Palm Springs (Just another four-Ken cabaret group)

Check out their gig diary

Line-up 

  • John "Ken" Harvey - drums
  • Mike "Ken"Fogg - lead guitar/vocals
  • John "Ken"Blight - bass/vocals
  • Marc "Ken" Klein (Bill Snape) - vocals
  • Paul Cropper - roadie

Formed from the remnants of a semi-pro group called Slipped Disc who, as I learned on the first gig, two members actually did have slipped discs, so to my dismay I carried yet more gear and learned another lesson.

One of the two guitarists in Slipped Disc wore an outrageous wig to hide his rampant alopecia, and if he could he would hide off-stage whilst we were playing, he was so shy. We realized that he really was not a great asset in our ‘cool’ band. He got the order of The Elbow!

I can’t recall why we parted company with Dave Williams but fairly soon after we needed a new lead singer, one with drive and charisma. So we auditioned for such and ended up with Bill Snape, who for some odd reason called himself Marc Klein.

I remember me saying to Mike Fogg (lead guitar/vocals) and John Blight (bass/vocals) as we sat in some bus shelter, “OK he’s well full of himself but he does have drive and personality." 

So we rehearsed a lot and got pretty good pretty quick, we were a musically proficient bunch, really into it. Bill had a really great voice, was a fairly cool dude up front and the ladies seemed to like him. Mike and John were excellent backing vocalists doing good leads also. Oh and me as well bashing me four skins!

We started getting the odd gig for ourselves till we felt ourselves ready for the “Big Time”.

I think the first agent we signed up with was called Bob Crossley. He was based in Ashton on Mersey in Sale. 

The group went through some amusing oh so ‘70’s name changes at this time I recall as it semi-proed around Manchester and the surrounding districts. Let’s see… St Morritz, The 1812 Band and more. I don’t think we included Crème Brulé but I cannot be sure ;)

The 1812 name was funny; we intended to do a rock version of the 1812 overture but never actually ever got it together so obviously we had to sack that idea plus get another name!

Eventually called Palm Springs, we got on L.E. Agency’s books as a, what they called “top drawer act”. This was apparently very good so I recall we were suitably chuffed.

William Leyland was an odd sort of guy; he reminded me of a decadent scout group master. He had three catch phrases… “Let me remind YOU", "I am MOST impressed" and "Where’s my COMMISSION”.  He had two irritating habits, he would casually sort his bits out whilst sat talking to you, plus at the drop of a hat he would salaciously chase pert buttocked Mike Fogg around the recording studio, poor Mike was easy meat being all wired up and all!

My day-job in those days was a gas-fitter/plumber. Once I was re-plumbing the LE office at the same time as doing a recording session for The Rhyl Silver Band. (Ironically this corny ditty, Rhyls-Ville is Thrillsville, was the only recording of any Palm Springs member to go to press and was apparently played on Radio 2… Jaysus H)!

When I got the call I had to quickly wriggle out of me boiler suit, have a quick wash-up and leap into the drum-booth trying to look like a professional session muso. William Leyland told me to “look expensive, I am charging them a lot for you”. At the end of the day I earned a measly £12 for the session but a bumper £45 for the plumbing… Mmm I should have learned something right then. 

For those days L.E. was fairly high-tech. We would record a medley of three or four tunes in the studio, and later in some more groovy setting we would desperately try to realistically mime to the recording whilst being video filmed (we were notably shyte)! William armed with this advanced technology would then hawk us around the clubs.

So we got busy and it was decision time for two of us who had proper jobs, so Palm Springs went pro.

We did some photo shoots with hysterical results - we were pretty naff at that stuff. Once we had a temporary member so instead of redoing the photos we just glued an old picture of him on our existing group shot, if you looked very closely you would notice that the guy did not have any legs at all. 

In an old 1978 diary I now read, ‘8 pm Wednesday 8th November Rebecca’s Disco, Bury (£40.00 pick-up)… An entry on the same page reads, finish at Gas Board today ‘boo-hoo’.

We had a recording deal you see - our chance to hit the ‘The Big Time’. This deal was arranged by two of Bill Snape’s associates, these lads were like a couple of characters from the ‘Little Britain’ TV show, they were as dodgy as one of Bill’s MOT certificates but at least they tried!

A song written by Steve Kipner was offered to us, so the lads went to London to record it with Ossie Byrne, the Bee Gees producer.  Nat Kipner, Steve’s Dad who was involved in the hit ‘Too Much Too Little Too Late’ for Johnnie Mathis and Senita was also about. However all this promise quickly evaporated when the writer upon hearing the arrangement the Palm Springs boys had done on his tune, nicked it back and buggered off to America, never to be seen or heard of again.

I don’t really recall too much of this disappointing episode as the drums were already down so I didn’t even go.

So sod the big time! We hit the road, happy just make a living from music.

We seemed never away from the Lake District or the North East, wey aye man we did loads of those ‘canny clubs’; all had their concert rooms up on the first floor. We reckoned those vicious metal grated steps were craftily donated by local cosmetic surgeries for a steady supply of skin graft material.

Life on the road

We actually camped at Finhcale Priory near Durham one week to cut costs. Last show Sunday night, our white stage clothes were by now spattered with campsite mud, we were thrashed and totally ‘baked-beaned out’, plus some bastard nicked me fishing rod! John Blight rang the agent prior to the last gig just to ‘check in’, the agent said in an excited voice, “Great news lads we have got you a second week up there”.

We were so silenced by this great news you could have heard a tent peg drop! Or maybe something even much quieter… like Mike Fogg offering to get a round in? 

Mid-week gigs were the pits

One Wednesday night we had to turn the volume down so low that whilst we were on our dramatic spine-tingling finale (I was by now using brushes!). We clearly heard our audience, these three old ladies moaning about the volume and how our PA system stack had put their Bingo cards in the shade!

Spotting the irony we instantly stopped playing the tune, and all in perfect timing told them to “Be quiet” or similar! And we just carried on playing as if nothing had happened.

One 3 nighter at Barrow’s 99 Club, the owner said we were "nowt special", so we told him to lock us in the club all the next day and we would come up with summat special. Luckily we did, so being an amenable sort of guy, did not pay us off. 

Anyone remember Bob The Docker?

He ran some place in the North East. Driving to this club we naively mused that he must have worked on the docks. Nope! That was his nickname, if he didn’t like you he would dock your money, the twat!

And to that Liberal Club concert secretary in Crewe. Yes, your beer did indeed taste like piss that night, serves you right “Yer miserable get”! 

Strippers

Did you know that drummers get the best views when backing strippers? This is a little known fact, I don’t mean all the nooks and bumps although they are ve-rry nice. No, whilst the poor girl is waiving her arse at the audience she is forced to look directly into the drummers face usually about 4 feet away!

This did one of two things to me… looking into my eyes whilst gyrating their bits all about, well that’s an obvious turn on! But some made me laugh by rolling their eyes in mock boredom or maybe pulling funny faces, this was far sexier to me, whilst checking out their lady bumps at the same time… natch!  

There was this black girl once dressed in top hat and tails, she wanted us to do Mack The Knife but the best we could do for her was an unintentionally ironical ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’. I won't ever forget the look of sheer hatred SHE was giving me from only 4 feet away.

Ah well some you win some you lose ;-)

Good advice to any promoters: the musicianship of the stage band degenerates commensurate with the sensuality of the lady artiste they are backing. Oh, and do not supply free beer to the band. This is really very unwise!

Groupies 

Groupies can steal your gig money as well did you know that? Yes some girl nicked our money from the dressing room, unlucky? Well yes, but the very next day one of us found a wad of cash on the pavement, phew that’s lucky. It was loose notes with no ID so we ‘ad it away, well we were desperate man! (Don’t call and try to claim it back; I will want the note numbers)! 

A job with travel

We never went anywhere exotic unless you call oil and MOD bases on The Shetland Isles such; we had never met so many drunks incarcerated on one little island before this bizarre trip. We went there twice for our sins truly a weird place in the Arctic Circle; their island hopping ferries were just frightening, like driving onto a posh little raft.

Bill, like all lead singers must just had to cop-off, we were a bit worried when he told us that the girl was the Vicar of Lerwick’s daughter. Luckily Billy did a tidy job; we had visions of paddling our overturned 6 wheel Trannie van back to the Mainland chased by coracles full of indignant Shetland folk.

Oh yes we went, as a package deal with Phil ‘Cool’ Martin, a wonderfully great and pleasantly surreal comedy impressionist who really did ‘make it’… TV series etc. Sadly his bruv died whilst we were on The Shetlands. He was skint so Palm Springs paid the £90 to send him home - he did pay us back I think!

This was bad for us; we spent the rest of the week fiercely arguing over the reduced entertainment package at each venue. Yet another nightmare, which we all manfully left to John ‘the Bass’ Blight. 

Unfortunately just prior to the second Shetland fiasco, Bill and me had a punch up in the van whilst rattling down the East Lancs coming home from The St Helen’s Glass Social Club.

We had an offer a residency in some South African hotel gig believe it or not. We had not had a great night at the Glass club - Bill had been gallivanting again, we were on the second spot and he still had not come on stage, fourth number in and we were getting short of songs without him.

On the way home following a tense silence he said ”So what do you think of South Africa then”? I said that I wouldn’t go to effing Southport with him the way he’d shaped up… he nutted me, and for the first time and the last I hope I saw bright red, I ended up actually sat on the steering wheel trying to punch out his lights.

As he was the duty driver at the time he wisely pulled the van up to beat me up far more safely and much more thoroughly on the hard shoulder. 

So that really was the end of the Palm Springs story.

We had to carry on to pay off our debts, one Bill-type member shortly jumped ship so Mike, John and myself had to carry on as a three piece for a few more months to finish paying off our dues.

Sad end I suppose, we really were very good but Hey-Ho there you go, and it was yonks ago.

We had a lot of fun and stopped loads of beer going to waste.

John Harvey 

This tale is just to relate the story of “just some band” traipsing around the country back in the 70’s. Well OK yeah also to level up the score within The Manchester Beat website between the “Stars” and the “also-rans”, as requested by my bestest new friend and webmaster Paul Mlynarz.

Oh, another memory just pops up. John is a real character. He pretended to be gay for well over a month just to wind Snapey up, he didn't even confide in a very worried Mike Fogg who he had known since Primary School. Bill had had enough and eventually he pulled the van up and shouted "Are you a f**king queer or what Ken? There's no way I am staying in a band with some shirt-lifter". (we were all called Ken, see below). John just teased his Afro and gazed out of the van window... Brilliant!

‘Just some Four-Ken Cabaret Band’. I suppose I should explain this.

One night proudly displayed behind the bar of some club we saw written in the usual large felt tip on yellow day-glow forthcoming attractions poster. ‘The Fabulous, the one and only, direct from the etc. etc… Ken Martel’.

We thought Martel was a cool stagey sort of name but Ken… Ken for F*ck’s sake. Well it tickled us all so much that it stuck, and for a year or more we called each other Ken, and anyone else for that matter.

This did lead to some on-stage confusion ie. “Come on Ken put some effing life into it” from Bill the singer could have all Kens speeding up from where ever they thought they were at that time. So after some discussion, Ken was outlawed from the Four-Ken band.

Thanks and R.I.P Ken. You and The Derek & Clive tapes helped us more than you will ever know.

Viewer's comments

Iv'e just read your condensed biography (whilst having a break from preparing documents for a major court case) and I could almost hear the laughter eminating from the screen. It truly is a good and amusing read. What a shame we get older and encounter mortgages, kids and credit cards. You will however, always have your memories. Good health and good fortune! Thanks to the beatmeister for publishing it.

Steve Baylis - 6/2/11

As Concert Secretary at Bankhall Miners Club I would like to say that Palm Springs were my favourite comedy act. They wowed the audience with their parodies of out-of-date songs, purposefully singing them out of tune and wearing those ridiculous clothes. Of course some of the audience thought they were a real group but I knew the truth. What a laugh!

A Uppourkid - 31/2/13

Dear Sir, re: the internationally acclaimed Palm Springs.

Considering the paltry 17 shillings and sixpence you paid us to entertain that hut full of morons I think we gave great value for money. It was common knowledge that if you were crap, ahem, outside their "comfort zone", they all buggered off after the Bingo and pies to get the last bus anyway, cummon what do you bloody want from us Artists?

Also regarding your beach; it really was so-oo uncomfy... I recall at the time that photograph was taken we did consider a re-booking in maybe 10,000 years by which time those boulders may have degraded down to fine golden sand? (Just a thought).

BTW were you really at the Bankhall Miners' Club? I have a recording of the DJ on one night we did there, Whoo-ooo!It could be you....

Yours sincerely, The Grub of Ken, (Oh ask Paul it's a long and complicated story)

 

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