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David St John presents:
CALL UP THE GROUPS 18
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accompanies any images herein. Thank you and enjoy!
*As with every new webpage, I shall be adding more information as it trickles
in, so please come on back to check it again in the near future. I also add
other stuff to previous webpages to slot in with existing profiles but often
find it difficult to keep track due to the volume of material sent in from all
over the world! If anyone has sent me info but not yet published, then let me
know or resend it*
I never dreamt how my original one page website, which was uploaded many
years ago, would have grown into quite a collection of different webpages that
span my main profile as a professional entertainer. From its humble beginning,
this site covers a large part of my life as lead singer with Southampton based
pop groups from 1964-1972 until I launched my solo comedy career, which is still going
strong! As the internet has evolved, this has resulted in many searches that
have landed on my various webpages, and seen people get in touch with their own
memories on either side of the spotlight. Many have kindly sent me their own
stories plus the rare images that take us all back to the best years of our
lives, so I have been able to share them across the world - so much better than
being stored in boxes up in many a loft! You may also know that the early webpages contained information on several Hampshire music-makers, and inspired
me to contact the Concorde Club Southampton which was celebrating its 50th year,
from its early days as a jazz club in the back room of the old Bassett Hotel in
Burgess Road at the top of the Common. 1957 saw the birth of this well
established jazz club, thanks to Cole Mathieson who saw this tiny venue develop
through the late Fifties, before adding its r&b profile as the new 60s bands
came along, with many future big names playing for a few quid. You can read up on the club by looking
at my Site Map page or just searching the net for its own website, but I do have
links from my site. I had a chat with Cole back in 2007, but we didn't
have time to organise my idea of a 'Reunion Night' in which former bands,
singers and DJs could get together for a 50th anniversary celebration show, as well as raising
some funds for the Concorde 'Pantomime' Fund. This in-house charity set-up has
raised nearly £100,000 for local kids charities over many years, and much
reported in the local press. Thanks to my new 'Groups' webpages, I was in
touch with several musicians etc and I suggested that we could set up a show for
2008. We managed it, and were all amazed at the massive interest and
response that saw the Concorde packed out for one of the best nights you could
imagine. Just take a look at the Concorde 2008 webpage to read all about
it, then you may know that the success of it all led to subsequent years and is
now an established annual event. Check out the 2008-2016 shows and we
already have a strong 2017 line-up for Friday 10th November - a new dedicated
Concorde 2017 webpage will be uploaded in the very near future, so please check
back on my Site Map to read all about, then maybe book your places!
This latest page will be extended over the near future as I have had more e-mails
plus extra info on various local groups, and I need to check it all out, then
edit stuff where needed. Southampton and the surrounding area has produced
a lot of talent, although we never quite emulated the success of the main cities
that spawned a wealth of new talent, such as Liverpool, London, Birmingham etc.
It was the 'Beat Boom' that saw new UK groups get back to the rock n roll days,
following a few stagnant years when smooth 'safe' American artistes ruled the
Hit Parade, such as Bobby Vee & co, although they produced some good music in
between the old-fashioned output that lingered on from the Fifties 'crooners'
The Beatles tore up the rule book, and inspired many more teenagers (including
myself) to get a group together. The Rolling Stones and other r&b outfits
led us all down another path, followed by a wealth of great talent and
songwriters, all of whom put England on the world map again - as well as us
leading the way with fashion and much more. The British Invasion saw us Brits
repackaging the American music and taking it across the Atlantic - the
rest is history!
If you ask any local Hampshire people to name any 'big names' in UK chart history, then I
doubt if many could come up with that many. However, those of us who are
connected with the music scene would be able to enlighten the others, and
mention a few names such as The Brook Brothers ('Warpaint' etc) and Heinz Burt
(ex Tornados and solo success) back in the early Sixties. Manfred Mann had
Portsmouth/Southampton roots and were an early house band at the old
Concorde Club before hitting the charts a little later. Although they were
from across the border in neighbouring Wiltshire, we 'adopted' a very talented
new pop group who were managed by Avenue Artistes of Southampton. They mixed
laughs with great music and were known as Dave Dee and the Bostons, before that
well known name change plus some superb hits by top songwriters. An
Andover group also exploded onto the scene as Reg Presley and the Troggs
combined saucy songs with innuendo that ruffled a few feathers in those
conservative days! Nobody really hit the heights after the mid Sixties,
and in recent years, the likes of Howard Jones, Craig David and Will Champion (Coldplay
drummer) have boosted the city's image to some degree. I'd also like to
mention one of the UK's finest drummers, who I first saw as he practised in his
bedroom, whilst playing along to Sandy Nelson 45s etc! Roger Pope, who
played with top R&B band The Soul Agents, who had some recordigng success as
well as being the first ever backing group for a young Rod Stewart in the mid
60s! Roger played on many hit sessions for other bands, as well as joining
Elton John's early backing group and playing on several hit singles and albums.
Later successes including a spell in the USA with Hall & Oates amongst others.
You will see references to this great local talent who sadly passed away a few
years ago, but still very much remembered by many of us - there is even a
Facebook page on him!
However- back in
the early Seventies, another massive local talent came along in the shape of a
singer/songwriter/musician whose first hits were channelled through a set
of of childrens' favourite characters. He later composed million-selling
hits as well as producing many other big names, but started out as yet another
young teenager, with dreams of stardom by joining his first ever 'beat' group.
This rare photo and a brief account is reproduced with his kind permission,
taken from his own website - I'll add it below these wonderful memories and in
his own words as I hope you haven't scrolled down in haste! Best look at
this image - look at the keyboards, then see if you can work out his identity?
Fascinating article and maybe a few clues from this piece? I suggest you
read this taster line by line and avoid jumping a few spaces, which will finally
land on the answer!
Phase 4 circa 1964.
Note the classic Linear Concord valve amp (mesh grill) plus basic equipment of
Brilliant story and I'm sure there are more memories over the Sixties, but this
young lad was aiming for higher things as he developed his songwriting and
production talents that saw him being signed up by the Liberty label - later
became head of A&R at such a young age. The early Seventies saw him take a
major gamble, as a married 23 year old, with children as he invested some
£11,000 (big money at that time) for an orchestral rock album that didn't take
off. However, 'M' was asked to write the theme music for a new
children's TV series in 1974 and offered a very basic one-off fee of £200, which
he cleverly declined but requested the character rights instead.
Eight hit singles and four gold albums were the result of this astute
bargaining, as the series went global, thus sealing 'M's status as a
songwriter/businessman, although many (jealous) critics sneered at the output
via this route to stardom. Any ideas yet?
Here come the big clues- M wrote and produced 'All Around My Hat' for Steeleye
Span in 1975 plus several instrumental works that some might recall.
Soon after, 'M' produced 'Lilac Wine' for Elkie Brooks, then followed by his
most successful compositon that was written for the highly acclaimed animated
movie of 'Watership Down'. Guess you know by now? A beautiful sad,
but moving song that portrayed part of the moving screenplay and featuring
one of the finest singers in the world, who was formerly one half of a
multi-million selling double act that were major part of the Sixties. Art
Garfunkel and 'Bright Eyes' What a combination! The early
Eighties saw 'M' and his family take off on his yacht for a couple of years, as
they sailed around much of the world, before returning to the UK to carry on
with more great work. Three more top ten hits came along : 'Please Don't
Fall In Love' (Cliff Richard) 'A Winter's Tale' (David Essex) and 'I Feel Like
Buddy Holly' (Alvin Stardust). 'M' co-wrote the main themed for 'Phantom Of The
Opera' in conjunction with Andrew Lloyd Webber. In recent years, this amazing
talent has never stopped working, as well as discovering the amazing Katie Melua,
and writing two massive hits with 'The Closest Thing To Crazy' and 'Nine Million
Bicycles in Beijing'.
MIKE BATT !
RVO (Royal Victorian Order), after it was presented to Mike Batt by the
Prince of Wales, during a Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on February
Check out the official website- loads of interesting info, news and much more:
Images above- courtesy Mike Batt
Around the same time (1964) as a very young Mike Batt joined his first -
and only - local group, I had also landed my first stint as lead vocal/harmonica
with The Abdo-Men, although I had been singing at teen dances and local
clubs from 1958. Check out my Biography page via the Site Map page to read
more, and there were loads of new bands popping up all over the area. We
had very basic equipment - some of it being home made, but we managed to knock
out the hits of the day as well as earning a few quid but having the time of our
lives! We travelled to gigs in a a variety of transport - usually family
cars, buses or in some unroadworthy jalopy of a van! It also heightened our
profile with the girls, so what more could a young lad wish for? I was
raised in Woolston, by the banks of the River Itchen, which flows down from its
source near Winchester- so a tenuous link with Mike Batt and The Brook Brothers
who lived there for a while. I passed my '11 Plus' exam in
1960, which led me to attending Itchen Grammar School in the Merry Oak area-
just a couple of miles away by bus, foot or bicycle. 1964 also saw a few
local lads attempt to fulfil their own dreams of stardom in the new exciting pop
music world. Late November 2016 - I received this e-mail which highlighted
a short- but enjoyable couple of years in the fickle world of the Sixties scene
that involved a bunch of pals get together and form a band. Ian Stovold was
referring to my various references to the Royal Pier Pavilion Ballroom by the
Docks, and much of the information/photos were sent to me by the well known DJ
Johnny Dymond - the no. 1 Jock of the Southampton Sixties scene.
I saw your piece
after researching Johnny Dymond in a nostalgic moment. It was interesting to
read. I wanted to add that the group I was a member of (mainly 15 year
olds) played there on a Saturday afternoon session. We shared the gig with
Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich, they mimed to "No Time", we played live
(Mick borrowed my drumsticks!).This would have been 1965. I am attempting to
find any photos that may have been taken there.
The group was formed at Merry Oak School and was called The Opaques
Members were :-
Graham Cheater vocals and lead guitar
Rick Mills rhythm guitar
Ken Wheeler vocals and harmonica
Pete Rose base guitar
David Spake rhythm guitar
And myself Ian Stovold drums
We disbanded in
1966, as members went their separate ways.
I would feel very honoured if you include a mention of us, our greatest
claim to fame.
read a little more this is going to start sounding a little incestuous! It
mentions Avenue Artistes' act - Dave Carson. I was an apprentice and
close friend of Dave at BT (Post Office Telephones). Dave's actual name was
Dave Hewlett, (Dave the Rave in his very early times). His early success as
mobile DJ left him little choice but to resign from BT or be sacked, due to
his nocturnal lifestyle. After several years I can remember helping him a
couple of nights a week moving his massive vinyl record boxes and heavy
equipment, that would have been 1975. Sadly he died too young, at the time I
think he was a director at Avenue Artistes. I also knew his wife, Kathy, but
they had separated. The last time I saw him was around 1994.
I'm trying to get
some more detail regarding the Opaques, Rick Mills, again one of my oldest
friends kept a scrapbook that he submitted as a school project. I have
verified he still has it so I will try and get hold of it to offer any
further details etc.
got hold of the scrapbook, over 50 years old now
- wow! Due to its delicate state It didn't copy or scan with any clarity so
I took pics of each page. To give you a flavour I've attached them all, bear
in mind it was written by a 15 year old! Take any snippets that suit your
blog but to pick out a couple :-
established the link with the Pier. The actual dates we played there were
Saturday afternoons of February 6th, 13th & 20th 1965, the latter being with
memory I recall two young ladies that worked in the cloakrooms, I think
their names were Ruth & Helen, I remember one lived in Union Street, near
what was to become the Southern TV studios, the other lived in a high rise
block near to the pier.
Our only other
real claim to fame was on the 22/23 September '65 we entered a talent
contest on a train in Southampton, featuring Anita Harris.
missing from many of the pics was Ken, more a part time member. I suppose in
today's speak it would be "feat/ft Ken Wheeler." I know Rick bumped into
Graham a couple of years ago, doing something with digital art. David the
youngest has continued his craft in a local group called Work Shy. Well
don't think I can add anymore, certainly some very happy memories.
Ian also sent some old photos (see below), and managed to take pics of the
aforementioned scrapbook via Rick Mills, so I am able to reproduce the pages
below although the book is too fragile to remove any of the individual photos
etc. Not great quality, but giving yet another flavour of the times of our
lives! These marvellous memories will certainly strike many chords of
those of us who were there at the time, and you will notice the setlists that
many new young bands knocked out, as we all inspired by the chart-topping
hitmakers of that time. OK Pop-Pickers....here we go!
The small top advert from the local Echo reads "Guitarist with own tape recorder
needed to work in collaboration with a songwriter - R&B and Pop"
The home-made 'business card' reads "For your youth club or social evening,
dance or party Book The Opaques. Phone Soton 47750 and one of the group will
phone you at your convenience"
Hope you enjoyed this piece of nostalgia as written by a great set of lads who
had a stab at it, before going their separate ways and I am grateful to Ian
Stovold who contacted me, followed by this collection of memories from over
fifty years ago. A great snapshot of the time, and glad to share it on
this webpage. However - the story does not end here............
A few weeks after Ian got in touch - I had another e-mail from one of the
original Opaques, who had no idea that his former bandmate had messaged me on
the same subject! This from Graham Cheater, and you can see that he
was not aware of the coincidence!
looking for a photo of the Mecca Ballroom on Southampton Pier, and found my
way to your website! I was in one of the "Saturday Afternoon Disco" bands!
We were called "The Opaques" from Merry Oak School.
attached a photo, not from the Pier, but just as a reference of the band. I
remember that we shared the dressing room with Dave Dee and the boys once.
As a live band we were amazed, and disillusioned too, to find they mimed
their entire act at the Pier through the house PA, whilst we worked hard
those afternoons, with our small amps and without the help of the PA! I
guess it burst our bubble of "Stardom" but we still played on and enjoyed
ourselves! We were there many times - through 1964 - great memories!
how many - if any - of the band are still playing. I am thankfully still
going/alive, ha ha, here in Spain! You can find me here on:
enjoyed looking around your website and all the memories it invoked! It's
also enabled me to add this to my Bio on my website too!
very much David,
Spencer is my natural birth name and now my stage name, but in those days I
went under my adopted name. Most people still call me Graham having said
I immediately copied this across to Ian, who was amazed to learn of
Graham's whereabouts - you can also catch up with Graham/John at:
Wow what a
spooky coincidence, maybe the band is still telepathic! I am absolutely
gobsmacked ! I had lunch with Rick on Wednesday and we pondered on how we
might track down Graham and Peter and this pops up, I'm absolutely astounded
, also to now find out that Graham is not his real name.
your question yes DDDBM&T did mime on that occasion, something that also
stuck in Graham's mind. I though I also mentioned it on my initial email to
you. I will touch base with Graham,
Graham then replied:
Yes it's fun, contacted another of the band too today and we've just started
to chat on FB! No haven't spoken to these guys since those days!
bass player and Ken the harmonica player, (who finally ended up playing bass
and joined me some years later in a jazz/blues/funk band), I've been in
touch with a few times over the years, but Ian/Rick/and Dave not at all.
Ian response to this new webpage:
Yeah, now that was a surprise about Mike Batt! Read the part too about
Roger Pope etc. His dad Ron was our roadie with the band "Cycle". Our
organist was Tony Good (well known for his extraordinary guitar playing
too!) At one point Tony and I played as a duo called "Twin Head". Me
singing and playing drums, Tony playing organ. One year at the summer
carnival on Hamble Hard. (Must have been around 1972.)
courtesy of Elton John! (Of course he didn't know we had 'borrowed' it,
Roger had organised it with his dad!) We played through a huge WEM Wall of
Sound PA with a 24 channel mixing desk! Ha ha ha, we were only two people!
Elton John's main roadie played blues harmonica with us for several numbers.
What a day! The crowd had never seen anything like it! Of course we two,
only, couldn't help but sound good through all that gear!
again David Cheers, Graham.
June 2018 update from Ian:
started this off I feel a deep obligation to write, what will be, a final
chapter on behalf of our former group, the Opaques. If you reference the
original piece, created some 18 months or so ago you will gather that the
different career paths we took in our mid teen years meant the demise of our
close contact I have maintained with Rick (Richard Mills) my oldest friend
you would perhaps share the enthusiasm that the coincidental contact with
Graham (Graham Cheater/aka John Spencer) evoked. To the point that we were
planning a reunion, some 50 + years after disbanding. Sadly it wasn’t to be
a musical reunion which has always been on my bucket list, although I did
imagine this was a strong possibility. However given the partial social
reunion, delayed by several months, with the meeting up of Graham, Rick and
Dave (Spake), in Spain, it gave a realistic acknowledgement of Graham’s
problems in travelling too far. So the gig we had proposed was never going to happen. However
feedback from that meeting revisited many nostalgic moments but also
emphasised the diversity that our lifestyle paths had taken.
conclusion, now having shut the book on this final chapter I simply wish to
reiterate a couple of points and add some follow up detail.
subject of the shared gig with DDDBM&T (Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich)
I was able to track down this Program/Press Cutting of the day. This is the
proud possession of Elaine who was a fan on the day and later went on to
marry Dave. The quality is poor given its age, understandably Elaine won’t
let it out of her sight, so only limited opportunity to digitally tidy it
up. It does however date stamp the discernible joint autographs of the two
groups (Saturday 20/2/1965, Royal Pier Ballroom)
efforts to track down the remaining members resulted in contact with Ken
Wheeler, who declined any further involvement. Also, regarding Pete Rose, he
too had settled in Spain and been in contact sporadically with Graham.
Attempts to retrace steps with neighbours and employer failed to produce any
meaningful contact opportunity. So Pete if you ever get to read this please
understand that you are not forgotten and hopefully we can catch up through
David St John.
had an email from the reunion, together with the attached pic. Has the last
50+ years been kind? I know all individuals want me to convey our sincere
thanks to DSJ for his interest and efforts, collating the content and
publication of his blog giving us the opportunity to re-establish contact
and book a place in the “hall of fame”. We would encourage anyone reading it
with the shared memory or association to get into contact.
Here are three Opaques
in Spain, (Dave, Graham & Rick) 53 years on!
most members have continued their own musical path which leads me to steal a
line from Ricky Gervais “What do you call someone who hangs around with
Incidentally - Roger Pope's father ran the legendary Waterfront Club, next to
the old Cliff Hotel Woolston by the banks of the River Itchen (old Floating
Bridge then new Itchen Bridge area) You can find more on the club on
several webpages, including the 'Venue's page - or just search on my name plus
any relevant keywords.
So - another reunion on the cards and all thanks to the internet, when people
of all ages go searching for old mates, family and much more. I think it's great
when they put the right keywords in, then stumble across familar names and
places around the Southampton area. I am more than happy to add more info
as well as getting a buzz out of putting people in touch after so many
This was Groups 18 and trust you have enjoyed it. Who knows -
maybe YOU can contribute to the next Groups pages? Signing off for
now...................but not for long!
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