Graeme Edge drums
Denny Laine vocal, guitar (left 1966)
Mike Pinder vocal, piano, mellotron
Ray Thomas vocal, flute
Clint Warwick vocal, bass guitar (left 1966)
Justin Hayward vocal, guitar, sitar (joined 1966)
John Lodge vocal, bass guitar, cello (joined 1966)
The Moody Blues were the first of the Brum Beat bands to become internationally famous
and would later have a huge influence on what became known
as the “progressive” music scene.
Formed in May of 1964 in Birmingham and first known as
The Moody Blues Five (M&B5), they took their name
rom the local M&B brewing company in hope of getting sponsorship.
The group members came from various Birmingham bands
that are worth mentioning as follows:
Lead singer and guitarist Brian Hines (Denny Laine)
was born 29th October 1944 and lived in Holcombe Road, Tyseley.
One of his earliest bands was Johnny Dean and The Dominators
who played regularly at The Mermaid pub on Stratford Road.
Johnny Dean was an early alias for Brian who worked at Rackhams by day but he would soon turn professional in 1962 with the new name
of Denny Laine and fronting The Diplomats, a well known Midlands group
that also included future Move drummer Bev Bevan (see Denny Laine and The Diplomats).
Ray Thomas was born in Stourport on 29th December 1942.
While living in Erdington and apprenticing as an engineer,
he formed his first band as El Riot and The Rebels in which
he was the lead singer and harmonica player.
The Rebels also included drummer Bob Sheward as well as guitarists
Brian Betteridge and John Lodge who was born in Birmingham on July 20, 1945.
Also living in Erdington on Wheelwright Road was piano player
Mike Pinder, born 27th December 1941. He played part-time with El Riot and The Rebels
and had previously led his own group called The Rocking Tuxedo’s.
El Riot and The Rebels became known for appearing on stage wearing full Mexican gear
and managed to become regulars on the Noel Gordon hosted Lunchbox television show.
John Lodge switched to bass guitar when the band acquired Mike Heard as lead guitarist.
El Riot and The Rebels eventually split in 1963 when they were offered some bookings
in Germany but only Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder were willing to go and John Lodge wanted to complete a drafting apprenticeship.
Thomas and Pinder formed a new group called The Krewcats
(not to be confused with Shadows drummer Brian Bennett’s band of that name) and went over to Germany from May to November of 1963.
Meanwhile back in Birmingham, Graeme Edge who was born 30th March 1944
and lived in Coventry Road, Small Heath, was playing drums in a group called Gerry Levene and The Avengers. The group also included Jim Onslow on bass guitar and guitarist Mike Hopkins who would later join The Diplomats.
Gerry Levene was the stage name for Aston singer Micky Gibbs.
For a short time, the Avengers lead guitarist was Roy Wood (see Mike Sheridan and The Nightriders).
Albert Eccles from Aston, was born on 25th June 1940, and had started playing guitar as a member of a band called The Rainbow Boys. He changed his name to the more suitable
Clint Warwick after he became the bass guitarist for Danny King’s Dukes (see Danny King),
a group that was well known throughout the Midlands and also managed to secure a season at Butlins holiday camp in Scotland.
When Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder got back from Germany at the end of 1963,
they found the Birmingham music scene made up of bands that imitated either the Shadows or The Beatles.
The Spencer Davis Group was at that time standing apart from the rest with their Rhythm & Blues
based sound so Danny King and Clint Warwick along with Graeme Edge who had left The Avengers,
decided that R&B was the kind of music to play.
Denny Laine from the Diplomats was also interested to start a new project, so the quartet started rehearsing and came up with the name The R&B Preachers
A chance meeting with Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder at the Moathouse Club
resulted in the formation of a new group, although Danny King had by this time lost interest
A plan was put in place to gain sponsorship from the Mitchells & Butlers brewery,
so the name M&B Five was adopted, but the company was not interested so the initials were adapted to represent “Moody” and “Blues”.
In May of 1964, the band was rehearsing and performing regularly at
Birmingham’s Carlton Ballroom in Erdington and their blue suited act was spotted by
London manager Tony Secunda who would go on to play a major role
in the careers of several Brumbeat groups. Secunda got the band to perform
at London’s famous Marquee Club and shortly after, arranged a record deal with the Moody Blues signing to the prestigious Decca Records label.
Their first single Steal Your Heart Away was a soulful effort and the b-side Lose Your Money, co-written by Denny Laine and Mike Pinder was an energetic though typical beat-style recording.
The single did not chart but the Moody Blues appeared on TV for the first time on the popular show ‘Ready Steady Go!’
Mike, Denny, Clint, Graeme, Ray.
Looking for hit material, their second single was an inventive arrangement of an obscure song
by American singer Bessie Banks and the recording featured a group vocal backing
that would become a Moody Blues trade mark.
“We tried to make it sound like gospel in our own limited way” said Denny.
The song was Go Now and it became a worldwide hit for the Moody Blues in late 1964, reaching No. 1 in the British charts and also making top ten in the USA.
This sudden success lead to many TV appearances and both national and international touring.
A follow-up proved hard to find but The Moody Blues recorded songs for their first album
which included favourites from their stage-show like James Brown’s I Go Crazy, George Gershwin’s classic It Ain’t Necessarily So (sung by Ray Thomas)
and the Laine/Pinder composition From The Bottom Of My Heart which was also released as a single.
Another song Stop was also released as a single in the USA and managed a chart placing
there while the Moody Blues went to America on a package tour together with Peter & Gordon and fellow brummies The Fortunes.
Despite the massive success of Go Now, subsequent singles by the Moody Blues had diminishing impact on the record charts and this was at a time when pop groups depended upon regular hit records rather than album sales for their survival.
The Moody Blues’ self composed fifth single Everyday released in October 1965 only got to No. 44 in the charts despite its commercial appeal, and by 1966 the group were obliged to reduce their booking fees.
Beatles manager Brian Epstein took over management of the Moody Blues in 1966 but this did little to improve the situation.
By August, bass guitarist Clint Warwick who disliked touring had left the band and went back to Birmingham to work as a carpenter. Clint Warwick passed away in 2004.
He was replaced temporarily by Rod Clarke who later joined The Rockin’ Berries.
Before the end of the year, Denny Laine would also leave to begin a solo career
By late 1966, the Moody Blues were faced with the prospect of performing on the cabaret circuit to make ends meet.
Drummer Graeme Edge recalled
“We were tagged one-hit-wonders. We had nine months of glory and
then went back to 50 pound a night on the road!”.
Replacement band members were bass guitarist John Lodge
(formerly of El Riot and The Rebels) who had completed his drafting apprenticeship and was playing in a Birmingham group over in Germany called the John Bull Breed
along with former Rebels guitarist Mike Heard.
Denny Laine’s position in the new Moody Blues line-up was filled by singer/guitarist Justin Hayward who came from Swindon.
Mike, Ray, Justin, Graeme, John.
Justin Hayward was born on October 14, 1946.
He was originally in a band called the Wilde Three (with singer Marty Wilde) and had also recorded some singles under his own name although none of them charted.
Meanwhile, Decca Records continued to release “new” Moody Blues singles made up of material that had been recorded with the original line up of the band including a song Boulevard De La Madelaine which has been regarded by
some as one of their best tracks. The first single to be recorded by the new line-up of the group was Justin Hayward’s Fly Me High, a deliberate and catchy attempt on the record charts,
which was released in May of 1967 but despite airplay on pirate radio stations, the song failed to gain a chart position.
The Moody Blues had changed their musical direction by early 1967 with Mike Pinder supplementing his piano with a Mellotron – a revolutionary and mechanically-complex instrument that used a system of pre-recorded tapes to create a distinctive orchestral/atmospheric sound and was forerunner of today’s modern electronic sampling keyboards.
This, combined with group-written songs containing mystical lyrics and a classical feel, set them apart from the other pop acts of that time.
They even included spoken poetry between the songs.
The Moody Blues’ innovative stage presentation started to gain them a new audience and the band toured France in the summer of 1967
(note: the Mellotron was developed and manufactured by the Bradley Brothers at Streetly Electronics in Birmingham. Mike Pinder also worked at Streetly Electronics in the early 1960s.
Decca Records became interested in the Moody Blues’ new “progressive” sound and proposed an experiment where the group would record an album of classical compositions supported by a full symphony orchestra.
The record company intended to use the results of this as a means of demonstrating their new “Deramic” stereo recording process. The Moody Blues went a step further
and with the co-operation of orchestral arranger Peter Knight,
recorded an entire album of their own music in just five days with the London Festival Orchestra.
Despite initial reluctance by the record company, the resulting collection entitled Days Of Future Passed,
was released on the Decca subsidiary Deram label that was specialising in progressive music.
Days Of Future Passed – released in November of 1967 – was a milestone in music, giving rise to the “concept album” and reached No. 27 in the UK and No. 3 in the USA charts
thus gaining the band a foot-hold on the all-important American market.
The album was to become a huge influence on many other groups for years to come.
From the album came the Moody Blues’ classic single Nights In White Satin, written by Justin Hayward, and reaching number 9 in the UK, becoming their first top 20 hit since Go Now.
Another single Tuesday Afternoon reached No. 24 in the USA and successful concert tours soon followed.
The Moody Blues’ next album released in 1968 titled In Search Of The Lost Chord was a major success on both sides of the Atlantic and it featured the songwriting efforts of all the group members.
Unlike their previous album, this record had the band playing
all the instruments themselves without orchestral backing.
The album included the classic song Legend Of A Mind composed by Ray Thomas as a tribute to the American LSD pioneer Timothy Leary and is probably one of the great album
tracks of all time. New singles were also released including Justin Hayward’s
Voices In The Sky and John Lodge’s Ride My See Saw which both scored high chart placings.
In 1969 the Moody Blues released the album On The Threshold Of A Dream which topped the charts in the UK and scoring high in the USA. The success inspired the band to form their own Threshold Records label and record shops.
The Moody Blues would continue their international success
into the early 1970s and after a six year break to concentrate on
solo projects, the group re-formed in the late 70’s and early 80’s
to make more top selling records.
Keyboard player and founding member Mike Pinder left the group in 1978 and was replaced by Patrick Moraz.
Although their record releases have not been so frequent
in the 1990’s, they are the most successful
of all the Birmingham groups from the 1960s
in terms of longetivity and international acclaim.
With Special Thanks to
Copyright-© John R Woodhouse
Brum BeatPre- Go Now days,
The Moody Blues, would be playing the same venues,
as the rest of us regular guys.
The Casino Club, Walsall, Whiskey A Go Go, Birmingham,
to name just a couple.
My band ‘ The Williamson played regularly at the Casino,
supporting band there like The Soul Seekers,
and The Moodies
Before I formed The Williamsons
I’d often spend Saturday night at the Casino,
bopping to the bands, and remember one memorable night.
It was January 1st. 1965. and The Moodies were
appearing on the very week Go Now, reached No. 1 in the charts.
It’s hard to believe that this now ‘super group’
used to arrive at the venue on a double-decker bus,
with Mike Pinder standing on the platform,
with his double bass, and the drums packed under the bus stairs!
We’d all help them up the staircase of the Casino,
so we’d hopefully obtain free entry to the club.
Compiled by Keith Law