From Elvis Look-alike To The Wild Hairy Man of Borneo... : 1956 - 1959

In the mid 50s, Dave Sutch lived with his mother in South Harrow, Northwest London.
After leaving school in 1956, at the age of 16, he had various jobs such as sheet metal worker in a factory in Hanger Lane, Willesden, plumber's apprentice then assistant mechanic for a Cycle Company. He then became a self employed and part-time window cleaner after meeting a 'Big Ginger Bill' who persuaded him to buy his equipment for £15 (1).
At this time, he was bitten by the Rock'n'Roll bug and use to idolize American icons such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis or Bill Haley. Not only he went to see the latter in Brixton, in early 1957, but also Jerry Lee Lewis twice in May 1958, at Kilburn State Theatre and at the Dominion Theatre, London (2).
Originally Sutch had an Elvis Presley look-alike apparel and, hopped onto his newly acquired second-hand BSA Bantum 125cc motorbike (3), he used to head to Coffee Bars such as the Ace Cafe on North Circular Road, the Cannibal Pot Coffee Bar on Harrow Road and the Two I's Coffee Bar in Old Compton Street, Soho, London, which was The hottest place to be - as it was here that Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard were discovered (4).
In early 1959, resolved to be a rock'n'roll singer, Dave Sutch first attended auditions in the cellar of the mecca to budding pop stars which were interrupted because the auditioners got fed up with all the Elvis Presley look-alikes who came.
The 2 I's manager Tom Littlewood advised the newcomer to get an original gimmick (5). So Sutch decided to swap his former apparel for the 'wild man of Borneo' look after he saw a pair of old buffalo horns for sale at 15 shillings in a place called "Jack's Second Hand Shop". When he returned to the 2 I's, disguised with buffalo horns glued to his crash helmet and his aunt's leopard skin jacket, which he tored the sleeves off, he looked like "a rag-and-bone man" as Littlewood remembers. Flaunting his wild man image, he impressed at his audition, singing an old song called “Bullshit Boogie”.
Obviously Rock star Vince Taylor, who was one of the main act at the venue, would recommended Dave Sutch to Tom Littlewood.

Sutch therefore landed a spot singing at the 2 I's, and began to pick up bookings for gigs, backed by the house band which comprised Tony Harvey on lead guitar and Bobby Woodman drums who both later worked with Vince Taylor. However he spent the proceeds of his first two gigs reimbursing his aunt the cost of the coat.

On March 30 1959, he took part in a walking between Aldermaston and London to campaign for the nuclear disarmament.

(1)  Dave Sutch:
“The work gave me the freedom to be myself, let my hair grow long and wear whatever I liked as well as practise songs as I went on my rounds. All the money I earned I kept. I was on my way...”
“I was the first of the longhairs... I had grown my locks to 18 inches long and turned myself into a freak years before the hippies came along”.

(2)  Colin Dale:
"When Jerry Lee Lewis came to the UK, David and I spent our last few bob going to see him at the State Cinema Kilburn on the Saturday.  On the Sunday we went to the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road,  we walked in, bought two ice creams and saw him again for nothing - he was brilliant."

(3)  According to guitarist Vic Clark, it seems that David Sutch never had a motorbike but just a Vesper scooter that had to be push started: "It was quite an experience trying to jump on the back of a moving scooter while holding my guitar with one hand. Those were the days!"

(4)  Colin Dale:
"We had an old Zundapp Bella scooter, and used to spend our time at the Ace Cafe, North Circular Road, Stonebridge, also the Blue Cafe, and Cricklewood Skating Rink, also 2Is Old Compton Street, Soho..."
"At the ages of 16 and 17 we started to go to the Two Is Coffee Bar in Soho and the place was packed in those days. Don’t forget those where the days of Tommy Steele, Terry Dene, Marty Wilde, Wee Willie Harris, just to name a few. And there was the night that David and myself took to the stage in the cellar at the Two Is, our wages, a plate of fish and chips each if we where lucky. Littlewood, the boss did not pay much in those days; he never paid much at any time."

(5)  Tom Littlewood:
“One afternoon a strange individual came in, presenting himself as Mr. Sutch and asked if he could do an audition. I was very much amazed when he arrived, looking like a rag-and-bone man. He had with him a large bundle of miscellaneous equipment - sheepskin, pair of Buffalo horns, a man-trap, snow shoes and so forth. He sang an obscure old number called “Bullshit Boogie”.

1 comment:

  1. Those were the days , I suppose? Got a tattoo in Soho at age 17, cost me 17s 6d . Rode an old Vincent motorbike, and thought I was a big deal.