The 121 all night bus from Manchester to Middleton wound it's way up Rochdale
Road through Collyhurst and Harpurhey. On the top deck Kelvin "Spud" Hudson,
John "Feef" Firth and Alan "Alby" Greenhalgh, among others, were enthusing about
the Saturday night out they'd just enjoyed.
"Why don't we form a group?"
The words came like a bolt out of the blue. Don't recall who uttered them, but I do
remember it feeling like it was the most natural thing in the world for us to start
making our own music. We'd only been out of school a couple of years, were all in
reasonably steady jobs or apprenticeships, but the highlight of every week was when
were able to go into town to watch a band or group in one of the many venues that had
sprung up in Manchester.
Spud, a big Buddy Holly fan (he even had Holly glasses) was a natural for guitar, I'd
always been fascinated with drums and Alby surprised us all by saying;"I'll play tenor sax!"
Although, come to think about it we shouldn't have been surprised. We all had
slightly "off the wall" musical tastes for our age, barely 17. Not for us the watered
down pop music of Cliff, Billy Fury, Marty Wilde or their ilk. What really lit our
candle was the butt kicking rock 'n roll of Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Fats Dominoe,
the down home blues of Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee,
Muddy Waters etc. Even venturing into the world of jazz with John Coltrane, Count
Basie, Tubby Hayes, The M J Q.
We talked more about our great plans to conquer the music world during the
following week and on Saturday made our first of many pilgrimages to Barrats,
Mamelocks and Johhny Roadhouses to check out prices and think of how we could
con, sorry, persuade our Dads' to sign as guarantor.
We eventually aquired a Selmer sax, Hofner guitar and an Olympic drum kit oh, and
another sax player, Mike Belton another old school friend and through an ad in the
Middleton Guardian a bass guitarist called Jack Unell from Collyhurst. We called
ourselves The Backbeats and spent months of practising for 6 and 7 nights a week, in
between work & night school.
We now felt ready for our first booking which turned out to be at a local youth club as
payment for them letting us use the club to practise in. We did this a few times then
got offered our first payed booking, the employees'children's party at Middleton Post
Office. Big Time here we come.
Because I had access to a phone at work, I got the job of fixing us up with bookings
which I did for some months. But we were growing in ability, still practising every
spare hour, and confidence so decided we needed an agent.
One of his bookers, a certain Ian Hamilton, was designated to look after us which, it
has to be said, he did admirably. We worked all over the North West and when we
could manage it with work commitments, even further afield. And all this before the
advent of motorways, the travelling could be horrendous. Before long, however,
Hamilton told us what we already knew.
"None of you can sing. You need a vocalist"
They say that fate has a way of working, Well, it worked for us. Alby's Mum was
friendly with a lady in Middleton whose son in law "did a bit of singing".
Roy Gibbs was a little older than the rest of us and married, so when he came to
Alby's for a jam we were a bit cagey.
He saw that with the two saxes we differed from other groups of the day but wasn't at
"What sort of stuff do you sing?" said Alby
"I like Jackie Wilson, Brook Benton, Little Richard, that sort of stuff"
"Do you know Little Richard's Lucille?"
"Count it in, Feef"
We'd hardly got through the first 12 bars of his vocal before we were all looking at
each other with a mixture of disbelief and awe.
"Well, do you fancy getting together with us?" I said , not wanting to sound too eager.
I instinctively knew all the guys wanted this singer.
Weeks of intensive rehearsals followed. A set list to die for with numbers by James
Brown, Bobby Bland, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Picket and
not one of them a problem for Roy or Tiddy as we found out he'd always been known.
In the late fifties, early sixties he'd been quite succesful with a band called Tiddy &
The Teenbeats, even doing an early Six Five Special on T.V., counting a certain James
Saville as a fan.
Ian Hamilton was impressed and was certain he'd keep us busy, which he did. He
even came up with a name.
"Some years ago, there was an outfit called The Powerhouse 6, there's six of you now
and that name fits your sound perfectly"
We'd soon done all the major venues within a 60/70 mile radius of Manchester,
building up quite a large following.
It didn't take Hamilton long to realise that with the explosion of interest from London
A&R men, he'd need to get a grip.
"If, by the end of this month, I can fill your diary for the next 3 months, would you
consider turning pro?"
Would we consider it? We'd all sweat blood the last 2 or 3 years to get where we
were now, most of us were convinced it was written in the stars.
Hamilton was true to his word. In fact, within 2 weeks he'd almost filled the diary for
the next three months. This was it.
There were a couple of casualties. Jack Unell decided he coudn't go pro. He lived
with his widowed mother and hadn't yet finished his apprenticeship. An old mate of
Tiddy's, Barry "Baz" Townsend filled the gap. Michael Belton had left a little time
previously and Stuart Murray taken his place on Baritone sax.
Two weeks were taken from gigging to rehearse two brand new 45 minute sets. Most numbers segued from one into the next, leaving no room for chatter in between and giving the audience value for money and making me sweat enough to keep my weight at 8 stone.
We all got on really well and the next months proved to be everything we'd expected. We even enjoyed all the travelling, of which there was a LOT!!! There was the obligatory trip to Germany. We played a place near Dusseldorf called Wuppertal. The club was called the Star Club. Was every club in Germany called the Star Club?
No need to tell anyone about the slave labour that playing Germany involved. We were there for a month doing seven nights a week, 45 minutes on stage 15 minutes off for 6 hours a night weekdays and 8 hours a night at weekends, talk about an apprenticeship!! Our line up had a distinct advantage. We could play a Little Richard number for 25 minutes including a 24 bar tenor solo, a 24 bar baritone solo, guitar solo for 24 bars,
Hammond solo for as long as Darryl could keep it up. You get the picture?
I would play a drum solo for virtually the entire length of a set, provided it was early on in the evening before I got too knackered, drunk, stoned or all three.
On our return to the UK the same pattern of gigging continued but the improvement in
our playing meant that the gigs were getting more up-market. We'd already done most
of the big venues in Manchester as support band but now we were "headlining".
More importantly, we were working more and more in London. The Marquee, The
100 Club, The Speakeasy and others I can't remember the names of. Then came a
phone call from Hamilton about doing a resident spot at The Scotch of St. James club.
We'd all heard of it through reading the music papers like The NME, Record Mirror
etc. There were always articles about The Scotch. It was, evidently, the place to be
seen in London.
We soon found out just how much of an "in" club it was.
The first night we played
there, we were the only people in the place I'd never heard of. The audience was full
of people out of bands like The Beatles, Stones, The Who, Pretty Things, Hollies, the
list went on. Oh, and their managers were there too and we were set to impress.
Unfortunately, Ian Hamilton, who came down occasionally, supposedly to hussle for
us, was out of his league and didn't take advantage of the impression we made on
But there were many, many memorable nights. Like the night Jose Feliciano was in
the audience on one of his first visits to the UK. He sent his manager to talk to us
who explained that Jose would love to sit in with us, would we mind. WOULD WE
MIND???. Anyway, Jose borrowed Spud's guitar, explaining that electric guitar wasn't
his usual instrument so Spud showed him the controls. Jose then said that he'd heard
us already do a couple of James Brown numbers, what else did we do? We decided
on, I seem to recall, "Outa Sight", Well the result was electrifying. Jose did a guitar
part that slotted in with the sax parts and we were all absolutely blown over. Spud
was in the audience going bananas. I've always felt sorry that he was the only one of
us who didn't play with Jose. Anyway, we did another couple of numbers, I think, the
rest is just a blur.
John Lennon was in the audience one night. After we'd finished
our first set and as we walked past the table where he sat he looked up and said"Great set, lads" If no one ever praises anything I do for the rest of my life at least I
can say "Well, John Lennon liked what I did"
Another night, the stage was filled with members of The Pretty Things, The Hollies,
Zoot Money and others I can't recall, all jamming with us. Absolutely wild.
Another time Paul McCartney pulled Tiddy to one side and asked had we a deal as
The Beatles had just started Apple records and were looking for an act to record a
Lennon/ McCartney song (turned out it was "Got to get you in to my life" When
Tiddy told Macca that our manager was currently talking to Tony Secunda, macca
turned on his heels and left. We found out later just why.
Our gigs at the Scotch culminated in getting a record deal. In hindsight it was not the
best that we might have hoped for or, indeed , the best that was on offer. But, non the
less, it was what Ian Hamilton negotiated and at that time we trusted him!!
The deal was signed with independent record producers called Pell and Abrahams for
distribution through DECCA. It was, at least, better than the ideas Tony Secunda had for us. The least said, the
better. But just to give you a clue, one idea was for us all to go out of the country and
when trying to come back, get arrested at customs for carrying drugs. Just for the
publicity, of course. I can just imagine what my mother would have done to me.
The stories about the Scotch would fill a book on their own and I might just write it
The other side of the coin were the gigs that destroyed your soul. We went once from
playing thE Scotch one night to South Wales, the Tredegar Working Men's Club where
nobody gave a shit, they were more interested in the darts match that was being
played while we were on stage. The Concert Secretary even said "Tell your drummer
to play with his brushes, you're too bloody loud, the darts players can't concentrate"
But all in all it was a wonderfull time and there were lots of gigs that made us all feel
like stars. Well, we recording artistes now. Hearing our record being played on the
radio gave us a big buzz. Mostly it was Caroline and Luxembourg but it got a few
plays on BBC.
In 1966 after Chain Gang got released, we played most of the summer
in Devon and Cornwall. It was amazing, the weather was glorious, England were
favourites for the World Cup, we had a record out, God was in his Heaven and all was
well with the world. People were actually coming to see us as a result of hearing the
I don't know how many copies Chain Gang sold, but it must have done reasonably
well because we made another single. Raindrops was an old Dee Clark number and I
still happen to think it's a brilliant record. To this day, Tiddy's voice sends tingles up
my spine when I listen to it.
It was about this time that various other people started getting involved, wanting a
slice of the action, which caused splits among band members. All I can recall is there
were some bad vibes going around. The second 45 didn't do anything and, although I
remember doing a great session at Phillips studio (I think), we didn't do another
There were some more memorable moments like when we supported Jimi Hendrix
Experience at, I think, Aston University and were support to Cream at Durham
University. I might have the venues wrong but I certainly vividly recall the gigs.
We met a lot of fine, talented people during our time on the road. Some fell by the
wayside and a few went on to fame and fortune but we all started out the same. We
were mostly young lads (and lasses) from working class, very modest backgrounds
with a dream.
The end, when it came, wasn't very amicable. Alby and Spud stayed together and
teamed up with Stan Dulson (Red Hoffman of The Measles) and Pete Cowap. I recall
they gigged in the Bahamas which made me a bit envious. Tiddy and me stayed
together as Powerhouse part 2. Dave Barrow played bass and Barry Blood played
guitar. It was OK but the magic had gone, so I soon left and even though I tried
getting a gig with another band I'd lost heart. The Powerhouse had been my life since
I was 18 and it was gone for ever.
I made my Mum's day when I announced I'd had enough of music, I was getting a"proper" job.
My brother, Michael Belton was the baritone sax player, originally with the Backbeats and then the Powerhouse Six.
I used to travel to some gigs with them in their trusty Bedford Dormobile and they played on some pretty good bills all over the North.
I particularly remember them playing at Bernard Mannings Club at Collyhurst supporting the Springfields with Dusty Springfield and on several occassions as supporting act to Screaming Lord Sutch
I am Roy "Tiddy" Gibb's brother and remember seeing the group at venues like The Twisted Wheel, Jungfrau, Bredbury Hall, and remember in particular taking a few trips to London with them and playing at Hatchets Club.
The band was special but did not have the best of agents. Unfortunately they were exploited rather than guided to stardom. Our Roy had a great soul voice which the band line-up complimented and would I am sure have done well in the states had they had had the chance. Great to see the web site. Ps write the book!
I worked with John Firth, the drummer and was often called on to drive the Bedford van, when they were short of a driver.
I saw them at the Princess Club in Chorlton and still have their two records here with me in Canada.
They were a great group and I enjoyed my time in Manchester at the Twisted Wheel 'all nighters'. I even saw Long John Baldry here in Vancouver before he died and had him sign my Twisted Wheel book for me.
Great times growing up in Eccles, Manchester.
When we, Kim Davis and the Del Five, auditioned in London for two agents we were asked to "do a spot" at the Scotch of St James.
Although we were playing cabaret we managed to pull together 20 minutes or so before Kim's voice gave out.
The resident band at the time were the Powerhouse 6 and were very impressive. Lennon, McCartney and Ringo were in the audience and Lennon complimented me on the set. I should have said "gizza song" but it was lost in the moment.
We never got a deal as our manager tried to be smart and spoiled it but we did some great work as a result including the Orbison, Walker Bros and Lulu tour. Check out www.vintagesixtieslive.co.uk
I co-produced their two Decca singles.
The final session we did was at Pye studios, not Philips, and the main song - signed T.D. was considered too druggy by the label.
However the session was totally historic.
This track was the first time split phase was ever recorded in the UK.
We tried to find out how The Big Hurt by Toni Fisher had this amazing sound, and by running 2 Ampexes with the backtrack in sinc linked to a master machine & then using a finger to slow down or speed up the machines we got the right sound.
The next week the Faces recorded Itchyco Park in the same studio, the engineer remembered how we did it & the result was the drum roll!
Courtesy Joohn May and crew at Lewes Musical Express
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A message for Yvonne Unall. Sorry this is a bit late but I don't look on this page very often. There was a post on here some time ago from, I think, Jack's son about Jack passing away. I tried to get in touch then to no avail. If you get this Yvonne, I have the photos shown on the page of when we played Bury Palais supporting The Searchers. Jack was special, a real nice guy. He quit the band when vwe turned oro because he was worried about leaving his Mum on her own.
Thank you so much for the reply. It means so much to me to hear from people who knew Jack and to hear what a great guy he was. I would really love a photo of the group He never really talked much about his group days and I never heard him play.....But you are right he was a great guy and he died much to soon
Thanks for the reply passed on to me. Its so nice to hear from somebody that remembers Jack I was married to Jack when he worked at the Victoria theatre in Salford and When we had Wheel and Custom in Bury Thank you Colin for the car Story Regards Yvonne
I am so sorry that I gave Jack a photo of him when I used to work with at Ivy Garage ..I knew him at school , and we went on holiday together to St Ives and slept in this old morris minor in a car park for 8 days , that Jack had bought for £20,, the suspention collapsed on the way down and on the way back the engine blew up in Bristol.I seen him playing in the Powerhouse 6 at the Oasis club..I cought up with him one night and went down to a theatre in Salford to have a drink with him, and I am so sorry hearing about what happened in the circus when he had that accident. I have tryed to find out where he had a car wheel buisness in Bury to try and contact his family..www beatlemaniac.co.uk
My brother played sax in the group and I used to go with them on many occasions to watch them. Jack used to lend me his cowboy boots as he often played in his stocking feet, and I thought I was Joe Cool! He was a great person and a good bass player. I have a large photo of the group I can let you have