it was much more difficult to get gigs and things slowly tailed off.

Click here to go back to the top of the page.The Vince Baker Story
Vince Baker's job during the summer was as entertainment manager for a Butlins Holiday Camp, and in the winter I think he picked up whatever jobs he could.

In the autumn/winter of 1962 he decided he would like to become a promoter, looking after bands and putting gigs on, etc.  Vince was an acquaintance of my parents and through them contacted me with a deal.  Vince had enough capital to hire the Assembly Rooms for three gigs but not enough money to pay for bands.  The deal was that we do three gigs for him, at the Assembly Rooms, for nothing.  From this he would hopefully make enough money to start an agency.  If it all worked out he would find us as much work as we wanted and never charge us any fees.  As we were not making much at that time we agreed to do it, we had nothing to lose.  The gigs were successful and Vince started his agency and true to his word never charged us any promoter fees.

If my memory serves me right he had an office above one of the shops in Market Street somewhere near the Town Hall.

Vince was also a heavyweight boxer and was a finalist in the British Amateur Boxing Association Heavyweight Contest, unfortunately he lost, but was still a fine achievement - I guess it was in 1960/61.  Due to his boxing prowess Vince and his brothers were very useful to have around in case of trouble.

From the beginning of 1965 I think Vince's business started to tail off and eventually finished.

I lost touch with Vince a long time ago but I did hear that he had died, and I guess that was about ten years ago.

Actually VInce is alive and well and living in Australia. I've heard from his nephew and we will hopefully have an interview with Vince on these very pages in the near future. Watch this space! Ed.

The Rolling Stones Gig
Click here to go back to the top of the page.For some reason we never appeared on any of the promotion material for the Rolling Stones gig although we were booked for it and did appear. In fact I ended up using Charlie Watts drum kit. We were playing our first set when the casting holding my rack tom snapped. The drum rolled across the stage and disappeared into the crowd. The next thing I know is Charlie Watts walking onto the stage carrying his drum kit, he picks mine up, moves it out of the road and replaces it with his. "You can use mine", he said and disappears off stage carrying my drum kit. So I ended up using his kit all night, I suppose it reduced the kit movement!

Click here to go back to the top of the page.60s Kit
In early 1962 Pete (Vickery)  was still playing through his 15 Watt Vox and Barry (Crowe) had a 25 Watt Selmer for his Bass, The only trouble was that Barry kept blowing the speaker apart.  Barry then had the idea that we should see if someone could build us something.  The problem was that in the early sixties no one produced an amplifier specifically for the bass guitar, you just plugged your bass into an ordinary amplifier.

In Tamworth, next to the EMEB building in Church Street was a radio and television shop owned by a Mr. Thorneycroft and we knew he built amplifiers.  In we go and ask him if he could build us an amplifier for a bass guitar, to say he was interested is a slight understatement, he attacked the problem with great gusto.  We eventually ended up with a monster 150 Watt valve amplifier.  Just the amplifier itself weighed so much that it took two of us to carry it!  Wharfedale had just started producing loudspeakers specifically for guitars and had a 15" bass guitar speaker.  We purchased two of these and manufactured a cabinet to a Wharfedale design.  For 1962 it was an awesome piece of kit, the largest amplifier you could buy in those days was a 50 Watt Selmer.

The bass amp was so good we decided to let Mr Thorneycroft build all our kit.  He built us a 30 Watt per channel PA system that was so versatile that in the event of any failure we could run all of the band through it.  He modified Pete's Vox keeping the preamplifier but modifying the tone control to give more range.  He then designed and manufactured a 30 Watt valve amplifier to replace the 15 Watt. All of this was housed in a single cabinet with two Rola G12 loudspeakers.

Click here to go back to the top of the page.Stage Gear
Our outfits were quite trendy for those days we wore black leather sleeveless jackets with a Beatle collar, blue Levi's, a pale blue shirt with a pin through collar, a black knitted tie and black cuban heeled boots.  That's what we are wearing in the picture above. The leather jackets were made to our design by Cecil Gee in Birmingham.  They were made of glove leather with a gold lining.  I still have mine somewhere!

The Atmosphere was 'electric'!!
Click here to go back to the top of the page.It was a cold winters day. We were booked to appear at a club in Liverpool, so we pack the van and off we go. The weather was terrible, cold, damp and foggy, and as a consequence we arrived at the venue late and the gig had already started. The club was literally steaming and as we started unloading the kit and taking it inside everything was immediately covered in condensation. We were booked to do two forty-five minute slots and decided to do our first slot immediately after the band that was currently on-stage. Changeover time came and we started swapping the kit over and everything seemed alright, we tried the instruments and the PA and it all worked perfectly.

RIPE LANGUAGE

The stage curtains opened and off we went into our first number. Everything was going down a bomb and we finished the number with the crowd cheering and shouting for more. It was at this point that Pete walks up to the microphone with his left hand on his guitar strings, he grabs the mic stand with his right hand and the next thing we know he's on his back thrashing about with the mic stand across his body. For a few seconds Barry and myself are stunned and bemused, it seemed like minutes, Barry then starts to pull out all of the mains plugs and I start doing the same. Eventually Pete stops thrashing about and is by now virtually unconscious. The crowd seems to think this is part of the act and are shouting and cheering. We carry Pete off the stage and into the dressing room where we put him in a chair. It is at this point that the club manager comes in congratulating us on a great act and would we please go back on stage as the crowd are going wild. The language gets a bit ripe as we point to Pete, who is still out of it and a few shades whiter than white. We tell the manager that we are not going back on stage, that his electrics are faulty, and he had better pay us as we are leaving immediately. Realising the situation is serious and not wanting any trouble he agrees to our demands.

By this time Pete has started to come round and we insist on taking him to hospital but he is having none of it. Three girls then appear at the door asking if Pete is alright and seeing his condition and being in no fit state to travel invite us to stay at one of their parents homes for the night, which we did. The girls parents were really nice and looked after us very well and we left for home the next morning.

DIY ELECTRICS

The conclusion to this story is that it appears someone had blown the main fuses in the afternoon and had a go at rewiring the system and got some wires crossed resulting in one or some of the earths becoming live. Unfortunately Pete decided to complete this faulty wiring with his two hands. On that night Pete was very lucky to get away with his life, if it hadn't been for Barry's quick action it would have been extremely serious. In the 60's there were no plug-in earth leakage trips or RCB's, you had to rely on the wiring being correct. Today, wherever we go, we check out the venues electrical system with a portable tester and use trips on all the kit. Most bands have heard stories of this sort of thing happening but have never actually seen it happen. Believe me it does happen, and it's not being ‘wimpy’ to protect yourselves and your kit with trips.

Jim Twigg

Jim still lives near Tamworth and is currently in a band called "Crack the Rust", a four piece blues and R 'n' B band.

The Gallery
Click here to go back to the top of the page.A selection of photographs kindly provided by Barry Crowe.

The Three Spirits

The Three Spirits

The Three Spirits

The Three Spirits

Images courtesy of Barry Crowe

 


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