Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts

Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts

Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts, formed in 1968, and now an occasionally performing British pub and club band, celebrate 40 years playing together in 2008. The original 5 members: Pete Gibson, Keef Trouble (Keith Trussell,) Jim Pitts, Graham Hine, and John Randall, were joined by Taffy Davies in the early 70s replacing John Lewis, (aka Jona Lewie,)and Dougie Strathie who joined in 2001. For almost as many years, they have been ably supported by 'roadie' Lochy Randall, (older brother of John Randall,) who is viewed by the band as their unofficial 8th member. [cite web| last =| first =| authorlink =| coauthors =| title =Brett Marvin And The Thunderbolts| work =| publisher =CD Baby| date =2007| url =| format =HTML| doi =| accessdate =2007-12-25]

They are perhaps better known for their record 'Seaside Shuffle' which reached No 2 in the UK charts in 1972 under the pseudonym Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs, with singer Jona Lewie.cite book
first= David
last= Roberts
year= 2006
title= British Hit Singles & Albums
edition= 19th
publisher= Guinness World Records Limited
location= London
pages= p. 133
id= ISBN 1-904994-10-5

In the Beginning

The seeds for Brett Marvin & The Thunderbolts were sown in 1967 when musical friendships were forged at Thomas Bennett Comprehensive school in Crawley, Sussex. Peter Gibson arrived to teach, fresh from Liverpool College of Art. After setting up a blues and folk club, Graham Hine, one of Peter's students, asked his tutor if he could play. Pete still vividly remembers the performance as incredible 'pure delta slide'.

John Randall had also seen Graham play at a folk club at Worth, near Crawley. He recalls Graham getting up on stage in a red corduroy waistcoat and blowing harp. "We walked home together that night," recalls John. "There he was walking along and amazingly somehow playing his guitar through its case!"

Graham was studying art with a fellow student Keith Trussell,(aka Keef Trouble.) On a day out, the three of them discovered a lagerphone being played by a band in Hastings. Seeing its potential as a blues rhythm instrument Keith had his own unique version, the 'Zobstick,' up and running in no time.

The three friends spent a lot of their time listening to old blues records, and Graham made a washboard out of bamboo so that John would have something to play.

The three of them began to play at local clubs with another pal, Ian Anderson. Pete was also active and was performing at local clubs in a blues duo called 'Bottled in Bond.' Whilst playing at East Grinstead Folk Club one night, Graham's band turned up. "They were brilliant" recalls Pete. Jim Pitts was also there performing in another band.

It was inevitable that with all the sitting in with each other that was going on at the time that the inevitable was going to happen. A 5-piece evolved, Ian Anderson had already departed, and with Pete and Jim joining forces with Graham, Keith and John to play together one night, the dye was set.

From the outset, they were determined to perform music on their own terms and in their own way; a group of art school devoted country blues enthusiasts with a bizarre collection of rhythm and percussion instruments, resulting in a unique sound and presentation of souped up country blues.

With the combination of solid down home rhythm from John Randall and Keef Trouble, the electrified nine string acoustic guitar of Graham Hine, the topping of Pete Gibson and Jim Pitts laying down melody lines, and the humour and vaudeville touch in the true spirit of the hokum tub, the band was an instant success and it's heritage assured.

During this initial period, Pete's folk and blues club was still functioning and regularly bringing in guest artists to perform. Jo Ann Kelly was invited to play and was immediately enthused by the band's totally fresh concept. As a result, she invited them to London to appear at the famous Studio 51 club in the basement, Great Newport Street, just off Shaftesbury Avenue in central London. In 2002, Keef Trouble was interviwed about the times at Studio 51 by Greater London Radio; extracts can be found on the Keef Trouble Wikipedia page.

Their regular appearances at Studio 51 grew so popular, that when the John Dummer Blues Band vacated their spell of residency, leaving like Jo Ann, for wider demand, they were offered the job of replacing them. They became the resident band for 4 years running a Sunday session there as a drop in spot for blues musicians.

Amongst the famous visitors who dropped in were American and UK blues artists: Howlin' Wolf, Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup, Fred McDowell, Dave Kelly, Juke Boy Bonner, Medicine Head, Steve Miller band, Lol Coxhill, Sam Mitchell, Bottleneck Bill, Mick Taylor, Larry Johnson, Tony McPhee, John Dummer Blues Band, The Groundhogs, Roy Bookbinder and Long John Baldry.

The Formative Years

It was while playing at Studio 51 that John Lewis, (who later changed his name to Jona Lewie,) came to see the band. Studying sociology locally at Kingston, he was also on the blues club circuit, holding down various interval spots playing blues and boogie woogie on piano, to supplement his student grant. John's love of the band was instant. He recalls, "Here was Blind Lemon Jefferson meeting Robert Johnson and playing hypnotic delta boogie, right here in London!" Following a gig at Wolfie Witcher's [] blues club at the Nag's Head, where the Bretts and John Lewis were separately booked, John discovered that the piano was unplayable for a solo act. The Bretts suggested that he sit in with them instead. As a result, he joined the band as the 6th member in 1969.

In 1970, Tony McPhee from the Groundhogs invited Brett Marvin and The Thunderbolts to contribute to the recording of a British Blues Collection on the Liberty Label, "Gasoline". Later some of these tracks were reproduced on "Son of Gutbucket", which has been reissued on CD. Soon afterwards, they started a 5 year relationship with Sonet record company and released their first album, 'Brett Marvin and the Thunderbolts'. Further details of both recordings including sound bytes, are covered fully in the Their Music section of the page.

The band's unique Delta influenced country blues style, together with some eccentricities in the instrumentation department, including oil drums, zobstick, ironing board, kitchen sink as well as Kid Ory style trombone, ensured their increasinging popularity at blues clubs and on the college and university circuit.

They became particularly popular in Scandinavia and undertook many tours and also did television work in Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and Holland.

In 1971, they released their 2nd album on Sonet, entitled “12 inches of” which had a combination of songs penned by band members, along with a sprinkling on well known blues standards. The album received much acclaim and was well received by their ever growing number of fans.

The same year saw them back in the UK for a concert with the legendary 'Son House', after which they undertook a national tour with Eric Clapton's band Derek and the Dominoes. Shortly after this, their second album, 'Twelve Inches of' was released. Jim and Pete dropped out of the touring scene as the single 'Seaside Shuffle' was released. Although the band's style had continued to tighten and develop, the single was not particularly representative of their style, so they released it under the pseudonym 'Terry Dactyl and The Dinosaurs'. The remaining 4 members continued to play the college and university circuit as Brett Marvin & The Thunderbolts, when a contract came through with the name Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs.

At first, the record had not been distributed properly, but in 1972, following its cult popularity at a west London club, it became a monster hit when Sonet did a deal with Jonathan King's UK label, who marketed and distributed it, earning the band a coveted silver disc and four appearances on 'Top of the Pops'.

Shortly after this, Sonet issued their 3rd album, "Alias Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs", which took advantage of the success of 'Sea Side Shuffle' and included a compilation of tracks from their first 2 albums on Sonet.

By August of that year, Terry Dactyl & The Thunderbolts had four gigs a week lined up for months ahead. After about eight gigs, on an afternoon off, down in the West Country, John Lewis became ill and on visiting his doctor, discovered that he was suffering from exhaustion. This spelled the end of the tour and John subsequently left the band.

The Ensuing Years

John Lewis (Jona Lewie) was replaced by David 'Taffy' Davies who had known the band from their Studio 51 days. He was in the Jaw Bone Jug Band, an outfit that was disbanding, so the offer to join the Bretts was well-timed. At this point Pete Gibson reappeared, also new bass player Tony 'The Bee' Proto, just in time to record a new Brett Marvin & The Thunderbolt album at an idyllic recording studio in Monmouth, Wales. It was 1973; the band issued their 4th album on Sonet, 'Ten Legged Friend.'

They performed in a number of festivals and live radio broadcasts, including the famous discussion with Viv Stanshall where Keith Moon 'phoned-in wanting to join the conversation. The remainder of the seventies and the eighties saw the Bretts becoming almost exclusively an act on the London pub music scene, particularly at the Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington, and the Stapleton Hall Tavern near Finsbury Park.

As might be expected, band members made attempts at their own individual careers in music, but still got together at regular reunion gigs which their band of loyal fans never failed to support.

The tragic early death of Jo Ann Kelly ironically coincided with a resurgence of interest in blues music, and the combination of these events saw the band playing at the Colne Blues Festival, the Blues Band's Christmas Party at the Town and Country Club, and live on Paul Jones' radio show.

In 1993, contact with Sonet UK led to the production of a new CD, 'Boogie Street,' (Exson Music Ltd.,) with the addition of Pete Swan in the line-up, playing bass guitar.

1998 saw the band celebrated their 30th anniversary year, and around the same time two compilation CDs were released: 'Gutbucket,' (EMI Records,) and 'Tony McPhee & Friends,' (BGO Records,) plus a CD version of their original LP, 'Alias Terry Dactyl & The Dinosaurs,' (See For Miles.)

In 1999 the band collaborated with Peter Moody, resulting in the CD 'Vintage Thunderbolts,' (Mooncrest Records - part of Trojan Records,) being of previously unreleased material. The album is considered by many Brett fans to be their best album, with a mixture of both live and studio recordings from 1970 through to 1989.

Pete Swan left the band in the early 2000’s to live in Cornwall, and was replaced by Dougie Strathie, who is still with the Bretts to this day.

2000 to 2008

In the intervening years to 2008, Brett Marvin have played four or five times a year, particularly in the West Sussex area. Members Pete Gibson and Graham Hine have recently produced an album each. Graham Hine occasionally performs small cafe gigs in North London with Taffy Davies and with his brother Malcolm Hine in the Hine Brother's Band. Keef Trouble, with two recent critically acclaimed albums, performs regularly with the exciting new folk-rock outfit 'The Okee Dokee Band,' a band showing that same verve and excitement associated with the Bretts in their heyday, being a regular feature at the Broadstairs Folk Week as part of a busy schedule [] . His latest video, ‘Hello Mum,’ [] under the name ‘Dougie Damone,’ has become a substantial favourite on video-sharing web sites. The latest cd offering from the Brett Marvin ‘stable’ (as of 2008) is the EP ‘Keep on Moving’ [] featuring tracks from Taffy Davis, Pete Gibson and Graham Hine. Produced by Keef Trouble and engineered by the notable Pete Ker at Ferry Sound, this was an entirely studio-based project. However, the usual fun associated with Brett Marvin was in evidence as Keef Trouble (sitting in for those indisposed) created a washboard sound with a cheese-grater, and played the harp.


See also

Keef Trouble
Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs
Jona Lewie

External links

* [ - Videos of their latest work on YouTube]

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