Phoenix City Smash  

 

Starting out as a Yew Tree Comprehensive school group in 1962, the band were first called MOBILE UNIT, the name written on an elderly delivery van for the fledgling Roy Hall Cash and Carry (then based on Claremont Road, Rusholme) which was used to ferry the group around.

A good start for a young band - not only a van but also one with the name of the group written on it.

Original members:

  • Phil Gregory - bass
  • Alan Cassidy - guitar
  • Peter Wilde - guitar
  • Steve Rees - drummer albeit minus kit
  • a forgotten singer. 

As the gigs started to come in, it was decided that Steven Rees's use of armchair wings as a drum kit were not as good as the real thing, and as his dad wouldn't let him have a kit, out went Steven and in came Dave Holmes (who had gone to Heald Place Primary School with Phil and Steve). 

As well as the usual round of local youth clubs, the band progressed to social clubs including the Manchester City Social club, where they were (like every other band) ripped off by the management! On the first gig, they used a handcart to deliver the equipment as the van was not available.

As the soul club scene opened up, the band - moving Peter Wilde from guitar to tenor sax and adding Leslie Eaton aka Lester Easton (vocals) and Johnny OneFinger (keyboards) - changed their style of music towards Tamla and the Staxx sounds of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, etc. 

To continue along this path, a bigger sound was needed and Paul Mlynarz (alto sax) - another Heald Place classmate and Ian Anderson (organ - ex Oliver's Twist) were added to the line-up shortly after "losing" the previous keyboard player.  

Around this time, they recorded a demo disk at Strawberry Studios, Stockport with the tracks - "Come on Up" and "Look at Granny Run Run" 

A change of name was required - to match the new seven piece band - and PHOENIX CITY SMASH BAND emerged. The name originated from the ska song "Phoenix City" and "Smash" was copied from the Blackpool band John Evan Smash (later to form the basis of Jethro Tull). "Band" was added to highlight the size of the act. The work-rate increased for the band - who started to add a little comedy to the act. This was somewhat odd for a band whose image was solidly based in street credibility soul - but it "went down ok" with most crowds. By the end of 1967, Peter Wilde left to pursue his baritone and classical guitar work with the Manchester Youth Orchestra. His replacements, Alan Currie (tenor sax) and Richard Priest (trumpet) made the band an eight-piece.

The line-up was not to last long - Richard soon left and the band continued as a reduced seven-piece. Richard was last heard of as a butcher - having heard the way he played trumpet some would see that as "no change". Just a cheap joke Richard!  Dave Holmes by now had moved on and was replaced by Brian Tomlinson (ex Chosen Few) and then Phil Bowen.

Now the band had less of a sound but more money for each member - earning up to 40 pounds per night (for the whole band!).

By July 1968, Alan Currie had also left and was replaced by Ivor Harveson (ex Rumble Fat Band) on tenor sax - the line-up for the bands Opportunity Knocks appearance in September 1969.  

Sadly, coming second to the Harts Showband (a cabaret group from Hartlepool) did not find them fame and the gigs continued - up and down to Carlisle (Cosmo) and Egremont (Tow Bar Inn), Liverpool (Reece's Ballroom), Warrington (Co-op Hall, Parr Hall), Atherton (Formby Hall), Stoke (Torch Club), the round of disco's and youth clubs, etc - great gigs and lots of them but the music scene was changing. 

Cass left in early 1970 and the band continued without a lead guitarist - somewhat unusual in the period, which was heavily into guitar based bands. Soul was disappearing and the only poppy bands with brass were Amen Corner and The Foundations. The style of music the band played had to change to keep the gigs flowing but, in reflection, it was perhaps done in too much of an "ad hoc" basis.

The band was possibly losing its way - opening up with "Friday 13th" - a heavy hammond based sound recorded by Atomic Rooster, then going straight into ultra crud-pop with White Plains' "(Can't you see) I've got you on my mind". The rest of the set contained songs from Joe Cocker, Alan Bown, Chicago and "heavy" versions of soul classics.

The band had flourished in the soul period of '68 and '69 but was now struggling. Whereas they had once played 27 gigs in a month as a semi-pro band, they were now lucky to pick up two a week. Rather than go into cabaret as had been suggested by their agency, Kennedy St Artistes, they kept on with the mix but the scene had changed and gigs were fewer and very different to what they were used to. 

Imagine turning up to a "teeny-bopper" dance in Redcar (Coatham Hotel) and finding it was the home of the "heavy" bands of the North-East! Teeny-boppers they may have been but they were more into Quintessence and Free than Otis Redding and Sam 'n' Dave. 

With Ivor's leaving, the band replaced him with a trumpet player. The first, a scots guy called Pete, who was into modern jazz and really didn't like dressing up and playing the same riffs every gig. He was replaced by Geoff Wilde, who was more used to trad jazz than pop, plus with beard and a couple of kids, was sadly a bit of a square peg.

It was decided to beef up the vocals and a second singer was added to the band when Geoff left. Mike Toope from Tangerine joined and added a great voice to the band.

The lineup was organ, bass and drums, plus sax and two vocals. Paul left in late '71 and was replaced by a guitarist friend of Mike's. The band soldiered on, playing odd gigs but finally died when Phil left to join a cabaret band at Sale Locarno.

Shortly after the band's demise, Paul and Andy teamed up for the short lived "Honeychile", Phil continued to play in Sale and Les appears to have packed it in.  Phil moved on to Canada.

A new PCS was resurrected by ex-members Cass and Geoff - together with Mike Prophet (bass), Neil Bloorton (tenor sax), Nigel (surname not known, on trombone), Ricky Rodgers (vocalist) and Pete Howarth (drums). 

Rickey Rodgers later formed a reggae band and had a record released ' I Never Got To See Bob Marley', which, I am told, made it into the charts. 

The band was managed by Roy Crewdson (ex-guitarist with Freddy and the Dreamers).

After its demise, the Phoenix was not to awaken again.

Or so it seemed until recently!!!!! SIMPLY SOUL was formed by Phil and Andy and carried on for a few years.  Sadly Tony Cassidy, vocalist and ex-St Louis Union, passed away.

Memories

I recall seeing them at Sids Youth Club (an old Presbyterian church hall) in Runcorn. It was the first time I had ever seen a stroboscope, I thought it was incredible. The lead singer (who they introduced as being direct from the USA) came on and sang REACH OUT. I guess it was about 68. I saw them shortly afterwards at the Parochial Hall Runcorn.

Richard Keogh

I remember the Phoenix City Smash band with great affection. I used to book groups for the local church youth club, St George's in Atherton. I remember the first gig. £12.10s. (£12.50) quite a lot of money in those days. But as with all things we did make a profit for the Church & Youth club funds. In fact we billed ourselves as S.G.C.S./Y.F. which stood for St George's Church Servers & Youth fellowship.

The dances started as a way of raising funds and I must admit we had many good nights along with other groups, but Phoenix City always returned (we thought they were the best.) After we had established ourselves we continued to hold dances in the local school hall (thats where we had the Youth Club).

As the dances attracted more & more people we decided to move upmarket & hire the Formby Hall (local civic entertainment centre of the day) When you did a dance there you had hit the Big Time. We, the SGCS/YF promoted far & wide we had groups such as The Equals, Bedrocks, Johnny Johnson & The Bandwagon, Desmond Decker & the Aces. You can tell how good we got we paid £500 for the Equals but still used the Phoenix City Smash as supporting act as they became more as friends, everyone liked them - especially the girls.

I wonder if they remember coming down to the Youth Club on Sundays & Tuesday nights (these were the only days open) picking up with some of the girls. I remember early 1966 our first meeting with Roy D Spencer Associates . He was promoting the Phoenix City. I had my first drink of Whisky & Coke (only 16 yrs old). I still drink that today along with Bitter & Guinness & Black.

My Dad had a Film Camera that he let me borrow when the Phoenix did their Formby Hall Gig, I still have the film today, but no sound unfortunately.

Jimmy Bunting 

I remember those gigs well Jimmy. I think I must have been to them all. Wonderful times and happy memories.

Philip Warburton - 5/6/10

I first saw the band at Atherton Labour Club which ran a disco with supporting bands on Thursday nights in 1968/1969. The best version of 'Let the Good Times Roll' I ever heard with the stroboscope effects. Jimmy Bunting is a legend in Atherton for bringing top acts to the town. The night Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon played the Formby Hall was absolutely brilliant.

David Brown - 6/6/11

I saw them at a working mans club on Councillor Lane, Cheadle early 1969, they were very good. Did not know the founding members attended Yew Tree school as I did between 66/71. I am sure I saw them on Opportunity Knocks about 1971. Reform lads.

Anthony Carney - 14/11/12

Known gigs

Below are just a few of the gigs - recreated from a few surviving contracts, agent statements, etc. Lots of gaps but what's there is accurate. 

  • 8/10/67 - Sound - 15.00 - Rowntrees Agency
  • 15/10/67 - Top of the Town - 15.00 - Rowntrees Agency
  • 4/11/67 - Midland Hotel - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 5/11/67 - Sound - 15.00 - Rowntrees Agency
  • 17/11/67 - Top of the Town - 15.00 - Rowntrees Agency
  • 18/11/67 - Kings Head, Atherton - 12.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 25/11/67 - Sandbach Town Hall - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 26/11/67 - La Bamba - 12.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 10/12/67 - Higher Fold - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 15/12/67 - Leigh Boys Grammar School - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 17/12/67 - Royton YC - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 23/12/67 - Majestic Club - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 31/12/67 - Vaudeville Club - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 5/1/68 - Private party - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 13/1/68 - Wrexham Memorial Hall - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 27/1/68 - Wilmslow Congregational Hall - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 21/1/68 - St Anthony's YC, Wythenshawe - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 2/2/68 - Lostock YC - 11.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 9/2/68 - Royton YC - 12.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 15/2/68 - Deans YC - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 16/2/68 - Bury FC - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 17/2/68 - Tyldesley - 12.50 - Roy D Spencer
  • 23/2/68 - St Peters YC - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 28/2/68 - Wilmslow - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 5/3/68 - Clifton YC - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 9/3/68 - St Johns YC - 12.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 22/3/68 - Lostock YC - 12.50 - Roy D Spencer
  • 28/3/68 - West Wythenshawe College - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 29/3/68 - Dukinfield WMC - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 4/4/68 - Dukinfield WMC - 15.00 -  
  • 5/4/68 - West Wythenshawe College (with Rumble Fat Band) - 10.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 6/4/68 - Rowntrees Sound - 15.00 
  • 7/4/68 - Top Twenty Club, Hollinwood - 17.10 
  • 12/4/68 - Briercroft YC , Atherton - 20.00 
  • 13/4/68 - 21st Birthday party, Middleton - 15.00 
  • 19/4/68 - St Peters YC, Swinton - 15.00 
  • 20/4/68 - Browns Inn Place, Stretford - 15.00 
  • 26/4/68 - Briercroft YC , Atherton - 20.00 
  • 27/4/68 - Tonge Labour Club, Bolton - 20.00 
  • 10/5/68 - St Peters YC , Wythenshawe - 12.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 11/5/68 - Doncaster College FE - 25.00 
  • 12/5/68 - Alma Lodge - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 17/5/68 - St Francis's YC, Wythenshawe - 15.00 
  • 18/5/68 - Abney Hall, Cheadle - 22.10 
  • 19/5/68 - St Columbas - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 25/5/68 - St Georges YC Atherton - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 28/5/68 - Irlam Catholic Club - 12.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 1/6/68 - Top of the Town - 17.10 
  • 3/6/68 - Pop Inn, Rusholme - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 5/6/68 - Bollington Festival (with Rumble Fat Band) - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 8/6/68 - Rowntrees Sound - 17.10  
  • 9/6/68 - St Anthonys YC, Wythenshawe - 12.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 14/6/68 - Uncle Toms Cabin, Little Hulton 
  • 15/6/68 - Browns Stretford - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 21/6/68 - St Peters YC, Wythenshawe - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 22/6/68 - St George's Youth Club, Atherton - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 23/6/68 - Irlam Labour Club - 13.10 
  • 28/6/68 - Two M's Youth Club, Eccles - 17.10 
  • 29/6/68 - BICC dance, Frodsham - 25.00 
  • 3/6/68 - Fielden Park College FE - 15.00 
  • 6/7/68 - St Andrews YC, Wythenshawe - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 7/7/68 - Bell Hall, Warrington - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 9/7/68 - Solar Scene, Cheadle Labour Club - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 13/7/68 - St Martins YC, Wythenshawe - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 20/7/68 - Wilbraham High School - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 21/7/68 - Ramsbottom Youth Club - 17.10 
  • 26/7/68 - Grasshopper Club, Leigh - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 2/8/68 - St Peters YC, Wythenshawe - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 3/8/68 - Pop Inn , Rusholme - 18.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 17/8/68 - St Georges YC, Atherton - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 18/8/68 - Clayton Lodge - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 24/8/68 - Nantwich Civic Hall - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 28/8/68 - Didsbury TT College (with The Nice) - 25.00 - Alan Arnison
  • 2/9/68 - Quaintways, Chester - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 6/9/68 - St Peters YC, Wythenshawe - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 7/9/68 - Shades Club, Sheffield - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 8/9/68 - Thing Club, Oldham - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 10/9/68 - Solar Scene, Cheadle Labour Club - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 13/9/68 - Beehive, Swinton - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 6/10/68 - Monaco Ballroom, Farnworth - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 11/10/68 - Monaco Ballroom, Farnworth - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 12/10/68 - Monaco Ballroom, Farnworth - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 3/11/68 - Beehive Swinton - 15.00 -Roy D Spencer
  • 8/11/68 - St Peters YC - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 9/11/68 - Formby Hall, Atherton (with Sounds Incorporated and Focal Points) - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 15/11/68  Clockwork Orange, Chester - 13.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 16/11/68 - Cafe Royal, Llandudno - 25.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 17/11/68 - St Pauls YC, Guide Bridge - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 18/11/68 - Quaintways Chester - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 23/11/68 - Cheadle Scouts - 17.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 26/11/68 - Leeds University (with Yes) - 30.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 30/11/68 - Inn Place, Stretford - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 1/12/68 - BeeHive Swinton - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 6/12/68 - Fielden Park College - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 7/12/68 - Nantwich Civic Hall (with Johnny Johnson and The Bandwagon) - 17.10 - Darville Ents
  • 10/12/68 - CIS Ballroom (with Sweet Marriage) - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 11/12/68 - Didsbury TT College - 20.00 - Parkside Ents
  • 13/12/68  Central Grammar School, Kirkmanshulme lane - 25.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 14/12/68 - Wilbraham High - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer 
  • 15/12/68 - Lower Chambers Club, Rochdale - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 16/12/68 - Cheadle Hulme YC - 15.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 17/12/68 - Chorlton High School - 20.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 18/12/68 - Mt Carmel School, Alderley Edge - 22.10 - Roy D Spencer
  • 20/12/68 - St Theodores, Burnley - 25.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 22/12/68 - St Anthonys YC, Wythenshawe - 25.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 24/12/68 - Pop Inn, Rusholme - 25.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 28/12/68 - Sloopys/Warmington Grange - 25.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 31/1268 - Thing Club, Oldham - 50.00 - Alan Arnison

Not all Dec dates recorded - worked 27 nights that month!

  • 2/1/69 - Reddish Social Club - 35.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 3/1/69 - St Francis's YC, Wythenshawe - 25.00 - Kennedy St
  • 11/1/69 - Woodhouse Park CA - 30.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 18/1/69 - Dolywern Hall, Chirk 
  • 25/1/69 - Wilbraham High School - Roy D Spencer
  • 26/1/69 - Mathew Moss Youth Club, Rochdale 
  • 31/1/69 - St Bernadette's, Withington - Roy D Spencer
  • 1/2/69 - Exit One club - Roy D Spencer
  • 11/4/69 - St Marys College, Blackburn - 27.10 - Lewis Buckley, Southport
  • 22/2/69 - Wilbraham High School -  
  • 2/5/69 - Village Hall, Llanymynech, N Wales - 30.00 - Unit Management
  • 4/5/69 - St Josephs YC, Salford - 20.00 - Kennedy St
  • 5/5/69 - Dolywern Hall, Chirk, N Wales - 30.00 - Unit Management
  • 14/5/69 - Hollies Convent, Didsbury 
  • 16/5/69 - Rat Pit, Bredbury 
  • 17/5/69 - Wilbraham High School 
  • 23/5/69 - Transparent Paper Mill, Bury 
  • 24/5/69 - Uncle Tom's Cabin, Farnworth 
  • 30/5/69 - Runcorn Youth Club 
  • 31/5/69 - Warrington Co-op Hall - Delrick
  • 6/6/69 - St Columba's, Wythenshawe 
  • 7/6/69 - Wrexham Memorial Hall 
  • 13/6/69 - St Bernadettes, Withington - 25.00 - Alan Arnison
  • 2/7/69 - Oswestry Tech - 25.00 - Ceirog Valley Management
  • 9/8/69 - Stamford Hall, Altringham (with Penthouse) 
  • 15/8/69 - Transparent Paper Mill, Bury 
  • 16/8/07 - Uncle Tom's Cabin, Little Hulton 
  • 21/8/07 - Atherton Labour Club 
  • 5/9/07 - St Bernadette's, Withington 
  • 9/9/69 - St Georges YC, Atherton - 30.00 - Roy D Spencer
  • 12/9/69 - Thames TV, London - Opportunity Knocks recording
  • 13/9/69 - Thames TV, London - Opportunity Knocks recording
  • 18/9/69 - Open Air concert, Warrington - Charity - Delrick Agency
  • 19/9/69 - Frodsham YC 
  • 20/9/69 - St Werburghs Chorlton - Kennedy St
  • 27/9/69 - Cosmo Club, Carlisle - Kennedy St
  • 4/10/69 - Withington Methodist YC 
  • 9/10/69 - Victoria Park YC
  • 11/10/69 - Wilbraham High School 
  • 12/10/69 - St Johns Chorlton 
  • 24/10/69 - Sunny Bank YC, Bury 
  • 25/10/69 - Formby Hall, Atherton 
  • 31/10/69 - Green Dolphin Club, Preston - 25.00 - Kennedy St
  • 3/11/69 - Bolton Casino - 22.10 - Kennedy St
  • 5/12/69 - St Michaels YC, Runcorn - 30.00 - Kennedy St
  • 7/11/69 - Domino, Farnworth - 25.00 - Kennedy St
  • 8/11/69 - Wilbraham High 
  • 11/11/69 - St Thomas's YC, Ellesmere Port 
  • 15/11/69 - Hawick Town Hall, Scotland 
  • 21/11/69 - Llanfyllin Town Hall - 30.00 - Ceirog Valley Management
  • 22/11/69 - Wilbraham High
  • 7/12/69 - Bulls Head Hotel, Stoke - 25.00 - Dave Daniels
  • 13/12/69 - St Johns YC, Keighley - 35.00 - McLeod Ents
  • 17/12/69 - Midland Hotel Manchester - 25.00 - Kennedy St
  • 18/12/69 - Burnage High School - 25.00 - Kennedy St
  • 19/12/69 - Moston Brook High School - 30.00 - Kennedy St
  • 22/12/69 - Owens Park College (with Sons and Lovers) 
  • 22/12/69 - Co-op Hall, Warrington - 60.00 - Kennedy St/DelRick
  • 24/12/69 - Staxx, Wythenshawe 
  • 9/11/70 - Victoria Park Youth Club, Manchester
  • 30/11/70 - Renold Theatre, UMIST 
  • 29/1/71 - Fielden Park Coll of FE (with Attic) - $60

Other venues remembered (but many others will have been forgotten)

  • Transparent Paper Company, Bury - "wot a stinker"
  • Top Kat Club, Keswick
  • Gretna Hotel, Carlisle
  • Cosmo Club, Carlisle
  • Reeces Ballroom, Liverpool
  • Wigan Rugby Club
  • La Scala, Runcorn
  • Tow Barr Inn, Egremont - so many times.
  • Big Apple, Farnsworth
  • All those seemingly endless gigs in Stoke and Runcorn and Tyldesley and Atherton that have melted into the past
  • The Place, Hanley
  • Bobbies, Longsight
  • All those long drives from Carlisle - the driving skills of Phil not really appreciated then but they are now - we survived those long drives and got through the snow!
  • Wrexham Memorial Hall - so good, Paul decided to go to college in Wrexham.
  • Top Ten Club, Belle Vue - top of the bill (only us!).  
  • New Century Hall - as above :-)
  • The Monday nights in the Men's Sauna clubs after gigs at Quaintways, Chester. We never knew they were gay hangouts! We must have been a bigger draw there than in Chester!
  • All the Browns/Uncle Tom's gigs!
  • Barrow Public Hall - empty till the pubs shut then packed.  Bouncers on the stage.
  • Coatham Bowl, Redcar - told it was a teeny-bopper club and we turned up to the centre of the North-East heavy scene in our white wrangler jackets and black trousers with a red stripe ... top heavy gig at the time.
  • Bamboo Club, Stockport
  • Lafayette, Wolverhampton
  • Torch, Tunstall
  • Wigan Casino

 

 

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