“The atmosphere in the theatre is fantastic,” Barron Knights founder member, Pete Langford tells Andy Howells as they discuss the groups return to Abergavenny Borough Theatre.
“It’s a lovely theatre to work and when you go on stage, you feel the audience are right on top of you.”
Formed in Leighton Buzzard in 1960, The Barron Knights shot to fame in 1964 when their record, Call up The Groups, parodying chart acts such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Bachelors, stormed the charts. The record, penned by Pete on his mother’s kitchen table following The Barron Knights 1963 Christmas tour with The Beatles was originally intended as a moment of light relief for the bands stage act. The Roliing Stones publicist, Les Perrin heard it and advised the band should record it.
Perrin’s advice paid off, but when the band wanted to follow up Call Up the Groups with a single displaying their more serious side, they were advised to stick with comedy.
“EMI said, “No, you’ve got an image now!” but we didn’t even know what the word image meant,” laughs Pete,. “At Top of The Pops we had people coming up saying “Can we be on your next record?””
“Ian Dury said “No band has made it until The Barron Knights have had a go at them!”
The Barron Knights knack of turning pop songs into parodies proved so successful they became a huge draw on the touring circuit, performing an average of 150 concerts a year all over the world. They were the only band to tour with both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and hold the record for making over 300 performances at the London Palladium.
However, their real training ground was touring local venues across the UK in the 1960s including Newport’s legendary Majestic Ballroom.
“The Majestic Ballroom was a great venue for us, that was our apprenticeship” recalls Pete, “The ballrooms like The Majestic, the Mecca Ballrooms and the dance Halls (were) very important for us!”
The Barron Knights return to South Wales sees the band combining their usual brand of comedy with new material including a tribute to their old touring pals The Beatles,.
“I tell the story of when we toured with The Beatles and I stood at the side of the stage to hear them sing one song, All My Loving. Everybody rips it, they love it!” says Pete.
The Barron Knights play Abergavenny Borough Theatre on May 11, 2017.