- Vito Susca - vocals
- Ken Shelmerdine - lead
- Ian Garner - rhythm
- Steve Henshaw - drums
- Jeff Bickerton - bass
- Phil Bowen - drums
- Rob Tonge - vocals
- Terry Grimshaw - drums
Formed from the Klyx around '68ish, disbanded summer '73. After a period of eight years, we all wanted a rest. Or more likely give the public a rest.
There was various changes in personnel over the years - two singers and three drummers.
Photo June '72 taken outside BBC's Maida Vale studios in London.
Left to right: Steve (roady), Jeff, Vito, Phil, Ian and Ken
I was one of the 2 lead singers mentioned. I can't remember why I left but it was a great band. We rehearsed in a pub in Ashton, and the boys Ian, Ken, Jeff are just as I remember them in the picture and I'd love to hear from them.
We did some great gigs, Stockport in particular, the Uncle Toms Cabin gigs, and I remember we did the Cavern - what a dump it was.
Rob Tonge - 15/3/11
Another bit of info to add is the name of one of the other drummers Terry Grimshaw and the memories below.
Terry was a school friend, who I introduced to the band. I didn't tell them he'd never drummed with a band before. I don't think he'd even been to a club before - real innocent but a natural on drums. A really nice lad,who the band took to and corrupted.
I'm sure he and the rest of the band will remember the night at Gigg Lane, strobe in full flow, when I lost my step, fell backwards into his drum kit, which broke my fall but not Terrys! He and his drum kit quickly disappeared backwards into the large dressing room opening behind him, only coming to a stop when he and his kit hit the dressing room floor very hard. I feared the worst but to my relieve Terry just dusted himself off, sorted it, and was playing again 5 minutes later.
It was one of my most embarrassing moments, in front of a packed club, who loved it.
Can I ask again if Ken, Jeff,and Ian can please send their contact details to manchesterbeat.
Rob Tonge - 22/8/11
The band was formed by myself and rhythm guitarist Ian Garner. We quickly recruited bassist Jeff Bickerton whom I knew from the band Klyx followed by a friend of Ian's Vito Susca on Vocals and started rehearsing in a pub in Ashton now demolished (not Ashton, the pub).
Problem was we had no drummer. Little did we know at the time but constantly having to recruit new drummers from time to time became a big time pain in the ass. We held auditions for a drummer and we gave the job to a guy from Hale Barnes. Can't remember his name but nice guy.We then rehearsed for six months before we took any gigs. Initially the music consisted of a number of west coast underground covers of the likes of ''Moby Grape'' and ''Love'' sprinkled with a few songs by amongst others ''Deep Purple'' and ''Led Zep''
An agent called Paul Ingham supplied the gigs and I can remember his reaction when we performed our first gig at Hazel Grove Civic Hall. He said something like ''Great Band Lads - excellent musicianship but the wrong material!"
In those days if you wanted to work regularly you had to do your fair share of the dreaded discos. At that time discos were still booking bands so we had to learn a few chart songs which we did but we were careful to choose material which still had a rock feel but were danceable to.
After a few weeks we were gigging Friday Saturday Sundays and often a youth club in the week. After several months Vito and the drummer had to leave the band for various reasons to be replaced on lead vocals by Rob Tongue and Terry Grimshaw on Drums. With Rob the musical direction reverted to more of a hard rock feel and at this time we started getting gigs around the university circuits and more dedicated rock venues. When Rob and Terry eventually left the band it was Vito who took over lead vocals again accompanied by Phil Bowen formerly of Phoenix City Smash on drums which is the line up in the photograph.
In early 1972 the manager of a club we played at the ''Dirty Duck club'' in Crewe (innuendos were hilarious in those days because no-one dared say the real thing and nowadays they'd just call it the Dirty F***) became interested in managing us. He had connections at the BBC and fixed us up with a recording session at Maida Vale studios in London. BBC Radio One used to broadcast live sessions of unknown unsigned bands about twice a week but first you had to do a recording session audition which our new manager had set up.
We arrived in London, stayed at the Ritz no less for the first night then drove to the BBC in our van the next morning. The Studio set up and recording procedure at the Beeb was like something out of the wind up grammophone era with two of the most clueless engineers I've ever come across. We had to do the backing and vocals together in one take but can you believe it??? we were not allowed to use our amplifiers as the guitars were plugged directly into the desk in the control room and no foldback in the Studio!!
On top of that Phil had to play the drums accoustically in the same room instead of a drum booth so this prevented hearing any sound of our solid body'd guitars and because we could only hear drums. I think our vocal harmonies had drifted into a completely different key by the end of the songs we did. We were never allowed to hear the playback which I'm sure sounded dreadful and needless to say we failed the audition.
By now with all the gigging we'd done over the past years Pyawacket had become a very professional and tight band with the ability to musically improvise in a way that only happens when as a band you become familiar with each others playing styles but we still didn't have any original material. I think we kept putting it off because we were addicted to having so much fun doing loads of gigs and finding time to write material would take us off the road for a while. We did eventually get one song together call ''Live the Life;'' and recorded it at Stawberry Studios in Stockport. To this day I can't for the life of me fathom how or why I ever wrote such an unbelievably cheesy song. Yes we wanted to do a commercial song which would interest record companies and yes I'd wrote the song to be on the commercial side but I just couldn't believe how embarrassing it was to listen to after it was recorded.
We didn't even bother trying to promote the demo but we did decide that if the band was to have any future we must now try and write some good original material. But then the drummer curse reared its ugly head. Phil had to leave the band to go and live in Canada. From this time until the demise of the band in March 1973 we had a further 3 drummers in all. After Phil left came Steve Henshaw formerly of Shayne Fenton and the Fentones.( Steve was and is to this day one of the most gifted and talented drummers I ever worked with) Mick Gibourne who soon left to do a tour with 10cc as a supplement drummer with Paul Burgess and finally John ''Benny'' Benson formerly of the band 'Sleep'
Unfortunately because of all these upheavals we never did get round to writing any of our own songs.
I still regularly see John Benson today and he is one of my oldest friends. Ian Garner eventually became a high flying international sales director for a multi-national catering machinery company.
Vito Susca sadly passed away about 4 years ago.
I still hear from Jeff Bickerton from time to time who is still playing and has been with the Irish folk band Whisky in the Jar for many years now.
I think Pyawacket could be summed up as being a musically excellent band that started at the bottom but were having so much fun decided to stay there!
Ken Shelmerdine - 28/10/11
Hi Ken it's been a long time since we played together. Iit was really great to read your story and history of Pyawacket, it brought back many great memories, Bamboo etc for me.
Do you remember the Whitchurch gigs we did where once "Beryl" nearly got us thrown out by a couple of gorillas? and we were the band.
I go on the site occasionally and always wondered when additional information would appear. I think Jeff started the ball rolling, I think brother Rick added some info as well. Hope all is well with you.
Ps good to hear you are still in contact with John.
Best wishes - Steve Henshaw - 23/12/11
Did you use to rehearse in this strange big room in some spooky old Victorian house on the A6?
I auditioned on drums for you way back (came second out of several as I recall). Now if you had taken me on you might have got somewhere good steady lad that I am :) You were bloody good! Not getting that job is still to this day one of my "significant fails".
Seem to remember not getting Witch Queen quite right, hey I can do it now honest!
John, of Palm Springs "fame" - 2/7/12
Hi Rob, Yes I remember you and also the time that Terry fell off the stage at the "Rat Pit" on Bents Lane, true, he recovered quickly and carried on, he was quite a decent drummer. Now if I remember correctly you left the band to join a rock band in the London area, we visited Strawberry Studios and recorded a few tracks with you to "showcase" your talents with the band, I understood you got the gig after they heard it. How did you fare after you left us, well I trust.
Jeff Bickerton - 30/12/12
Yes; John of Palm Springs fame, we did rehearse at an old house and, I remember the audition you attended. I have to admit it was a close run thing between you and the lad who eventually got the job.
We practiced there nearly every week and I remember a couple of very irritated young house-wives coming round and complaining about the level of noise - we were a rock band after all? They shouted and gave us chapter and verse for a good 15 mins before Phil Bowen interrupted them and pointed out one of the young ladies had the zip fully down on her jeans and showing her knickers. They rapidly disappeared and never showed up to complain again. Well spotted Phil.
Jeff Bickerton - 30/12/12
It is with deep regret I inform friends of Ken Shelmerdine that he passed away in St Anne's Hospice on Saturday 15th June 2013 suffering from cancer. Ken was a mate I knew for nearly fifty years of playing in bands. He was a accomplished musician and guitarist and will be sorely missed by his wife and all who knew him.
Jeff Bickerton - 27/6/13
Hi Jeff - I absolutely gutted to hear about Ken, I only spoke to him on the phone for the first time since 1971/2 last Oct,when I was away. I'm away a lot these days and because of that I never managed to get back to him to arrange a meet at a pub as he had suggested for a natter,and take some of his music cd's he'd done for me to try putting a vocal on at a friends studio. I'm in shock, please give my condolences to his wife. Me and my dad really liked Ken, if you're doing anything in Ken's honour, please let me know, please give me your mobile number so I can ring you.
Rob Tonge - 1/8/13