The Rockin' Berries


The Rockin' Berries

The Rockin' Berries were a beat group from Birmingham, England, formed in 1961.

Career

Despite a brace of UK Top 10 hits in the mid 1960s, the Rockin' Berries could make no inroads on the lucrative U.S. market, even at the height of the so-called 'British Invasion'.

Much of their recordings were at the lighter edge of the British beat music boom. Their popular music was carefully composed by British and American songwriters, with catchy choruses and harmonies lifted straight from The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys repertoire.

The Rockin' Berries themselves wrote virtually none of their own material, and this, combined with the kid glove approach, meant that they received little critical acclaim. Their best pop/rock outpourings were perfectly respectable, but poor management also veered them towards the 'all round entertainer' category. This led them to record some comedy songs that have dated badly, and further quickened their disappearance from the UK chart.

The Rockin' Berries were formed in the early 1960s, when guitarist Chuck Botfield was performing with the Bobcats, a Birmingham band, at the Star-Club in Hamburg. Several Bobcats bobbed off to create their own band (Jimmy Powell and The Five Dimensions) and Botfield brought in some Birmingham born friends to regroup as the Rockin' Berries.

Their strength lay in their vocal arrangements. Clive Lea led the rock and roll based material, whilst falsetto Geoff Turton steered their more noteworthy harmony filled work.

Their recording career started with a couple of singles issued by Decca Records in 1963, "Wah Wah Woo" and a cover of James Ray's "Itty Bitty Pieces". Both failed to chart and Decca dropped the group, who were picked up by the Pye subsidiary, Piccadilly. Following a minor hit with a cover of The Shirelles' "I Didn't Mean to Hurt You," their cover of The Tokens' "He's in Town", from the songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, took them to Number 3 in the UK Singles Chart, late in 1964.

Another cover of an American record, this time of The Reflections' "Poor Man's Son," was their follow-up release. More downbeat even than "He's in Town," this reached Number 5. At around the same time, the Rockin' Berries' debut album, "They're in Town" was released. It contained a bizarre mixture of operatic ballads, R&B, pop-rock, comedy, and the German "Ich Liebe Dich" for good measure. Nevertheless it was a reasonable success, making Number 15 in the UK Albums Chart.

However, their seeming versatility started to work against them. Their second album, "Life Is Just a Bowl of Berries", was blighted by novelty and comedy tracks. They continued to record pop singles, including Goffin-King's "You're My Girl"; plus songs from British tunesmiths John Carter, Ken Lewis, and Perry Ford (who were also writing and recording hits as The Ivy League); and an obscure effort co-penned by Al Kooper, "The Water Is Over My Head".

"You're My Girl" (like "He's in Town", a cover of a Tokens' hit) and "The Water Is Over My Head" were lowly placed hits in 1965, but after that there was no more chart success for the Berries. However The Rockin' Berries did appear in the music review film, "Pop Gear", that same year. Rather oddly, they had a billing on the Royal Variety Performance on 19 November 1967, at the London Palladium.

By 1968 Turton had left and briefly joined the Birmingham group Sight And Sound, but soon embarked on a solo career. Using the nom de plume of Jefferson, he secured a Top 30 place in the American Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970 with "Baby Take Me in Your Arms".

Yorkshire born singer/impressionist Terry Webster joined the Rockin' Berries in 1970, to replace Lea who left to start a solo career as an impressionist. Lea later joined local comedy group, The Black Abbotts, as replacement for Russ Abbott.

Turton eventually rejoined his bandmates, who continued to play the cabaret circuit for years to come. By this time their act was more akin to The Barron Knights, and The Grumbleweeds in style and content.

The Rockin' Berries continue to perform in cabaret as a music/comedy act, although drummer Terry Bond later moved into management. He was replaced by Keith Smart, previously from Roy Wood's chart-topping group Wizzard.

Band personnel

* Roy Austin (born 27 December 1943, Birmingham) - Bassist (up to 1965)
* Clive Lea (born 16 February 1942, Birmingham) - Vocalist (up to 1967)
* Geoff Turton (born Geoffrey Turton, 11 March 1944, Birmingham) - Vocalist / Rhythm Guitarist (up to 1968)
* Terry Bond (born Terence Bond, 22 March 1943, Birmingham) - Drummer
* Chuck Botfield (born Bryan Charles Botfield, 11 November 1943, Birmingham) - Lead Guitarist
* Bobby Thompson - (born in 1942 in Liverpool) - ex Rory Storm and the Hurricanes - Bassist - (joined 1965)
* Rod Clarke - Bassist - (joined 1967)

Discography

ingles

* "Wah Wah Woo" / "Rockin' Berries Stomp" (Decca F 11698) - (1963)
* "Itty Bitty Pieces" / "The Twitch" (Decca 11760) - (1963)
* "I Didn't Mean To Hurt You" / "You'd Better Come Home" (Piccadilly 7N 35197) - (1964) - UK Singles Chart Number 43
* "He's In Town" / "Flashback" (Piccadilly 7N 35203) - (May 1964) - Number 3
* "What In The World's Come Over You" / "You Don't Know What To Do" (Piccadilly 7N 35217) - (1964) - Number 23
* "Poor Man's Son" / "Follow Me" (Piccadilly 7N 35236) - (1965) - Number 5
* "You're My Girl" / "Brother Bill" (Piccadilly 7N 35254) - (1965) - Number 40
* "The Water Is Over My Head" / "Doesn't Time Fly" (Piccadilly 7N 35270) - (1965) - Number 43
* "I Could Make You Fall In Love" / "Land Of Love" (Piccadilly 7N 35304) - (1966)
* "Midnight Mary" / "Money Grows On Trees" (Piccadilly 7N 35327) - (1966)
* "Sometimes" / "Needs To Be" (Piccadilly 7N 35373) - (1967)
* "Smile" / "Breakfast At Sam's" (Piccadilly 7N 35400) - (1967)
* "Dawn (Go Away)" / "She's Not Like Any Girl" (Pye 7N 17411) - (1967)
* "When I Reach The Top" / "Pain" (Pye 7N 17519) - (1968)
* "Mr. Blue" / "Land Of Love" (Pye 7N 17589) - (1968) [http://www.45-rpm.org.uk/dirr/rockinb.htm 45-rpm.org.uk] ] cite book
first= David
last= Roberts
year= 2006
title= British Hit Singles & Albums
edition= 19th
publisher= Guinness World Records Limited
location= London
pages= p. 466
id= ISBN 1-904994-10-5
]

Extended players

* "I Didn't Mean To Hurt You" (Piccadilly NEP 34039) - (1965)
* "New From The Berries" (Piccadilly NEP 34043) - (1965)
* "Happy To Blue" (Piccadilly NEP 34045) - (1965)

Albums

* "They're In Town" (Piccadilly NPL 38013) - (1964) - UK Albums Chart Number 15
* "Life Is Just A Bowl Of Berries" (Piccadilly NPL 38022) - (1965) [ [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wpfwxq95ldje~T2 Allmusic.com] ]

References

External links

* [http://www.brumbeat.net/berries.htm Brumbeat biography]
* [http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:wpfwxq95ldje~T1 Rockin' Berries biography] at Allmusic website


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