The John Barry Seven was a band formed by John Barry in 1957, after he abandoned his original career path of arranging for big bands.
He contacted three musicians with whom he had served in the army and three local musicians and invited them to join his new band. The first line-up was: John Barry (vocals & trumpet), Mike Cox (tenor-sax), Derek Myers (alto-sax), Ken Golder (drums), Fred Kirk (bass guitar), Ken Richards (lead guitar) and Keith Kelly (rhythm guitar). For a short time the JB7 became John Barry & The Seven when he introduced a vibraphone player, John Aris, but by the time the band began recording for EMI (Parlophone) the experiment had been abandoned.
The JB7 appeared on British TV shows such as Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! during 1957 and 1958, but discontent began spreading through the band. Jack Good proved to be a hard taskmaster on Oh Boy! Rehearsals were deliberately lengthy, intense and arduous in order to perfect what was a fast-paced show.
When compounded by a tough touring schedule and regular recording commitments, morale began to suffer among the band's members. Disagreements started to surface. Fatigue bred discontent. Some resentment towards Barry simmered to the boil, because he did not have to appear when accompanying other artists on the bill. Add the homesickness caused by incessant travelling to the list of grievances and it was quite obvious that all was not well. At times work could be so irregular, that the band had already arrived back home in Yorkshire, by the time London-based Barry was in a position to call them south again for a few more dates. Moreover, they were losing a certain amount of work on Oh Boy! resulting in a substantial reduction in wages.
As a consequence, when Derek Myers received an offer to play with a big band in Scotland on a permanent basis, it was an offer he couldn't refuse. A week of almost constant bickering made up his mind for him. Mike Cox, on complaining bitterly about the quality of gigs offered, also left; likewise, Fred Kirk (a trained aircraft fitter), after spotting a job in aviation. When Ken Richards announced he wanted to return to Scarborough, Golder felt it was time for him to go too, not wishing to be the only one of the original local big-band trio remaining.
Mike Peters and Jimmy Stead (both from Ossett, near Leeds) replaced Kirk and Myers respectively. Peters then introduced Londoner Dennis King as a replacement for the disenchanted Mike Cox, while Stead brought in Dougie Wright, a drummer with whom he had played in the Leeds-based Bill Marsden Big Band. It meant that with the exception of Barry and Keith Kelly, the original band was a thing of the past. With the departure of lead guitarist Ken Richards, Barry was in urgent need of a replacement. Initially, he brought in another Leeds musician, Jack Oliver, but when he lasted a mere week, Barry decided to approach Vic Flick, whom he had encountered on a Paul Anka package tour, then still working with The Bob Cort Skiffle Group.
Much to Barry's relief, he jumped at the chance and arrived in time to rehearse for an important show at the Metropolitan in Edgware Road on 10 November 1958. The Seven was contracted to perform a 20-minute act as well as backing several other artists, including Marty Wilde. The line-up now read: John Barry (trumpet), Vic Flick (lead guitar), Mike Peters (bass guitar), Keith Kelly (rhythm guitar), Jimmy Stead (baritone sax), Dennis King (tenor-sax) and Dougie Wright (drums). For a very short time they experimented with a female singer, Liza Page, the sister of the TV star Jill Day, but this did not prove as successful as they had hoped.
BBC TV's rationale behind the inception of Drumbeat was to fill a spot in their summer schedules that would seriously threaten the popularity of ITV's Oh Boy! Producer Stewart Morris offered the band an audition with a view to appearing in its own right and also to back a variety of other artists, just as in the early days of Oh Boy! Barry liked the idea, and to seal the booking, decided to introduce a pianist into the group as a replacement for Keith Kelly, who had decided to try a solo career as a singer. Vic Flick suggested his flat mate Les Reed, then playing jazz piano in London night clubs.
The new line-up lasted until 1961 when Barry became too busy arranging and composing to continue. He installed Vic Flick as the leader and brought in Bobby Carr on trumpet to take his place. The band enjoyed a lot of chart success as well as appearing regularly on radio and TV and on pop package tours - often with Adam Faith.
During 1962, Dougie Wright and Les Reed departed - the former in search of more regular work and the latter to forge a career in writing and producing. Dickie Harwood and then Andy White replaced Wright for a short period, while Brian 'Rachmaninoff' Hazelby initially took over from Les Reed, before Kenny Salmon became a more permanent fixture. With Barry concentrating on his own future, the band was unable to find the same amount of work, particularly after having severed links with Adam Faith. What's more, since 'The James Bond Theme', further chart success was proving elusive; as such, other members were beginning to look to where the grass might be greener.
Vic Flick was one such person. He had been with the Seven since late 1958 and had led the band on stage for the past two years, but increasing demands on his time as a session player led to his decision to leave. Although he gave three months notice, Barry was unable to find a suitable replacement, thereby forcing him to temporarily disband the group. Flick's last performance as a member of the Seven was at Torquay in August 1963, after which he spent many years ensconced in various London recording studios as a much sought after freelance session musician, accompanying a roll call of the top names in the business.
By October 1963, after a temporary hiatus, Barry was able to assemble the nucleus of a resurrected JB7 with the assistance of acclaimed session drummer Bobby Graham. According to Graham, he had been requested by Barry to take over the leadership as a result of Barry's determination to cash in on the lucrative bookings that the Seven were still attracting at universities and colleges throughout the UK. Graham's pedigree in the pop world was indeed impressive. He was a member of The Outlaws, Joe Brown and The Bruvvers and Marty Wilde's Wildcats before moving into regular session work. At this point, the band consisted of Graham (drums), Dave Richmond (bass guitar), Ron Edgeworth (keyboards), Ray Russell (lead guitar), Terry Childs (baritone sax), Bob Downes (tenor sax) and Alan Bown (trumpet). After only a few months, Ray Styles was recruited to replace Dave Richmond on bass guitar, while Tony Ashton took over from Ron Edgeworth on piano and vocals.
In 1964, Graham - like Flick and Richmond before him - decided to concentrate on ever-increasing studio session work, something he had never entirely given up. At that point, Alan Bown took over as leader of the JB7, leaving only him and Terry Childs remaining from the Graham-led band. As soon as he took charge of the JB7, he was keen to book the new line-up into a studio, the result of which was the single '24 Hours Ago', the first JB7 vocal since Barry's early efforts seven years previously. This 45 featured new vocalist and keyboard player Mike O'Neil, and apart from Bown and Childs, the line-up was Dave Green (tenor-sax), Stan Haldane (bass guitar), Ernie Cox (drums) and Ron Menicos (lead guitar). The one remaining significant change to the line-up involved Mike O'Neil, who was replaced on keyboards/vocals by Jeff Bannister. Bown admits to have been disappointed when Barry gave him three months' notice of intent to permanently disband the group, particularly as the band was still much in demand at venues as wide ranging as winter gardens, hotels, universities and colleges. He is convinced that the band would still be performing up to the present day (and still making a good living at it) had the John Barry Seven moniker been retained. As it was, Bown quickly formed The Alan Bown Set, which included Stan Haldane, Jeff Bannister and Dave Green from the remains of the group. Although they were able to take over many of the JB7's regular bookings, the money was not the same without that all-important name.
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