The Vincents
Stretford

Click here for The Vincents appearances at The Beatles in Urmston Show and The Stones show

A biography
Courtesy Pete Royle

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Above: The original line-up: John Theaker (drums), John McKeown (rhythm guitar), Pete Royle (Bass), Brian O’Donoghue (Lead Guitar). 

The Vincents were established in the Manchester suburb of Stretford in early/mid 1962.

Inspired by the likes of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and, of course, Elvis, two local lads, Brian O Donoghue and John McKeown, began learning the rudiments of the guitar together.

It wasn’t too long before they had progressed to a level of competence that further moved them to explore the possibilities of making music together and to augment the duo and establish a group in the light of the move from Skiffle groups to Rock ‘n’ Roll in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

With this in view, school friend of Brian, Pete Royle, was persuaded to take up playing the bass guitar. Once persuaded, Pete Royle suggested another school friend, John Theaker, be recruited to play drums. Pete and John were in the same class at school and Pete had noted John Theaker’s request to the metalwork teacher, to make a cymbal stand, as he was shortly having a drum kit as a present.

Hence, by mid 1962, the four original members were established and began meeting regularly to practice.

Early guitars and equipment were basic and included the (now) renowned Rosetti ‘Lucky 7’, hastily upgraded to a ‘Solid 7’, Hofner Bass, Futurama guitar and Olympic drum kit, together with the purchase of a Watkins Dominator and the loan of John McKeown’s brother’s Watkins Westminster amp.

The group was now more or less equipped to practice together as a combo. The only item of equipment not mentioned above was an old ‘Leak’ amplifier hooked to a sizeable twin speaker cabinet used as a bass amp. The sound quality of this piece of equipment was, at best, suspect. Hence it soon gained the name ‘The Farting Cow’ by the members of the group.

Practices were held in the front room of Pete Royle’s house in Radstock Road, Stretford. The name, ‘The Vincents’, was arrived at as a combination of the name Gene Vincent, together with the name of a well known motorbike of the time – the Vincent Black Knight/ Shadow.

The name was synonymous with ‘Victorious.’

Eventually, by August 1962, the group felt confident enough to make a public performance.

Subsequently, in August 1962, ‘The Vincents’ had their first ‘booking’ at St. Matthew’s Youth Club, Stretford.

 
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Above:  Original line-up, minus John Theaker.
   
#1 Line -up                   1962/63
Brian  O Donoghue  Lead guitar and vocals
John   McKeown Rhythm guitar/backing vocals
Pete    Royle Bass guitar/backing vocals
John   Theaker Drums
   

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Circa 1962 – Venue not known (possibly Massey - Ferguson Social Club, Stretford)

During the latter part of 1962 and through the majority of 1963, ‘The Vincents’ found regular work in and around the local Stretford/Urmston/Flixton area, playing many of the local Youth Clubs and social clubs, whilst also playing regularly at the ‘Gog and Magog’ pub on London Road, Ardwick.

Regular practice sessions were held at the ‘Children’s Theatre’ building, next to the Services Club on Talbot Road, Stretford, as well as at the Radstock Road house.

Gradually the bookings began to increase and the radius from the Stretford area began to grow significantly, as venues across Greater Manchester began to become much more common. Venues in Salford became regular, particularly in the many licensed premises and clubs in the Cross Lane area.

‘The Vincents’ played what was effectively a residency at ‘The Fusiliers’ on Cross Lane, sharing the venue with ‘The Stylos’, for much of 1963.

In or about August of 1963, John Theaker left the group. John lived in the Middleton area and had to travel to Stretford every time the group played.

He had been approached by Middleton group ‘Lee Paul and the Boys’ (later to be re-named ‘The Wheels’) to join them.

Following an advert in the ‘Manchester Evening News’ and, after auditioning several applicants, Arthur White became the new drummer.

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#2 Line -up                   1963/64
Brian  O Donoghue  Lead guitar and vocals
John   McKeown Rhythm guitar/backing vocals
Pete    Royle Bass guitar/backing vocals
Arthur White  Drums
   
   

Line up #2 with new drummer, Arthur White. 

(note, ‘Farting Cow’ under Vox amp!)

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From 1963 through to August 1964 the group continued to thrive and to broaden their playing area. Venues in and around Oldham, the Devonshire and Levenshulme Sporting Clubs, together with Manchester city-centre clubs, became regular bookings. At around this time, another local Stretford group, ‘The Neutrons,’ were moving towards disbanding, after a couple of years  following a similar route to ‘The Vincents’.

Consequently, guitarist and vocalist with ‘The Neutrons,’ Graham Leggott, was approached to join ‘The Vincents’. He accepted the invitation and, from August 1964 the now augmented line-up was able to enhance their repertoire with much greater close-harmony work. At around the same time, rhythm guitar player John McKeown decided to leave the group. Hence, after a brief period as a five-piece line-up, the group reverted to a four-piece band and, therefore, ‘The Vincents’ entered a new era.

By now, guitars and equipment were being upgraded. A couple of Vox amps, Reslo mikes, Watkins ‘Copicat’ echo unit and Brian purchasing a Fender Strat, all added to the improving sound of the group.

   

Right: Lead Guitar, Brian O’Donoghue

Below: Photo taken at The Fusiliers, Cross Lane, Salford, circa 1963

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#3 Line -up                   1964/65
Brian  O Donoghue  Lead guitar and vocals
Graham Leggot Rhythm guitar/backing vocals
Pete    Royle Bass guitar/backing vocals
Arthur   White Drums

 

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‘The Vincents’ were entering a phase whereby, with the added vocals of Graham Leggott, a much greater repertoire was possible. Consequently, the new line up attracted work from much further afield. In later 1964 and into 1965 the band worked regularly in Yorkshire as well as in the Manchester and Lancashire areas.

A tour of Cornwall and Devon was undertaken during the summer of 1965. Also, ‘The Vincents’ became regular visitors to the Huddersfield area playing on countless occasions -- at the ‘Tahiti 2’ Club on Venn Street and also at the ‘Sheridan Rooms’ ballroom/dance hall.

For a brief period (March to June 1965) Arthur White had to leave the group for personal reasons. During his absence he was replaced by Mike Morris on drums.

   
#4 Line -up                   March - June 1965
Brian  O Donoghue  Lead guitar and vocals
Graham Leggot Rhythm guitar/backing vocals
Pete    Royle Bass guitar/backing vocals
Mike Morris Drums
During this brief period ‘The Vincents’ played several high profile gigs supporting headline bands such as ‘The Spencer Davis Group,’ whilst maintaining their own headline position in and around the clubs and dance halls of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
   

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Line up #4 – Photos taken outside The Floating Light pub, a frequent watering hole en route to Huddersfield, where the group played regularly.    

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Line up #4 (March-June 65, venue unknown)

Arthur White returned to the group in June/July 1965 prior to the band’s highly successful tour of the West Country during the summer of 1965. The line-up remained the same until 1967 when ‘The Vincents’ eventually disbanded.

#4 Line -up                 June 1965/67
Brian  O Donoghue  Lead guitar and vocals
Graham Leggot Rhythm guitar/backing vocals
Pete    Royle Bass guitar/backing vocals
Arthur   White   Drums

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The last two years of ‘The Vincents’ saw the group play alongside  many of the prominent musical influences of the time, supporting ‘The Walker Brothers’, ‘The Merseybeats’, ‘Unit Four Plus Two’, ‘Sounds Incorporated’, ‘The Move’, ‘Jeff Beck’,
‘Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers’ – amongst many others.

Gigs (usually known as ‘bookings’ in those days) playing the college and university circuit, with a regular demand for them to play in and around the Lincolnshire area
and satisfying their regular following in Huddersfield and West Yorkshire, assured them of very regular work until splitting in 1967.

 

Following many hours of research at Manchester Central Library and
libraries in the relatively close proximity, the following newspaper adverts 
have been trawled in order to give some semblance of chronology to the existence of ‘The Vincents’ over 40 years ago !  Also, one or two ads have
been included which were discovered re ‘The Neutrons’. 

It was in August 1964 that Graham Leggott (founder member of
‘The Neutrons’) joined ‘The Vincents’. This line up continued through ‘til
1967.

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Photo taken by Graham Leggott during the band’s tour of the West Country,  August 1965,  shows drummer Arthur White (4th right) with Brian (2nd right), Pete Holmes, the roadie (2nd left) and Pete the bassist (1st left).

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The West Country Tour - August 1965

For two weeks, August 11th  to 25th 1965, ‘The Vincents’ embarked upon a tour of the West Country, taking a break from the Greater Manchester area and the regular venues in Yorkshire and the surrounding regions.

The tour was organised by then agent Ian Miller. Ian Miller had been involved as agent for ‘The Vincents’ for some time, mainly organising bookings in and around the Oldham area, where he was locally based.

The precise itinerary has long been lost but, with the benefit of still reasonably clear recollections, photographs that have found the light of day after 45years of having lain undiscovered, plus some internet research, it has been possible to piece together a fairly accurate outline of our West Country Sojourn.
  1. The journey commenced by heading south and stopping off at Stoke-on-Trent. General consensus recalls the venue as being the ‘Potters Club’, although this may not be 100% accurate.

  2. The second night’s venue was the ‘School Rooms’ in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire.

  3. The City hall, Truro, was the last venue en route to Cornwall and, once in the Cornwall area the following venues were played:
  • Porthscatho – Surfing Club
  • Perranporth – Holiday Camp
  • Porthtowan – The Beach Hotel
  • Penzance – The Old Barn Club
  • Redruth – The Flamingo Club

Several of these venues involved playing two or three nights at that venue either consecutively or with a two or three day break.

The northern coast of Cornwall was a popular holiday venue for water-sports enthusiasts, particularly surfing. Hence, our programme or ‘set’ including several Beach Boys numbers was particularly relevant and, consequently, very popular.

The photos below were taken outside the ‘Beach Hotel’, Porthtowan.


The Beach Hotel, Porthowan


City Hall, Truro

   

These three 3 beach shots were taken on the beach at Porthtowan:

Note the ‘Mean and Moody’ poses that were virtually obligatory
in the ' 60s!

   
   

The final three shots are of the group around the Bedford (‘The Blue Turd’).

Not absolutely sure of the precise location of the ‘around the van’ poses but it is interesting to note the proximity of the ‘Surgical Appliance Specialist’ in the background!

   

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The Sheridan Rooms

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Fond memories

Over the period of time that ‘The Vincents’ were in existence the number of venues played ran into hundreds. Many of these venues would be places booked by agents and would be ‘one-offs’. For example, on July 11th 1966, ‘The Vincents’ played at Walsall Town Hall. This was the day England won the World Cup and we played as support to ‘Hedgehoppers Anonymous.’ On this particular occasion agent Ian Hamilton had contacted the group very late and asked if we could do the booking. However, we were asked by Ian Hamilton to arrive and perform as ‘The Toggery Five’. The Toggery Five had been booked for this performance but had been unable to do the booking and so ‘The Vincents’ were drafted in to ‘fill the gap’ and to masquerade in the guise of the ‘Toggerys’.

Whilst the performing under a different group’s name was a once-only occurrence the ‘one-off’ venue was certainly not. Numerous times the group would play at clubs, dance-halls, ballrooms and venues the length and breadth of the country, at the behest of agent or club owner.
For us in the group, however, whilst there was a certain adventure and excitement in playing new venues, we were always at our most content when playing a regular club etc. in a town or city we loved visiting.

Over the five years of ‘The Vincents’ existence we made many friends and played to appreciative crowds at regular venues. Some of these have already had mention in the script above. Oldham, particularly ‘The Catacombs’, was a regular place we played. Huddersfield, The Sheridan Rooms and, more specifically, The ‘Tahiti Club’, where we played on countless occasions, were places we always anticipated with great relish as we made our way across the Pennines. These places were like home from home to us. Only those who have experienced life on the road as enthusiastic 17/18/19/20 year olds, doing what we loved, playing good music to great audiences, can fully appreciate just how wonderful those days were. Anyone reading this having had similar experiences will be able to identify with that feeling only too well.

We regularly played at the Village Hall in Metheringham, a village about 10 miles south of Lincoln. The journey was always exciting – over the Pennines, through Sheffield, through Worksop and on to Lincoln – a most beautiful city. Our routine was always the same – arrive about 4pm, set up, do a sound check and then off into Lincoln to eat. We regularly visited the Chinese restaurant above Woolworths before returning to Metheringham ready for the performance. The hall was always packed with a very appreciative crowd. The guy who organised the event was a local farmer (unfortunately his name is long-forgotten) but after the gig we would pack the van and travel to his farmhouse for an overnight stay. The breakfasts were incredible and live long in the memory!

A regular weekend trip was to leave Stretford around lunch time on Friday and travel north to Sunderland. These, of course, were the days well before motorways and, therefore, the journeys were always lengthy but great fun.  We enjoyed so much what we were doing and, apart from anything else, were good friends and enjoyed each other’s company. There was such camaraderie and disagreements were few whilst rows or arguments never featured. Hence, the journeys were a part of the whole adventure. Over to Yorkshire, A1, A64, A169, were all well-trodden routes. The journey to Sunderland, where we would play at the Art College on the Friday night, was the start of a weekend. Bed and breakfast at a B+B on Athenaeum Street, then waking on Saturday morning to travel down to Lincoln. After playing at Metheringham on the Saturday night and the overnight stay at the farmhouse, Sunday could be one of two options.
We would often stay in Lincoln during the day, before playing at a club on Unity (or was it Union) Square. (Can’t remember the name of the club now). The other alternative was to travel back north and on to Preston, where we would play the Sunday night at ‘Jilly’s Beat Club’, before returning home to Manchester late Sunday night.

By this time, late’65 and1966, we had aspired to good quality equipment – Vox AC 30 amps and T60 bass amp, plus a Selmer/Vox combination 100w PA. The music we performed was a very broad spectrum that embraced several genres but was hallmarked by high quality close harmony – anything from Everly Brothers to Beach Boys and in-between plus R+B, Rock and Roll and the more obscure. We even did our own versions of ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘Baby Jean’ as our own tribute to the maestro himself, Pete Cowap. Our 12 seater Bedford, long wheel base mini-bus, was a significant improvement on the original Bedford van we had used. This had been affectionately named ‘The Blue Turd’ – indicating both its colour and reliability! Having said that, the ‘Turd’ did transport us many thousands of miles without any real mis-hap, but also had required many hours of work and repair mid trips.

Having been in a pop/rock/ beat/etc/etc group at the very beginning of the whole ‘Group Scene’ in the early days of both the Merseybeat and the Manchester group era was an experience that is hard, maybe impossible, to accurately convey to those who did not experience those heady days, or to those to whom you recount those experiences of the ‘Swinging 60’s’ years, even decades, later. The pre-conceptions of many, that this was a time of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ were, in our experience, two-thirds wholly inaccurate. Yes, we did play rock and roll music, but it was the music that was our driving force. Apart from all of us being smokers at the time, no other drugs ever featured. Nor was there any intent or desire to indulge. This may not have been the same intent where sex was concerned, but our success rate in this sphere of hope was abysmally low! Not only did our hopes and intentions never match our aspirations, it is fair to say that we reached the point of celebrating failure! Many is the time, after playing and maybe making contact with an attractive young lady afterwards, one or other of us would disappear for a while, leaving the others to pack up the gear, only for that group member to reappear some time later to await the inevitable inquisition.

Unfortunately, we knew each other so well, that no amount of bull-shit or factual inaccuracy would be contemplated. Hence, on the journey home, the lads would be regaled with the true facts – always recounting the ‘so near but so far’ story that would inevitably follow. Hence, failure became the norm and therefore, the expectation. In a strange way this became quite consoling. As we were all consistent failures it would have been irksome had one of us spoiled the tradition by succeeding and, who knows, this may well have led to envy or a feeling of having let the side down.

Regardless of the lack of success, or otherwise in this direction, the over-riding memories of the whole of the period 1962 to 1967 are  memories of a unique time in our lives and also in the history of music. There is hardly likely, ever again, to be a time when hundreds of hopefuls will come together in groups, or bands, at a time of such innovation on such a scale. Of course there will always be people making music and there will always be groups or bands playing local gigs and travelling further afield to play their music, but it will never, can never, be as it was in the ‘60s – a time of total music revolution on a massive scale.
Our memories of those times will live forever. Maybe the detail will become a little blurred with the passage of time, but the experiences and our entitlement to look back and say, “I was part of that revolution …….”, is something that can never be taken away from those of us whose individual parts contributed to the whole.

 

Post Script

Several photos show ‘Vincents’ roadie, Pete Holmes. Pete was involved with the group from approximately 1964 to 1966.

Pete came from the Northern Moor area of Wythenshawe. Does anyone out there know where he is now, or what became of him?
We have long-since lost contact and would love to re-establish contact.

Photos show:

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Group picture on way to Huddersfield, outside the ‘Floating Light’ pub,
sitting on the wall with band members.
Outside a venue in Cornwall, 1965, during the West Country tour
   
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Picture on the left was taken in the Huddersfield area (possibly Meltham) circa 1965.

The Vincents’ Bedford van in the background and a girl on each arm – quite a normal pose for PH!

Possibly the name of one of the girls was/is Anne Reader.

 

 

 

Anyone with any further information?

   

Fifty Years On

The story of The Vincents, as told above, does not end there. There is a rather remarkable post script worthy of addition.
Following the disbanding of the original group in 1967, the various members went their own ways and pursued their own lives and careers. Contact was lost and life on the road ceased for most of the lads. The exception was that Graham Leggott and Brian O’Donoghue formed a new group, ‘The Sensation’, that continued to play as a working band for a short while after ‘The Vincents’. ‘The Sensation’, however, were short-lived and eventually Brian and Graham, whilst keeping in touch with one another, ended their playing days in the same group. Brian dabbled in one or two other musical projects before leaving the music scene altogether. Graham, however, continued playing and, over the years, played in both a professional and semi-professional capacity with many groups/bands and in numerous parts of the world, as an accomplished musician/guitarist/vocalist. To this date Graham, or ‘Leggo’ as he has become known affectionately, performs either as a solo artist or along with others in a variety of groups/bands.

Pete and Arthur kept in contact for a good number of years and then lost contact for a protracted period from the mid nineties until around 2005. In 2005 Pete made a concerted effort to find out what had become of Arthur and set about tracking him down. Within a few months contact was re-established and regular ‘get-togethers’ inevitably led to not only reminiscing the years of youth spent in ‘The Vincents’ but wondering what had become of the other lads – Brian, Graham and John – who had left the Vincents back in 1964!

Being resourceful, plus a huge slice of luck, it was discovered that Brian was now living in the Cotswolds - and contact was made! Brian had kept in touch with Graham and, therefore, the circle was squared with a reunion being arranged in late 2005.

With the exception of Brian, who was now living away from the Greater Manchester area, all the other former members of ‘The Vincents’ still lived in the same general area as they had in the 60’s. As a result, regular social ‘get-togethers’ began to take place – perhaps once a month – when the lads would meet and chat about times and places well remembered from those earlier, heady days.
Somewhat inevitably the conversations would embrace “..... wouldn’t it be great if we could just turn back the clock and play one or two songs from the ‘old days’ ....”  Long story short, therefore, and initially very tentatively, the thoughts surrounding this wish developed into the reality of simple instruments, amps, drums etc. being purchased and practice sessions were arranged with no particular objective other than to ‘be nostalgic’.

Having remained as a working musician for nearly fifty years Graham was able to support the project using his considerable expertise. Regular practices led to the point at which, after some 47 years having passed, the original Vincents played at a private family party in December 2009. Only half a dozen numbers - but this was sufficient to whet the appetite for further development!

During 2012 ‘The Vincents’ have played several gigs, having extended their repertoire and expertise sufficiently to confidently perform to paying audiences. The only exception to the line up now is that original member Brian O’Donoghue, living as far away as he does, cannot practice and perform with the current line up.

And the story does not end there . . . . . . . . . !

In late 1962 ‘The Vincents’ were first established. Their first ever ‘booking’ was at St. Matthews Youth Club, Stretford. During 1963 and early 1964 playing in the Stretford and Urmston areas and the immediate locality, ‘The Vincents’ were cutting their teeth on the music of the era and, of course, were part of the wave of young groups emerging at a time when artists such as Cliff and The Shadows and, more critically, The Beatles and the ‘Merseybeat’ sound were establishing themselves nationally.

In August of 1963 The Beatles were just beginning to ride high. The annual ‘Urmston Show’, held at Abbotsfieid Park, Chassen Road, Urmston, and organised by the (then) Urmston District Council, had a major coup in that they had booked The Beatles to appear just prior to their surge to stardom.

On Monday August 5th 1963 the Urmston Show hosted a rock and roll bonanza at the time, having The Beatles headline an event including Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, The Dennisons, Johnny Martin and The Tremors. This event has long since been established in the annals of rock and roll history and – more significantly – in the minds of Beatles fans all over the world, as an almost unique event in the history of The Beatles and their contribution to modern popular culture.

In August 2013 – Fifty Years on from this historic event – a commemorative concert is being organised, taking place at Abbotsfield Park and replicating the historic original event as far as is possible.

The 2013 event will be headlined by the ‘Bootleg Beatles’, will include ‘The Tremeloes’ and ‘Herman’s Hermits’ and will be hosted by the original presenter ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton. As the event promoters were researching for this event they became aware of ‘The Vincents’ and their re-establishment, with the original group members, some fifty years down the line! Such an opportunity, to include one of the original groups from the early 60’s and from the Urmston area to boot, was one they could not pass up on. Hence, and quite remarkably, ‘The Vincents’ will be performing and opening the 2013 event at Abbotsfield Park, on Saturday August 10th.

The story, therefore, CONTINUES . . . . . . . . . . .!

Click here for The Vincents appearances at The Beatles in Urmston Show and The Stones show

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Comments (8)

Topic: The Vincents
1 2 > Last
Mark Dunning says...
I knew Brian O'Donoghue when he was playing with a trio at the Junction Inn in Whitefield, circa 1972-73. The landlord was Harry Allen who once served as a public hangman. Brian was a great guy who let me strum a few chords on his Strat. When my ... Read More
10th January 2016 10:22am
Peter Lawler says...
Pete,
You can get in touch with me at this email address, plawler@ymail.com, it would be great to see you all again,
Peter Lawler.
10th November 2015 6:51am
Peter Lawler says...
Never really knew the true history of the band but remember a certain night in Newcastle,
Thanks Pete.
24th October 2015 10:00am
Pete Royle says...
Hi Pete, Great to hear from you:. You may have noted that we are back together now and have been playing widely in the area for the past 3 or 4 years. It would be great to get together for a full update of the intervening 50 years! Let me have your ... Read More
31st October 2015 3:09am
Peter Lawler says...
Pete, email me at plawler@ymail.com.
7th November 2015 11:03am
1 2 > Last




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