Ray Jones: Lead Guitar. John Turner: Lead Vocal. Dave Preece: Drums.
John Ashton: Bass Guitar: Derek Grice: Rhythm Guitar.
A late 1963 picture of The Cheetahs - all nicely booted and suited.
This is the same line-up that was featured on the CD.
Widnes Scout Gang Show 1961
Mum's front room rehearsals..
The Widnes Weekly News pic of The Cheetahs rehearsing in my mum's front room. We were often photographed by the local weekly paper as we were one of the top groups in the are those days. Our rehearsals were always acoustic in our front room and Dave usually had a practice pad with him, so it wasn't too bad on the neighbours. Anyway, the lad next door was in a group himself, so he probably listened through the wall!
The two Johns, Dave, Ray and Derek rehearsing a new number. We never had any sheet music, just a set of handwritten words copied after listening to a record and covering the record as closely as we could. We always got a good, accurate sound. Surprising really, for five young fellas with no musical education - just keen ears!
Ray Jones: April 2012
The Cheetahs formed in early 1961 and were all members of the 10th Widnes (Hough Green) Scout Group and practiced a few numbers so that we could play in the Gang Show at the Queen's Hall, Widnes in September that year. We were purely an instrumental group then, and we all particularly liked The Shadows and - like hundreds of young lads at the time - we modelled ourselves on them. My particular hero was, of course, Hank Marvin, and my playing style resembled his.
The founder members of the group, all from Widnes, were: Dave Preece on drums, John Ashton - eventually became our bass player, although in those days he played a six string guitar with slackened strings. Rhythm guitar players were Derek Grice and Rod Arrowsmith. Rod didn't stick it with the group for long. We gained experience by playing for youth club and Scout Dances, and before long we realised that we needed a vocalist. Our first was Bill Quirk, then Tony Clare, then Ronnie Ince, who left to join another group - but did us a good turn as John Turner, who had been singer with The Addicts, was without a band, so we gave him a tryout and he was brilliant. We stayed together until 1966 with only the bass player changing a couple of times during that period. Bass player John Ashton left us in about 1963/64 and was replaced by Paul Mash - ex-Addicts - for a short time then he was replaced by Phil Clancy.
Initially we used to play mainly around the Widnes area, but as we gained experience and a good reputation we started to travel a little further afield. We did The Cavern twice, first time with The Undertakers and second time with Freddy Starr and the Iron Door once: That was an eye-opener for us young fellas from out in the sticks.
We played Northwich Memorial Hall regularly and played on the same bill as The Spotnicks, Billy Davis, The Mersey Beats, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. We supported The Hollies at Shrewsbury Town Hall and The Rolling Stones at Wigan Empress Ballroom - later The Wigan Casino. We also played regularly in St. Helens, Runcorn, Warrington, Llandudno, Leigh, West Derby, Southport covering a good part of the North West in our time.
One night we arrived at the Yew Tree in Wythenshaw for an audition, but the Granada TV cameras were there filming for a series called 'Love And Marriage' with Bill Grundy and Michael Parkinson, to be shown for three consecutive Wednesday nights. We were shown on the final night as they were filming the 'stag night' and we were the entertainment. The groom was there with a ball and chain strapped to his leg!
We had a great time during those years and became 'famous' in the North West, sometimes playing twice in one night at two different venues.
In 1963 we did a tape recording at the BICC in Helsby, where I worked, and I kept a copy of the tape until about ten years ago when my son copied it onto a CD, digitally enhanced, and my daughter, who was in graphic design at the time, designed and printed a very professional sleeve. The album contains nine tracks and is called The Cheetahs, The Archaeology, Vol 1. The quality is very good considering the tracks were recorded in one night, and the tape was untouched for forty years. When it was finally unwound the metallic element of the tape started to peel off so the volume is a little variable on the first track. But it's a good tight sound. The CD, though, was just a one-off, given to me as a complete surprise one Christmas. My son, Art, handed me the CD saying that 'I don't think you've got this one' which I took to mean that he was referring to a Hank Marvin recording. You can imagine my absolute shock when I opened the package.
Here's a copy of the CD cover and the CD itself.
I'm sure you will agree it's a pretty professional job.
The tracks were:
1) You'd Better Move On
2) Talking 'bout You
3) Some Other Guy
4) Love Potion Number Nine
5) Young Blood
6) Somthin' Else
7) You'd Better Move On (reprise)
8) Johnny B Goode
9) Fortune Teller
Unfortunately the first track faded just before the end and so it was reprised on track seven where it is complete. But that's how it was on the tape, so that's what appeared on the CD - faults and all! I suppose I could run some copies off if anyone was interested - any money raised would go to our favouirite charity, Friends of CLEM, a charity that supports women and children in Bolivia.
Ray Jones: Febuary 2012
The Cheetahs brick in The Cavern Club Wall of Fame - Liverpool.
They famously shared the same bill at the Wigan Emp'-Casino with The Beat Boys by backing-up The Rolling Stones on their first-ever visit to Wigan in 1964.
Bill Hart: March 2010
"I was in a group in the sixties called The Cheetahs. I was very interested in the feature about thr band from our lead guitarist Ray Jones. I therefore would like to take the opportunity to add some further information on the group. I joined in mid-1963 as lead vocalist and enjoyed three great years with the band. We played at Wigan Empress Ballroom with The Rolling Stones and The Beat Boys; as featured in your article with the poster.
We played many other venues in the Wigan area, including quite a few of the Labour clubs -Pemberton Labour Club and Swinley Labour Club, which if memory serves me correctly was near Central Park? We also played others but I have forgotten their names. In quite a few of them we did Sunday lunchtime sessions. Other venues in the area included the Sportsman’s Club, which I think was in Pemberton and the Paradise Club at Scholes.
The thing I can remember about the Paradise Club was that it was a late night venue with after-hours drinking and gambling, which was unusual for that era. I can also remember it being on three floors – the top one for the groups to play. We had to carry our equipment the three floors via a metal outside fire escape. You can imagine what it must have been like carrying heavy amps up the steps and even worse, coming down at 2am in the early hours – not helped by having drunk quite a few pints of Toby Light, which was a strong brew they served there. Billy Butler the long serving Radio Merseyside DJ was also resident at the club for a while.
One of the other venues we played was the Norley Hall Pub. We were playing there on the night of the 22 of November 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember seeing the news on TV during the interval, so I definitely remember where I was on that day.
We also had a lot of work for a promoter from Southport called Lewis Buckley. We supported many top groups including The Searchers, Wayne Fontana, The Hollies and many others. The main venue was Northwich Memorial Hall. I have been trying to find out if any posters still exist for them or if there is any way to get hold of any. If you or your contributors can help on this matter, we would be very grateful.
John Turner: May 2012
and I'll put you in touch with Ray.
*Pic by Dave Preece
Our night with The Spotnicks from Sweden.
"We shared the same bill on 2nd September at The Northwich Memorial Hall. They were an international hit recording band of the same ilk as The Shadows and The Ventures.
The Cheetahs started life as an instrumental-only group inspired, and heavily influenced by The Shadows, and we covered most of their early singles, and some from their first album, too. I played lead guitar and I was a very big fan of Hank, his sound and his technique. I could never afford the Strat, but managed some of his techniques - and we all used Vox AC30's. My guitar in those days was a Hoffner V3, the closest thing I could get to a Strat. but a lot cheaper. But I loved that guitar and still have it in my collection - along with the AC30 and the Watkins Copycat, all bought in '62/'63!
However, we succumbed to introducing a lead singer, and it was with this line-up that we shared the bill with The Spotnicks. I remember that their single release at the time was Orange Blossom Special.
The outstanding memory of that snowy winter's night was that the van with their stage outfits (spacemen's suits) mysteriously failed to arrive - broke down/got lost/got stuck in the snow - and so they played in just casual gear - jeans etc., instead of their flashy spacesuit outfits they were famed for. This left me feeling particularly 'miffed' as we had all our stage clothes with us - smart suits and Chelsea boots etc. Mind you, we didn't have the same distance to travel as they did, but they arrived, along with their instruments and amps - but no stage clothes - I found that a little odd!
That was the main memory from the members of The Cheetahs and I can't remember anything they played, or even how good - or not - they were. Our bass player, John Ashton, has a vague memory of asking one of The Spotnicks why they didn't play their hit tune and the reply was a rather obscure explanation that a transmitter wasn't working. He remembers that they all had little aerials on their guitars, (was that a gimmick?) but he wondered if their sound could have been a purely studio engineered recording that couldn't be reproduced on stage."
Ray Jones: September 2012
Ray Jones: October 2012
Ray Jones: December 2013
John Turner: December 2013
John Turner, Dave Preece and Ray Jones celebrate The Cheetahs induction to the LankykatsWall of Fame..
More here about The Cheetahs Re-Union Night at Lankykats
Ray Jones: December 2013
CLASSIC 1962 ARCHIVE 8mm SILENT FILM FOOTAGE
The Cheetahs play The Shadows No 1 hit classic 'Apache' to a packed-out Queens Hall, Widnes circa 1961. The event was The Jubilee Scouts Show. Listen to that polite applause. Fab!
The Cheetahs are playing 'Gypsy Beat' originally recorded by The Packabeats on the Red Parlophone Label .
Gerry Eccles: February 2014
Show Finale... 'When the Saints..'
Alec Wynne: Widnes District Scout Group: February 2014
Note: This film itself is just over 1 minute long but the audio tape reel to reel, is about 8 minutes. The sequence was filmed without sound but I recovered a sound track which was added later. - Alec Wynne.