Hyde writes -
I think that the Orbit Four probably began around August/September
1962, although I joined them in October.
My first recollection of the group
(we weren't bands in those days, just groups or beat groups) was when walking
through Cliftonville's Lido complex and seeing a sign advertising The Orbit Four
playing at the Lido Cavern. The original drummer (he stayed about two months before
departing to join Oliver Twist & The Lower Third) was Paul Pinder.
left and I joined in October, having done an audition for the band at its rehearsal
venue, the Dane Valley Arms in Margate. The local Thanet newspaper "The Isle
of Thanet Gazette" later announced that the Orbit Four's drummer had left
and Gary Hyde had joined - didn't know quite how to take that.
enough my first gig with the group was at the very same Lido Cavern, and my first
with such a band having spent the last couple of years playing in local hotels
with piano and drums for the holidaymakers.
Like most bands in those days
we had a uniform (we were part of showbiz after all) and this comprised of navy
blue bolero style jacket with a rocketship badge on the pocket and a black and
red striped tie. As time went on we became even more fashionable (or at least
I did) by buying a tie clip with my name on it.
Some of our earliest gigs
included the old Birchington Village Hall and Chislet Colliery Welfare Social
Club during late 1962. We didn't have a group van - our transport in those days
was Alan's motorbike, Len's dad's car and Frank's brother Ray's motorbike and
sidecar but we got around, and continued to rehearse at the Dane Valley Arms.
our best gig during that latter part of 1962 was a charity bash at Cliftonville's
Orchid Rooms where we played alongside Oliver Twist & The Lower Third, Flint
Yates and The Vampires and, I think, the Dominoes, to raise money for a local
charity. If my memory serves me correctly I believe the charity was the
Whiteness Manor School at Kingsgate. We had a packed house and the very same
newspaper article that announced my arrival also stated the "dancers were
twisting wildly to the drums and guitars of the Orbit Four".
that time I was working for a Kent Builders Merchant, Alfred Olby, at its Ramsgate
Office and each year they would, like so many firms, hold "the staff dance"
and this took place at Ramsgate's Granville Ballroom. We were booked to play there
alongside the orthodox dance band (Maurice Black and his Music I think) but "alongside"
in this case meant in the room immediately adjoining the stage.
Now we only
had the basic gear at that time, I think that there were a couple of small Vox
(or Truvox?) amps and a Watkins Dominator plus my kit. I am pretty sure that our
voices at that time all went through the amps - nothing at all like today's rig
even for a pub gig. Nevertheless we went down a storm with all of the younger
members of staff but our close proximity to the dance band did cause a problem,
to the extent that during the evening we received a message from a senior member
of Olby's staff giving the compliments of the bandleader accompanying a request
that we turned down!
In the early part of 1963, just before the arrival
of the Beatles, Dreamland Ballroom announced a competition to find Kent's best
"beat group" and dutifully we entered. We had only been active for some
four months as a unit and we did find ourselves at a bit of a disadvantage in
the competition in that one of the rules was that we had to be fronted by a vocalist.
Another disadvantage was that we also had to play, as a competition piece, The
Shadows' "Wonderful Land".
Now the very essence of our group was
that we had a wonderful character in our lead singer, Lenny Barratt, who also
played lead guitar, along with second vocalist/rhythm guitarist Alan Crisp. Between
the two of them they eventually handled all of the vocals ranging from Chuck Berry,
Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent etc and between the four
of us we were really quite a rocking little group - at least we thought so. Still,
we managed to find a local singer who looked and sang something along the lines
of Buddy Holly, rehearsed with him, made what we thought was a passable job of
"Wonderful Land" - and got slaughtered in the contest. I think that
Flint Yates and The Vampires eventually won it.
The singer then left and
we got on with our four piece, rehearsing at the Dane Valley arms then moving
on to the Dumpton Club.
It was around this time that we started picking up
gigs at local venues such as the Marina Ballroom in Ramsgate (I think that was
what it was called - it was the one with the lights in the floor if anyone remembers);
the Riviera, Tower and Bali Hai Clubs along Margate Sea Front; Ramsgate Youth
Club (gosh might Brenda Blethyn have been there then?); Ash Village Hall and a
café in Sandwich called the Trapezium.
These were some great venues,
as Molly says Ash Village Hall was always a rave and the Trapezium (this was a
small café just to the right as you come over the Toll Bridge, although
of course you can't turn right coming over the toll bridge but you know what I
mean) was not the biggest of places. All of the groups used to play there - I
think either a Tuesday or Wednesday - and we used to play in the spot where the
fruit machines would usually be, having been moved for the gig.
time Lenny and I started doing a little comedy routine based upon Bob B Soxx and
the Blue Jeans "Zip-a-dee-doo-da". We would play the number and I would
stand out the front alongside Lenny, the two of us doing silly one liners such
as "Why am I going round in circles? Shut up or I'll nail your other foot
to the floor"
There was also another venue in the middle of Sandwich,
a church hall I think, which was a good scene and run by someone called "Pop"
something or other - does anyone remember him?
By this time the group was
really starting to take shape and sometime around April or May in 1963 we began
playing at Cliftonville's El Chico Club, right opposite the Lido, and this turned
into a full summer season. This was great in that we were working virtually every
night of the week from 11.30pm - 1.30am but at that time I had been moved from
my job in Olbys at Ramsgate to Olbys in Ashford. This meant that, having got home
at around 2.30am each morning I would then have to be up at around 6am to catch
the train to work. Most days I usually crept off to the cemetery in Ashford at
lunchtime and fell asleep there for an hour or so. The El Chico was a great gig,
though, and gave us leads into many other gigs. It was during the El Chico run
that we met Bill Maynard, perhaps nowadays better known as "Greengrass"
from "Heartbeat" but in my book always a great comedian. Many of the
acts from the local theatres would come to the El Chico after the show and Bill
was the one that I can remember. A really nice guy.
One gig that
I well remember was at the village of Oare, near Faversham, where we played for
the Miss Oare competition. Imagine being Miss Oare for a year! Still it was a
good night, really hot and I recall consuming numerous of those little bottles
It was at New Year around this time that we had the bad snow
and the sea froze over and all of us in the group were sitting at our respective
homes minding our own business when there were knocks on our doors.
scheduled to play Dreamland's Rendezvous Club was stuck in London due to the snow
and couldn't get down - could we go and play Dreamland that night? The management
sent a taxi all around Thanet to pick us up and that was our first gig at the
Rendezvous Club. As I recall the band scheduled was Bobby Angelo and The Tuxedos.
Well, they didn't get the Tuxedos but they certainly got our Boleros!
played a number of times at the Rendezvous Club (I am not sure but I think that
they did a mid-week session and a Sunday session in those days), also a number
of gigs at a place in Deal which was originally a cinema and the groups were on
a high stage to the side of the screen, or at least where it used to be. I don't
recall there being any proper entrance to the stage. Just a stepladder or the
like at the front. It was a good gig though.
During the latter part of our
El Chico summer in 1963 we were approached by the owner of the Royal pub in Ramgsate,
now a Thorley's place, to play there on a Saturday night regularly. Naturally
we jumped at the chance and sometime round September started.
All went reasonably
well for a few weeks but then the numbers started dropping off and the manager
told us that he could not continue to run the gig, numbers were down etc, would
we like to take it on ourselves. We had nothing else on the Saturday nights so
we agreed to take it on, employ a couple of bouncers, just run it ourselves.
we had not planned anything but on the Thursday prior to our first Saturday we
were playing in a big charity gig at Dreamland Ballroom, again with Lower Third,
Vampires etc but on this occasion with a special guest, Wout Steenhuis and we
simply did not realise what exposure this was going to give us. Not only the exposure
but having had a summer season the group was in really good musical shape.
did the Dreamland gig and the response to us was such that on our arrival at the
Royal the following Saturday there were queues to get in before we were set up.
This gig carried on for about three or four months until a fight broke out, the
manager got rid of us, and then three weeks later there was another local group
Inspired by our success at the Royal we went to London, to Regent
Sound Studios and made our first demo record. We had what we thought were some
of our best numbers to do and included in these was an original number by Len.
The song was called "Don't come around no more" - unfortunately on the
demo the printer missed out the word "around"!
That year we also
did the Olby's Christmas Dance again at the Granville Ballroom. Caused a bit of
a problem though, as initially the management were not going to book us but when
some of the younger members of staff said that they would not go unless we were
playing we got the gig. We also did another gig at the Granville during 1963 but
we weren't told that we had to play waltzes etc. We had one waltz that we could
manage "Around the World" (or was it "Moon River") but we
couldn't keep on playing it and eventually someone saved the day by going home
and getting a record player.
New Year's Eve 1963 was something of an event
- we did two gigs that night. We did the first set at the Deal venue whilst the
Lower Third (I think it was them) did the first set at our El Chico Club in Cliftonville
and then we both switched over to do the second set at the other venue. As it
happened we also arranged it so that we would be using our own gear on the second
During the early part of 1964 we made a contact with an agent in the
Midlands and, immediately following some of our El Chico Friday nights we would
race up to Coventry and work venues around that area during the week end, usually
arriving back shattered on Monday mornings and going straight to work.
kept up our regular gigs, The El Chico, Trapezium, Ash Village Hall and others
for a number of months before going off to France & Germany, but that is another
We came back from Germany in early July and survived until October,
gigging at the Riviera Club, London's 2'I's, various local gigs, one gig with
the Nashville Teens and an audition at Wimbledon Palais.
Sadly we had crashed
our van in France and the lack of transport and gigs became too much for us to
continue so we called it a day in October 1964