Something In The Water?!
A Short Story Of The Idle
Race... Part One
The story of the Idle Race has its roots in the late fifties with the Birmingham band, Billy King and the Nightriders...
After numerous personnel changes, including the departure of Billy King, the band changed their name to Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders and the lineup settled to 'Big Al' Johnson on guitar, Mike Sheridan (ex-Dakotas, ex-Checkers) on vocals, Brian Cope on bass, Dave Pritchard (ex-Planets) on rhythm guitar and Roger Spencer (ex-Hound Dogs) on drums.
With the 'Mersey' sound emanating from Liverpool
(The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Hermins Hermits etc.) and well established in the UK, Record producer Norrie Paramor thought that it would be a great idea to emulate the phenomenon in Birmingham, England's second biggest city.
Hundreds of hopeful bands gathered at 'The Moathouse Club' and it was here where Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders were given the chance to make a record...
After a couple of unsuccessful singles including a cover of the Motown classic "Please Mr. Postman" which had only just been a hit for the Beatles, Greg Masters joined on bass and the band looked for a replacement for 'Big Al' Johnson on lead guitar. In 1964 auditions were held and a young lad from Solihul got the gig... His name of course was Roy Wood (ex-Falcons, ex-Lawmen).
Wood made an immediate impact on the band's sound convincing them to get into harmonies, look for a wider variety of material to perform and to work harder at their craft. A measure of his influence can be heard on their first single with him in their lineup, a cover of the Shirelles song "What A Sweet Thing That Was".
this period the band delved into the realms of comedy on stage, featuring
Roy's infamous impersonations of Donovan and a killer Dusty Springfield
routine which saw Woody attired in a blonde wig and pink feather boa!
The blonde wig was later to resurface during the early incarnation of
ELO when Roy would generously cover the rug in talcum powder and would
magically become Old Father Time (but that
as they say is another story)!
recorded one more single under the guise of Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders
before deciding that maybe a name change would lift their fortunes and
so Mike Sheridan's Lot they became.
Two singles were released with the flip side to the first featuring
first composition "Make
Pritchard, Spencer, Masters, and Mann continued to exist together under the more appropriate name of The Nightriders and secured a recording contract with Polydor. However, Mann left the band after the first recording session at Pye Studios and was replaced by a teenager hailing from Shard End, Jeff Lynne (ex-Tinkerbells Fairydust, ex-Chantells, ex-Andycaps & The Chads).
The Nightriders returned to Pye Studios to repeat the session with Lynne on lead guitar with the resulting single, "It's Only The Dog" backed with "Your Friend" being released in November of 1966.
Before leaving the group, Johnny Mann taught the young Jeff how to get the 'violin sound' on his guitar that can be heard on "Your Friend", a technique which Jeff was to use to great effect on later Idle Race tracks.
On the 4th of April,1966, Jeff Lynne played his first professional gig with The Nightriders at 'The Belfry' in Birmingham.
Neither song bore any resemblance as to what was to follow and despite the subsequent "Nightriders" release, the band saw themselves moving in a new direction. Pritchard had been writing original material and saw Lynne as a promising front man for the band. With the new image came a new name and by May 1966 the band had become the Idyll Race which very quickly mutated into the Idle Race.
A Short Story Of The Idle Race Continues...