The Country Gentlemen

Compiled by Olaf Owre, 2000

The Country Gentlemen were formed in Manchester in 1963 by Peter Cowap. Born in Middleton, Manchester on June 29th. 1944, he had already been with the skiffle group The Moonrakers in the late 50s, before joining the rock ’n’ roll group Deke Bonner & The Tremors in 1961.

The following year he was recruited to play with Jimmy Justice, a reasonably successful British recording artist at the time, with hits like ”Spanish Harlem” and ”When My Little Girl Is Smiling”.

Cowap and Justice didn’t seem to get on too well, though, and after a row Cowap left to form his own group, The Country Gentlemen. The name was derived from the guitar played by Cowap, a Gretsch model produced in the U.S.A., known as the ”Country Gentleman”. Initially a trio, the group comprised of Cowap on lead guitar/vocals, Nick Duval from Deke Bonner & The Tremors on bass, and Leo Laherty on drums. With a repertoire of R & B and beat music the group soon rose to local fame by playing clubs in and around Manchester. Notably they opened for The Beatles at ”The Three Coins” in Manchester and ”The Co-op Hall” in Middleton, as well as playing ”The Cavern” in Liverpool and following in the footpaths of the ”fab four” to Hamburg, Germany.

Country Gents frontman, Peter Cowap, had extraordinary ability as a guitarist and developed a unique sound, a fusion of the Chet Atkins and Buddy Holly styles. He just lived for playing and practising, and according to other Manchester musicians at the time, there was nobody to touch him. He was the ultimate rock ’n’ roll player. Groups used to travel from Liverpool to go and watch Cowap playing, and you could see their jaws drop when they saw what he could do.

The Country Gents secured a deal with Decca in May 1963 and cut a single with Mike Smith as producer. This coupled a pulsating twist beat rendition of ”Greensleeves”, arranged by Cowap, with the R & B styled ”Baby Jean”, written by Hawkins-Magill-Helm, on the flip. Released in November 1963 (UK Decca F 11766), the single represented ”freakbeat” at it best and was an excellent debut for the group.

However, their very aggressive beat version of ”Greensleeves”, originally an old English ballad from the 16th. century, was regarded as showing disrespect to an almost sacred tune, and the BBC quickly banned it from being played on the radio!

Without airplay the single had no chance to make the charts, but Cowap’s unusual and powerful arrangement of ”Greensleeves” was later copied by fellow Mancunians The Scorpions, who reached No.22 with the song in Holland in 1965. That same year a German beat group called The Lords also ”stole” Cowap’s arrangement for their version aimed at the German market.

With Alan Doyle (ex-Johnny Masters & The Mastersounds, ex-Rainmakers) in as temporary rhythm guitarist, The Country Gents toured around the UK in late 1963/early 1964, as backing group for Billie Davies, who had just had a big hit with ”Tell Him”. Doyle later went on to play with The Toggery Five, but The Country Gents kept the augmented four-piece line-up with rhythm guitar duties being assigned to Terry Morton (ex-Wayne Fontana & The Jets) after the Billie Davies tour. Morton only lasted for a brief time, though. In mid 1964 he left to join The Scorpions, who shortly afterwards found fame in Holland with a series of chart hits including ”Hello Josephine” and ”Ann Louise” in 1965.

Graham Gouldman came to a Country Gents rehearsal and played them a demo of his song ”Look Through Any Window”. Cowap & Co. really loved the song and wanted to record it and release it as their next single, but unfortunately for them The Hollies had the priority, and their version reached No. 4 in the UK charts in 1965.

Undaunted by their bad luck, The Country Gents did, however, resurface on record that same year, backing female singer Little Frankie (ex-Chimes) on a trio of singles for the Columbia label.

All the songs, several of which were written by Silverman-Lisberg-Gouldman, bear the unmistakable stamp of the deft Country Gents arrangements and style, with Cowap’s guitar craftsmanship as a key factor. Despite strong support from Charles Silverman and Harvey Lisberg (the management team of Herman’s Hermits) and the songwriting skills of Graham Gouldman, none of Little Frankie’s releases managed to enter the charts.

Her three excellent singles recorded with The Country Gents were a cover of The Raindrops’ ”The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” written by Greenwich-Barry, b/w ”I’m Not Gonna Do It” (UK Columbia DB 7490, US Capitol 5416), ”Make-A-Love” b/w ”Love Is Just A Game” (UK Columbia DB 7578) and Buddy Holly’s ”It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” b/w ”Happy That’s Me” (UK Columbia DB 7681).

1966 saw original bassist Nick Duval leave. He was replaced by Rod Clare, who had previously been with Jerry Lee & The Staggerlees and also The Emperors Of Rhythm. Frank Dwyer came in on keyboards, and Geoff Foot later joined as rhythm guitarist. The group continued to work with Little Frankie until 1967.

Sadly, no more Country Gents or Little Frankie records saw the light of day, but Peter Cowap had gained recognition in the business for his musicianship and songwriting skills. He wrote songs and played sessions for a number of artists during the 60s, including The Measles, The Downliners Sect, Tony Jackson Group, The Magic Lanterns, The Pop Art and Herman’s Hermits. For Graham Gouldman’s group, The Mockingbirds, he originated ”How To Find A Lover” in 1966. He also appeared with Gouldman in the two studio groups High Society and The Manchester Mob that same year.

Cowap later became a solo artist on Pye, before joining the Hermits in 1971. The mid 70s, 80s and 90s saw him mainly doing cabaret and country & western shows as a solo act, as well as doing sessions for other artists.

Sadly he died of pneumonia on July 16th. 1997.

 

Olaf Owre 

Line-ups

The Country Gentlemen (#1) early 1963-late 1963

  • Peter Cowap - lead vocals/lead guitar  - ex The Moonrakers (1959-60), Deke Bonner & The Tremors (1961-62), Jimmy Justice (1962)
  • Nick Duval - bass guitar/vocals 
  • Leo Laherty - drums - ex Deke Bonner & The Tremors (1961-62) 

 

Billie Davis with The Country Gentlemen (#2) late 1963- tour line-up only. UK tour line-up backing Billie Davis after "Tell Him" (UK Decca F 11572) had been a big hit for her.

  • Billie Davis - lead vocals
  • Peter Cowap - lead guitar/vocals 
  • Nick Duval - bass guitar/vocals 
  • Leo Laherty - drums
  • Alan Doyle - rhythm guitar/vocals - ex Johnny Masters and The Mastersounds (1962), The Rainmakers (1962-63)

After leaving Alan went on to work with:

 

  • The Toggery Five (1965-66)
  • Derek Joys Showband (1966-67)
  • Carina & Los Sonida Grande(67)
  • Sweet Marriage (1968-69)
  • Nektar (1970)
  • Hornblower (1972)
  • Pete Birrell's Allsorts (1973)
  • Alvin's Heartbeats (1975-76)
  • Cowap & Doyle c&w duo (80s)
  • The Rainmakers (re-unions 90s)
  • The Delivery Men (00-02) Pete MacLaine band & other local bands

 
The Country Gentlemen (#3) early 1964-mid 1964 

  • Peter Cowap - lead vocals/lead guitar 
  • Nick Duval - bass guitar/vocals 
  • Leo Laherty - drums 
  • Terry Morton - rhythm guitar/vocals - ex Wayne Fontana & The Jets (1962)

 

 

Little Frankie with The Country Gentlemen (#4) early 1964-mid 1964

  • Little Frankie - lead vocals - ex The Chimes
  • Peter Cowap  - lead guitar/vocals
  • Nick Duval - bass/vocals 
  • Leo Laherty - drums 
  • Terry Morton - rhythm guitar/vocals - after leaving played with The Scorpions

 

Little Frankie with The Country Gentlemen (#5) mid 1964-late 1965 

  • Little Frankie - lead vocals - ex The Chimes
  • Peter Cowap  - lead guitar/vocals
  • Nick Duval - bass/vocals 
  • Leo Laherty - drums 

The Country Gentlemen (#6) 1966-1967 

  • Peter Cowap  - lead guitar/vocals
  • Rod Clare - bass/vocals - ex Jerry Lee And The Staggerlees, The Emperors Of Rhythm 
  • Leo Laherty - drums 
  • Frank Dwyer - keyboards/vocals

Little Frankie with The Country Gentlemen (#7) 1966-1967 

  • Little Frankie - lead vocals
  • Peter Cowap - lead guitar/vocals 
  • Rod Clare - bass/vocals 
  • Leo Laherty  - drums 
  • Frank Dwyer - keyboards/vocals 

The Country Gentlemen (#8) 1967- 

Peter Cowap - lead guitar/vocals 

Rod Clare - bass/vocals 

Leo Laherty - drums 

Frank Dwyer - keyboards/vocals 

Geoff Foot - rhythm guitar/vocals - ex The Chasers (1965-66)

 

After the demise of the Country Gentlemen:

Peter Cowap worked with 

  • The Bujjies (1968-69)
  • Peter Cowap (solo) (1970-71)
  • Hermits (1971-72) 
  • Grumble (1973)
  • Naviede (1975-76) 
  • Peter Cowap(solo) (70s/80s/90s) 

Rod Clare worked with: 

  • Emperors Of Rhythm (1991)

Leo Laherty worked with:

  • The Measles

Geoff Foot worked with:

  • The Rogues(1968-69)
  • Sunshine (1969-70)
  • Jeff Smith (solo) (1971)
  • Mike Sweeney & The Thunderbyrds (1980s)
  • Herman's Hermits (89-91)
  • Wayne Fontana & Mindbenders (1991-96)
  • Herman's Hermits (96-)

Discography 1963-1965

The Country Gentlemen

UK SINGLES:
45:”Greensleeves” (Trad. arr. Cowap)/”Baby Jean” (Hawkins-Magill-Helm) Decca F 11766 11/1963 

UK LPs:

2LP-set: Various artists: “The Beat Merchants - British Beat Groups 1963-1964”
United Artists UDM 101/2 /1976

Contains 43 tracks including The Country Gentlemen’s “Baby Jean” (Hawkins-Magill-Helm).

Other Mancunian groups featured on this double album are Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders, Pete MacLaine & The Clan, The Cresters, The Just Four Men and The Whirlwinds.


Little Frankie with The Country Gentlemen

UK SINGLES:
45:”The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” (Greenwich-Barry)/”I’m Not Gonna Do It” (Silverman-Lisberg Columbia DB 7490 3/1965
45:”Make-A-Love” (Claff)/”Love Is Just A Game” (Silverman-Lisberg-Gouldman)
Columbia DB 7578 5/1965
45:”It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (Paul Anka)/”Happy That’s Me” (Gouldman) Columbia DB 7681 9/1965

US SINGLES:
45:”The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” (Greenwich-Barry)/”I’m Not Gonna Do It” (Silverman-Lisberg) Capitol 5416 /1965

US LPs:
LP: Various artists: “Girls In The Garage Vol. 7” Romulan UFOX17 /1990’s
Contains 18 tracks including Little Frankie & The Country Gentlemen’s “I’m Not Gonna Do It” (Silverman-Lisberg).

US CDs:
CD: Various artists: “Girls In The Garage Pt. 2” Romulan UFOX12-2 /1990’s
Contains 28 tracks including Little Frankie & The Country Gentlemen’s “I’m Not Gonna Do It” (Silverman-Lisberg).

UNRELEASED TRACKS:
Unreleased/acetate: “Look Through Any Window“ (Gouldman-Silverman) /1965

 

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