Brian Poole and Alan Blakley, two school friends, first decided to form a band in 1956 at Park Modern Secondary School in Barking, Essex. They would go on holiday together with their parents and fantasise about being on TV, even telling young friends in Devon that they were already famous. Armed with a few Buddy Holly and Everly Brothers songs, and two acoustic Hofner guitars, they enlisted Alan Howard who after trying the saxophone graduated to tea chest bass and then the real thing, a Hofner bass guitar. Doing their party piece at parties, they got to know Dave Munden, who like them was a fan of all American and English rock and roll music (1957-59). Dave was hastily shown around the small kit of drums in Alan Blakley’s house and then went on to have great kits such as the early Trixon and Gretch ensembles. So this was how it started.
Soon Alan Blakley, Dave Munden and Brian Poole found that they could harmonise any song they wanted to and developed a style of their own, with all of them singing and playing and Alan Howard on bass guitar.
With Alan B, Alan H and Brian attending Park Modern School in Barking and Dave at another school in Dagenham, they would get together nearly every night to ‘practice’. Totally dedicated to their music but also taking GCE or RSA exams they were even given a classroom to rehearse in after school honing their talents for the future. At this time they did not have a name but soon opted for Tremilos after the sound on the new amplifiers which they could not yet afford.
When an older lad at Park Modern School, Graham Scott, suggested that he should join them they welcomed him because he had a Hagstrom electric (solid body) guitar and a very basic amplifier. Also his dad was willing to take over from their first manager, Brian Kirkland from Ilford Essex, who suffered with Muscular Dystrophy, but was a constant source of fun and ambition – remembered to this day with fondness. Ted Scott, Graham’s dad, would even drive them and their home-made amplifiers to and from their rehearsals.
This was the age of Rock & Roll and soon local people wanted them to play at small venues in the area. The group then was Alan Blakley, Alan Howard, Dave Munden and Brian Poole and Graham Scott and they were mostly playing Buddy Holly & The Crickets songs which suited their developing style. Three chords suddenly became four and even 6 and Dave Munden was flourishing as a drummer / vocalist.
Cinemas such as Odeon, Gaumont, Granada and ABC would ask them to play during the intervals between films and soon they were on the American camp circuit along with the others newcomers such as Geno Washington (1959-1960).
Playing their predominantly Buddy Holly & The Crickets set, with Brian Poole wearing his glasses they soon had many local fans and as word spread further afield, almost before they realised it they became one of the top dance hall attractions in Great Britain.
With this semi fame came the knowledge that they would have to buy better equipment, so they frequented Jim Marshall’s Drum Shop in Uxbridge Road, West London encouraging him along with other local bands to build amplifiers for their needs. Also because of their American connection with the camps and Buddy Holly’s Manager, Norman Petty, with whom they corresponded, they had access to some of the first Fender amps and guitars.
The ‘new’ sound was loud and exactly what their new fans wanted. Graham Scott was replaced on lead guitar by Ricky West who was at the time, with another local band Joe & The Teens, and by 1960 they were turning professional by accepting a 21 week engagement at Butlins Ayr. At the same time some fans from Southend on Sea, Essex pestered the BBC to give them one of the first regular ‘Saturday Club’ spots with Brian Mathew etc. on BBC Radio. Dave, Brian and Alan Blakley were also being used as a backing vocal session group by Decca Records on many hit records of the time including Tommy Steele, Delbert McClinton, US Bonds, Jet Harris & Tony Meehan and the Vernon Girls amongst others. This period came just before the famous Decca audition so was fully instrumental in their subsequent signing by Decca.
A meeting with Decca recording manager Mike Smith, at a local coffee bar frequented by musicians, resulted in them being auditioned and then signed.