The Northern Drift

Dougie Woodward   Vocals
Paul Barber Guitar 
Steve Bates   Bass Guitar
Steve Gilks  Drums  (Passed away June 2015)
Later addition
Roy Hargreaves   Farfisa Organ

The Northern Drift were a Royton based band who were formed and gigged in the late 60’s.

They initially gigged as a 4 piece with their first paid gig (or booking as we called them then) on the 6th January 1968 for the princely sum of £2.00.

To put this into context, this was just less then my wage as an apprentice at Ferranti where I was paid £2 16 shillings per week.

At Top Ten Club, Belle Vue (above) and Edinburgh Suite, Belle Vue (top)

The band continued as a 4 piece, playing venues such as Royton Youth Club, Stamford Arms, Cheshire and St Lukes Chadderton until August in 1968, but on the advice of a manager at Kennedy Street Enterprises, decided to get a keyboard player in to bulk out the sound, and advertised in where else but the Manchester Evening News “Bands, Musicians and Artists” column.

I was looking out for a band at the time and rang them up to audition. I turned up with my Farfisa Compact under one arm and my Vox AC30 under the other and got the job.

For the next couple of years, our weekends were spent travelling up and down the roads of England and Wales with the odd foray into Scotland. Steve the Bass Player drove us around initially in his Ford Thames van but turned up one week in a newish Transit - the bands staple. What a hero!

We played a mix of pop and Soul classics and to improve our soul credentials renamed Dougie the singer Mr Harker J Lee.

Memorable Moments:-

  • Being stopped by the Welsh Police in the early hours of Sunday morning on suspicion of cattle rustling. Must have been having a quiet night.

  • Being stopped by the Welsh police for speeding whist going up a 1 in 5 gradient in a fully laden Transit van. Comment as above.

  • Being asked to back the stripper, sorry exotic dancer at Warmingham Grange Country Club. We played “Stand By Me” over and over until she’d completed her act, What a professional!!

  • Gigging at Belle Vue’s Edinburgh Suite on New Years Eve – 20 deep at the bar, you had to start queuing for your next beer as soon as you’d been served!. Good job we were all light drinkers…

  • Steve the drummer nearly knocking out one of the Paper Dolls. We were playing Nantwich Civic Hall and they arrived from an earlier gig knocking at an outward opening fire door. Steve obliged by kicking the door open but unfortunately one of them didn’t move quick enough. Sorry about that.

  • Winsford civic hall – the worst acoustics ever, sound bouncing of every surface.

  • Playing on a trailer in a tent at a Young Farmers dance. The complete opposite of Winsford Civic Hall – no reverb no nothing.

  • “Star” spotting at Knutsford Services whilst eating the bands’ staple of sausage egg and beans.

  • The Cavern Club Liverpool. What a dump! The club had given in to the disco trend and spent all the money on the upstairs Disco. The old cavern was now a ‘Progressive Rock club’ and in the true style of the ‘Blues Brotherss’ we had to repeat our only offerings ‘Born to be Wild’ and a song by Love that I can’t remember the name of several times to stop the already sparse audience from walking out.

  • We used to do a lot of the same venues as Phoenix City Smash, either as support or the following week. We were impressed one week to see them using a stroboscope in their act. This was very advanced usage of lighting at that time - even though it turned out to be a light bulb in a box with a fan in front to get the strobe effect! Basic but very effective.

The following “memorable moment” was supplied by Paul the guitarist:

After one gig we were returning home and went through an amber light which changed to red and then we were spotted by a police car hiding just waiting for something like that to happen We tried to out run him !!

A van full of gear and 5 lads - no chance.

Steve spots a wide road to our left and turns down it. We then realise it is a very posh driveway lined with trees about 400 yds long. We come to a halt right outside this mansion with massive stone pillars closely followed by Mr Plod and his line "hello hello hello what's going on here then lads."

Steve replied"I thought it was a chippy"

At that comment we all tried to hide under coats, each other, or any gear that might cover us up We then awaited for the "OK come with me to the station funny boy"

It didn't happen - instead he must have realised we were a band and bands have very little intelligence in policemen’s eyes so he said (wait for it) If it's a chippy you want then at the end of the drive turn left and it's about 2 miles on the left.

Stunned by that Steve thanked him and drove away slowly. Once out of earshot we all burst out laughing and couldn't believe it. We got the chips and headed home. Another gem to remember Life on the road!

The band finally disbanded in June 1970 and everyone went their separate ways although Steve Gilks, Dougie and Roy gigged together in a band called Brandy Glass and Steve, Steve and Paul gigged for some years in a band called Jumping the Gun.

The Northern Drift reformed in 1994 and managed to do 55 gigs before disbanding again two years later in 1996.

Roy Hargreaves  

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Comments (3)

Topic: The Northern Drift
Roy Hargreaves says...
Just added pics and story of the group
9th January 2016 9:10pm
Geoff Phillips says...
Great to hear about you chaps who I remember from my days in Tangerine. Looks like we were in parallel universes. Please check out Tangerine's biog where you are mentioned with the Steering Wheel club and let us know how true is the story about ... Read More
12th January 2016 11:09pm
Steve Bates says...
Hi Geoff.
I think our singer had scoffed one of the clubs small hotpots, cost us a gig.
Good to here from you.
We did seem to do the same clubs as Tangerine in 1968 and 1969.
Happy days.
13th January 2016 6:21am

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