SWEET MARRIAGE
1968-1970

Compiled by Olaf Owre, 2003
A big ”thank you” to Sweet Marriage guitarist Alan Doyle for providing most of the info and photos for this article.

Sweet Marriage was formed in Manchester in 1968. They were fronted by lead singer Tony Merrick, formerly a solo artist on Columbia, who had enjoyed a minor UK hit with the Jagger-Richard written “Lady Jane” in 1966. The group included Keith Lawless on bass, Tony MacDonald on drums, and two lead guitarists - Ron Walker and Alan Doyle. The latter had just returned home to Manchester from Spain, where he’d spent two years after leaving The Toggery Five/Toggery Soul Band in 1966.

The links between Sweet Marriage and members of The Toggery Five are many. Alan Doyle of course played guitar with both groups, and Ron Walker, the other guitarist, later became a member of Young & Renshaw. Tony Merrick had previously played with Tony Merrick Scene alongside Graham Harrop, later of Pacific Drift and Young & Renshaw.

Merrick and Harrop also both played with Jack Lancaster’s group, Sponge, before Lancaster formed Blodwyn Pig with late-period Toggery Five guitarist Mick Abrahams.

Tony MacDonald, Ron Walker and Alan Doyle, with Tony Merrick and
Keith Lawless in front of them.
Photo courtesy of Alan Doyle

 
 

Tony MacDonald was an ex-member of Bobby Dell And The Dellstars, as well as being with Paul Young’s Toggery for a brief time. Bassist Keith Lawless was well-known on the Manchester scene and had played with Ivans Meads, who recorded for Parlophone in 1965-66 and were managed by Mike Maxfield of The Dakotas. They were the first group to record for George Martin’s A.I.R. production company. Lawless was also in High Society, a studio group assembled by Graham Gouldman and Peter Cowap to record a single for Fontana in 1966.

Sweet Marriage were excellent musicians who wrote their own material and aimed for a progressive psych-pop sound. If comparisons are to be made they sounded a bit like Stockport’s late 60’s cult group, Wimple Winch, a continuation of The Just Four Men.

Like so many before them, Sweet Marriage went to Hamburg and played “The Salambo”, “The Top 10 Club” and others - as well as “The Star Palast” in Kiel.

The group released one single, “Childplay” b/w “Bitter Wind” on UK Rim Records and German Metronome in 1969, while two other songs, “Mort” and “Titania” were released on a John Peel compilation album from the “Top Gear” radio show, performances that were first broadcast during August, September and October 1969.

An album’s worth of Sweet Marriage material sadly remains unissued. Five tracks were recorded at Strawberry Studios, Stockport in 1968 with John Peel behind the controls, and another three tracks were produced the year after by John Walters, ex-trumpeter with The Alan Price Set.

However, commercial success was elusive and the group split up in 1970.

 

 

Sweet Marriage at the Top10 Club, Hamburg 1968 - courtesy James Ellingworth

Sweet Marriage at the Top10 Club, Hamburg 1968 - courtesy Tony Macdonald


Personnel info:

Tony Merrick solo (66)
Tony Merrick & The Scene (66)
Sponge (67)

Johnny Masters & The Mastersounds (62)
The Rainmakers (62-63)
Billie Davis & The Country Gentlemen (63)
The Toggery Five (65)
The Toggery Soul Band (66)
Derek Joys Showband (66-67)
Carina & Los Sonida Grande(67)

  Ivans Meads (65-66)
High Society (66)

Richard Kent Style (66-68)

Bobby Dell & The Dellstars (64-65)
Paul Young’s Toggery (66)
Electric Circus (1967)
Tony Merrick Alan Doyle Ron Walker Keith Lawless Tony MacDonald
lead vocals lead guitar/vocals lead guitar/vocals bass/vocals drums
 
Nektar (70)
Hornblower (72)
Pete Birrell’s Allsorts (73)
Alvin’s Heartbeats (75-76)
Cowap & Doyle (c&w duo 80’s)
The Rainmakers (re-unions 90’s)
The Delivery Men (2000-to present)


Young & Renshaw
(70-73)
   

Discography:

GERMAN SINGLE:
45: “Childplay” (Merrick-Lawless)/”Bitter Wind” (B. Mosley) Metronome M 25.156 with picture cover 1969

UK SINGLE:
45: “Childplay” (Merrick-Lawless)/”Bitter Wind” (B. Mosley) Rim Records (number unknown) 1969

UK LP:
LP: Various artists: “John Peel Presents Top Gear” BBC REC 52 S 1970
Contains 10 songs including “Mort” (Ron Walker) and ”Titania” (Ron Walker) performed by Sweet Marriage. Other artists featured on the album are Bridget St. John, Ron Geesin, Welfare State plus presenter John Peel.

UNRELEASED TRACKS:
Unissued: “Omaha“ (xxxxx) Produced by Jonathan Peel at Strawberry Studios 1968
Unissued: “Annie’s Sister” (xxxxx) Produced by Jonathan Peel at Strawberry Studios 1968
Unissued: “Love” (xxxxx) Produced by Jonathan Peel at Strawberry Studios 1968
Unissued: “Alone Again Or” (xxxxx) Produced by Jonathan Peel at Strawberry Studios 1968
Unissued: “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” (Judd Proctor) Produced by Jonathan Peel at Strawberry Studios 1968
Unissued: “Desiree” (xxxxx) Produced by John Walters for Top Gear/Radio Enterprises 8/1969
Unissued: “Death Of Elizabeth” (xxxxx) Produced by John Walters for Top Gear/Radio Enterprises 8/1969
Unissued: “Live And Let Live” (xxxxx) Produced by John Walters for Top Gear/Radio Enterprises 8/1969

 

I remember when Ron Walker joined up with Sweet Marriage. He had cut his teeth in the Big City Blues at 15yrs old - a very promising guitar player from Alderley Edge. He was really tasteful musically, beyond his years. Ron went on into the Gin House with me and some other Big City Blues members, namely Johnny Burrows bass , and Henry Quick Drums.

We broke up while backing Milton James as the Milton James Band ..so Ron's next step was to join Sweet Marriage.

David Bowker

I saw Sweet Marriage on a couple of occasions with Rod Gerrard of the Salford Jets and they reminded me of a cross between the west coast group Love and the early Move. Their harmonies were superb and the live version of "Alone again" was second to none. On both occasions they died on theire arse - proving that the public at times can be real dumb.

Great memories and just like Salford's own Stylos - among the greatest unsung heroes to come out of the Manchester scene--and what an impressive CV all members have. Wonderful memories indeed!!!!!!

Geoff Parkinson

At 15 years old I accompanied Al Doyle and the band to Hamburg. I was at that time a drummer with "The Orphans" a very young group from Stockport. I wanted to go just for the experience, as I was too young to play in Germany. What an experience it was! Years later I played in various cabaret bands with Al, and we were great friends.

Rob Parkes

Sad news, Tony Merrick died at home on Saturday 1st October of renal failure after bravely fighting cancer for many months.

He will be much missed by all of us,a generous and considerate man and a great voice.

Tony Macdonald, Keith Lawless, Alan Doyle Friends and 'Sweet Marriage' bandmates


 

 




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