Pete Cowap

1944 - 1997

On the 15 May 2004, a commemorative (blue) plaque was unveiled at the Old Boars Head, Middleton, Manchester to commemorate the talent of singer, songwriter and guitarist par excellence Peter Cowap. Peters written and audio archive, compiled by Olaf Owre, can be found at Middleton reference library (online) along with a DVD of film shot over the years.

BANDS

Jimmy Justice (62-63)

The Tremors (63)

The Country Gentlemen (63-67)

The Manchester Mob (67)

The Measles (sessions) (65-67)

The Bujjies (68-69)

Peter Cowap - solo (70-71)

Hermits (71-72) 

Grumble (73)

Naviede (75-76) 

Peter Cowap - solo (70s/80s/90s)

MEMORIES

The national obsession with nostalgia finally caught up with me last week when I found some old reels of super eight films in the attic. I went to the expense of having them put on to video and to my surprise - there among the deteriorating wedding and holiday clips - was a one-minute splice of me, playing the drums with a band in Rochdale's, Springfield Park, circa 1969.

The band was led by the legendary guitarist, Pete Cowap and made up of members of Powerhouse, the Perfect Circle and other local musicians. It was a sad reminder of a much-loved, musician's musician who took his final bow on July 16 1997.

Pete had an illustrious pedigree starting with local skiffle group The Moonrakers through to The Country Gentlemen - better known as the Country Gents - and peaking with Herman's Hermits in the seventies.

After leaving the 'Gents' in the mid sixties he recorded with The Manchester Mob and High Society alongside fellow guitarist and writing partner Graham Gouldman. Graham previously wrote top ten hits for the Yardbirds, the Hollies and Herman's Hermits. It was with Graham that Pete co-wrote some of the tracks on the Hermits 67 'Blaze' album.

Sixty-eight saw him join forces with local musicians, Stan Doulson (Red Hofman) of the Measles and members of Power House to form the Bujjies. The band recorded several demo tracks, which later led to work in the Bahamas and America.

A fitting memorial to the three Middleton bands that made up the Bujjies are their individual plaques on the Cavern's wall of fame in Liverpool.

Pete's first band is also represented there.

I remember Pete releasing his single, 'Crickets' in 1970. On a TV promo he met one of the most popular television presenters of the day. The two soul mates shared the same raucous laughter and irreverent humour; the presenter's name was Basil Brush.

The following year he joined Sourmash aka Herman's Hermits. The band recorded an album entitled, 'A Whale Of A Tale' that was not released due to contractual difficulties. A couple of the tracks reflect Pete's stay on his paradise island, one in particular - 'Small Island Boy' - captures his irrepressible laughter.

Pete went solo after leaving Sourmash living off his royalties, session work and club dates; assisted by his old friend and road manager, John Dean.  Pete was as entertaining off stage as he was on and has left a legacy of good music, good memories and good friends behind, each with a classic Cowap tale to tell.

It may be six years since he passed away but his music lives on. Copies of 'Whale Of A Tale' by Sourmash and 'Vault 69', with recordings by the Bujjies, are now obtainable from www.plutomusic.com.

A video by Eric Jones and the late Dave Maxwell of Pete and fellow musicians was made shortly before he died. 'Rock Of Ages' reflects on Middleton's musical heritage - an exceptional town with a disproportionately large amount of good musicians - due in part to the influx of youngsters from Manchester to Langley.

There is also a very good quality recording under the name of 'Rambling Mad Jack' that demonstrates Pete's versatility, writing talent and prowess on the guitar.

The latter two are not readily available but hopefully their owners can be persuaded to release them before it's too late and while they still have a commercial value. It is vital that material of this calibre is not denied the audience it deserves. I wish I could share my own one-minute clip but time has taken its toll and the young lads on film are beginning to fade away; just like real life.

If anyone has any photos, tapes, film or memories of any of the bands mentioned or other Middleton musicians from the sixties, I would love to hear from you. Ring Danny on 01706 373687.

Danny Hardman

Norman, who shared a house with Pete, told me a story that typifies their life style and Peter's generosity

"I was walking up Boarshaw road one afternoon when I bumped into a long faced Peter and Mick coming in the opposite direction, when I asked them what was wrong. Peter told me that he had a gig in Heywood and couldn't get there due to lack of finances and no transport. Nay problem, said Norman, I have got a fiver left we can afford go to The Brick Layers Arms get half a lager each, then go to the flat, get Peter cleaned up, pick up his gear and then get a taxi to the gig, this they did.

Peter, of course, subbed his wages, bought the beer all night, bought the fish and chips and paid for the taxi home."


I worked with Pete in the late night pop dance band at the Poco a Poco in Stockport. The years would be around 1970 to 1973. We were a 4 some and always packed the dance floor. I can remember playing, "Stuck in the Middle with You". Great days. If you look at my web site which I have only just set up there is a feature marked Pressmen because I am sure that is what we were called.

Pete was a great guy and a real Star Player as were the other talented members of the band who I hope will contact me in due time.

Rick Henshaw 


Peter Cowap recorded three singles in 1970/71 at Strawberry Studios in Stockport. The studio was co-owned by Eric Stewart,Peter Tattersall and later, Graham Gouldman. The three singles were On Safari, Crickets and The Man With The Golden Gun. The session musicians on the songs were Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley later to become 10CC! 

Graham Long 

I had a friend called Phil Miskelly who played base guitar with Pete Cowap's Country Gents for a few gigs in the sixties.  Yes Pete Cowap was a phenominal guitarist who was admired by all in the sixties music scene.  He once told me that Chet Atkins had seen him at a gig and and complemented him on his musicianship. He was a modest guy so I don't dispute the fact.

I last saw him in the mid seventies playing at a small club on the East Lancs Road called The Ponderosa. Of all the great British guitarists I have seen he ranks with Albert Lee as the best.

Barry Speed 

Coming from the Regent Hotel, it was a still warm night and the sound had travelled all over the place. At first I thought it was a group playing but when I went in to the hotel I saw Pete playing on his own with his black Gibson coming through a Peavey twin speaker guitar amp and his mic. 

That's all the gear he had with him and he sounded great. I was a fan of Pete from that moment. I still don't know how one man could produce a finger picking sound like that to this day,no one could pick a guitar like Pete could.

I became friends with Pete and took him to a lot of gigs he played because he had no transport. Pete moved into a flat next door to me and I saw him most days. The Isle of Man was booming in those days with plenty of work for musicians.

Pete could make you laugh. He said to me one morning "Did you hear the racket out on the street last night?" He said he was in bed and someone was banging on the front door. "I jumped out of bed, ran down and opened the door and there was a copper standing there!"

"The copper started smirking then I realised I was stark naked. Anyway the copper told me to go back to bed as it was the wrong door he had knocked on". Pete had me in stitches. Pete is really missed - he gave us all very happy memories of the years he spent on the island.

Dave Wallace 18/3/09 

Pete was a true legend who I had first met in the early 60s when he was with the Country Gents and I was fronting The Emperors of Rhythm.

When I returned from Australia in 1980 to my roots in Rochdale, I reformed the Emperors,with Leo Laherty on drums, Brian from Rhodes on bass and the excellent Steve Jones (ex Civvy Street) on lead,and we packed the Lancashire Lass on Edenfield Road, Cutgate,every Tuesday for several months.

After I had moved to Southport in 1981, I had some gigs at Rochdale Football Club to raise money for my struggling team and recruited Bernie Byrnes on drums, Maurice (MO) Critchlow on bass,and Pete Cowap on lead, who I used to pick up on the way and take home after.

Packed houses to really enthusiastic and appreciative crowds followed with Pete opening up with his beloved MATCHBOX (Carl Perkins) and then backing me on my favourite Cochran and Vincent numbers. Heaven!!

Knowing that I had supported Gene Vincent and that I was a big fan of his, Pete really enjoyed my renditions of SAY MAMA, WILDCAT and SHE LITTLE SHEILA and the biggest compliment that I have ever received was Pete telling me that he just wanted to stand behind me and be my Cliff Gallup (BLUE CAPS lead guitarist),WOW!!

We then added Sparkie on keyboards and the band was really cooking, featuring numbers by Jerry Lee Lewis and The Band. Great times, fond and happy memories and after being backed by some excellent guitarists,such as Pete Bantoft (Javelins), Vic Farrell (Emperors), Les Hilton and Alan Doyle (Opposition), Frank (Corvettes )and Steve Jones, this was the culmination and the crowning glory of my Rock n Roll career in Manchester,and even though I went on to sing with Jimmy Paige, Big Jim Sullivan and Vic Flick at Decca Recordings with The Gibsons and then Tommy Emannuel in Australia, Pete Cowap will always be high on my list.

Please let me know of any celebrations and reunions, regards to anyone who may remember me.

Paul Stevens - 21/5/11 

I knew Pete nearly all my life and I first saw him in a group was when he was one of the supporting groups along with the Hollies when the Beatles came to Middleton at the CO-OP Hall.

I joined a group in Manchester, The Good Guys as a singer and I asked Pete what equipment should I buy and he told me while we were watching a show in Manchester where Chuck Berry was the main act and the Swinging Blue Jeans were one of the supporting groups He told me to get a T.V.M. amplifier with Marshall speakers and a Shure Microphone.

I used to see Peter regularly in the Jolly Butcher at Bowlee and we used to have a nice chat about everyday things. One of the best days I had with Pete was outside the Minders Arms in Middleton Junction when he did a jam session with Frank Boardman who was one of Karl Denver's backing group in the past.

David Murphy - 1/3/12 

My dad was a friend of Petes for years and used to go on a lot of his local gigs with him and got him some gigs also in prestwich and surrounding areas. The featured picture from Paul Sutton was taken by my dad, we have the original.

We also have the tape of Rambling Mad Jack, have had for years! If anyone wants to hear it, I am going to try and get it onto a disc and share it with the world, so no one forgets him :)

Kelly Longshaw - 9/2/13

My dad Allen Foster (born 1938 in Liverpool, moved to the Isle of Man 30 years ago with his guitar) sadly died yesterday after a long illness. 

He always told us stories about Pete Cowap who was his "friend who could play the guitar like you've never seen", he worshipped the man!

I just found this page, scrolled down to the bottom, and found a photo of four people sitting, dad wearing a brown jacket.  So pleased to find this and he would have absolutely loved it. Thank you x 

Ali Foster - 26/7/11

Pete's Biography by Bruce Eder

Peter Cowap was one of the more successful guitarist-songwriters to come out of Manchester, England. Born in Middleton, he reached his teens as rock & roll was starting to get a hold on British youth, and at age 15, he was already prepared to turn professional. He later toured in bands supporting Marty Wilde and Joe Brown, in addition to playing with two Manchester-based groups, the Tremors and Jimmy Justice's band.

In the early 1960s, he organized the Country Gentlemen, an R&B-based trio that also included Nick Duval (bass) and Leo Larty (drums). They were successful enough to tour Germany, and in late 1963 were signed to Decca Records, through which they released a single of "Greensleeves" b/w "Baby Jean." Cowap arranged the A-side, a rock & roll adaptation of the Tudor-era song.

Although his writing and arranging would become bigger parts of his career from the mid-'60s onward, at that time it was his playing -- which has been described as a combination of Buddy Holly's and Chet Atkins' styles -- that was getting increasingly recognized. The group eventually became a quartet with the addition of guitarist Terry Morton, and future Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders' bassist Rod Clare also passed through the Country Gentlemen before they broke up in the mid-'60s.

By that time, Cowap was writing songs and also beginning to work as an arranger, and starting a long working relationship with Graham Gouldman, a member of the Mockingbirds who had already embarked on a highly successful songwriting career. Cowap's music, composed alone or in collaboration with Gouldman and others, soon began turning up on the recordings of the Measlesthe Downliners Sect, ex-Searchers lead singer/bassist Tony Jackson, and Wayne Fontana in England, and even provided an A-side for the debut recording by the New York-based pop-soul-folk outfit the Pop Art, in the form of the song "Rumpelstiltzkin."

When Gouldman left the Mockingbirds in 1966, he formed a group called High Society, with Cowap in the lineup. After one attempt at a hit single, that group fell by the wayside, and Gouldman and Cowap soon reappeared as part of the Manchester Mob, a more rock & roll-oriented outfit whose sound was filled out by the playing of Clem Cattini on the drums and John Paul Jones on bass. 

Cowap had also played and sung on recordings by Herman's Hermits from 1965 onward, and his songwriting credit also turned up on a pair of songs, "Last Bus Home" and "Ace, King, Queen, Jack." from Blaze, the most serious and ambitious album ever issued by the group. 

In 1970, Cowap was signed to a contract as a solo artist in his own right, and he cut records for the Pye label. starting with "Crickets," released in August of 1970. He released three singles through Pye, none of which charted, and then, in 1971, his career took another unexpected turn when he was recruited as a replacement/successor for Herman's Hermits' lead singer Peter Noone, following the latter's exit from the band.

This led to some new recordings produced by Eric Stewart at Strawberry Studios, including a complete LP of new material, heavily featuring Cowap's songs. He left the Hermits almost two years later, and formed a band called Grumble, but they didn't succeed or last. From the mid-'70s onward, Cowap pursued a solo career.

He passed away in 1997, but retains a loyal following among fans of the broader Manchester-spawned output of Graham Gouldman and 10cc, as well as Herman's Hermits.

 

cowap review

Here is an interesting thing on Manchester’s Peter Cowap from a new 3CD box set (July 2020) issued by Grapefruit called 'Peephole In My Brain - The British Progressive Pop Sounds Of 1971'. Although a little outside of the 1960s, the reference to Peter Cowap is interesting - not least as the single ‘Safari’ was pushed on the Basil Brush Show!

Tony Burke - 9 Sept 2020 

 The image gallery contains images taken at the unveiling of Pete's Blue Plaque at the Old Boar's Head, Middleton.

The plaque was unveiled on Saturday 15th May at the Old Boars Head by his old friend, Stan (Red Hofman) Doulson. There was an open invitation to all his friends and fellow musicians to come along and join in - which, as can be seen from the photos below, was taken up by many.

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