Today’s teenage boys list of must have items mainly consist of the latest smart phones and games consoles but back in the 1960s when I was growing up there was just one item that the majority young men wanted to buy and that item was an electric guitar. In the 1960s music shops were springing up in many high streets and taking centre stage of the window displays were the shiny new Gibson or Fender guitars.
Once you had your guitar it was essential that you find at least four pals with similar musical instruments to form a group. Your average group consisted of a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, base guitarist and a drummer. If you couldn’t afford the equipment you could always form a Skiffle group, all you would need for that would be a washboard, a base made from a wooden box with a brush stale through the middle and a piece of string going from the top of the stale to the box and of course you with your guitar. This is how the Beatles started out with a skiffle group called ‘The Quarrymen.
Most young up and coming guitarists drew there inspiration from American acts like Bill Haley and the Comets, The Coasters and Chuck Berry who’s guitar riff at the beginning of Johnny ‘B’ Goode was perhaps the most copied guitar opening of them all. We mustn’t forget Bert Weedon the man who was perhaps one of the biggest influences from Britain, who’s sheet music for Guitar Boogie shuffle perhaps out sold any of his rivals.
Most young singing sensations of the day always had there own backing group. Cliff Richard had is Drifters who soon changed there name to The Shadows, Billy Fury had the Tornados, Johnny Kidd had his Pirates, Freddie had is Dreamers and Billy J Kramer had the Dakotas, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and Brian Poole & the Tremeloes to name just a few. Whenever any of these acts had there gigs it was common for the backing groups to open with 2 or 3 instrumental numbers before the singer took to the stage. Many backing groups later broke away from the singer and had chart success of there own, these included The Shadows, Mindbenders and Tremeloes.
Some of these backing groups recorded some of these opening instrumental numbers and released them as singles. The most successful of all these groups were the Shadows who had a whole string of these singles making the top 20 and even some of them reaching the number one slot in the charts of the time.
Tornados Telstar & Globetrotter
Dakotas The Cruel Sea
Johnny & The Hurricane’s Red River Rock
The Ventures Walk Don’t Run
Then there were the solo artists
Acker Bilk Stranger on the shore
Duane Eddie Shazam and Because They’re Young
Kenny Ball Midnight in Moscow And many many more
There were so many guitar groups around in the sixties that every conceivable venue was booked up every weekend. Every Pub, village,church and Dance hall had a group playing and the quality and competition was very fierce. Those really were great days if you liked popular music.
For myself I always looked forward to one particular part of the performance that would usually happen half way through the gig and that was the drum solo. Two good reasons these guitar groups used to always insert at least one drum solo into their act besides giving the drummer a chance to shine was that it gave the other members of the group a chance of a rest and a quick drink, an average drum solo could last between 5 and 8 minutes depending on the skill of the drummer. We also saw through this period a number singles featuring drummers in the hit parade, Sandy Nelson’s Let There Be Drums Jet Harris & Tony Meehan’s Diamonds and The Surfaries Wipeout being perhaps the best known ones.
Many of these instrumental hits of the sixties are still in regular use today in adverts and Films seen on TV. Perhaps the most used instrument hit of the sixties over the last 50 years must go to the John Barry Severn and their recording of the James Bond Theme…. Great memories and Happy Days