Last week we introduced Chickenbone John, Ricky Cool, Roy Forbes, Bullmoose K. Shirley, King Pleasure and Johnny Caswell. This week it’s the turn of…
Now well-established as one of the most popular bands at Henry’s, The Nitecrawlers celebrating the Covid-delayed launch of their first CD album, “Unlock The Blues” at the venue, delivering their own personal take on those gritty, hard & driving, no nonsense Chicago blues. Individually the guys have performed alongside a whole string of blues legends, including John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins as well as playing such important venues as The Marquee, The Speakeasy, The Twisted Wheel and the original Henry’s Blueshouse at The Crown on Station Street where New Orleans pianist and singer referred to Roger Brol Bromley as “The best blues guitarist in this country”.
Roger, also The Nitecrawlers singer and bandleader twice appeared on the same stage as The Beatles. The band is completed by slide guitar wizard Mysterious Terry Reap, who also produced the album, Roger Corkscrew Hudson, bass guitar and drummer Chris Lloyd – who also pens the weekly Nitecrawlers column in Henry’s Bluesletter.
There’s a whole lot of experience in this Wolverhampton-based straight ahead blues and it shows , the musicians having individually played in bands that shared stages with such luminarien as The Troggs, Amen Corner, Fleetwood Mac, Scott Walker, The Jam, Status Quo, Black Sabbath, Free and Chicken Shack.
An Historical Fact
Guitar man Roger Bromley appeared with his previous band Willy and The Poor Boys on the landmark Birmingham Rock album Brum Beat: Live At The Barrel Organ
The Martin Burch Band
The Leicestershire-based Martin Burch Band feature the leader on guitar, Martin Johnson – also mysteriously sometimes referred to as Martin Piranha – vocals and bass guitar and drummer David Rowe.
They have been together just a little over two years and have a repertoire rooted in the music of Muddy Waters, B.B., Albert and Freddy King as well as Rory Gallagher, Free and ZZ Top with Martin Burch also contributing material.
Martin Burch and David Rowe met up as fellow members of Dawson and The Dissenters and the three of them share a load of experience with several known East Midlands bands including The Piranhas Brothers Band, Mama Don’t Allow, The Vikki Clayton Band and more.
They have a four track EP “Do Go Not Gentle” ready for release, have featured at The Skegness Rock ‘n’ Blues Weekend, Colne Blues Festival, HRH Crows Festival and The Upton Blues Festival and the datesheet is filling up very nicely, thank you. They made their Henry’s debut in December last year and before they left the building were invited to play again on 1st March this year.
The Shakedown Brothers
Recently name-changed from The Gearjammers, The Shakedown Brothers are a well-established East Midlands five piece blues band delivering lesser-known material from the repertoires of Albert King, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Greg Allman as well as their own songs. They live up as Slim Rick Rogers, vocals, guitar and harmonica, his son, Hamish Rogers, saxophone, Steve Rollings, keyboards, Neil Barker, the bands newest member, plays bass guitar while Keith Hewitson is the drummer and rock of the band.
All of them are experienced musicians who have served time playing with other bands throughout the region.
Slim started out very young playing Country blues and his repertoire on acoustic guitar, adding blues harp to his repertoire during his teens. Hamish initially accepted any and all opportunities that cam his way but has now returned to his first love, the blues.
To say that Melvin Hancox was an early starter in music is something of an understatement. He recorded his first demo at 12 and four years later he had a record deal and at the ripe old age of 18, he formed his Vincent Flatts Final Drive which became a band of some repute. There’s a bit of a story about that early demo from 1987. It got passed around from hand to hand, and the rumour emerged that it was recorded, wrongly of course, by Budgie as they prepared for their “In For The Kill” album. Melvin followed that up with an early band of his, Mack and The Boys who enjoyed three album releases on cassette, then in 1992 an eponymously-titled for Run River Records followed by the single, “Downtime Love”. That same year, still only 18 years old he recorded with Robert Trimune III on two sessions, titled “Truth” and “Lies”.
Two years later, Melvin was with a band called Blok, recording “Killer Rules” for the International Label in Stuttgart, Germany and the next year he was back wit Vincent Flatts for “Just A Few More Years and I’ll Be Outta This Place” for Alpha.
The bands and recordings continued to come thick and fast: with AWOL he cut five albums on Vicious Sloth Records between 1999 and 2003, then along came “Six Ton Budgie” and recording for Axel Vinyl Tap and more recording, this time with The Notorious Brothers for BOSS. BOSS was also the acronym for his The Big Over Soul Show he hosted on U.S. college radio from 2008 to 2019.
Melvin has toured through Europe, the U.S.A. and even Costa Rica, that must have been some experience, and has worked alongside Tony McPhee, Savoy Brown and Canned Heat.
In 2019 he formed his current Melvin Hancox Band, bringing to it his experiences of “two decades of rock and roll drenched in psychedelic rain”
His current album, “The Half Time Orange” sampler on Fruit des Mar Records has been featured on Pete Feenstra’s “The Blues and Rock” programme and on The Blues Show presented by Cerys Matthews on BBC Radio 2.
Mickey Barker is on of the most experienced and respected drummers around. He was 32 years old when he was recruited by Tony Clarkin to join Hard Rock Heroes, Magnum, just in time to enjoy the meteoric rise to fame that was propelled by the success of the band’s “On A Storytellers Night” album which hit #24 on the UK chart in 1984. Mickey was to stay with Magnum for 10 years enjoying significant national and international success and a bunch of hit singles and albums.
But there is a lot more to Mickey Barker than just Hard Rock. With another former Magnum musician, Mark Stanway, Mickey formed Kingdom of Madness in 2018 and he has worked with the likes of Ric Sanders, The Steve Gibbons Band, The Trevor Burton Band, The Bushburys and Memphis In The Meantime before joining the Melvin Hancox Band. For instance, for many years he was a session drummer for Yamaha.
Amusingly, Mickey Barker has been credited as the author of a not-entirely favourable epitaph to Magnum: “comparing us to dry lettuce is so unfair. We were at least as heavy as a moderately thick slice of cucumber”.
It was during in the 1960s/1970s that Birmingham cemented its right to be referred to as the Rock & Roll Capital of The U.K. At the time the movement was known as Brum Beat – a title that was used on at least three LP albums released by London-based record companies – Dial Records, Decca and Columbia.
The world is well enough aware of the bands that enjoyed significant success, The Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, Black Sabbath, the rocking half of Led Zeppelin, The Move, Judas Priest, ELO, Traffic and so many more, but what about the other equally innovative and rocking groups that proliferated in Birmingham> The New Musical Express, then a leading UK music weekly wrote that there were over 500 groups working regularly in this city, many of them commanding a significant and devoted following who, with a little luck could have achieved world-wide fame.
A guitarist who featured in so many of this city’s better bands, whose name has long been synonymous with great guitar playing and who is still performing today is Mick Hopkins, know to all then, with affection, as Sprike. Mick featured with Gerry Levene & The Avengers from 1960 to 1964 and their 1964 Decca single, before being recruited to The Diplomats.
That didn’t last too long with Mick teaming up with John Bonham the following year in Nicky James Movement. Mick’s guitar playing was to grace the bands Wages of Sin, Yellow Rainbow and Zeus, who were hitmaker Cat Stevens’ backing group. Spells with Lemon Tree, Copperfield, then the renowned Idle Race followed before he, along with the Pilling Brothers from Wages of Sin, he joined the Canadian rock band Fludd, best-known for their “Cousin Mary” hit.
Mick returned to Birmingham in 1972 joining Barefoot who were the resident band at The Rum Runner on Broad Street. His next, and somewhat longer-lasting move was to join Bandy Legs who signed to Jet Records in 1976, supported Black Sabbath and AC/DC before name-changing to Quartz for their eponymously-titled album, produced Tony Iommi. Quartz went on the road again supporting Black Sabbath to promote the release. Quartz damn well nearly became a household name, playing the Reading Festivals in 1977, 1978 and 1980, touring with Iron Maiden, Saxon, UFO, Gillan, Rush and more.
Quartz released their second album “Stand Up and Fight” in 1980 and their third “Against All Odds” in 1983 before disbanding the following year. The band reformed in 2011 with the line-up of Geoff Nicholls, who had, in the meantime joined Black Sabbath for a spell, Mick Hopkins, Derek Arnold, Malcolm Cope and former singer, David Garner. Quartz are still alive and rocking and Mick Hopkins is still one of Birmingham’s most respected guitar slingers, and that really is saying something.
Singer, Harmonica and Saxophone player, bandleader and ever-present in the Midlands music biz since 1968, Ricky Cool is one of those great, irreplaceable music enthusiasts who inspire all who work with them. He got his start playing country blues on guitar and harmonica in local folk clubs before forming his first band, Brick House Brick in 1970 which lasted a couple of years when he got his Bash Street together with guitarist Mick Howson and bass player Alec Angel.
Ricky, know to his pals as Trix, really came to notice when he took his new band, Ricky Cool & The Icebergs into a lengthy residency at the still-missed Barrel Organ in Digbeth. He adopted a spoof identity as an American who had re-located to England, picked up with local musicians and strange as it sounds today, a lot of people believed it. I well remember more than a few people telling me about this American singer, rocking the blues in Brum. His fame spread to London, he was played on radio and seen on TV and supported a bunch of name bands including The Kinks, Darts, The Specials, and Dire Straits.
The next move was to form Rick Cool & The Rialtos who became royalty on London’s pub and club circuit, recorded the live 45rpm EP ‘Saturday Night Is A Party Night’ and things soon got even better. Trix played harmonica on Hang Wangford’s first album, got the unlikely invitation to tour with Billy Connolly which was filmed and released as the video/DVD “Billy Connolly Bites Your Bum”. Then along came Robert Plant. Ricky Cool & The Rialtos became the nucleus of Plant’s first Honeydrippers and Trix recorded his solo single “I’ve Got a Problem With Girls” which was well-featured on Radio One.
Ricky was somehow managing to hold down a day job, teaching at Bewdley High School, and when he and fellow Rialto Andy Sylvester, later to feature with Chicken Shack and Savoy Brown decided to form The Big Town Playboys, Trix brought former pupils, Mike Sanchez and Ian Jennings into the band. The Playboys went on to become a leading UK Rhythm & Blues outfit but Ricky left after a couple of years.
After another break, Ricky came back to front the studio band on Central Weekend Live, formed Ricky Cool and The Western Swing Allstars in London with B.J. Cole and Bobby Valentino, then joined The Hoola Boola Boys before joining Soul Train as a sideman, playing saxophone. In 2003 he became a founding member of Top Rankin’, playing Ska, Rock Steady and early Reggae before reviving Ricky Coopl & The Hoola Boola Boys, recording the CD “Live At The 100 Club” in 2009 and then “Yeh Yeh” in 2012.
Trix formed his current band, Ricky Cool & The In Crowd in 2013 playing a mix of styles that could be described loosely as Black Music, reminiscent of Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames in the early 1960s