The Purple Gang were all art students at Stockport College in 1965 and formed into a jugband after founder Joe Beard`s return from St Ives" "beat" scene, where he had hung out with the late blues legend , Duster Bennet and The Jericho Jugband.
Also local Bramhall blues hero, John Mayall had given Beard his first interest in blues and a free guitar lesson!
The Gang were amazingly called at first "The Young Contemporaries Jugband", (named after the famous Manchester art competition held yearly at The Whitworth Gallery) and made their sensational debut at The Manchester Sports Guild.
Booker "Jenks" Jenkins gave them a unique double billing - as they played both the jazz cellar and the folk room on the same night! Later they played The Free Trade Hall at a CND concert and The Northern Festival of Folk, Jazz and Blues.
They recorded their demo tape at a main street coffee bar in Hyde on an old Revox and new managers, Gordon and Lyn Aldred hawked it around London ,until it caught the ear of Nat Joseph at Transatlantic Records.
He sent for the band - booking them into The Marquee to play alongside Cat Stevens and Long John Baldry. Later he brought in Joe Boyd who took over management and production..and they met up with Pink Floyd about to record "Arnold Layne" with Boyd producing it the day before Purple Gang`s infamous "Granny Takes A Trip"single. At this session Floyd leader Syd Barrett offered them a song called "Boon Tune".
The band were now called THE PURPLE GANG sporting a mix of "roarin 20`s" gear, short hair and going more pop and psychedelic influenced. They were adopted by the new London Underground movement and played the legendary "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" at Alexandra Palace. On the edge of stardom, they were put on the roster of The Jane EASTON Agency, alongside the new Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Yardbirds, and The Stones.
They were walking with giants briefly, until the all powerful BBC slapped a ban on the single. Appearances on "Top Of The Pops", "Juke Box Jury"and USA album and single deals suddenly vanished as everyone took fright.at the song`s title!
The band came back to Manchester and played "Mr Smiths"(Tony Wilson auditioned them but didn`t like them) and Bredbury Hall Country Club, plus various other places, long gone.
They had a single out in France as a dance called "Le Mirliton", but it sank without trace. The USA album was pressed and printed as a limited edition and is now a collector`s item..but it never made it onto the shelves.
They achieved great respect and notoriety with the now mini classic "GRANNY TAKES A TRIP"and it is played to this day nationally. But they argued and split, blaming the record company, the BBC and themselves for losing out.
In 1969 they reformed with a more electric line-up back in Manchester and quickly became a college favourite appearing regularly around the city colleges and University gigs, supporting some big names.
Sacked Radio 1 DJ David Symonds (sacked for reading the national news out in the nude, stoned) became the new manager and a new record company called "NEON" offered them a deal but Neon changed their minds at the last minute due to disagreements over contractual conditions and demands.
About this time they played The Poco A Poco in Stockport with David Bowie. They narrowly missed being put on The IOW Fest bill and the first Glastonbury.but luck was running out.
Manchester College of Art, 1971
From "The Express" 30th April 1970
School concerts are never going to be the same again.
The Purple Gang entertain at Stockport Schools' Union
Sixth Form Concert at the Poco Poco on Monday night.
Left to right : Geoff Bowyer, Alex Sidebotham,
Gerry Robinson, Tony Moss and Joe Beard.
They featured an electric mandolin put through a fuzz-wah pedal and could be described as a folk-rock, psychedelic jugband...playing original material.they actually needed nurturing and developing, particularly in the business department.They faded away in 1973 back in London, but later all patched up the friendships and gigged socially for years at private parties.
electric 12 srting guitar
lead vocal and piano
electric mandolin, harmonica, guitar
Alex Sidebotham (later of The Distractions)
bass (replaced by)
In 1998 Joe Beard reformed the band with several new members and recorded a new CD at Cavalier Stockport called "Night Of The Uncool".the played Stockport Town Hall and had a double page spread in "The Guardian" in 2003."
Granny" came out on several big compilations and they had a few good national airplays..even starting off Radio 2`s "The Story of Pink Floyd".
They were seen in 2003 recording Syd Barrett`s old song "Boon Tune" in Revolution Studios in Cheadle Hulme in South Manchester.
1970 Sunday 15 Feb
"Grass Eye" benefit gig at Mr Smith`s - audition for "Granada "Octopus" program.
Tony Wilson there but didn`t like us Sat March 7
Manchester Uni - supporting "T.Rex" Tues April 24
College of Commerce Manchester - supporting "LOVE"and Arthur Lee Mon April 27 Poco a Poco - with Barclay James Harvest and High Tide supprting DAVID BOWIE. Sat May 15
Stockport College - supporting "The Move and Blodwyn Pig"
''Granny Takes A Trip'' / ''Boot Leg Whiskey''
Big T BIG 101 April 1967
"Kiss Me Goodnight Sally Green" (Bowyer/Beard) / "Auntie Monica" (Bowyer Beard)
Big T BIG 111 June 1968
The Purple Gang Strikes
Sire SES 97006 1968
Re-release of 68 album
1: Auntie Monica 2: Bootleg Whisky 3: Viola Lee Blues 4: The Wizard 5: Mr. Aldred Jones 6: Granny Takes A Trip 7: Overseas Stomp 8: Freightliner 9: The Sheik 10: Rising Sun 11: Kiss Me Goodnight Sally Green 12: Carlo's Circus 13: Madam Judge 14: Brown Shoes 15: The King Comes Riding
TRACKS 1. Almostgotitogetheronce 2. Hot-City Nights 3. Empty Head 4. Sunset Over The Mersey 5. The Stranger 6. Night of the Uncool 7. The Wizard (Revizited) 8. Ride the Love Train 9. Dangerous Games 10. Palatino Express 11. Almostgotitogethertwice
Cost £9 Sterling or $14 USD including Post and Packing from The Purple Gang official site
Our thanks to Joe Beard for the "STUFF".
For more info on The Purple Gang, please visit The Purple Gang official site
News from the band
15 May 2006
The Purple Gang is still going in the form of the "PURPLE GANG JUGBAND" and we play "Gone to Pott" fest this SAT with 10 other local bands in a field at the back of Pott Shrigley school near Bollington/ Macclesfield.Sunday night we are on at THE GLOBE Glossop.
In Russia we have been featured alongside Pink Floyd on Ekco Moscow again and I am interviewed in "In Rock" their version of Mojo.
"Our single "Granny Takes A Trip" is out again on two major book CD PACKAGES 1. "The Look-Rock and Fashion "by Paul Gorman and "White Bicycles-making music in the ¬ 60`s " by Joe Boyd (our ex-manager).
The song was on Radio 2 LAST WEEK.
So we are still living locally and still playing and still punching above our weight, strangley.
In 1969/70 I was managing an advertising agency in Manchester. We were in need of an extra person in the studio and Trev Grimshaw, the studio manager suggested someone that he'd been at college with - Pete Walker.
Pete's only previous experience had been as the singer with the Purple Gang, not very relevant to advertising, but I took him on anyway. Pete had just got married and had a small daughter, hence his need for a proper job.
Pete was a white witch and was therefore known as 'Pete The Witch' so he wouldn't be confused with me (I could never get them to call me 'Sir'). I think that the girls in the office were curious as to what sort of rituals white witches engaged in and I'm sure that Pete would have been only too pleased to enlighten them but our insurance didn't cover goat sacrifice and the deflowering of virgins.
Once or twice Pete came along and did a number with the Crooks Brown Band. The only song that he ever did was 'Help Me', which I believe is a Sonny Boy Williamson number.
I don't think that he ever brought his kazoo for which we were truly thankful.
The Purple Gang was formed in September 1965 at Stockport Art School, Stockport, North East Cheshire, as a jug band by Joe Beard on lead guitar (born Christopher John Beard, November 28, 1945, West Park Hospital, Macclesfield, North East Cheshire, UK), plus Ank Langley on jug, banjo (born Trevor Langley, 1946, Stockport, North East Cheshire, UK), Geoff Bowyer on washboard, piano, vocals, kazoo, organ (born Geoffrey Paul Bowyer, 1947, Leek, Staffordshire, UK), Pete Walker on lead vocals, kazoo (born Peter John Walker, 1946, Hyde, North Cheshire, UK) and Gerry Robinson on mandolin, harmonica (born David John Robinson, 1947, Hyde, North Cheshire, UK).
Beard had met singer Walker in Summer 1965 in St Ives, Cornwall. Beard got guitar lessons from John Mayall as he was going out with Alice Flint younger sister of John Mayall's drummer Hughie Flint (b. Hugh Flint, Saturday, March 15, 1941, Manchester, Lancashire, UK).
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Hey Joe, Remember you came to our house in Salford a million years ago? I still love "Granny takes a trip". I'll be back by mid 2016, I would love to jam with you. I was back in July 2014 & jammed with Nigel Pickering & The Idol Frets in Rochdale; two of them are with Barclay James Harvest. Anyway geerus a shout. All the best, Dave Tommins - ex Boston Sect & Oliver's Twist - M/cBeat