Ted Heath and his orchestra became an established British 'big band' during the 1940s and 1950s. His output consisted mainly of American style 'Big band' jazz borrowing extensively from Duke Ellington and Ray Antony.
However, the Heath band were not averse to exploiting new musical trends including the new genre 'rock and roll'. Their 1950s releases would include numbers like Bill Justis' 'Raunchy' and the Champs' 'Tequila'.
'Swingin' Shepherd Blues' was Ted Heath's greatest success on the 45 rpm format. It reached the #3 spot despite competition from Ella Fitzgerald (obviously with lyrics) and also the Moe Koffman Quartet.
Ted Heath's final chart listing was with 'Sucu Sucu' in 1961 which managed #36. The band continued to be regarded as one of the UK's finest big bands until Ted Heath's death in 1969.
|Marvin- lead guitar; Welch- rhythm guitar; Harris- bass guitar; Meehan- drums.
By the time this record was made the line-up had settled down into what is regarded as the classic original shown above. They had actually already changed their name to the Shadows to avoid confusion with the US group. Previously to being the Drifters they had been the 5-Chesternuts. However their first two singles without Cliff Richard were credited to the Drifters.
Neither of these, nor the first under their new name, were successful. 'Feelin' Fine' was actually a vocal, one of very few the group produced.
However their next release 'Apache' was a smash hit. and led to a string of very successful instrumental singles. Somewhat surprisingly (and no doubt, later regretted) Tony Meehan and Jet Harris both decided to leave the group at the height of this success.
Despite this the group, with further minor changes in personnel, went on issuing singles well into the 1980s, though not all sold well in later years. Nevertheless 'Feelin' Fine' still remains the most difficult to find, and most highly prized 45rpm record of this classic 1960s instrumental group.
|Jet Harris born July 6th 1936 in Kingsbury, London
Jet Harris began his professional musical career playing offstage to supplement the Shadows. During 1958, at Cliff Richard's request, he was asked to replace the Drifter's less suitable bass player.
Jet subsequently played on all the Shadows early hits but decided that he could make a better career for himself as a soloist- no doubt influenced by the long running success of American guitarist Duane Eddy- and the fact that Harris was a favourite with (especially female) audiences.
The record featured here was Harris's first single release and secured a modest chart placing at #22. His second solo record was taken as the theme from 'The Man With The Golden Arm' which received a better reception and topped out at #12.
However, it was after he formed a duet with his former Shadows colleague, Tony Meehan that Jet Harris struck gold with 'Diamonds'. Meehan had left the Shadows to undertake a position with Decca as an A&R man. After 'Diamonds' went to #1 they followed up with 'Scarlet O'Hara' and 'Applejack' which reached #2 and #4 respectively.
These successes were punctuated by a car crash involving Harris and his new girlfriend, Billie Davis (amid press speculation that she would later become his wife). Jet Harris took a long time to recover from the trauma and was never able to restart his chart career. By the time his output returned to its best, the UK had turned to the new groups fuelled by Merseybeat. Nevertheless, Jet Harris has remained a consistently popular performer even to the present time.
|Band Leader: Peter Flee-Rakkers
The Flee-Rakkers or Flee-Rekkers (the spelling was never consistent) were previously called the Ramblers or the Statesiders. They were one of several instrumental groups recorded by Joe Meek in his Holloway studio. Other groups included the Tornados, the Outlaws and Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers.
The group certainly had a full sound as I can testify after being introduced to a live performance of their's by a friend in London during 1960. He actually called them 'the Flea Rakers'. The unusual name was taken from Peter Flee-Rakkers who was of Dutch descent.
'Green Jeans' is possibly the best of their output and is certainly their most collectable disc. It is hard to find in any medium because it first appeared on Meek's ill fated 'Triumph' label and it is alleged that too few copies were pressed to meet demand. It was re-released later on Pye, but copyright doubts have made it hard to find on CD.
The group's final offering was 'Fireball' which Peter Flee-Rakkers claims was their finest moment. Sadly, despite being arranged by Tony Hatch, it was the Don Spencer vocal version 'Fireball XL5' that hit.
The group split in 1963 and Peter quit the music business entirely at the end of the decade. However, this 'Johnny & The Hurricanes' influenced group remain one of the most interesting UK instrumentalist bands of the decade.
|Herb Alpert born March 31st 1935 in Los Angeles
Alpert's musical career began as a trumpeter in the US army. His first commercial success came as a co-writer of the Jan and Dean single 'Baby Talk'
In 1962 he teamed up with Jerry Moss to form 'A&M Records' taking the name from their initials. The company's first output came from Alpert who using novel recording techniques produced the sound of the 'Tijuana Brass'. His first British chart success was 'Lonely Bull'. The style was to prove popular in the UK and the record featured here reached #3 and this was followed with further successes.
However Herb went beyond this and extended his style to vocals. Here too he succeeded and took 'This Guy's In Love With You' to a second UK #3 placing.
Such was the success of A&M, started with just $1000 capital, Herb Alpert sold the company to Polygram in 1989 for $460 million.
|Booker T. Jones born December 11th, 1944
Booker T. and his colleagues were session musicians employed at the Stax studios in Memphis. The 'MG' stood for the Memphis Group.
Their original US success on 45 was 'Green Onions', but none of the group's early singles had any impact in the UK. This changed in 1968 when 'Soul Limbo' reached #30. Despite this relatively low chart position, the number is instantly recognised by many sports fans. The record became used as the theme for the BBC's 'Test Match Special'.
The group's next issue, 'Time Is Tight' managed #4- followed by 'Soul Clap 69' which was the flip of the US success, 'Mrs Robinson'.
'Green Onions' finally charted in 1979 when its re-release reached the UK #7.
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