Band of Joy

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Band of Joy
Years active 1967-1968
Status Defunct
Origin Birmingham, West Midlands
Music genre(s) Blues-rock, psychedelic rock
Members Vernon Pereira
Robert Plant
Kevyn Gammond
Paul Lockey
Chris Brown
John Bonham

Band of Joy were a 1960s English blues-rock band from Birmingham. The group is notable as having two musicians in their various line-ups, Robert Plant and John Bonham, who would later on join Led Zeppelin. They were also one of the first West Midlands groups to use a psychedelic light show, which matched their experimental musical style and sound.

Following the dissolution of Listen, at the start of 1967, Plant joined friends in a new group called Band of Joy, which was founded by Pete 'Plug' Robinson (drums), Chris Brown (organ) and Mick Reeves (bass guitar), and Jamshedpur-born guitarist Vernon Pereira (ex-the Stringbeats). Pereira was the cousin of Plant's future wife, Maureen Wilson. The band was managed by the father of Chris Brown. Band of Joy's wide variety of influences ranging from the blues to the up-and-coming progressive sounds of the West Coast music scene, combined with Plant's vocal acrobatics, made them local favourites, particularly at the Black Horse and the Chateau Impney. Their tall bass player Mick Reeves was also noted for stage diving into the audience. Plant recalled that the Band of Joy was the first time everything fell into place:

I'd been singing with a lot of groups and I'd written a few songs about myself that didn't really have the right amount of balls behind them that they should have. It really just went around in circles until I formed the first Band of Joy.

In January 1967, the Band of Joy began a Sunday night residency at the Ship and Rainbow in Wolverhampton, arranged through local booking agency Nita Anderson Presentations. There was growing tension with the band's management, and this residency came to an end after a dispute over lyrics. Soon afterwards, Plant was asked to leave the original Band of Joy lineup, for telling the drummer he was slowing down too much. He was replaced by Mickey Cox.

Plant then set off on a short lived solo career, which yielded his first single 'Our Song' (backed with 'Laughin', Cryin', Laughin' CBS 202656) in March 1967, with backing singers Madeline Bell and Kiki Dee. He then formed a rival second Band of Joy group with friend and neighbour Kevyn Gammond (under the stage name Carlisle Egypt), who played guitar for many North Worcestershire bands, with Paul Lockey on bass guitar, and drummer John Trickett. Their psychedelic light show was programmed by local Kidderminster College student Abdul Benson. Guitarist Lyndon Laney was also temporarily in the line-up for some gigs. The band adopted wearing full face paint with hippy regalia (kaftans, beads, and bells) on stage, and Plant regularly drove the band van to gigs. During one evening in 1967, when the band was performing at the Ship and Rainbow, Plant was forced to do an unaccompanied session because of an electrical fault which cut out the amplifiers, which wowed the audience.

Unfortunately, conflicts caused Plant to form a third and final version of the Band of Joy. This line-up included drummer John Bonham, who had previously been in the Crawling King Snakes with Plant, and lasted over 14 months. Plant recalled:

It was debatable whether he'd [Bonham] join because it was a long way to go and pick him up, and we didn't know whether we would have the petrol money to get over to Redditch and back! We always laugh about that. It turned out to be a really good group. It was a combination of what we wrote ourselves, which wasn't incredible, and re-arrangements of things like 'She Has Funny Cars' and 'Plastic Fantastic Lover'.

They also recorded at Regent Sound Studios in London. These sessions produced their version of Billy Robert's 'Hey Joe', a Buffalo Springfield cover 'For What It's Worth', and originals 'Memory Lane', and 'Adriatic Sea View'. This final track was later included in a charity compilation cassette for Kidderminster College in 1989. 'Memory Lane' was the first song written by Plant and Bonham and is about a street called Dagger Lane in West Bromwich. Despite these demos, the band were unable to secure a major record deal or obtain the services of Procol Harum and the Move's manager Tony Secunda who had expressed an early interest in managing them. They secure a support slot for American singer Tim Rose who was touring the United Kingdom, and they performed at the Middle Earth in Convent Garden, and the London 'in' club, the Speakeasy, gaining notice in the city's underground music scene. However they could only average £60 - £70 per night for performances, and Plant had to rely on Maureen Wilson to help out with living expenses. Further bad luck followed, with the band's van breaking down and having to be towed away by Paul Lockey's father. The group lost momentum, and in late February 1968, Bonham was invited by Rose to join his backing band about to tour the UK again for a series of summer dates, and the Band of Joy folded.[1] Plant began performing and recording with Alexis Korner and pianist Steve Miller in London before joining Obs-Tweedle, and Gammond and Lockey joined country-rock group Bronco.

Gammond and Lockey were instrumental in reviving a new Band of Joy in 1977, planning to re-group to play benefit gigs for the families of local band Possessed, involved in a fatal motorway crash on 21 October 1976. Despite strong rumours of Robert Plant or John Bonham being involved in some capacity the concerts didn't happen as planned, and instead a recording line-up settled on bassist John Pasternak, drummer Francesco Nizza (later replaced by Pete Robinson), and keyboardist Michael Chetwood, and completed an eponymous album in 1978. A second album entitled 24k was recorded but not released until after this version of Band of Joy had split. Gammond later formed Priory of Brion with Plant in 1999, and Chetwood joined T'Pau. The Band of Joy demos were later released on the 2003 Plant compilation album Sixty Six to Timbuktu.

Notes

  1. Note: 'Band of Joy' was resurrected in name only, occasionally by Robert Plant throughout 1968, to perform a handful of previously booked club dates, with Obs-Tweedle as his backing band.