Roll Back The Years Presents

The Whales

The Whales a pop music group of the sixties who played rock and roll rhythm and blues and pop music



Clare wrote:-
Hi there, found your great website "roll back the years" , just been to see the film Jersey Boys, which took myself Clare and husband Chris back to the sixty's, when we followed The Whales on their tour of the North East, The Latino South Shields, Southwick WMC Sunderland and the Shoreline Club at Roker Sunderland. Jackie and Sandra Bishop were our good friends at the time, who in turn were like us great fans of the Whales. They were a great bunch of lads.
p.s. Barry used to call me "Energy" cause i was always on the dance floor!

Clare also supplied the picture - thanks Clare


Stephen Burnell wrote :-

I remember watching The Whales in the WMC clubs around the Wakefield area (when you could get in that is, as you had to be early) and at the old Batley Variety Club as support act. They had a residency at the Cats Whiskers Nightclub on Meanwood Road and after I had watched them, walked all the way home to Rothwell with my future missus, because we were skint or maybe just to sober up. Barry Santana was the drummer and is still on the circuit I believe. Graham was the lead guitarist from Wakefield who got married and went to live in Norway I think. I played in a band with a friend of his called Steve Cheney. The rhythm player was called Neil and the bass player was Noel I think. I can’t remember the name of the singer (Tommy?), who did all the high voices, though. They had a weird PA/speaker system, not sure of the name on it, although Binson (the echo box company) seems to come to mind. If there are any photo’s/cine footage/recording’s available (with their Fender Amp and Cabinets as a backdrop) it would be great to see and hear them again.

Well done with your Website. Other bands I remember seeing at the time were, Method (Rosemary, lead guitarist and the bass player who went to my school at Belle Isle) and Mickey’s Monkeys.

Don’t know if anyone else can shed any light on these or other bands?

Graham Smith wrote this about the Whales:

This is what Neil could fill me in with before i joined the Whales. Neil quotes: I became a member of the band that had started at my school, 'Felkirk Secondary Modern', when I was aged about 13yrs; in 1962. The lead guitarist was my best friend, at that time, 'Denis Jordan'. Other band members were 'Bob Kemp', who moved from rhythm to bass when I joined; 'Alan (Jonah) Jones', drummer and self appointed band-leader and occasional vocalist 'Malcolm (Monte) Taylor'.
We had to think up a name for the first gig and Alan's Mum suggested 'Jonah & the Whales'
It wasn't long until band members left or were replaced for various reasons; Bob was replaced by 'Noel Pickering' on bass, Denis left to pursue his studies at Cambridge University and was replaced by 'Graham Smith'; 'Ken Thompson' became lead vocalist, replacing Monte and Jonah quit the band shortly after and moved to Scunthorpe.
Drummers came and went; about 10 over the duration of the band; somewhere in the middle was 'Barry Huffingley', later to be known as 'Barry Santana', thus completing the 'Opportunity Knocks' winning line up.
The band toured the UK, extensively, playing the working-men's clubs. Ken was a versatile vocalist, able to sing everything from pop, rock and ballad. His particular talent was his excellent falsetto which enabled us to emulate 'Frankie Vali & the Four Seasons', he was also an accomplished harmonica player. Barry's drumming talents were enhanced by his ability to sing very much like 'Cliff Richard'. Graham honed his guitar skills to perfection, encompassing everything from 'Hank Marvin' to 'Ritchie Blackmore', whilst his vocal preferences ranged from 'Paul Mc Cartney' to 'The Eagles'. Noel liked to sing anything from 'Status Quo' to 'Little Richard' whilst my contributions ranged from 'Gallagher & Lyle' to 'George Harrison'.
After winning the TV talent show 'Opportunity Knocks' we released a few records, the first one entitled 'Come Down Little Bird' which never really left the ground. But we had great fun in the studios; if only we'd written our own songs we might have gone far.
On the strength of our TV success, which was aired in monochrome in those days, we made several appearances at 'Batley Variety Club'; the 'Palladium' of the north, on at least one occasion, topping the bill.
After playing a stint at 'The Cat's Whiskers' on Meanwood Rd, Leeds, as relief band whilst their band was on holiday; we were spotted by the manager 'Tony Marshall', a 'Four Seasons' nut; who begged us to become his regular in-house band, triggering a short career as a Mecca show-band. After moving around the Mecca circuit for a couple of years Ken left the band after a policy disagreement and was replaced by 'Mike Shaw' a bassist turned keyboard player who was also an excellent vocalist. At that time we were the house-band at 'Sheffield Tiffanies'; after moving to 'York Cats' Whiskers' we were asked to add a girl vocalist to our band, an idea we didn't care for so we parted company with Mecca dance halls, only to be offered hotel work in Scandinavia by Mecca artist agency.
After a change of drummer to 'Jim Percy' a former Coldstream-Guardsman we boarded the ferry to Denmark. We spent a couple of years doing three to four months stints abroad, followed by one month back home, then off again. During this period we underwent further changes of line-up notably drummer 'Roger Harrison' ex 'Daisies'& 'New Jersey Turnpike', who sadly passed away in 2009; 'Pete Wright' another drummer; 'Mike Shaw' left the band to be replaced by me as half keyboard player and half rhythm guitarist making way for the extra lead-guitar & vocal skills of our good friend 'Dave Van Staaden' who also sadly passed away about twelve months prior to Roger.
During a stint in Norway I announced that I would leave the band at the end of that contract. Graham had fallen for a Norwegian girl and was being head-hunted by a Norwegian band and had also procured a position in a music shop over there and has been there ever since. So after spending 15yrs as a pro musician, finally in 1979 the band I'd helped to start, 'The Whales' was no more.
I re-trained and became a TV repairman and kept away from the stage, until only recently becoming a member of the band 'Rockwood', this time playing bass for the first time ever, a new challenge.
It would be interesting to hear from any of the surviving band members, some 18-20 in all, especially Mike Shaw, wherever he may be and not forgetting Jonah, who made it all possible: Yours truly Neil Dawson.

My bit (Graham ed.):
I went to an "Audition" at some old and cold hall in Ryhill a place where the only form of heating was the Vox AC30 that we shared and played through.
The whales gave me the job in the group after just being kicked out of the "Jesters" because the now famous Bill Nelson wanted to play with them but also wanted his mate Ron to be on rythmn guitar thus Igot the boot! I knew that playing in a group was what I wanted to do in life so we practiced and practiced and practiced and believe me we needed it. We had no group van and went to gigs, youth clubs at that time, either on the bus
or got our mums and dads to run us around. After lots of practice we got some gigs at the local WM Clubs and finished up playing at most of them around Yorkshire . After some years and drummer changes we tried our luck on Opportunity Knocks and would you belive it we won it once!
We would maybe even have won a second time if it was'nt for Mary Hopkins knocking us out of the competition.
We stayed in the club life for around 16yrs before travelling to places like Denmark and Norway as the clubs in
the UK were having bad times.

information supplied by Graham Smith.

What a fantastic piece of archive material - ed.