The Purple Gang

info courtesy Joe Beard

LineUp (1967 Granny Takes a Trip)

  • Joe Beard - guitar/songs
  • Geoff Bowyer - piano, washboard and covals
  • Trevor "Ark" Langley - jug
  • Gerry Robinson - electric mandolin and harmonica
  • Peter "Lucifer" Walker - lead vocal and kazoos

The Purple Gang were all art students at Stockport College in 1965 and formed into a jugband after founder Joe Beard`s return from St Ives" "beat" scene, where he had hung out with the late blues legend , Duster Bennet and The Jericho Jugband.

Also local Bramhall blues hero, John Mayall had given Beard his first interest in blues and a free guitar lesson!

The Gang were amazingly called at first "The Young Contemporaries Jugband", (named after the famous Manchester art competition held yearly at The Whitworth Gallery) and made their sensational debut at The Manchester Sports Guild.

Booker "Jenks" Jenkins gave them a unique double billing - as they played both the jazz cellar and the folk room on the same night! Later they played The Free Trade Hall at a CND concert and The Northern Festival of Folk, Jazz and Blues.

They recorded their demo tape at a main street coffee bar in Hyde on an old Revox and new managers, Gordon and Lyn Aldred hawked it around London, until it caught the ear of Nat Joseph at Transatlantic Records.

He sent for the band - booking them into The Marquee to play alongside Cat Stevens and Long John Baldry. Later he brought in Joe Boyd who took over management and production and they met up with Pink Floyd about to record "Arnold Layne" with Boyd producing it the day before Purple Gang`s infamous "Granny Takes A Trip"single. At this session Floyd leader Syd Barrett offered them a song called "Boon Tune".  

The band were now called THE PURPLE GANG sporting a mix of "roarin 20`s" gear, short hair and going more pop and psychedelic influenced. They were adopted by the new London Underground movement and played the legendary "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" at Alexandra Palace. On the edge of stardom, they were put on the roster of The Jane EASTON Agency, alongside the new Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Yardbirds, and The Stones.

They were walking with giants briefly, until the all powerful BBC slapped a ban on the single. Appearances on "Top Of The Pops", "Juke Box Jury"and USA album and single deals suddenly vanished as everyone took fright.at the song`s title! 

The band came back to Manchester and played "Mr Smiths"(Tony Wilson auditioned them but didn`t like them) and Bredbury Hall Country Club, plus various other places, long gone.

They had a single out in France as a dance called "Le Mirliton", but it sank without trace. The USA album was pressed and printed as a limited edition and is now a collector`s item..but it never made it onto the shelves.

They achieved great respect and notoriety with the now mini classic "GRANNY TAKES A TRIP" and it is played to this day nationally. But they argued and split, blaming the record company, the BBC and themselves for losing out. 

In 1969 they reformed with a more electric line-up back in Manchester and quickly became a college favourite appearing regularly around the city colleges and University gigs, supporting some big names.

Sacked Radio 1 DJ David Symonds (sacked for reading the national news out in the nude, stoned) became the new manager and a new record company called "NEON" offered them a deal but Neon changed their minds at the last minute due to disagreements over contractual conditions and demands.

About this time they played The Poco A Poco in Stockport with David Bowie. They narrowly missed being put on The IOW Fest bill and the first Glastonbury but luck was running out.

They featured an electric mandolin put through a fuzz-wah pedal and could be described as a folk-rock, psychedelic jugband ... playing original material. They actually needed nurturing and developing, particularly in the business department.They faded away in 1973 back in London, but later all patched up the friendships and gigged socially for years at private parties.

1970`s line-up

  • Joe Beard - electric 12 srting guitar
  • Geoff Bowyer - lead vocal and piano
  • Gerry Robinson - electric mandolin, harmonica, guitar
  • Alex Sidebotham (later of The Distractions) - drums, washboard
  • Tony Moss - bass (replaced by) Chris Millward  

In 1998 Joe Beard reformed the band with several new members and recorded a new CD at Cavalier Stockport called "Night Of The Uncool".the played Stockport Town Hall and had a double page spread in "The Guardian" in 2003."

Granny" came out on several big compilations and they had a few good national airplays ... even starting off Radio 2`s "The Story of Pink Floyd".

They were seen in 2003 recording Syd Barrett`s old song "Boon Tune" in Revolution Studios in Cheadle Hulme in South Manchester. 

Gigs remembered 

1970

  • Sunday 15 Feb - "Grass Eye" benefit gig at Mr Smith`s - audition for "Granada "Octopus" program.  Tony Wilson there but didn`t like us
  • Sat March 7 - Manchester Uni - supporting "T.Rex"
  • Tues April 24 - College of Commerce Manchester - supporting "LOVE"and Arthur Lee
  • Mon April 27 - Poco a Poco - with Barclay James Harvest and High Tide supprting DAVID BOWIE.
  • Sat May 15  - Stockport College - supporting "The Move and Blodwyn Pig"

Discography

Singles 

  • ''Granny Takes A Trip'' / ''Boot Leg Whiskey'' - Big T BIG 101 April 1967 
  • "Kiss Me Goodnight Sally Green" (Bowyer/Beard) / "Auntie Monica" (Bowyer Beard) - Big T BIG 111 June 1968  

Album

  • The Purple Gang Strikes - Sire SES 97006 1968 

 

View the embedded image gallery online at:
https://manchesterbeat.com/groups1/purple-gang#sigProId6e0b512d5c

 

 

 

 

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