Thank you to Roger Hancock, Will Coon and Nick Dower and for their recollections of the band, which are reproduced below. (Please read the Soul Society page for the continuation)
Numbers we played: We played a variety of songs and instrumentals. This included ‘Fireball XL5’, ‘Heartbeat’, ‘Let’s dance’, ‘Where have all the flowers gone’, Hog for you baby’, ‘Roll over Beethoven’ , ‘Route 66’, ‘Do the locomotion’, ‘Glad all over’, ‘Picture of you’, Da Doo Ron Ron’ and a number of Shadows hits such as ‘Wonderful Land’ and ‘FBI’.
Gear we used: Olympic then Premier drums, Rapier bass, Rapier lead guitar then Burns Black Bison, 3 Shure mikes, Vox AC 30 (Bass), Vox AC 30 (lead), Fenton Weill – 25 Watt then a 3rd Vox AC 30, two Watkins Copycat Echo Chambers, Selmer PA system – 50 watt.
Venues we played: Mt Charles Social Club; Capital Ballroom; Wadebridge Conservative Club; Fowey Harbour (quayside); Fowey Town Hall; Meavagissey Town Hall; St Austell Speedway Supporters’ Club; Fraddon Village Hall; Victory Hall (Roche); Roche Town Hall; New Church Hall (St Austell); The Cornish Riviera; Public Hall (Liskeard); St Dennis Institute; Flamingo Club (Redruth); Bugle Legion Hall; Truro City Hall; St Brannock’s Hotel; Bodmin Town Hall; GodolphinHall (Helston); Blue Lagoon (Newquay); St Blazey Drill Hall; Station Hall (Westward Ho); Skating Rink (Camborne); Park Ballroom (Plymouth); Winter Gardens (Penzance); St Peter’s Church Rooms (Treverbyn).
We entered ‘Rock and Rhythm’ contest, City Hall, Truro on 16.3.64. Song (Heartbeat) came 2nd and instrumental (William Tell theme) came equal 6th. We met Will Coon whilst there and were impressed to hear he was writing his own songs.
Some of the bands we featured with: Clive Ritchy and the Couriers (Cornish Riviera Club, 20.9.63);
Swinging Blue Jeans (Truro City Hall, 30.3.64);
Strollers (New Church Hall, St Austell, 21.2.64);
Barracudas (Flamingo Ballroom, Redruth, 20.6.64);
Drifters (Park Ballroom, Plymouth, 2.7.64);
Gunslingers (Winter Gardens, Penzance, 3.7.64)
The Swinging Blue Jeans signed up to our ‘big sound’. They were the tightest band we had heard play in Cornwall.
Our fees ranged from £3 (Mt Charles Social Club on 17.8.63) to £12.12s (Liskeard
Public Hall on 28.3.64). During 1964, £11 guineas became the expected fee but we often played for less. Occasionally we booked a Hall ourselves. For instance, on 7.9.63 we booked Mevagissey Town Hall for £2. 12s.6p and charged 4 shillings for entrance. The poster cost 3 shillings and was produced by drummer Dave who worked for a firm of sign printers in St Austell. On 9th October 1963 we bought our first group van, a second-hand Bedford which we called ‘Reg’. It cost £100 with insurance at £13. 4s and road tax £6. 12s. We borrowed the money from an aunt and paid her back from bookings over a year plus £5 interest. We were all in our teens and mainly regarded being in a band as a fun thing to do. However, we took our music seriously and did, in fact, get a small business off the ground. Moreover, the share outs (£1 each whenever possible) were not insignificant to our weekly incomes.
Drummer Dave left the Dominators, without bad feeling, in the Summer of 1964 and he was replaced by John Lean from Truro. John had previously played in The Burnettes with Will Coon (guitar and vocals), Frank Bonney (lead Guitar) and Peter Coombe (Bass Guitar).
Crashing Reg into some road works on our way to a booking at Egloshayle Village Hall in the Autumn of 1964. No one was seriously hurt and we were able to repair the bodywork ourselves. We had played this venue once before but on that occasion were threatened by some dancing hard boys because we let off a smoke effect (designed by Nicky who was an electrician by day) during ‘Hog for you baby’ which polluted much of the hall. Looking back, it seemed to pre-empt the ‘ice fog’ effect used by The Stones in their ‘It’s only rock and roll’ video in 1975 – a fanciful claim maybe.
Penrice Christmas School dance. 18th December 1963
(Photograph by Rodney Best, manager, who encouraged us to buy the suits to look like a proper band.)
Band members (left to right):
David Tucker ‘drummer Dave’ (drums); Roger ‘Raj’ Hancock (lead guitar); Paul Blackburn (alias Del Spartan); Nick ‘Nicky’ Dower (rhythm guitar); Joe Stephens (bass guitar)
We were paid £5 for this gig. We had recently bought our blue foam-back jackets, light grey trousers and bat wing bow ties from John Stevens, Plymouth on 2nd November. Del had a red corduroy jacket and dark grey trousers.
(Photograph by Del Spartan)
Although we tended to keep these band pictures amongst ourselves, we were in fact onto the idea of a publicity shoot. Joe (extreme right) was the first to ‘go Beatle’ while the rest of us were still locked into earlier hairstyles.
(Photograph by Rodney Best)
The secondary school rocks, or twists, rather. Staff and pupils so smartly and similarly dressed so that it’s hard to distinguish who is who.
Mullion Village Hall car park. September 1964
Group pose on Reg the van with our new suits safely stored in the back. That front axle could take some stick!
Fowey Harbour. 1964
Following complaints about the volume and choice of music when the Dominators played on the quayside, Fowey Harbour, on 23.8.63, someone wrote to the Cornish Guardian defending the band. The person concluded:
‘… more people enjoyed the music of the Dominators than the Lostwithiel Band. No-one caused any trouble which is what sometimes happens in dance halls.’
Fowey Town Hall. 6th July 1964
‘You better move on’ was one of a few songs we did without Del Spartan. Here Joe Stephens (right) takes the lead voice with harmony from Roger Hancock (left). Nick Dower is in the middle and John Lean, our new drummer, at the back.
Fowey Town Hall had a stage with a swanky painted backcloth coastal scene. Like a number of town halls in Cornwall, it was a first floor location, however, which meant lugging the gear up a flight of steps. The above gig on the 6th July lasted from 8.15 to 11.45 pm and we received £9.15s. Our accounts book shows we gave £1.15 of this to ‘BCDE’ a booking agency based in Bodmin and run by Peter Brown.
St Blazey Drill Hall. 18th May 1964
It was still early days in terms of any Cornish band’s sense of visual presentation on stage but this picture captures our attempt to ‘take it away’ as Del used to say. Our legs stayed firmly anchored to the stage but we did manage to move our bodies above the waist - and that include John Lean our drummer.
Mullion. September 1964
The stage took up a lot of floor space at Mullion so it was fix high in a vertical position behind the band. We then played on tables in front of the stage - an unstable arrangement given Del’s antics.
Our sense of grouping in this pose for the camera wasn’t at all bad. It’s interesting now to ask how we learned to do this kind of ‘band thing’
Cornish Guardian advertisements (from September 1963)
Our records show we had seven bookings during the month of September 1963. It was unusual to have a week without a booking and in many weeks we had two and occasionally three. People in a great many Cornish and Devon towns and villages in the 1960s wanted to hear live rock music being played. Mark Hodkinson (1995) in his book tracing the early years of Queen in Cornwall talks of an ‘infrastructure to support live music made by young people’ (p. 18).
Extract from our accounts book
These figures record that on 30.3.64 we supported the Swinging Blue Jeans at Truro City Hall and that before taking away the listed expenses the Group Fund stood at £27.2s. We built up a fund for a variety of reasons - to help running expenses related to the van, for paying items like the above £7.16s to the Musicians Union (campaigned in the 1960s for proper rates of pay), and for loans to band members to help buy equipment that would benefit the band generally.
Rodney Best (our manager): Rodney left the band in July 1964. He had put forward the idea of him playing saxophone which would have added to the ‘big’ sound of the Dominators but we weren’t quite ready for this instrumental addition. As a manager, Rodney made an important contribution to the development of the Dominators, not least in helping us to become an organised small business and to be more professional in our approach. He took the management of a rock band very seriously and this helped us to see ourselves as a band worth booking.
Del Spartan (Paul Blackburn)
Del Spartan left the Dominators, without enmity, in the Spring of 1965. Del was prone to throat infections and sometimes found singing for two or three hours quite a strain. Additionally, he wasn’t comfortable with some of the material we were seeking to play. A number of us in the Dominators had become interested playing more than just rock and roll and rock ballads. Del didn’t immediately join another band but eventually became the singer with a Mevagissey based group called, ‘The Misfits’ with John Cloke on lead guitar. They later changed their name to ‘The Cousin Jacks’ with Glen Rees on lead and Tony Langston (later The Soul Society) on keyboards. The Cousin Jacks went on to become one of St. Austell's most popular groups in the late 1970s/1980s. Those of us who knew Del as a friend and singer were deeply saddened by his untimely death at 40. Some of us had known him from his days at Mount Charles Primary School, had been train-spotters with him, had sang alongside him in the St Austell Church Choir, and had attended St Austell Grammar School with him between 1957-63. Paul had many talents. He was, for instance, clever with words and voices, and an able comedian who could keep us laughing on long van journeys as we travelled the length and breadth of Cornwall and Devon. He had a very special singing voice and a kind, sociable nature. We all lovingly remember him.
Del Spartan (Paul Blackburn) - 1946-1986
(With thanks to Graham Hicks for the above advert)
The above accounts of The Dominators could not have been put together with the detailed records that Rodney Best and Will Coon kept and kindly made available. All thanks to them for helping to keep our band stories alive. Our message to any newly formed Cornish bands visiting this web site is to keep a record of your band lives and adventures - you never know, me ansomes, who might be interested to read about you in future times.