Sam Parnell started out playing as part of the skiffle craze, around 1959/60 forming The Bostons (who sported matching Boston style haircuts!). The group had no bass guitar and where knocking out covers of early rock & roll hits, such as Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.
Around the same time Robin was playing in local band The Black Panthers, along with Ray Prout, Richard Dawe and Rodney Martin. They were also putting on dances in the local area.
Sam around the time of Black Panthers
Around 1964 Sam and brother Robin formed the Shade of Blues with Chico Davey and Stuart Porter, all school friends. They started out playing more blues and R&B orientated material by the likes of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. They regularly played around the local area, also venturing into Devon.
The band were managed by fellow school friend Colin Gregory, who also wrote for the Cornish and Devon Post, covering the local music scene in his Postscript column. Colin was a big Rhythm and Blues fan and put on various dances, including Launceston Town Hall and in Holsworthy Memorial Hall. He ran the Blues Society, a blues club located in the Holsworthy area that put on gigs by the likes of Blues by Six, Them, The Fairies and Swinging Blue Jeans. Usually Shade of Blues would support.
It was at one of these gigs that the band supported The Tridents, featuring a young Jeff Beck. Already clearly a talent to be reckoned with Jeff suggested that the Shade of Blues needed a Rhythm player. So Frank Hancock was recruited.
St Stephen Church Hall
They played as a five piece for a further 6-12 months before Chico was headhunted by Plymouth band, The Betterdays and Frank took over on vocals. Inspired by The Betterdays they decided they wanted to bring in a piano player and Johnny Wilson was brought into the band. He was slightly wild, had long hair, and fit the bill perfectly. Although the band would soon realise that his image was more solid than his playing and he didn’t stay in the band for long.
Around 1966 The Betterdays folded, but soon reformed with a slightly different line-up, including Mike Weston on Bass and Alby on Vocals. Sam Parnell joined the band at this stage and they left the South West to try and make a name for themselves in London. Once in the city they would rename themselves Alby and recorded a demo of West Coast psych covers (Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane). They failed to attract any attention and returned to Plymouth were they split up.
Meanwhile, back in Cornwall the core of Shade of Blues decided to continue without Sam, but change their name. Colin Gregory recall's how the band's name came about;
Apparently we were having a late night coffee, as happened most nights (or early mornings) of the week in those days. Apparently someone said "What are we going to call the band now we are no longer the Shade of Blues." Sam recalled me saying: "Now that Sam has left, and Robin is still there, it should be Sam's Brother's Band."
The band continued for some time playing a mixture of old blues/R&B from the Shade days as well as more progressive material, including an ambitious re-writing of Whiter Shade of Pale! Their biggest break came when they supported Ten Years After at Dartmouth Grammar School, alongside Arthur Brown. Arthur’s manager showed an interest in the band, but sadly nothing came of it. The band would write some of their own material, including “Bombing Round In Motor Cars” which Andy Brice from The Onset remembers as being something of a monster!
Around 1968 Robin would leave the band and join newly formed band Earth on guitar. Earth would record two singles, including the psychedelic classic “Resurrection City” on CBS (and featuring scorching pedal steel work from The Misunderstood’s Glen Campbell). The band would also record radio sessions for the BBC.
With the demise of Sam’s Brothers Band, Sam and Frank would form a band called Bread. Located in Plymouth they featured Dave Smith on vocals. Unfortunately there was a slightly successful American band with the same name that put pay to that band!
Sam’s Brothers Band would reform soon afterwards, with Frank Hancock, Stuart Porter, Rob Parnell and Dave Smith. Sam would also play with the band from time to time as would fellow Earth band mate Ian Snow. This would continue for a number of years and the band would get back together again from time to time.
Shade of Blues would reform one more time in December 2011 for a one off gig at the Eagle Hotel in Launceston (along with Colin Gregory), with Roger Jewell filling the drum stool for the sadly departed Stewart Porter.