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CARTER-LEWIS & THE SOUTHERNERS


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6th January 1964

CARTER-LEWIS & THE SOUTHERNERS

By 1964, most of our major UK cities had developed a healthy local music scene and with the British Beat movement now in overdrive, many bands and artists that had only previously achieved local success were being plundered by the music moguls as record companies went searching for “the next big thing” (One exception to this rule was Bristol, a city that supplied very few chart acts during the 60's) Whilst Liverpool & Manchester had dominated 1963, during the following year, Birmingham supplied a healthy selection of artists for The Town Hall*. The first exponents of "Brum Beat" to play Bridgwater were Carter-Lewis & The Southerners, a group whose individual members became far more well-known after the group's demise whilst still remaining largely anonymous. John Carter (real name John Shakespeare) & Ken Lewis (James Hawker) were songwriters primarily having first met in school, forming a skiffle band mysteriously called LVI in the late 1950's. They wrote and performed extensively for the BBC programs "Easy Beat" and "Saturday Club" and also recorded covers of the latest chart hits with jazz musicians such as Marion Montgomery & Marion Ryan. Sometime during 1960, Carter & Lewis had spent an entire day peddling 6 songs that they had written to a variety of London publishers based in Denmark Street. Only Noel Gay Music offered the duo a contract and with Terry Kennedy signing up as their manager, it was the latter that suggested that forming a band would be the best way to get their songs heard and the group started recording with Joe Meek as early as 1961. Early material revealed a strong Buddy Holly influence and they scored a No.18 hit for Mike Sarnsoutherners.jpge called “Will I What”, a follow-up to the hugely successful "Come Outside". Ironically, despite their songwriting background, very few of their singles featured their own compositions, none of which achieved any great success though "Your Momma's Out Of Town" (mentioned in the Top Twenty's advert) did reach No.22 in 1963. Described as a band that operated within “the wimpish end of the market” their 3-part harmonies became a trademark of sorts particularly when Carter, Lewis & fellow band-member Perry Ford (Bryan Pugh) formed The Ivy League late 1964, achieving Top 10 success in 1965 with both “Funny How Love Can Be” and ”Tossin And Turnin”. Perhaps the most significant (and certainly less wimpish) member of The Southerners was Jimmy Page – a red hot guitar gunslinger who achieved a reputation pre-Led Zeppelin as an in-demand session musician. In fact Page played on so many records during the early 60’s that it’s surprising to find him holding down a regular spot with any group from this period. Page certainly helped to beef up The Southerners insipidness, but despite appearing on a couple of singles in 1963 and, most notably, on a fine version of "Skinnie Minnie" in 1964, his tenure as a band member was so brief that I thought it unlikely that he could have played our home town. However, it has been suggested that Page's career with the Carter-Lewis conglomerate spanned a period that was just long enough for him to have played Bridgwater before promptly leaving the group directly afterwards though one would like to think that the two incidents are not related. As for the main protagonists, Carter and Lewis went on to forge successful careers as writers of commercials and jingles whilst also developing a solid reputation as backing vocalists. They provided harmonies on a number of major hit singles including "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" by Sandie Shaw, "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones, "Out Of Time" by Chris Farlowe and "Hi Ho Silver Lining" by Jeff Beck, as well as a number of the Who's early recordings including “I Can’t Explain”. Post Ivy League, they reached No.4 in 1967 as leaders of the Flowerpot Men with their borderline hippie satire "Let's Go To San Francisco" whilst Carter sang lead vocal on "Winchester Cathedral", by The New Vaudeville Band in 1966, a Top 10 UK hit and a No.1 in the US of A. Carter later became a member of the band First Class, whose 1974 summer hit "Beach Baby" was written by the duo.

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