Coventry Music Musem Curator Pete Chambers BEM pays tribute to Shadows’ legend in this week’s exclusive column for the Observer.
IT’S A sad farewell to Bedworth-born Brian ‘Liquorice’ Locking, bass guitarist of the legendary Shadows. I met Brian and talked to him on the phone a few times, and he was such a kind and generous man (we have one of his iconic harmonicas in the Music Museum). Here’s a little background about this special man who will be so missed in the music world.
Brian Locking was born at 29 Mount Drive, Bedworth on December 22, 1940, delivered by his own aunty in freezing conditions, and weighing in at a very bouncy 10lb. A year later his family settled in Grantham where Brian witnessed harmonica legend Larry Adler on TV which proved to be the catalyst in his musical development.
He was soon to ‘borrow’ his sister’s plastic mouth organ and taught himself how to play. Brian teamed up with his friend Roy Clarke and formed a mouth organ duo playing Sunday nights at the Grantham Granada. A third member Roy Taylor joined and they became known as the Harmonica Vagabonds.
When Lonnie Donegan made skiffle popular and the trio dropped the Harmonica from their name and became a skiffle group. Brian took up the tea-chest bass and the band got to play a residency at the famous 2 ’I’s Coffee bar in London on the strength of coming second in a skiffle competition.
Brian was contacted by Terry Dean and asked to join his backing band as the bass player. It was during this tour Brian would meet then young drummer Brian Bennett.
After the Terry Dean tour had finished, he and Bennett joined forces at the 2’I’s again and they were soon spotted by Vince Taylor and along with guitarist Tony Sheridan became the Vince Taylor’s backing band The Playboys.
Brian recalls that time – ‘We became the Tony Sheridan Trio and then backed Vince Taylor, eventually we became his backing band The Playboys, and then we got onto the TV show Oh Boy we used to open the show at times’. We cut four records as Vince Taylor and the Playboys, I was on ‘Right Behind You’, ‘Baby, I Like Love’ and ‘Brand New Cadillac’.
As Brand New Cadillac was released the band split. Brian Locking and Brian Bennett along with guitar supremo Big Jim Sullivan and Tony Belcher came together as the backing group for British rock heartthrob Marty Wilde.
They became the Wild Cats. Brian said they were becoming pretty well-known by then and Larry Parnes, Marty’s manager, got them to play with Marty and become his Wildcats. They then recorded ‘Sea of Love’, ‘Teenager in Love’ and others.
Billy Fury came along and they backed Billy, then Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent came over from the States and they recorded and toured with them. When Marty’s popularity began to wane, Brian and the band metamorphosised into the instrumental quartet The Krew Kats and had a number 33 hit with ‘Trambone’ in 1961.
After a tour with Tommy Steele, Brian Bennett joined the Shadows to replace drummer Tony Meehan.
Brian Locking was out of work for three months and things looked bleak until he got a call in 1962 from Brian Bennett asking if he would like to replace bass player Jet Harris in the Shadows.
So the two Brians were reunited – this time in the chart-topping band Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Brian added a new musical dimension to their sound, being a multi-instrumentalist, he often played the harmonica on stage (including in signature track ‘Dakota’).
So how were those days with the Shads I asked?
“They were brilliant, it was Cliff Richard and The Shadows in those days, and for the next two years it was non-stop.
“We recorded numbers like, Geronimo, Foot Tapper, Dance On, Atlantis, Guitar Tango and Shazam, toured Africa and we went to Greece to film Summer Holiday.
“I did the film, I’m there somewhere and played on all the film songs like ‘It’ll Be Me’, ‘Summer Holiday’ and ‘Bachelor Boy’, it was a golden period for the Shadows. We were well received and we did two Royal Variety Performances.”
Did you get on well with Cliff and the guys I asked?
“No problem at all, we are all still friends I see them about once a year, we are all doing are individual things now of course.”
Brian left the Shadows after just under two years to follow his Jehovah’s Witness beliefs – he was often cited as the man who influenced Cliff Richard and Hank Marvin as far as religion went. I put that to him.
“Well Cliff was already into religion anyway, we used to gather around hotel rooms and have some very nice and interesting discussions about religion.
“It was on the way back from Greece where we had been filming Summer Holiday, I sat next to Hank on the plane, he opened the conversation not me.
“We had a great talk all about my beliefs, and I never thought anything would come of it, our people unbeknown to me contacted Hank and he became a Jehovah’s Witness too.”
So, did this rock ‘n’ roll legend ever get back to Bedworth I asked?
“I still have relations in Nuneaton, I have been back a few times, not recently though.”
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