Here is a photo of ''Herbie & The Deltas'' band, based in Walthamstow 1961.
The Deltas: Herbie (?) (vocals), Johnny Charlton (guitar), Barry Raven (guitar), Bill Farrow (bass), Terry (?) (drums)
(Copyright © Johnny Charlton 1961)
This picture was kindly provided by Johnny Charlton, who lived his childhood in Walthamstow (Wood St. area). Johnny later (1963) became a member of "The Shel Carson Combo" performing in UK, Holland, Germany and finally in Italy (1964). The group changed their name to The Rokes", becoming very famous and hitting the top charts for several years until they broke-up in 1970.
Johnny remained in Rome, Italy, where he opened an Art Gallery, and is now a well known artist. Visit his site at "johnnycharlton.gallery".
Johnny's first email to the WM site was a double-shocking surprise to me: first because he said he was based in Italy (where I lived most of my life), and secondly becouse, following his invitation to visit his site, I discovered that he was an ex-member of "The Rokes", one of the top bands in Italy during the 1964-1970! I loved their songs and I remember attending one of their performances at the "Space Electronic", an extremely popular venue in Florence. My mind was blown! So many memories, tucked away for so long, slipped out of my brains (and my heart - I'm sure hearts have a memory too!). Way back then, I also played (vocals, guitar & keyboard) in a band - not sure if we called ourselves "The Knights" or "The Lost Souls" - infinitely unknown outside the Florence boundaries. The Rokes were one of our idols and we also played a few of their songs. Many months later, we also performed in the same venue and we could still feel their presence on the 'boards'...
I had no idea that Johnny had lived his youth in Walthamstow (as all biographical notes on him stated "London" as his home town) and this added a third surprise for me!
I am sure that he, having an encyclopedic memory, can add a huge amount of information on the Walthamstow 'golden' musical days...
My first gigs abroad were in France on the American bases. It was 1962 I remember perfectly because I was on the American base in Samour France at the time of the Cuban crisis. Everyone was ready for war.
The original group was Johnny Charlton and Paul Gurvitz guitar and vocals and we went out as "The Londoners". We were set up for a six-month stint but Paul Gurvitz backed out after a month because he was homesick and very much in love with his girlfriend, so he left and went back to London. I continued and finished out the six months with many changes in the line-up. On the bases you always had to have a girl singer out front and that created more problems than it was worth. I learnt a lot about music in those six months. All the Americans knew how to play the guitar and the all danced great. On one base "Toul" there were many good guitarists because the Producer and guitarist of Buddy PETTY did his national service there and he taught many GI's how to play a guitar.
When I got back to England I was better than when I left. I carried on with another group who were all good musicians and we did have plenty of gigs working with the Peter Walsh agency in Covent Garden. We were booked to do a tour but I was sick and tired of the behaviour within the group that meant no future so I just abandoned the group. I dont even remember what name we were using.
The next day I went into Jennings guitar shop in Charring Cross Road and was reading the handwritten announcements posted on the door. While I was there John Lennon was trying out a Vox ac30 twin. The owner or director of the shop was called Larry. He asked me what I was looking for. I replied, I have a gibson guitar, a vox 30 ac twin and an echo chamber (that was considered an essential in that period), but I underlined that I could play reasonably well and that I had a valid passport and I would go anywhere in the world as long as I was playing in a group. He said that three boys Shel, Bobby and Mike were looking for someone to go to Italy with them for a six week theatre tour because their lead guitarist did not want to go to what he thought was Africa. They were at that moment called the Shel Carson Combo.
They were going as the backing group of Colin Hicks (Tommy Steele's younger brother) and when in Italy with Colin we had to be billed as the "Cabin Boys".
I did an audition in the Roaring twenties club in Carnaby street. But, they did not like the way I played. They wanted a more gutsy rhythm and blues player and my way of playing was too flowery and light. We parted and then a few weeks later they got in touch saying that I was ok for the group. I asked why is it ok now and it was not ok a few weeks ago. They said because nobody wanted to go to Italy. Within a few days we all arrived in Italy with Colin Hicks. A man on a three wheeled bike with a baggage platform on the front to take the amps and drums and all to the theatre. Maybe we had arrived in Africa! I must say that Colin was nice person, a very good singer and a great rock'n roller and he danced and pranced marvellously. He was great on-stage and we all got on well with him. It is he who said that we were a good solid group and he said we should stay on in Italy after the tour finished. He said we would make it to the top.
He was perfectly right! A great big Thank You to Colin Hicks. Later on, maybe a year later Paul Gurvitz took over the name of "The Londoners" and then changed it to "The Gunn" and then to the original English "The Knack". Paul is maybe the best heavy rock'n' roller I have ever worked with. He came to Rome and did a couple of one nighters at the Titan Club in Rome and he was great. Jimmy Hedrix also played at the same Titan club in Rome. Our new name "The Rokes" was adopted when we started to be successful, because our name was too long to fit on the television screen. The "Rokes" was a funny word that I pronounced in a sentence and the boys were making fun of me (extracting the piddle). I did not know if I wanted to say "straight as a rake" or as "hard as a rock" so I just said "Roke" and it stuck. We had only until the following morning to decide so it was "The Rokes" forever and we never looked back.
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