The Castaways were formed by Brian Curtis and myself joining with Mick Gennoe, Bob Larson and Roger Harman. Our debut was made at the ABC Cinema, on stage nightly from 17 February 1963 for seven days playing numbers from the forthcoming Cliff Richard Summer Holiday film, before the curtain went up on the current feature film Hatari with press coverage via publicity photos and write-up in the Croydon Advertiser and the Times-Herald Series.
This probably gave Cliff Richard more of a publicity boost than it did us, but hey – cheggars can’t be boozers!
We did manage to slip in a few other songs that weren’t Cliff Richard numbers however, such as a rip-roaring version of Johnny Kidd and the Pirate’s, Please Don’t Touch, in which we executed a choreographed routine consisting of three stamps of the right foot followed by a high kick, all of which, we synchronized dramatically on the four beats preceding each chorus. Sometimes, you’ve just gotta kick it to them!
There was a gig at Fernham Road Hall in early 1963 and another at the 2is Coffee Bar in Soho where I met Sally from Ealing, who came down to see me at my parent’s address in Bensham Grove, Thornton Heath. We took a jaunt up to the Coombe Cliff Park late in the summer evening and lay upon the grass awhile, underneath the cherry trees by the grassy banks of the Water Tower.
The two main things I remember from that 2is gig, was Sally dancing like a dervish in a swirling red skirt while we performed Cliff Richard’s marathon-versed I Cannot Find a True Love on stage; and Brian Curtis’s dad who provided the transport for Brian, Bob and me back to Norbury and Thornton Heath, commenting later that Dave had picked up a prostitute at the 2is.
I find that rather unkind, particularly as Sally was such a warm-hearted girl and bought my Mum a lovely bunch of flowers after being put up for the night in the spare bedroom at Bensham Grove following our summer evening jaunt at Coombe Cliff.
The furthest afield we played while I was with the Castaways was at a theatre in Gravesend supporting Nero and the Gladiators, who had given up wearing their gladiator costumes, toga and laurel wreath crown, and taken to appearing in shiny grey mohair suits. If I search hard enough I might even be lucky enough to find my copy of Nero’s autograph signed, Mike O’Neill.
The saga of Chas Deane & the Castaways takes us from Fernham Road Halls through the 2is and the ABC to a theatre in Gravesend.
The PARTISANS, 1963-1965
Originally the band was called Ricky Freeman and the Norseman and hailed from Southend-on-Sea.
Pete Hanaway [spelled with one ‘n’, he informed me] had formed the band in Southend and they had moved to London, where he worked at Regent Polytechnic as a metallurgist.
One by one, various members of the band left to be replaced by new, younger members from Thornton Heath. More than half-a-decade his senior, Pete Hanaway went over from lead guitar to bass when John Edmed joined the band as lead guitarist.
Having learned Latin languages at the Trinity School of John Whitgift, John Edmed worked in the city as an interpreter for an insurance company called the Mercantile. With him followed his friends from Thornton Heath, John King on rhythm guitar, who worked for the Mundet Cork Company in Vicarage Road, Waddon and had his own office and secretary and finally, Gerry Lloyd, who worked as a shipping clerk somewhere around Liverpool Street who replaced Jim Smith on drums. Ricky Freeman stayed with the band as their singer.
It was during this interim that the band changed their name.
They had been playing at a coffee bar in Soho called the Partisan and “when everybody started calling us the Partisans,” John King told me, they eventually adopted the name and Ricky Freeman’s name disappeared from the title altogether.
Ricky Freeman dropped out several times when the band started getting gigs in Thornton Heath to be replaced temporarily by various other singers, including Bob Johnson and Ron Diamond, whose real surname was Humphries and had attended the same school as me in Ingram Road, Thornton Heath.
In 1963, When Ricky Freeman left the band altogether, I joined the Partisans as lead vocalist at John Edmed’s invitation. At the time I was still singing with the Castaways, having been with them little more than six months. 18 year old John Edmed lived in Warlingham Road, just around the corner from Foxley Road where Castaways guitarist Mick Gennoe lived, and I met him there while rehearsing for an upcoming Castaways gig.
I’d seen John Edmed perform with the Partisans at St Stephen’s Hall many times, but this was the first time I met him personally. Although the Partisans were a very popular and musically competent band and because of this, I was actually very keen to join them, I was suddenly hesitant at leaving the Castaways in mid-swing after we’d developed a sense of camaraderie and formulated such a well presented stage act, especially since I didn’t really know any of the other members of the Partisans at the time.
But John Edmed was very insistent, so I asked him why he wanted me particularly to join his band and he told me that it was because I had a particular way of putting my act across, and also that they had such a high turnover of singers, they needed somebody he considered reliable and dedicated – and so after some coaxing and not wanting to lose the opportunity and then regretting that I hadn’t taken the offer later; in 1963 at the age of 21, I became the Partisans lead vocalist. Looking back, I realize I made a decision rewarding me with a great wealth of experience that broadened my knowledge and outlook considerably.