Barry Hurst: Bass Guitar. Nigel Parsons: Lead Guitar.
Paul Unsworth: Drums. Malc' Charnley: Rhythm Guitar - Vocal.
"I was born and raised in the Wigan area. Inspired by The Beatles - who wasn’t?, my friends and I first formed a ‘beat group’ when we were about 12 years old by the name of The Others. Notice the rather dated descriptor ‘beat group’. In fact, whenever my grandma used to refer to us as ‘our Malcolm’s band’ I used to get very frustrated and correct her by emphasising that we were a beat group not a band! How times change eh? The choice of name - The Others - was actually inherited from another group that my cousin Eric O’Neil - another Wiganer - had been involved in and was adopted by us mainly due to the fact that it was painted onto the front of the bass drum that our drummer had just bought from our Eric!
When I think about it now, we were obviously incredibly young with Nigel and I - the youngest members - being only 13 years of age when we started to get paid for performing at ‘bookings’. Yes, they were still called bookings in those days i.e. way before the term gig became the more common term. Despite our age, The Others provided us with a vehicle to learn to play our instruments and to perform at mainly local venues such as youth clubs and pubs as well as more established venues such as the Wigan Casino. One of the highlights was playing as the support band to Mike Hurst & The Trekkersat Stokes Hall in Leyland i.e. a bit-of-a-do for the Leyland Vehicles’ workforce and management. Mike Hurst and The Trekkers were recognised at the time as being one of the top bands in the area just before The Shyms took on that mantle. By contrast, the low point was getting kicked off stage at the Cromwellian Club in Bolton when one of the punters complained to the club management that we were ‘far too young to be performing at such a sophisticated nightclub which catered for the jet set of Bolton’ - as if!
Eventually, The Others disbanded and Paul Unsworth and I moved on to form another group called Living Soul, which concentrated on playing Tamla Motown and Soul numbers specifically for dances. How we got away with performing Soul/Tamla classic's with only a Vox Continental organ and two guitars I will never know?
Living Soul posing in front of The Ram Jam Band's van at The Wigan Casino Club.
John Gaskell: Lead Guitar. Steve Bennet: Bass Guitar. Paul Unsworth: Drums.
Paul left the group and was replaced by: Lou Rosenthal – Drummer, who now plays with The Merseybeats.
Although Living Soul was not in the same league as the top bands in the area at that time which included: The Shyms, New Generation, Harlem John’s Reshuffle etc., nevertheless, they enjoyed regular work from the L.E. Agency run by the infamous William Leyland from his wooden shack in Hindley, ably supported by Doug Larby his second in command.
On reflection, life was pretty straightforward for groups in those days in stark contrast to the plight facing young bands starting up today. Basically, all we had to do back in 1967 - 68 was to have a successful audition at Willy Leyland’s Pink Elephant Club in Aspull and then, if he liked you, be effectively guaranteed work three to four nights every week throughout the year with very few - if any? - down times. I acknowledge now that it was incredible really because although we had great aspirations we knew at that time that we were still learning the ropes and were certainly nowhere near ready to be a top of the bill act. However, that being the case, we did support notable artistes/bands such as Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band’ at Wigan Casino, The Who at Salford University and Dave Berry of 'Crying Game' fame at The Howard Arms near Chorley and Duane Eddy at the Bolton Casino.
Living Soul eventually evolved into Winter’s Tale as we started to develop wider musical interests and, thanks again to the great team at the LE Agency, we continued to enjoy shed-loads of work as well as opportunities to perform at all the major venues in the area on a regular basis including: Wigan Casino/Empress Ballroom and The Beachcomber, The Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, The Las Vegas Club, Wigan, The Sportsmans, Pemberton, Bolton Casino, Rivington Barn, Blackpool Tower and The Winter Gardens plus many, many more including The Cromwellian Club in Bolton – without having to face the embarrassment of being kicked off – as well as the Cavern Club in Liverpool.
Oh yes, I nearly forgot: The St. Helens Transport Club – did you ever perform there for the bus crews inbetween shifts on Thursday nights? Well, you tell the young ones today and they just don’t believe you!
UNCLE SAMS MAGIC BUS
My final adventure with bands and gigs - have you noticed the change in nomenclature from beat groups and bookings? - in the Lankybeat area was with Uncle Sam’s Magic Bus, eventually shortened to Uncle Sam’s. This band saw me teaming up with Nigel Parsons again who, significantly had matured into a real virtuoso lead guitarist, Bernard Ainscough on Bass Guitar, and another good friend Andy Crookston on Drums.
This was a band that contained some very competent musicians who could also sing together in close harmony whilst rocking it like good ‘uns. As with the earlier bands, the LE Agency proved to be a God-send to Uncle Sam’s by enabling us to get lots of work and to travel to some ‘exotic’ locations including: Silloth in Cumbria, Caernarvon in North Wales as well as the frozen wastelands of Yorkshire such as Halifax and Castleford. Not the safest of places for a lad from Wigan! We also performed with some other notable bands such as The Hollies and Johnny Johnson & The Bandwagon. Coincidentally, this was at The Cavendish nightclub - a rather grand venue for Blackburn anyway!, which I believe eventually burned down - nothing to do with us - honest. Had it been the Cromwellian Club in Bolton that had burned down then, I agree, I would have been the prime suspect! We also performed with Vanity Fayre at the Royal Lido in Prestatyn.
The major highlight for Uncle Sam’s has to be performing at The Cavern Club on the same night that The Beatles announced that they had formally disbanded. Although we were devastated that The Beatles no longer existed, their formal announcement attracted ‘ABC’, the American Broadcasting Company to The Cavern Club in Liverpool to undertake an OB recording of The Cavern as it was in April 1970 in order, I presume, to make a comparison with the same venue which The Beatles had performed in during their formative days. I can only assume that somewhere in the vaults of ABC there exists a recording on film of our fifteen minutes of fame - or more likely 15 seconds! with all the members of Uncle Sam’s posing like the rock stars we all wanted to be. Still there are three bricks in the Cavern ‘Wall of Fame’ for the bands I performed in at this prestigious venue."
Malcolm Charnley: February 2012