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Showaddywaddy - Rock 'n' Roll Revivalists

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Showaddywaddy in action

In the early 1970s two pub bands toured small venues in Leicester. One group was a four-piece band called Choise who played their own songs, written in a rock 'n' roll style. Their members were:

  • Dave Bartram (vocals)
  • Romeo Challenger (drums)
  • Trevor Oakes (guitar)
  • Al James (bass)

The second group, also a four-piece, were called The Golden Hammers and they played 1950s and 1960s covers. Their members were:

  • Buddy Gask (vocals)
  • Malcolm Allured (drums)
  • Russ Field (guitar)
  • Rod Deas (bass)

In 1973 the two bands met in the Fosse Way pub. They would listen to each other's music and occasionally they would jam together. In mid-1973 the two groups decided to join together permanently to form an eight-piece. They chose a name from the backing vocals of a song they had written called 'Hey Rock 'n' Roll,' and Showaddywaddy were born.

Everybody's talkin' 'bout the world's greatest rock and roll band

Their reputation spread quickly and they were talent-spotted by a show called New Faces, the Pop Idol of its time. Their first television appearance was a huge success. Dressed in what would become their trademark multi-coloured jackets they won their heat and progressed to the All Winners' Final. They were runners-up in the final, but the exposure they generated led to a rush amongst record companies to sign them up. They signed to Bell records, a label that had Gary Glitter and the Bay City Rollers amongst their high-profile artists. Their first single, 'Hey Rock and Roll' written by Dave Bartram and Trevor Oakes (but credited to the entire band) was released in April 1974, with Buddy Gask on lead vocals. It reached number two and spent 14 weeks on the chart. Showaddywaddy were on their way. In fact, they were chosen as David Cassidy's support act for his 1974 British tour on the strength of that debut success.

Looking back on the things we did

After their initial success, Showaddywaddy tried their luck with more self-penned tracks that were a part of Choise's repertoire. The next three tracks were respectable hits with 'Rock 'n' Roll Lady,' 'Hey Mr Christmas' and 'Sweet Music' all reaching the top 15. None of them had the impact of their debut, but their colour and sense of tongue-in-cheek fun meant that they were regulars on television during 1974 and 1975. As well as this they toured extensively and improved their already well-regarded live show. Despite their relative success, the group were looking for the secret ingredient that would take them to the next level. They found this secret ingredient, but it would prove to be a double-edged sword.

The formula for heaven's very simple

In May 1975, Showaddywaddy decided to cover the Eddie Cochran song 'Three Steps to Heaven.' It was released, and became a huge hit, repeating success of their debut which reached number two. Soon afterwards they released 'Heartbeat' which was another top ten hit. Unfortunately for the group's songwriting ambitions, the next two singles - 'Heavenly' and 'Trocadero' - virtually sank without trace, barely scraping into the Top 40. This meant that they reached the latter half of 1976 desperately needing a big hit to resurrect their chart career. They went back to the covers and chose a little known track from the 1950s called Under The Moon of Love. Released into the competitive Christmas market, it surpassed all expectations. It was an enormous hit - their biggest-selling record and their only number one. It only missed out on the coveted title of Christmas number one when Johnny Mathis stole the top spot on Christmas Eve. Dave Bartram was still irritated about this when interviewed 25 years later! However, it had saved Showaddywaddy's chart career, even if it meant that record companies would never again take a risk on the self-penned tracks that Bartram and Oakes would occasionally pitch. Under The Moon of Love would be the first of seven consecutive top five records for the rock 'n' rollers from Leicester.

You got what it takes to satisfy

During 1977 and 1978 six singles were released. They were all covers and all were top five hits. By now, Dave Bartram was the unquestioned lead vocalist and Romeo Challenger was the drummer, leaving Buddy Gask and Malcolm Allured filling in on backing vocals. This change in the balance of power apparently left the former members of The Golden Hammers feeling somewhat resentful, behind the scenes at least.

During these two years the eight-piece group were becoming favourites throughout the UK with their energetic and spectacular live show. The set would start with a recording of the Dambusters March that announced to the expectant crowd that the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Show (as they billed themselves) was about to start. Guitarists Trevor Oakes and Russ Field would then appear on stage to start a rock version of Hall of the Mountain King, followed by Al James and Russ Deas, the bassists, then Romeo Challenger and Malcolm Allured on drums. Finally, the two vocalists, Dave Bartram and Buddy Gask would arrive on stage to share vocal duties on 'Dancing Party' or 'Hey Rock 'n' Roll.' For the next two hours the audience would be caught up in the excitement of a real rock 'n' roll show from eight showmen. It was in these live gigs that the doubling-up came into its own. With three or four members of the group on instruments the rest could perform brilliantly-choreographed dance moves, often involving lifts and jumps that required strength and timing the equal of professional dancers. It also allowed each member of the group rest periods that enabled them to keep their levels up throughout such a high-energy show. It was a tribute to their authenticity that rock 'n' rollers from the fifties turned up in their crepes and drapes1 and freely admitted that Showaddywaddy were the equal of any of the acts from the 1950s. Audiences ranged in age from young children to pensioners, and the original good time was had by all.

A little bit of soap will never wash away the memories

As with most groups, Showaddywaddy found that their chart success could not last forever. Eight more minor hits in the years 1979 - 1982 would spell the end for a group that were being seen as increasingly unfashionable in the era of new wave and punk. However, after 'Who Put the Bomp?' fell out of the charts in 1982, Showaddywaddy could look back on a very respectable 209 weeks in the UK singles chart and no fewer than nine top five hits, becoming Europe's most successful ever rock 'n' roll band. This chart success led to more than 50 appearances on Top of the Pops. As well as this they were the first Western band to be shown live on television in Cuba. The Queen Mother put in a special request to meet the band after a Royal Variety Performance. They went back to doing what they did best, playing live and winning new generations of fans. The line-up has changed over the years, but Showaddywaddy settled down in the 1990s with the four original members of Choise, plus Rod Deas from The Golden Hammers and a new lead guitarist, Danny Wilson. Over 30 years after they first started, Showaddywaddy are still going strong, releasing records and dreaming of one more hit. Time will tell if that happens, but their place in popular culture was cemented when Del Boy tried to sell copies of Greatest Hits 1976 - 78 in an episode of Only Fools and Horses, to the delight of the band themselves!

1Crepe-soled shoes and drape jackets

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