Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys




Colin Hicks was the younger brother of British rock'n' roll pioneer Tommy Hicks aka Tommy Steele. However at home, in the UK, the hoped-for success never materialised despite being signed up by the same managers, several top-of-the-bill tours and some TV appearances. He took a lot of stick from Tommy's fans, add to the fact that Colin looked and sounded very much like his elder brother didn't help.

Even his story began almost like a fairy tale. Colin Hicks was born in London in 1941. During Spring 1957, he was still a 16-year-old cabin boy in an oil tanker docked in South Africa. And one day he sang for laughs in a local nightclub.
When he returned to London, Tommy Steele's managers, Larry Parnes and John Kennedy, enjoyed his singing ability and signed him up to sing in a nightclub in London's posh Mayfair district.
He then sang at the 2I's coffee Bar where Bobby Green arranged an audition for his backing group The Cabin Boys.
They recruited Tony Eagleton on lead guitar; Tony Belcher on rhythm guitar; Brian Gregg on bass (from Les Hobeaux Skiffle Group) (1); Ronnie Mills on piano, and Jimmie Nicol on drums, who all used to get up regularly at the 2I's.

As a result, a recording contract with Pye records led to the release of his debut single, "Empty Arm Blues" a song written by his guitar man Tony Eagleton, coupled with "Wild Eyes".

Then followed three TV guest spots and from November to December 1957, a 7 week package tour with Marty Wilde, beginning in Sunderland and finishing in London. They both headlined at the old Finsbury Park Empire on 9 December 1957.

Colin's second 45 "La Dee Dah"/"Wasteland" came in early 1958.
By february 1958, Colin Hicks and Marty Wilde roped in as replacements for Terry Dene during a package tour with Chas McDevitt and Edna Savage, after a gig at Gloucester Regal.
Soon after, Tony Belcher went on to join Rory Blackwell's Blackjacks then later Marty Wilde's Wildcats. He was replaced with saxophone player Johnny Stanley.

In April 1958, Larry Parnes sent Colin Hicks & His Cabin Boys to play 2 one-night stands at the Thurso Town Hall and the Boys' Brigade Hall in Wick, Scotland. They appeared there under the Alan Martin Enterprises banner. In Thurso some dancegoers fresh from the pubs proved somewhat disrespectful to their distinguished guest, jeering, scoffing and dishing out a selection of ribald sarcasms... Colin Hicks then saw out his set and left the Hall. A few weeks later an article appeared in a national magazine in which he advised his fellow practitioners to avoid, at all costs, a miserable place called Thurso, where the locals were utterly ignorant of what constituted good music.

Shortly thereafter Colin Hicks went back to South Africa this time with his Cabin Boys, then he was booked on a package tour of Italy with the Platters, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and the Trio Raisner which started on 7 May 1958: headlining in Milan, Venice, Bari, Brindisi, Naples, Rome, Genoa.

But in June 1958, Colin Hicks returned to London to find that Larry Parnes and John Kennedy didn’t want to extend his contract after “Lah Dee Dah” had failed. They then confiscated the gear of the band.
So Hicks attracted the patronage of an insurance broker and a wealthy businessman named Freddy Clifford, who spent £2000 on the very finest instruments, amplifiers, microphones and a mixer, and getting Colin publicized in his own right.

In August 1958, after a successful appearance on the popular TV show "Jack-In-The-Box", another tour followed, and 'Pye' had Colin Hicks' third 45 released: "Little Boy Blue" written by lionel Bart coupled with "Jambalaya" the Hank Williams song.

Towards the end of the year, Colin Hicks was starring at the Granada in Kensington London, with a show called "The Colin Hicks Band Show", which also included Johnny Duncan & his Blue Grass Boys, Nancy Whiskey and The Southlanders. The Cabin Boys were supplemented by guitarist Joe Moretti who's just arrived in London directly from Scotland. Brian Pugh aka "Lou Bryan" took over from Ronnie Mills on piano for a very short while before moving with Moretti to Vince Taylor & his Playboys. He reinvented himself as “Perry Ford” and would later become successful with the Vocal trio The Ivy League, after a stint in the Echoes, and as songwriter (2).
He was replaced with Chris Andrews who joined the Colin Hicks one nighter tour of North Britain starting at Whitehaven, Scotland. Johnny Stanley eventually left to front his own Show Band which was part of the support acts alongside Sibby Raid and The Debonairs from mid December 1958 (3).

Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys rehearsed in the first floor of the Roundhouse - for 2 days - until Freddy Clifford blew a fuse. Every record company had shown him the door. So the band folded.

During February 1959, Colin Hicks took over the lead role of Bongo Herbert vacated by James Kenny in the hit musical stage production of "Expresso Bongo" and underwent a 13 week tour across the country.
Meanwhile Tony Eagleton and Jimmy Nicol were rolled by Alex Murray into the pit band of the Franck Norman/Lionel Bart musical “Fings ain’t wot they used to be”, which opened at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, East London.
Chris Andrews started a solo career, appearing on Jack Good's TV show "Oh Boy". He later became a successful singer, songwriter and producer (4).

Without chart success, his recording career in the UK nosedived but Colin Hicks was not deterred.
In September 1959, Colin Hicks checked out the latest arrivals at the 2is coffee Bar and recruited a new set of Cabin Boys: Dave 'Zom' Tick on guitar (ex-Vipers), Rod 'Boots' Slade on bass, and Mike O’Neill on piano (ex-Clay Nicholls & The Blue Flames). Jimmy Nicol, the original drummer, provided a thread of continuity.
They accompanied Hicks for 4 months work in Italy, where they had rave reviews about their rock'n'roll show through a Cameo in the Italian financed and directed documentary movie “Europa di Notte” (Europe By Night).
Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys recorded 9 songs for the Italian Broadway label: "Book Of Love", "Yea Yea", "Oh Boy", "Twenty Flight Rock", "Tutti Frutti", "Sexy Rock", "Johnny B. Goode", "Giddy-Up-A-Ding-Dong" and "Brand New Cadillac" which was the first to be released as a 45 single.
In the Alessandro Blasetti film, Colin Hicks and his group appeared singing "Giddy Up A Ding Dong", which had proved to be a big hit in Italy, resulting in a lucrative invitation to tour there. In fact They had a balls sporadic gigs, but regular wages; met and hung out with Chet Baker.

In late 1959, Jimmy Nicol left to join Vince Eager and his Quiet Three (5). Laurie Jay from The Nu-Notes replaced him.
At this time, The Cabin Boys always opened the show just before Colin.
Probably inspired by the surrounding scenery and the Italian "Peplum" movies, The Cabin Boys decided to change their name to Nero & the Gladiators, backstage at the "Teatro Olympia" in Milan. They then parted company with Colin Hicks who choose concentrate on Italy.
When Johnny Kidd & The Pirates topped the British charts with "Shakin' All Over" in Summer 1960, Hicks modelled his act on them. Incidentally The Pirates' bass player was none other than a former Cabin Boy, Brian Gregg.

Colin Hicks even appeared in the film "Vacane alla baia d'argento" in 1961 which ensured his popularity and success over there. So Brian Gregg returned to the fold in Summer 1961, rolling his mates from Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, guitarist Alan Caddy and drummer Clem Cattini into The Cabin Boys. They were plunged straight into a six-week tour of Italy and once their obligation had been completed returned home, exhausted, eventually working with Joe Meek as part of The Tornados.

A couple of years later, in May 1963, Colin Hicks signed up a new English backup band to accompany him on a another tour of Italy: The Shel Carson Combo consisting of Norman Shapiro and Johnny Charlton on guitars, Bobby Posner on Bass, Mike Shepstone on drums.
They played in places like the Alcione theatre in Milano, earning success among the audience.

When Colin Hicks got sick and completely lost his voice before a show in Torino, The Cabin Boys replaced him, performing more of their songs, in the rhythm & blues vein. They decided to tour on their own and then changed their name to The Rokes. During a gig at the Ambra-Jovinelli in Rome, they were spotted and then signed by Teddy Reno, the manager of the Italian girl singer Rita Pavone, to support her Italian tour...

Colin Hicks carried on with various line-ups of The Cabin Boys. One of them featured Jamaican Tenor saxophonist Mike Elliott who later formed the Foundations in 1967.


(1) Brian Gregg had purchased a cello Hofner. He was one of the few bass players in Britain to own an electric bass guitar.

(2) Brian Pugh reinvented himself as “Perry Ford”, being part of The Ivy League from 1964 to 1966, and writing for Adam Faith and The Bachelors.
(3) Brian Gregg: “we were playing these big ballrooms up north - places like Barrow and Crewe… to get an audience of a dozen. It was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen and I quit. He was a cocky little git at times, though he knew it all. Wouldn’t even consult us.”

(4) Chris Andrews had an international hit with "I'm Yesterday Man" in 1965.
He also wrote for Adam Faith ("The First Time"; "Hungry for love") and produced Sandy Shaw.
(5) Jimmy Nicol later did session work with the orchestras of Oscar Rabin, Cyril Stapleton, Johnny Dankworth and Ted Heath from 1960 to 1963, before leading his own bands, The Shubdubs and The Sound of Jimmy Nicol. He also played drums for other acts such as Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames in May 1964, and the Swedish guitar group The Spotnicks from September 1965. Being a very accomplished session drummer from Liverpool, he was naturally chosen to sit in with The Beatles during their tours of Denmark, Sweden, Holland and Australia, for a couple of weeks in June 1964, while Ringo Starr was hospitalised with tonsillitis.
It was rumoured that Nicol had died at 49 years old in 1988 (René van Haarlem from Beatles Unlimited), however a report by the Daily Mail (Saturday, October 1, 2005) confirmed that he was still alive and living as a recluse in London. Check this page about him.



Discography
UK RELEASES (Pye)

1. Empty Arms Blues / Wild Eyes & Tender Lips. Pye 7N 15114. Late 1957.
2. La Dee Dah / Wasteland. Pye 7N 15125. Early 1958.
3. Little Boy Blue / Jambalaya. Pye 7N 15163. Sept. 1958.

ITALIAN RELEASES (Broadway, 1959)

1. Brand New Cadillac / ? Broadway Int. 1022 - 1959
2. Sexy Rock / Johnny B. Goode Broadway Int. 1028 - 1959

Compilations· "History Of Rock'n'Roll" - #13 (Alligator Records 560209, 1988):
included Giddy Up A Ding Dong; Book Of Love; 20 Flight Rock; Yea Yea; Oh Boy and Tutti Frutti

· "British Beat Before The Beatles" - Volume Two (CD set, EMI, 1993): Empty Arm Blues...

Lineups of Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys
Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #1 (Late 1957 - March 1958)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocals)
  • Tony Eagleton (Lead Guitar)
  • Tony Belcher (Rhythm Guitar)
  • Brian Gregg (Bass)
  • Ronnie Mills (Piano)
  • Jimmy Nicol (Drums)


Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #2 (April - August 1958)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocals)
  • Tony Eagleton (Lead Guitar)
  • Brian Gregg (Bass)
  • Ronnie Mills (Piano)
  • Johnny Stanley (Tenor Sax)
  • Jimmy Nicol (Drums)


Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #3 (August - November 1958)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocals)
  • Tony Eagleton (Lead Guitar)
  • Brian Gregg (Bass)
  • Brian Pugh (Keyboards) "Lou Bryan"
  • Johnny Stanley (Tenor Sax)
  • Jimmy Nicol (Drums)



Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #4 (November - December 1958)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocals)
  • Tony Eagleton (Lead Guitar)
  • Joe Moretti (Rhythm Guitar)
  • Brian Gregg (Bass)
  • Chris Andrews (Keyboards)
  • Johnny Stanley (Tenor Sax)
  • Jimmy Nicol (Drums)


Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #3 (November - December 1958)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocals)
  • Joe Moretti (Lead Guitar)
  • Rodney Slade (Bass) "Boots"
  • Brian Pugh (Keyboards) "Lou Bryan"
  • Jimmy Nicol (Drums)


Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #5 (September - December 1959)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocals)
  • Dave Tick (Lead Guitar) "Zom"
  • Rod Slade (Bass) "Boots"
  • Mike O'Neill (Piano)
  • Jimmy Nicol (Drums)
  • Laurence Joseph Jacobson (Drums) "Laurie Jay"

Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #6 (1960)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocal)
  • George Dankmeyer (Bass)
  • Mike Elliott (Tenor Sax)
  • And others


Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #7 (July - August 1961)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocal)
  • Alan Caddy (Lead Guitar)
  • Brian Gregg (Bass)
  • Clem Cattini (Drums)


Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys #8 (May 1963)
  • Colin Hicks (Lead Vocal)
  • Norman Shapiro (Lead Guitar/Vocals)
  • Johnny Charlton (Rhythm Guitar/Vocals)
  • Bobby Posner (Bass/Vocals)
  • Mike Shepstone (Drums/Vocals)


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19 comments:

  1. Norman "Shel" Shapiro, Johnny Charlton, Bobby Posner and Mike Shepstone later this experience with Colin Hicks, became the most famous English group relocated in Italy: The Rokes

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  2. So he used his brothers fame, money and influence to further his own career, and got plenty of breaks in the showbiz world.
    But by mid 58 Steele had jumped ship and was no longer paying for his brothers dream as it was not going to happen so Colin rode the gravy train for it it was worth.
    Got few gigs and shit but it all turned sour and he turned into an angry little man.
    Amusingly plenty of past members of his backing group went on to have fame a fortune, but sadly for Colin, he was just "Oh yea i forgot that Tommy steele had a brother footnote in the history of British pop music"
    Would not be surprised if he got involved in drugs later on in life and slipped into a deep depression with the odd hand out from his brother keeping him going.
    More than likely now deceased and almost forgotten even by members of his own family

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    Replies
    1. What a lot of untrue bullshit,Colin did not trade of his brother,in fact he would go mad if he was refered to as Tommy steeles brother,Colin went to Italy where he became a big star,Tommy Steele was not known there,Colin never ever got involved with drugs,I have just been rehearsing with him for a weekender gig we are doing in july 2013,in lowestoft,he is in fine form and singing well,it is easy to see why you sign Anonymous,you gutless lier..Brian Gregg

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    2. Hello Brian my Dad was Ronnie he told me many stories about his days in the band and spoke very fondly of you in particular.

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  3. Could you conferm if Colin Hicks and his band played the Wallsend Memorial Hall Wallsend on Tyne because i am shure that i seen them

    Arty

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  4. Colin Hicks was a major influence in british rock'n'roll in the 1950's and even more so now,in my opinion much more so than his brother.I think the reason for his ultimate lack of success was as always bad management.They didn't want another "tommy steele" and nothing to do with any lack of talent.Believe me,if you go to any ted gig today you will hear the name Colin Hicks mentioned every time and always will be.

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  5. Colin ran a pub with his wife in Basingstoke in the 70s.

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  6. By 1991 when I knew Colin he was a foreman (in the buidings section) on the Channel Tunnel construction site at Folkestone. Self confident with a cockney accent he was not a team player and generally not liked. I well remember his sometimes rough and often short tempered, aggressive manner, which was often out of place and despite him being fairly short. He presented a better side to more senior people, he was smart enough to manage upwards. He was happy to take a short term gain (or "pull a fast one")and face conflict with those around and beneath him.
    It was hard to believe he was related to Tommy Steele despite his facial resemblance and the fact he claimed the same. One or twice he gave a blast of song and to his credit he had a serious set of lungs! This also helped him be heard when he felt the need to shout.
    It is not such a surprise to hear about the turnover of people in his group.

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  7. Colins fan club was eventually based in Doncaster run by a Miss Pauline Kitching

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    Replies
    1. hi there,

      where is colin hicks now and hw is he doing?

      thanks!

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    2. Saw him 3 days ago. He's retired and living in a village near Basingstoke with his wife .

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  8. He's playing at the Wildest Kats weekender next summer

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  9. What about ronnie mills - anyone know anything about his later.now years?

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    Replies
    1. I'm Ronnie Mills' daughter. Ronnie passed away in Dec 2005. Can I just say however my Dad was actually the pianist in the Europe di Notte footage which can be accessed on you tube so he was still with the band in 1959.

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  10. MY DAD WAS IN YOUR BAND
    ROD (BOOTS) SLADE

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  11. Hi my father johnny Stanley played saxaphone with your dad in the colin hicks and the cabin boys he was from Belfast would love any info of other bands he played in ino he played in the ronnie Scott's club and the two eyes club in west end London If I have any info on the film europe by night I would great full if you could give me any info thanksWould love if colin could give me a replay mamie Stanley

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  12. Hi Sean i was good friends with your dad Johnny,a very nice man,i was in the Cabin boys with him,and in the film Europa Di Notti(Europe by night)if you put Colin Hicks, Book of Love, yeh yeh, 20 flight, rock into Utube or google you will see us performing in the film Boots Slade was not in the band with Johnny Stanley,boots was in the band much later line up,by the way Sean im the one with the blond hair on the right,is Johnny still around? if so please give him my best,a lovely man and a great sax player..Brian Gregg

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  13. ANYONE HEARD OF TONY EAGLETON LEAD GUITARIST IN THE CAIN BOYS

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  14. anybody know of tony eagleton, lead guitarist in colin hicks and the cabin boys band

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