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Manish Boys drummer Mike Whitehead recalls his time in the band with Davy Jones

October 24th, 2018 | by admin
Manish Boys drummer Mike Whitehead recalls his time in the band with Davy Jones
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As I recall working in the Twydall Estate hairdressers in Gillingham, Kent, when five long-haired men appeared in the shop. I thought cutting their hair will take ages. I then recognised Johnny Edwards, who used to play in the groups, “Reg Black and the Black Jacks” and Beau Kent and the Cortinas” with girl singer, Sandie Raine.

They were looking for a drummer to go full-time on the road as their original didn’t. They wanted me to go for an audition, which I enjoyed and we gelled straight away. They had to literally drag me out of the shop. In our earlier days Johnny and I always talked about going full-time. I just could not refuse.

We were practicing at Paul’s parents house in Coxheath, Maidstone, when we were told that a singer, with his manager was coming to hear us and see if the singer, who was looking for a group would fit in. It was of course Davy and his manager Les Conn.

Davy with his long blonde hair and looking very thin. He was wearing thigh length boots and a brown waistcoat. His hair was described at that time like Keith Relf of The Yardbirds,  only longer. His flamboyancy quickly rubbed off on the rest of us. We ran through some numbers, Davy sang, played his guitar and sax. We all clicked and Davy said that, ” this was the sound I’m looking for”

I believe at this time he was trying out different group sounds to get an original sound, which would take him on to greater things in music. At this time with us he or even us could not have known how he would one day achieve Superstar status. As far as Davy and Les Conn were concerned they were in agreement that Davy should join us.

As there were six of us and not being well off financially, as most of our fees went on upkeep on Woolf’s van, we had to decide if we could take on another member, and take a chance. After some discussion we agreed to let Davy join. Now we are seven, WOW.

We were rehearsing at my parents house on the Twydall Estate one morning with all the gear in the front room. When there was a knock at the front door. It was a neighbour who I thought was going to complain about the loud sound. Much to my surprise she wanted to come in and listen, which we agreed to. She said she enjoyed the music very much. PHEW.

Some of the venues we played in. Marquee Club, London. Tower Ballroom, Lee on Solent. Eel Pie Island Jazz Club, Twickenham. The Witch Doctor, Hastings. Star Club Ballroom, Maidstone. Air Base, South Ruislip. Flamingo Club, London. Aston Theatre, Deal. Invita Ballrooms, Chatham. Regent Sounds Studio,  London. Opportunity Knocks, (audition) advised not to go on.

We later recorded, “I Pity the Fool”, a cover version of Bob Bland number and “Take My Tip”, a composition by Davy. It was released on Parlophone RF 5250, 45rpm. The record producer was Shel Talmy, who I understand recorded the Kinks, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and many more. We had only two hours to make the two recordings in the studio, and added to the recordings was the guitarist, Jimmy Page with a new invention , the Fuzz Box.

Soon after the recording Les Conn got us an interview with the Arthur Howes Agency in London and the outcome was a package deal and a contract as a supporting group with the Gene Pitney Tour. The supporting acts to Gene were, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Kinks, Marianne Faithful and Bobby Shaft.  The backing group was, The Mike Cotton Sound, who I believe were originally a Trad band. They were excellent musicians.

The numbers we played were , Last Night, a 50s style instrumental opener, I Ain’t Got You, cover version of The Yardbirds, Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler, Mary Anne by Ray Charles, Water Melon Man by Herbie Hancock (instrumental),  Louis Louis by The Kingsmen,  Stupidity by Solomon Burke,  Little Egypt by The Coasters,  James Brown Melody and Take My Tip by Davy Jones (Bowie)

Places of the Tour.  ABC Cinema, Wigan. ABC Cinema, Hull. ABC Cinema, Edinburgh. Globe Cinema, Stockton on Tees. Not sure of name of venues but played in Newcastle and Scarborough.

Gadzooks! It’s All Happening, BBC 2 TV show. Producer: Barry Langford…
(Radio Times, March 4th, 1965) *

 

Les Conn got the group a spot on the show, but Barry stipulated that the boys had to get their hair cut. The fans made a protest, so Barry relented on the understanding that if there were any viewers complaints on long hair then the groups fee would go to charity. Thankfully no complaints on long hair were made.  Setting up my drums before the show started I was on a high platform just above the rest of the group, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a black object moving towards me, luckily I ducked otherwise I could have been knocked out. It was a TV camera on a long wire moving across the stage.

With the controversy of Davy’s long hair, he was interviewed with some of the group and other members of long haired groups by Cliff Michelmore  on the Today programme, about a Society formed by Davy in support of those with long hair, called Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-Haired Men (watch the appearance here) Patron of the Society was the satirist,  William Rushton, and members included, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Screaming Lord Sutch and PJ Proby. The rule for all members was to have their hair at least 9 inches long. It was reported that Davy’s hair was not less than 11 inches. Davy’s appearance was certainly different in those days making him stand out in a crowd.

Davy was an accomplished musician actor and singer. His singing was distinctive, he was an actor and always wanted to put on a professional show. He was down to earth one of the Boys, very affable, and he liked the girls, as did we all, I should say that the girls were after Davy. He certainly was a perfectionist.  After the record release and TV show he appeared on Ready Steady Go and interviewed by Cathy McGowan.  We all went along and whilst he was being interviewed we danced with the audience. Davy was searching for that sound. The boys were pleased for him that he had found the sound and stardom, it was certainly an experience that we shall never forget. We were very sad to break up after Davy left suddenly for his next group and saddened to hear of his untimely death.

I last saw Davy at the Sheffield Arena in 1995. I was unemployed and the Sheffield Star gave me two tickets for one of his performances.  He was certainly giving his fans a treat and still giving a professional performance. It was great to be there and see the fans out of their seats dancing and enjoying themselves.

In May 2000 there was a 10 page special in the Record Collector, on Bowie and the group.

In Maidstone, Davy and the Boys were awarded by BBC RADIO Kent, a blue plaque which is erected in The Star Shopping Precinct and reads, BBC Music Day, David Bowie 1947-2016. He regularly played here with Maidstone Group The Manish Boys, during 1964- 65. Awarded by BBC Radio Kent British Plaque Trust.

What a fine tribute to Davy and the Boys.

 

Michael Whitehead, October 2018.

Today Michael plays drums in his local church music group.

 

* Thanks to Andy Jones of David Bowie Glamour for the Radio Times clipping.

 

© David Bowie News (2018)

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