In 1958 two Geordie boys came down to London not to visit the queen but to appear in a talent contest their names were Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch and the name of their skiffle band was The Railroaders, sadly they didn’t win the talent contest and as the rest of the band unhappily returned north Hank & Bruce decided to stick it out and with guitars in hand went for coffee in the 2 i’s coffee bar in London’s Soho district. Later the Geordie boys then met Cliff Richard’s manager John Foster who was putting together a backing band called the Drifters to back Cliff on a UK tour, so in early 1959 with Hank on lead guitar and Bruce on rhythm guitar along with blonde and moody and magnificent Jet Harris on bass and the very young Tony Meehan on drums they set off on the road. The classic Shads line up was born!
This line up had all the girls screaming for the good looking blonde haired Jet Harris and the boyish smile ofTony Meehan.
EMI records producer Norrie Paramor who also produced Cliff Richard on seeing the boys on tour signed them to their own recording contract. They released two singles as the Drifters both with vocals before changing their name to the Shadows because of the American soul band also called the Drifters.
Their second release as the Shadows was an instrumental song called ‘Apache’ written by Jerry Lordan and it made it all the way to No. 1 on the charts replacing Cliff ‘s ‘Please Don’t Tease’ at the top. An instrumental classic then and now! more hits were to follow with ‘Man of Mystery’ and ‘FBI’. 1961 saw the release of their first album which stayed on the charts for a year! 1962 saw the Shadows appear in the Cliff film ‘The Young Ones’ in which they looked brilliant and they hit the top of the charts again with another brilliant Jerry Lordan composition ‘Wonderful Land’.
Who remembers the Shadows dance steps!.
The Shadows personnel was to change during this period with Tony Meehan being replaced on drums because of his constant lateness on by the great Brian Bennett and the blonde Jet Harris being replaced by Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking on bass. Jet Harris has said that he left the band because Cliff was having an affair with his wife and unfortunately Jet has hit the bottle for the rest of his life but Jet & Tony both had great success in the UK charts with ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ and ‘Diamonds’ which are great 45s in their own right and just as good as the Shadows. Sad that both players have now passed away. Brian ‘ Licorice’ Locking would later be replaced on bass by John Rostill and it is was said that Locking was getting a religious hold over Cliff and the band as Cliff found religion and Hank became a Jehovah’s Witness as Locking was himself. The Shads was to lose their permanent bass player and a good songwriter in 1973 when John Rostill died from electrocution in his home recording studio. Very sad. All the way through the Shadows long career Bruce Welch and Hank ruled the band with an iron fist making all the decisions and the direction the band would go in.
The Beatles changed everything in the world in 1963 with the beat boom from Merseyside but the Shadows held on with my Shads favourite song ‘Foot Tapper’ and also ‘Shindig’ topping the charts and once again they appeared in the blockbuster Cliff film ‘Summer Holiday’ which is still a great film today.
This was a great period for the much~loved British instrumental group of all time and all the great British guitar players as youngsters all took their cue from Hank Marvin and to see Cliff and the Shads on the final reunion tour was a fitting reminder of how great these lads are!
Plenty of Twang!