After the Pressmenfolded in early 1966, Tony Owens and Jem Yates decided to form a new group concentrating on the new wave of Soul and Mowtown music. Recruiting Ian Miller on Organ, Tony Ivers and Alan “Chalky” White on Guitars, “Jem” made the switch to Bass and Tony doubled up on Drums and Lead Vocals. Doing the usual rounds of the Mod Scene in Lancashire and Yorkshire the original line up was fairly short lived.
The more well remembered line up came about when former Pressmen, Bernard Southern and Tony Owens began to talk about starting a “Leigh Super Group” in April 1966.
Bernard decided to switch from guitar to organ and brought in John Doward, who had been with Bernard in the Concords.
The right guitarist was proving difficult to find in Leigh but Tony had done a few experimental Blues based gigs with John Williamson of the Newton group The Banshees. John joined and the band took over the bookings made for the earlier incarnation of the group.
The debut of the new line up was at Haydock Youth Club on July 2nd 1966.
There was an immediate “gelling” between the musicians and with Bernard and Tony sharing lead vocals and John “Mink” Doward adding some trumpet to certain numbers.
The first outing of the new line up in Haydock and was followed by gigs at The Twisted Wheel, (Manchester and Blackpool), Southport Floral Hall, (with the Small Faces, Cream, PP Arnold, Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours), Sheffield’s Mojo and Esquire and numerous University Gigs including Manchester, Salford, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham Aston were regular haunts as was Wigan’s Room at the Top and Casino and the Bolton and Leigh Beachcomber’s.
The Night Train worked on average 5 to 6 nights every week for almost two years being joined by dancers Marion Maxwell, (former DJ at Browns and Rowntrees), and Carol Homer who came in a Go Go Dancers.
An opportunity to tour Germany arose and the Night Train signed a contract to go but unfortunately Bernard and John Doward’s families were opposed to the trip as this meant giving up apprenticeships.
The contract was to begin in May and an amicable agreement was made between the band members that the tour should go ahead; the last gig with this line up was at Belle View Manchester.
New members Kenny Hayes, (Bass) and Joe Carroll, (Sax) were brought in to the line up and played their first gig onboard the Royal Iris with Birmingham’s chart topping group, The Move on April 1st. The Night Train departed for Frankfurt in April 1968, returning in June.
There were many adventures involving the band, during a stint at the Rivers Barraks in Guissen the lads found them selves playing to a predominantly white audience who objected to the playing of “Nigger Music”.
Not wanting to compromise their Soul style the band endured verbal and physical abuse, including one episode when sax player Joe Carroll went to the loo, on entering, the lights were switched off and Joe took quite a beating.
On the return trip John Williams announced his decision to quit the band for personal reasons and with a gig next day in Pontefract a number of hurried phone calls were made en route between Dover and Home, resulting in Alan Tunstall joining on guitar.
Night train 1967
A rehearsal took place in the back of the van on the way to Pontefract and the gig went ahead.
Later in the month Carol Tyack and Doreen replaced Marion and Carol as dancers. The girls later married and are still married to Kenny Hayes and Alan Tunstall.
The band’s agent organised a return trip to Germany in June, but the tour was built on non-existent gigs so that the Agent could abscond with the Bands earnings.
Instructed to report to German agent Gisela Günter in Frankfurt, the Night Train arrived with only third and reverse gear working on the van and £15 between them, to be told that they were not expected and there was no work booked.
Jobless and ‘skint’, Tony’s Mother, Rose Owens, bought a second hand gear box for the Ford Thames Van and had it flown to Frankfurt where the band collected it.
Bass guitarist and former mechanic, Kenny Hayes, changed the gearbox in a side street in Frankfurt.
Meanwhile Gisela Günter, to her credit had been ringing round and found the boys nine days work and the rest the filled in by putting on their own shows.
On the back of these shows they were booked to play a month at Club E in Marburg. In the week prior to Marburg, sax player Joe Carroll had a spring go on his King Tenor Sax.
A visit to the Ludwig’s House music store brought the grim news that to replace the spring would require Joe being without a sax for a week, the band were in trouble. The guy at the store showed Joe how to do a temporary fix using a condom. This would only last about thee days and need a new condom then.
Night Train at Club 'E', Marburg
The fix worked but by the end of the week two more springs had bust. Joe was now strapping three condoms on the sax every three days.
At Club “E” the problem was worsened by the hours the band played, 6pm to 3am every night on stage for 45 minutes in every hour.
Joe was really spending a fortune in the condom machine in the club loo.
Word got round the club but none of the Germans linked the condom purchases to the sax, the result was a big rise in Joe’s popularity with the frauleins!
The only lead vocalist in the band was drummer Tony Owens, the hour on stage certainly had an effect on my voice and changed it for ever.
“In those days there were no fold back speakers to help me out and being at the back on drums it was very hard to hear myself”.
The Night Train were due to go on to Munich, Joe took some persuading to leave Marburg, unbeknown to Joe and Tony the others had decided to return to the UK, the first Tony and Joe knew about the return home was when they were woken at the border crossing at Aachen.
On return to the UK the Night Train disbanded.
After Night Train
Tony Owens, Jem Yates, Bernard Southern also played with The Pressmen
Bernard Southern, John Doward also played with the Concords
Tony Owens also played with The Famous Watson Browne’s Band, Too Hot to Handle and Grand Slam (see also Dave Bowker)
Bernard Southern also played with Santa Fe Reunion, Harmony Street, and The Bootles
John Williamson also played with Skeleton Crew, The Animals, Titanic, Goliath and the Banshees
Kenny Hayes and Alan Tunstall also played with the Senators
Joe Carroll was also with The Rumble Fat Band
Alan Tunstall with the Le Jargons
Tony Ivers, formally with the Vulcans, passed away in 1996
King Kydds Star World contained four ex members of the Night Train, Kenny Hayes, John Doward, Joe Carroll and John Williamson
I am very sad to hear of the death of former band mate Alan Tunstall who has succumbed to cancer after a brave fight.
Alan together with his brother was well known on the 1960s Leigh and district beat scene and formed the popular "Le Jargons" group together.
When the members of The Night Train were returning from their first tour of Germany in 1967 guitarist John Williamson announced that he would be leaving the band. We parked the van in Dover and called Alan from a phone box and asked if he would like to replace John which he did. We arrived back in Leigh in the wee small hours of a Saturday morning and collected Alan at 11am. We rehearsed in the van en route to Pontefract for a gig.
At the end of the month we returned to Germany with Alan and his wife-to-be Doreen who became one of our backing singer/dancers.
The full line up was Joe Carrol on sax, Kenny Hayes bass, Carol Tyack (Hayes) and Doreen on backing vocals, Alan guitar and me on drums and vocals.
I lost touch with Alan and Doreen when I moved to London but in recent times had some good conversations with Alan on the phone. I have a great respect for him, never a cross word with him and sad that he did not want to meet because of his illness. God Bless and keep you Alan Tunstall. A real star.
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