Throwback Thursday: Back To The 1960s With The Sabres

In this weeks Throwback Thursday feature, Andy Howells recalls another 1960s band from South Wales, The Sabres!

Following on from our recent look at Cwmbran band, Gerry and The Rebels, I’ve been indebted this week to musician, Rod Thomas who has recalled his association with another South Wales band from the 1960s, The Sabres!

The Sabres are fondly remembered by South Wales music fans for coming third in the Melody Maker Beat Contest in 1966 (a contest won by Neath’s The Eyes of Blue).

The Foottappers from Newport in 1962 including Rod Thomas (middle) with Paul Edwards, Paul Hanbury and John Balaam. Image courtesy of Rod Thomas

Early Days With The Foottappers

Rod, who was raised in Cwmbran, like many budding musicians at the time, began his music journey when he attended a local dance and witnessed the power and energy of a live performance.

Rod remembers “The first local band I saw was The Crossfires playing at St Gabriel’s Hall in Cwmbran in the early 60s, I then decided that I would love to join a band myself. I first started playing as a 17-year-old back in 1962 with The Foottappers – a horrible name!”

Rod Thomas (far right) in a recent reunion with fellow Footappers Paul Edwards, Paul Hanbury and John Balaam. Image courtesy of Rod Thomas.

Hailing from Newport, The Foottappers also featured Paul Edwards, Paul Hanbury and John Balaam, all of whom became lifelong friends of Rod’s, so much so, they all had a reunion a few years ago.

Rod continues, “I seem to recall that we played every other week in a club, when the band playing the opposite weeks were called Tommy Scott and the Senators! Unfortunately, I never saw them play! Tommy Scott became Sir Tom Jones! He’s done well hasn’t he? His voice is still great even though he is now 80!”

The Sabres in 1964 – Jim Kinnersley, Rod Thomas, Ian Norman, Rob Bishop and John Hutton. Image courtesy of Rod Thomas

Enter – The Sabres!

In 1964, Rod joined The Sabres from Cwmbran. The unit was an alliance of good friends sharing their love of popular music.

Rod says, “I joined the Sabres in 1964. I, Jim Kinnersley and Gareth Moreton were all apprentices at Girlings at the time, as was our mate Mike Davies who became our manager.”

The early Sabres line-up consisted of Jim Kinnersley, John Hutton, Ian Norman, Rob Bishop and Rod. The band gained a strong following around South Wales dance halls playing popular music of the time including soul and Motown. By 1965, The Sabres gained an additional member in fellow Girlings apprentice, Gareth Moreton.

Memories of Manfred Mann Gig

Among the many venues The Sabres performed was Abergavenny Town Hall, headlining a Christmas Cracker Dance (they were booked by Eddie Tattersall who had also secured The Beatles at the same venue prior to their meteoric rise to stardom in 1963).

Throughout 1965, The Sabres gained a solid reputation as a regular and dependable South Wales support act for bands such as The Pieces of Mind as well as some of the UK’s top named chart stars including The Merseybeats, Amen Corner, Billy Fury, Pinkertons Assorted Colours, Unit 4 Plus 2, The Pretty Things, The Nashville Teens, Freddie and the Dreamers, The Mindbenders and The Moody Blues.

The Sabres get ready to take to the stage in the 1960s

The band also supported Manfred Mann on March 28, 1966 at Coed Eva Community College.

Rod recalls,“I remember Manfred Mann had Jack Bruce on Bass (later with Cream) and Tom McGuinness on guitar (later with McGuinness Flint). One of the highlights was Paul Jones the vocalist having a long harmonica duel with Jack Bruce!”

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