10th Jul, 2020

MUSIC MATTERS by Pete Chambers: A sad goodbye to Coventry musician John Gilroy

Bye, Bye John

It’s with great sadness that we say goodbye to Coventry musician John Gilroy, known to his friends as ‘Grumpy’.

John was a real character with an amazingly dry sense of humour – an outstanding blues guitarist and all-round top bloke. This article includes extracts from an interview I did with John a few years ago…

Guitarist John Gilroy was working at Rolls Royce Parkside when he was approached one day in 1963 and asked if he could play bass guitar.

With the answer being yes, it wasn’t long before he was on a Coventry Carnival float playing in his new band The Pines alongside band members Malcolm O’Sullivan (vocals), Allan Waites (guitar), and a drummer who left soon after to pursue his new job of shooting snakes that fell on the deck of the Queen Mary as they sailed up the Amazon!

The guys soon recruited new drummer Barry Eaton and, when John switched to lead guitar, new bassman Terry Twigger was hired.

“We practised every night for three months”, said John, “before unleashing ourselves on the general public. A demo disc was made at Hollocks & Taylors in Birmingham, which was touted around and Friars Promotions, who held the monopoly at that time on local gigs, signed us up.

“Our first gig was at the Wine Lodge in Coventry, we supported The Avengers. I asked somebody what the difference was between the two bands? I was told that the Avengers were louder, but apart from that there was no difference really. That was the answer I wanted to hear, and bearing in mind the Avengers were a really tight driving band, it was obvious all our practise sessions were paying off.”

It was at a private party however that things would get interesting for the band. Present at the party were two guys from the 60’s band The Ivy League. They liked what they heard and John and the boys were invited down to Southern Music in London.

As a publicity stunt, it was arranged for the Little Darlings to plug into a barbers shop in Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley). “When we opened up”, reveals John, ”The traffic stopped, a crowd gathered and Charing Cross Road was fouled up. The Met appeared and said OK you got what you wanted, now cease!

“We eventually got into the studio and recorded our first 45, ‘Little Bit O’soul’ (and ‘Easy To Cry’ on the B-Side). We visited the influential TV pop-show Ready Steady Go, and got our record played, which went down well.”

The single (released on the Fontana Record label) was written by Ivy League members John Carter and Ken Lewis. The Disc music paper said of it….”The Little Darlings’ noise sounds just great”. Despite the great buzz that surrounded the single, it failed to make a dent on the charts for the Little Darlings (though the song would later take on a life of its own, but the song was later recorded by the American band from Ohio -The Music Explosion and made number two in the US charts in 1967).

The band continued playing places like The Matrix, alongside names such as Dave Berry and The Cruisers, The Kinks (John recalls quaffing a few barcardi and cokes with Ray and Dave Davies at the Phoenix).

They topped the bill themselves at The Matrix on January 8, 1965. By the mid 60s, some of the band became The Sensations, but John went his separate way, as did vocalist Malc O’Sullivan.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to attend John Gilroy’s 60th birthday party. John got up on stage and along with some other fine musicians played a blinder.

It may be some 40 years on, but he was and will always remain a Little Darling

* Search Pete Chambers’ Time Drive Channel on You Tube for more local music content and interviews.

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