The Invictors

 Invictors Invictors Story 1

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Onstage, sat on a chair, shaking the walls, was B. B. King. Standing on a chair, shaking his ass in the audience, just like everybody else, was yours truly. Inhibitions and so-called decorum had gone by the board. It was Christmas 1997. And the jazz and blues festival at the Renaissance Esmeralda resort in Indian Wells, near Palm Springs, Southern California was rocking. Out of the blue, B. B.'s band launched a lethal Bo Diddley chunk-a-chunk in the middle of another number. Suddenly I was getting goosebumps and flashbacks. It was the third-best Bo Diddley beat I'd ever heard - right behind the man himself. Number one? 

Well, let's go back to Salford Technical College, 1963-65 (featuring Mr. McLean's wonderful English Lit course). A classmate and soon a friend was one Jim Lowe, from Bolton. Extra tall, skinny, a mass of long black hair, and a delicious girlfriend, Gwyneth. His knowledge of American rhythm and blues artists I'd never heard of (Koko Taylor - huh?) was disconcerting. Who was this guy?

Turned out he was in a band called the Invictors. (I heard it as Invictus.) They were due to play Salford CAT (Royal College of Advanced Technology; now University) right next door and I finagled my way into doing some light roadie stuff at the gig - carrying cymbals, drum stands etc onto the stage.

Their opening number was a revelation from the first chord. The way I remember it, one guitarist (rhythm?; Paul G. Shaw) came out and laid down a basic Bo Diddley beat. Another guitarist (bass?; Stuart Whittle) eventually walked on and joined in. Then came the pianist (Mick Whittle, also on maracas) and the drummer (Steve Butler). The music picked up volume and pace. The audience was quietly going apeshit, as was I in the wings. Jim emerged to start thrashing away on lead guitar. The dancers on the dance floor near the stage were the first mosh pit I ever saw. Then the vocalist (Eric Lever) sauntered out and launched into song. I don't remember what, and it doesn't matter. It was a scorching performance, the whole place was going berserk ... it's been my benchmark for a live show ever since. 

And Jim on guitar? Well, I've seen a few since in their heyday... some I actually even remember. Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival, London, 1967 ... Jeff Beck ("Hi, Ho, Silver Lining" with its jangly chills-up-your-spine solo), Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, the Nice with P.P Arnold (subbing for Pink Floyd - yep, that woulda been extra memorable); Moody Blues, Manchester Odeon, 1971; Rolling Stones, Jacksonville, Florida, 1985 and others. 

Why Jim isn't in the rock-n-roll hall of fame, after fronting some megamillion-selling band, doubtless comes down to that old music biz/showbiz/business biz equation - talent, timing, tenacity ... and sheer friggin' luck. Or lack of of it. After Salford Tech, he played in the music pit at Manchester's performances of the musical "Hair." So I heard him again, without even knowing it.

I understand he became a guitar teacher in the education system. That's like an undiscovered Pele coaching a grammar school second team.; a Michael Phelps giving lessons in the Wythenshawe pool; a Usain Bolt teaching kids how to transfer a baton. 

The Invictors' epitaph? "They did Bo better than Bo!" 

Jack Grimshaw  - Dana Point Southern California - 3/2/14
  • Invictors - Invictors Story page 4
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  • Invictors - Invictors Story page 2
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  • Invictors - COR 1
  • Invictors Worsley
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