We started performing local gigs in places like The Breaks Youth Centre in Hatfield where the leader Bill (Skip) Salmon used to let us practise. "THE BEATLES" were a huge influence on us (I saw them live on stage eleven times) so we performed a lot of Beatles songs. We developed a reputation that when "THE BEATLES" had a new single out we were performing it at our next booking. "THE CORTINAS" had a residency for a while at The Hilltop (Now The Harrier) in Hatfield every Sunday Night, which involved us opening and closing the show and a compere, a comic and a singer in between. My Mum was the groups manager and my Dad bourght a Bedford Dormobile van and used to drive us to and from bookings, so it was a real family affair.
It was time to try our hand in the recording studio, so on 9th May 1964 we recorded two tracks at REGENT SOUND in Denmark Street London.(Tin Pan Alley).It was the same studio that "THE ROLLING STONES" recorded all their early hits and their first album, which quite impressed us, but when we got there we found a small dingy room with egg boxes on the ceiling to deaden the sound. However we were more than pleased with the results, we recorded two songs that The Beatles had sung on their radio shows "Pop Go The Beatles" but never recorded. The first was "Clarabella" originally recorded by American group "THE JODIMARS" and the second the "CARL PERKINS" song "I'm Sure To Fall" and with Bill Farley, who engineered "THE ROLLING STONES" sessions, in charge, they sounded great.
On 27th June 1964 "THE CORTINAS" took part in a local Beat Group Contest in St.Albans along with local bands like "THE KING BEES" and "THE TREKKAS". It was judged by "THE BARRON KNIGHTS" and we won first prize.
On October 29th we were back in the studio, this time at Southern Music in Denmark Street, London, recording two songs written by the singer Tommy Bruce. This session was produced by Tommy and a guy called Mickey Willett. The session turned out really well and Tommy and Mickey said they would take the tracks around the record companies.
In February 1965 Tony Rivers asked me to join his band TONY RIVERS AND THE CASTAWAYS. I had first met Tony in 1961 at Butlins Holiday Camp Clacton where he was working and I was on Holiday and won a talent contest there. I had seen THE CASTAWAYS many times and they were a great band. They specialised in close harmony and performed many Beach Boys songs, and were fully professional. I thought long and hard and in the end said no as I wasn't brave enough at the time to give up my day job at The Westminster Bank (God knows why as I hated it) and The Cortinas were doing well and I had a loyalty to them. Tony and I are still good friends after all these years and our paths were to cross many times in the future. He went on to chart success with Harmony Grass and then spent many years as lead backing vocalist with Cliff Richard, and appeared at Live Aid with George Michael and Elton John.
On February 12th 1965 we supported a major act for the firstl time. This was GEORGIE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES who were number one at the time with "YEH YEH" and the gig was at Battersea College in London.
(Click on photo to enlarge)
The Cortinas 2.