RAG records of the 1960s

The RAG Records

1963 Rag Record (Red)

"Willie and the Hand Jive" by Rhythm Unlimited and the Halettes
"Money" by Rhythm Unlimited and the Halettes
"Just So" by the Keele Quintet (Keele Kwintet)
"Talking Potteries Blues" by Dick Barton

1964 Rag Record (Blue)

"Stan Matthews" by Keele Row
"Manuela" by Keele Row
"Since you walked out on me" by Lance Harvey and the Kingpins
"I Can Tell" by the Escorts

1965 Rag Record 1 (Yellow)

"Silicosis" by Bob Wilson
"Making me Cry" by the Changing Times
"More time to spend with you" by Lance Harvey and the Kingpins
"Since that woman said goodbye" by the Incas

1965 Rag Record 2 (Orange)

"A little piece of leather" by the Hipster Image
"All for you" by the Hipster Image
"Where am I?" by the London Apprentices
"The Universal Layabout" by Tom and Brennie

"A few days after watching Stanley Matthews score the goal which ensured promotion to the old First Division in Stoke City's Centenary Year, I dreamt an idea for a celebratory song using the music and chorus from the traditional folk song "the Derby Ram". I woke up at 2 am and wrote down the first two verses in case I forgot them the next morning. The song was performed by the "Keele Row" folk group, Sylvia Mathews (now Jehanne Mehta) (1964), Rob Mehta (1965), Geoff Iliff and myself and recorded at a studio in Birmingham. We were featured on the back page of the Daily Express in January 1964 but unfortunately, Stan Matthews was home in Blackpool, injured, and was unable to be at the photo call. The song on the reverse side was "Viva la Quince Brigada", a Spanish Civil War song, otherwise known as "Ay Manuela", which we performed live on Granada Television. We started the Keele Folk Club in 1962. Success was ensured by providing a bar on the Sunday evenings when the Union Bar was closed. We had a close connection with the Stoke Folk Club and by making joint bookings, we were able to obtain many of the leading folk singers of the day. The usual fee was £5 and free beer. Happy days!"

Richard "Dick" Barton (1964)

"Dick Barton's favourite quote was, "Dick Barton - you'll never believe it", imitating the Original DB, a radio detective from the late 1940s and 1950s. Dick was a folk singer and acoustic guitarist and graduated 1964. "Money" was recorded before the Beatles' version was released (we went for the Barrett Strong original), although they had been doing it live for some while."

Ticker Hayhurst (1960)

"As RAG entertainment person (I forget the real title) for Rag 1965, I was responsible for making the 45 rpm record that year. I have several of them. Having met Harold Clowes at the Union, I loved Bob Wilson's song about the Potteries:

"But things are getting better now that Clowes is the Lord Mayor
They've opened up the windows, they're letting in the air
They've painted up old Burslem it's enough to make you stare
So I may not have to die of silicosis"

"In 1970 I sang "Silicosis" on my first LP with John Roberts. Listening to it recently I was shocked and somewhat embarrassed by my feeble compromise of a Stoke accent to make it intelligible for American audiences. Bob Wilson was a regular at the Keele Folk Club and, judging by his MySpace and Wikipedia information, had a notable career as a cartoonist, being best known as the creator of the Stanley Bagshaw books with verses written entirely in rhyme."

Tony Barrand (1968)

"The 1963 Keele Rag record featured David Harding on piano, Tony Hale on guitar and vocals, George Ireland on alto saxophone, David Miller on guitar and vocals, Dave Dwelly (?) on bass guitar, Howard on drums, and the Halettes were three winsome lasses singing backing vocals."

Ticker Hayhurst (1960)

"Correction.... the Keele Kwintet on the 1963 RAG record was Dave Holdsworth (trumpet), George Ireland (alto sax), Dave Harding (piano), Ron Cole (drums), Alan Bailey (bass). Rhythm Unlimited, the name derived from 'Sounds Incorporated', featured Tony Hale (vocals and guitar), Dave Miller (guitar) Dave Harding, Andy Moss (drums) and Alan Bailey (bass)."

Alan Bailey (1966)

"Rob Mehta and I met through playing together in the Keele folk group 'The Keele Row', which also included Dick Barton and Geoff Iliffe. Rob and I have played music together ever since and since 1969 I've been writing my own songs (some in French) and also poetry. We have a band of three of us called 'Earthwards' which is still active."

Jehanne Mehta (Sylvia Matthews) (1964)

"I confess to having been a Halette, along with two others. David Harding played the piano and Tony Hale sang. Ray Charles was the big hero and his backing group was called the Raylettes. Hence, the Halettes."

Tessa Harding (1965)

"Dick Barton's usual duettist was Bob Mehta, or possibly Pete Robson. Kumbi Akiwume was another Halette (they were so cool; I wanted to be a Halette)."

Name lost - please come forward again!

"I first heard "Stan Matthews" on a BBC radio programme ("Today", possibly) before I went to Keele. From what I could piece together, I would guess the second singer with Dick Barton was Geoff Iliff, known in his final year for his performance of "Kelly the boy from Killearn" - a song of the 1798 Irish rising. I knew Dick because he married a girl in my year (Jane)."

John Meager (1968)

keele-row-stanley-matthews Richard ("Dick") Barton (1964) visited Keele in early 2015 to present his yellowing copy of the Daily Express 23 January 1964 to the archives - Keele Row is featured on Page 14, talking about the "Stan Matthews Song (photo right with permission, Daily Express).

To quote the article:

"The song is called "Stan Matthews", should you be in doubt, and is recorded by the Keele Row, a trio of students from North Staffordshire University.

The composer is the group's leader, 21-year-old Dick Barton, from Brighton. Dick and his mates, Bob Mather, from London, and Geoff Iliffe, from Hemel Hempstead, weren't interested in football until they arrived at Keele last year, when they were caught up in the flood tide of enthusiasm as Stoke won promotion.

Once Stoke fans, Dick wrote the song and the trio recorded it last week. It sells for 2s. 6d. and all proceeds go towards Rag Week and local charities. Stoke City have promised "Stan Matthews" will be played over the loudspeakers at the next home match."

And the lyrics?

"You've heard of Greaves and Puskas, and Pele from Brazil,
But Stanley Matthews from the Potts is the greatest of them all
Indeed my lads, it's true, my lads, I've never been known to lie,

If you had been down Boothen-road you'd see the same as I.
Last night I had a curious dream I've never had before,
Stan Matthews on the wing for Stoke at the age of 84..."

Photo below: "City Keeper Lawrie Leslie keeps time to the Keele Row - Bob Mather, Geoff Iliffe and Dick Barton"

keele-row "Tony Hale was Keele’s very own ci-devant rockstar (a sort of Midlands Johnny Hallyday) and he was the lead singer with Rhythm Unlimited. Dick Barton was half of Keele Row. I have a copy of "Stan Matthews" on an album of Stoke City songs. Somebody very kindly gave me a copy of another CD called “Play Up Stoke” and there is a note on it which says they have been unable to trace the copyright holder for Stanley Matthews by Keel (sic) Row. This was originally on a Keele rag record in 1963 or 64 and Keele Row were Dick Barton and another person. Dick used to sing at the folk club. Lance Harvey & the Kingpins were one of the local popular beat combos, frequently to be seen and heard at the Hempstalls Lane End Inn. If memory serves me aright the London Apprentices were a real folk group."

Simon Sweetman (1966)

"I think the 1965 No 2 Orange Record would have been for the Feb/March 1966 rag week. I still have a copy!"

David Johnston (1969)

Click on each image below to see a larger version.

Charec '67

Dick Hubbard (1969) was instrumental (literally) in the creation of Char Rec '67. This variation on the traditional RAG Records featured Keelites and the talents of a young singer - Shirley Kent. Keele entrepreneur Rod Goult (1968) organised the recording and production of the record.

"Not just rock but also modern Folk! I have a memory of a disc made (in perhaps 1966) for RAG Charity purposes featuring Dick Hubbard's setting of two Wilfred Owen poems - "Baby asleep in my arms" and "They asked me where I'd been". Dick played guitar (acoustic) and the singer was a genius called (I think) Shirley. My own copy was borrowed and never returned many years ago (might have been a hostage in a break-up). The record was very moving."

Mike Brereton (1969)

"The 1966 record comes into the Rod Goult era – he left after P2 in 1968. The singer was certainly called Shirley. Rod thought she was brilliant. Dick Hubbard was the songwriter. A man of many talents, he gave Keele - and many other places - the name of R J Mazurki. I can elaborate if you wish..."

John Meager (1968)

Dick Hubbard (1969) tells the tale:

charec-1-250x200 "It was a cold and foggy day – January or February 1966 – early in my second FY term. I had just got back from London and my hut mate, Phil Barber, who had been asked to play for the record but was otherwise committed, had suggested me, and offered to loan me his guitar. I was told it would be in a recording studio in Birmingham but I had no idea where it was or, more to the point, what I would be playing. I met up with Rod Goult, who was organising things, and was told that I would be driven to the studio and that we would pick up the singer on the way. I found myself more or less lying in the back of a van on top of all sorts of things and we picked up Shirley Kent en route who joined me in the back. She had composed settings for two poems by Wilfred Gibson and she sang them to me as we drove up the M6. I worked out accompaniments and by the time we reached Tetlow’s Recording Studio we felt confident that we could do the job. We went into a vast studio, big enough for a symphony orchestra, heated, or rather warmed, by a coal fire which was already dying. I had worked out a fast-picking accompaniment to ‘Back’ and wanted to get this down quickly while my hands were warm. We did it in one take and were both satisfied with it. However, Rod felt we ought to do it again a few times. We struggled on with it but the fire was dead and the studio and my hands were getting colder so there were many fumbles. We finally agreed to use our first recording but found that it had got lost. Eventually we settled on a track which has one tiny fumble which no one actually notices except me. Making the Charity Record 1967 Rod Goult Dick Hubbard and Shirley KentWe also recorded ‘One Day Old’ in one take.

charec-2-250x200 One decision with which I still disagree was to double-track Shirley’s voice. Happily, this did not seriously detract from her superb vocal tone although I felt a little of its delicacy was lost. The other side was to be one by the ‘Master Singers’ who had had a chart hit with ‘The Highway Code Part 1’ set to an Anglican chant. The leader of the group was George Pratt, Keele Musical Director, who agreed to do two other sections of the Highway Code, one in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, the other as a folk song. George Pratt was to give a piano accompaniment to the G&S and I was to accompany the folk song track. We rehearsed at Keele and then returned to Tetlows. Only two of the ‘Mastersingers’ were involved, George Pratt and, I think, John Horrex, who sang both parts. The whole thing was then sent back with Rod who managed the pressing of the record and its marketing."

Char Rec '2012?

charec-cover-250x250 Dick Hubbard and Tricia Stewart and other stalwarts of the Sixties Folk scene at Keele met at the Pioneers reunion in May 2011. As they heard plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Charter in 2012, they speculated whether Char Rec '67 might be revived, re-recorded, re-released or re-something'ed as Char Rec 2012 with the performers of yesteryear joining current Keele students.

Tricia tracked down Shirley Kent in May 2011 and discovered that she had carved out a long and very successful career as a singer and voice coach. She made immediate contact:

"Keele University is having its Golden Jubilee next year in 2012. There is a history archive project going on and the Charity goings on in the Sixties have been discussed. People remembered and asked about the Charec '67 record; I remember it being done and my friend Dick was the guitarist. Very few copies exist but Dick has one. We wonder whether you and Dick might perhaps perform the songs again at the celebrations? You have a superb voice: it was lovely to see online that it has been your career; I loved your version of " Georgia"."

Tricia Stewart (1969)

Shirley agreed to the plan:

"I am happy for a re-release. We should be able to get an almost mint "sounding" recording. I don't know if a re-recording would hold the same charm. In the RARE RECORD COLLECTOR bible it is valued at £35 per copy... so a reissue would probably be better. I am proud of that record, I have it framed on my wall in the chalet where I work. I was already working as a singer when Roderick Goult approached me. A handsome young man with a walking cane (very dapper) and I was impressed. I was 21 then (where does the time go)... I coach voice mainly these days although I record new songs and music all the time. I never improved greatly on guitar... At the time of Charec I just did not have the confidence to play, and anyway, Dick was much better at the job. He got it just right, I enjoyed creating the music for the poems."

Shirley Kent

"I believe that I may still have the original masters somewhere as well as a few copies of the pressing! The record sleeve was designed by my sister, who was a graphic designer at an agency in Birmingham at the time. One thing I should perhaps make clear is that Charec '67 wasn't an official part of the Rag week festivities - the committee that year decided not to do a Rag record, but by the time that decision was taken I was so committed to the idea that I went ahead with a freelance project, and Charec '67 was the result. The project wasn't a financial success despite my best efforts which included a Radio Four interview - although at the time you may know it was called the Home Service!

"I have to say that I am somewhat bemused by all this sudden interest in Charec '67! 1967 Rag Committee - which if memory serves me correctly was chaired that year by the later MP Don Foster (1969)- opted not to produce a Rag Record. I had been involved in sorting out how we would do that, and when the committee decided against continuing I opted to try and create an independent fund-raising disc. That was how Charec '67 came about. It wasn't funded or supported by the Rag Committee nor by the Union, and the project cost me a lot of money. There aren't many of the records around because there weren't many sold. Had the Rag Committee supported sales, we would have made quite a bit for charity, but as they chose not to, I was left trying to sell the thing myself. And that was the first time that I discovered that I am not a salesman! The bulk of the pressings which were - I believe there were 1,000 - were returned to the pressing company to be destroyed. That way the purchase tax paid could be recovered by the pressing company. This made quite a difference to the amount of money which had to be raised to cover expenses. I still have the master tapes,and it would be relatively easy to digitize the original recordings. If it is in my archive, the tape will have been stored appropriately and I have a high-speed Revox tape machine (itself an item of historic interest!) and the software to transfer the tape to digital format. Were we to try and re-record, I guess one issue would be whether the original MasterSingers can still perform! They must all be getting on in years by now, counting my own birthdays since then.... It certainly seems that there was an amount of folklore around the record.The rumour that Shirley was a 15 year old is fascinating - I actually found her singing at a night-club and she was porbbaly aged 21. Don't ask me when or why I was there because I couldn't tell you - I have no recollection other then it was in Birmingham."

Rod Goult (1968)