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.


(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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  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

    1. Hi Norma great to know there are still people who remember these bands, I also have been in touch with Peter Budd I was at the same school as Roy Bud the composer and then worked with Arthur and we did not know the connection. Stranger than fiction.

    2. Should be

    3. Hi Norma

      Thought I'd just tell you that I am still around in Melbourne hope that you are keeping well.
      I did speak to Sonny several years ago over the phone.However I also mucked around with him speaking with an American accent as a joke, but I think that he may have thought I was serious. We haven't spoke since. I really would like to maybe talk or even see him sometime. We are in the same country but different cities. The Dynamos were my first full time group which allowed me to go forward with my love of music. I still play when I can but there is not a lot of work around these days. If you are in contact with him tell him it would be great to get together sometime...

  4. I remember him when he used to play at the railway hotel Crawley back in the early 60ies. He was even on the radio at least once on Saturday Club which used to be on Saturday mornings.

  5. My great uncle played bass with the dynamos , dave constable

  6. I thought Sonny Stewart killed himself in the early 60s

    1. It was supposedly reported in the newspaper, but was either a hoax or a mistaken identity. Sonny is alive and well and retired and still in Australia. norma

    2. Are you really talking about Arthur Chamberlain alias Sonny Stewart? I remember him playing in Acadia Club Frankfurt and was told that he lived and died years ago in London. Where he was working as a bus driver. he sure was great however!

  7. Sonny, Les Smith and Pat O'Grady had a R&R Reunion in 2005 and set up instruments and had a jam session. I have a video of it. Those guys can still rock! Norma

    1. I was a schoolboy when between 1964 and 1966 I worked as a part time warehouseman at M and S in Croydon. Pat O'Grady worked fulltime there and did music gigs at weekends. He was quite shy and retiring and always smartly dressed. We spoke a lot about music in those days. I was into Django Reinhardt and Pat was a big Wes Montgomery fan. Anton Coy.

  8. Mo Sillitoe. 22nd May 201722 May 2017 at 09:54

    I have a paper cutting of Sony Stewart playing at a club in Wadhurst, Sussex, England in the very late 50's/early 60's. I'm leaning on the stage, OMG I was really quite a girl! I wish I could upload it but I can't find a way??

  9. So I am lucky enough to live next to the drummer Dave Constable

  10. In the early 60s ernie o malley gave me drum lessons,he was an interesting person bit weird but thats what made him,anyone any idea it he is still going i hope so

  11. I don’t know how active this blog/page is anymore, but does anyone happen to know if this Sonny Stewart is the same one in this clip, fronting a group called The Skiffle Kings -

    That clip is from a movie from 1958, so to me it would make sense if the Dynamos were his venture after The Skiffle Kings, although I’m looking for any information that anyone can contribute to confirm this or not.

    Not only that, but there also exists a single issued in West Germany in 1965 under the name of Sonny Stewart -

    It looks enough like him on the sleeve for me to believe this is the same person (also taking into account his activity in West Germany in the past), but I don’t have any confirmation on this. Once again, if anybody has any information to contribute to confirm or deny any of this, it is greatly appreciated. That’s all, just thought I’d share some of these findings

    1. Sonny Stewart and The Skiffle Kings were lead by Peter Stewart, so no connection with this Sonny Stewart.

    2. Arthur Leonard Charles Chamberlain and Sonny Stewart are one and the same. He had The Skiffle Kings before The Dynamos. The 58 movie was The Golden Disc (by another name also) Pat O'Grady played in it as his guitarist for "Let Me Lie". In Germany Sonny did record a couple of singles which you can hear on the internet. "Beggar In Town" and "Come Along With Me". (Good pic of him on the cover) My last contact with him and his wife had them still traveling all over Australia. At one time they had an olive orchard and the top award winning olive oil. I still love playing his records and CDs. Just One More Time and Memories Of Christmas are still my favorites. Wonder if Doug remembers those??? Norma