The Rangers were formed by myself and a pal Dave Lee in late 1959. We had these plastic four string acoustic guitars. We had no idea how to tune them so we just tuned them in an open key. I could play piano so we did have some a basis of musicality. We made up about 4 chords and started doing Lonnie Donegan songs. This was long before we did any gigs as I was only 11 at the time and Dave was 13! We soon got six string acoustic guitars and discovered Bert Weedon's 'Play in a Day' How we marvelled at the masses of chords possible with a standard guitar tuning. We taught ourselves to become reasonably proficient on our guitars and did a few local church hall gigs as a kind of skiffle duo.
But all that eventually changed. I remember the first time I heard 'Apache' by the Shadows' I was totally gobsmacked. Nobody I had ever heard of had ever made an electric guitar sound like that. Dave was equally bowled over. We begged and grovelled to our parents to get us electric guitars and amps. I got a 'Rosetti Lucky Seven' with a 15 watt Selmer amp and Dave a Watkins Guitar and amp. From then on it became Shadows Shadows Shadows. We played our first paying gig at Clifton Exide social Club near Bolton. and were soon gigging regularly round the working mens clubs. Our backing used to be the club drummer a species of human being who could either make or ruin your act. I remember at one club we had a drummer who could only do swing beat. Imagine 'Apache in a swing beat!! At another club this guy technically very good but seemed to try to put his whole repertoire of drum fills in one song. It was like playing next to someone building a shed! At this point I must thank my Dad because without him driving us in our family car a 'Vauxhall Wyvern' we'd have had no way of doing those gigs.
In 1963 Dave had to leave the duo to concentrate on his studies and after advertising for a new rhythm guitarist Roy Rigby joined me an we established the duo once again. By this time the Merseybeat had just started and apart from the instrumentals we were doing quite a few vocals especially some of the Mersey beat stuff. When the Beatles were at their height stations like radio caroline had just started and often played songs of artists about 2 weeks before release date. I used to sit there with a Mazel Radio reel to reel tape to catch any unreleased records particularly the Beatles and the Stones so we could learn them and play them at a gig before their release dates. I remember we sang 'She Loves You' at a gig a full week before the release date.
About 1965 Roy left to go to university and Jeff Bickerton formerly of Dave Plum and the Stones joined me as bass player. So we were now a lead and bass guitar duo. At this time we stared getting a few dance gigs where a decent drummer who could play our material was needed. I guy I vaguely knew from primary school Dennis Rimmer used to join us for these gigs and eventually we found the band sounded so much better with a 'proper' drummer and a very good one at that, so we asked him to join us permanently which he did. Amongst many of the gigs we did one stands out to me. It was about summertime 1966 when we were asked to play at a 'coming out party' in a marquee at a big posh house in Hale Barnes for the daughter of a very important public figure of some organisation, lets just say old money rich to cut a long description short.
It was like we were in some kind of period drama, a step back in time and we'd never seen so much food layed on. I saw and tasted fresh salmon for the first time in my life but decided I'd prefer a tin of John West. (Peasant!!) We played 3 sets which for most of the time we could hardly play for laughing. Many people were mainly the same age or slightly older than us but to watch them dance was like watching Monty Python's 'Middle Class Twit of the Year sketch'. Overall though it was a great gig and many similar gigs in the same area (through I presume word of mouth) followed. The money was good too and we could stuff ourselves with food between sets.
When Denis joined we changed our name to 'Klyx ( we'd got a bit tired of constant references to the Texas Rangers) but looking back I think the name Klyx was just as daft.
When Denis left in about 1968 Mick Gilbourne who would later join The Impact, Pyawacket then 10cc became our drummer. We decided to call it a day later that year I think through exhaustion more than anything else. After gigging none stop for 3 or 4 years every weekend it was quite novel for me anyway to be able to just go out with my mates on a Saturday night like most other blokes. It didn't last long though and soon after I formed Pyawacket.
I have never heard or seen founding member Dave Lee since the day he left the Rangers and I would love to hear from him. Also not seen Denis for a long time. the last time I heard from him he'd bought a fishing boat at Fleetwood and was making a living from it. I still hear from Jeff from time to time as he was the one who told me about Manchester Beat and did the first entry for Pyawacket.
Dennis joined Ken and myself as our drummer , making us a three piece "group", in 1964 and I still have a number of 'photos of the three of us.
We had a residency at the Horse Shoe Hotel in Salford on a monday night.We often used this as a chance to try out new numbers before playing them in the clubs. A local band called "Des and the Lysanders " were also resident with us and we used to play a couple of sets each through the evening.
We played quite a few giggs at the Manor Lounge in stockport as support to some well known groups of the day. One of these was with my hero, the great Bo Diddly, along with Gerome and the Dutchess and I still have their signed 'photos.
There was loads of work in those days as there was almost a club of some kind on every street, and plent of concert secs doing the rounds and booking you for their club.
The hardest clubs to play were the yorkshire miners clubs as they would sit with their coats on their knees and if they did'nt like you they would put their coats on and go !! I am pleased to say that it never happened to us.
I left in 1966 to join the RAF, and 5 years later after finishing my term, I started another band and finaly gave up the "boards" in 1980.
I am very sad to report that Ken Shelmedine my lifelong friend and lead guitarist in the Rangers, Klix and many other groups since has died from that dreaded disease cancer.
Ken was a very good lead guitarist and in the early sixties there was not that many talented musicians around compared with nowadays. He could play Shadows music with ease and that led to a lot of success for the band.
He will be missed by a lot of people.