The Early Days
Kelly's early years in his own words...part 2...
I actually introduced Barry Fletcher to his first wife Margaret, whom I knew from school. (Sadly, she died a while ago).
Scala Advert from the Wolverhampton News. During this time I started learning guitar with lots of help from Terry, Les and Jim. Hence, I play right handed, although I’m left handed.
In those days there were lots of bands and lots of venues to play, mostly around the Wolverhampton area for us, the most prestigious being the Wolverhampton Civic Hall, which I later went on to play in the 70’s, with ELO.
At that time bands that didn’t have a “gig” on the weekend would turn up to see other “rival” bands to see what they were up to and to see what songs they had in their sets. These tended to be whatever was in the charts at the time, hence lots of rehearsals, in a very short space of time, trying to keep up with the latest hits and trying to second guess what songs might stay in the charts for a while. We didn’t want to learn tunes that might be obsolete after a few weeks, although all this work did afford us a large and varied repertoire.
Left to right: Rikki, Terry, Les and Barry...Jim is just off the photo to the right / © The Groucutt Family Album.
Left to right: Les, Barry, Jim, Rikki and Terry in the backyard / © The Groucutt Family Album
Our closest rivals at the time were a band called “Danny Cannon and the Ramrods”, and in fact Danny and I are still good friends. We all got together recently to play at “Danu’s” 60th birthday party, Ramrods, Vibras and all! Lots of fun and nostalgia!
Danny's 60th Birthday / © The Groucutt Family AlbumThe old gits left to right: Barry, Jim, Rikki, Terry and Les / © The Groucutt Family Album
The old gits left to right: Barry, Jim, Rikki, Terry and Les
/ © The Groucutt Family Album
We (Rikki Burns and the Vibras), were together from about mid 1960 to around the end of ‘61. I’m not sure why we split up, but split we did.
I then joined a band called “The Midnights”. We came a close second in a “Battle of the Bands” contest at Wolverhampton’s Gaumont Cinema, but the news cutting is still treasured by my Mom. This band ran for only a short while, but was well respected, as I recall...
Once again drummer Joseph Lead better led the Tornadoes to victory. Next week should see a thrilling contest between him and D.G. Ricardo of the Atoms. The Midnighters had in Ricky Burns, easily the best singer on view, but they lacked the Tornadoes all-round polish. D.W. / Kindly loaned to us by Michael's mum
Again, a split, so myself, Bob Davies (bassist from The Midnights), along with Les Willis, enlisted Rob Collins (guitar) and Graham Hadley (drums) and together we became a new band with an old name… Yes, Rikki Burns and the Vibras again. (Maybe it should have been “PART II”). With this band I started playing guitar as well as singing lead vocals. We were together for quite some time being managed by my Dad.
Rikki Burns and the Vibras Mk II
/ © The Groucutt Family Album
Rikki Burns and the Vibras MkII...now where have we seen that pose before...on the sleeve of a Shadows album?!?!? / © The Groucutt Family Album
Bob lodged with me and my Mom and Dad for a while and we spent many a night lying in our garden with our telescopes “stargazing”, both being keen amateur astronomers. My Dad would often pass us as he went to work in the morning, muttering. “Silly sods, haven’t you got anything better to do?” … We hadn’t!!
Rob and Graham left (as I remember, Rob became a policeman). Bob and I enlisted drummer Eddie Trotter (No relation to the “Only Fools and Horses” TV characters!) and, with me playing guitar full time, continued as a three piece.
Newspaper advert for Rikki Burns and the Vibras playing at the Civic Hall
We seemed to have gotten ourselves into a rut at some point, playing six times a week, but at the same three venues. It all got a bit boring and inevitably, with nothing on the horizon, we split up.
At this time I decided to give up music and continue a more normal existence with a day job… Oh yes, I still did have a day job!!
Sadly this was as far as Kelly got with his biography. He was always going to send more "next week" ...but something more important always came up...