The Factotums
The Factotums story as remembered by Steve, Jeff and Andy

The Factotums were formed from two groups who were all pupils at Audenshaw Grammar School and the members were Nidge Thomas, Jeff Lees, Ian Thornton and Steve Knowles. Initially, in common with a lot of groups at that time, the emphasis was on instrumental tunes like The Shadows, The Ventures and other groups of that style but in 1963 the trend changed and there was a big rise in vocal groups performing a mixture of rock and R & B songs of the fifties. It was decided that this was the direction that the group would take and many hours of practising a programme of songs were spent in the attic of  Nidge’s home in Fairfield Square, Droylsden.

Within a very short period of time bookings were flooding in, initially from youth clubs, church halls, schools, dance halls, social clubs, sporting clubs and coffee bars within a ten mile radius of Droylsden and by the end of 1963 the date sheet was completely full with double bookings on many of the weekends.

On 13th December 1963 Barrie Collens (later to become the owner of The Top Twenty Club in Droylsden and Beat City in Manchester in partnership with Jimmy Savile) and Ray Teret (Radio Caroline DJ) went to see the group performing at Manor Road Girl’s School in Droylsden. The show had to be abandoned midway through the performance when the girls invaded the stage. However Barry had seen enough for him to want to manage the group. 

Residencies at two of Tommy Brown’s venues, Brown’s in Moston on Fridays and the Devils Cave in Newton Heath on Sundays, plus a lot of slots at The Southern Sporting Club where the manager, Frank Fean, had taken a shine to the group, helped the group to develop the stage act.

By the start of 1964 the group were playing at larger venues over a far bigger area.

The different types of venues meant that the programmes were adjusted accordingly between the beat club and cabaret venues.


30 Jan 1965

   

On 1st March 1964 the group recorded two tracks “Sure Know A Lot About Love” (a cover of a Hollywood Argyles song) and another with an unknown title and origin (maybe a Ray Teret compostion) at Tony Pike’s studio in Putney, London.

Many agents such as Alan Arnison, Kennedy Street & Ian Hamilton in Manchester, the Terry Blood and Mike Llyod agency and the Chris Wainwright agency in Stoke, Peppermint Promotions in Liverpool, the Astra agency and Anderson agency in Wolverhampton, the George Cooper Agency and the Bron Agency in London passed on bookings which ensured the full date sheet continued and the booking fee was steadily rising.

Around the middle of 1964 Jeff, on arriving for a practice session, suggested doing more of a four part harmony approach to the act in the style of “The Beach Boys” whose first record release in England “I Get Around” was just in the shops and he was clutching a copy in his hand.

On hearing the record all were in agreement with the idea and the next few months were spent practising this style and learning many songs from imported “Surfing” and “Hot Rod” albums picked up during a trip to Imhof’s record store on Oxford Street in London (recommended by The Nashville Teens, being the shop where they heard in import of John D. Laudermilk’s “Tobacco Road”).

This new style went down very well as it was completely different to what the other groups were doing which resulted in more demand and further increases in booking fees.

At the end of 1964 the group bought a Mk 9 Jaguar to travel around in which used to belong to the Chief Constable of Lancashire and had the registration GTJ 999. The boys found it quite amusing that the local constabulary would stand and salute as they drove through many Lancashire towns, especially when it was followed by a puzzled look when the officers saw it was not who they expected in the car. It was also nice picking from the bunch of grapes that would hang from the handle of the sunroof.

Whilst appearing at Blackpool Tower on 6th March 1965 the group received a call from their manager Barrie Collens to return to play at an all night session at Beat City in Manchester as Rolling Stones’ manager and record producer Andrew Loog Oldham wanted to see the group. At 2.20am precisely Andrew and the Stones, who had been recording a live show in Liverpool, walked into the club and Ray Teret introduced the Factotums on stage. Before the first number, the Ivy League’s “In My Lonely Room” had ended, Andrew turned to Barry Collens and told him that he would like to record the group.

The next few months were very hectic with Andrew driving up to Manchester to see the group with his chauffeur and bodyguard Reg King trying to break the land speed record on each occasion. The group were also travelling down to London to the office at Ivor Court on Gloucester Place, just round the corner from Baker Street, to try to get the first recording underway. Andrew’s first task was to change the stage image of the group, getting rid of the suits and kitting everybody with more casual clothes on a trip to Lord Johns in Carnaby Street with his secretary at that time Chrissie Shrimpton ( sister of Jean and also Mick Jagger’s girlfriend). The same day he had a hairdresser come round to the office for a drastic haircut session and then off to D.J. Alan Freeman’s flat on the Edgeware Road for a photo session.

(The above photo was taken prior to Andrew’s change of image.)

The first session was at Pye No.1 Studio near Marble Arch on for Decca Records. The tracks recorded were “The Coldest Night Of The Year”, a Nino Tempo, April Stevens song and a song called “My Surfboard’s in Black”, with the words hastily written by Andrew on a visit to the toilet, midway through the session. The backing was a full orchestra with Big Jim Sullivan on the guitar producing some very nice licks on “My Surfboard’s in Black”. As the vocals tracks were being recorded the studio door suddenly burst open and in walked Lionel Bart, complete with “Doctor Who” type floor length scarf and arms outstretched at the top of the stairs. After a short break the session continued.

Unfortunately soon after, Andrew had an argument with Decca over the release in America of “The Rolling Stones” first album where they had put an inferior version of “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” instead of the correct version. Andrew told Decca that no more of his artist would be recording on the Decca label and therefore the two tracks funded by Decca were never released and are probably still in their vaults.

Andrew then decided it was time to start his own label and Immediate Records (the UK’s first indie label) was born.

The next session was over two days at the “City Of London” recording studios where the facilities were not quite as grand as the Pye studios but it did have a good atmosphere. Several tracks were recorded at this session taken from the set that Andrew had seen the group perform back in March.

He decided that a good first release would be the initial number from the set, “In My Lonely Room”, a Carter-Lewis composition which had been the flip side of their single “Funny How Love Can Be”.

The B side of the record “A Run In A Green And Tangerine Flaked Forest” was an Andrew Oldham composition which was completely alien to the group but would have given Andrew a bigger bite of the cherry had the record become a hit. ( a common practice among producers in those days). Nicky Hopkins was the piano player on the track. Although the record sold well in the north of England and received some good reviews, even in the Times, it failed to make the charts.

image

The signing to Andrew reported by Jimmy Savile in his Sunday “News of The World” column in March again helped to boost the fee for the new bookings that were coming in and the release of the record on 21st October 1965 which was a “Pick To Click” on Radio Caroline North made the group even more in demand.

At the end of November the group were asked to attend for a recording session of a number that Andrew had just been given by Brian Wilson called “You’re So Good To Me”. On arriving at the office in London it was learned that Andrew had flown out to the States on some urgent Stones business and had left Denny Gerrard to look after things.

A rehearsal room had been arranged and the group were played an acetate of “You’re So Good To Me” and were left to learn the song by ear for the recording session the next day.

The session took place at Advision Studios, 83 New Bond Street, London. W1. on Tuesday 23rd November 1965 and three tracks were recorded. “You’re So Good To Me”, “Bye, Bye Love” and the quickly learned Denny Gerrard composition “Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love”.

Jimmy Page was in the studio at the time and laid down a 12 string guitar fill in “Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love”. It was felt that insufficient rehearsal time had been given to “You’re So Good To Me” and on Andrew’s return he agreed and arranged a new session at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes. Arthur Greenslade was on keyboard and Nicky Hopkins on harpsichord with Andrew doing the producing and Glynn Johns doing the engineering.

This version of “You’re So Good To Me” with “Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love” on the B side, was released on 21st January 1966 and was voted a hit on Alan Freeman’s “Top Ten Game”. The record received excellent press and went down really well with the fans at all the venues but failed to get the national airplay which was required to get a record in the charts. Andrew who was the driving force behind Immediate and the records promotion was paying his attention to the Stones and their rising popularity in the States  and was abroad more often than the UK.

“You’re So Good To Me”  was referred to in one publication as “the hit that never was”.

Around this time the group were regularly doing warm-ups at the BBC’s Dickinson Road Studios for “Top Of The Pops” which went out live. There was always the chance that if one of the groups due to appear on the show failed to turn up through adverse weather conditions or other travel problems that they could fill their place with their latest release.

Cynthia Gaisford, Andrew’s P.A. introduced the group to record producer and songwriter John Schroeder who was with Pye records and he expressed an interest in recording the group. John was the producer of many hits on the Columbia Label for people like Cliff Richards and the Shadows, Tommy Bruce, The Avons, although many of them were attributed to Norrie Paramore the senior producer who had employed John as his assistant. He also wrote and produced the big hits for Helen Shapiro. Wanting to progress and have more say in matters John left Columbia to become head producer at Oriole Records and is the man responsible for bringing Tamla Motown to the UK.

After having several hits on the Oriole label John was invited to join Pye Records by Louis Benjamin. 

At the end of the contract with Immediate the group switched over to Pye with John Schroeder who was given his own label within the company called Pye Piccadilly.

In March 1966 Ian left the group to be replaced by Andy Lynch. Andy had been the drummer with Manchester group Dave Plumb and the Stones and the two groups had played together a year previously on the Royal Iris, which was a well known ferry boat venue in Liverpool.

The first session for Pye took place on 29th June 1966 at Pye No.1 studio and the tracks recorded were “Here Today” from the Pet Sounds album and “In My Room”, a number which was already used in the stage act.

Factotums played on the same stage with Cream, Slade & Robert Plant, on the same night. Check my blog for the Carnival Dance on 20th October 1966 at Willenhall Baths.

My thanks to Chris Selby for the research at Wolvo Archives

CLICK HERE to read more on the excellent SLADE story website

The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” was a classic song that was used in the stage act and was always very well received. It took quite a while to rehearse and the group’s electrician, Stan Lord from Failsworth, built them a Theremin ( Beat Frequency Oscillator) which produced the high pitched space like tone which is a feature at the end of the song. It always attracted a lot of interest when the road manager brought it on stage for the number.

The second Pye session took place at 4.30 pm on 26th August 1966 in Pye No.1 studio. The tracks recorded were “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Absolute Sweet Marie”. “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” had not been planned for recording and came about when the group were doing a sound check in the studio and having a bit of fun with John and engineer Alan Florence in the control room.

John and Alan fell about laughing and John decided that it should come out as the A side and “Absolutely Sweet Marie” off Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde” album as the B side. The record was released on 4th November 1966.

That same day Steve had arrived at the studio early at midday to meet up with friend Klaus Voormann. Klaus, who was joining Manfred Mann had to cancel at the last minute and left a message at the studio asking Steve to contact Derek Taylor at Nems. On phoning Derek Taylor, Steve was asked if he would like to join the Moody Blues, a position which Klaus had rejected because he was joining the Manfreds but the offer was turned down as he was happy where he was. With time to kill until the 4.30 session Steve walked into studio 1 to see if the roadies had arrived and was met by Chris Curtis (ex Searchers drummer).

Chris had wanted to record a follow up to his solo hit “Aggravation” and had chosen a song called “Baby You Don’t Have To Tell Me” which he liked. Unfortunately he found out that the Walker Brothers had just recorded it but wanted to finish it anyway as 26th August was his birthday. He asked Steve to do the producing while he put  the vocal tracks down and after the session gave him a copy of the acetate. The acetate turned up again in 2005 and the song was released on the album “Unearthed Merseybeat Vol.3” on the Viper label some forty years later and unfortunately just after Chris had died.

On returning from a hectic two week Scandinavian tour and a three date gig in Holland the third session took place on 11th October 1966 in Pye No.2 studio. The tracks recorded were “New York’s A Lonely Town”, “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “You Still Believe In Me”.

The heavy date sheet for the next few months made it difficult getting back into the studio until 11th May 1967 when the group recorded a Goffin & King song “Sometime In The Morning” that John had sent up on an acetate for the boys to learn in April. The track was recorded in Pye studio 1 with Nidge’s sister, Veronica playing the piano part.

The B side was a John Schroeder composition learned during the session itself with John adding the madcap high pitched vocal bits.

The record actually came out under the name “Barley Bree” on 29th July 1967 and again whilst getting some favourable write-ups and radio plays failed to make a real impact. Record royalties were however coming in from the Pye releases around the world which was nice to see as none had ever been received from the Immediate label releases.

The next Pye session was in studio 1 on 10th & 11th July 1967 with the backing arranged and conducted by Alan Tew. A full orchestra was used with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame on bass guitar. The songs recorded were Paul Simon’s “Cloudy”, Jimmy Webb’s “Pattern People” and “I Guess I’ll Learn How To Fly” from the Fifth Dimension classic album “The Magic Garden” and a new song written by Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett “Easy Said, Easy Done”.

The results of this session were the single “Cloudy” coupled with “Easy Said, Easy Done” being released on 21st October 1967. Again, although the record was released worldwide, there was no significant chart success which in the pop business is what matters and what groups are remembered for.

At the end of the second year at Pye it was decided to try a fresh start and Klaus Voormann provided the direction by telling Steve that Manfred Mann guitarist Tom McGuiness was interested in doing some record production. After a meeting with Tom on 29th March 1968 at Acton Town Hall where the group were playing, they were more than happy to go along with Tom’s ideas and directions. After a few visits by Tom to Manchester several tunes were worked on and eventually three songs, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Mr. And Mrs. Regards”, Manchester songwriters Andy Veal and John Marsh’s song “Driftwood” and a song entitled “Take Me Away To The Sunshine” were chosen.

qAgain heavy work commitment in the UK with tours of Sweden, Holland and a five week stint at the new Casino complex in Portugal’s well known resort Estoril, delayed the first recording session with Tom until 27th August 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios. The Estoril gig actually gave the group the first holiday that they had been able to take for about four years.  Although they were working for about an hour and a half each night they were able to lounge about in the sun all day without having to travel anywhere. The other acts on the show were also lots of fun to be with, Liverpool’s Fourmost , the Bluebell Girls from Paris and Eduardo Nascimento (Portugal’s Cliff Richard) helped make it a memorable relaxing time.

Further recording sessions took place with Tom trying to get the group away from the Beach Boys image that they had been given and a new and fuller sound was emerging in the studio.
5th September 1968 the vocal tracks were laid down for “Driftwood” at Olympic Sound.

   

2nd January 1969 at Pye Studio No.1 the backing and lead vocals for “Mr. And Mrs. Regards” were recorded.

22nd January 1969 the backing vocal tracks were recorded for “Mr. And Mrs. Regards” again at Pye studio No.1.
 
“Mr. And Mrs. Regards” coupled with “Driftwood” was released on CBS on 11th April 1969.

With a day off on 6th March 1969 the group were about to start rehearsals in the morning when they received a telephone call from Kevin Donovan at The Place in Hanley (a regular venue over the years).

He asked if the group would help him out by doing a spot that night and also backing Billy J.Kramer who was booked to appear but found himself without his backing group.

A bigger rehearsal than had been planned in the morning was carried out in the afternoon and fourteen songs were learned in a couple of hours rehearsal with Billy and performed that evening.

Group photo taken in Fairfield Square, Droylsden early 1969

BILLY J. KRAMER SET (6th March 1969)

  1. GOOD TIMES
  2. HIGHER & HIGHER
  3. LOVING YOU
  4. YOU LOST THAT LOVING FEELING
  5. KEEP ON
  6. GET READY
  7. BARE FOOTIN’
  8. SUMMERTIME BLUES
  9. WALK AWAY RENEE
  10. TREAT HER RIGHT
  11. TRAINS & BOATS
  12. LITTLE CHILDREN
  13. BUS DRIVE
  14. HUSH
  15. GREAT BALLS OF FIRE

On 20th June 1969 the group were back in the Pye studios recording a follow up to “Mr. And Mrs. Regards”. Tom had come up with a James Taylor song “Something In The Way She Moves” which was decided to be the next A side. The track was completed on 15th July 1969 in Pye studio 2 but remained unreleased.

In September 1969 it was decided to disband the group as it was felt that without the hit record  the group would just continue at the same level and it was also noted that lots of the venues that had provided regular work like Mecca and Top Rank dancehalls were closing down, converting to discos and bingo halls.
 

DISCOGRAPHY

SINGLES

1.)  In My Lonely Room/Run In The Green And Tangerine Flaked Forest (Immediate IM009) Released on 1st October 1965.
2.)  You’re So Good To Me/Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love (Immediate IM022)
Released on 21st January 1966.
3.)  Here Today/In My Room (Pye Piccadilly 7N 35333) Released on 15th July 1966.
Released in Europe on the Pye label.
Released in Australia on the Astor label AP1221
4.)  I Can’t Give You Anything But Love/Absolutely Sweet Marie (Pye Piccadilly 7N 35355) Released on 4th November 1966.
Released in Europe on the Pye label. (in Germany with a picture sleeve. HT300049)
Released in Australia on the Astor label AP1327
5.)  Sometime In The Morning/ Save Your Love (Pye 7N 35393) Released on 29th July 1967.
6.)  Cloudy/Easy Said, Easy Done (Pye 7N 17402) Released on 21st October 1967.
Released in Europe on the Pye label
Released in Australia on the Astor label AP 1431
7.) Mr. and Mrs. Regards/ Driftwood (C.B.S. 4140) Released 11th April 1969

ALBUM COMPILATIONS (12” VINYL & CD.)

Quick Before They Catch Us (Sequel NEX CD 108) 1990 UK. Here Today
The Immediate Alternative (Sequel NEX CD 110) 1990 UK. In My Lonely Room/Run In The Green And Tangerine Flaked Forest.
The Immediate Record Company Anthology 3CD Box Set ( Dojo DO BOX 1) 1991 UK.
British Beat Anthology Volume 3 (PRT Records TECP 25667) 1991 Japan. Here Today.
Pictures In The Sky (Demon Records DO CD 1997) 1991 UK. Cloudy.
The Immediate Singles Collection Volume 2 (Sony Music AK 46994) 1991 USA. You’re So Good To Me.
Look At The Sunshine. Ripples Volume 1 (Sequel NEMCD 426) 1998 UK. Here Today.
Dream Time. Ripples Volume 2 (Sequel NEMCD 427) 1998 UK. In My Room/ Sometime In The Morning/ Easy Said, Easy Done
The Autumn Almanac. Ripples Volume 3 (Sequel NEMCD 454) 1999 UK. Cloudy.
Jingle Jangle Morning. Ripples Volume 6 (Sequel NEMCD 388) 2000 UK. Absolutely Sweet Marie.
The Immediate Singles Collection. 6 CD Box Set (Sequel NXTCD 324) 2000 UK. In My Lonely Room/Run In The Green And Tangerine Flaked Forest/ You’re So Good To Me/Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love.
Jimmy Page And His Heavy Friends. (Sequel NEECD 486) 2000 UK. Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love.
The Songs Of Goffin And King. (Sequel  NEMCD 376) 2000 UK. Sometime In The Morning.
Immediate Blitz Of Hits. 2 CD Bookset (Charly CDBOOK 101) 2000 UK. In My Lonely Room/Run In The Green And Tangerine Flaked Forest.
Pop Goes Immediate,  2 CD Bookset (Charly CDBOOK 102) 2000 UK. You’re So Good To Me/ Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love
Jump And Dance. Volume 2 (Sequel CMRCD 097) 2001 UK. Save Your Love
The Beat Era. Volume 1 (PCR Records PCR 141) 2001 Germany. Here Today.
The Songs Of Bob Dylan (Sequel CMRCD261) 2001 UK. Absolutely Sweet Marie.
The Songs Of The Beach Boys. (Sequel CMRCD 295) 2002 UK. You’re So Good To Me/ Here Today/In My Room
The Jimmy Page Collection  (Fuel 2000 302 0612912) 2003 USA. Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love.
1996 The Soundtrack (Castle Music CMEDO 705) 2003 UK. You’re So Good To Me.
Jimmy Page And Friends. (Atom Music ATOM 2048) 2006 Germany. Can’t Go Home Anymore My Love.

TYPICAL PROGRAM OF SONGS 1963/4

FIRST SET

  1. FORTUNE TELLER
  2. MONEY (THAT’S WHAT I WANT)
  3. SOME OTHER GUY
  4. I SAW HER STANDING THERE
  5. SURE KNOW A LOT ABOUT LOVE
  6. CHAINS
  7. LITTLE QUEENIE
  8. MATCHBOX
  9. FARMER JOHN
  10. POISON IVY
  11. LOVE POTION NUMBER 9
  12. TWIST AND SHOUT
  13. DO YOU LOVE ME
  14. ZIP A DEE DOO DAH

SECOND SET

  1.   ROUTE 66
  2.   LONG TALL SALLY
  3.   YACKETY YAK
  4.   ALONG CAME JONES
  5.   THREE COOL CATS
  6.   MEMPHIS TENNESSEE
  7.   KANSAS CITY
  8.   I SAW HER STANDING THERE
  9.   SWINGING ON A STAR
  10.   AROUND & AROUND
  11.   I’M TALKING ‘BOUT YOU
  12.   STAY
  13.   WHAT’D I SAY
  14.   FEVER
  15.   CAROL

TYPICAL PROGRAM OF SONGS 1965/9

    • FUN, FUN, FUN.
    • SURFIN’USA
    • I GET AROUND
    • THE LITTLE OLD LADY FROM PASADENA
    • IN MY ROOM
    • LITTLE  DEUCE COUPE
    • SHERRY
    • RAG DOLL
    • HEROES AND VILLAINS
    • DO IT AGAIN
    • LITTLE G.T.O.
    • HERE TODAY
    • GOOD VIBRATIONS
    • WHEN I GROW UP TO BE A MAN
    • DO YOU WANNA DANCE
    • IN MY LONELY ROOM
    • YACKETY YAK
    • BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY
    • WALK LIKE A MAN
    • CALIFORNIA GIRLS
    • ALONG COMES MARY
    • COTTON FIELDS
    • DANCE, DANCE, DANCE
    • CARPET MAN
    • UP, UP & AWAY
    • I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN
    • GOD ONLY KNOWS
    • NEW YORK’S A LONELY TOWN
    • HELP ME RHONDA
    • YOU’RE SO GOOD TO ME

    MEMORABLE VENUES IN MANCHESTER

    The Jungfrau.

    A great little cellar club venue in Back Cathedral Street in the Corn Exchange building excellently run and created by Alan Brooks who had been a joinery teacher at a school in East Manchester. The interior was timber built like a Swiss chalet which helped with the acoustics. I can’t remember how many gigs we did there but it was a lot. It was always packed (as were most coffee bar clubs at that time) and one xmas gig we did there our act had to be cancelled half way through as the condensation in the atmosphere had caused the P.A. to become live and we were getting shocks every time we touched the mikes.


    Onstage at the Oasis - mid 1967

    The Oasis.

    Situated half way down Lloyd Street, just off Albert Square was another great venue where we played on numerous occasions, quite often doubling up with Tony Stuart’s other venue at Warmingham Country Club in Cheshire.

    The club comprised of one large room with two stages, which was a great help for the groups in setting the equipment up, and an adjoining room which housed the coffee bar. One of the main deejays at the Oasis was Phil Woodbine (Phil Cooper) who later was to become one of the directors of Island Records.

    We rushed over from the Devil’s Cave in Failsworth one Sunday night late 1963 between sets to watch The Rockin’ Berries performing after Pete Cowap’s girlfriend, Pat had been raving about them. We arrived just as they were taking the stage and as soon as the first song started we understood why Pat was so enthusiastic, they were phenomenal!!! The sound was awesome.

    We had to have that P.A. system, Echolette made in Germany which the Berries had picked up while they were over there on tour. We picked ours up in London, Jeff went down on the train specially to collect it.

    Another memorable night at the Oasis was in October 1966 when we supported the Ike and Tina Turner Revue with the Ikettes. We managed to catch the first twenty minutes or so of the show before we left for our next spot at Warmingham Country Club but what we saw confirmed they were a class act.

    Manchester was fortunate in having a lot of venues like the Oasis, the Twisted Wheel, Beat City, the Cavern, the Jungfrau etc. where the groups could interact far easier with the audience than the larger venues of today. These clubs probably held only between three and four hundred people but the good thing was that there would nearly always be a group or artist on at one of the clubs each weekend that you would want to see.

    The Devil’s Cave

    Located at 1220, Oldham Road in Newton Heath this was one of Tommy Brown’s venues which he ran with his wife Jackie. This was the first coffee bar club that we played and had the smallest stage that we have ever played on apart from perhaps the Peppermint Lounge in Liverpool and you had to balance on the space in front of the amps to prevent falling into the audience or if we were lucky some of the girls would hold our legs and support us. In late 1963 we played regular Sunday’s at the club and also Fridays at Browns Teenbeat Club at the Ben Brierley in Moston. (One of their other dance schools) Everybody is supposed to know where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, we were at the Ben Brierley in Moston.


    (The Devil’s Cave around October 1963)

    The New Century Hall

    A great Manchester Saturday night venue which was another of our regular gigs, run very well by Ricky Dixon and Mr. Betesh senior. Excellent comfortable dressing rooms backstage with a little side room or cupboard which allowed access to the operation of the water closets in the adjoining toilet facilities. Once it was established which compartment a fellow artist had entered it was found quite funny to prematurely flush the toilet whilst the victim was in the sitting position, Rod Stewart being one such victim. Another gig had Ricky Dixon jumping up and down backstage as Jerry Lee Lewis was due on stage and hadn’t arrived. At the last minute Jerry Lee arrived surrounded by his entourage, walking through the front entrance and concert hall straight to the side of the stage where he peeled off his overcoat, stubbed out his cigar and waited to be announced on stage. Red faced Ricky was still mad and having a go at Jerry Lee who was completely unconcerned and looking in the other direction. He then went on stage and performed as only he could, leaving the grand piano smoking.

    Beat City (The Three Coins)

    Originally run by Kennedy Street as The Three Coins the venue was taken over by Barrie Collens around the middle of 1964 when it change it’s name to Beat City. We played there several times in1963 and 1964 when it was the Three Coins and then every Monday night when Barrie took over in1964 and early 1965 unless we were booked at another venue. (We played at Barrie’s other venue The Top Twenty Club in Droylsden on Tuesday nights with a similar arrangement.) Beat City was another coffee bar cellar club comprising of a long narrow room with the stage at the far end which was excellent for acoustics.

    The Southern Sporting Club

    Located just off Hyde Road in Gorton virtually opposite the entrance to Belle Vue Speedway was this nightspot which I remember looking like a converted cinema. We played there initially around October 1963 and the manager Frank Fean took a shine to us, not only giving us a lot of bookings at the club but also passing our name on to other club managers. Jeff remembers The Bachelors being top of the bill one night and arguing like mad in the dressing room but minutes later being on stage all smiles going through their repertoire. Steve remembers coming off stage to be met by Gerry Dorsey (Engelbert Humperdink) asking him what the audience was like as he waited in the wings to be announced on stage. It’s strange seeing him now so full of confidence on stage in Las Vegas, I wonder if he still thinks about The Southern Sporting Club?

    The Domino and The Princess Clubs

    They must have been owned by the same people as we always seemed to double at the two clubs and they used to advertise together. The Domino was a converted cinema on Grey Mare Lane, Openshaw and the Princess a similar club on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton.

    The Plaza  

    Situated on Oxford Road about twenty yards or so from the Odeon Cinema with it’s entrance through a small front doorway to a set of stairs next to Nick the Greeks café was this first floor ballroom which was one of the major group venues in the early sixties.

    It was also one of the first Ballrooms to have Jimmy Savile and Dave Lee Travis as deejays. Although it was considered a good venue the acoustics were not the best and it was not really an enjoyable place to play.

     

    Mecca Dancehalls   

    There were scores of Mecca venues throughout the country which provided regular work for the group but in the greater Manchester area the ones that spring to mind are Ashton Palais, Sale Locarno, the Carlton Rochdale, Bolton Palais, Blackburn Locarno and Burnley Locarno. The Top Rank chain of dancehalls also provided regular work like the Astoria in Oldham. Most of these venues had a revolving stage to allow an orchestra or deejay to perform on one side whilst the group set up on the other. As the group were announced and the stage revolved a short instrumental break would have to be played whilst the roadie did the necessary to set up the mikes and the p.a. connections.

    The Club Roma

    This was not a club for performing in but more for relaxing in. Whenever possible at weekends and sometimes midweek after a gig the group would go to this little club in Bloom Street, Manchester for either just a drink or a meal in the great little restaurant upstairs. The club was owned by Tommy Mann (Tommy was the European Middleweight Wrestling Champion and also had parts in several TV comedy series) and he later opened another restaurant on the other side of Portland Street in what is now Chinatown called the Cantina Italiana. The Roma was one of those clubs where you would knock on the door and a spy hole would open to see who was there before the main door would be opened. It was a great club to entertain friends like Birmingham’s The Rockin’ Berries and our record producer John Schroeder because there was always a good atmosphere and the food was second to none.

    There were of course many other clubs and venues in Manchester and the surrounding area that are not mentioned anywhere because, perhaps, they did not have dances or shows on a regular basis but they still played an important part of the music scene. Here are some of those venues that the group played in the Manchester area in the early to mid-sixties:-
    Poynton Youth Centre. - The Judean Club, Prestwich. - Spinners Club, Oldham. - Cobden Place, Stockport. - St. Bernadettes Youth Club, Clayton. - The Chalet Dance Club, Droylsden. - St. Mary’s Youth Club, Partington. -  St. Marks Youth Club, Levenshulme. – Marple Hall Grammar School. – Ashton Grammar School. – Audenshaw Grammar School. – Manor Road Girls School, Droylsden – Masonic Hall, Stalybridge. – Stevensons Box Works, Stockport. – Jacksons Row Youth Club, Manchester. – The Kingfisher Club, Stockport. – St. Chads Youth Club,New Moston. – Denton Youth Club. – Langley Labour Club, Middleton. – Bernard Manning’s Embassy Club in Harpurhey and Palladium Club off Rochdale Road in Manchester. – Northern Sporting Club, Rochdale Road, Harpurhey. – Southern Sporting Club, Belle Vue, Manchester. – Levenshulme Sporting Club, Manchester. – Working Men’s Club, Partington.

    AGENTS

    The Ian Hamilton Organisation.   Without doubt the best Manchester booking agent that we had was Ian Hamilton from his first floor office in Kennedy Street, just off Fountain Street. Initially he had Roy Williams working with him and was later joined by Chris Wright, who had been a student at Manchester University doing business studies and went on to become a partner in Chrysalis Records in 1967. Ian Hamilton himself was a smashing guy with a good sense of humour as we found out when he accompanied us to some gigs in Holland where he wanted to meet up with Dutch agent Jan Vis. Ian always kept the date-sheet full, never gave us any problems holding fees back (as a lot of agents were known for) and was helpful in promoting the group, taking the group photos and having promotion handouts printed. Ian, I understand, moved to Australia and married Lynn from the Caravelles who went on to write the theme tune for Prisoner Cell Block H.

    ROAD MANAGERS
     
    Without good road managers a group can very easily come unstuck and over the years we were fortunate in having some of the best and most reliable roadies anyone could wish for. Neil Buckley was brilliant and stood for no messing from anybody (I’m sure Cream’s roadie will vouch for that) his knowledge of the equipment and the sound that we required was second to none. Malcolm Taggart was the catering manager of Leicester Palais until on one of our visits there decided, on the spur of the moment, that he had the qualities of a roadie so he handed in his notice and two weeks later was touring Sweden with us. Roger Barnes was another great character who could not do enough for you and was a great asset on the road. He went on to be roadie for 10cc. Mike Worthington, Malcolm Andrews, Malcolm Cormack and Tony Eyers were also worth their weight in gold.

    AFTER THE GROUP

    Nidge and Andy joined up backing singer and comedian Eddie Buchanan (Eddie featured in a few Benny Hill television shows) for a couple of years and Nidge remained in the music business taking up bass guitar as a session player and backing many personalities and becoming musical director for Madeline Bell. He was also the voice behind several television ads and at the time of his unfortunate death in 1984 had just become the musical director for a new television programme.

    Andy went into the transport business packing his drums away four years on the cabaret circuit with the popular group “The Showbandits”. Andy’s regular quote was that the Factotums were “an incredibly talented and fantastic group” but he was always modest.

    Jeff joined his cousin in a printing business which still operates to the present day. In the early 1970’s he turned down the opportunity to join the Hermits on a tour of America. He has kept in touch with the music business mainly through his son Sam, a great blues guitarist who is gaining a big reputation with the Samuel C. Lees Band playing at major venues across the country, headlining and also playing support to the likes of Johnny Winter and Robben Ford. Jeff works on Sam’s guitars (when United aren’t playing) and puts them back in shape after some rough handling during his stage set.

    Steve went into the property business but still played the guitar and studied all styles. In 1987 met up with 1950’s rock artist Terry Dene and was asked to form a backing band for Terry to play several gigs in the U.K.

    Along with Terry, Bill White and partners formed the record label “Charm Records” which brought to reality the story line of Terry’s first movie “The Golden Disc”. The first releases on the label were the album “The Terry Dene Story Vol.1”  and a Xmas single, a version of  Bobby Helms song “Jingle Bell Rock” which featured in the film “Lethal Weapon”. Steve retired from the property business in 1992 and devotes his time to teaching guitar from his Ashton office and also with Stockport Instrumental Teaching Service at various Stockport Schools.

    The three remaining members still have a frequent get together and all regret disbanding the band so early and miss life in the Factotums like mad.

    Memories

    I was playing with The Zany Woodruff Operation when we played with them at the Spinning Disc, the old Mecca venue in Leeds.

    The DJ was Jimmy Savile and I remember then doing a great version of God Only Knows.

    Kenny Rooke

    Just a picky one. Very interesting article, I remember the "beach boy" version of the Factotums at the Plaza and Nidge became a bass player in a club resident band somewhere I can't remember. It was a cabaret club and they backed the acts. I was with one of the acts. Nidge reminded me of Ian Waller (Wal) with whom I used to play in the early 60s and who went on to form the company Electric Wood producing "Wal" bass guitars. These were highly refarded and musicians such as John Entwistle played them.

    Sorry, the point of all this - the two tracks you mention that the Factotums did by 5th Dimension from their "Magic Garden" album are not in fact on it!  I have a copy. It might have been another album. MG is a marvellous album for the time.

    Bob Ainsworth

    After the Facs broke up, Nidge got an organ player in, Kev Harte from New Moston, who joined my band Carnival several years later.

    William Danson

    I went with them on a gig once with Steve Tomkow to a Uni. They where fantastic - how they never made it I'll never know.

    Must have been Oandrew Loog Oldham geting rid of their suits   - they looked great better than any other groups including The Beatles but Oldham put them in woolly jumpers.

    Steve came to my house once for a cup of tea in Lyme Grove, Droylsden but I am sure he won't remember.

    I now live in Italy.

    Jon L Yates
    9/5/09

    I remember Nidge and Steve worked at Johnny Roadhouse music shop during the early 60s and I bought my Hofner Senator guitar there. I met Nidge again several years later when he was playing bass at The Talk of the North. He was a great guy!

    Carol Jason
    28/5/09

    I knew Steve Knowles slightly, he used to know the Holden brothers (no they weren't a group ).

    I remember him demonstrating a few chords in the Holden house one night. Also I went to that music  shop where he worked, I think it was on Oxford Road, could've been Johnny Roadhouse, and I wanted to buy a bass guitar just like the one Paul McCartney used, the Hofner violin bass.

    I had £3 for the deposit but because I was 17 I had to get my dad to sign as guarantor, but he wouldnt do it. Anyway I ended up lending the £3 to Dave Holden.  It took me ages to get it back but thats another story, remember this was 1964 so it was quite a bit of money, I got it back after a lot of pestering.

    Oh yeah I saw the Factotums a number of times at the Top Twenty  - good group. I always remember they did do quite a lot of Beach Boys numbers.

    Philip Hindley
    20/2/11

    Just thought I would look you boys up, you were one of Manchester's  best.  Saw your "God knows" how many times at the Frau. Every time I hear the Beach Boys I think of you guys.

    Happy days  - oh to have them back.

    Terry Higgins
    22/8/11  

    In the early 60s my good friend was Neil Buckley - went to school with him, played football with him but lost touch in the 70ys. Love to know where he is now. if you need a valid code or password its puncture island?? 

    p.s  my dad worked for Barrets of manchester and I knew Mr Roadhouse, Fred Barret and Harry Salthouse.

    Thank you

    Bob Hyde
    Yorkshire

    Great to read the reference to St Chad's Youth Club (New Moston not Blackley). It was after seeing the Factotums in Droylsden - the Top Twenty Club was in the Co-op Building I seem to recollect - that Martin Bentham and I booked the band for Chad's. They were terrific and, along with the Mindbenders, my favourite Manchester band. Best recording? For me it was "You're So Good To Me". We saw them at The New Century Hall too - definitely Manchester's classiest venue with an amazing "springy" dancefloor!

    Incidentally we also brought a number of other excellent bands to Chad's including the Ivy League, the Soul Executives from the Midlands and local bands such as The Stylos from Crumpsall ( featuring Mike Harding!) and Black Cat Bones.The reference to the Facs originating from Audenshaw Grammar reminds me of a number of good bands from my old school North Manchester Grammar such as the Back Door Men and (my old group) the Northmen.

    Martin "Benny" Bentham and I used to enjoy going to Kennedy St Enterprises to enquire about bands - usually too expensive for us! I reckon we thought we were big shots in the business......

    Ian Smith
    9/3/12

    Very happy memories of The Factotums. Idolised them as a dreamy 14 year old. Used to stalk them in Fairfield Square, Droylsden. Nigel was my primary school headmasters' son & word got out where they could be spotted! Needless to say a group of us used to hang out for just a glimpse of our heart throbs.Oh & we certainly loved to see them perform. Droylsden being a very unlikely place for great talent to emerge from although Top Twenty Club was superb.

    Linda Williams
    2/7/12

    Steve was friends with my dad - Vinnie Gough - and used to come to our house in Medlock St, Droylsden.
    Driftwood is still one of my all time favourite songs - just wish I could get a copy of it.

    John Gough
    27/10/12

    I met Nidge at Johnnie Roadhouses where I used to pop in at lunchtimes, mostly to pick his brains for guitar riffs but along the way he sold me my Selmer Thunderbird amp.

    I also played in (lesser known) Droylsden based groups so I often bumped into Nidge in the mid sixties. I also met up with Steve from time to time to swap ideas on guitar techniques, classical and 'Chet Atkins' styles. I've still got the sheet music for a couple of pieces that he and Nidge recommended. And I still can't play them!

    Glyn Connah
    23/11/12

    Nidge Thomas was a very close friend of mine from around 1975 until his tragic death in 1984. We worked together backing many different artists and were both in Madeline Bell's band for many years. Nidge also played bass for 'Force Ten' a ten piece jazz-funk band and we recorded an album for Decca , mainly of my compositions, at the Manor in Oxford.

    I still miss him every day and always will. He was one of the warmest, funniest and musical people I have ever met.

    Robin Hill
    26/6/13

     

     

     

     

     

 



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