The Famous Watson Browne’s Band
info courtesy Tony Owens
Above: The Famous Watson Browne's Band 1968, in Chester prior to a gig at Quaintways Ballroom. Paul Smith Sax, Paul Kinder Bass, Ian Sax, Henry Quick Drums, Steve Collinge Guitar, Tony Owens vocals and Tim Baylis Trumpet.
The story begins before I joined the band on vocals in 1968, all I can tell you about this period is that the band was managed by “Blue Note” club owner John Fogel and Nicky Balcombe.
The only two members “retained” when ex Ivan Meads sax player Pat Dempsey was brought in by Balcome and Fogel to run things on a day to day basis were Paul, “Pogue” on bass and Steve the guitarist.
Originally a five piece with a singer called Les, (I think), a drummer and keyboard player who I never met and whose names I don’t know.
I answered an ad in the Evening News for a vocalist, I had already decided to give up playing drums and concentrate in my vocals.
On arrival at the Blue Note I was introduced to Pogue and Steve, Paul Smith and Ian on Saxes, Tim Conlan Bayliss, trumpet and a drummer called Lloyd.
I was one of a number of singers to audition and got the gig.
Pat Dempsey ran things well, we had two “roadies” I think one was Roger the other was definitely Jed, I recall them filling the recently acquired van with diesel in Ashton, unfortunately it was a petrol engine and we were late for the gig because the tank had to be drained and the AA called out to fix things!
We all turned pro apart from Steve and Pogue, who had “good” jobs at a bank and we could only work within a hundred miles of Manchester during the week, Nicky Balcombe would pick these two up at the Bank doors when they closed and rush them to the gigs wherever the gigs were.
I think that it was their looks that kept them in the band, they were two great looking lads but the Bank held things back and eventually broke up the band.
The brass section were Paul Smith who was well known on the Manchester Scene, well into Lord of the Rings before it became popular and liked to be called “Frodo”.
Last I knew of Paul he was in Hyde and working at a Photo Lab.
Ian (?) lived in Altrincham and was from Scotland originally and ex RAF. The quiet one he was very deep and a lovely guy. Tim Conlan-Bayliss was completely crazy and great fun as becomes apparent later in the story.
Pogue and Steve were great lads too and I don’t think they realized the potential they had, they were a pair of “lookers” and not bad players either, to use the term of the times they were the “Faces” in the band. The Drummer at the end was Henry from Wythenshawe, a former school teacher. Very witty guy!
There was a great camaraderie in the Browne’s, Tim was completely “off the wall” and would always be looking to come up with new “stage wear” for himself. These included a Gorilla suit, a Storm Trooper Uniform and on one occasion, (after reading about “Bond Girl”, Shirley Eaton being covered in Gold make up for the Gold Finger film), a pair of silver swimming trunks and a ton of silver makeup.
The band attracted a young following and was being groomed to be a chart act; most of the gigs were off the circuit that other soul bands were frequenting although occasionally we got to do the more “cool” venues. We were informed that we were to cut a record and Dempsey set about looking for songs.
The Blue Note was in the basement below Kennedy Street Artists, who managed a host of “stars”.
One such artist was Graham Goldman of the Mockingbirds and soon to be 10cc etc.
Graham had already written a number of hits and we given a song of his called “Hotel”, a great song that surprisingly never saw the charts.
I think the other side was “We’re doing’ fine”.
Around this time a new drummer, Henry, joined the Browne’s.
EMI liked the recordings and wanted to see the band live. We went to London and played at the Manchester Square Studios and a deal was offered. The chips were down and Pogue and Steve were asked to turn pro but with family pressure in evidence they declined to leave the “security” of the bank. It was decided to run down the gigs, the last one being at The Regal in Beverly Yorkshire in 1969.
After the Gig, Tim decided that he was staying in Beverly with a girl he had met at an earlier gig in Hull, what happened to him after that is unclear. As I said earlier, the last I knew of any of the lads was Paul Smith who was living and working I Hyde in the 1980’s. I have no idea where they are now; I would love to meet them again.
The last gig was at the Regal in Beverly, the writing had been on the wall for a short while and we had agreed that this one was the end, Tim had met a girl at a gig in Hull a few months earlier, Beverly was quite near Hull and at the end of the gig he went off with her, never to be seen again.
There were a few people who I remember well who were around the Browne’s, including, (I think), the one trying to make contact via the Blue Note page.
Another band assumed the name later and still do the odd gig using the name but none of those named in here were involved.
I did get a bit excited when I saw an ad for the band about a year ago but sadly it was the band that came after who had reformed and decided to use that name.
Maggie from Hull & I didn't last long & I went to live in Cambridge for a couple of years. Moved back to Bury around '71, worked as stage manager at Blightys Nighclub in Bolton & in the 80's ran a mobile disco.
In '87/'88/'89/'90 worked as dj/"animador"/winsurf instructor then worked in Switzerland, Gran Canaria, Norway, the UAE, Oman & 7 years with P&O Cruises. Now living in Lincoln, gateway to bugger-all, with Yvonne & 2 dogs Barney & Rubble.
Lot's of other stuff in between buts that's a start.
Some great gigs TFWBB did, sharing bills with Spooky Tooth, The Herd et al ... Happy daze.
I've not played for a while. Never really liked football anyroad - & my family think I'm crazy too.
Tim Conlan-Bayliss - 1/4/11
Nick Balcombe (left) and John Fogel (right) who managed "The Famous Watson Browne's Band" with Tony Owens (centre). John also ran the Bluenote Club