Youth Club Recollections

1960s' Music in Billericay

Ted Bailey (right) with Brentwood Weekly News journalist Steve Crancher at the Brentwood Writers' Convention in 2010
Sylvia Kent

In 1967, Billericay Youth Centre & Evening Institute, sited mainly in Billericay School, entered an exciting new phase with the arrival of a young enthusiastic full-time Centre Head. Immediately from the outset he faced a problem. The adult classes were thriving but on the youth side, although there were 500 youth members (14-21) on the books, only 30 or so actually ever turned up.

Why so? Enquiries revealed a ‘history’! This was a tale of conflict between YC staff and some local ‘hard nuts’, banned for various behavioural infringements. This explained the vanishing majority. As when a pub changes landlords, these deviants immediately emerged from the woodwork to test the new order. Those early weeks were a battle of wills especially on Friday nights. Once, a large mob marched up the drive to force an entry to a dance. On another occasion, a notorious elder brother drove a huge truck at speed careering around the school grounds causing real danger. Additionally, all trouble was double trouble. It needed resolving at the time but always caused a Monday morning post-mortem by the School Head, Mr. J. Goldwin.

A radical overhaul eventually established a permanent peace. Attraction was the name of the game. A stimulating programme of activities was instigated, the headline being “Friday Night is Dance Night” with various pop groups for 2/6d entry. This was accompanied by imaginative advertising, using DIY Day-Glo posters with the BYC logo distributed far and wide by willing volunteers.  The proof of success was the increase in committed membership but also the hordes who poured in from Chelmsford, Rayleigh and even Harlow, to get into the weekly Friday and monthly Saturday music nights which were virtually mini pop concerts.

Some of the bands subsequently made it bigger: Essex Sound; Kippington Lodge, who became Brinsley Schwarz (with Nick Lowe of “Cruel to be Kind”); Spice, renamed Uriah Heep for their first US tour and Keef Hartley, onetime drummer with John Mayall Blues Breakers. Also Deep Purple and Pink Floyd may have played BYC but there’s no supporting evidence. It needs someone present then to complete the story of those many events. Those sixties days in Billericay are now recalled with fond memories as I was that young man.


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  • I’ve Been sorting through some of my old 45s and have come up with a couple of oldies.

    1. “Chelsea Boots” & “Samantha” by The Embers released in 1963 on Decca. 
    2. “Teddy Bear Special” & “What is This” by David and The Embers also released in 1963 on Decca.

    David and his family lived just up the road from me and he was in the same year.

    By Robin Lockhart (27/10/2016)
  • I played in the off shoot of David and the Embers alongside Kevin Crowley rhythm guitar and Quentin Little on Bird Organ as I was the drummer at the time.

    By Ian Brighton (10/10/2016)
  • Hiya Pam Routledge, so surprised to see your name. How are you. I met up with Ken Cleave and he was asking about you xx.  Would love to hear from you.  Les

    By Lesley Powell (nee Atkin) (29/11/2014)
  • I happened to enter the school one evening and there was a group playing called “David and The Embers” the drummer was a Quentin Little.  What ever happened to them?

    By Robin Lockhart (20/11/2014)
  • Can’t believe I found this site.  Hope you remember me Robert.  Get back when you can.

    By Pam Jones (nee Routledge) (26/10/2014)
  • My memory has improved! We also had Brinsley Schwarz (with Nick Lowe), Essex Sound (they were very good and bluesy … whatever became of them) and Sugar & Spice, who became heavy rockers Uriah Heep in 1969

    By Dr Ted Bailey (08/06/2013)
  • It was good to see Terry Walden’s comments … memory plays funny tricks but I do definitely remember Keef Hartley (booked at Basildon Arts Centre on a blues whim the week before) and his two German Shepherds sitting aside his drum kit. First thing he did on arrival was to ask for bowls of water! Pentangle and Sweet, eh? We certainly were the hub of blues’n’rock in Essex back then. 

    By Dr Ted Bailey (22/04/2013)
  • I was a young lad (17) who used to book the bands for the youth club along with Robert Rigby. I was known as Wally in those days and Robert as Riggers. We never had Deep Purple or Pink Floyd but definately had the Sweet. I remember we had a Rock and Roll band that had a huge Hells Angel following and the school playground was full of motor bikes. We were all a bit worried but it turned out to be a fantastic night. I also operated the lights on gig nights. We had Pentangle perform there. Keef Hartlley had an Alsation dog that sat by the drums all night. Local bands East Side Movement and Smersh were regular performers. We also had a friend who worked as a sound engineer for the BBC and he used to bring the Youth Club a tape of the latest ‘Top of the Pops’ to listen to before it was broadcast.His name was Brian Showell. He was on the House Committee of the Youth Club along with Riggers and myself. I remember The Nashville Teans and Johnny Kid and The Pirates at the Archer Hall.

    By Terry Walden (07/12/2012)

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