Andy Howells recalls Cwmbran 1960s band, Gerry and The Rebels.
As a fan of the 1960s music scene, I am always fascinated to discover the history of bands that played local venues in South Wales be they world famous or locally loved. One such band fitting the latter description was Cwmbran based The Rebels.
The Rebels were formed in 1962 by drummer, Eddie McGuinness and bass guitarist/ vocalist, Ian Blackledge. They were accompanied by Eddie’s brother, Wayne on rhythm guitar, Keith “Snowy” Smith on keyboards and Gerry Porcher on lead guitar and vocals.
From A Crossfire To A Rebel
Before joining The Rebels, Gerry was a member of another local group, The Crossfires.
” I was a member of the original Crossfires from Cwmbran,” remembers Gerry, “There is a photograph of the band in the Majestic Ballroom on Stow Hill, I’m on extreme left. At that time we had three rhythm guitars and we were known locally as the Crossfires Orchestra. Something had to give and as one of the other guitarists had an amplifier and a van, I was the one who had to go!
“A few months after, I was approached by someone I knew from college who was forming a band and asked me to join. After the earlier episode, I wasn’t the keen but went to a practice session and agreed to give it a go. The rest as they say is history, the birth of The Rebels!”
Name Change For The Rebels!
Youngsters eager to hear live music were treat to a combination of Rock n Roll and Rhythm and Blues at The Rebels gigs. The band would play material popularised by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, The Animals and several American artists including Jerry Lee Lewis and The Drifters.
However, after several gigs, The Rebels ran into a little trouble.
Gerry continues, “We had to change the name following a complaint from none other than Dave Edmunds! He and his brother were in a band from Cardiff and they were called The Rebels, so we became Gerry and The Rebels.
On The Bill With The Yardbirds In Porthcawl
One of Gerry’s outstanding memories of Gerry and The Rebels was the band taking place in a Grand Final of a Beat Group contest at Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion on December 14, 1964.
Not only were they competing for a £100 prize against two other South Wales bands, Maesteg’s The Four Sevens and The Mustangs from Neath, but also appearing were Porthcawl band, The Renegades, while topping the bill were London band, The Yardbirds.
The Yardbirds had signed to Columbia Records in early 1964 and had released two strong rhythm and blues stylised singles, I Wish You Would and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. The band at the time consisted of Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Eric Clapton, Paul Samwell Smith and Jim McCarty.
“One of my standout memories with The Rebels was this gig in the Pavilion Porthcawl,” recalls Gerry, “I’m sure none of us who were lucky to be there knew at the time that we were in company of some rock legends.”
Not only were The Yardbirds headliners for The Porthcawl show, but they also judged the beat contest. The Yardbirds ultimately awarded first place to The Four Sevens’, second place to The Mustang’s while The Rebels’ came third.
Gerry remembers, the result as “A bit disappointing for us, but we played in the Pavilion many times after the evening and it was good to see The Yardbirds perform.”
Gerry’s keepsake of the show is a promotional photograph of the Yardbirds given to him by the band. The photo features guitarist, Eric Clapton, who would leave the band prior to the release of their next single For Your Love, disillusioned with the bands apparent pop direction.
Despite only receiving third prize at the contest, The Rebels continued performing for music fans in South Wales venues right up until 1967 and are still fondly remembered by many today.
- Many thanks to Gerry Porcher and Howard Jones for giving permission to feature the photographs.