Kevin Parrott & Mick Coleman
(The Matchstalk Men)

A Brief History

Kevin Parrott and Mick Coleman first met at The Albion Hotel at Stalybridge Cheshire during 1965. Mick joined Kevin's band The Big Sound, (not to be confused with Simon Dupree's group) as bass player/singer; Kevin was lead guitar player.

The group, which was augmented with trumpet, tenor & baritone saxes, were primarily a soul outfit modelled on the Stax house band, which backed such artistes as Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.

Mick's style of singing complimented the line up, and the band spent the rest of the 1960s based mostly in Denmark, from where they regularly toured the rest of Europe and Israel.

When the Big Sound split, Mick left the music business for a while, and Kevin joined Manchester rock group "Oscar" who eventually signed with DJM records, and continued the round of UK and European touring. They were also one of the few UK bands to play in Tehran .

From being a kid, Mick, had a literary talent, and loved writing stories and poetry, and now started to write songs, Matchstalk Men being one of them.

He joined a folk group in the 1970s, which was a totally different style of music to what he'd been playing with the Big Sound, and noticed that they sang traditional songs, so decided to write his own "traditional songs" which the group started to perform.

He saw his first Lowry in a small gallery in Manchester, just a few doors away from Johnny Roadhouse's music shop, where he got his first guitar. Mick noticed that many of the scenes in Lowry's pictures were of his own childhood Manchester , and places he used to play as a child. Particularly around the workhouse where Mick and his family lived for about seven years from him being about five.

This was the last workhouse in England , they lived there because his dad had left home, and the family were destitute.

Mick had the idea for a tribute to Lowry during the early 1970s and had the bare bones of the song before Lowry's death in 1976. After he died though, Mick was spurred on to finish the song.

He first sang it at a folk club near Mosley Street bus station in Manchester. In the audience that night was Trevor Hyatt form Granada TV, with Anna Ford.

They complimented him on the song, and was asked for encore after encore.

During the mid 1970s, Mick formed a comedy duo with work colleague Brian Burke, and began performing in the local pubs and clubs as Burke & Jerk.

Kevin and Mick had stayed friends since the Big Sound, and Mick often went to see "Oscar" shows. The pair considered collaborating as writer/producer as Kevin now had the recording experience having made three albums with "Oscar", and a desire to produce records in his own right. The only problem was the lack of money to pursue the ambition.

Eventually he borrowed the estimated £1000 needed to produce the record, and set about turning the song into a Lowry painting in sound.

"Oscar" recorded at Strawberry Studio in Stockport , which was owned by 10cc, but as the budget for MM wouldn't stretch to Strawberry's £25 an hour, he used Pluto Studio up the stairs from Strawberry. Pluto was owned by former Herman's Hermits guitar player Keith Hopwood, and cost £16 an hour.

However, when Kevin needed a school choir for MM, Strawberry MD Peter Tattersall suggested the school his children attended, St. Winifreds.

Also recruited was the band from Kevin's village, Tintwistle Brass Band.

The song was recorded over three sessions in September 1977, but the money ran out before a "B" side could be laid down. This was eventually remedied, when Kevin's friend Phil Hampson, who was the manager of a small studio in Manchester, opened the doors late one night the following week.

Eventually after being turned down several times, the song was picked up by Pye Records. The trouble was that there wasn't really a name for the act.

Kevin was still with Oscar and signed to DJM Records, Mick was in the comedy act as Burke & Jerk, so eventually it was decided to front up with Mick & Brian Burke as Brian & Michael.

Unfortunately though, the act's agent Jim O'Farrell, who had been Freddy & the Dreamers manager, pushed for the Burke & Jerk subtitle on the record label hoping it would enhance their comedy career.

The record was released on November 25th 1977, but a couple of weeks later Brian Burke refused to have anything to do with the project despite being given a royalty by Kevin and a writing credit by Mick. He also refused to take part in any promotional activities.

The only solution was for Kevin to leave "Oscar" after ten years, and take his place with Mick, but of course Pye wasn't going to re-issue the record under a change of name. Kevin had to live "the life of Brian".

While working to promote the record with press and radio interviews, to earn a living the pair rehearsed and rewrote the Burke & Jerk act, and continued working the clubs.

Eventually the venues improved as Matchstalk Men got more radio plays, but they admit it was difficult to reconcile the Burke & Jerk image with the song.

Eventually during February 1978, the record made number 45 in the charts and the boys made their first Top of the Pops appearance, and were one of the few acts at that time to sing and play live on the programme.

Matchstalk Men went to number 1 in the UK charts in April, and stayed at the top for three weeks. It was then possible to phase out the dreaded Burke & Jerk name. By coincidence, on the day the record made number one, Kev & Mick performed at the London Palladium where DJ Peter Powell presented them with their first silver disc. The record of course soon went gold, and Mick was awarded the Ivor Novello award, one of highest accolades a songwriter can receive.



Matchstalk Men and a few others you may recognise at a party to promote the Guiness Book of Seventies Hits

They continued working together as B&M until 1980, having made two albums for Pye, but without another substantial single hit, hence appearing on the "One Hit Wonders" list.

Having said that, Kevin found and produced "The Sparrow", a number 11 hit for the "Ramblers" in 1979. Mick wrote the Ken Dodd hit "Hold my Hand" in 1981. Together in their roles as writer/producer, they were responsible for " It's Horrible being in love when you're 8 1/2", with Claire & Friends during 1986. Claire was a pupil at St Winifred's, who had their own number 1 in 1980 as a result of their participation with Matchstalk Men.

Kev and Mick as B&M with St Winifred's, came together again in 1984 when they recorded the old Dave Berry hit "Mama" for RCA which made the top 75.

They and their families have stayed friends through the years, both pursuing different careers, but inevitably they are regularly asked to take part in various "where are they now" type TV shows and documentaries.

Last year (2002) however, saw a stage reunion of the Matchstalk Men. In April they appeared at the Plaza Theatre Stockport, and most appropriately at the new "Lowry Centre" at Salford Quays during October.

Only two weeks later on November 2nd, Kevin & Mick were back at the Lowry at the invitation of Sainsbury's, who are the sponsors of the Choir of the Competition. At this event they were reunited with original girls from the St Winifred's Choir, and once again the boys received a tremendous welcome from a full house of almost 2000 people, demonstrating that Matchstalk Men is still lovingly remembered today.

JKP/MDC
May 2003

   
   
Mick and Kev gigging again in 2004
Recording their latest single "Sit down Dad"
   
   
youtube
 
Rolf Harris and Matchstalk Men
 
Matchstalk Men - the song
 
Matchstalk Men Live Good Evening Salford 1979
Listen to Mick's explanation of why "matchstalk", you'll like it!
 
Brian and Michael at New Mills and The Lowry, Salford Quays
 
Lowry meets Oasis & Matchstalk Men & Matchstalk Cats & Dogs
 
Brian & Michael Greatest One Hit Wonders
 
 

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Comments (1)

Topic: Matchstalk Men
Ian Jenkins says...
Just a quick line to let you know that Brian (Kevin Parrott) and Michael (Mick Coleman) are still going strong with their band The Matchstalk Men featuring Kev's brother, and former Dooley's member, Nigel Parrott on drums/ vocals, Mick's ... Read More
4th March 2015 11:29pm





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