The Santa Fe Reunion
info courtesy John Dixon and Harold Weller

This seven piece soul & jazz rock band was formed circa 1968, from the basis of Tick Tocks Tactics.

   
Line-up
   
Harold Weller Bass Guitar
Roy Allen Lead & Rhythm guitar & Musical arranger
Tony Kay Trumpet
Melvin Booth Alto & Baritone Saxophone
Roger Bridge Tenor Saxophone
Denis Ashton Drums
John Dixon Vocals
   
Bernie Southern Lead Guitar (replaced RA)

Manchesterbeat.com

Manchesterbeat.com
SFR early 1969

The Band was managed jointly by Stuart Kay and Stuart Williamson.
Both Stuart's were a great support to the band.

A mention too for Bill Leyland (of L.E. Agency)
one of our main booking agents.

 

   

Manchesterbeat.com


Cromwellian - image courtesy Melvin Booth
John at the front, Roger (sax) left rear, Melvin (sax) middle and Tony (trumpet) on the right with the very pretty dancers taking centre stag
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An almost released single LOVING MY BABY BACK HOME was written by TONY HILLER song writer with Decca who the group were signed to.

Tony Hiller later discovered Brotherhood of Man and wrote their Top Hits.


The band worked regularly at such venues as: -

    - The Seven Stars - Heywood
    - Bolton Palais
    - The Cromwellian
    - Bolton Casino
    - Wigan Casino
    - Hindley Monaco
    - The Pink Elephant Club
    - Rivington Barn - Horwich
    - The Top Hat Club - Stoke
    - Bredbury Hall
    - Liverpool Cavern - Mathew Street
    - Farnworth Monaco
    - Windsford Civic Hall
    - The Princes Club - Chorlton
    - The Domino Club - Failsworth
    - The Georgian Club - Salford
    - Pocoapoco - Stockport
    - Belle Vue - Manchester
    - Colne Minors Club
    - Wigan Sportsmans Club
    - Salford Rugby Club (The Willows)
    - Sale Rugby Club
    - Many many more - I just cant recall!!

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Remember Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band?

The band did a little work with Geno Washington in the 60s although never made Ram Jam Band status or featured on any of Geno's recordings. Roy's arrangement of Michael (the Lover) was a fantastic version jointly sung by Geno & John. Many considered it to be an improved version of the original chart hit and more to the point, Geno loved it!

The band did some recording at Strawberry Studio's in Stockport - produced by Eric Stewart (ex-Mindbenders, Hotleggs and later 10cc). They also laid-down tracks at DECCA Recording Studio's London and EMI London.

 

They performed in front of Don Black - London hoping for that "Big Break" but it never came and the band slowly dissolved in the early 70s - Sunk without a trace until John was contacted by Paul Mlynarz ex- Phoenix City Smash and DJ Dave Eager in December 2003 who pointed him in the direction of the manchesterbeat.com website and suggested that others may be interested The Santa Fe Reunion history.

It would be wrong not give a mention to Ernie Bench. Ernie was the Manager & Road Manager of Tic Toc Tactics Soul Band. Harold Weller and Tony Kay were in that band and John Dixon used to be the Friday night stand-in drummer. It was during this "Dep" work that Ernie & the guys spotted John's talents as a singer. They subsequently asked him to join the band. John enquired as to whether Tony was leaving - they said "No - we want you to front the band" John gulped at this point - the rest is history. Ernie went on to establish a successful coach transport business (much more secure than managing a soul band). Sadly Ernie died several years ago....



Rivington Barn

Soul nights at the barn were just as 'hot' as Wigan Casino. We used to strap the PA speakers onto the ancient roof beams and make them shake and finger pop!! (this cleared the dust from the rafters).

We will never forget New Years Eve 1969 - the end of the 60s decade. We were asked to welcome the 70s in and play over the midnight slot. John asked that all the musicians who wanted to (from the other bands playing that night) be allowed to join The Santa Fe Reunion for a monster jam over the midnight chimes - we chose Shake WOW!!! BIGGEST Brass section ever - the sound was nothing short of STAX!!

Liverpool Cavern

When we were booked for this gig in 1969 we decided to put together a medley of Beatle numbers. We worked hard to represent each Lennon & McCartney song with respect and make it as close to the originals as possible. The night was going well and the soul numbers were well appreciated - we then spliced in our Beatle medley. To our surprise the audience didn't want to hear their music - the feeling was, we found out later, that the Beatles had left Liverpool and the audience didn't want to be reminded of them. We finished the medley (we had & have great respect for the Beatles). Once back into the soul songs the audience picked-up and a great night was had by all.

We were shocked by the state of the club itself. The walls ran with sweat and it took more than one wash to get the smell of the Cavern off our clothes.

The people of Liverpool were great though and we were grateful for their warm welcome for us - a Manchester Band!

The Princess / Domino & Georgian Clubs

Owned by the Moss Bros. these three clubs in Chorlton, Failsworth & Salford, were a chance for The Santa Fe Reunion to move into cabaret. Our act changed as, in the main, the audience was seated during our performance. As well as performing our powerful soul songs such as Shake, Can't turn you loose, I Feel Good, Papa's got a brand new bag etc.. we moved into jazz rock songs by Chicago (Does anybody really know what time it is?) and the standard Stormy Weather as well as My Girl, When a man loves a woman & Tramp!. We used to swap instruments.

John would play drums or Alto / Tenor Saxophone and the guys would swap instruments and take a turn at lead vocal. We learned a great deal about entertaining as opposed to just performing music at these clubs. We would often do the three clubs in one night. This type of working was very tiring, as well as performing it trebled the set-up & pack-up effort.

Bolton Casino

Sunday nights at the Casino were dedicated to Soul! The Casino is still there on the corner of Crompton Way - it is now a supermarket.

The Seven Stars - Heywood

One of our most favorite gigs. We once worked every night for two weeks. The place used to ROCK! It was great for us to just turn up and play - the gear already being set-up for a week at a time - heaven!! The landlord (Denis) and his wife & family were good to us and a pleasure to work for - we had some great times. We felt it providence that the venue was called The Seven Stars and there were seven of us (dream-on Johnboy!!!).
Manchesterbeat.com
SFR 1970 with Bernie Southern on lead ( replacing Roy Allen)
John Dixon off stage in this pic

   

Manchesterbeat.com

Hadge Weller Bass, Denis Ashton Drums

Wigan Casino

When we now think of Wigan Casino we often remember it through Northern Soul with DJ's such as Tony Blackburn and Richard Searling & others. The fact is there was Soul Nights here well before the DJ's took over the venue in the 70s. It was the live bands of the 60s that originally established this as a Mecca of Soul.

Such bands as: J. J. Jackson, The Harlem John Reshuffle, The Santa Fe Reunion, Bill Shakespear and many more, regularly attracted large crowds for their soul nights. John made his microphone lead so long that it stretched from the PA (Public Address Amplifier) on stage - to a point in the middle of the dance floor at the Casino. He used to mingle among the audience, dance & sing to, for and with them for some of the songs. The crowd used to love it and used to open up a circle in which he danced, gyrated and sang to them - fantastic nights! Just fantastic!!!

 
John will always be grateful for the DJ's for continuing and expanding this - now legendary Soul Venue and for keeping the memory 'alive' in our hearts. He does, however, feel sad that many of the live musicians of the 60s rarely - if ever - are mentioned by the DJ's.

Remember Hotleggs?

Neanderthal Man reached the No.1 slot in the late 60s. We were all sat in Strawberry Studio's having a coffee-break after doing some recording and Eric Stewart played us a couple of tracks that he had been working on, asking for our opinion of which track we liked best. We all agreed on a track and he said that he too liked that track best, however, the Recording Studio was going to put the other track as the "A" side, which they subsequently did and Neanderthal Man climbed to No.1 in the UK charts.


Special Event: -

Poporama - Bellevue Manchester circa 1969

This was one of the bigest Pop Group Contest ever to be held in the North West.

The show was compered by:-
Tony Blackburn, Stuart Henry and Dave Eager

The Preliminary Judges were:-
Greg Edwards, Ralph Elphinstone, Steve Handson, Peter Hearn and John Lewis

The Final Judges were:-
Graham Gouldman - Kassanatz Katz (later 10cc of course)
Johnny Hamp - Granada TV
John Wilcox - BBC
Ian Mean - Daily Mail
Phil Moss - Mecca

     

The Groups were - in order of appearance

The Ephemeral Blues Band - The Big Herm and the Rock Cats - 3's Company - The Trek - Twilight Zone - Elmers Tune - The Misty Soul - The Hereward - The Passion Waggon - Tighmes - Vision Pop - The Chariots - The Romany Rye - The Contrast - The Pink Engine - Avenue Lane - The Spring - Staircase
The Green River - The Spyro Gyro - The Starlight Show Group - The Santa Fe Reunion - The Outsiders - Bare Soul

   

The programme cost a whopping 2shillings and 6pence (2'6d)

The first heat was won outright by The Santa Fe Reunion with The Chariots second and The Spyro Gyro third.

The final heat saw the winners as The Chariots with The Spyro Gyro second and The Santa Fe Reunion third.

Hey man! We all had a groovy time so what the hell!!

 


Footnote - from John

 

Thank you so much for the opportunity to present this history of The Santa Fe Reunion on your great website.

I hope that your readers will be as entertained as I have been re-living these memories. It was a great time for live music and I am pleased that I was involved - albeit in a small way.

On Thursday / Friday and Saturday nights we would pass many bands, just like us, zooming off to their gig.

Their band names either plastered on the side of the van or on a big card in the front and back window (usually the sign of a borrowed van).

 

Such names as Pink Engine, The Phoenix City Smash, Harlem John Reshuffle, The Cortinas, The Chariots - so many that I simply cannot recall them all. It is a great pity that we did not have the M60 in those days, travel was slow on those old roads. We started life in an old converted ambulance (that was Ernie's - he drove the fastest converted ambulance in the North West, and much better than a Milk Float!).

We then bought a Blue Bedford Long-Wheelbase and finaly ended up in a big orange Commer "walk-through" (which used to belong to the Manchester group Orange). It had been fitted out with four double bus seats and a single drivers seat for Alan ??? (our Roadie). It had been completely sealed from the rear equipment area in order to prevent flying guitar cases hitting us in the back of the head when the brakes were applied hard. This was a common injury in the 60s.

I am so sorry that I am unable to remember everybody's name. I hope that this article will jog memories and that you will remind me of those things I have forgotten.

Sock-it-to-me!!Sock-it-to-me!!Sock-it-to-me!!Sock-it-to-me!!Sock-it-to-me!!

John Dixon - Singer
Santa Fe Reunion

 

John also worked in The Atoms as a drummer during the early 60s with James Johnson- lead guitar, Adrian Howard - rythm guitar and Malcome Howard bass guitar.

John also worked as a drummer & vocals in The Soundcaster Sect - A Blues Band with Tom Morgan lead & rythm guitar & vocals and Barry Holden bass guitar & vocals.

John also worked as a "Dep" drummer in Tic Toc Tactics Soul Band.

John is now a working Fitness Proffessional. He is a fully qualified Pilates and Aerobics teacher (aerobic sessions are where John still sings many of the 60s soul songs that he used to sing while in the bands) and at 54 is still going strong!

He trades under the name of Ki Spirit - to visit his site click www.ki-spirit.co.uk

 

Photograph taken in 1966 at the Apprentice Training School , AEI-GEC Power Engineering in Trafford Park, Manchester

Mike Toop (Tangerine) is on the front row far right at the end.
John Dixon (The Santa Fe Reunion) is on the middle row 5th from the left
(with the mod cut and the tie).

Came across this photo taken 2010. First time I`d seen John Dixon for 40 years and Mev Booth since early 70`s.
Left to right - Hadge, John and Mev.

Hadge

 

LOL!! found this photo of Roger Bridge - Tennor Sax (on left)
John Dixon - Singer (middle) and Tony Kay - Trumpet (on right).

We were used as models for the clothes. You can just see the bass drum in the background bearing the "Santa Fe Reunion" name. We couldn't afford the clothing and we didn't even get to keep any of it (story of my life).

Just checked the mirror and BLOODY HELL - WHERE HAS MY HAIR GONE !!! AND WHY IS WHAT'S LEFT WHITE???  LOL!!!

Hope you can find a place for this gem...   Cheers mate...

John Dixon
25/6/12

 

SFR ,Together again 2016

The band performing on Stage, Saturday 24th Sept. 2016

It was our Drummer Denis`s 70th Birthday this month. And what better way to honour our dear Mate than to re-unite the Band for this very special occasion .

This was no easy task as some of us now live in different areas of the UK.  I`m pleased to say we are all `still alive and kicking`  ( just...lol )  and after limited rehearsal time , we performed on the same stage for the first time in an amazing FORTY SIX years...... To play our Chicago / Blood Sweat and Tears arrangements was expecting too much within a limited time.

We settled on a set list of standard Soul Classics which is what we did when formed back in 1968. Only myself ( Bass ) and fellow Lead Guitarist are still Gigging on a regular basis.

It was a wonderful and very emotional experience for us all to play again, and before an Audience of around 200 people. Some of us have met up a couple of times a year for a drink and a laugh over old times. But this is the very first time we have all been under the same roof since 1970......God willing, we have all agreed to do it again sometime.





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Comments

lynn rossiney
I first met the band at the Cromwellian in 1969, went out with Roger Bridge.

The song higher & higher still brings memories back from when they played at the casino on Crompton Way
15th November 2014 12:05am
John Dixon
Hi Lynn, It makes me so pleased that you still remember that Jacky Wilson song. I always preferred Higher and Higher to Reet Petite. Great days. Best wishes...
John x
5th August 2015 6:57am
Melvin Booth
Fantastic to read and remember all this stuff, well done John / Hadge.
I'm amazed you managed to remember so many people and band names. (what about "Jazzman T" at the Severn Stars?).

I like the little article on The Cromwellian Club this was a far better gig than the Liverpool Cavern!

I found this OLD Polaroid someone gave me taken at the Cromwellian with John at the front (as always) Roger (sax) left rear, myself (sax) middle and Tony (trumpet) on the right with the very pretty dancers taking centre stage.
Good stuff.

Ps. thank you Janice for the very kind comments.
17th September 2014 9:52pm
Janice Mackay
Knew the group so well as my boyfriend was Mev Booth. Knew Hadge Weller & his wife Kath. Also, Roger Bridge. I vaguely remember someone dying from the group in the early 70s, wonder if anyone can clarify this for me.
Loved the music of the band & whenever I hear a Chicago number it reminds me of the good times! They used to sing a number about a yellow van, would love to know the title of this song & the artist.
Such a pity the band didn't make it big, their early soul music was the best ever.
7th September 2014 9:10pm
Harold Weller
Hi Janice, remember you well and thanks for the kind comments. Some of us still get together for a drink a laugh every now and then.
11th December 2014 2:58am
Janice Mackay
Hi Harold, lovely to hear from you. So glad you are still in touch with some of the band & get together. Lovely to hear from you. Hope to see you sometime xx Smile
27th December 2014 9:04am
John Dixon
Hi Janice, thanks for the memory.. The Chicago favourite of mine was always "Does anyone really know what time it is" the guys played it so well. It was a great privilege for me to work with such a great set of musicians..
John x
5th August 2015 7:02am
Jenny Farnham
Hi john always remember u &lads. Had such good times going to gigs with you all all round north west. Whenever i hear my girl i can see you now singing to me. Hope all you guys are doing well in life. It was so good to find this sight
4th December 2015 10:08am
John Dixon
Great to hear from you Jenny.
Thank you for remembering "My Girl". The time with the SFR was so special to me and the opportunity to sing and entertain you, my audience, was thrilling and a privilege that remains with me to this day. Such fond memories. My very best wishes to you... John x
13th December 2015 7:17pm
Jenny Farnham
Hi john thanks i very often think of all the great times i had with you all especially when i am listening to soul and motown music all the different clubs around the north west. Think my favorite was rivington barn especially new years eve 1969 what a night that was.good to know all you guys are still in touch and it would be good to hear from you all. By the way your roadies name was alan collins. Jenny X
14th December 2015 8:53pm
John
Well done Jenny. Alan Collins. Thanks for solving that memory lapse. Yes the jam to let the 70's in at Rivington Barn was a Hootanannie. John x
16th January 2016 6:57pm
Hadge Weller
Hi JennyBlush
27th February 2016 2:26am
Jenny Farnham
GrinHi Hadge good to hear from you after all this time. I know you are still playing music I believe with Night Train at the moment. Its so nice to know you guys are still in touch after all these years. I was so pleased to find this sight it was like turning back the clock. It would be so nice to catch up. Love JennyX:
27th February 2016 4:59am
Hadge Weller
Yes, still gigging...bit of life still left in the old dog yet !!! Been with Night Train for 2 years nowSmile
28th February 2016 12:25am
Jenny Farnham
Hi Hadge it's good to know your still going strong. I often revisit the good times of Santa fe Reunion in my mind especially when I am listening to soul and motown music which I do quite a lot. It was so nice to find this site and the writeup John did and to know all you guys are still in touch. If you ever want to get in touch please put a message on here and we can sort something out. JennyXSmile
3rd March 2016 4:27am
Hadge Weller
been over 40 years since those great days Jenny, scary .....Shocked 07713465973 please text me when poss.How are things with you...
1st April 2016 12:13am
Jenny Farnham
Hi Hadge so nice to hear from you after so long just wanted to say thanks for your reply will be in touch soon.
JennyX.
1st April 2016 10:32am
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