Before the Roadrunners
There was Darkness

By Mike Hart  

June 11 1964

Mike HartBefore the Roadrunners Pete and I were in a group called the Tenabeats and before this Pete was in a group called the Tremeloes. This group started in the year dot-and-carry-one with a lead guitarist called Al Jones and a drummer called Mike Heyes. He was found for the group by that well-known old-timer Johnny Rocco.

They had an occasional bass player in Adrian Campbell-Kelly but they only had him because he had an amp which had four inputs which they all plugged into.

The only place they played, to my knowledge, was the old Mayuba Club in Birkenhead. A singer called Deke Rocco left to join the Navy and they got a fellow called Colin Fletcher who gained recent fame with his article on gangs and beat-groups, which used us and our gang as the rather inaccurate example.

Second Prize
He did the Cliff Richard routines beautifully and he wasn't a bad singer either. I remember him once winning second prize at Butlins, backed by the Hurricanes, of course, singing 'Shakin' All Over.' Maybe this was because he'd been nice to Rory all week so as he'd vote for him, but I don't think so. Pete was also in this competition and sang 'Dream Lover', which annoyed Johnny Guitar because it had more than three chords.

No Amp
Anyhow, Pete was messin' about one day at one of our practices, playing bass parts to his guitar, so they asked him to join as bass player. He had no amp and no bass, but these were details. He put bass strings on his guitar and plugged in with everything else. As I could drive and my dad had a van I became their driver. I got a bit fed up with this so I said I would buy a sax and join them. They all laughed, quietly, said, "Sure, OK" and whispered "just as if" up their sleeves. Anyhow, I did, but I had to practice for three months before I could play a note, so I just drove. By this time it was summer, 1961.

The Tremeloes didn't play much, but I remember one time I dressed up in evening dress and announced all the numbers in Temperance Seven style. Soon after this the lead singer eloped so they were in a bit of a spot.

Complete Change
Also about now we all first heard the Beatles which resulted in a complete change of approach, a mad rush for Chuck Berry records and a resolution to try a bit of humour. I joined about now and we practiced like mad, not much music just a lot of funny (ugh) jokes. We did a couple of bookings and decided we definitely needed a lead singer.

So we got a mate of Al Jones' called Duggie, who was (a) good looking, (b) tall, (c) long hair, (d) great on-stage in Presley style, (e) he couldn't sing a note.

He was really fabulous visually but had no idea about singing. So, because our next booking was in September, we thought he'd forget.

Voted
About now we tried to go places. We got a booking at Hoylake Y.M.C.A. which was such a long way for us that we spent a whole afternoon writing a huge sign for the van which said 'The Tenabeats On Tour'. When we got there we tried to be funny by brushing the stage and cracking huge painful jokes. We later learnt we had been voted No. 16 in a poll there to decide which of the 16 groups that played there was the most popular - and that was with one vote from Al's mate for a laugh.

I tried writing to all the Liverpool dance halls about now and got one reply, which was from Bob Wooler at Aintree Institute. He invited us to play there, for nothing, of course, and so we did. Faron's Flamingoes and Johnny Sandon & the Searchers were on and Faron promised to recommend us to Wally Hill, Lord knows why, as we were terrible.

He gave us three bookings at Blair Hall and trekking through the snow (literally) to Holyoake Hall, both places were upstairs, hands became numb, and all was great. Mark Peters was the rage at both places, we were not. After this, bookings fell off so much we drifted apart and eventually broke up. Pete and Mike Heyes to a jazz band, Al and Willy back to work and night school, and me to I forget what.


Editor's Note: I always regarded Mike Hart as a particularly talented member of the Mersey scene in a number of ways and encouraged him to write several pieces for Mersey Beat.
Following his early days in the Tenabeats he helped to form Liverpool's premier R&B group the Roadrunners on guitar/vocals. Later on he was to join the creative outfit Liverpool Scene before turning solo. John Peel's label Dandelion Records issued two solo albums by Mike: 'Mike Hart Bleeds' in 1969 and 'Basher, Chalky, Pongo And Me' in 1970.

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