During the early 60s The Strangers were one of Truro's most popular bands. They were also one of the earliest of the rock groups in Cornwall, starting life around 1961, just as the skiffle craze was dying out and rock and roll was becoming the teen’s music of choice.
The band could be found busy rehearsing in a Truro loft, and it was here that Rick Penrose first heard the band. A budding guitarist himself, after checking out the band he soon became a full time member. The group were all around 15/16 years old at the time.
Playing a largely instrumental set the band were soon gigging in the local village halls and boys clubs. It was at one of the boys club were they were presented with the opportunity to play on the bill with Frankie Vaughan, who was performing a gig on behalf of the boys club. After a successful audition they were told they had too many guitars and there should be a bass player in the band. Rick Penrose was the last to join the band and felt that it was only fair that he dropped his 6 string in favour of the bass, which he did and never went back. The Frankie Vaughan gig gave the band a fantastic opportunity to learn from a professional act, and they also had the chance to back Frankie up on stage during the gig.
Rick quickly picked up the bass, learning a lot from studying John Chapman of The Staggerlees, and the band were soon building up a big following. They picked up regular bookings at Grampound Village Hall and started putting on a coach to take their friends and fans along.
L-R: Rick Penrose (bass), Howard Penrose (Lead & Vocals), John Blewett (Rhythm), Paul Tonkin (drums)
Before long they need 3 or 4 coaches each gig they had become so popular. The band themselves would travel to the gigs in one of the coaches, complete with equipment. During one gig in at Princess Pavilions though they resorted to making the trip from Truro in John's tiny bubble car, complete with as much kit would fit!
Another popular gig was the Farmers Arms in Newquay. Playing the hits of the day the band packed them in during the busy summer season. The picture below was taking at the Farmers Arms and shows the crowd spilling outside, where beers had to be served through the windows! It was at one of these gigs that a band unknown to the Strangers introduced themselves and said they had just made a record. The band turned out to be Herman's Hermits.
The Farmers Arms, Newquay
As well as playing all the main venues in Cornwall and supporting big name bands such as The Applejacks, who were so impressed with the band they would come back to check out the band's set a few days later.
they also had the chance to play with Status Quo who were currently riding high in the charts with Pictures of Matchstick Men. The band were exciting about playing on the bill also catching the band live, but unfortunately the gig at the Truro TA Hall didn't materialise as Quo were trapped in the snow in Devon and unable to make the journey.
They also competed in several of the Rock and Rhythm contests.
Although starting out as an instrumental band they introduced vocals with Terry Uglow. When Terry left the band they reverted back to a four piece, with Howard taking vocal duties. Billy Black later joined the band as vocalist and for a time they were billed as Billy Black and The Strangers. After Billy left they remained as a four piece. Terry Hay joined the band in 1966 on Rhtyhm guitar. Around this time Howard left the band, to be replaced by John on lead.
By 1966 the band had been playing for many years and as happens with bands they were starting to fall apart. Roger Taylor approached Rick and asked him if he would like to step with The Reaction on a trip to Torquay. Rick was happy for the change and took up the offer. On his return The Strangers would fall about for good and a short time later Rick joined The Reaction on a full time basis, staying with them the band ended in 1968.
John Blewett sadly died young but the rest of the band got back together for one last gig at charity gig in 1986, With Jeff Penrose (Howard's brother) filling in for John.
Paul Tonkin (drums), Jeff Penrose (rhythm), Rick Penrose (bass), Howard Penrose (lead guitar)