“It’s been a rock and roll life!” musician Peter Oakman tells Andy Howells as the pair discuss Peter’s music career which stretches back to the 1950s as a founding member of Joe Brown’s Bruvvers. Peter, now a member of The Swinging Blue Jeans is currently out on tour with a cavalcade of legendary 60s acts including Mike Pender, Herman’s Hermits, Chris Farlowe , The Fourmost and 60s revivalists New Amen Corner as part of The Sensational 60s Experience tour, which comes to South Wales for two dates in March 2019.
Peter grew up in Wanstead, East London and fell into the world of music at the age of 12, when along with his elder brother, Tony, they followed the footsteps of skiffle king Lonnie Donegan, by forming their own group, The Spacemen.
“My elder brother was keen on aero modelling,” remembers Peter, “It was the Wanstead Aero-Modelling Club, we used to have these little jaunts out and gatherings with people all over the UK. In the 1956 aero-modellers annual there’s a photograph of me, my brother and four other guys playing skiffle around the campfire at one of these meetings.”
Peter began playing guitar and as the group began to grow, they were soon joined by another friend, Joe Brown.
Peter continues “He said, “You’re the only one who can play bass, so he got my dad to take me up to Selmers in Charring Cross Road and I bought myself a double bass.”
Playing pubs around London, the band, with Joe as their frontman started to get noticed and Joe was eventually spotted by impresario, Larry Parnes who also managed Marty Wilde and Billy Fury.
Peter says “He took Joe on and then Joe was gradually able to bring the band in as well,. Then we went to do our first record in 1959 which was Dark Town Strutters Ball, Jack Good (legendary producer of the TV series Oh Boy!) was producing. Jack said to Joe “What are we going to call the band?” and Joe said, “I dunno mate, We’re just like brothers aren’t we?” So that was the birth of Joe Brown and The Bruvvers!”
The next few years saw Joe along with The Bruvvers steadily build up a selection of melodic popular hits including It Only Took a Minute and That’s What Love Will Do. Peter remembers been a pop musician in the early 60s was still hard work.
““You get those moments when you’d pinch yourself. I remember the first time I did (Sunday Night at the) London Palladium on TV and been on the rostrum at the end!”
“Most of the time, we’d be going along the old A5, it could be hard work! There were no motorways, if you wanted to get up to Liverpool or Manchester you used to allow 7 hours to get there! Mind you with the motorways these days it takes about the same time!”
Along with fellow Bruvver, John Beveridge, Peter composed the song, A Picture of You.
“Johnny had a contact in Tin Pan Alley, (Johnny Matheson), an old mate of his from Scotland. So we had somewhere to go with it and when we did that, Joe said “Hang on! I like that song, I’d like to do it!”
A Picture of You reached No.2 in the UK charts in 1962 and is still fondly remembered by fans today when Peter performs the song with The Singing Blue Jeans.
“We still do the song in shows and people come up and say some very nice things like” I proposed to my wife when I heard that song!” It’s a lovely thing to have that people have a memory to it as well.”
Following his time with Joe Brown’s Bruvvers, Peter next found himself unexpectedly called upon by one of his music heroes, while visiting his fiancée in the Midlands.
“I got a message saying “Lonnie Donegan’s been on the phone can you give him a call?” I’d never met Lonnie before, he was like a legend but with a bit of nervousness I rang him up and he said, “I need a bass player, do you want to join me?”
Following Peter’s acceptance, Lonnie drove to Peter’s mum’s home to pick up a suitcase of clothes before going on to pick up Peter at Coventry Railway Station to begin a four-week Christmas show. There was a half-hour rehearsal time and then the beginning of an association that would last over four decades. However, Peter quickly found that working with Lonnie would also be full of surprises!
“Lonnie said “Oh, by the way I forgot to mention this, when I finish the first song I take my guitar off and I throw it at you and you’ve got to catch it!”” laughs Peter, “This was a Martin’s guitar which was about one of the most expensive you could get and he throws it about 15 feet and I’ve got to catch it!”
Following Peter’s association with Lonnie, he joined The Swinging Blue Jeans in 2004 at the invitation of friend Alan Lovell when founder Blue Jeans member, Les Braid had to retire due to ill health.
“I enjoyed The Swinging Blue Jeans when they first kicked off because of the energy the band had,” says Peter who hopes fans will enjoy hearing the songs including You’re No Good and Hippy Hippy Shake the original Swinging Blue Jeans took into the charts back in the 60s.
“ I had a mate of mine over from Canada and he came along to see one of the shows and he was impressed by the standard of the musicianship the vocals and the sound. That’s what people want to hear, as long as you can deliver it, that’s the main thing!
“People who come along to this tour will enjoy a great evening featuring some great artists and some good old rock n roll!”
The Sensational Sixties Experience plays St David’s Hall, Cardiff on Thursday 14th March. The concert commences at 7.30pm and tickets are available from the box office on 029 2087 8444 or online http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk
The show also plays The Grand Theatre Swansea on Saturday 16th March. The concert commences at 7.30pm and tickets are available from the box office on 01792 475715 or online http://www.swanseagrand.co.uk
For further details on The Sensational 60s Experience tour visit stagerightpromotions.co.uk