Joe McCarty unearthed from his loft a programme printed for a 1966, 16-date Autumn tour, promoted by Radio London in association with Harold Davison, Rik Gunnell and Tito Burns. The shows, starring Georgie Fame and Eric Burdon and the New Animals, commenced on October 20, 1966 at Finsbury Park, London and ended on November 6 at the Odeon, Leicester.
It seems a strange move on the part of Big L to have sent its DJs to parts of the country that were not even able to hear the station, such as Glasgow and Carlisle. Joe saw the show in Newcastle on Nov 4th. "To be truthful, I can't remember much about the concert or who was compere," he says, pointing out, "We Geordies in the 'frozen North' didn't have the benefit of the pirates, so I would not have recognised the names of the DJs at that time. My formative pop listening was pre-pirates and even pre-Saturday Club. We could get Luxembourg clearly as we had a Redifusion set - this was basically cable radio - and the other provider of out-of-the-mainstream pop was juke boxes. The nearby coastal town of Whitley Bay had an amusement park and arcades with juke boxes and this is where I mis-spent my youth."
(Left – click to enlarge) Clockwise – Georgie Fame, Chris Farlowe, Butterfield Blues Band, Geno Washington and Eric Burdon.
Eric Burdon would of course have sold out any concert in his native Newcastle, regardless of whether or not the audience had heard of Tony Blackburn or Mark Roman. Eric's band may have been billed as the New Animals, but Help Me Girl, the single being played on Radio London during the tour, was credited simply to Eric Burdon & the Animals. The band went by that name between September and November 66.
Georgie Fame was accompanied not by his long-standing band the Blue Flames (with whom he had split that year) but 'The Georgie Fame Band'. His Autumn 66 cover of Bobby Hebb's song Sunny, was credited as a solo recording.
Bobby Hebb's own version had been labouring its way up the Fab Forty since mid-August, at one time seeing-off competition from a cover by Cher. On Sept 25th, Georgie Fame's Sunny came barrelling into the chart from nowhere, to join Bobby at #5. This was well-timed for the lead-up to the launch of Georgie's top billing on the Radio London tour. For the ensuing fortnight, both recordings slid gracefully down the chart in tandem.
Apart from this rather obvious 'forthcoming-tour-promotion' move, Big L was actually giving the Fame single less exposure than Radio Caroline. In the Caroline Countdown of Sound, Georgie had also been obliged to share chart placings with Bobby Hebb, but soon, his version of Sunny overtook Bobby's to spend 2 weeks at #1.
Chris Farlowe was promoting his new release Ride On Baby and album The Art of Chris Farlowe, both of which featured on the Radio London playlist. Post-tour (20th November) The Art of Chris Farlowe was chosen as Album of the Week. Farlowe's backing band the Thunderbirds were given their own, post-interval slot on the programme.
Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band were enjoying a third Fab Forty entry, Que Sera Sera, and were renowned as a top-notch live act. Their album Hand Clappin' Foot Stompin' Funky-Butt...Live! was released that year.
Over from the States, the Butterfield Blues Band had the distinct disadvantage of being little-known. They were also receiving no tie-in Big L playlist promotion and suffering from equipment malfunctions. They were, however, good enough to overcome these problems. Band member Mike Bloomfield's website reveals:
The Butterfield Band... were initially part of the Georgie Fame Tour, along with Chris Farlowe, Eric Burdon and others. They arrived in London on October 17 and gave a press conference at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club during which Bloomfield praised Eric Clapton. The tour was in support of their recently-released Elektra album East-West. An article in Melody Maker reported that the band played with borrowed equipment for their initial gigs and were very unhappy with their sound; presumably the band’s Fender amps arrived in time for the later shows.
David Fletcher, an Animals fan, went to the [4th November, Newcastle] performance to see Eric Burdon and was amazed by Bloomfield and the Butterfield Band.
In common with all the UK bands on the tour, opening act Eyes of Blue, had a single to plug. From Wales, the band had been required to beat off strong competition to become champions of the national Melody Maker Battle of the Bands, winning a cash prize, a keyboard and a one-year Decca recording contract. Subsidiary Deram issued two singles that did not bring the hoped-for success. Eyes of Blue were promoting the first of these, Up and Down, which for some reason failed to receive Big L airplay till the end of the tour. It subsequently entered the Fab Forty and peaked at #24 and also made #50 in the Caroline chart. The second, unusually-titled Eyes of Blue single, Supermarket Full of Cans, was picked as Kenny Everett's climber, but failed to make the Fab Forty.
According to Brian Long's book The London Sound, Mark Roman covered part of the tour, with Ed Stewart and Mike Lennox taking over for the rest of it. Brian does not mention Tony Blackburn's participation.
Mark Roman had recently concluded a nationwide tour with the Stones, Ike and Tina Turner, the Yardbirds and Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers, but not as the compere. That role was filled by Long John Baldry. (Admission price was apparently £1*.) Mark's job was to record programmes about the tour and the artists, intended for nightly broadcast on Radio London between 1830 and 1900. Kenny Everett had done a similar thing earlier in the year when reported back from the Beatles' US tour. The first of Mark's 'specials' was due to air on Monday September 26th, although there is nothing to confirm whether or not this happened successfully. Big L's latest recruit, Pete Drummond, was ruling the Roman Empire on the Galaxy during the Emperor's absence.
The Stones tour ended on October 9th and presumably, Mark's reports proved successful, as management wanted him record more of these on-the-road shows during the forthcoming Fame tour.
Exactly which Radio London DJs did what and on what dates is difficult to establish, but thanks to Ed Stewart and Brian Long, we can add to the story.
The Georgie Fame Tour, Autumn 1966
Thurs Oct 20th, Astoria, Finsbury Park
Fri Oct 21st, Odeon, Birmingham
Sat Oct 22nd, Odeon, Leeds
Sun Oct 23rd, Gaumont, Doncaster
Both Ed Stewart and Tony Blackburn both shows on Radio London on Sunday 23rd. Unless they were possessed of superpowers allowing them to fly to Doncaster, Mark Roman and/or Mike Lennox must have been fronting the show.
(Right – click to enlarge) Tony Blackburn, Mike Lennox, Mark Roman and Ed Stewart. Not big in the 'frozen North'.
Tues Oct 25th, Odeon, Manchester
Weds Oct 26th, Odeon, Liverpool
Thurs Oct 27th, Gaumont, Sheffield
The show was compered by Mike Lennox and Ed Stewart. Stewpot relates:
Mike Lennox and I were comperes for some of the shows, and I have vivid memories of meeting Pete Stringfellow at his first club in Sheffield, The Mojo, with Georgie Fame, Eric Burdon and John Mayall. There were lots and lots of lovely girls there. (Heaven!) Our agent, Harold Davison had given Mike L and myself £50* each to go and buy some decent clothes and we were well kitted out by Cecil Gee in London's Shaftesbury Avenue.
Mike and I both wore contact lenses and after one particularly drunken night, couldn't remember where we had put them. Eventually, I found mine underneath the girl I had pulled that night, but Mike never found his. They probably fell down the plughole. He walked around in a daze for much of the tour! Such memories!
Fri Oct 28th, Colston Hall, Bristol
It's probable that the Dynamic Duo of Lennox and Stewpot had recovered sufficiently to front the show. It was not Tony Blackburn, who was busy presenting Mike Lennox's Breakfast Show on the Galaxy.
Sat Oct 29th, Odeon, Cheltenham
According to Brian Long's book The London Sound, Eric Burdon did not appear at the Cheltenham gig, as he was suffering from a sore throat. We do not know for sure, but we can hazard a guess that the New Animals went on stage without him.
Mon Oct 31st, Gaumont, Southampton
Tues Nov 1st, Odeon, Bolton
Weds Nov 2nd, ABC, Carlisle
Thurs Nov 3rd, Odeon, Glasgow
Fri Nov 4th, Odeon, Newcastle
Sat Nov 5th, Gaumont, Hanley, Sun Nov 6th, Odeon, Leicester.
On Saturday 5th, Mike Lennox was presenting the Radio London Bonfire Night at the Wimbledon Stadium and on Sunday 6th, Ed Stewart was aboard the ship, playing the Fab Forty. Although it's feasible that Mike could have compered the final show of the tour, it's more likely to have been Tony Blackburn and/or Mark Roman.
* the average weekly wage in 1966 was £15.
We would be interested to hear recollections from anyone who was a part of the tour or who went to see it.
Thanks to Ross Hannan and Corry Arnold's Chicken On a Unicycle website which led us to identifying the date when Joe saw the show. The site also has a fab collection of posters.