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MUSICAL HISTORY
 

Gerry's Story

I was born and bought up in Birmingham. At the tender age of five I appeared in a pantomime at a local social club, blacking my face up and impersonating Al Jolson. Receiving applause from an enthusiastic audience gave me the bug to become a performer. I started school at Albert Rd Infants in Aston and enjoyed every lesson with music in it but wasn’t very clever in anything else except for sport. I left Albert Rd at the grand age of 11 and went to Upper Thomas Street school which was also in Aston. Thomas Street had a great reputation for all sports. I was pleased to be recruited for the school football team and played in goal. I also enjoyed boxing for the school and for the holt, a famous club in its day who trained many champions in amateur boxing. Because of my interests in music the choices were between sport or entertainment and entertainment won .

I borrowed my first guitar but had to give it back. I used to take it to school and play it in the playground and sing to my classmates. When they realised I was serious about it Mom and my Brother Geoff, went into Westwoods Music in John Bright Street, Birmingham and got me a Hofner Committe guitar on the knock....5 bob down..............probably still paying for it!! One of my first gigs was playing at the Youth Club in Perry Barr with John Watson (my bothers mate), plugged into a tape recorder for the PA! So when I reached fourteen 14 I became part of a group and for fun we played at Birchfield Rd school Youth Club. The members of the band were Mike Cassell, John Matthews and John Watson with myself on guitar and vocals. John Watson who played guitar and I stayed together and took on new members: Mike alias Sprike Hopkins on lead guitar Alan Bennett on drums and a guy from Northfield (can’t remember his name) who was supposed to play bass but did not plug it in. After another change around Jim Onslow a great bass player complete with a Mini Bus arrived on the scene. Then Graeme Edge also joined the band on drums.

 

Gerry at 17

Ken Smith (the Promoter of Maney Hall) became our Manager and gave us the impromptu name of 'Cliff Angel & The Virtues' at a gig, then changing it to Gerry Levene & The Avengers. We started playing all the pubs in Brum until I met an engineer at the West End Ballroom who fixed us up with a date to play there. We turned up & set up the gear and then the Manager came up to us rather confused asking "who are you?". He had no idea that we were even coming, but said that we might as well play now we were there. As it turned out we ended up being the resident band every Wednesday & Saturday lunch times as well as other evening bookings.

Jim Onslow(Bass) John Watson(Rythym Guit) Gerry Levene(Vocals) Graham Edge(Drums) Mike Hopkin'sprike'(Lead Guit)

Our Manager Ken, then moved to Liverpool and started booking us on the Liverpool circuit, so we would do the West End Ballroom on the lunch-time and then such venues as The Cavern in Liverpool on the evening. The first time we ever played at The Cavern was with a group called 'Big 3' and Graham stood watching them 'open mouthed' as their drummer was fantastic.

John Watson left the band to be replaced by a young chap by the name of Roy Wood (Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders, The Move, ELO & Wizard). It was at this time that we auditioned for EMI and Decca on the same afternoon at the Plaza in Handsworth and actually had a choice of which record company to go with. We chose Decca, which was then managed by Phill & Dorothy Solomon who also had a group called 'The Bachelors'. We recorded 'Do You Love Me', 'Twist & Shout' and 'Dr Feelgood' and released Dr Feelgood. As it happens Brian Pool & The Tremeloes released the other two songs (with our changed lyrics) and had No.1's with both songs. Just our luck but that's how it was in those days.

This band worked well and we also appeared on 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', but unfortunately no pictures of the this line-up with Roy Wood exist. In pursuit of wanting to play lead guitar, Roy left to join Mike Sheridan & The Nightriders and was replaced by Peter Cook who was a blind keyboard player form West Bromwich. Pete left the band and eventually went on to work for BBC2 on programmes like Stramash. The other 2 also left at this time to join The Diplomats, so Graham & I went on to form a new band with Denny Laine called the M & B5 which became The Moody Blues. I backed down from the Moody Blues following a disagreement with Denny. Jim Onslow eventually went on to play with Raymond Froggatt and Mike Hopkins joined Magnum.

A band up a running at the time called The Chicanes joined me and eventually became The Avengers. Following this various members come and went over the years until I hung up my lame coat to work full-time for Top Rank.

The Chicanes & Gerry

Not long after, in around 1968 producer/engineer Bill Farley of Regents Sound put together 'Crossbones' consisting of James Parsons, Les Fortnham, Mike Millard and myself and on the Penny Farthing label we released 'Shakin All Over'.

James Parsons, Les Fortnham, Mike Millard & front Gerry Levene...............CROSSBONES

Next came The Hinge, this was a duo with myself and Chris Sedgewick recording original songs such as 'The Village Postman & 'You'd Better Go Home'. Peter Lee Sterling (better known later as Daniel Boone - 'Beautiful Sunday') wrote one of the B sides.

The Hinge................Gerry & Chris Sedgewick

It was at this time that I started to record for Pye under the solo name of David Lincoln. Bill Farley said that Gerry Levene sounded like a jewish tailor and so came the name change and in 1970 I had the great pleasure of recording 'Hold Back The Daybreak' (John McCloud/Tony McCaulay) with a 50 piece orchestra.

In 1974 I joined a group formed by Jim Onslow called the Rockin Rockets Road Review which was a huge group of musicians who performed an impressions show. It consisted of Big Al Johnson (Guitar), Jim Onslow (Bass), Mike Alexander(Keyboards), Nick Pentelow(Sax), Dave Hollis(Drums), Danny King(vocals), Gerry Levene(vocals),Mike Sheridan(vocals) & Brenda Bosworth(vocals). This band toured colleges and clubs, but was mainly based at Barbarellas. It didn't last long as too many people to pay, but great fun and a great show that stormed it every time. The remnants of this band became Cirkus in which I was the 'straightman'.

Gerry, Mike Sheridan, Dave Giffiths, Roger Bromley, Dave Pritchard.

For many years that followed I spent time doing bits and peices in the music business mainly business ventures (see 'Other ventures'), but during the last years spent a long time battling with bowel cancer.

 

Gerry with Mike Sheridan at a Holly Trust dance.

As a result of this I became totally involved in working for the Holly Trust Bowel Cancer Charity and much of my time consisted of running charity shows. Now having come through this I have recently embarked on playing solo gigs again and running dance nights (see 'Here & Now'). Music has always played a major role in my life and always will

Gerry Levene

 

 
 
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