The complete story of
The Jaguars, by Cliff Webb:
late 1963, The Buccaneers, a would-be Bodmin rock
group made up of Malcolm Barber, Dennis ‘Fritz’
Phillips, Robert Hancock and Cliff Webb, practised
in Barber’s Auction Rooms in Turf Street.
New Year’s Eve, all but Malcolm were invited to
try-out in a new band, headed by a 13-year old
guitarist, Alan Hodge, in the basement of Willis’
Garage at St Leonards, Bodmin, and we gelled from
the word go. Alan’s skill with the guitar was
outstanding, and we all wanted the group to go
None of us can recall how the name
Jaguars came about, but just a few doors from
Willis’ Garage was the office of BCD Entertainments
headed by Pete Brown, who quickly asked to be our
Agent. At that time, Pete had an E-Type Jaguar, and
his car is the common guess for being the origin of
At our second rehearsal, we added
two vocalists to our line-up - David ‘Nipper’ Yale
(Alan’s uncle) and Tony Priest. By the time we had
spent a month of rehearsing enough songs for a
dance, BCD Entertainments had dance bookings for us.
It should be appreciated that Alan was a very young
13, and; Rob, ‘Fritz, Cliff, and Tony, were 15,
David was in his mid-twenties, but we needed some
adult management. Alan’s dad; Arthur Hodge became
our Manager, ably assisted by Tony Webb. For young
teenagers, that “parental management team” kept us
focused and protected.
One particular example
was when The Jaguars supported The Who at Camborne.
To save space on the small stage and give a much
shorter change-over time, The Who wanted to use The
Jaguars’ equipment. The Who were famous for smashing
guitars and equipment during their act. We young
teenagers could have been overawed by such a famous
band, but Arthur and Tony were made of sterner
stuff, and firmly said NO!
As I recall it,
Arthur agreed, provided, that £1,000 of The Who’s
fee was retained by the organisers as surety for any
damage to the Jaguars’ equipment. The Who didn’t
actually reply, but in a sulk proceeded to put some
of their gear on the small stage in preparation for
their first set.
There was also the
gig we did at Carlyon Bay’s Coliseum supporting The
Kinks. No such shortage of stage room there. We
finished our first set, and walked outside to cool
off. We could clearly hear The Kinks, but gradually
over three or four songs, an odd noise gradually
added to The Kinks. The Coliseum Manager suddenly
called to us from the entrance doors, asking us to
go back on-stage.
The Coliseum was a strange
place to play. The insides were very barren which
created considerable natural reverberation. Our
amplifiers were set extremely low, but the Kinks
hadn’t taken any account of this, and were so loud
that the crowd started booing, then chanting
“Jaguars”. The Manager wanted us to go back on
stage, which we did. When we then stopped for The
Kinks to return, the crowd started chanting
“Jaguars” again, so after the nod from the Manager,
we finished the evening.
In January 1964,
what launched The Jaguars so prominently, was The
1964 Rock & Rhythm Championship, compered by Frankie
Vaughn, and promoted by the Truro Round Table in
City Hall, now rebuilt and renamed The Hall for
Our objective was
to make a success in that Championship. At that
time, on Friday evening BBC radio, selected new
records were launched, that were to be released for
sale on the following Monday. Alan’s mother Sally
would record those new releases, which on the Friday
before the Rock & Rhythm Championship, were Theme
For Young lovers by the Shadows and Can’t Buy Me
Love by the Beatles. Over the Saturday and Sunday,
The Jaguars rehearsed their presentation of these
two numbers for the Monday evening Championship.
Thanks in no small part to Alan’s skill, and
much to the annoyance of more established bands of
the day, these young Jaguars won the title, leading
to The Cornish Guardian’s headline; “Cornwall’s Top
Beat Group – the Jaguars”.
Angela Rippon’s column
in the Sunday Independent headlined The Jaguars’
success, with; “Mother Aids The Jaguars To Be Spot
On” winning the titled “Cornwall’s Top Rock Band”.
Amazingly, three busloads of supporters went to
Truro to give support, leading to The Western
Evening Herald’s large report, and flattering
headline of; “Girlish Hysterics Over The Jaguars”.
Winning that title led to two appearances on
West Country Television, and enabled BCD
Entertainments to offer The Jaguars as suitable
support for headlining groups such as The Searchers,
Sounds Incorporated, The Pretty Things, The Kinks,
Brian Poole And The Tremolos, The Who, The Four
Pennies, Dave Berry, and many more.
in repeated demand to play at The Old Barn Club,
Penzance; The Winter Gardens, Penzance; The Winter
Gardens, Falmouth; The Princess Pavilion, Falmouth;
The Flamingo, Camborne; The Blue Lagoon, Newquay;
The Coliseum, Carlyon Bay; Plymouth Guildhall; The
Park Ballroom, Plymouth; The 400 Club, Torquay; The
Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple; Tavistock Town Hall,
and many others.
Between 1964 and 1966, The
Jaguars were joined by two other vocalists - Dave
Knight and Rick Surtees.
received offers to turn professional. Playing at the
Winter Gardens in Penzance, in 1966, an agent
approached us during our break, offering a six-month
tour of Germany. This was an opportunity that Alan’s
talent deserved, but Cliff and Fritz preferred not
to turn professional. Unlike the typically explosive
break-up of bands, the Jaguars “split” amicably, and
the friendships continue to this day. Al very
quickly joined another local band, The Onyx Set, for
the Germany tour. For Al, this was the start of a
40-year career as a professional musician, widely
honoured by his peers, including Eric Clapton.
The Jaguars reformed with John Pearn (lead
guitar and vocals), Fritz (drums), Cliff (bass
guitar and vocals), and Chris Robins (rhythm guitar
and vocals), and Tony Webb as Manager.
Unfortunately, there was no option but to cancel the
next two weeks of bookings, in a diary of over 12
months of advance bookings. This second iteration of
the Jaguars continued with a slight change to more
multi-harmony vocals from The Beach Boys, The Four
Seasons and others. This new line-up continued
successfully for another two years. The break-up of
The Jaguars was again an amicable arrangement.
Accepting too many bookings, we simply exhausted
ourselves. Chris and John went on play in other
Cornish bands, and Fritz had a successful
professional drumming career, while motor racing
became Cliff’s consuming hobby.
In 2012, the
Gunslingers reformed for a charity gig at The Jail
Club, Bodmin, and Frank Cory approached Cliff to
reform The Jaguars to share the playing time. With
just a month to the date, there was considerable
urgency. John agreed to play lead guitar & vocals,
and Chris Robins agreed to sing lead vocals. Cliff
offered vocals and rhythm guitar, feeling that his
45 years absence from guitars didn’t enable him to
take the bass guitar part. Rob Hancock, the original
Jaguars’ bass player, kindly offered to play, and
Ivan Lyne was on the drums.
rehearsal, they completed the gig with The
Gunslingers. The enthusiasm afterwards was palpable,
but the desire to do more was fraught with problems
however, as both Ivan and Rob’s priority was rightly
committed to their current band, Rickety Bones.
The Jaguars’ original drummer, Fritz Phillips,
was still recovering from a serious leg injury,
incurred in a motorcycle accident. Within his
convalescence, Fritz was adapting to a more
technical, jazz-style of drumming that was different
to 1960s music.
experience in the Cornwall music scene quickly
solved both the bass guitar and drummer problems.
The highly experienced Mike Black-Borow joined as
bass guitarist, and Chris England became the new
drummer. With this line-up, the third iteration of
The Jaguars had dance bookings to fulfil.
The new Jaguars enjoyed some great gigs, right
through until 2019, raising more than £30,000 in the
process for various charities. The group’s farewell
gig at Wadebridge Town Hall on November 9th 2019,
although a sad occasion, was a huge success, and
brought The Jaguars’ story to a memorable
The Jaguars at The Public Rooms, Bodmin. 1963/4
L-R: Tony Priest (Vocals), Robert ‘Hank’ Hancock (Bass), Cliff Webb (Rhythm), Alan Hodge (Lead), Dennis ‘Fritz’ Phillips (Drums), David ‘Nipper’ Thompson (Vocals)
Original line-up (with thanks to Frank Corey)
Priory Park, Bodmin, 1967.
L-R: - Dennis 'Fritz' Phillips (drums), John Pearn (guitar), Cliff Webb (bass), Chris Robins (vocals). (E-Type Jag owned by Pete Brown of BCD Entertainment!)