The Sneakers (Wythenshawe)

Line-up included

  • Tom Bancroft - vocals/rhythm
  • Alan Davis - lead
  • Frank Nesfield - rhythm
  • David Howard - bass
  • Ian Smith - drums


We were five lads from Wythenshawe.

The four teenage lads who originally formed the band in 1963 used to pay my mate to borrow his (Commer) van, complete with driver - that driver was me.

Compared to the others I was older at 23 and as they favoured stuff from earlier times, as did the Stones and co., I was able to coach them about lyrics and phrasing that I had cut my teeth on with Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, John Lee Hooker, and all those greats during the emergence of rock n roll in the 50's.


Frank Nesfield (rhythm), Tom Bancroft (vocals), Alan Davis (lead), Dave Hassall (drums), David Howard (bass).

I've always been able to sing a bit and very soon became band member number five as vocalist and occasional rhythm (strictly four chords only!).

Our venues were similar to those of the other aspiring groups of that time. Such places as working men's clubs, Tory clubs, Labour clubs, church halls, etc. - you name it!

As you will know, the late Paul Young of Sad Cafe and Mike & The Mechanics fame was a Wythenshawe lad and we often performed at the same modest venues on the same night. He was then billed as 'Johhny Dark and the Stormy Knights' and they had a logo on the bass drum of a 'knight' chess piece. I see his biography gives his early band as 'Johhny Dark and the Midnights', so perhaps there was a subtle name change along the way (see below)

Better venues included Skyways, (an atmospheric basement club at Moor Nook, near Manchester Airport) and the College Club in Hulme which was a converted cinema and on one occasion we were support to the 'Pretty Things' who were destined to become a very successful outfit. I remember us not getting paid for that one as we were 'conned' into performing for free because as the 'Pretty Things' were hot stuff, there would be plenty of agents there and we could get 'spotted' - we live and learn!

Another of our gigs, at the modest St. Francis Church Hall, Wythenshawe, included Eric Stewart and Wayne Fontana in the top band, but I don't think they were billed as The Mindbenders (probably doing a foreigner!!). Just to digress - in the 70s, Wayne (as plain Glynn Ellis) lived in Sale, Cheshire next door to one of my pals for a while. Free tickets were a regular occurence!

Eventually the Sneakers came to that point where, like all bands, we had to make the decision on packing in our steady jobs and spreading our wings, but I'm afraid we bottled it and the lead guitar who didn't have a job, was the only one to continue elsewhere.

Still they were a happy few years and when I think back I'm surprised how many did make it from the Wythenshawe area of Manchester, Frank Renshaw (Toggery Five, etc.) Paul Young and quite a few others.

It is also worth mentioning that Radio Caroline DJ, Ray Teret was also a mate in 1960s Wythenshawe. Teret had a Ford Cortina in those days and gave a couple of us a daily lift to work in Manchester for a while until he became a full time dance hall DJ. As well as his radio career, he wrote a couple of songs for Paul Young along the way. He never did return my three Gene Vincent albums!

I am reluctant to admit that my legacy from those days is that I am a bit of a Karaoke saddo, and I still enjoy belting out those 'hits of the 60s' whenever I get chance.

Tom Bancroft

I have to say Tom remembers more than me. I was employed. I left the band because I felt we did not completely click as a band.

Me and Dave Howard (bass) had been banging out rock and roll long before the Sneakers. A couple of weeks after I left Dave called on me and we went on to form "The Nomads" with Ian McGinty and Chris Simon from Stretford. 

Alan Davis - 28/11/11

Hi Alan Davies,or any one in the Sneakers band.Your info regarding Johnny Dark and the Stormy Knights is a little vague for you see I am the original Johnny Dark that was formed out of a group called The Hi-Tones back in 1963. Like you I came from Wythenshawe but the Hi-Tones were based in Moss Side.

Facts obviously get strained along the years but I assure you when It comes to Johnny Dark and the Stormy Knights it was me and the group that were the originals,and yes,we did have the chess knight on the front of our bass drum

Frankie Tute - 3/3/12

Thanks to Frank for putting my memory back on the straight and narrow. Ian Murray one of his colleagues in the "Stormy Knights" has posted their story elsewhere on the site and my feeble excuse is that I got my 'nights' mixed up. We must have crossed paths around the Wythenshawe club scene at some time.

Good to hear from Alan and Frankie. Read Ian's interesting piece about the "Stormy Knights".

Tom Bancroft - 18/4/1
Thomas 'Tom' Bancroft - lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1963 - )
Alan Davis - lead guitar (1963 - )
Frank Nesfield - rhythm guitar (1963 - )
David Howard - bass (1963 - )
Ian Smith - drums (1963 - )
Dave Hassall - drums
Five-piece Wythenshawe, Manchester group The Sneakers formed in 1963 with a line-up of 23-year-old Tom Bancroft on lead vocals, rhythm guitar (b. Thomas Bancroft, 1940), Alan Davis on lead guitar, Frank Nesfield on rhythm guitar, David Howard on bass and Ian Smith on drums.
The teenage band used to pay Bancroft's friend to borrow his Commer van complete with driver who was Bancroft. At 23 he was the oldest and as he could sing a bit, he very soon became the group's vocalist and rhythm guitarist. He could only play four chords.
At some point Smith left and was replaced by drummer Dave Hassall (b. David Hassall).
Eventually The Sneakers came to the point where they had to decide to turn professional and give up their steady jobs, but they bottled it and only the lead guitarist Alan Davis was the only one to continue elsewhere. Davis left the band and after a few weeks' bassist Dave Howard called him and they went on to form The Nomads with Ian McGinty and Chris Simon (b. Christopher Simon) from Stretford, Manchester 32.
John H. Warburg. 8 December 2021





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