The Sundowners

Fleet Castle, Devon 4th April 1946

David John Hill

Dave is the only member of Slade that was not Black Country born. He was a year old when his parents moved from Devon, to Wolverhampton. Born of Jack & Dorothy, David went to Springfield Infants and Warstones Primary before attending Highfields Secondary Modern. He was a bit of a troublemaker prior to taking up the guitar. As is normal with the vertically challenged, he used his capable wit and made few friends in high places. He was therefore declined musical education (as was his want) at school.

Fortunately for Dave, his mate Ray Bates became the owner of a 'special' guitar that had a pic of Elvis and a chord trainer on it. They both used it to learn the guitar and Dave persuaded him to remove the chord trainer and use a guitar manual.

Dave's first guitar was ordered from his Mum's Kays catalogue for the princely sum of £7 and the pair began taking lessons from a science teacher, Brian Close, who played jazz guitar. Dave went halves on the 'seven shillings and sixpence' fee with his Dad. The money came from his paper-boy wage.

The two lads started a band called The Young Ones after the Cliff Richard film. Billy Hickman had a voice and done a fair rendition of Tell Laura I Love Her. Tony Carter joined them on bass which Dave's parents were worried about as he was generally considered a bad influence. Hickman left and Johnny Bradford replaced him and Keith Evans joined on drums. Graham Cater was also in the band at some point.

Although no record of The Young Ones gigs have been found to date, they apparently made their début at The Victory Club in Lower Penn where folk actually danced, inspiring Dave to trade his Kays guitar for a Burns Vista Sonic solid bodied electric guitar.

A 1962 Burns Vista Sonic

Unfortunately, the lack of consistency within the group denied them any measure of success. When school finished the group members drifted apart. Dave was the only member who didn't consider music a pastime, he left school at fifteen and worked as an office boy for Tarmac until he went professional three years later. To add to the confusion, the group name and musical style changed with the personnel. A saxophone was added to the line-up at some point, possibly Cater. After The Young Ones, they became The Sundowners.

The Sundowners included Brian Maclaghlan and Tony Bate alongside John Bradford, Keith Evans, Tony Cater and Dave Hill. The earliest known Sundowners gig at present, is 22nd of October 1962 at Wednesbury Town Hall where they are billed alongside Danny Burns, Lee Lacey and The Ramblers. The group played quite a few local gigs under various Sundowners derivatives. Brad Ford & The Sundowners was a popular variation, The Rocking Sundowners and even Devon Ford & The Sundowners was used?

Big Roll 7 included at various times Mac Wooley (a jazz drummer who had played with local legend Tommy Burton), Eddy Pearce, Fred Lewis, Tony Archer, Ron Graystone and of course John Bradford and Dave Hill. This band was a sing-along, knees up pub band that simply kept Bradford and Hill working after The Sundowners had parted company. At this point Hill would be particularly pleased to meet Chalkie White.

All additional media and background info supplied by Chris Selby
to whom I am, once again, indebted.

The Sundowners Known Gigs

22/10/1962 Wednesbury Town Hall,
(with Danny Burns, Lee Lacey and The Ramblers)
22/12/1962 Scala, Wolverhampton
(as Brad Ford & The Sundowners with Dane Tempest & The Atoms)
16/01/1963 New Inns, Wombourne,
24/01/1963 The Crown. Whitmore Reans
(as Devon Ford & The Sundowners)
09/02/1963 New Inns. Wombourne
14/02/1963 Bradmore Hotel, Bradmore
18/02/1963 Pipehall Hotel, Bilston
20/02/1963 Pipehall Hotel, Bilston
21/02/1963 Bradmore Hotel, Bradmore
25/02/1963 Pipehall Hotel, Bilston
27/02/1963 Pipehall Hotel, Bilston
19/04/1963 Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
(with Billy Breen and Pam Lees)
20/04/1963 Hen & Chickens, Dudley
(as Grant Harvey & The Rocking Sundowners)
20/04/1963 Saint Peters Youth Club Wolverhampton,
25/05/1963 YWCA.Warstones
(as Brad Ford & The Sundowners)

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