From beat room to ballroom!

An overdue article here from Colin Corbett, whom you’ll no doubt remember a few weeks ago was telling us about an upcoming article in the Black Country Bugle about the Cannock band he was a member of in the early 1960s, the Telstars.

Colin, of course was a great friend of, and did so much to preserve and spread the musical legacy of the late Roger Mosedale of Aldridge, who passed away a couple of years ago and was subject of several articles here on the blog.

Colin Corbett with his treasured red Stratocaster. Image kindly supplied by Colin Corbett.

Since the last article here, Colin has sent me scans of the article in the Bugle so that I could feature it here, plus a bunch of photos and other ephemera of the period. It really is a wonderful tranche of material that will take readers right back to the heady days of local rock and roll.

I’m sure this will be an excellent bit of further reading for those into local music of the period.

Thanks to Colin for getting in touch and if you have anything you’d like to add, or any memories you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me: You can mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, comment on this post or find me on social media. 

Reviews, ads and promo material for the Telstars – click for larger versions. Images kindly supplied by Colin Corbett.

“From ‘Beat Boom’ to ballroom – Colin has always lived for the Rhythm”

By Brian W. Nicholls.

In October 2018 I had the good fortune to meet up with Colin Corbett, former drummer with 1960s Cannock Group The Telstars. Colin, along with his wife Rita, live in a quiet backwater onthe edge of Cannock Chase where he has his own music studio. We discussed his own life in music and, the couple’s eventual business partnership as professional dance teachers.

… ‘I was seven or eight when my parents arranged for my sister and I to attend ballroom dancing lessons on Saturday mornings and music lessons on the afternoon. I studied piano accordion and my sister studied piano right up until I was thirteen. We certainly had a thorough grounding in music theory which has put me in good stead ever since. Our teacher taught only classical music but, one day she asked me to bring along a piece of music of my own choice and I chose The Railroad Runs Through The Middle Of The House – a popular 1957 upbeat country-style chart hit by Alma Cogan but, the teacher was not impressed. In fact, so horrified with my choice she actually said that she was finished with me and that I could probably become a good jazz musician. Actually, it was the height of the skiffle era and at home we did have a tea chest bass, washboard, acoustic guitar and a set of hanging bottles tuned to different notes. I stuck with guitar for a while but, when I was around fourteen there was a knock at the door and two lads said… ‘we hear that you are a brilliant guitarist’ and asked me to join them (well, I could play around a dozen chords!) The three of us became The Sundowners and I decided to switch to drums as I had always admired my uncle Ray Hadley who was a drummer in his own dance band. The bass player’s dad cut a big marching drum down to a bass drum size and I then had a torn torn, snare drum and a set of cymbals. I bought a drum tutor book and taught myself to play by drumming along to skiffle and rock records.”…

Colin’s group soon developed into the currently popular Cliff Richard and The Shadows format of singer, two guitars, drums and bass. Colin kept his extra curricular musical activities very quiet from his classmates so, you can imagine everyone’s surprise when The Sundowners were announced on the day of the school leaving concert and Colin casually saunters up to the drum stool from the audience to join his bandmates on the stage.

Colin Corbett age 9, already showing a musical talent. Image kindly supplied by Colin Corbett.

…”My schoolmates were really pleasantly surprised and the teachers actually said what a wonderful talent I had. We then had a booking at The Top Club – a working men’s club in Brownhills but, without transport we took a chance at the local bus company, Harper’s Bus Service. It went better than we thought as the conductor and two passengers helped us get our gear on to the bus, The driver drew back the trap window at the back of his cab and asked us what time would we finish and would we like a lift home. The driver obviously took pity at our plight and ambition and dropped us at the club carpark and picked us up at 10,30 pm. They even helped load and unload our gear again”…

However, The Sundowners’ actual baptism of fire was when they appeared at The Avion Cinema in Aldridge – a veritable pop music hotspot. They now had Futurama guitars and bass and 10watt Selmer and Elpico amplifiers plus a Watkins Copycat echo unit. From that, they went on to appear at all local pubs, social clubs, galas and a string of wedding receptions around Cannock, Stafford, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.The Sundowners now comprised Roger Mosedale (lead guitar), Terry Lea (rhythm guitar- later replaced by Dave Danks), Barry Peacock (bass) and Colin (drums) but, they had three lead singers come and go namely, Roy Bourne, Derek Murkett and Kenny Williams. At the end of 1962 The Sundowners changed their name to Dante and The Infernos but, eventually parted company a year or so later. In early 1964 yet another customary knock on Colin’s front door and there stood four lads from one of Cannock’s most popular groups, The Telstars.They were seeking to replace their Micky Solom who was vacating the drumstool and Colin’s reputation as a solid drummer led them to his door. Colin jumped at the chance to join The Telstars who now comprised, George Davies (organ), Dave Jones (bass), Terry Heath (lead guitar) Ian ‘Sludge’ Lees (singer) and of course, Colin Corbett.

…”We put it about that we were on the lookout for a decent manager and so Gerry Southgate from Walsall Wood, who was alerted to the job via his secretary, came into our life. Gerry was a local businessman with no experience of music or showbiz but, saw The Telstars as another business challenge. I was now proudly sitting behind a new Premier kit in striking Blue Sparkle (like Brian Bennett’s in The Shadows).”

Gerry briefly picks up the story,

…”The first thing I did was to invest in new group gear (Fender and Vox Amps. Instruments and a Laney PA system etc) and fitted them out with proper stage suits. I also arranged for them to rehearse at The Primrose Club (later The Watersplash) in Walsall Wood and bought them a Commer van. Having smartened them up a bit I then got them to take their music more seriously and also stopped them from drinking beer on the stage”…

Gerry also arranged for The Telstars to visit top celebrity showbiz photographer Dezo Hoffman at his London studio which had seen the likes of The Beatles in front of his lens. The results speak for themselves when looking through the Telstars’ portfolio. Gerry marketed the boys by entering them for a range of talent and popularity contests where they always managed to achieve a space in the top three against typical entries of fifty or so groups. On Saturday7June,1964 they made a four track recording at Hollick and Taylor Studios in Handsworth for the Dial Label. Not least though, the lads appeared on BBC’s One Night Stand Programme on 26 January, 1965 – the same year that Colin and Rita met. They even had a fan club run by a secretary at Gerry’s earth moving business. Managers with the diligence of Gerry are an exception.

Colin,…”we played most nights on the Mary ‘Ma’ Regan ballroom circuit which included The Plaza Ballrooms at Old Hill and Handsworth, The Ritz Ballroom, Kings Heath, and The Brum Kavern Club in Small Heath where inevitably, we played at two venues per night and on one occasion we missed The Beatles literally by ten minutes. One night at The Brum Kavern Club John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) got up and gave my brand new American Cameo kit a really good thrashing. I liked John a lot and we became good friends. I learnt a lot off John. The money at Ma Regan’s was good but, you had to play hit parade (chart) covers and we duly turned out our share of The Kinks, The Searchers, The Beatles, The Hollies and yes, P.J. Proby. As well as Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall, Lafayette Club, Ship and Rainbow and The Woolpack Restaurant, we frequently played such Birmingham venues as, The Locarno, The West End Ballroom, The Pink Elephant Club, Silver Blades Ice Rink, Ringway Club and even the infamous Doll’s Club where strippers performed while we played”…

If you were a reveller in or around The Black Country during the 1960s you will have seen or heard of The Telstars!

Despite all Gerry Southgate’s attempts to hold The Telstars together they finally called it a day in late 1965. They had had a good innings but, singer Ian Lees had left to be replaced by Graham Lounge. Ian joined Finders Keepers and then The Montanas. and finally. Light Fantastic before embarking on a successful career as a comedian. Also, former Sundowners’ Roger Mosedale (lead guitar) and Barry Peacock (bass) replaced Terry Heath and Dave Jones but, in no time Colin, Barry and Roger left to form a vocal harmony trio. Colin and Rita got married in 1967 and the well intended trio folded. Colin continued as a jobbing musician mainly depping for other drummers. He also found lucrative work as a session drummer at a recording studio and also joined Zero 5 – a popular Cannock heavy rock band that did covers of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Uriah Heap. In 1965, they had recorded a pop single ‘Dusty/Just Like A Girl’ in the legendary Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios and released on the Columbia label.

…”/ didn’t really enjoy that type of music and was not one who sought fame in the music business even though, at times it sought me. I just enjoyed playing local and in my time I’ve played pop, country, jazz and dance bands I even played with Maynard Fergusson at Walsall Jazz Club (The Wheatsheaf). When I was just turned twenty I was even headhunted for The Pretty Things who were off on an American tour but, my dad persuaded me to complete my electrician apprenticeship, after which he said I could do whatever I wanted. Even so, my interest in drumming finally faded and I sold my kit. I thought I’d miss it but, I haven’t. However, I switched back to guitar, largely for my own enjoyment”…

In 1973, Colin and Rita decided to study ballroom dancing with a professional dance school. They made it a social occasion by taking ten other family members along with them.

Colin and Rita are still keen ballroom dancers. Image kindly supplied by Colin Corbett.

…”After three years, the teacher took Rita and I aside and suggested we should actually teach ballroom dancing so, we studied, got our ‘letters’ and started teaching. In 1981 was made redundant from my management position at Allied Bakeries (Sunblest) which was a spur to start our own business as professional ballroom dancing teachers. We used available halls, ballrooms and clubs rather than purchase our own studio. We also did twelve enjoyable years on the P&O cruise ships and saw the wide world into the bargain. What a job, eh!”…

Footnote: Colin is desperate to track down a copy of The Telstars’ Hollick and Taylor vinyl EP. If you can oblige, please contact him via the BCB Editor. [Or comment here – Bob]

©Brian W. Nicholls (2018).

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3 Responses to From beat room to ballroom!

  1. Rob Sollom says:

    Wow, my big brother mentioned in the same article as John Bonham!! Fame at last. 🙂

  2. Sandra cox says:

    COLIN CORBETT it was good remembering your music days. Tell me did you have sister named June I knew a June CORBETT in the 60 s when j worked in walsall x

  3. Sandra Cox says:

    Colin CORBETT did you have a sister named June

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