The Mustangs

The Mustangs

Coventry had the Sorrows, The Mighty Avengers came from Rugby, The Matadors did it for Hinckley and Kenilworth had these beat boys The Mustangs.

The early fifties had been shaping up as something a bit special, and real rock icons like Presley and Little Richard had replaced pretenders like Patsie Cline and Alma Cogan. It was 1957 and in the heart of Kenilworth Warwick schoolboy Martin Noble was busy converting a piece of wood into a musical instrument. “Martin had picked up a magazine showing you how to make your own guitar” reveals Pat Brook, “which he promptly set about doing! It worked! Although it was basically a log with frets on! He used his Dad’s Leak Hi Fi amp 15 watts max! and constructed a 4 foot cube out of chip-board to house an 8 inch coaxial speaker. It sounded very clean but he could only play sitting down, no body/no strap! He soon became very accomplished at playing it.  That set Tim Saxton (another Warwick School boy) and myself, off to make our own versions”.

They were being influenced by the likes of Duane Eddy and The Shadows at that point, and they even composed their own guitar-based instrumental entitled “Nivram” (that’s Marvin backwards by the way). Front man and vocalist Ricky Starr was added to the line-up, Ricky looked the business with an unfeasibly large DA haircut. When the word got out that Kenilworth finally had it’s own rock n roll band the bookings inevitably followed. They took the name The Mustangs because it sounded exciting and American and played their first gig at St John’s Schoolrooms, within weeks they were booked to play a students ball in Birmingham. “The gig at Birmingham was not a complete success” admits Pat. “The sound was not loud enough to fill the vast dance hall. Obviously, proper amplification was needed. Our parents all realised we were serious about the band and agreed to stand guarantors for a brand new set of guitars. Martin decided that Fenders were old hat and American. – Burns, however were English and played by the Shadows! (big mistake Martin!) They were certainly well made and finished, but the sound was only a bit better than Martin’s log! We also invested in a Vox AC 30 amp and speaker cabinet. We were beginning to look like a band now, with our plain white shirts and jeans.  We then met a character called Vince Martin from Coventry who was at the tail end of a singing career but could still make Ricky Starr look second rate, especially in his gold lame suit! Vince did a few gigs with us and livened up the band no end! I remember going all the way to a Skegness holiday camp in his Mini Traveller with most of our gear on board!”

“Most of the social activity took place in a Leamington coffee bar called the New Yorker and working there was a pretty welsh girl called Lynn Curtis. She said she could sing a bit and asked for an audition. She could sing very well and promptly joined the band. Lynn came up with the idea to run a big charity gig, ostensibly to get rich quick and pay off all our H.P. debts! We went along with the idea. We booked Shane Fenton and the Fentones, the Saints Jazz band with the Mustangs bottom of the bill! We chose a charity and venue  Chesford Ballroom, which was huge. Printed the tickets and put up the adverts everywhere. We reckoned to sell two thousand tickets to make enough for a charitable donation and clear our gear debts. Chesford grange, belatedly, realised that they might have a ballroom full of hell raisers and reduced the capacity to one thousand only. We were now in deep trouble! We were going to make a loss, but it was too late! Tickets had been sold and deposits paid to both bands. The night was a great success for the punters, but when the dust settled and we knew exactly what we owed people Martin Noble said he didn’t want to know, and left the band. Colin Gozney went as well to make his fortune in London as a chemist. A Coventry guitarist, Martin Williams, was taken on, followed soon after by Alan Healy (rhythm) and Tony Fennell (drums), both mates”.

The band took on Chris Heath as a manager and his first job was to sack vocalist Ricky Starr, the band were now entering their purple patch, and the classic Mustangs line-up looked like this: Lynn Curtis (vocals), Martin Williams (lead guitar),Pat Brook (rythmn guitar),Chris Allen (bass),Tony Ferrell (drums) and Mike Burns (guitar and vocals). The band famously took part in the Coventry Sound concert at the Coventry Hippodrome headlined by Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and included The Avengers, the Orchids and The Sorrows among others. “One gig”, Pat says was at the Locarno, (now Coventry Library). “We supported Dave Berry and the. He’d gone down a storm with the girls and could hardly get off the revolving stage, which they dare not operate. We were waiting to come on behind the partition. Dave Berry does no more than leap over the partition, landing on Tony Fennell’s drum kit, badly gashing his thigh on the cymbal. Mike Burn’s fiancé, Jill was a SRN and gave the star first aid the accompanied him along to the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital!”

Larry Parnes got to hear about Lynn Curtis and signed her up on a recording contract on Decca Records. She went to London and made the country-influenced record “House for Sale” and appeared on a chat show on BBC 1. Soon after the band fell apart, and The Mustangs were no more, with the members all going their separate ways. I’ll leave the last words to Pat Brook, ”I never really made it to the top or made any serious money, but rock n roll made for a very interesting and rewarding life, – I would not change a single thing!”.

The Mustangs Trivia

  • The Mustangs were one of the first ever bands to use echo effect. Martin Noble borrowed his Dad’s Telefunken reel-to-reel tape recorder and inserted a switch that made it play back within a spit second, – instant echo!! (Just a single one, we weren’t greedy!) It sounded great to us although we new we couldn’t play for more than 45 minutes as the tape would run out!
  • Three months after the Mustangs finished, Pat teamed up with John Clifford (the Presidents) and they formed The Clifford Brothers doing Everly Brothers type stuff around the workingmen’s clubs. It was the first time he ever earnt any money out of rock n roll, it lasted 20 years!
  • They once played at Skegness in the winter at the Embassy Ballroom drove all the way through six inches of snow in a Bedford Dormobile only to smash into the embassy’s concrete gates on arrival!! On subsequent visits to Skegness the band all slept in the van only to be woken up by the roar of the lions in the promenade Zoo!