Thursday

The Raving Savages Featuring Freddie Fingers Lee: October 1962 to May 1963


Screaming Lord Sutch used to chase some of his musicians with a big knife, generally the pianist dressed as prostitute during "Jack the Ripper". That’s how Andy Wren had been injuried and into the band came Britain’s answer to Jerry Lee Lewis, Fred Cheeseman aka "Freddie Fingers Lee". As a solo act, Cheeseman supported Screaming Lord Sutch and his acolytes on several occasions since mid 1961. All Savages' pianists were called "Freddie Fingers Lee The Flea" by Sutch's manager Tom Littlewood - but the latter kept the name forever. With this stage name he became the famous British Rockabilly pianist wearing the eye-patch like Johnny Kidd.

Blackmore's replacement was Godfrey "Geoff" Mew from Newcastle. He started out on banjo in a skiffle group called the Saints whose lead singer was Freddie Fingers Lee in the late 50s. At the time, he was a good friend of Brian Rankin aka "Hank Marvin" whose uncle worked with him at Hawthorn Leslie Marine Engineers. Mew remembers that Marvin and his chap Bruce Cripps aka "Bruce Welch"- they both played in a skiffle group the Railroaders - showed him the british railway staff canteen where late at night they could get a really good cheap meal.
As things developed and rock n roll took over Geoff first had a Jennings supersound echo box but gave that up for raw gibson 335 straight sound.
He then joined The Jetstreams who wound up on one occasion backing Eric Burdon of The Animals when he climbed on stage to do a guest couple of songs with them at the Old Downbeat Jazz Club. So Freddie Fingers Lee persuaded Dave Sutch to recruit fellow ex-Saint Mew into The Savages.

Derek "Degsy" Sirmon, an acquaintance of Ritchie Blackmore's, who was just sixteen at the time, replaced Carlo Little as Savages’ drummer. Sirmon had previously played drums with The Conchords, whose vocalist was future Mungo Jerry Ray Dorset, Frankie Reid & the Casuals and Mike Dee & the Jaywalkers, which were all managed by DJ Phil Jay. He brought in The Savages bass player Danny McCulloch from the Casuals.

This new set of Savages began to perform together at Staines Town Hall in late 62, but finally left Screaming Lord Sutch after a two week booking at the Star Club in Hamburg - from May 1st to May 14th - and then toured North Germany on their own as "The Raving Savages", headlining all over from Hamburg, Hanover, Braunschweig, Lubeck, L√ľneburg, Dusseldorf etc... from Summer to Winter’ 63.

They were originally booked at Hamburg Star Club to support Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and new chart toppers, The Searchers in August 1963.

But as they had signed a contract with Star Club manager Mannfred Weissleder promising not to play anywhere else in Hamburg for one year after the performance there, The Raving Savages then got organised by the people they were working for in Hamburg to transfer to the Star Palast in Luneburg which was run by a Mannfred Woitalla.

They recorded an E.P. intitled "Everybody Surf with The Surfing Savages" which was produced by Mike Smith at DECCA (the guy and the label who missed The Beatles). It included covered version of Californian hits of the time such as Beach boys' "Surfin' USA" and Jean & Dean's "Surf City" on which Freddy “Fingers” Lee sang lead, with guitarist Geoff Mew (who played lead, and neither Jimmy Page nor Brian Jones as rumoured) and bassist Danny McCulloch on back up vocals. The saxophone solo was played by newly recruited Ashton "Toots" Tootell from Paul Dean & the Dreamers (1).

About this time, an alternative version of The Savages, comprising Carlo Little on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano (both of whom were members of the then-current line-up of Cyril Davis & His R&B All Stars), recorded demo singles for Liverpool singer "Casey Jones" and saxophonist Chris Hughes (2).

Fingers Lee eventually moved to Hamburg where he played in the house-bands at the Top Ten and the Star Club, and then later teamed up with Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, fronting The Shriekers. He was replaced with Ron Harwood who was fronting his own band The Premiers whose lead guitarist was another future Savage John Gilbey.

But The Raving Savages eventually broke away from their German manager Mannfred Woitalla and went back to England before splitting up in late '63. Sirmon and McCulloch then teamed up with former Nashville Teens members vocalist Terry Crowe and guitarist Mick Dunford to form The Plebs who would backed several guest american artists such as Jerry Lee Lewis or John Lee Hooker as well as U.K singers Jess Conrad and Mark Wynter. Danny McCulloch later worked with Eric Burdon & his New Animals.


Notes:

(1) Ashton Tootell aka "Toots" was the son of Ken Tootell, who had played with The Fred Heath Band in the 50's. He started out as Tenor Sax with Paul Dean & the Dreamers, and then joined The Savages in March 1963 but he did not come with them to the star club in May 1963. Later when they broke up with Screaming Lord Sutch in June 1963, Ashton organised a months work in Braunschweig Germany. He went on to work for the Tornados as their roadie and then returned The Savages in early 1965.

(2) Liverpool singer Brian Casser aka "Casey Jones" - the guy who had suggested John Lennon to rename his band "Long John & The Silver Beetles" in 1960 - recorded a demo of single "One Way Ticket" with a version of The Savages comprising Carlo Little on drums, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Danny McCulloch on bass, and roadie Ray King on guitar. They also recorded an instrumental version of Chuck Berry's "Guitar Boogie" and Little Richard's "Lucille".
The recording session took place at Regent Sound, Denmark Street, on February 20th, 1963 and it was produced by Sandy Shaw's manager Eve Taylor.

Some months later, Casser released the single "One Way Ticket" b/w "I'm Gonna Love" for Columbia Records as "Casey Jones & The Engineers". His new band then featured Eric Clapton and Tom McGuinness on guitars.

The same team recorded another demo single "Tube Train Stomp" for saxophonist Chris Hughes who was part of the Tony Meehan Combo and later joined Georgie Fame's Blue Flames.

The first demo single was credited to 'Casey Jones And The Savages', and the second to 'Chris Hughes And The Savages'.


Read more about The Surfing Savages


4 comments:

  1. NICE STORY ! BRINGING BACK THE GOOD TIMES.
    Geoff Mew was with David Sutch when I was with David Lord Sutch.
    We shared a flat in Cricklewood, North West London.
    210 Cricklewood Lane, Tony Dangerfield shared the same flat with us.
    Paul Dean Nicholas, Tony Marsh, Pete Philips, John Gilbey, Carlo Little, Ron Harwood, all worked as Savages during my time with my school boy friend David Sutch. David and myself grew up in the same road, Charteris Road, Kilburn, London, NW6. and both lived in Harrow, David in South Harrow and me in Pinner Road Harrow.

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  2. TRY MY WEB-SITE FOR MORE STORY'S ABOUT 50/60s With David Sutch and some of the Savages.
    www.colindaleradiosutch.com
    Getting the clap at Bath Pavilion is a goody ?
    Tony Dangerfield and Morcambe Beach is another memory.
    on Radio Sutch, the gun towers, shivering sands, thames estuary, with the lovely dolly birds and randy mandy !
    Loads of Story's some are very near the nucle.
    The greatest little whore house in Manchester should go down well.
    COLIN DALE RADIO SUTCH

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  3. Just had a japanese reporter popped into my shop on the West Shore, Llandudno.
    Could he do a story about myself and RADIO SUTCH 1964 ( he'd just driven all the way from London ) who was I to refuse him ?
    Well wot do you know ! 6 months later - there's my photo's in two Japanese Music Magazines along with the true story of Radio Sutch 1964 - plus Clapton and The Stones - seems I'm amongst good company..
    www.colindaleradiosutch.com

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  4. HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014 - May all your troubles be little one..
    www.youtube.com/colindaleradiosutch

    ReplyDelete