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Nicky James, his wedding tackle and Tony Hatch

By Bev Bevan on Sep 6, 08 05:43 PM


In the Spring of 1963, on a one-off trip towards the East coast of England we found ourselves doing a gig at Scunthorpe Baths.

Although Denny Laine and the Diplomats had begun to develop a healthy following in our native West Midlands, the good folk of Scunthorpe had clearly never heard of us, and the show was poorly attended.

Amongst the sparse crowd though was a lad from our neck of the woods - Tipton, in fact.

nickyj01.jpg

His name was Nicky James, a tall, skinny, good-looking guy with a mop of Brylcreemed black hair, swept back Teddy Boy style. He asked us if he could get up on stage and sing with the group.

Now this was something we never allowed to happen, but taking a look at Nicky's rough-looking mates and not fancying getting ourselves getting beaten up as we loaded the van, we agreed.

He asked us if we knew any Elvis Presley numbers, which we did, and he launched into One Night With You. He was sensational - the best Elvis soundalike I have ever heard to this day.

Denny, who had assumed unspoken leadership of our little group and being of an impetuous nature, immediately asked him to join the band and accompany us back to Birmingham in our van.

He agreed, and after stopping at his digs to pick up his worldly possessions of a draped red satin jacket, a similar jacket in gold lame and a very small duffel bag, we were on our way.

I don't think that Phil or Steve were at all keen on the idea of a complete stranger joining the group (plus it would mean splitting the money five ways instead of four) but Denny had made up his mind and was adamant.

I was happy to go along with the idea too, being a huge fan of Elvis, and looked forward to adding lots of Presley songs to our repertoire.

All the way home I quizzed him on his knowledge of Elvis material, bringing up obscure album tracks and B-sides like Where Do You Come From, Reconsider Baby and That's When Your Heartaches Begin.

He knew them all and sang to us all the way home (much to Phil's annoyance, as he didn't even like Elvis - he was a Buddy Holly fan!)

Denny took Nicky back home to stay at his parents' house with him, telling his mum: "This is Nicky, and he's moving in with us."

"Oh no, he's not!", she replied - and Nicky had to sleep in the van. It wasn't long though before Denny and Nicky moved into a little flat together, just a couple of streets away.

NICKY.jpg

So now we were billed as Denny Laine and the Diplomats - featuring Nicky James. It wasn't long before that became Nicky James with Denny Laine and the Diplomats.

Nicky certainly had a way with the girls and there was soon a procession of them heading back to the flat. He was particularly well-endowed in the "wedding tackle" department, and was never shy in showing it off!

On stage, though, he was probably TOO much like Elvis (one local newspaper described him as a cross between Presley and Billy Fury. His chat in between numbers in a very broad Tipton accent probably didn't help either.

Nevertheless, he got himself a manager and financial backer (a Birmingham butcher, as I recall) and also attracted the attention of head producer for Pye Records, Tony Hatch.

Within a few months Nicky had left our group to embark on a solo career. He had a single released titled My Colour Is Blue but it failed to chart.

So now we were back to being a quartet once again. Tony Hatch was also impressed with Denny Laine and the Diplomats and we recorded several tracks at the Pye studios in London but, as with the EMI recordings, none got released.

The main problem was that Tony Hatch was at the same time recording and producing another group with an identical two guitars, bass and drums line-up to ours, a band from Liverpool.

Pye instructed Tony to choose one or the other - and he chose the scousers. In hindsight I reckon he made the right decision. That Liverpool group he chose over us were called The Searchers.


6 Comments

Eventually, everyone will have their own Wikipedia entry. Here is Nicky James's entry.

louis james said:

dad was an icon and was unfortunate not to get the recognition he deserved, hopefully il be able to fulfill my music dreams and his through my singing.

Crystal said:

interesting post thanks!! i really like it thanks

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Brian Gregg said:

Iv'e played for a lot of english singers including Terry Dene,Billy Fury,Johnny Kidd,Eden Kane,and others,and in my opinion Nicky James was the best by a long way..

Brian Gregg said:

Iv'e Played behind many british singers,including Terry Dene,Billy Fury,Johnny Kidd,Eden Kane and None of them were in the same class as Nicky James..

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