Stage / Early days and then blast off!

Following the chart entry of Charmaine, The Bachelors diary began to fill with TV appearances and tour dates.  They found themselves booked on a string of tours along with other emerging pop artistes of the day. The highlights of 1963 were supporting both Brenda Lee and Gerry and The Pacemakers on their respective UK tours. 

Brenda Lee
Gerry and the Pacemakers

Having established themselves with a second top twenty hit, promoters and bookers showed more interest and they were signed for the 1964 summer season at Blackpool’s Central Pier, supporting the popular comedian, Al Read.  

Gerry And The Pacemakers
Early 1964

Things were looking good for the boys as they entered 1964, but within two months they became a whole lot better!  The success of Diane saw them touring with Gerry and The Pacemakers again (much higher on the bill this time.)

London Palladium April '64
Palladium April ’64

‘Diane’ also prompted a short notice (less than a month) contract to support Lena Horne for a four week season at the London Palladium in April. Some of their existing bookings had to be cancelled or moved to achieve it, but it was worth the effort and aggravation!

They opened to critical acclaim, stole the show and secured a spot on TV’s ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’ which went so well, they were booked to return the following month as bill toppers (unheard of in that show’s history). 

Diane and I Believe were in the top five together and offers to headline their own Summer Season came flooding in.  

To their credit, the boys honoured their contract for Blackpool (as ‘guest stars’) at the original fee.  The season sold out for its entire run of 22 weeks. Six nights per week, two shows per night, a staggering 264 performances!  Hoards of screaming girls laid siege to Central Pier every night and the boys could only get away from the theatre in the middle of a police escort!

Whilst Al Read was a well known comedian, there was no doubt who was filling the theatre twice every night, as evidenced by the rapturous cheers and applause in the show’s finale (or as Eric Morecambe used to describe it ‘Who’s best?) 

Summer Season Blackpool 1964
Summer Season Blackpool 1964

If that wasn’t enough activity, Sundays were packed with one night headliner dates at other resorts around the UK, including a Concert for Brian Epstein with Dusty Springfield at London’s Prince Of Wales Theatre. 

The boys lost count of the times they flew from Blackpool in private planes to fulfil TV appearances at home and in Europe and their Vauxhall estate car clocked up thousands of miles that summer!

A filming schedule in Great Yarmouth for Billy Fury’s ‘I’ve Gotta Horse’ dictated a 4.30am wake up call, fly to Yarmouth, all day filming/waiting  then back to Blackpool for two shows. Add to this, they were under constant pressure from Decca to learn, rehearse and record new material for an adoring public, it’s a wonder they didn’t collapse from exhaustion. How many of today’s bands could keep up with this workload?

 I asked John Stokes how he managed to keep going during that amazing year, he said;

1964 was incredibly exciting for us. It may sound ridiculous, but we just didn’t have the time to feel exhausted! There was something new to look forward to every single day.”

TV and tour offers from the USA had to be placed to one side because they simply did not have space in the diary.  After Blackpool came an Irish tour, often performing three times a night in different venues. There was also a massive backlog of recording commitments and rehearsals for their first pantomime in Birmingham as headliners. 

The absolute highlight of their year was the ‘command’ to appear at the London Palladium in the ‘Royal Variety Show’ an honour that was repeated two years later in 1966.

Continue reading this section: Stage / Top of bill and record breakers