Early Radio London Fab Forties
Sunday Supplement, 13th June 1965
|She's About A Mover||James Royal & the Hawks||Parlophone R5290|
James Royal & the Hawks appeared in the Fab Forty for just one week with their cover of She's About A Mover, after which it was dropped in favour of the original US version from Doug Sahm's Sir Douglas Quintet.
Between 1965 and 72, James Royal (Real name Nairn) released 16 singles on three separate labels. The first credited the Hawks as backing band; the last, Two of Us, was a duet with Liz Christian. All intervening releases were billed as solos.
Three follow-ups to She's About A Mover – Work Song, Call My Name and It's All in the Game – all featured on the Radio London playlist, but it was the third release, the soulful Call My Name, that fared best in the Big L Fab Forty, peaking at #13 on February 12th, '67. Although never featuring at all in the UK Nationals, it went on to be a huge success on the continent. The song was penned by Ralph Murphy, giving him his first songwriting success and launching an illustrious career in the music business. (NB: Call My Name is not the song of the same title by Them (written by Tommy Scott) that had already entered the Fab Forty in March '66.)
The history of James Royal, his backing band and his solo career, as it appears on various internet sites, is fraught with conflicting and confusing information. In 2010, Radio London was very pleased to receive the real story from Jim himself, now living Down Under. He says:
There are some omissions in what I've written, but I think I've covered most of what I got up to, way back when.
First of all I would like to give Big L a mention, because without Big L, a lot of us "unheards" would not have had a fair chance of getting our discs heard. I will always bear Harold Wilson a grudge! How dare he stop a family icon, much loved by everyone?
Ok, where to start? For me it all began in the 60s with the usual skiffle-cum-rock 'n' roll band formed with my mates in Ealing, West London. That eventually crashed out of sight, although we all stayed very good friends, especially my very good pal Mick Long (Longy) who did after a few years rejoin me and The Hawks.
Where did I go from there? Nothing much happened until one day I got a phone call from a guy called Don Wilson, who had a band called the Skyways. Would I be interested in joining? My answer was a quick "Yes!", so off I went to the first rehearsal with my new band and they were very good. On guitar was the great Mick Barker, an excellent guitarist. On lead vocal and guitar was none other than Frankie Allen. I don't think I need say more about that gentleman - a great talent, now with The Searchers of course and doing very nicely thank you.
The Skyways did not last too long, and so I formed a new band called Jimmy Royal and The Hawks. (left, photo courtesy of James Royal) Even if I do say so myself, this was a very good tight little band. On bass was one of the best bass players I have had the pleasure of working with, one John Savage; on lead, the multi-talented Micky King,who joined me from Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers. (Just ask Albert Lee about Mick. I do not exaggerate, Mick was among the best, if not better) Then on drums, the one and only Terry Mabey. Brilliant, a great time-keeper and a great pleasure to work with. So there you have the line up of the Hawks,we were together for many years, were always very good pals and are still in touch with each other, even now.
Over a period of time we did do a few BBC broadcasts, which were always a pleasure to do. There were times because of work commitments, that maybe one of the boys couldn't make the gig, so I had to call upon the help of one of my musician friends e.g. Rick Wakeman, John Entwistle, Albert Lee, Nick Simper, Ged Peck, etc - a fabulous bunch of guys! How did I get to know such big names? In the early 60s we were all just little semi-pro musos with big bright eyes! Among such guys were the likes of Pete Townshend, Keithy Moon and John Entwhistle and we were good mates in their early days.
Then there was Rick Wakeman – even in those days far in advance of even the best keyboard player of the time. Rick, Nick Simper and others – me included – tried to form a new band, but unfortunately for me, Rick and Nick hit the big time, Nick with Deep Purple, while Rick became a monster act by himself. Such talent! John Entwhistle was a very laid back guy,unaffected by the big time. John was always ready to gig with me if he was available, in particular at BBC sessions and the Red Lion Brentford. The crowds would flock in to see a superstar like John playing their local and he was such a lovely guy, a very nice person.
By now I had changed the name of the Hawks, to The James Royal Set, mainly because I felt that the guys deserved more than just a backing group thing. Where would any singer be without the guys backing him? So on I blindly went, trying to stay semi-pro, until I met Mervyn Conn and that's when I started my recording thing.
Once again, I had the great pleasure of working with some of the best musicians of the day – Clem Cattini, Herbie Flowers, Allan Hawkshaw, Jimmy Page, Pete Robinson etc., etc I did have some success, but not in the UK. Unfortunately, some of the songs I recorded were quite honestly brilliantly arranged by the likes of Keith Mansfield and others, but were very badly produced and my vocals on some of them were not quite up to it.
Like all starstruck idiots of the day, I made some silly mistakes, one being signing with Mervyn Conn; that was the death knell for me. I was going nowhere, so I went to join a a great Palais 'cover' band, The Andy Ross Band band and I disappeared into a big nowhere.
I married an Australian girl who has been very good for me and helped me make a new life in Aus' (Although I wish I was living in the UK) I still miss home very much and every time I come home I want to stay. I do have a band over here - the Suspects – and they are just great. We have a great time doing what we do and intend to carry on for some time.
(Right, four Suspects - photo courtesy of James Royal)
It was really great to hear from Jim and very kind of him to take the trouble to write his story and send us the two photos. The following are other snippets of information gleaned from various sources and contributions from friends and fellow musicians.
The trendily-monikered James Royal Set (sometimes billed - perhaps erroneously - as James Royal and the Royal Set) played both London's Marquee and Dunstable's California Ballroom during 1966, and toured with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in 1968.
Rick Wakeman's keyboard talents were employed for the first of the Beeb sessions. His personal website dates the recording as 1966, but says it was for Radio One, which is not possible, as the station was not on the air till 30th September 1967. (Any sessions laid down prior to that would have been for the Light Programme.) A more probable recording date would be late '67 or '68.
In a Penny Valentine interview on the Yes website yesmuseum.org, Rick Wakeman recalls that the highlight of his week (the year is unspecified) were the rocking sessions at the Red Lion, Brentford, where jammers included, "John Entwistle, James Royal, Nick Simpler, Mitch Mitchell – everyone turned up for these incredible rock and roll evenings, and I was really honoured to be there playing with these great musicians.".
Guitarist Ged Peck, who was with Marsha Hunt's band wrote to confirm that he was one of Royal's session men. Ged says:
I can confirm that as I am the said guitarist. It's certainly true that web information can be inaccurate. There's quite a lot about me from the 1960s although some it, I'm not aware ever occurred!
I knew Jimmy Royal over a number of years and played many BBC sessions with him, most in 1968. He was very popular on the radio, and incidentally, a very good singer. Others who played on sessions with me were Nick Simper and Rick Wakeman (as you report) and drummer Mac Poole, although I don't remember the other names. For fun, Jim used to ‘sit in’ at some West London pub/club where anyone could get up and play, although it was mainly people who knew each other. There would sometimes be (on various Friday nights when we weren’t working elsewhere) me, Nick, Rick, Mac, John Kerrison (drums) who was with the Pirates, Carlo Little (ex-Cyril Davis All-Stars), Tony Dangerfield (ex-Savages), Gordon Haskell playing bass, and occasionally Ritchie Blackmore. I could never remember the sax players.
Nothing was ever rehearsed with Jimmy. We all knew the tunes he wanted and when it came to soloing you just took the 'nod' from him. When Nick Simper and I were forming Warhorse with Rick Wakeman, we wanted Jimmy to be the singer, but Jimmy was more interested in being the 'front-man' rather than just a band member. Nick had just left Deep Purple and I remember considerable hostility when Ritchie turned up at the pub I mentioned, although, like me, Jimmy just kept out of it.
Interestingly, I have an old reel-to-reel tape of one of the BBC sessions we did for the Stuart Henry Show, recorded roughly off the radio with a simple mike. It turned up in my garage a couple of years ago when I clearing stuff out. I can’t remember all the numbers we did, but I remember that one of them was Hey Joe.
During the late 1960s, I was getting more and more disinterested in what I was doing and by 1972 had left the business. For the last 38 years I’ve played classical and jazz guitar, so what I did then is not my thing anymore. I never met a single person again until 2000 when I saw Nick and Carlo at a Screaming Lord Sutch memorial reunion (I also played for Sutch). I think that we mentioned Jimmy's name, along with many others.The last I saw of Jimmy was around 1969/70.
One bass player who can be ruled out of having played on She's About A Mover is Nick Simper. Nick also participated in the Beeb recordings, and like Ged he was doing so as a sideline to backing Marsha Hunt. He says the 'Set' "included Albert Lee (later of Heads, Hands & Feet) and keyboard player Rick Wakeman, later of Strawbs and Yes fame". Nick's webmaster Mike has kindly pointed me to the section of Nick's fascinating on-line autobiography where he relates the story of recording She's About A Mover with his then-current band Buddy Britten and the Regents. (Scroll down to paragraph 16 and the pic sleeve of the single.) Unfortunately, both Buddy's version of the song (on the Pye label) and James Royal's (Parlophone) and Sir Douglas Quintet's original (London) were released simulataneously. In the race for the charts, the 'knight', Sir Douglas, won his tournament against two separate bands of musical 'royalty'. Ironically, as Nick recalls, he was friendly with James Royal, whom he describes as "one of England's greatest rock singers".
On his own website, Mick Underwood remembers how he was called by, "an old friend, singer James Royal, looking for a drummer to do a two-week stint at a very trendy club called Hatchets in London's West End." On the strength of that one phone call, Mick gave up his day job. "The keyboard player in the band was Peter Robinson, and the die was cast for some future fun."
In 1972, the year that Royal released the duet with Liz Christian, they both toured with Jerry Lee Lewis.
Webmaster's note: Researching the James Royal information gave me a good example of the internet being similar to the game Chinese Whispers – i.e. information becomes more and more distorted each time it is repeated. We know that Call My Name was released in the UK in 1967 and that it never charted in the UK, apart from its Top Twenty appearance in the Big L Fab Forty.The single is, however, reputed to have become a number one bestseller in France and other countries. (I unfortunately have no way of verifying this.) This information has become so distorted that some websites now carry the totally false statement that Call My Name was a UK number one in 1965. As Ged Pack confirms above, don't believe everything you read on the internet!
I have gone to a great deal of trouble to research available information about James Royal and his backing band. It has proved rather like attempting to complete a very complex jigsaw puzzle and I was very pleased to hear from Jim and learn that I had done quite well at putting the pieces together! – Mary.
Website and information sources: Nick Simper website; additional Nick Simper/Warhorse info; Mick Underwood bio; Ralph Murphy; James Royal CD
Bruce Welsh in Victoria, BC writes: "I liked your comment about putting things together using the internet info is a bit like the game Chinese Whispers. You are so right. While the internet is certainly helpful it is by no means the authority. You’re entirely correct too about how things become more distorted each time it is repeated. However, to be fair, I’ve come across a number of cases where two members of the same band recall the same incident differently, so I guess it’s not unrealistic to suggest historians will inevitably distort something with the very absence of awareness and with the very greatest of intentions."