Falkons (Whaley Bridge)

John - Keith - Derek - Bill - Terry - Mick
This was taken at the New Mills Arts Theatre
Originally monochrome but I colourised it 

In the late 50s my older brother, John, used to watch the ‘Tonight’ programme presented by Cliff Mitchelmore on the TV. On the programme was a Calipso singer called Cy Grant who accompanied himself on the guitar. John thought this was cool and wanted to learn to play. Around this time, when down at our Gran’s in Great Moor, he was playing with a shortwave radio and found a German station playing electric guitar music and decided this was the way to go. He acquired a cello style guitar (the type with f holes) and added a pickup. The first amp was an old radio - making use of the amp and speaker. This first guitar was right-handed but John found it better to play left-handed which meant the strings were upside down.

Having met Frank Brocklehurst and finding they had guitar interests in common, they started to play Folksy stuff in local pubs. Frank had a motorbike which they used for transportation - John on the back with a couple of guitars over his shoulders. The Whaley Bridge Players put on a play called ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Doo’ at the local cinema. At the end of the play, when the audience was leaving, John and Frank came onto the stage from opposite sides and played a tune they had made specially for the occasion. A photo of this was published in the Buxton Advertiser but unfortunately the only known copy has been misplaced. Frank lived and worked on a farm in Fernilee but he injured his hand so had to give up playing.

John and two lads from the village (Johnny Atherton and Derek Warrington) started gigging together at Johnny’s house on Paddock Lane in Kettleshulme. Johnny added a pickup to his guitar which slid on a bar meaning he could switch between treble and bass settings but John was never able to get hold of one. At some point, Mr. Dugdale (a JP from the village who worked at Nield and Hardy), arranged for them to make a record in the village hall but the engineer wasn’t very good and the resulting record was poor quality. It was after this that Derek decided the guitar wasn’t for him and switched to drums. He got his first kit (a Premier) from Mr Dugdale at Nield and Hardy in Stockport. Johnny Atherton then joined the police force and so was moved away from the area.

John and Derek used to go to the Youth Club in Whaley Bridge which was where they met Terry O’Malley, Kevin Butler and his cousin Mick Butler.

When he was about 12, Terry remembers hearing Lonnie Donegan and was impressed by the energy of Skiffle when compared to the Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson’s etc of that era. When he saw Buddy Holly on television during his British Tour, and saw him playing his Stratocaster, he knew that’s what he wanted to do. Like John and Derek (and lots of other people - including me) he also used to go down to Manchester and do the rounds of all the guitar shops, of which I think only Johnny Roadhouse is still there.

Terry remembers John knocking on his door one evening and asking if he was learning to play guitar. He said he was and John asked, if he wasn’t doing anything on Saturday, would he join him and Derek for a gig at Kettleshulme village hall. He remembers playing rhythm to about 15 instrumentals about 3 times each to pad out the evening. He managed to borrow an amp for this and at the end his left hand fingers were bleeding. His first guitar was an acoustic with no pickup so he hung a hearing aid inside the soundbox and fed it to a large radio (which John had provided) using the amplifier and speaker. At one of the gigs at the Moorside Hotel near Disley, a guy asked him (laughingly) if he could get Radio Luxemburg. After a bit of fiddling Terry got a station – the guy stopped laughing and slunk away.

According to a newspaper cutting, Kevin joined as bass in 1962 but my only memory of him is his use of a green felt plectrum to give him a more bassy sound. John reckons he bought a blue Hofner bass which wouldn’t play certain notes! Kevin sent it back to the shop but it was no better when it was returned. John had a look at it and noticed some frets had lifted so he thumped them down and it played fine after that.

The original Falcons – John (lead age 17), Derek (drums age 16), Terry (rhythm age 18), Kevin (bass age 15). Jim Wilson (also from Whaley Bridge) took on the role of manager.

At first, they all wore colourful Mohair jumpers (maybe inspired by the front cover of The Shadows first album) but later Jim remembers going to a tailor in Ilkeston who made up some blue glittery jackets which were then worn with grey trousers.

John bought his left-hand Vox Ace from Barratts of Manchester. I went down with him and he paid £40 for it. When we got back Dad was very unhappy that he’d spent so much money but Stratocasters were £160 in those days. The first thing he did was to change the strings round! Around this time, Terry bought a Dallas double cutaway solid body guitar but I can’t find a picture of that model. Both John and Terry’s first serious amps were Watkins Dominators (17 watts RMS) from Barratts of Manchester.

I remember when, in the beginning, they practised at our bungalow in John’s bedroom. Outside the room, I could hear what tune they were learning but in the living room, trying to watch TV, all I could hear was the boom boom boom of Derek’s bass drum. Happy days. When it was left in John’s bedroom, Terry let me have a go on his Dallas.

The Falcons started playing at various local venues. The first being at the village hall in Biggin in Derbyshire. As they had no transport of their own, the landlord of the pub (who organised it) collected them and their equipment and then took them home after the gig.

Jim remembers Terry trying to teach him guitar but just couldn’t grasp it so he bought the first van – a Bedford CA. As he worked at Peak Press in Chapel-en-le Frith he printed the notepaper to keep track of gigs he had booked – example below.

Terry met Derrick Croft when they both worked at Ferodo in Chapel-en-le Frith. During a conversation, Derrick said he fancied being a singer so he took over the main vocals and Terry provided the harmony. They changed their name to “Derrick and the Falcons” (with a ‘c’) but when playing at a club in Sheffield they came across another group called The Falcons. After something of an altercation, they agreed to change their name to “Derrick and the Falkons” (with a ‘k’). Later, when Derrick left and Bill Stopford took over the vocals, they changed the name back to just “The Falkons” (but kept the ‘k’).

At this point John and Terry had the Dominator amps, John had his Vox Ace, Terry his Dallas and Kevin his Hofner. I can’t find out what amp Kevin was using but he had a Wharfdale cabinet with a 15’’ speaker.

The London Trip

Ronald Cloudsley (the ex-manager of the Palace Hotel Buxton) was visiting just before Christmas 1962 when Derrick and the Falcons were playing there. He was so impressed he booked them on the spot to play on New Years Eve at his West End hotel; the New Ambassadors - all expenses paid. This was the beginning of the big snow of 1963 and the lads (John, Derek, Terry, Kevin, Derrick and Jim) went down to London on the train. Kettleshulme was mainly cut off because of the snow, so their equipment had to be caried up Kishfield Lane from our bungalow through deep snow up to the main road when they got a lift to Chinley Station where they were waved off by friends and girlfriends. They were met at Euston by a fleet of cars and taken to the New Ambassadors hotel where they were provided with new outfits for their appearance. One day John and Kevin decided to go and look at Piccadilly Circus but the snow and ice was bad and John slipped and banged his coccyx. Kevin fell into a snow drift which was coverings a pile of bricks and chipped a tooth, so they gave up and went back to the hotel. On another day John and Kevin got a taxi to 66 Offley Road Kennington to the Watkins Factory where John bought a Copicat (tape echo chamber). They may have been served by Charlie Watkins himself! The taxi cost £5! but he was able to use the Copicat on New Year’s Eve. Jim remembers that Mr Cloudsley was rumoured to like young men and can remember moving a set of drawers behind his bedroom door just in case. The venue was the hotel Ball Room where Cardew Robinson (the comedian of Music Hall and Gang Show fame) and Ralph Reader (known for staging the Gang Show) and the Black and White Minstrels were on the bill. Also on the bill was a 10-piece orchestra who were on after The Falkons but the crowd were making so much noise in appreciation of them that the orchestra was drowned out. They stayed at the hotel from Sat December 29th until New Years Day.

In the March 1963 they represented Whaley Bridge Youth Club in the ‘County Revue’ at the Youth Centre in Chesterfield in a show organized by the Derbyshire Youth Clubs Association. There were 22 Variety Acts and ‘The Falcons’ opened the second half after the interval.

Kevin decided he had other interests (Eileen Gould maybe!) They later married but unfortunately he died in 2021 so I can’t get his story. After Kevin left they advertised for a bass player and Keith Rumbellow from Chapel-en-le Frith took over the roll but, sad to say, he also has passed. From information from Keith’s son Simon, Keith had been playing lead guitar with a band (John thinks they were called The Dynamos) but arthritis in his hands/fingers caused him to change to bass. He’d been interested in the music scene for some time; teaching guitar and building speaker cabinets powerful enough to rattle the window panes – one time the neighbour asked him to be quieter because her husband was on nights at Ferodo. Apparently, Keith and his wife used to go to the cinema sometimes with Freddie and the Dreamers on a Sunday. From the photo I think he used a Hofner Artist. The amp he started with wasn’t good and one time at the Pavilion Gardens, it burst into flames causing people to dash around looking for a fire extinguisher! Judging from the New Mills photo it looks like he got an AC30 bass amp. John remembers Keiths first gig with them was at a hall under St John’s church in Furness Vale.

Bill Stopford (stage name Billy Ford) took over the vocals and Mick Butler joined on Keyboard.

In 1964 another recording was made, this time at Neild and Hardy on Gt. Underbank in Stockport. John’s copy is unplayable but Terry still has a copy and also a tape version. Simon also has a copy of the tape. I’ve borrowed Terry’s copy and digitised it using Audacity but the results are poor – a combination of record crackles/pops and tape hiss. Mick’s first keyboard would only play one note at a time (no chords) but you’d never guess from this version of Telstar.

Later, Derek wanted a new drum kit and John remembers going down to Manchester with him. He invested in a Premier Red Sparkle drum kit from Mamelok’s and his dad took him down in his A35 van to pick it up.

When the amps were upgraded to VOX AC30s, both John and Terry got them from Barratts of Manchester and Adrian Barrett himself delivered them in his E-Type Jag to our bungalow in Kettleshulme. In return he took home a load of plants from Dad’s alpine nursery. He even came back later for more plants!

Terry wasn’t pleased with the action on the Dallas and not knowing how to adjust the neck without damaging it he upgraded to a Hofner Verithin and later to a burgundy Gretsch Tennessean.

When Jim left, Bill got them a new manager (Ian Cauldwell of Chinley) who in turn got them a lot of work over in South Yorkshire ranging from Sheffield as far as Scunthorpe. They were doing some five nights a week and Sunday lunchtime. When time was called (10.30pm) they would pack their stuff into the van and head-off for a much-needed Chinese. After about six months of not getting home till around 2am and having to be up early for the day job, Terry had had enough and left the band. He has since played with many local bands with a variety of musical styles including in his local church. He has also made CDs with a local band called Stringers.

When Keith left he was replaced by Steve but I don’t know his surname.

John decided to leave the group due to the changes in the type of music being popular. I think he preferred (and still does) playing instrumental tunes by The Shadows, The Spotnicks and Atkins etc. He still buys backing tracks and makes his own CDs of instrumentals in his studio at home. At some point after John left, he and Keith went to the Carlsbro Sound Centre in Mansfield and it was while testing a Telecaster he decided to learn to play with the strings set correctly for a left-handed guitar - that must have taken some doing!

For a time they got a bit of a band together. The drummer is unknown but they played at a number of local places.

Keith later had his own band called the Rumbo Band, Simon remembers seeing them playing at the Ashwood Park Hotel in Buxton and him shouting "that’s my dad!” a lot! When they got home, Keith was sat in his chair full of adrenaline, his wife sat on his knee and his fingertips were bleeding.

Some of the local places played:

  • The Village Hall, Biggin 
  • Kettleshulme Village Hall 
  •  Mechanics Institute 
  • The Railway and The Bowling Club in Whaley Bridge 
  • Station Hotel Chinley 
  •  Chapel-en-le-Frith Town Hall and the Constitutional Hall (now The Playhouse) 
  • New Mills Art Theatre and the Parish Hall 
  • Marple Liberal Club 
  • Bulls Head Hayfield 
  •  The Queens at Dove Holes 
  •  The Devonshire Arms Peak Forrest
  • Hathersage Youth Club 
  • Peak Dale Club and the Midland Hotel 
  • Peak Dale Pavilion Gardens
  • The Palace Hotel, St Thomas More school and the Ashwood Park Hotel in Buxton 
  • Railway Hotel Buxton 
  • Venturers Youth Club Fairfield 
  • Stockport Town Hall 
  • Brinnington Labour Club 
  • The Moorside Hotel Disley 
  • The Marquis of Granby in Bamford 
  • The Maynard Arms in Grindleford 
  • Tideswell Picture House 
  • Lathkill Dale Hotel

Headliners supported

  • The Beatles (1963 Pavilion Gardens) 
  • Gerry and the Pacemakers (Pavilion Gardens) 
  • Freddie and the Dreamers (1963 Pavilion Gardens) 
  • Gene Vincent (1963 Pavilion Gardens) 
  • Jet Harris and Tony Meeham (1963 Pavilion Gardens) 
  • The Big Three (1963 Pavilion Gardens) 
  • Freddie Star and the Midnighters (1963 Pavilion Gardens) 
  • Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas (1963 Pavilion Gardens) (John remembers management were unfriendly) 
  •  Shane Fenton and the Fentones 
  • The Checkmates 
  • The Swinging Blue Jeans (then they all went to a Chippy on Fairfield Road after the Pavilion Gardens) 
  • The Hollies 
  • The Fourmost 
  • Brian Poole and The Tremeloes (Stockport) 
  • The Animals (Northwich Memorial Hall) 
  • Dave Berry and the Cruisers 
  • Mike Berry and the Innocents (Stockport Town Hall) 
  • The Yardbirds (incl. Jeff Beck) Carlisle (Note. this was on the ‘Scottish Tour’ which included Galloway, Dumfries and Selkirk?)  

Over the years, other members of the band were:

  • Ian Cauldwell - took over as manager from Jim 
  • Jack Bell - took over from Terry in mid 60s 
  • Steve ? Bass - took over from Keith around 1965 ?
  • Alec Drennan - took over from John in mid 65ish  

Other local groups of the time:

  • Little John and the Foresters (Disley)
  • The Saints (Whaley Bridge)
  • The Trixons (Barry Blood - Buxton)
  • The Binn Band (Buxton)
  • The Echoes of the Peak (New Mills)
  • The Buccaneers
  • The Crusaders were local to Buxton (Alec Drennan)  

Manchester Guitar Shops in the early ‘60s

  • Reno’s (64 Oxford St, slightly louche with a permanent closing down sale) 
  • Barratts of Manchester (Oxford St near the station) 
  • A1 Music (88 Oxford St, labyrinth downstairs) 
  • Mamelok (29-35 Oxford Rd) 
  • Johnny Roadhouse Music (123 Oxford Rd, had used gear as well as new) 
  • Forsyth (126 Deansgate, still there I think) 

With grateful acknowledgement to the following contributors:
John Daniels, Derek Warrington, Terry O’Malley, Derrick Croft Jim Wilson and Simon Rumbellow.

Thank you for reading
Ron Daniels

The Author
At the time this was all happening, John and I lived at Kishfield Nurseries, Kettleshulme.

I started writing this out of personal interest to find out what motivated them to learn to play and how they got together. I only intended it to be read by the lads themselves who (obviously) all knew each other. If anybody reads this who never knew or met The Falkons I can only apologise for the clumsy way it’s constructed but it was all so long ago accurate chronology is impossible.

Bear in mind that after all this time, people’s memories may differ.

1962 Vox Ace (same as John’s)

Gretsch Tennessean (same as Terry’s)

Hofner Artist (similar to Keith’s)

Can’t find a picture of Terry’s original Dallas

Watkins Dominator (say £39)

Vox AC30 (say £109)

Watkins Copicat

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