Steve Brett and The Mavericks

Wolverhampton, October 1964

Steve Brett & The Mavericks were Noddy Holder's introduction to the world of the professional musician. Brett was a widely respected artiste who had played the length and breadth of the country, built a loyal following wherever he played and even had a regular spot on a Midlands TV Show 'For Teenagers Only' . He was, in a word, professional.

In truth, he'd been there and done it. He'd been a fairly successful Rock & Roll artist and had toned down to 'cater for changing tastes'. He was now singing contemporary country style Elvis style ballads. For this reason, Holder was unlikely to stick around for long. It's fair to say that the group had different ideas on what they would like to do but for now, Noddy had got himself an apprenticeship.
The brand new Mavericks joined Steve Brett in late 1964 and spent a year working with him. During 1965 they performed almost every night throughout The Midlands and recorded three singles for EMI's Columbia label. The band would perform the first set without Brett, playing the best of their Memphis Cut-Outs set. The second set would be as Steve Brett's backing band playing Country style ballads. It must of made interesting listening for the audience. They also begun to get regular coverage in the papers, the Wolverhampton locals, The Express and The Star and the Birmingham Mail. The earliest known gig, so far, is at the Three Men In A Boat again, on the 11th of October 1964.


Their first single release was Wishing released on 29th January 1965. Recorded at Hollick & Taylor, it's a Brett written composition with (what appears to be) female backing vocals and was released as Columbia DB7470, this is a funeral paced ballad. It's backed with more of the same, Anything That's Part Of You, written by Don Robertson for Elvis Presley. Both numbers are typical of the ballads of that era.


In May they released their second single, Sad, Lonely & Blue on Columbia DB7581. This was a much better release by far, again written by Brett (with inspiration from the Easybeats maybe?) but here he has decided to make use of his new groups musical talents. Bounding along on a lovely loping bass line, this one incorporates a compulsive sax refrain from Terry Taylor and backing vocals from Noddy Holder. Backed on the flip by an extremely groovy Candy, featuring some addictive keyboards from Phil Burnell. Anybody cool enough to grab this little treasure when it was released must have been considered very hip!

It was probably around this time that they got an opportunity to record with Joe Meek. Brett knew somebody who knew Meek and had arranged a recording session in London. Despite his legendary status, his studio turned out to be a grotty bathroom in a flat above some shops. The band all played outside on the landing while Meek monitored from his control box. Nothing recorded ever materialised unsurprisingly because, Holder says "It was a pile of shite!" but having said that, all things happen for a reason?

The purpose of Meek bathroom studio was for the crazy echo effect. He recorded The Honeycombs - Have I The Right and The Tornados - Telstar there, you can hear the swirling echo in these tracks. This same recording technique would be used by Chas Chandler and Slade half a decade later, to bring the live 'hand claps and stomping' feel to their early singles. I don't know if Holder was integral in that idea?

The third and best known Mavericks single is the Brett-penned Chains On My Heart for which Steve returns to his morose self. Columbia DB7794 is backed with the upbeat Sugar Shack, a song written in 1962 by Keith McCormack and his aunt, Fay Voss. The song was recorded in 1963 by Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs. Wonderfully addictive with a great whistling hook in the chorus while singing about an Espresso Coffee shop. It's almost impossible to listen to without smiling.

Music Echo: September 15th 1965

They recorded Sugar Shack and Chains... in Grosvenor Studios, Birmingham (as with the others) on September 14th 1965 being produced and engineered by John R. Taylor. They also recorded Hurting Inside which never saw a release until it's inclusion on The Genesis Of Slade in 1996. Ironically, in the later release on the Cherry Red label, on a certain pressing this track is missing from the CD but remained in the track listing.

It didn't get released until December by which time the group were splitting up. This didn't bother Brett much as it was something he'd done many times over the years. He would simply hire some new musicians and carry on regardless.


Steve Brett & The Mavericks were signed to the Wolverhampton based Astra Agency who also had The 'N Betweens on their books. Although the bands were musically 'poles apart' they did occasionally cross paths and Noddy struck up a passing acquaintance with their drummer Don Powell.

Herald Express: July 3rd-9th Torquay

In October 1965, The Mavericks & The 'N Betweens found themselves on the same ferry heading for Germany. Holder and Powell had a drink in the bar with The 'N Betweens guitarist, Dave Hill, who had previously been unapproachable to Holder. It seems they were unhappy with their band and wanted to split and they asked Holder if he would be interested in forming a new band. He told them he'd think about it.

The Mavericks had a good reputation for the live performance and it was this that got them a two 4 week resident bookings in Germany. A month in Frankfurt and a month in Cologne. Holder's book states "Our first four weeks were spent at the Storyville in Frankfurt." He also claims Frankfurt was his first time abroad. The Charlesworth book unfortunately says, '...he spent time in Cologne, followed by Frankfurt' which is a bit of a pain. Either way, there was not enough time between UK gigs, to spend eight weeks in Germany?

In Frankfurt at The Storyville, they played five or six hours a day Monday to Friday, 9 till midnight, playing pop to the Germans, midnight to 2am or 3am, playing the R&B and Country set to US air base personnel. These were long and arduous gigs for the band, further fuelled by the amount of alcohol consumed. Six 45 minute sets punctuated by fifteen minute breaks, during which the band drank the many drinks bought for them by the grateful audience. They were also rewarded by enthusiastic German women. All in all, a time of much decadence and hedonism. The band, despite earning good money, spent far more than they earnt and were constantly skint, it takes a strong man to survive this learning curve. Bassist, Pete Bickley recalls the German experience and his story confirms statements made by members of The 'N Betweens.
"Germany was really knackering. We had to play for hours from the evening until the early morning. The club would close at about five in the morning and we would just fall into bed and sleep for a fair proportion of the day. It was even harder at the weekend."

"We played at the Storeyville clubs in Frankfurt and Cologne. Both of those clubs were full of some of the dregs of humanity. There were pimps, prostitutes, gangsters and drug dealers, all carrying on their trade in full view of the group. So, there we were miles from home in a foreign country, aged about 17 or 18 and surrounded by that. It was horrific.”

"The music we played at the clubs was anything and everything. We would repeat the repertoire because the clientèle in the club regularly changed. Many of those who stayed for hours were usually too drunk to notice that we were repeating ourselves. The solos played by the group members would invariably lengthen as the evening went by, if only to give each of us a bit of a break."
Green Onions is a favourite for this job, allowing solos to lengthen and the whole song to loop endlessly on auto-pilot. When the alcohol became too much there was a safety net.
"We probably played far more instrumentals while in Germany because Steve’s voice would go regularly, after all he was used to doing about ninety minutes in Britain and he was being asked to do something like five or six hours in Germany. He would
probably be better after a couple of days and then the whole rigmarole would start again. Noddy used to sing as well of course."

"John Marshall owned both of those clubs and he employed slave drivers as managers. One night I was sitting cross-legged on the stage because I could not stand up, I was just too tired. The little Hitler, who was the manager, came up and shouted
'Schnell! Schnell! Up! Up! Up!' Obviously I had to do as I was told, after all they were the bosses and they could easily get another group in at a moment s notice."

"Despite the arduous conditions, the experience did the group the world of good because we became better and we were able to experiment with things which we would never have tried back in England."
At the end of the tour the bands van broke down in Germany. Steve Brett caught the train home and left most of the band in Germany with all the equipment and no money. The boys had to contact their parents and have £200 wired out to Germany for engine repairs.

It's possible that Brett disapproved of their excesses and thought he was teaching them a lesson, after all his image was a very 'clean cut' one. He did however, get himself into trouble with the German Police at some point due to incorrect documentation. The story goes: Brett was driving the group van in Germany when he was pulled over. The Police put him in a cell overnight and he probably missed a gig. I'm sure Noddy must have found it quite amusing?

The Astra Agency also abandoned the group in their 'hour of need' and the band eventually contacted their parents to get money wired over to help them out. It's worth reminding readers that this was 1965, phones and banks were not as globally effective back in the 60's.

Holder and Brett had been arguing before the German Tour and this was it for him. They returned home mid December and Holder announced he was quitting the group. Holder, Bickley & Kibble completed the last weeks worth of bookings and left The Mavericks just before Christmas 1965. There was some idle chatter about forming another band but it came to nothing. Holder started 1966 by borrowing his Dad's van and taking the job of roadie for a local group called Listen.


A used demo copy of Wishing sold at auction on Ebay for £343.33 on 11 Apr, 2010, 21:00:30 BST.

The Mavericks Known Gigs
11/10/1964 Three Men In a Boat, Bloxwich
30/10/1964 CavernClub, Liverpool
18/11/1964 Cleveland Arms, Willenhall
20/11/1964 Marston Excelsior Sports & Social Club, Wolverhampton
(with The Precincts)
28/11/1964 Cleveland Arms, Willenhall
08/12/1964 Ship & Rainbow
12/12/1964 Bloxwich Baths
(with Ralph Leyton & Formula 1)
15/12/1964 Ship & Rainbow
18/12/1964 Tipton Baths
23/12/1964 Casino Club, Walsall

15/01/1965 Gala Hal, West Bromwich
23/01/1965 Walsall Town Hall
30/01/1965 3 Men In a Boat
05/02/1965 Civic Centre, Brierley Hill
06/02/1965 Le Metro Club, Birmingham
12/02/1965 Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton
(with Dripper Kent & the Martells and George, E, Washington)
05/03/1965 Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
08/03/1965 Cleveland Arms, Willenhall
12/03/1965 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
(with Dave Rollans & His Showband)
24/03/1965 Cleveland Arms, Willenhall
27/03/1965 Town Hall, Walsall
(with The Chuckles)
01/04/1965 Ship & Rainbow, Wolverhampton
10/04/1965 Le Metro Club, Birmingham
11/04/1965 Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
17/05/1965 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
(with The Chantelles)
03/07/1965 400 Ballroom, Torquay
(for seven days 3rd - 9th)
10/07/1965 Walsall Town Hall
(with The Crosbys)
15/07/1965 Ship & Rainbow, Wolverhampton
17/07/1965 Woolpack, Wolverhampton
26/07/1965 Cleveland Arms, Willenhall
01/08/1965 Le Metro Club, Birmingham
14/08/1965 Town Hall, Walsall
(with The Nomads)

15/08/1965 The George, Wellingsborough
21/08/1965 Garden Fete, Saint Helens
(Aftenoon & Evening performance)

22/08/1965 Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire
23/08/1965 Winter Gardens, Blackpool
25/08/1965 Summer Court Hotel, Kingswinford
28/08/1965 Le Metro Club, Birmingham
10/09/1965 Torquay
(10th - 17th for
7 Days)
16/09/1965 Ship & Rainbow, Wolverhampton
17/09/1965 Town Hall, Walsall
(with Stu James & the Mojos and Korolevu Trio)

25/09/1965 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
(with The Castors)
11/10/1965 Baths, Willenhall
23/10/1965 Town Hall, Walsall
(with Beat Ltd)
29/10/1965 Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich

23/11/1965 Storyville Club, Cologne, Germany?
31/11/1965 Storyville ClubFrankfurt, Germany?
22/12/1965 Labour Club, Rushall
12/12/1965 the Quarter Deck Club Hockley, Birmingham

Chains On My Heart
(Brett) Mark Music Ltd.
I can see that you and me
We'll be together forever and ever, you'll see
When we start a new life together

Time's gone by when foolish pride tore us apart
And I thought forever I'd be so free
I've got chains on my heart and you've got the key

Chains on my heart, chains on my heart
Only you could open the door to my heart
Locked since you went away, oh yeah
But now you're back and I can feel
Everything's going my way, yeah

I can see that you and me
We'll be together forever and ever, you'll see
When we start a new life together

A couple of the images are borrowed from the Genesis Of Slade album, the others are from Chris Selby and Phil Burnell's scrapbook. Thanks to Chris Selby for his assistance, once again.

No comments: