11th Jul, 2020

MUSIC MATTERS: Loss of another Coventry legend - Arthur Griffiths of TV show winners New City Sounds

It’s with great sadness I have to report the loss of yet another great Coventry musician Arthur George Griffiths, sax player of the great club band New City Sounds who came to fame as two times winners of the hit TV talent show Opportunity Knocks!.

The band that were named after a loaf of bread came together in 1969 at the old West End Club (now the HQ of Radio Plus).

Led by Frank Dempsey, the band became a permanent fixture at the free and easy weekends. The future looked bright, that was until Mick Hayes died from electrocution on stage and the band became close to calling it a day.

During this painful time, original members Frank Dempsey and Arthur Griffiths got to thinking that Mick wouldn’t have wanted them to stop playing, it was their life.

So the guys re-grouped and re-invented The New City Sounds. They came back bigger and better with new members Barry and Angie O’Keefe, Pete Smith and Lenny Barrett.

The band had a new sound and began making their mark not just in Coventry & Warwickshire but also all over the country like Leeds and Manchester. Angie brought some glamour to the band, and with her great voice and good looks became an obvious focal point of the group.

The big TV talent show of the day was Opportunity Knocks, long before Pop Idol and The X-Factor. This show was discovering talent in a major way, and any self-respecting artiste would at least audition to be on the show.

New City Sounds not only auditioned for the show but actually got to be on it and won it twice, also returning for the All Winners Show.

I once interviewed Arthur and I asked about the Opportunity Knocks experience: “It was just a great experience for us, I remember Frank Dempsey saying to me I’ve waited years for this to happen as we stood by the voting board with our name lit up on it. It was absolutely brilliant, when we got back home we were like stars, everyone wanted to talk to us, I had people talking to me who I had never met. I remember our triumphant return to the Parkstone Club after the show we packed the place out, it was sensational”.

Life had suddenly changed for the band, they were no longer just a good hard-working band, they were now a “successful, as seen on TV band” and they were packing the Parkstone out every time they played there. Even the Bingo was cancelled on New City Sound Nights.

They were voted top band in the Irish Polls, and their van with their name on the side always received a lot of attention with people waving and saying hello.

They played nationwide and supported the likes of Pickerty Witch, The New Vaudeville Band, and even shared fish and chips with the Bay City Rollers.

Shortly after the TV success, for whatever reason, members Barry and Angie O’Keefe left the band.

Barry formed the highly successful Las Vegas Showband and Angie joined the Miki.

The band continued to tour until Arthur joined the Internationals, then later Parade with Tony Pyatt.

So sadly another great artist and top bloke has gone, Coventry’s club sound was a huge part of the local scene, so support your local clubs while there are still some left. Arthur was 79.

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