Walsall and Wolverhampton

Steve Brett and The Mavericks 1965

Line up, up to 1964
Steve Brett lead vocal, guitar
Rick Dene bass guitar
Gary James drums
Robert Nelson lead guitar
Dave Holland bass guitar

Line-up after 1964 (formerly known as The Memphis Cut-Outs)
Pete Bickley bass guitar, vocal
Phil Burnell guitar, vocal
Noddy Holder lead guitar, vocal
Gerry Kibble drums
Terry Taylor saxophone

Steve Davies (Brett) who grew up in Wolverhampton, was a talented and popular singer in the West Midlands during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He and his backing group “The Mavericks” were winners of the “Big Beat” contest which was held at the Gaumont Cinema in 1962. The line-up of the Mavericks at this time consisted of bass guitarist Rick Dene, drummer Gary James, and lead guitarist Rob Nelson (Lightwood). Steve Brett and The Mavericks were broadcast on Television during the early 1960s, appearing regularly in the program For Teenagers Only which raised their profile considerably throughout the area.

Steve Brett and The Mavericks went over to Germany in 1963 where they performed in the same clubs that The Beatles had been booked at only the year before. At this time, the Mavericks bass guitarist was Dave Holland from Wolverhampton who would later go on to become world famous in jazz music circles as bassist for Miles Davis amongst many others.

By the end of 1964, the original Mavericks had split up so Steve Brett assembled a “new” Mavericks backing-group which consisted of a Walsall band, previously known as The Memphis Cut-Outs. The origins of this group go back to the early 1960s in Walsall, West Midlands when some school friends formed a group called The Phantoms. The members were Mick Aulton on drums, Phil Burnell on rhythm guitar, Kenny Holland on bass guitar and Neville “Noddy” Holder on vocal and lead guitar.

Noddy Holder was born on June 15, 1946. His father liked to sing in the local pubs and his mother played the violin. An early influence on the young Noddy was American singer Al Jolson whom he imitated from an early age, and when Noddy was 12 years old, his father bought him an old spanish guitar. With the advent of rock ‘n’ roll, Noddy took some lessons from local jazz guitarist Freddy Degville before forming The Phantoms who would play 1950s style rock ‘n’ roll and Shadows numbers, performing mainly at youth clubs.

Despite being involved with his band, Noddy persevered at school and managed to obtain six ‘O’ levels before deciding that a music career was what he wanted. Upon leaving school, group members started to go their separate ways with Kenny Holland being replaced by Pete Bickley and Mick Aulton leaving to be replaced by Gerry Kibble. Noddy Holder took a job in a car parts firm to the dismay of his teachers who wanted him to stay on at school for ‘A’ levels, but Noddy wanted to “turn professional” and the Phantoms became The Memphis Cut-Outs. Terry Taylor joined on saxophone and the group secured regular bookings playing three or four shows per week.

Noddy’s day job enabled him to purchase a better guitar and amplifier and he also picked up additional guitar technique from Roy Brown who played with a well known local group called The Redcaps. By 1964, the Memphis Cut-Outs were earning about 8 pound a week each and Noddy felt this was sufficient enough to give up his regular job.

In late 1964, singer Steve Brett asked the Memphis Cut-Outs to become his backing group as his last group, The Mavericks, had split up. Steve Brett was well known locally and had appeared on TV so the Memphis Cut-Outs jumped at the chance thinking this would be their big break. The groups’ name was changed to the Mavericks and they began playing almost nightly throughout the Midlands.

Steve Brett’s vocal style and preference for ballads contrasted with the Maverick’s rock ‘n’ roll/rhythm & blues leanings so the Mavericks were usually allowed to do their own set first and to be joined later on stage by Steve Brett and act as his backing group. Steve Brett, who also wrote songs, obtained a recording contract with Columbia Records and in 1965 he and the Mavericks recorded several tracks at the Hollick & Taylor Studios in Handsworth, Birmingham. Columbia released three singles by Steve Brett and The Mavericks including Sad Lonely And Blue/Candy but the best known song by the group was probably Sugar Shack released in December of 1965. An unreleased song, Hurting Inside, featured Noddy Holder singing back-up, possibly his earliest recorded vocal track.

Steve Brett and The Mavericks were signed to the Wolverhampton based Astra booking agency whose clients also included The N’Betweens, a group that included guitarist Dave Hill and drummer Don Powell. The N’Betweens were known throughout the Midlands as a hard rocking R&B styled outfit and had quite a large following. The Mavericks and the N’Betweens often shared the same billing and Noddy Holder got along well with Don Powell although Dave Hill liked to keep to himself. Coincidentally, the two groups were selected by the agency to undertake some bookings in Germany and while crossing the channel on the ferry, Don and Dave mentioned to Noddy that they were dissatisfied with their group and were thinking of leaving.

The Mavericks played shows in Cologne and Frankfurt with the group members being paid 25 pounds per week each. The German nightlife was an eye opener for Noddy and he was said to have returned to England very “worldly wise”. During the return trip back to England, the Mavericks’ van broke down outside of Frankfurt and Steve Brett and two of the other group members continued to England leaving behind Noddy, Phil and Gerry to deal with the situation. They had to get money sent over from England to get the engine repaired and this made Noddy resentful towards Steve Brett who was supposed to be in charge.

Back in England, Noddy Holder played a few more bookings with the Mavericks and then left along with Pete Bickley and Gerry Kibble but Noddy borrowed his fathers window cleaning van and took on a job as a roadie with the West Midlands group Listen whose lead singer Robert Plant would become famous several years later with Led Zeppelin. During this time, Noddy Holder met up with Dave Hill and Don Powell in Wolverhampton and they informed him that the N’Betweens had split up but were planning to re-form the group with a new bass player named Jim Lea. Noddy was invited to join the group but further personnel changes would take place before the final and most famous line-up of the N’Betweens was set in place (see The N’Betweens).

Steve Brett continued to perform throughout the Midlands and later relocated to Blackpool where he still works to this day as a successful country & western singer.

With Special Thanks
to Brum Beat
Copyright © John R Woodhouse.

Compiled by Keith Law