PUTTING THE RED ROSE COUNTY OF LANCASHIRE
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JOHNNY DEE & THE DETOURS
Triangle: Seventh Avenue: Tony & The Topcats:
"I got my first electric guitar, a Burns, in the late fifties, learning to play at home mainly. I remember being at the Palais in Bolton in 1961 when the revolving stage revealed my very first appearance of a live group.. JOHNNY DEE & THE DETOURS -
Alan Johnson - AJ on lead guitar, Alan Crossfield - Big Al' on bass, Dennis Wheatley on rhythm guitar, all supporting pink Fender guitars with Alan Fishwick on drums and Dave Williamson as Johnny Dee. I was absolutely bowled over with them.
I just wanted to own a Fender Stratocaster! In 1962 my father bought me my white Fender Strat from Hawker & Howarth in Bolton. During 1963, The DETOURS broke up, I was practising with some pals in a church hall when AJ & Big Al came into the hall, reminiscent of a John Wayne cowboy entrance into a saloon! The 'grapevine' had told them I had a Fender!. They wanted me to reform The DETOURS with them, surprisingly offering me lead guitarist.. Wow, could I refuse!! For several weeks we rehearsed, AJ teaching me all the riffs to The Shadows instrumentals. We recruited John Kelly on drums and I remember our first gig at St Mary's Church in Horwich - we performed 2 x 40min spots consisting of nearly all instrumentals with 2-3 vocals, I was wearing Dennis Wheatley's suit, which was too big for me and Big Al' stood next to me continually saying 'smile' on my first venue, I'll never forget that initial gig.
A month or so later we changed our name from the DETOURS back to JOHNNY DEE & THE DETOURS when Les Brocklehurst aka 'Jean de Both', 'Moby' joined us and Jimmy Isherwood replaced John Kelly, taking residency at the Ponderosa Club in Bolton. My return to Bolton Palais was winning the semi-final of Mecca's National Beat Competition which Les sang Jezebel to a barrage of glass ashtrays thrown on stage by jealous blokes, while we were surrounded by screaming fans. I actually played Silent Night via my Binson Echo & Vox AC30 to impress our judges 'The Four Pennies'.
We played at the Palais many times, but often setting up late - the revolving stage would appear without us but just our gear, to revolve again for us to get on! We had a lot of success locally, but 'Moby' left us in 1964 and Kevin Barnes replaced him.In 1965 Norman Kay - TV's Vernon Kay's father, joined us as vocalist and Fred Holt as our drummer to eventually reform as THE DETOUR SHOWGROUP. We undertook comedy featuring Mick Jagger, Sandy Shaw & PJ Proby and stage routines in many large social clubs, particularly in the Potteries which included a season at Pontins Middleton Towers Holiday Camp in Morecambe. But again our line-up was to change with Norman & Fred leaving in early 1966, AJ, Big Al & myself reformed after a few months, Fred re-joined us later, but left early 1967 & Dave Thomasson became our drummer. We had a lot of success again in cabaret clubs during 1967-8 improving our act with more comedy including custard pie throwing and me wearing a caveman outfit and marauding the audience in darkness to AJ's version of Allez Oop/In the Hall of the Mountain King!
We played venues such as 'The Cage' in Harlow New Town, Monaco in Farnworth, Leigh Casino. I should also mention that during this period we built and used our own lighting effects - AJ sourced, and PA system to great effect utilising our faithful 'Roadie' Derek Brown 'Diz', who stayed with us through thick & thin! - and often used as an excuse on many occasions.
Again in early 1969 Fred re-joined as our drummer.. continuing until mid 1970 playing at 99 Club in Barrow-in-Furness, Southern Sporting Club in Manchester & other locations before breaking up. In June 1970 AJ & myself together with Roy Pickvance as our vocalist decided to try forming a trio called TRIANGLE. We prepared backing tabs for resident drums & organists to accompany us. I featured playing 'My Way' and AJ played Ava Nagila as instrumental solos, and we changed our dress code to smart suits with frilly shirts...Our first venue was The Empress Club in Bolton, which we successfully survived.It was highly successful surprisingly, we topped many large venues such as Pickwicks, Wookey Hollow & The Haig in Liverpool, Man City Supporters Club with Canon & Ball supporting us! travelling to Kings Country Club in Eastbourne, Spennymoor Variety Club, Sunderland, KiKi Club, Doncaster & BaBa Club in Barnsley.We continued as a trio until Sept, 1973, our final gigs being Copperfields in Bolton & Broadway Club, Manchester.
At this time our gigs were becoming too much for a trio, so in 1974 we again re-formed as a self-contained act SEVENTH AVENUE with AJ, Roy, myself and Fred - yet again, with Steve Farrell on bass. Again our dress code reverted back to flamboyant outfits! We were promoted via the Stuart Littlewood Agency who also managed The Dooleys, giving us a lot of lucrative bookings - we also joined Equity. In June of that year we auditioned for NEW FACES, in Birmingham and appeared on the TV show, presented by Derek Hobson, only to get ripped off with incompetent sound technicians, culminating in a punch-up which was picked up by the Sunday Mirror Newspaper - centre pages. Later in October we won the BAILEYS TOP TOWN UK talent show in Leicester, judged by Showaddywaddy who won the competition the previous year and Bernard Manning, netting £1,000 & a trophy, but not the reputation that Showaddywaddy received! However we received an incredible 100 day consecutive run performing in the Bailey Cabaret Club circuit in many of their different locations.
We introduced a synthesiser into our act, I was 'nominated' to learn to play it, so I stencilled notes onto the keys to help me. I remember having to open with Telstar, but the stage was in darkness and I couldn't read the keys! - but we managed I think! Late in 1974 Norman Kay rejoined as an additional vocalist with us. During this phase we were topping the bill at all the major venues, with a variety of artists such as Tony Christie, Showaddywaddy, Marvin & Farrar, Dustin Dee, Clinton Ford, The Crestors, Stu Francis, The Drifters, Jack Jones, Neil Sedaka, Lonnie Donegon & Bernard Manning. We made several professional recordings thanks to AJ, including Baby Blue, All Hands In, Across Light Years, Dream & Faces at the Window.I eventually finished with the group in at the Warren Club - with Marty Wilde on the same show in May 1976 - and with much regret. Shortly after moving to Scotland. I personally owe a tremendous thanks to AJ for all his help, insight & support over the many years we were together.
Graham Ainsworth: April 2015
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