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Jaguars

 
 
 

Years active:

1963-68

 
 

Location:

Bodmin

 
 

Band Members:                                         

Line- Up 1
Tony Priest (Vocals)
Robert ‘Hank’ Hancock (Bass)
Cliff Webb (Rhythm)
Al Hodge (Lead)
Dennis ‘Fritz’ Phillips (Drums)
David ‘Nipper’ Thompson (Vocals)

Line-Up 2
John Pearn (Guitar)
Cliff Webb (Bass/Vocals)
Fritz Phillips (Drums)
Chris Robins (Rhythm/Vocals)                 

later Dave Bunday (Drums)                                

 
     
 

The complete story of The Jaguars, by Cliff Webb:

In 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.

On 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 ahead.

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 our name.

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 Cornwall.

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.

They were 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.

The Jaguars 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.

After intense 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.

John’s considerable 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 conclusion.

 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!)

Typical setlist

 

 
     
 

Links to other bands:

Tony Priest would also sing with Rick and the Hayseeds, 3 and a Bit and The Onyx
Al Hodge would also play with The Onyx and Ginhouse
Robert Hancock would also play with Del Sparton and The Domminators, Trevenson Tree Tramplers and Mr Rusty's Raz-A-Ma-Taz Revival Machine
Fritz Phillips would also drum with The Gunslingers and 3 and a Bit
John Pearn would play with Illinois State, Trevenson Tree Tramplers and Mr Rusty's Raz-A-Ma-Taz Revival Machine and Ginhouse
Chris Robins would sing with Swinging Saints, Others, Blues by Four, Illinois State and Blue

Dave played with the Drifters, Big Four, Other Five, Good Times, Trevenson Tree Tramplers and Hairy Magpie

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

 

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