Frank Cory started out playing in the skiffle band The Jesters who at time, along with The Vampires, were one of the hottest bands in Cornwall. The Jesters had entered a national skiffle competition, placing 3rd, and had also undertaken a season in Plymouth.
Mike Black-Borow had been to watch The Jesters perform in Padstow, the experience inspiring him to purchase a guitar and starting practicing (it was a passing phase at the time, but he would soon pick it up again).
When the Jesters split up the band minus Frank would become The Druids. The Druids would soon become one of the big draws in Cornwall. The Staggerlees owned from Redruth down and The Druids the North.
Frank continued to play and soon formed the Phantoms with Mike Oliver on bass, Cedric Thompson on guitar, Graham Lyndsey on drums and Dick Bland (later of Onyx) on vocals. The band entered the 1962 Rock and Rhythm contest but didn't win.
When Mike Oliver left to go to college Mike Black-Borow was playing guitar but had never played bass before. The band would rehearse in Frank's front room and Mike was invited to audition. Mike easily picked up the 12 bar blues the band were playing and was offered the job on the spot.
After playing for a short while as the Phantoms they changed their name briefly to the Outlaws and then settled on the Gunslingers. At the same time there were some changes of personnel and Pete England. Pete Lawry. Elliot Osborne and Ric Surtees joined having played with Mike at Bodmin Grammar School concerts as The Boys.
The Gunslingers played a mixture of Instrumentals and vocals. They were soon playing the hits of the day, including Cliff & The Shadows, Eden Kane, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, Beatles, Searchers, Rolling Stones, etc.
The band played all the local village halls and venues and backed many visiting bands at the Blue Lagoon. They would also back The Four Pennies at the Flamingo and Shane Fenton at the Coliseum.
With Shane Fenton at Cornwall Coliseum, during his first 'farewell' tour
One of the bands regular gigs was a dance at the Rock Pavilion. Previously the Druids held the residency, with the Gunslingers supporting, but when they pulled out The Gunslingers took over. The area was and still is, popular with tourists, particularly Londoners and the band would pull in a good crowd during the summer months. They would often have visiting musicians jump up on stage to join them. The poster below shows one evening where they were joined by Mike Scott of Scottish trad-jazz band The Clyde Valley Stompers.
Frank Cory, Rock Pavillions. 1962
Pete England would leave the band to join the Army, returning to Cornwall a couple of years later. At one stage it Al Hodge was considered as a possible addition to the band. Al was 13 at the time and already a considerable talent and some members of the band were concerned that this talented youngster might outshine them somewhat! Al would regularly check out the band’s live shows and on occasion played with them. The Gunslingers were the first rock band to play the regular dances at the Foster Hall, St Lawrence’s Hospital. It was during these gigs that Al was plugged into the amps, albeit performing out of site on the side of the stage!
Performing live at St Lawrence Hospital, with Al Hodge off-stage
The band would lose both Ric and Elliot and continued as a three piece, which was quite unique at the time. By 1964 the band simply lost steam and fizzled out. Pete and Mike would later go on to play with both Rick & The Hayseeds and The Onyx Set.