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.
PARTISANS Gig Venues, 1963-1965
St Stephen’s Hall Winterbourne Road, Thornton Heath – Once monthly
The Jazzhot, Fulham Road, Chelsea – Every Friday Saturday and Sunday
Woodstock Hotel, Cheam [Arthur Forrest Organization] Once monthly
Bridge House, Canning Town – Weekends [with Bassist Grahame Leach]
French Horn and Half Moon, Wandsworth
The Greyhound, Croydon
Bed Sitter Club, Holland Park
White Hart at Acton
[This gig was played with Jo Anne Kelly guesting, who was a friend of the Partisans’ founder member and original bass player, Pete Hanaway. I remember Jo Anne holding up my shure microphone to the audience and saying, “this is a phallic symbol”. We collected her in the band’s blue Bedford van from her place in Streatham, stopping off for a coffee or tea there and briefly chatting with her younger brother who was about sixteen at the time and seemed preoccupied with some matter concerning his guitar or musical situation.]
Leamington Hotel, Horn Lane, Acton
Century Hotel, Wembley
Lord Nelson, N. London
Lambeth Town Hall
Locarno Ballroon, Streatham
St Oswald’s Church Hall, Norbury
St Margaret’s Barbecue, Upper Norwood
Fernham Road Hall, Thornton Heath
Blake Hall, Waddon, Croydon
Blue Anchor, South Croydon
Purley Social Club
There were other gigs, such as private parties and social events. One of these was a rooftop party somewhere in London. This was well before the Beatles did it, plus it was at nighttime. Our equipment was set up in the stage-lit shade between a parapet and a huge chimney stack looming up to one side above us.
We won the Philip’s Beat Group contest in 1965 and were awarded a free recording test with the record company, which the newspapers said would hopefully lead to a contract and there was even a photo in the press of me and the other Partisans shaking hands with DJ Don Moss on the deal, although this was on the basis that we had original songs of our own. Unfortunately none of us were songwriters at the time or had anyone proficient enough to supply them. Shades of Catch 22.
We answered an ad for a lyricist seeking composers and newly arrived keyboardist Bob Johnson worked like mad trying to put a tune around the dreary sample offered. But it just didn’t work, the lyrics were like a train-spotter’s guide.
The line-up with the Partisans when I joined them at the start of 1963 was Pete Hanaway on Bass, John King on rhythm guitar, Gerry Lloyd on Drums and John Edmed on lead guitar. When I left in the autumn of 1965 to go to Germany with the Iceni, John King had already dropped out, Grahame Leach had replaced Pete Hanaway on bass and Bob Johnson had popped in on keyboards at the last minute.
I began to feel out of place and threatened and started thinking seriously of leaving the band before I was ditched in favour of someone else, so I searched through the ads in the Melody Maker each week and found a position as lead vocalist via audition with the Iceni, an Essex based band who were heading out to Germany.
Being a very competent keyboard player and an absolutely excellent singer, I thought Bob would’ve taken over as lead vocalist when I left. But he didn’t. Although Bob remained with them as keyboardist, they brought in a Jamaican vocalist to front the band and switched to soul material by artists such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.
At that time, all my contemporaries were heading for Germany in the wake of the Beatles success, which had opened up the frontiers to a flood of British musicians and I had itchy feet.
Ironically, The Partisans followed suit later, heading out to Germany with Bob Johnson and the Jamaican singer.