Label from inside the bass, plus band expenditure ledger showing parts for repair
Mike Brassington (vocals, guitar) Brian Smith (guitar) Albert Flaherty (tea-chest
bass) Brian Lawton (drums) Alan? washboard? Malcolm Atkins (washboard)
Dave Jones (percussion) - replaced Brian Lawton Ricky Wade (washboard / drums) - replaced
Malcolm Atkins Ray Thomas (tea-chest/double bass) - replaced Albert Flaherty
With inspiration from the great Lonnie Donegan, the Saints & Sinners Skiffle Group,
the brainchild of Mike Brassington sprang to life in March 1958. An apt title for
the group of young lads rehearsing at the local Tyburn Methodist Church Hall, their
appearance in the school room on the 8th making the local Erdington News paper on
Mike had recently moved on to Moseley Art School and, taking honours on guitar and
vocals, enlisted some pals from Paget Road school, these being Brian Smith also on
guitar, Albert Flaherty on tea-chest bass, Dave Jones on percussion and Brian Lawton
on drums. The programme for the Grand Variety Concert at the Castle Bromwich Church
of England Parent-Teacher Association on 25th April 1958, in the Victory Hall, Castle
Bromwich lists another band member by the name of Alan (note: am looking for more
info on this).
Equipment was very basic to say the least, just one snare drum and not even an amplifier
to their name, just a speaker in a home-made box. A small 3 watt ‘Elpico’ amplifier
was purchased as soon as funds would allow to give extra volume to Brian’s guitar,
to which he had fitted a pick-up for solo work.
With Mike’s mother driving the band to engagements in her Austin 10, they started
to become quite well known in the area, frequently appearing in competitions and
carnivals (such as Highcroft carnival procession 19th July 1958), often getting their
names in the local newspaper.
For a time, Malcolm Atkins joined the ranks, on washboard (I assume replacing Alan),
however, for some shows, his place was temporarily taken by Ricky Wade, until his
position was made permanent. Dave Jones also came on-board as replacement for Brian
Several appearances were also made at the Apollo Cinema starting on 7th & 8th September
1958, with them quickly running down the aisle during the interval between films
to perform before the audience.
Ray Thomas & John Lodge (both Paget Road pals) had been frequent visitors to Mike’s
Mom’s house, together trying to compose songs on their piano. For some time, Ray
had talked about his desire to join the band and, with Albert’s diminishing interest,
by 1st October 1958, the replacement was complete.
With Albert and his tea-chest bass now history, a suitable replacement instrument
was needed for the newcomer Ray. Mike then hit upon the idea to design and build
a new single-string electric double bass, complete with microphone dangling inside!
As the band’s fund book shows, out of their modest earnings, they each ‘religiously’
coughed up sixpence every week to cover expenses. Each purchase was also meticulously
documented, showing the plywood, glue & varnish needed to finish the creation, and
proud they were too of ‘the Coffin’, as the bass was affectionately known.
The band went from strength to strength and their repertoire could now boast classics
such as Move It, That’ll Be The Day, Red River Rock, Peggy Sue, Mona Lisa, Mean Woman
Blues and, interestingly, Blue Moon and Down The Line (that were recorded by Ray's
subsequent band El Riot & The Rebels).
Accordingly, it was time to drop the skiffle tag and the band now went by the name
of The Saints & Sinners Vocal & Rhythm Group, perhaps their appearance on stage at
the Carroll Levis Discoveries Show (on 24th October 1958) would open up more doors?
January 1959 saw a series of enjoyable children’s parties at the AMAC (Aeroplane
& Motor Aluminium Castings) in Wood Lane, Erdington and GEC in the Parochial Hall,
Broomfield Road. January 1959 also saw Mike being hit on the head by a bottle thrown
from a previous rowdy pub audience, as pictures from the time testify, Mike bravely
continuing complete with sticking plaster on his forehead!
The wound hurt little in comparison however to how he felt a few days later when
tragedy befell his idol Buddy Holly in that fateful plane crash on February 3rd.
The last day of February was not a happy one for ‘the Coffin’, for, following a show
at the Church Tavern, Aston, Brian Smith’s father, driving home rather too quickly
found that a gust of wind blew the bass straight off the roof-rack of their Commer
van, smashing it into several pieces on the Tyburn Road - the next day was therefore
a mad dash to somehow get the instrument back into working order for their next show.
18th April 1959 was a momentous day in Moody Blues history for on this day, Ray,
with his Saints & Sinners bandmates ventured into Hollick & Taylor Studios, Handsworth
to cut their one and only disc. The session was booked for 5:30pm and enthusiastically
they laid down the two tracks It’s Cold Outside (no resemblance to the track from
the Present album!) and I’ll Show My Love Is True, both penned by Mike. The sixpence
a week fund was all but used up paying for the studio time and for the five copies
of the acetate, still, it was to mark the start of long and illustrious recording
careers. A copy was sent to Norrie Paramore but was returned with nothing more
to show than an uncanny resemblance on ‘Apron Strings’, the b-side of Cliff Richard’s
These two tracks finally got an official release in 2006 as part of the Moody Blues
Classic Artists DVD & CD, which also featured interviews with Mike Brassington.
Mike recalls one occasion at the Acorn pub, Erdington when, struck down with a sore
throat, Ray stepped in to cover on vocals as “the show must go on”. Not surprisingly,
with his looks and fantastic voice, Ray went down a storm fuelling his desire to
take the centre stage.
By June 1959, it was over. Even winning a talent competition at the Navigation pub
couldn’t hold the band together. Mike went on to spend some time with Albert Eccles
(aka Clint Warwick) in the Rainbow Rhythm Group and a long stint in the Cutaways,
playing the Say Mama shows at Maney Hall, Sutton Coldfield during the early 1960’s.
Whilst Mike’s songwriting and composing career flourished, his increasing interest
in writing poetry led to the publication of a number of successful books.