The original line-up was: Tony Cooper – Lead Vocals and Guitar (b. Anthony Cooper, 62 Sultan St., Accrington. 11th March 1950), Dave Hull – Drums, Harmony Vocals and later Keyboards (b. David Hull, 159A Blackburn Rd., Accrington. 3rd June 1950), brother Gary Hull – Rhythm Guitar, later Keyboards (b. 159A Blackburn Rd., Accrington 16th January 1949), Maurice Blezard – Bass Guitar (b. 215 Manchester Rd., Baxenden, Accrington. 19th May 1951) and Ken Yates – Lead Guitar (b. Kenneth Yates, 59 Oakwood Rd., Baxenden, Accrington 1950 – 2009).
The band was formed in late 1963 by 13 year old Tony Cooper, who now lived at 57 Oakwood Rd. Baxenden and 13 year old Dave Hull, who now lived at 7 Bentcliffe Gardens, Baxenden. Both lads used to go down to Christ Church School each week, where they knew that popular local band The Warriors, would be rehearsing. They were so impressed by what they saw, that it wasn't long before they were joined by good friends Maurice Blezard and Ken Yates, where they all decided to 'start a band'!
Dave was an accomplished piano player and Tony had done a lot of singing in both school and church choirs, but apart from that, the lads seemed to have a bit of work to do! Ken and Tony both had guitars (of a kind), but Maurice, although quite good on piano, had no idea how to play Bass!
However it didn't take long to persuade both Maurice and Dave to change their musical directions, by learning Bass and Drums respectively. Almost immediately, Dave's brother Gary came into the band and again, although an accomplished piano player, was persuaded to take up Rhythm Guitar.
What with school work and family holidays getting in the way, it was around 10 months before the lads believed they were good enough to perform in public. Maurice's Mum, who had always taken a great interest in the band, became acting Manageress, also helping the lads financially in the buying of equipment etc.!
Their first gig was at Stonefold School in Rising Bridge near Haslingden on the 9th September 1964.
Unfortunately, Ken Yate's father, who was the Town Clerk of Accrington, decided at this late stage, that it wasn't befitting of any son of his to 'make a fool of himself' on stage, so the other four lads had to 'wing it' with Tony filling in with some lead guitar. Not a good start and something had to be done! Luckily, Tony had heard about a fellow pupil at Accrington Grammar School, who could play guitar. Immediately Glen Ainsworth (b. Clayton le Moors, Accrington 4th October 1950), was asked to join the band as their new lead guitarist. This now became The Soundcasters permanent line-up.
They now got down to learning their craft by playing lots of the local venues. Places like the Catholic Youth Club and the Arcadian Ballroom (Arcs), but more commonly known as the Arts. Here they met up with other local bands, where the Dappers, Scorchers and Dansaks seemed to be the ones to chase, and it wasn't long before people began to sit up and notice.
On Monday the 25th October 1965, the Soundcasters played at the Majestic Ballroom in Accrington, (Accy Con to the locals). This was the aim of most local bands, as it was the only venue in Accrington where you could catch a big name group on a Saturday night.
The gig couldn't have gone any better and on the strength of it, the lads went out and bought a new Farfisa organ, where at Christ Church Youth Club on the 13th November, Gary took up the permanent role of keyboard player. This then left Tony with the part time job of rhythm guitarist.
The day after, on the 14th November, they played in the first round of a 'Top Groups Competition' at Oswaldtwistle Sports Hall. The bands in the competition were the Dansaks, So On & So Forth and the Intermediates. The Soundcasters won and went through to the next round, where they were up against the Medits, the Korner Blues and the Orbits. Again they were successful and went on to the final on 19th December. They eventually came out victorious, winning £15 (wow!) and a short term contract to play at the Sports Hall!!
In that year, the group played around 55 gigs and were now becoming quite a polished act. They also finished 1965 on a high, when on New Year's Eve they were booked to play at Accy Con as support band to the Mindbenders. It had been a good year.
1966 was a very busy year, where the Soundcasters became like a resident band at the Majestic Ballroom, appearing there on no less than 14 occasions. There were a few notable nights at the 'Con'. April 21st stood out, when the lads appeared with all girl group 'She Trinity' from Canada, and as the girls arrived around lunchtime, the band were lucky enough to spend most of the day and night with them! There was also a 'Big Groups Competition' where unfortunately the Soundcasters came second to a band from Preston called Left, Right and Centre. Ugly Ray Terret from Radio Caroline also put in an appearance, with both the Soundcasters and Gideons Ways (ex Scorchers) on the same bill. Finally on Boxing Night the group were given top billing over Warrington band The Vogue.
Looking back at how much money bands like the Soundcasters were on in those days, it was quite unbelievable to imagine that anyone could afford to buy any musical equipment at all! The payments seemed to range from £5 to £20 a night. However on the 13th May when booked to play at Royds Street Youth Club in Accrington, it seems that the band were showing off a new Lowrey Organ, a matching set of new Gibson Guitars and 3 new microphones! Obviously money really did go a lot further in those days!
1966 also brought lots of new venues from farther afield. Places like Burnley Casino Club, The Regency Club at Waterfoot, The Beachcomber at Bolton, Devonshire Sportsmans Club in Manchester and the Golden Penny Club in Chorley. They also made their first visits to Burnley Mecca, Blackburn Mecca, Bolton Palais and Nelson Imperial Ballroom (Nelson Imp). There were lots of other minor clubs springing up at the time, notably Cavern Clubs, which most towns now seemed to have. Accrington Cavern though was a little bit special, as it was owned by an ex Bolton Wanderers football player, whose name now escapes me, but having a bit of money behind him, he managed to pull in some very good acts. One night especially I seem to remember, we had the great John Lee Hooker putting in an appearance!
The Soundcasters finished off the year by doing a New Years Eve 'double', playing first at the Empire Hall Oswaldtwistle, then going on to a new club called Salchow in Great Harwood. The lads worked very hard that year, doing just over 100 gigs. They were now looking to 'up their game'.
1967 should have been the best of years. The band started to change their musical direction by keeping up with modern trends. Motown and Soul were now coming into the charts, so they thought it may be handy having a Saxophone player. Not wanting to go out of the confines of the band, and as Dave could already play clarinet, Dave and Glen set about mastering the Saxophone so that Glen could play it on stage. As the band already had Gary on Keyboards, the Sax would give them even more musical options. About this time it was also paramount that new agents should be found to help the band in finding bigger and better venues. Mary and Joe Mortimer, who ran the local Music/Record shop in Accrington (Mary's Music), had always been very good with the Soundcasters, both in supplying Guitars and amps etc., but also putting them in touch with people who could further their career. However the lads needed to spread their wings. I seem to remember the Nelson Imp manager Bob Kane, helping out quite a bit. There was also Bryan Yorke (Enterprises) from Haslingden, who was also quite interested in the band. The first few weeks of the year were going exactly to plan, but then disaster struck!
On the 18th February, after playing with a band called the Impact at Accy Con, the group van was involved in an accident. Luckily all the gear had already been dropped off and the van travelled up to Baxenden, where Maurice, Tony and Dave, along with a couple of friends, were dropped off at Tony's house. The lads had hardly took their coats off, when good friend and roadie Dennis Taylor, who was supposed to be on his way home, turned up at the door to tell them that the van had crashed on the way down Manchester Road. The van was a complete write off and along with Gary,
who had a damaged foot, there were three very badly injured girls. Thankfully there were no long lasting injuries but two of the girls were in hospital for a good few weeks. This was a body blow to the band who were now without transport and Gary, who had to have skin grafts to his foot.
All gigs were cancelled and no one had any idea whether the Soundcasters would carry on or not. To make matters worse, Glen left the band! However, being a resiliant bunch, the lads set to, and slowly but surely worked it out. Tony took over as Lead Guitarist and Dennis Taylor was drafted in as the new Saxophone player. It took a few months for them to sort it all out and on the 25th May , they took a gig at King Georges Hall in Blackburn, where they played with the Beathovens and the Intermediates. Even though they played very well and were asked back later in the year, they didn't think they were up to the standard they were aiming for. So back to the drawing board they went.
Again because of school exams and holidays, it wasn't until the 30th September when booked to play at the Commercial Hotel in Accrington, that they agreed to go back on the road.
It was at this time, when the band were becoming increasingly more popular, that records of dates and places became rather thin on the ground. They saw out 1967 by doing lots of local gigs to make up for the ones they had cancelled earlier in the year, and of course saw the year out by playing at Accy Con.
1968 arrived and again the band went through some changes. Gary left and Dave took over on Keyboards. This meant they had to find a new drummer and Kim Howarth from Darwen was brought in as replacement. At this point in time the group were more popular than they had ever been. Walter (Walt) Taylor, who was Dennis's Dad, took over as manager and drove the band wherever he deemed suitable. The gigs were now coming in thick and fast and although there are no records as such, the band do remember playing at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester with Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity, and even travelled as far away as Nottingham. They were still huge favourites in Accrington however, and carried on playing some of the local gigs, especially Accy Con, which they had become very fond of.
On March 29th 1968, it finally seemed that all their hard work was going to pay off. They were booked to play at Nelson Imp with Gary Walker from the Walker Brothers. His manager was so impressed with the lads, that he invited them down to Denmark Street in London to do some recording. The next few weeks were agony, as they awaited news on the recording date. There were of course some memorable nights to take their minds off it. On the 27th April, they were lucky enough to play at Nelson Imp with Ike and Tina Turner and the lovely Ikettes. It was also around this time that they played Burnley Mecca with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, followed up a week or two later by playing the Annual Farmers Guild in Gisburn with Kenny Ball and the Jazzmen. They seem to remember spending a very enjoyable night with Kenny and the band and became quite good friends.
The day finally came around and at 4.00 in the morning around the middle of May, they set off to London. After a morning drink at the Two I's Coffee Bar, they arrived at the studio, where they were immediately given a telegram from Kenny Ball to wish them good luck. Tony always remembered this with great fondness. They then spent a wonderful day and evening learning of all the mysteries that lay in a professional recording studio. The day seemed endless and on hearing the final playback, the lads were convinced that they had done more than enough to secure a contract. Nothing has ever stuck in their minds that could compare to that day, but like many bands before and after them, the recording, or more to the point, the choice of material, didn't quite cut it. So off home they went, leaving all the magic behind them and unfortunately never heard from the studio again.
Back home though it was big news and the band became even more popular. On the back of all this 'fame' they secured top billing at Nelson Imp on the 8th June. Then two weeks later on the 23rd June played the Imp again with Status Quo.
Summer came and things seemed to tail off a bit after all the excitement of the last few weeks and unfortunately unrest started to set in. There was a Summer Season at Butlins Holiday Camp on the cards, but as this meant being away from home for months at a time, there were conflicts between family and girlfriends etc.. This led to fallouts between the lads and Tony left the group. This, as Tony will readily admit, was the most stupid thing he would ever do! There had been upheaval in the band before, but not on this scale. The nucleus of the band (Tony, Dave and Maurice) had been there from the beginning and had any of these three left, the outcome would probably have been the same. Two new members were drafted in, John Lawson on vocals and Ashy, a friend of Kim's from Darwen, who came in as lead guitarist. They played some of the outstanding gigs, which included four more nights at Nelson Imp. The 26th October with The Nice, 9th November with the Casuals, 23rd November with the Crystals and 21st December with the Bandwagon. Unfortunately however, the band were never the same again and shortly into 1969 The Soundcasters were no more. It took many years before Maurice and Dave were back on speaking terms with Tony, but all three will now agree that those 5 wonderful years were the best of their lives.
Dave Hull, who, although helped Tony out with a few gigs in the mid seventies in a band called Tanith, unfortunately retired from music altogether. Maurice Blezard settled down and eventually formed a Christian Band, playing around the country. He kept his original 1965 Gibson EB 2 Bass and occasionally, can be seen singing and playing around the Ramsbottom area. Gary Hull and Glen Ainsworth never set foot on stage again. Tony Cooper however couldn't wait to get back on stage and in the early seventies, formed a new band with younger brother Phil and good friend Mick Saul from Blackburn. These three, along with various other musicians, have been playing together on and off for the last 40 odd years. Eventually in 2010, Tony ,Phil and Mick went back on the road reviving the name of The Soundcasters. However because of work commitments, neither Phil nor Mick are still in the band, but along with very good friends and equally good musicians from Accrington's past, The Soundcasters are still performing in the area. So if anyone wants a night of nostalgia and good music, check them out on www.soundcasters.net
Here is a list of lots of the venues that The Soundcasters were privileged to play at.
Many were documented, but unfortunately many weren't, so this isn't a complete history.
There are lots of omissions from the end of 1967 to when they finished in 1969. Unfortunately there are very few details of venues from this period, just very, very fond memories.
Accrington: - Ambulance Drill Hall, Arcadian Ballroom (Arts) x 24, Baxenden Con Club, Cambridge Street Youth Club x 3, Cannon Street School, Catholic Youth Club x 16, Cavern x 3, Christ Church Youth Club, College of Further Education x 3,Commercial Hotel, English Electric, Holy Family School x 2, Majestic Ballroom x 24, New Jerusalem Youth Club, Royds Street Youth Club x 2, St. Christophers School x 3, St. John's Youth Club, St Mary Magdelains Youth Club, Whalley Rd Youth Club x3 and Woodnook Youth Club x 2.
Blackburn: - Galligreaves Arms x 3, Grosvenor Hotel, King George's Hall x 2, Mecca and St. Joseph's Youth Club.
Bolton: - Beachcomber x 3, Casino and Palais
Burnley/Nelson & Colne: - Casino Club, Cavern x 6, Dolphin Club Colne, Imperial Ballroom (Nelson Imp) x 9, Inn on the Wharf, Mecca, Nelson Old Band Club x 2 and St Mathew's Youth Club.
Burtonwood: - USAAF Army Base x 2
Chorley: - Golden Penny Club x 4
Clayton/Rishton: - All Saints Youth Club x 2, Conservative Club, Rishton Sailing Club x 3 and St. James' Youth Club.
Great Harwood: - Salchow x 5 and Water Street Youth Club.
Huncoat/Hapton: - Hapton Youth Club x 3, Huncoat Methodist Youth Club x 4, and St. Augustines x 4.
Manchester: - Devonshire Sportsmans Club x 2 and The Twisted Wheel.
Oswaldtwistle: - Empire Dance Hall x 4, Rhyddings School x 2, Sports Hall x 6 and West End Youth Club x 3.
Rossendale: - Haslingden Public Hall x 2, Queens Hotel Rawtenstall, Stacksteads WMC., Stonefold School x 2, Unity Club Haslingden, Waterfoot Regency x 8 and Whitewell Bottom Youth Club.
Whalley/Gisburn: - Ace of Spades and Gisburn Auctions x 2.
The Soundcasters were never famous although they missed out by a hairsbreadth. I am sure that there are lots of other groups, both local and nationwide that came as close and probably even closer, to the recognition we all sought. However, as all this information was documented, it did seem a shame not to put it into print. This is our story and I hope you enjoy reading it as much
as I enjoyed writing it.
Tony Cooper 2015