Birmingham

Buddy Ash (Graham Ashford) lead vocal
Paul Carter saxophone
Alan “Bugsy” Eastwood drums
Graham Gallery bass guitar, vocal
Roger Hill guitar, vocal
Tony Carter guitar, vocal

This Birmingham group came very close to making a breakthrough into the record charts early in 1964. They were originally called The Plazents and their name was derived from Mary Regan’s well known Plaza Ballroom in Old Hill where the band became the resident act.

The Plazents were formed in Erdington by drummer Dave Mountney (from the Beachcombers), guitarists Graham Gallery and Roger Hill (both previously with a group called Bobby & The Dominators) while saxophonist Paul Carter came from Northfield. By 1963, The Plazents had enlisted Buddy Ash from Smethwick, formerly of The Eko’s and the Diplomats, as their lead vocalist.

While at the Plaza, the group were able to back some well known visiting American artists such as Tommy Roe, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chris Montez, The Ronettes, and many more. The positive response to the Plazents from the Plaza regulars was such that they were signed to a recording contract by Decca Records in July 1963 although it would not be until September before they could go into the studio due to bass guitarist Graham Gallery having a bout with pneumonia. Decca also told the group to get another drummer so Dave Mountney was replaced by Alan Eastwood.

In order to capitalize on the so called “Mersey Beat” mania that was sweeping the country at that time, the term “Brum Beat” was being used by some promoters as a means of advertising West Midlands groups that had recently been signed-up. In light of this, Decca Records decided that The Plazents name should be changed to The Brumbeats prior to the release of their first single (Note: there was also another 1960’s group in Birmingham called “The Brum Beats” whose vocalist Norman Haines would later join the group Locomotive).

Decca Records chose a great song for the A-side of the Brumbeats first record release that had been composed by the group themselves. The track was called I Don’t Understand and the recording was done very much in the style of the Mersey Sound while also considered as a potential record for well known singer Billy Fury. The song was actually composed by the Brumbeats singer Buddy Ash (Graham Ashford) who wrote the lyrics with the music composed by bass guitarist Graham Gallery. Despite radio and TV appearances on shows like “Thank Your Lucky Stars” I Don’t Understand did not manage to become a hit although many copies were sold in Birmingham record shops.

As well as providing support for visiting acts, the Brumbeats had often appeared on the same bill as the Beatles whenever they played in the Birmingham area. The Brumbeats similarity in their sound to The Beatles was not lost on Decca Records as they were involved in a project that resulted in the release of a rare 15-track album of Beatles songs as performed by “The Merseyboys” which was really the Brumbeats under a different name. The album was also released in the U.S.A. on the famous Vee-Jay Records label – one of the first American labels to promote records by The Beatles.

Despite having recorded a number of other songs for Decca, the Brumbeats unfortunately broke up in early 1965 before further singles could be released. Graham Gallery joined the Rockin’ Berries for a short time and later became a member of the Midland Light Orchestra. He also worked with the famous Move and Wizzard performer Roy Wood during the 1970s. Graham also composed the well-known theme tune for the ATV program “Crossroads”. Unfortunately, Graham Gallery passed away sometime during the 1980s. Guitarist Roger Hill went on to other Birmingham bands which included The Uglys and later re-uniting with former Brumbeats drummer Alan Eastwood in The Exception. Buddy Ash formed his own new group that was named The Bobby Ash Sound.

With Special Thanks to
Brum Beat
Copyright © John R Woodhouse
an to Graham Ashford for assistance
in writing the Brumbeats biography.

Compiled by Keith Law