Knights like this: The final joust
By Pete Langford
WHOA: is it really coming up to 60 years for us Barron Knights.
So many things, going back all those years, have stuck in my mind and will always be there.
I was 15 when I bought my first guitar and luckily I met Butch who lived only three miles away.His dad taught him banjo but he soon got good on the guitar and he showed me lots of chords to the Everly Brothers songs, and a couple of Lonnie Donnegan songs, and we ended up in all the pubs in Leighton Buzzard. We won the Frankie Vaughan Talent competition, – then out of the blue – Butch disappeared, so I decided to form a group and we were called The Zodiacs. We performed no more than four shows with the 10 songs we knew.
What happened next changed my life….Tony Osmond left the RAF and came to live in Leighton Buzzard because his father was Wing Commander at RAF Stambridge. He spent time in Singapore and had a group called The Blue Shadows, and wanted to do the same in town, and he heard me play guitar and I was in with his two other friends from the RAF.
We were called Knights of the Round Table. It was the Wing Commander who told Tony to change the name to The Barron Knights and so Tony became the ‘Barron”, and right from the start, he wanted us to be very smart on stage, as well as being classy with our playing and singing.
We soon had a reputation for our harmonies and musicianship. It was hard work but it paid off.
After about a year Duke joined and he made a big difference to our vocals. He was nuts on Ray Charles, had a great voice as well as having a high range like Frankie Valli. That made two of us with good falsetto which helps with our harmonies.
Working in all the dance halls around Luton, Aylesbury, St Albans etc., was our start, and Toni Avern became our manger and did a great job getting so much work. After a year of not seeing Butch, I bumped into him in a guitar shop in Charring cross road. We went on the Thames and chatted and persuaded him to give up his London job and join the group.
He made a big difference. All the dance halls in the Yorkshire area came up and Dave Berry, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Hollies etc., were all performing in the same places.
It wasn’t until we were in Scotland that we saw a poster saying “From Liverpool The Beatles” We thought it was a strange name for a group, and when I told Paul McCartney, he said they thought the same about our name.
It was late 1963 when Brian Epstein asked us to tour with The Beatles. They had Love me Do, She Loves you, From Me To You, and I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
It went in to 1964 and was a big break for us.
Our first hit ‘Call Up The Groups” was conceived on my mother’s kitchen table. I took the idea to the boys, and Butch and Barron helped to make it as it ended up on vinyl, selling a million very quick on EMI.
All of a sudden we were a household name and always on TV/Radio and working almost every night.
We were writing like mad and had to write a follow-up, so “Pop go the Workers” was our follow- up which was another big seller in March ’65.
That same year, we were asked to share the bill with Ken Dodd at the London Palladium –
26 weeks sold out every night, and the record still stands as the longest season sold out.
It was early 1968 and we were recording in Abbey Road Studio 1 and The Beatles were in 2. John and Paul came in to listen to what we were recording and Paul asked if we would like to hear what they were recording. He sat down on the big black grand piano and sang ‘Hey Jude”. It was special to know we were the first ever to hear that song.
Our session pianist was Reg Dwight (Elton) and to this day he has never forgotten that we introduced him to John and Paul.
Two tours with The Rolling Stones was a bit special, ’64/’65, They were a great bunch to work with and nothing like the publicity they had with all the press. Bill Wyman told us how his sister took him to see us in Aylesbury, in 1961, and he went home and bought a guitar. It’s mentioned in his book ‘Stone Alone’. A couple of years back, I was at Bill’s office and his first words were: “Allo Pete, you changed my Life.”
I think it was his sister not us!
Having the hits, touring with The Beatles, the Palladium and the show we did at Buckingham Palace opened up so many doors for our overseas work: 32 years touring Australia,19 of those connected to New Zealand: several tours of South Africa, even Rhodesia as it was called at the time – Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Kuala Lumpa, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Salala, Muscat, America and Europe………but not Russia.
In 1971, we finished our EMI contract so went searching for another deal. We were making demos at a studio in Wellingborough and performing to packed houses everywhere.
In 1977, Butch and I were writing new lyrics to songs in Tenby, on the day Elvis died, and after rehearsals we performed them on stage and the audience reaction was great and it made us think we may have a winner,
So we made a demo…EMI, Decca, and Pye liked the track called ”Live In Trouble” but they wanted us to re-record it. took it to CBS Soho Square and they asked me to go back in the afternoon. I met Dan Loggins’s brother of Kenny, and he said: ”We love it and want to release it.
I said: “Its a demo.” He didn’t care, he loved the atmosphere and got Nicky Graham to mess about with it and move a few things in a different order.
Within weeks, we had sold another million, and our profile was lifted so much. So, from a point where we thought the end of our career was not too far away, here we are still around and all because of CBS/SONY.
This gave us our own TV one hour specials, and they all made No.1 in the ratings, as did the repeats. We had six more hits with CBS and “Taste of Aggro” was our biggest-ever sales.They certainly put us on the world map.
Sadly, Barron (pictured below) decided he wanted to slow down and leave the group, and sadly we lost Duke, who died quite suddenly. Then, not too many years later, Butch was tired of all the travelling and quit, which made me worry about my future.
I lost three VIP guys. I knew guys who wanted to join, so Mick Groom, Len Crawley and LLoyd Courtenay became part of the band and I changed the show big time but was so worried how it would work.
Dave Wilkes called, and was dying to join up, and he is a top quality drummer and a great guy.
So.. The final joust…
We are all so worried about the volume of traffic on any road nowadays, we decided to make 2019 the end. Like The Searchers and others from our era, we have to say. WOW! what a great time we have had, what great memories we have: the audiences everywhere have been just amazing and they have kept us touring all these years.
Of course we will miss the performing side and luckily the boys have their own interests, all because of music. I have a beautiful home and a beautiful family, so I will be still writing and recording here in my studio. “A Song For You’ is a business I have where I write personal songs for girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers, fathers, or any friend or relation.
I love gardening and I love golf. Here at Woburn, my wife and I love walking in the countryside, and I will look back at all those years and say how lucky I have been to be part of the Barron Knights and work with such great guys for all those years.
I will never forget those wonderful moments.
Thank you everybody for all your support you have given us.
Hope to see you at our final Joust concerts this year.