Popular music has always walked close at hand with comedy, be it the early music hall acts of the 19thCentury or chart acts of the 60’s like The Baron Knights and The Rockin’ Berries. Many a band has taken their stage act to another level and introduced a comedic side to the proceedings. One such local band The Carlton’s had it all sewn up in Coventry, and always left a crowd of roaring in the aisle wherever they played.
The Carlton’s came together in 1970, with former Pickwicks guitarist and vocalist Johnny Miles (John the Bomb), Vocalist David Davies (Duetch), Drummer Stan Robinson (Stan the Ram) and Keyboardist Mick McClure (Mick the Dick). Unlike many other bands I feature in Backbeat this line-up was to remain constant throughout their career. The band began by playing dinner dances but it soon became impossible, “We played from nine in the evening till about one in the morning”, reveals Johnny Miles, ”but we all had factory jobs, I was at The Chrysler, Mick was at The Triumph and David and Stan both worked at Massey Ferguson’s. So by the time you had finished the show it and drove home it was nearly time to go to work again. We did that four nights a week, and it was killing us, so we decided to do a ninety minute comedy show instead”
The Carlton’s gave their audience’s something a little different from a straight club band, like Stan’s deaf ventriloquist act. “I am actually a bit deaf”, admits Stan,” I had monkey’s and all sorts, of course I could never really do it I just put my hand over my mouth when the puppet was supposedly speaking, it always got a huge laugh. The kids loved it, later on I got myself a Maggie Thatcher puppet, now that did go down very well, except one particular time”. Stan went on to tell me a hilarious story connected with the Maggie puppet, sadly as this is a family newspaper I can’t share it with you, but it had me in tears I must say! Dressing up in crazy costumes was the order of the day for The Carltons and it often ended up with Duetch dressed as a woman or something similar, every show was a raid on the ‘prop box’ and all members played their own zany parts.
Like many comedic groups however they could also play a bit too. Songs like “Bless This House” were performed in glorious three-part harmony and gave the band that extra edge. “The whole time we were together was fun though”, said John,” to be honest many of the things that happened off-stage were just as funny, like the time we arrived for a wedding reception. There were cars in the way of the stage door, so we had to lift all the equipment over the cars, drums, keyboards and amplifiers, we got it all in after a lot of effort and set up. Then we could hear people saying, did you invite them? It turned out we were at the right place but a week too early so we had to take all the stuff back out again”. Then there was the time when three of us had to share a bed, and in the morning Stan just stretched his arms out the bed collapsed and we all were laying in a heap laughing hysterically”.
The boys got to audition for Opportunity Knocks, they got through to appear on the show, but because of work commitments they were unable to do it. “We just had a laugh with it”, admits David,” we just took the Mickey out of the whole thing, we had no intention of going on the show, but we were happy to have been asked, but really couldn’t afford to give any real commitment to the show, so we said no”. One competition they did enter and win was the 1974 Coventry Evening Telegraph Golden Gala Competition. They went home with £500.00 in their pockets, lots of rave reviews and planned to buy a van with the prize money.
They got to work with a lot of people around that time, names like Duggie Brown, Billy Breen (who of course became Larry Grayson), Jim Bowen and Little and Large. They were offered a residency at The Talk Of The North, but as it would entail the need for accommodation and being away from their families much of the time so they never went professional. By the end of 1975 the act had reached its natural end and they all went off their separate ways, , John and Mick Formed The New Carltons with Ron Cook and Colin Scott on, Mick later tragically died on stage at the Alfred Herbert’s Club. Meanwhile Stan and The Duetch formed a comedy duo. The Carltons remain however one of the areas finest comedy acts and although the band may have gone the laughter still remains!
The Carltons Trivia
- In 1995 David The Duetch won the top Entertainer in Coventry award.
- The full line-up for the Coventry Evening Telegraph Golden Gala Award was, The Carltons (1st), Eyes Of Blue (2nd), Tom Foolery (3rd), The Zodiacs, Stevenson’s Rocket, Vee Syncopators, Paul Thomas, John Poyner, John Petes and Dee Desmond.
- The Carltons were originally know as the David Brian Davies Group.
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You can hear Pete Chambers’ “Pop Into The Past” on Bob Brolly’s Friday Show every Fortnight from 3.00 p.m. and The “Sound Chamber” on Anita Miah’s Monday
evening show every Fortnight from 8.00pm on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire.