The Angels Rhythm Group
Littleborough, near Rochdale

Early photo of the 8 piece at the long gone Johnny’s Spot nightclub in Milnrow

The Angels Rhythm Group, as they were then known, got together in 1961 at St Stephen’s Congregational Church in Milnrow, mainly as a change at the regular dances held there. Prior to this innovation, as it was then, records by Victor Silvester and Harry Davidson had been the feature of these social evenings.

Initially, the make up of the group was strange comprising piano, piano accordion, 1 guitar and drums along with several singers.

However, after time, an 8 piece band evolved made up of:

Malcolm Heywood – piano
Neil Grayson – lead guitar
Gordon Beswick – rhythm guitar
Gerry Hurst – bass guitar
Martin Butterworth – saxophone
Peter Whitehead – drums
Fred Stothers – vocals
Kath Millington – vocals

Further changes took place with Kath, Malcolm and Martin leaving. This left the 5 piece, Cliff and the Shadows based band, to continue which they did until mid 1963. They played in and around Rochdale and Oldham but even had auditions at the ABC studios in Manchester and the Yew Tree, also in Manchester.

One of the highlights of this time was a gig organised with 3 other Rochdale bands on 26 April 1963 at the Fire Station Hall in Rochdale called ‘Rockabeat ‘63’. The other bands were Johnny D and the Deacons, Dean Barrie and the Midnights and the Travellers. It was a great night enjoyed by those attending and even made a profit of just over £70 to be shared between the 4 bands. Probably more than any of them were earning from their normal gigs.

Inevitably, the band started  to break up with Peter Whitehead leaving followed by Neil Grayson. The band soon changed their name to Johnny Collins and the Censors.

That, normally, would have been the end of the story leaving just a lot of happy memories. But no!

In 1984, Neil and Peter were still involved at St Stephen’s and a Building Fund had been set up to hopefully build a new church. Neil’s wife, Kay, suggested we try to get the Angels back together for a one-off to raise funds. Accordingly, after several months of practice and a great deal of trepidation, Milnrow Conservative Club was the chosen venue for this one off on 9 November 1984. The 5 band members all worried about how many tickets we might sell – indeed, would anybody turn up. As it turned out, the venue was sold out and many more tickets could have been sold. In fact, the evening was such a success that the band’s performance attracted many enquiries to play again, especially from Hollingworth High School and Milnrow Cricket Club. Thus it was that, Gordon, Neil, Gerry, Fred and Peter started phase 2, this time as the Fallen Angels.

The band enjoyed their second coming and, after many rehearsals and hard work, increased their impressive play list to the point where they didn’t really need help from a DJ to fill an evening. They started to play all over Rochdale, Bury and Oldham even venturing into South Manchester on several occasions. Probably their longest journey was playing  at the Shap Wells Hotel for the Ullswater Yacht Club in late 1991 -  an enjoyable weekend. One gig would lead to another and their name, and reputation, was rapidly spreading. By this time, of course, all the band members had wives, families and demanding jobs and were therefore not able to play at every gig asked for.

At the end of 1991, Gordon decided that work and family commitments meant he couldn’t devote as much time to the band as it needed so he left, playing his final gig on 21 December at Milnrow Cricket Club, a regular and popular venue for the band. A  replacement for Gordon was soon found but this arrangement didn’t last long leaving Gerry, Neil, Fred and Peter to carry on flying the flag.

There was an enforced break in mid 1994 when Peter had a heart by-pass operation but normal service was resumed in January 1995 and the band enjoyed continued success.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end and it was mutually decided in late 2001 that the band would play a final gig. As with the first, Milnrow Conservative Club was booked and, again, was a sell out on 9 February 2002.

This time, the band had chosen to donate any proceeds from the evening to Springhill Hospice in Rochdale and the magnificent sum of £1215 was handed over.

To commemorate their second ‘career’, the band recorded a 24 track CD at Studio Studio in Whitworth which they named ‘The Fallen Angels . . . . at last’.

These days, Gordon still lives in Littleborough, Fred lives in Newhey, Neil and Peter both live in Whitworth and Gerry and his wife, Jean, have emigrated to Australia. Neil now plays in a folk band called ‘2nd Fret’ and is enjoying yet another spell in a band. They, also, have now recorded 2 CD’s at Studio Studio.

I would welcome any memories, comments or additional information. Please contact me on:
Peter Whitehead – September 2012

Publicity shot taken in 1962

Rochdale Observer feature when band re-formed in 1984


I remember the gig Rockabeat 63 at rochdale Firestation. It was a truly great gig. I was 16 at the time but remember it well. Great night with some very good groups. Good to hear the Angels got back together again, how great it would be if all the groups at that gig could get together and do another one.

Dave Brierley

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Comments (1)

Topic: The Angels
Paul webmaster says...
Great group - have you got anything to add?
2nd July 2017 4:06pm

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