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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
Alistair Tritten (ex Wrangler)