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The Vigilantes & Coconut Grove

 
 
 

Years active:

1960-66

 
 

Location:

Newquay

 
 

Band Members:                                         

1960-62: Dave May (Rhythm), Jon Kessell (Bass), Nigel Toone (Lead Guitar), Jeff Treverton (Drums)

1962: Dave May (Rhythm), Jon Kessell (Bass), Nigel Toone (Lead Guitar), Jeff Treverton (Drums), Brian May (Vocals)

1962: Dave May (Rhythm), Pete Coombe (Bass), Nigel Toone (Lead Guitar), Jeff Treverton (Drums), Brian May (Vocals)

1964: Dave May (Rhythm), Pete Coombe (Bass), Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Jeff Treverton (Drums), Brian May (Vocals)

1967: Dave moved from Rhythm to Organ

1973/74: Dave May (Organ), Pete Coombe (Bass), Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Clifford Lake (Drums)

1976: Dave May (Organ), Pete Coombe (Bass), Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Clifford Lake (Drums), Graham Hicks (Lead Guitar)

1976: Adrian Cheetham (Organ), Pete Coombe (Bass), Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Clifford Lake (Drums), Graham Hicks (Lead Guitar)

1977-80: Adrian Cheetham (Organ), Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Clifford Lake (Drums), Graham Hicks (Lead Guitar), Bob Etheridge (Bass)

1983-85: Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Clifford Lake (Drums), Dave May (Organ), Jeff Treverton (drums), Pete Coombe (Bass)

1986-1995: Alan Martin (Lead Guitar), Dave May (Organ), Pete Coombe (Bass), Neil Sudlow (Drums), Graham Hicks (Lead Guitar)

Mixing Desk/Equipment Technician: Clive Rickard

Roadies: Pete Pearson & Trevor Davy

Special FX's: Barry Jones

 

 
     
 

In 1960 a group of friends at Newquay Grammar School with a mutual love of music got together and formed a band that would become on the longest lasting and best known in the county. At the school one week students were invited to bring in guitars to school, which a large number did. Shortly afterwards though interest had dwindled and only a handful of keen students remained actively playing. These likeminded folk formed nucleus what would become The Vigilantes (Nigel Toone, Jon Kessel, Dave May and drummer Jeff Treverton)

The Vigilantes formed as a rock and roll group in 1960 staring out playing Shadows and instrumental numbers, as many groups did at the time. While still learning their craft they found gigs at Newquay Youth Club and has they progressed stating playing in the break between main bands at St Brannocks Hotel, Newquay. They also started to venture out into the local halls, including the TA Hall in Crantock.

After playing around the local area for a couple of years around 1962 Brian May joined the band and they starting to introduce vocals numbers to their set lit. They were now starting to play the hits of the day and rock and roll numbers. Roughly around the same time founder member Jon Kessell (of the Kessell cars business) left the band to be replaced by Pete Coombe (ex-Drifters).

Instrumental from the early days of the band

thanks to Dave Stone

At this stage the band were still in school, but by 1964 Nigel was ready for university and moved away giving up his place in the band. Alan Martin had been kicking his heels since his previous band, The Shades of Blue, had disbanded and was desperate to get back playing again. He was invited to audition for the band and after playing one song was in.  The Vigilantes were keeping their repertoire up to date and were starting to introduce more Merseybeat and harmony numbers into their set list, which suited Alan’s current listening habits.

Alan’s first gig with the band was at the Cosy Nook Theatre in Newquay, as part of a talent contest that also included Manny Cockle and The Other Five. Despite his initial nerves the band would secure first place and have the opportunity to support a band at the Blue Lagoon as part of Newquay Carnival Week.

This was the big break band the band had been looking for and propelled them from village halls and TA centres to the next level.

Cosy Nook Theatre 'Beat Contest' (Alan's first gig with the band)

I Go Crazy (Live: Cosy Nook Theatre, Newquay)  

Instrumental (Live: Cosy Nook Theatre, Newquay)  

They were also hiring St Meryn Village Hall and running their own dances, also hiring a coach to bring in their friends and fans from the local towns and villages. They would still play this venues (as all bands would) and booked out St Merryn village hall to run dances, where they would also hire a coach to take their friends and fans from local towns and villages. The talent contest win though now brought in bookings from the larger venues and bigger crowds. They could now been found pulling in the crowds at Newquay Trevelgue, which was always packed through the summer season and would often be found supporting on of the big name acts visiting Cornwall to play at the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon would play a big part in their initial success. Although a notoriously difficult character, club owner Harry Costa took a shine to the band. This was in some part due to the fact that if they were playing a Friday night they would leave their gear set up and tell Harry they would come by to pick it up on Saturday morning. Most bands would play their set, have a few drinks and then pack up, meaning Harry couldn't lock up until 1 or 2am. With the Vigilantes he could be gone by 12.30! When they returned on Saturday Harry could be found counting the takings, with the summer season bookings on a board on the wall in the office. Alan would ask who he had lined up to support, if there was nobody ye lined up he would give Alan the pen and tell him to take his pick, so the band could chose who they wanted to play alongside! The band got to share support The Move, Tremeloes, Freddie Mack, Moody Blues, Sweet, Wishful Thinking, Applejacks plus many others.

On the occasions when Geoff Treverton would be unable to make a gig Dave Bunday would step in and play with the band.

Live at the Blue Lagoon

Like many bands in the early 60s stage suits were par for the course, you were expecting to arrive and play in your finery. By 1966 things had changed and the band had dropped the suits in favour of the fashionable mod threads. They would make regular trips to Carnaby St to buy the latest gear which simply wasn’t available in Cornwall.

Around 1967 the bands sound changed slightly. Influenced by bands such as Procol Harum, Dave moved from Rhythm Guitar to Organ. They also starting introducing more beach boys to the act and became more surf & harmony influenced. They were still playing other material, but this became a large part of the new act. Below are a selection of cover songs the band recorded in Pete Coombe's sitting room.

Can I Get To Know You Better (The Tutles)

Walk Away Renee (The Left Banke)

 

Surfin' USA (Beach Boys)

Around this time the band had been working hard for several years and felt like they needed a short break, so they booked themselves in for a lad’s week away at Butlins. Unfortunately it was May and there was very little happening at that time of year and they were soon getting a bit bored and restless. The People newspaper was running a talent contest at the holiday camps and the band decided to enter. Although they had no kit with them they scrounged an acoustic guitar from a redcoat and bashed out a cover of Walk Away Renee, winning their heat. This secured them a free trip back to the regional finals in September. They went back with all their gear and won, which netted them another free holiday at the national semi-finals in Bognor. The finals were due to take place at the London Palladium and the band was looking forward to securing another free holiday. Unfortunately they were up until 3am the night before playing a gig in St Mawgan and thanks to a broken down van only just arrived in time for the show. Unfortunately they didn't make the final. Realising what a cushy number this was they entered again the following year only to get knocked out again at the same point in Brighton, thanks in part to some sabotage to Dave's keyboards from the competition.

Butlins Holiday Camp talent competition

The band had been playing some for the MAYC (Methodists Association of Youth Clubs), although none of the band was particularly religious. Each year the club would hold a gathering the Royal Albert Hall and somebody from Cornwall sent a tape of the band to head office and they were selected to play. On 18th May 1968, alongside dance troupes, brass bands, etc. they band played their set to a full crowd of between 6-8000 people, a far cry from the 1000 odd people at the Blue Lagoon. Despite having only a short 10 minutes to lug their gear on stage, set up and get ready the band rose to the occasion and played a great set, helped by the fantastic acoustics the venue offered. They played a set in the afternoon and came back in the evening for another. Although between sets Pete came down with appendicitis and missed the second set as he was holed up in hospital. The band would play the gig again the following year, this time with Princess Anne in attendance!

Live, Royal Albert Hall. 1968

Around 1968/69 the band was also touring outside of Cornwall. They had friends from Manchester who helped secure them gigs around that area. They would play two different clubs while in the city. At one gig they would support the other act, then afterwards dash off to the other gig and swap over, with The Vigilantes become the headliner. One of the bands this took place with was The Caravelles. During one of these visits the band van got stolen from outside of the venue and they returned to Cornwall equipment less and slightly disheartened. Amazingly the van turned up a few days later with all the gear still inside, even Dave's coat was still there! The band would make the most of these trips out of county and line-up other gigs on route, including Devon and even Cardiff.

The Vigilantes took part in a total of 4 Rock and Rhythm contests. In 1964 they played their first, alongside future member Alan Martin who was performing with the Shades of Blue. In 1966 they placed 2nd to The Reaction but came back in 1967 to take 1st place, knocking The Other Five into second place. As usual the top prize of recording contract with "4 Star Sound Productions" didn't materialise, but they did get picked up for gigs by the judges, however like most bands they were already busy playing The Flamingo and Blue Lagoon! As was tradition they came back in 1968 as winners and played a slot in the intermission. They entered once again in 1969 and again took first place, coming back the following year to perform in the final Rock and Rhythm contest (now Top Groups) as winners. However they had now changed their name to Coconut Grove.

 

"Sping Tide". An Instrumental written for the 1964 contest

 

Rock and Rhythm winners, 1967

 

Rock and Rhythm winners, 1969

By 1969 the old names such as Vigilantes, Gunslingers, and Druids were all a bit passé and the band needed to update their moniker to reflect the changing times. Coconut Grove was a resort in the USA provided a much more fitting name for the bands harmony driven good time music.

By now the band were well established on the Cornish music scene and were one of the biggest local draws. They were pulling in big crowds during the Trevelgue summer season, as well as playing to a packed Doublestiles in Newquay. Doublestiles was a very popular Newquay from around 1968. It was not uncommon for the door to be shut by 8pm it was so popular. Thankfully one night in August 1969 a friend of the band decided to tape one of the bands gigs on a reel to reel player. Only recently rediscovered in an attic by Andy Wood (ex Onyx roadie) the tape is of surprisingly good quality and shows of the tight musicianship and sterling harmonies of the band.

 

Beggin' (Live at Doublestiles, 1969)

 

See You In September (Live at Doublestiles, 1969)

 

Hey Grandma (Live at Doublestiles, 1669)

 

Windy (Live at Doublestiles, 1969)

 

St Austell YMCA. 1968

Doublestiles, Newquay

As the 60s came to end so did the career of many bands, however Coconut Grove continued to thrive as they moved into the 70s. They continued to bring their set list up to date, learning songs by Bowie, Yes and later Queen, while still playing some Beach Boys numbers. During the early 70s they were also playing a large number of Lindisfarne songs, which included the introduction of the violin!

Around 1973/74 Jeff left the band. Clifford Lake (ex-Breakers) would replace him. By 1976 another founder member, Dave, left the band and was replaced by Adrian Cheetham. Dave would play for a while in High Life for a time with Colin Hannah (ex-Safron) and Mick Grose (ex-Individuals).

During 1976 Alan broke his arm and was out of action for a while. Graham Hicks stood in for the absent Alan, but when he was fit and well again the band decided to keep Graham on and continue as a five piece.  In 1977 Pete decided to leave the band and was replaced by Bob Etheridge (ex Blue Movies and Pictures.

5 piece line-up live at Trevelgue, Newquay

The new line-up decided to have a go at writing their own material. They entered Roche Recording Studios around 77/78 and laid down a few tracks which were then trailed out to a live audience. Unfortunately the crowds just wanted to hear the hits of the day and the band penned material didn't go down as well as the cover versions of known songs.

Where Do We Go From Here  

By the late 70s the live music scene had changed considerable. Disco was on the rise and live music falling out of favour. Party goers were more becoming more interested in dancing to the latest record on the dance floor than played faithfully by a real band. People were less interesting in standing and watching a band play their instruments. Coconut Grove recognised this and decided to make their stage act more theatrical and their shows more of an event.

Live at Bodmin Rugby Club

They introduced lighting, dry ice, smoke machines and roman candles to make their gigs a spectacle. The new visuals gave the crowd something to look at and entertained them. They also once again brought their set list up to date with the introduction of Genesis, Boston, Police and other contemporary songs.

Despite the new outlook it was the beginning of the end for the band. Gigs were still around, but the music scene had changed so much it was hard for bands like Coconut Grove to find a place in the market. Adrian was due to peruse a career in accountancy and Cliff had got married, so priorities were starting to change. The band had a number of gigs lined-up, which included the Green Parrot in Perranporth and Widemouth Manor in Widemouth Bay, but on New Year's Eve 1980 played their last gig.

London gig, 1979

In 1983 it was suggested it would be a good idea for the band to get back together again for a one-off charity gig at the Elizabethan Suite in Pentire Hotel. An impromptu gig was lined-up in the Red Lion pub, Newquay. A week so before the main gig. Without any promotion and only by word of mouth the gig was packed out. The gig at the Elizabethan suite was also a roaring success, so much so that the band decided to put on annual gigs for the next three years.

By 1986 they realised that things were working out quite well and decided to take the band on the road again. They secured lots of dinner and dance events, as well as still proving a popular draw in the pubs and clubs. By this stage they were playing a large number of Eagles classic American rock songs.

For the past 30 years, Mike Grant editor of the Beach Boys STOMP magazine has held a Beach Boys convention in London. Mike had previously heard the band and asked Graham if he would ask the Coconut Grove to perform at the convention. Although known for their surf music and Beach Boys covers they were not a Beach Boys cover band, so it initial proved quite a challenge filling their whole set with solely Beach Boys songs, and being hardcore fans they would be expecting to hear lots of the more obscure numbers! It was Mike Grant’s idea for Coconut Grove to open the set with the introduction to Bohemian Rhapsody. It was done as a bit of a joke. They were prepared, and intended to only play Beach Boys related songs at the convention. Around this time they would also record a jingle for a Freddie Zapp's Radio Cornwall show which still receives plays today!

Coconut Grove - Good Vibrations

 

Coconut Grove - Surfer Girl

 

Coconut Grove - Bohemian Rhapsody

 

 

 

Live at Hendra, Newquay. 1994

 

The second incarnation of the band lasted for ten years finally calling it a day around May 1995 with a farewell gig at Hendra Tourist Park in Newquay (although they had a later engagement to fulfil in Roche Victory Hall, which was technically their finale).

It felt like a good time to call it a day and they band most definitely went out on a high. They came close to playing again a couple of years ago, but it didn't come off and there are currently no further plans for a Coconut Grove reunion.

Alongside the Staggerlees they were the longest lasting Cornish band and built up a strong reputation and fan base over the years. While many band's ego's got in the way the band were like a group of brothers and very much a collective, which ensured both their longevity and enduring popularity. 

In 1998 The Vigilantes reformed for a school reunion event. For one night only Jon Kessel, Dave May, Brian May, Geoff Treverton and Nigel Toone got back together again and played for one last time.

Please check out Graham Hick's website for lots more Coconut Grove pictures -

www.graham-hicks.com

 
     
 

Links to other bands:

Alan Martin played with The Crusaders

Cliff Lake played with The Breakers

Graham Hicks played with Shivering Sands, Lynn and the Travellers, Western Union, Hairy Magpie and Safron

 
     
     
Did you play in this band? If so please get in touch!
 
 
     

 

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