Monday, November 18, 2013

Friars Promotions

Friars was started by Vince Holliday (later Vince Martin) of  The Vampires (one of Coventry's earliest Rock n Roll bands started Friars Promotions. The Vampires were legendary and written about on the A to Z of Coventry bands.

Vince with Wee Willy Harris
From Pete Chambers BBC Coventry Pop into the Past  " Members came and went and as this new musical form (Rock n Roll) began to grow so did the industry that would inevitably surround it. Vince began handling the bands bookings, on the occasions they were booked for a certain date, Vince would contact other bands to see if they could fill the booking. 

After a few months of this a bright shiny light bulb began to glow above his head, and that shiny bulb had a pound sign-shaped filament. Vince was getting a little tired of all the hectic gigging and the idea of getting paid for booking bands instead of doing it for free became too appealing to miss. So Big Three Enterprises was born.

Local bands like the Sorrows, The Matadors and The Mighty Avengers were all on their books. They
soon began to branch out even further and they became Friars Promotions based in Albany Road and their clients were to include a young pre-Move Carl Wayne (and his Vikings), the fore-runner to Alvin Stardust, Shane Fenton, and the colourful Wee Willie Harris."

Even Lulu and Cilla Black were on the books, though Vince was to miss out on a young welsh singer called Tom Jones (wonder what ever happened to him?)"

They were tied in with the Cortina Club, managing a number of venues in the city and local and top stars including Shane Fenton (later Alvin Stardust).

Pete Waterman worked for them running discos and gigs at the Walsgrave and the Mercers Arms among others. I had no direct contact with Friars Promotions but did the door for Pete Waterman at the Walsgrave on the Tuesday night progressive music nights for a while in 1970 / 71. 

Later in an unpublished version of Hobo Magazine August 1974, we reported that "Reports reach Hobo that Friars Promotions have gone bust.." 

Pete Clemons on Friars Promotions from Coventry Telegraph.

Here's a transcript - 

Pete plucks out Twanging times of city dances; YOUR nostalgia.

COVENTRY rock fan Pete Clemons is working on an archive of the city's music scene.

Here, Pete, a regular Telegraph contributor and member of Coventry's Wall of Fame steering committee, recalls the city's Twang Dances of the 1960s.

ASK anyone of a certain age and I bet they would have attended, or at the very least known about, a Coventry Twang Dance held during the early to mid 1960s.

Let me take you back to late 1962 when a PR company called Friars Promotions, who specialised in putting rock 'n' roll/beat/pop acts on at local pubs and other venues and were run by local lads Mick Tiernan and Jack Hardy, operated from Whitefriars Street.

Also at that time Vince Martin, who had left his band The Vampires, and moved into promoting bands through his latest venture VM rock groups.

Friars had sorted out a deal with local brewers Mitchells and Butler where they would put on bands at the larger sized M&B public houses that had their own function rooms. Basically, in return for the door charge, Friars would put on a band and DJ while M&B took the bar sales.

This turned out to be an incredible success for both parties as Friars set up dances at pubs not only in Coventry but also Birmingham and even as far away as Wales and Scotland.

So successful were they in fact that it got to the point where there were more venues than bands.

To deal with the increased demand something needed to change. So at the turn of 1962/63 Friars promotions and VM rock bands joined forces and became known as Friars Promotions and Agencies. They also left their respective offices and moved to new premises on the corner of Albany Road and Broomfield Road in Earlsdon.

By all accounts Mick Tiernan was an incredibly forward thinking person and was always looking for ways and ideas to keep his dances fresh and to keep them in the public eye.

He had a pet name for the guitar-based bands that he was putting on and that name was the Twangers. And so it followed that, from early 1963, Friars dance nights became known as Twang dances.

The Twang name quickly spread and was soon being attached to all kinds of dances.

For example if Friars put on a dance for Coventry City FC the poster advertised it as a Sky Blue Twang.

If a band such as The Matadors were performing then the evening was advertised as a Twang night with The Matadors.

For verification of the term Twang I have recently asked several prominent local musicians from that period where the word originated and to a man they all confirmed it was indeed coined by Mick Tiernan.

By mid 1963 the word Twang was rapidly spreading and was even being used by Andy Anderson, the prominent pop guru of the former Coventry Standard.

Andy, though, was using the word in the context of the dancers and a particular dance.

In September 1963 he describes a dance where the dancers, or hipsters, are 'shaking their heads and swinging their hips.' He continued that 'Not many knew why the dancers' hands spent so much time behind their Beatlemoded backs. Well believe it or not but the posture was inspired by the Duke of Edinburgh for whom the youngsters have great respect'.

Another article I found in the Coventry Standard from early 1964 and again written by Andy Anderson describes how exciting it was twanging in the new year at The Orchid Ballroom (better known nowadays as The Kasbah) with bands such as The Avengers, The Matadors and The Xciters. Apparently, hundreds of twang enthusiasts hippy shaked their way into 1964.

At their height Twang nights were being held seven nights a week at venues such as The Walsgrave, The Red House, The Mercers Arms, The New Inn at Longford, The General Wolfe, The Heath Hotel and The Newlands.

There was, however, a problem with Sunday dances because back then licences were not issued for these to be held in pubs. This problem

was solved by effectively turning the pub into a club and that the paying customers were charged accordingly and given a membership. Another of Mick's innovations to keep his dances in the public eye was to add the following wording to his posters and flyers 'No Free Beer and No Free Entrance.'.The word 'no' being in a very tiny print so at first glance it looked like the punters would be getting Free Beer and Free Entrance.

By the mid to late 60s the Twang term simply began to disappear and new labels such as Mods and Rockers and progressive rock nights began to appear.

But that was not to be the end of Friars. Far from it in fact, as they were now putting on early gigs by bands such as The Who, The Nice, Manfred Mann and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac at venues such as The Swan at Yardley.

They continued to thrive throughout the early part of the 1970s. Vince, now in his mid 70s, is incredibly still promoting bands and organising functions like his annual Call Up the Groups. Sadly both Mick Tiernan and Jack Hardy are no longer with us. But what a legacy and what memories they have both left us.

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