The Mansfields - a local 1960's band.
The Mansfields – a 1960’s local band.
1959: Starting out! A bunch of 14 year olds (or thereabouts) get together for the first time to form a rhythm group! The use of Rhythm alone indicates the era. Rhythm Groups later became Beat Groups and now are just simply known as Bands.
Adopting the name Ricky Storm and the Tornados and practising at the Church Hall which used to be opposite 254 Southwell Road East in Rainworth. This address was home to Stu Lane (Lead Guitar/Vocals) who, along with Geoff Bradbury on vocals (a friend of his from the Rainworth Methodist Church), Mick Wilson on Bass Guitar (a friend of Geoff’s from Brunts) , Keith Williams on Rhythm Guitar/Vocals (a friend of Stu’s from Queen Elizabeths school) and completing this original line up was non other than Ric Lee on Drums (a friend of Stu’s). Devotees of the local Music Scene will know that Ric went on to much greater fame. Who could have known that a mere ten years later Ric would be performing at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969 with Ten Years After.
However this original motley crew of completely innocent “wannabe’s” spent much of the Groups initial two years existence practising and then playing for the occasional Youth Club dance – mainly within the Rainworth / Mansfield locality. The early repertoire was very limited consisting of some instrumental hits of the day (Apache, Walk don’t Run) and then good old Rock’n’Roll favourites Whole Lotta Shakin’, Great Balls of Fire and of course Move it!
This original line up was short lived as Mick Wilson decided to continue his education and in 1961 left – and shortly afterwards the group had to change its name. A London based recording group The Tornados had a hit recording with Telstar and our local Tornado hopefuls became Ricky Storm and the Stormcats.
1962: As the group lost its first bass player they advertised for a replacement and organised local auditions. Enter another Rainworth guy, 15 year old Mick Hodgkinson who easily secured the “gig” by not only demonstrating his musical ability on the Bass Guitar but also on vocals – and upon exiting the Church Hall in Rainworth where the auditions were being held Mick sat at the upright piano and promptly knocked seven bells out of it with a rendition of Nut Rocker (B Bumble & The Stingers 1962 hit instrumental). He was in!
Below is an early photo of Ricky Storm and the Stormcats with (L to R) Keith Williams, Mick Hodgkinson, Ric Lee, Stu Lane and Geoff Bradbury(Ricky Storm)
This group of five had by now progressed from using parents’ vehicles for transport and had purchased their first group transport. An old bull nose Morris van with sliding doors which they had repainted in striking colours! At this point Geoff was the only member old enough to drive. This brightly coloured “icon of the era” could very often be seen around the Mansfield area in 1962.
If by any chance any contributor to this site happens to have an old photograph of this “sight to behold” a copy would be gratefully accepted.
With the new line up in place the group soon started to attract local attention and although still only 16 / 17 (Geoff was a couple of years older and nominated driver) started to play local gigs mainly in Youth Clubs.
Then another personnel change as Geoff decided that he too was to continue his education by going to college in Oxford.
1963: With Geoff going off to get “educated” this opened the door for the newest member – Mick Hodgkinson to showcase his vocal talents and by 1963 The Stormcats had become a four piece.
L to R: – Ric Lee (Drums), Mick Hodgkinson (Vocals, Bass, Keyboards, Sax), Keith Williams (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Bass) and Stu Lane (Vocals, Lead Guitar, Keyboards)
Also by now the old Morris bone shaker had expired and the acquisition of a Ford Thames van considerably improved the comfort and safety levels increasing the likelihood of arriving at their gigs in one piece!
Appearing at practically every local venue over the next 12 months they soon developed quite a following both within the Youth Club scene, the larger Miners Welfares and the Nottinghamshire /Derbyshire Dance Halls and with the notoriety of the Stormcats spreading they were soon booked to play venues such as The Mansfield Palais, The Granada Cinema, as well as Nottingham Palais, Nottingham Locarno, Derby Locarno, the Dancing Slipper West Bridgford, The Nottingham Boat Clubs and The Dungeon Nottingham to name just a few.
Even the Cinemas were beginning to feature groups with the Mansfield Granada taking the lead – the Stormcats appearing in July 1962 – followed by others including the Blidworth Scala.
Elsewhere on this site questions were posed as to whether The Stormcats / Mansfields ever appeared at the Mansfield Palais. Yes, they did – and over a 4 year period holding several residencies. It was a great era and, for its time, The Palais was a great place to perform during the evolutionary era of Music as it was moving from Big Dance Bands to the more modern “music”. All rather sad to see and read of the demise of this once great venue.
The group went on to achieve considerable local success. Questions have also been asked on this site about the use of the Berry Hill Bandstand and here we have a couple of answers! On 16th May 1964 they headlined the Nottinghamshire Miners Annual Demonstration open air concert as “The Stormcats” and the following year appeared on 5th June 1965 as “The Mansfields”
7 & 8
During the 64 / 65 / 66 period the group was performing very regularly – often 5 or 6 gigs a week at the same time as all holding full time jobs! This, for our four Civil Servants meant travelling on public transport on a daily basis to Nottingham. This really had to change as the volume of group work was beginning to take over so the change came in September 1964 when they turned “professional” and this coincided with a change of name to “The Mansfields”
This meant that they could finally start accepting gigs on a national basis as well as allow many more appearances at major local venues. At the same time a change in their musical style became apparent. The MOD era had arrived! Along with change of hair style and clothing. Gone were the smart blue suits and Cuban heeled boots to be replaced with “a more casual appearance.” OK, It was shirts with very large checked patterns, trousers with 1 red leg and 1 black or yellow in colour with similar checks to the shirt. Think Rupert the Bear and you’re on the right track! Get the picture?
9 & 10
Back at the Palais and just look who the support act is! Within weeks the In-Betweens changed their name to none other than SLADE!
Many local Mansfield & district venues were visited – As well as the Palais and the Parochial Hall, Mansfield; the OAP Hall, Toothill Lane, the very aptly named “Dive Club at the Brown Cow, Bridge Street YC, St Lawrences Church Hall, St Marks Henley Hall, West Notts Technical College, Thieves Wood School, Sherwood Hall Girls School along with Edwinstowe Welfare Hall, Clipstone Welfare Hall, Sutton St Michaels “Hop”, Golden Diamond, Festival Hall Kirkby, Rainworth Drill Hall, Central Hall Shirebrook, both Rainworth and Blidworth Welfares along with Worksop Palais and the “Palladium of the Midlands” Ollerton Bevercotes Miners Welfare. In fact it’s probably fair to say that The Mansfields over the 6 years of their existence would have appeared at practically every venue (large & small) in the Mansfield & surrounding district. It was at Ollerton where, being booked in for the week they were asked to back Gerry Dorsey who was literally weeks away from changing his name to Engelbert Humperdinck and releasing his world wide hit “Release me” Fortunately three of The Mansfields were able to read sheet music and after a very hurried rehearsal before the Sunday Lunch show started they managed to provide Gerry with backing for the whole week.. He did tell us that a name change was happening BUT refused to divulge what it was! Maybe not that surprising eh?
On 7th August 1965 a trip to Regent Sounds, Denmark Street, London saw “The Mansfields” record 3 self-penned tracks – You can’t do that to me; She won’t look my way and What should I do? This studio had been used by some of the greats of the day The Rolling Stones, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (cutting some rough demos and rehearsing) The Kinks (early demos) The Who (part of ‘A Quick One’) Elton John (playing sessions) and so on.
Although these numbers featured well in their stage performances none of the tracks actually made it to general release! It was a case of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you!”
And then……………..a personnel change. Ric had decided to join the local Nottingham group “The Jaybirds” This group eventually changed their name to “Ten Years After” and achieved international success after appearing at Woodstock in 1969. Ric is still gigging to this day and has penned his autobiography “From Headstocks to Woodstock.” For more detailed stories and recollections of the formative musical years of “The Mansfields” this is well worth the read! Available via Amazon price £16.99 (that’s the advert all done!)
13 & 14
Rics departure left the door wide open and a new drummer needed to be found – and quickly.The Mansfields still had a full diary!
After receiving 30 applications – see the press cutting – and several auditions Keith Woodcock joined the group.
The addition of Keith on Drums gave a new impetus and drive to the group and along with a slight change of musical direction saw The Mansfields continue working in and around Mansfield as well as touring the length & breadth of the UK as one of the generation of emerging “MOD” groups. Venues like Empress Ballroom, Winter Gardens Blackpool, The Gliderdrome Boston, The Fairfield Halls Croydon.
There are of course many stories that could be told about this great era – the sixties – all remembered with the backcloth of “growing up in Mansfield”
L to R: Keith Woodcock (Drums), Keith Williams (Guitar & Bass, Vocals), Stu Lane (Guitar, Vocals), & Mick Hodgkinson (Vocals, Bass, Sax & Keyboard)
During their “career” they worked alongside many of the greats – Gene Vincent, The Who, Rod Stewart, The Byrds, The Walker Brothers, Engelbert Humperdinck, Them (with Van Morrison), Long John Baldry, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, Billy J Kramer & the Dakotas, The Escorts (Liverpool), The Mojos and even on cabaret shows including Edmund Hockeridge, Marti Caine, Bert Weedon. They were great times and looking back at being able to be involved at roughly the start of the “Beat boom” of the sixties it was a privilege to have had so many great local venues. What the group was able to achieve way back then would not be possible now. And the memories!
During 1965 and 1966 the shows still continued at the rate of about 25 a month!
17 & 18
Mmmm..slightly quirky advertising?
It was in late 1966 that Stu Lane was the next to leave to “get a proper job” and this opened the door for his replacement. Johnny McGowan took over as lead guitar and here’s where we could do with help from this site’s contributors. We have lost touch with Johnny and if anyone knows how he is – or indeed where he is please let us know. All the members of “The Mansfields” have remained in touch and good friends throughout the past 60 years.
After a great run and many happy memories particularly of “Our Mansfield & Area”” it was decided to call it a day. Both Keith Williams and Keith Woodcock also got themselves “proper jobs” but it’s fair to say that none of us would have changed a thing – except perhaps a hit record would have been good!
Ric had already begun to make music his life long career with “Ten Years After” http://www.tenyearsafternow.com/
Mick eventually found himself in the USA and being described as an English singer, guitarist and cult hero who, during the late ’70s, settled in Woodstock, New York, and immersed himself in the local music scene. Within no time, he formed his first band, Johnny Average and the Falcons that was made up of musicians that were in town working at the legendary Bearsville Studios. The list of artists that played with the Falcons included John Sebastian and Shane Fontayne. The group would eventually become the nucleus of Mick Ronson’s The New York Yanquis after which Mick founded the Johnny Average Band and signed with management legend Albert Grossman. Over the years, Mick aka Johnny Average also collaborated with the likes of Meat Loaf and Billy J. Kramer. Very sadly Mick Hodgkinson died of cancer in America on June 18, 2007. At the time there was talk of a “Mansfields” reunion gig – obviously not to be.
And here’s a reminder of Micks undoubted talents as shown in this 1978 video of him performing in America with his band – The Falcons. Actually featuring many of the arrangements as originally performed by the early Mansfields!