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July 2007

I have simply copied (below) an e-mail from Alistair Tritten whose personal memories can now be shared on my these pages.  Al is another musician who recently discovered my website and was proud to see that his own band is mentioned amongst many of the top Southampton bands of that era.  His story offers another insight into that amazing time when many a young lad was inspired by the mid Fifties change in music as skiffle and rock n' roll changed our lives forever. He has laughingly asked me to qualify that this was only a group of lads who mimed to various hits of the day along with the comedy based songs that were also popular.  Mind you - many of today's stars get away with miming on some big concerts despite fans paying a lot of money to see them!  Perhaps the Wranglers were just ahead of their time? Al has also sent me the following rare photos and hopes to find some more around the house!


The Wranglers- possibly at the Royal Pier? (Piano/curtains)

        L-R:  Al Tritten      Mike Pothecary       Larry Mc Lean.

Most likely miming to a pop record (Everlies/Elvis etc) as the photo doesn't show the assorted props that were used when miming to comedy discs etc!  When the lads finished their act, the stage resembled a battlefield full of weird and wonderful bits and pieces that were used to good effect and provided great visual laughs from the audience.


This image below shows the young lads along with some of the Peter Madsen Band on a Sunday night.  They were apprentices at Follands in Hamble near Southampton - a very well known factory linked to aviation for many years


Watneys beer and ciggies eh?   A glimpse of Fifties' teenagers!

Al mentions that he hasn't seen Mike Pothecary for quite some while now.  Larry moved to the USA after living on a boat in the Mediterranean for many years, but has sadly passed away.  If you know or remember anybody from these pictures, then please get in touch.


These are two of my existing images from old newspaper adverts for the time being.  If any of his memories strike a chord with you, then please contact me and I can always put you in touch with him if needed.









Alastair is currently in the process of constructing his own website as well as a book, and I shall publish this information with a direct link as soon as I hear from him. I really enjoyed reading through these nostalgic paragraphs and I'm sure you will too  -  Enjoy!                                                           


Edited copy of Alastair's e-mail sent to me:


Dear David,



Your website's reproduction of "Henry's" St Mary's street shop Poster, reminded me that just up from Henry's was Maxwells clothing shop where we purchased sets of shirts and slacks for our Wrangler gigs AND prior to that a set of White shirts with blue pocket and sleeve trim when a group of us who went Jiving at Alan Rayments Dance Hall, (situated just off Bedford Place), made up a Formation Jive Team and performed on the BBC's Six 5 Special programme one Saturday.My first "15 minutes of Fame" as all my mates from work saw the Programme and commenced to take the mickey on Monday morning at work. Happy Days !    


I am trying hard to get some info on the Pete Madsen Band from some of the remaining / surviving members who I am still in touch with. Pete unfortunately passed away 2 years ago, but not before being a leading light in old Railway Line and Engine conservation ( starting way back in the Dr Beeching Rail closure period in the 50's ) AND ending up as Mayor of Eastleigh in the 1990's. At one time, for about a year or so in or around 1959 to 1961 ??? they were Mecca's Resident Big Band at the Pier and were even offered to tour Mecca's empire of Dance Halls at the end of their Pier stint, which they turned down most Band members wanted to stay local. 


Peter was a fellow Folland Apprentice who started playing at the Folland Factory Sunday night "Swing" Dance AND Jive evenings around 1956 / 7 and progressed to be the Pier's Resident Band. A bit different than your groups listed, but of some local interest being a good part of the 1950's Southampton music scene then.




                                                                                         SOME WRANGLER INFO.



The Skiffle craze was around in the mid 1950’s and not to be left out Arthur Kennard, a Folland trainee Toolmaker started a Skiffle group and during Lunchtimes Arthur and mates went outside the huge main hanger doors to perform. With Skiffle, Rock and Roll and "Pop" predominant in ushering the 50's and 60's new music and inundated by the American and British Stars, surprisingly we were drawn to a host of Comedy records by a wealth of new Comedy stars such as The Goons, Stan Freberg and Spike Jones and his City Slickers. They certainly influenced a group of us madcap apprentices so much so, that following Arthur’s Skiffle success, a few of us got together to see if WE could do something different in the entertainment business along the Miming side of entertainment.

We were Larry Mclean, Mike Pothecary, Phil Morris and I, Alistair Tritten, all Apprentices from Follands plus friend Frank Mitchell a Thorneycroft’s Shipyard Apprentice and we all met up at my house 52, Portsmouth Road, Woolston, one March evening in 1957 to discuss details and agree what we would do. Larry passed away in America in 2001, Michael was last heard of in The Netherlands, Phil has been retired some 9 years or so to Alicante, Frank is believed to be in Ireland somewhere, I am now retired in Southampton and Peter (latterly our Manager) is retired to Netley, Southampton. Incidentally 52, Portsmouth road, was and still is, right next door to "The Railway" now the Station Hotel, and Belvoirs Garage, now Station Motors.

With none of us able to play any kind of a musical note, that evening we decided to start our Comedy MIME Group, but don't ask me now whose idea it was, I can't remember.  We not only mimed comic records but Elvis Presley (Hound Dog), the Everly Brothers (Dream), Danny and the Juniors (At the Hop) and Jerry Lee Lewis (Balls of Fire), featured as well. Larry Mclean with blacked in sideburns Mimed Elvis. Phil Morris, was a sure fire cert for the deep voiced Bongo Player from Stan Freberg’s version of The Banana Boat Song (ripped off from Harry Belafonte) and Mike Pothecary and I performed several Spike Jones numbers such as "I Went to your Wedding", “You Always Hurt the One you Love” and “Chloe“. A fifth member, Frank Mitchell starred in some of the Goon Show's crazy songs such as "Major Bloodnoks Rock and Roll Rumba” and we all chipped in to mime Danny and the Juniors “At the Hop” (still a favourite).

We mimed the playing of instruments using a Saxophone minus the reed, (courtesy of a Pete Madsen loan), Guitars minus strings, inverted snare drum with white cloth stretched across the top to be hit noiselessly, Piano with lid closed and a pair of Bongo’s, made by yours truly in Follands Press Shop from aluminium alloy, rolled and beaten into shape and painted with red stripes.

Our first gig was performing for Len Canham, Manager of the Royal Pier Ballroom Southampton, who was looking for something different to liven up the Dance evenings Band breaks. We must have mimed pretty good because after regular bookings from Len, my sister while watching us one evening at the Royal Pier and during Mike and I Miming to the Everly Brothers hit record “Dream”, overheard two girls next to her expressing the opinion that we sounded “just like the Everly Brothers”, believing we were actually singing the song live.

We got caught up in the local entertainment scene and got on the same bill as some local acts such as “Tex Roberg“, a South African off the boats who claimed to be South Africa's answer to Elvis Presley, The Four Strangers and the Live 5, plus the “Brook Brothers” whose influence was the Everly’s, yes the Southampton Dance and Music scene was very lively indeed. Gigs then followed at the Woolston Cinema, (The Fleapit) during the Saturday Morning Kids Picture Show, the Ritz at Bitterne and the Gaumont Cinema, (formally The Empire, now The Mayflower Theatre), all of them within the Southampton City boundaries.

Len Canham gave us quite a few gigs at the Pier and took a shine to one of our group, Michael Pothercary, later my Brother in Law. Len 'took a shine' to Michael, but as far as I knew he got the message Mike was straight and never tried anything on. We later did shows for Lens main rival in Dancing promotions, one Reg Calvert who started up a series of local South Hampshire Hops known as "Teenbeat" evenings aimed at the young teenagers in the area at various venues including the Empire Hall Totton, Drill Hall at Romsey, British Legion Hall in Christchurch, a Portsmouth Dancehall, in fact anywhere a hall was available.

About a year into the Wranglers, sometime in 1958 we met up with Peter Dowling, who was (and still is) 8 years older than our group while we were all around 20 years of age, so Peter brought maturity to our dealings with both Agents and Managers in procuring work. I believe we met up with him through his girlfriend Doris, later his wife, at various Dances we attended as individuals or as a group at Gigs. Peter took over all arrangements inc: the fees, usually £1 to £2 each and transport, usually free, much as your Tony Collier mentioned in your June update. Peter even built a fake piano as a prop for stage use, because some venues had no piano and he also took over the storage and control of all the other props we used, bringing them with him.

Because of our Saturday Morning shows at the Gaumont we got to know Management AND staff on a first name basis and sometimes got an invite to view from the wings some of the Variety Shows they put on, where we had our eyes (and ears) opened at one show starring Anne Shelton with supporting acts including Jimmy Wheeler, a violin playing Comedian. While attending a pre-show rehearsal after a Saturday morning Kids show and prior to the Saturday afternoon Anne Shelton Matinee we were shocked to hear Jimmy use a string of expletives the like of which was unheard of. He was swearing at Anne Shelton using words such as that even now I'm loathe to mention. Anne never turned a hair, it was like water of a Ducks back.

Our miming culminated a couple of years down the line at the Guildford Odeon, part of the J. Arthur Rank Cinema chain. We opened up the first and second halves of a Musical Show one Sunday evening that included The Mudlarks, a singing group of two boys, one girl. (Mary Mudd really thought she was the Bees Knee's and treated us like sxxx, we were after all rank amateurs). Betty Smith, female Saxophonist was on the bill with one or two more minor acts. Unfortunately for us that Sunday evening, members of the Lords Day Observance Society were present and objected to us wearing stage clothes and that apparently was enough on Sundays at that time for them to complain to the Rank Organisation who promptly banned us from performing at any Rank Cinema or Theatre on a Sunday. That was just about it for us, we were all pushing 21 and the group just gradually drifted apart due to several of us being deferred from National Service at age 18 to allow us to finish our apprenticeships.

To round this tale off, several years later my Brother in Law Michael and I went to Coventry to work for Armstrong Whitworth Aviation at their Baginton Aircraft Factory. We took up lodgings initially in Rugby where we found that Reg Calvert had set up a Rock and Roll School and was grooming a small stable of would be Rock and Roll Singers but I only recall two Singers names, Danny Storm and Vince Eager. Reg was about to put on a Rock show at a T.A. Hall in Rugby starring Screaming Lord Sutch and his group and asked us to perform a couple of mime records, so we did a couple of Goons and Spike Jones records.

The highlight of the evening for us was not only watching the Lord Sutch show, but also viewing his performance with a couple of (Groupies) in his dressing room which we entered in error. Well that was that, our final Wrangler appearance was Reg's in Rugby during 1961. Shortly after this Reg’s Rock and Roll school was featured in a Movie short series called “Look at Life” at Cinema shows all over the U.K. mainly in the J. Arthur Rank circuit of Odeon and Gaumont cinema’s. You may even have seen this short which I have been trying to track down thru the BFI, (British Film Institute) archives, but with no success so far as very few Look at Life shorts appear to have survived.

The sad ending to this tale came about a couple of years later, after we returned South from the County of Warwickshire, when I read in the News of the World that Reg Calvert had been shot dead with a 12 bore shotgun by a rival Pirate Station businessman during an argument in the hallway of his Country House. Originally he was charged with murder, later changed to manslaughter, but pleading self defence he was eventually found not guilty.

C Copyright Alistair I Tritten June 2007.



February 2008


Met up with Al who came along to the Concorde "Back to the Sixties" show and had a great night!  This is his follow-up e-mail:


I never actually played OR sang back in my time, 1957 / 1959 at the Pier, but those around during the late 50' to the 60's knew some really great times, not only there, but also at some of the venues David mentioned last evening, Empire Hall Totton, Winchester Lido, British Legion Hall Christchurch and a few others, Ritz Cinema Bitterne, Woolston Fleapit, Cliff Hotel Woolston and so on.
The reason I never actually played or sang was through being one of the Wranglers, the name choice courtesy of group member Larry McClean of the famous "Millais Road" McClean clan. Larry unfortunately passed away a few years ago, in I believe the U.S.A.  Our Manager Peter Dowling passed away locally at the good age of 75 only a few months ago, but Mike Pothecary, (Holland), the diminutive Phil Morris, (Spain), xxx xxxxxxx (Ireland) and I (Hedge End) are still around.
But back to last evening, glad to have taken the Restaurant option, my legs would have given out before the night was over if I had had to stand all evening. The guys who came from around the world, good on yer' AND for all those who travelled some considerable distances within the U.K. to be there, another good on 'yer. You must all have been pleased the Liberty Child Charity did so well out of all your hard work.
Enjoyed meeting Pete Broyd who amazingly remembered  us and me quite clearly, reminding me of various tracks we had mimed to that I had forgotten and yes, I WILL keep in touch Pete. Surprised to learn he came up to Guildford in 1959 to see our performance on a Sunday evening on the bill with The Mudlarks, remember them, two brothers and a sister singing group act. Also met up with Tex Roberg, pushing 71, but looking great and well able to put a song or two out still. Had a brief reminisce with him because he was, together with The Blackjacks Pete Broyd, the first entertainers we met up with at Len Canham's Royal Pier Teenbeat nights. Sorry to have missed out seeing Barrie James (on holiday ??) one local singer I have seen a lot of over the years at various local venues.
Finally, pleased to have met up with our erstwhile host of last evening, David St John, he obviously put a lot of time and effort into the event. Also very pleased to have the opportunity to say an email  HI  to all of you I know AND to all those I don't  know, but feel I do so a little now.
kind regards and keep swinging,
Big Al,
Alistair Tritten (ex Wrangler)     


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