Thanks to Norman here's the story of the band
We were a young band from Plymouth in the 60s Mike and The Travellers but apart from the usual venues, Plymouth Guildhall, Rooftop and Tavvy Town Hall we seemed to spend most of our time playing down in Cornwall, Saltash, Liskeard , Gunnislake, Launceston Town Halls, the Godolphin Hall in Helston and all the village halls and Social Clubs.
Started of with the usual Selmar amps and Futurama guitars and Copycat Echo but moved up to Burns Guitars with Vox Amps Binatone echo and me with a nice Pearl White Premier kit.
We used to travel around in a Bedford Dormobile driven by, I now think were the Mitchell brothers from Eastenders and who on one occasion when we were going to the Godolphin on a Saturday said they had a little bit of business on the way, pulled up beside an x type Jag and proceeded to lay about it with a sledgehammer, calmly jumped back in and drove to the gig. You can imagine a bunch of very nervous 15 year olds in the back.
Like most bands we had a great time. It was everybody’s dream to be up on stage playing to a good crowd.
I remember around 1964, not that great with dates, we won the band contest at Liskeard Town Hall. The prize was a week playing at Minehead Butlins which because we were too young we couldn’t take up.
The week after we were billed as the winners playing at Launceston supporting a band that had just come back from Germany, but they walked of after the crowd wanted the support back on Heady Days indeed.
When this band split I played with various outfits with a bit of cabaret work but in 1969 had to pack up for work and family commitments.
Started playing and a bit of gigging again with the old lead from the Travellers back 2008 to 2010 with some really good guys bit of a reprise for the old guy as I had gone over 60. But now content myself in my small studio.
with thanks again to Norman;
As most young bands of the day Mike and the Travellers started in the local Church Hall practising and playing at the Church dances also playing dances in the School that we attended, a good showcase.
We then came under the wing of our lead guitarists uncle who became our Manager. Jim lived and breathed the band not only did he get us bookings but he paid for stage suits, travel expenses and a lot more. R.I.P. Jim.
He was instrumental in getting us some really good gigs in Plymouth and Cornwall but also with the good came some quite weird ones.
I think the most bizarre weekend of dates was when we were booked to play a Roman Catholic wedding where for some reason they insisted that we attend the Ceremony and then attend the reception for the meal before we played I think they felt sorry for us anyway we played until late and rushed off to our next booking at the Ace of Clubs in Union St. Plymouth where we played if memory serves from 12pm until 2-30am. A bit surreal for a bunch of young lads playing for a bunch of Gamblers.
On the Sunday we were back down Union St at the Castle pub where on arrival we were told not if a fight breaks out but when, to carry on playing or they will drag you off the stage and as good boys we did as were told and lived to play another day.
On another occasion we were playing the NAFFI all good in the first half started playing our next set and we must have ramped up what wattage we had and the next minute the power was cut, come to find out the jobsworth running the dance switched off because we were to loud as if.So he told us to go back to the level we were at before,the lads twiddled and left it as was, he was happy, switched back on and we carried on just as well he did as i think there were a few matelots ready to make him walk the plank!
Our singer was a bit of a ladies man and most bookings true to form he would go AWOL for the first 20minutes or so of the second half when we would do our Instrumental set with the mandatory drum solo when to a man everyone would leave the stage and come back one at a time and usually we would have our singer back looking very pleased with himself.
Although always in the memory venues such as The Victory Hall, Aggie Westons, the Naffi and previously mentioned venues I think one that stands out in Cornwall was the Godolphin Hall in Helston a long way down but well worth the effort.The first thing that hit you when you had climbed the stairs was the height of the stage and those acoustics until the place filled up great gig. then on the journey back you had to stop at the Port and Starboard for the fish and chips.
Thanks to Brynn Storey, here’s an update on the Mike and the Travellers story;
The band emanated, as so many others, from a school friendship. The initial two members were Bernard and Ron.
I, possessing the musical talent of a one legged hedgehog, was quickly persuaded to play bass. Within a few weeks we were fortunate enough to find a kid who had just moved into the area from Scotland, -Norman ‘Jock’ Milton,-willing to play drums.
Bernard, the original lead guitarist, used a budget price guitar called a Paylee and, I think, a Selmer amp.
Ron played rhythm, also using what I remember as a Selmer amp.
Having run out and bought a ‘plank’ of a Rossetti bass, and, without the funds for an amp, I was initially relegated to taking turns through their little 15 watt practice boxes, - probably doing irreparable damage to their speakers . Eventually, having endured my ‘sulks’ for several weeks, the parents finally ‘loaned me’ the money to buy a little two unit Fenton Weil amp of my own.
At that time we were mostly playing instrumentals, practicing in each other’s bedrooms (much to the annoyance of our parents.) and ‘lifting’ the tunes of the time from the ‘tin box’ that Dansette had dared to call a record player.
As we were all ridiculously young, (13-14) the majority of the commuting between practice locations was undertaken by bus, with regular “you can’t bring that on ‘ere”
comments from the various conductors.
After several months, a few equipment upgrades, (which included a great little Watkins copycat echo unit) we had a whole 10-15 number repertoire, and were finally brave enough to call ourselves a GROUP.
In the beginning we named ourselves The Prowlers, after an instrumental that Bernard had put together. We did the local youth/sports club/School rounds, but soon realised we needed a front man who would attract the fairer sex, and broaden our limited musical range.
Thus enter Mike. Mike was 2-3 years older than us - working- and had already discovered girls - big time.
From memory, I think it was Bernard who originally asked Mike to come to a practice session, which, had by then, (at the request of parents and neighbours) relocated to the local church hall. Considering the four of us had never worked with a singer, the session went surprisingly well. I suspect because we all knew the 12 bar Holly/Lewis/Berry standards of the day backwards, and Mike, luckily for us, singing in the nice easy key of C.
For the first few sessions Mike ran through one of our amps, but soon purchased a Leak valve amp, some speaker units, and additional Reslo mics and stands. (Note – Putting your lips too close to a Reslo usually resulted in becoming stuck to it or having your hair straightened. - Sometimes both!)
Our ‘numbers book’ now contained a whole 35-40 entries and we were additionally being requisitioned as ‘fill in’ entertainment at family weddings, party functions and social club events It was at a family wedding that we got our first full dance booking.
The wedding’s afternoon reception was being held at the Victory Hall Devonport.
This hall being the local Saturday night venue of groups like Mike Satan and the Demons, The Hepcats, and other groups, who were- to us - at the time, ‘big league’.
An agent, responsible for booking that night’s entertainment had been let down by one of these groups, and happened to be in the hall.
On hearing us, he mistakenly thought we were using the wedding booking as a ‘fill in’ engagement, and asked if we were free to replace the absentees at the Victory that night. In those days dances started at 7.30/8.00 PM, and you were expected to play for 3 hrs with only a 15 – 20 minute intermission between sets.
As we only had about half the numbers required to fill this in our repertoire, were not MU members (compulsory for any ‘decent’ venue in those days) and very very young we were somewhat terrified at the prospect of playing at, - to us, - a ’big boys’ venue.
Fortunately, the place did not start filling up until around 9.00PM, allowing us to repeat the early first half numbers in the second half, and extending all our twelve bar standards to the longest in known musical history. (Whole lot’ a Shaking should have gone into the Guinness Book of records.)
Apart from the fight, (in those days quite normal) involving some local lad deciding stub out his cigarette in the face of a rival, and some clown pulling out the lav cistern and flooding the gents and dance floor, people, including the agent were really impressed with our performance. “When are you coming back ?”. We seemed to have got away with it, and were on our way.
It was about this time that Jim came on the scene. (See Norman’s text). He was an Uncle of Ron, had just left the RAF, and his pay off gratuity was making a hole in his pocket. Having heard Ron play he asked if he could come to our usual Saturday afternoon practice. After listening, he thought we “had potential” and would we be interested in him managing us. With nothing to lose and his pledge to get us regular work on the Devon/Cornwall circuit we jumped at the chance.
He arranged our MU membership, got us onto the books of four of the local band agents, arranged formal transport facilities to our bookings, got business cards processed, took care of advertising and got us fitted out with suits. A pretty good deal for just 10%.
There were a few changes though. The group’s name was revised to Mike and the Travellers. Ron took over as lead, with Bernard moving to rhythm, and that all important numbers book now contained over 150 songs /instrumentals. As stated in Norman’s text, he also entered us for the local band competition which brought us fair amount of press when we won. Not enough coverage however to offset our pee’d off feelings when we found out we were too young to work at Butlins.
Ultimately our equipment moved up to Vox/Fender/Burns/ Premier, and an expensive scheller echo unit, which, in my opinion, was not as good as the old cheap tape Copycat). At the grand old age of 14-17 we were -at least to us – on our way.
From then on, life generally consisted of 4-5 bookings a week fitted in with our day jobs. Saturday mornings being reserved for comparing venues, and girls, with some of the other groups in the area at Gordon Clarks Music Centre shop, (Clark and Chin) and trying out any new equipment that he had in stock.
Saturday afternoon normally remained our practice session, in order to keep up to date with any new numbers that came on the scene. We had, I think, about 3 good years, during which we developed quite a large and loyal following, thankfully swelling the gates at many of our regular venues.Then Mike’s voice started to give problems.
His throat had started to bleed due to the continuing demands we were putting on him.
(By then, he was singing at least two and a half hours per booking, - 5 times a week + practice). This, coupled with his day job, resulted in him having to leave. (He was an old man of nearly 20 after all !). We tried a few alternative singers (including one or two females) but the old ‘spark just wasn’t there, so we all called it a day.
Happily, Jim had, by then, taken some additional groups under his wing, so our parting was amicable. Really, living at this end of the country in the early 60’s was just too far from where it all “happened”. While several of the local groups had by then got small record deals, been on those German tours and acted as support acts to some big names, eventually, they all tended to return to our West country backwater’.
But for ALL of us, - they were great times while they lasted.
Mike and the Travellers - RIP
Some additional venues the guys might remember:-
Those endless drives (from Plymouth) lying on mattresses which were placed over the equipment, surrounded by spare shirts which would be more than needed by the time the intermission break came. It seemed to takes days to get there - - and back. (In those days it was all ‘B’ roads, and the vans were hard pushed to go over 50 MPH.) A big - big stage, and a good crowd when you got there though..
The officers dance with a Royal Marine band as support. Being invited back to the officers mess for drinks. (We were all hardened under age drinkers by then.) Sleeping it off on the snooker table in the recreation area having watched a Catholic priest hitting on all the available females. Transport being late, so gave the early morning ferry commuters an impromptu acoustic session on the way home.
Plymouth’s Tarantula Café.
The dance area was in the cellar and held approx.100-150 people. It was always packed, and didn’t have a stage facility. Amps and speakers had to be placed at head height or hung from the ceiling to prevent the sound being stifled by the dancers. At the end of the night, the place looked as if it had been hosed down, due to the condensation generated by the dancers packed so tight on the floor. One hell of an atmosphere though.
The terrible acoustics. Speaker towers jumping around due to the ‘sprung‘ dance floor. The bass drum continuously ‘walking’ across the stage – even with the rubber feet /mats/ hammer and nails !
The management opening the windows on hot nights causing most of the sound to disappear up the Tavistock road.
Those open Air bookings
They always sounded great, but in practice were a pain. All of us constantly re-tuning as the damp evening air went to work on strings and drum skins..The Reslo mics, which were death traps, but did tend to generate a nice colour blue when they really got wet.
Plymouth’s Palace Theater.
The equipment (and us) looking lost due to the size of the stage and its alarming angle. Theatre Management thinking it only required 10 secs to set up.
Those regular amorous ‘intermission adventures’ which normally culminated in a fast exit from the venue pursued by some irate boyfriend.