Sonny Stewart & The Dynamos


Arthur Champerlain alias "Sonny Stewart" and his professional band "The Dynamos" were very popular first in southern London and then in Western Germany during the early 60's. Their repertoire was the hits of the US charts and some Country and Western, playing Marty Robbins, Bob Luman, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Chubby Checker with his famous "Twist again" and The Fly".
The original Dynamoes consisted of guitarist Pat O'Grady, bassist Douggie Reece, pianist Les Smith who was then studying architecture, and drummer Ernie O'Malley. They all met up while working at the 2i's coffee bar in Old Compton Street, Soho. They started playing in the local clubs and the US airbases like Chicksands, Laken Heath, Brise Norton and Bushy Park and performed even on BBC Radio show "Saturday Club" during 1959.
By 1960, Tony Collins replaced O'Grady. At the end of the year, there was some unrest with Sonny Stewart and his management, so it was decided to part company. When Chris Wayne was asked to supported Gene Vincent again in early 1961, he recruited drummer Laurie Jay, from Nero & The Gladiators, and the rest of The Dynamos - apart from Ernie O'Malley (1) - to be his new set of Echoes (who later backed Dusty Springfield from 1963).
Meanwhile Stewart formed another group, recruiting guitarist Jim Duncombe (2) from the Deltones and bass player Frank Jackson formerly with Rodney Ward & the Hi Fi’s. The Dynamos then went off to find other work, first doing some gigs with Eden Cane before finally moving to Hamburg, Germany.

In August 1961, they started an engagement in Hamburg's famous scene club, the Top Ten at Reeperbahn 105, taking over from the Beatles. They played there nonstop daily from 17.00 hrs to 07.00 hrs in the morning.

After a gig in Hanau, Germany, in which Duncombe took over vocals, a local club owner called Aaron Brown supported his intention to found his own band, when finally he left the Dynamos in late 1962.
Peter Budd from The Crestas, an acquaintance of Jackson's, stepped into his shoes (3). They kept playing clubs in Hamburg, but also in Frankfurt and other towns in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. They opened up for Bill Haley's band many times at American Bases.
In late 1964, drummer Dave Constable and Peter Budd went with Dave Dacosta & the Strollers.
Sonny Stewart eventually teamed up with the Tony Dangerfield's Thrills and toured Star Club circuit in Germany whilst their singer was in the UK promoting the record "I've seen sutch things."

Peter Budd kept playing guitar with Earl Sheridan & the House Shakers, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent amongst others. David Constable kept beating the skins for Dickie Pride. Jeff Pullem later joined Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band, and he's now a reknown Language Author.
Arthur Champerlain (Sonny Stewart) left music business and now lives in Adalaide, Australia.



Notes:

(1) Ernie O'Malley later played with The Cy Laurie's jazz band, The Blues By Six and then Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men

(2) Jim Duncombe
"Jeff beck took my place when I left the Deltones to join “Sonny Stewart & the Dynamos”...
Sonny Stewart and his professional band "The Dynamos" was already popular in southern London when I joined end of 1960. We played in the local clubs and the US airbases and came even as far as Birmingham.
In August 1961 we started an engagement in Hamburg's famous scene club, the Top Ten at Reeperbahn 105, shortly after the Beatles had played there. Certainly hard work as we stepped into their path, playing nonstop daily from 17.00 hrs to 07.00 hrs in the morning. During this time I learned a lot from Tony Sheridan, the club's singer. During a replacement due to illness of both Tony and Sonny, I started singing, too...
During a gig in Hanau, Germany, Aaron Brown, a local club owner, supported my intention to found my own band late 1962, when finally I left Sonny Steward and the Dynamos."

(3) Peter Budd
"One day I got a letter from Frank Jackson, an old friend and bass player who I played with in the “Rodney Ward and the Hi Fi’s” band some time back. The letter was from Germany and asked if I knew a guitarist that would want to replace Jimmy Duncombe who was leaving “Sonny Stewart and the Dynamos”. Jimmy was a great guitarist, and even gave Jeff Beck some lessons at one time. I left for Germany the same week!
I spent a few years with Sonny Stewart, playing clubs in Hamburg, Frankfurt and about every city and town in Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. One of these clubs was the Star Club - now famous as an early ‘learning’ venue for the Beatles and other (then) ‘undiscovered’ groups... By and large we were treated well, but it was still a good idea to keep an eye on the ‘backstage door’ when the patrons got “good and tanked”!... With Sonny's band we opened up for Bill Haley's band many times at American Basses.
After the stint with Sonny Stewart, Dave Constable and I went with “Dave Dacosta and the Strollers”.

(4) Ron - "The Elf" - Blackie
"I was known as the Elf in Tony Dangerfield & the Thrills!!... whilst Tony was in UK promoting the record 'I've seen sutch things' and we were working in Germany for Sonny Stewart - we were then his Dynamos and played with King Size Taylor too."



Various Line-ups of Sonny Stewart & The Dynamos

Sonny Stewart & The Dynamos #1 (Early 1959 - Late 1960)
  • Arthur Champerlain (Lead Vocals) "Sonny Stewart"
  • Pat O'Grady (Lead Guitar)
  • Tony Collins (Lead Guitar)
  • Douglas Reece (Bass/Vocals) "Douggie Reece"
  • Lester Smith (Keyboards) "Les Smith"
  • Ernie O'Malley (Drums)


Sonny Stewart & The Dynamos #2 (Late 1960 - Late 1962)
  • Arthur Champerlain (Lead Vocals) "Sonny Stewart"
  • Jim Duncombe (Lead Guitar/Vocals)
  • Frank Jackson (Bass)
  • Roger King (Keyboards)
  • Dave Constable (Drums)


Sonny Stewart & The Dynamos #3 (Early 1963 - Late 1964)
  • Arthur Champerlain (Lead Vocals) "Sonny Stewart"
  • Peter Budd (Lead Guitar)
  • Frank Jackson (Bass)
  • Jeff Pullem (Keyboards)
  • Dave Constable (Drums)


Sonny Stewart & The Dynamos #4 (Early 1965)
  • Arthur Champerlain (Lead Vocals) "Sonny Stewart"
  • John Bedder (Lead Guitar)
  • Ron Blackie (Bass) "The Elfe"
  • Mike Benson (Keyboards)
  • Neil Norman (Drums)


Special thanks to Jim Duncombe, Peter Budd, and many others

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3 comments:

  1. I worked with arthur Chamberlain on the London Ambulance 1966 to 1967 we were good pals, he used to boast about being a singer with the Dynamos in Hamburg in those good old days. We took it all with a pinch of salt till one night a group of us went to Brighton and we ended up in a nightclub where a band was playing.After a few drinks I said if you can sing show us, and he joined the band and sang Great Balls Of Fire, he was fantastic What a great singer totally wasted, he should have been up there with the likes of the beatles, Conway Twitty, and many others he was just as good. I will cherish that memory till the day i die. David Lambourne Brighton UK.

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  3. I was an American Air Force dependent stationed at Greenham Common AFB 1957/1960 when we first met Sonny and the band. They became fast family friends. David Still was bass guitar at that time. They played for my 8th grade graduation dance and spent many weekends at our house in Thatcham. They also played at our AF boarding school at Bushy Park. I remember when Doug Reece joined and we have many photos of our good times together. There were 3 of us sisters and Sonny was like our brother. They were at the airport the day we left England (June 3 1960...53 yrs ago today, WOW!) and set up their instruments and played some of our favorites. Doug sang SEA OF LOVE which had just come out. Still have the two records they had made for us. Lost touch after a few more years, but I found him again in 2003 thru Peter Budd and also found the other members. Have even visited his exwife/manager in Texas a few yrs ago. Yes, Sonny could really rock a show and get everyone up dancing...truly one of the greats! I am and always have been proud to call him a good friend/brother! This "old" lady still gets stares as I drive down the highway playing his CD of R&R songs and singing along. GREAT memories! Arthur Leonard Charles (Chaz) Chamberlain will always be "Sonny" to me. NormaSmithBlanton SC USA

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