Last updated January, 2007Jeff Lynne guitar (left in 1965)
This band is significant in rock music history as the first to feature Jeff Lynne who would go on to eventually lead the world-famous 'Electric Light Orchestra'. The Andicaps were formed in early 1963 by four teenagers who lived in the Shard End area of Birmingham. Bass guitarist Robert Reader and drummer David Walsh were both pupils at Alderlea Boys Secondary School. The guitarists David Watson and Jeffrey Lynne both lived on Shard End Crescent.
Jeff Lynne was born in Birmingham on December 30, 1947 and lived with his parents in a council house at 368 Shard End Crescent. While a schoolboy, Jeff went to a Del Shannon concert at Birmingham Town Hall and was so impressed, that joining a band became his main ambition. Roy Orbison was another early influence on the young Jeff Lynne as well as Chuck Berry, The Shadows and later of course, The Beatles. Jeff's natural talent for music enabled him to master the piano and guitar and he spent many hours practicing in the front room of his parents house as well as making recordings and experimenting using an old tape recorder. This early experience in home recording would prove valuable later in his career.
Jeff, Rob and Dave first got together playing Spanish guitars before purchasing whatever electric instruments they could afford. What the line-up lacked in financial resources, they certainly made up for in enthusiasm. The band was originally called "The Rockin' Hellcats" but Dave Walsh (who had only a drummer's practice pad) had to save up for a set of drums which resulted in his idea to re-name the group 'The Handicaps'. This was wisely amended to 'The Andicaps' and so avoid offending those with a physical disability.
The Andicaps rehearsed regularly at the Shard End Community Centre and it was there where Dave Walsh's dad got them their first gig to play at a dance for which the band was paid the sum of five pounds. The Andicaps were well received so ended up playing there every Friday. At this time, the band performed only instrumental numbers by groups such as The Shadows. Jeff Lynne at that time did not have the confidence to sing in front of an audience and in any case, the band could not afford their own PA system.
Dave Walsh remembers; "The Harlequin Pub was roughly halfway between my house and Jeff's. The Modernaires were the resident band and other groups also played there on Tuesday nights. All the Andicaps were too young to get in so me and Jeff would hang around the doors outside immediately adjacent to the bandstand and were able to get a good listen. It also afforded the opportunity to talk to the bands when they loaded and unloaded their gear into the pub. We were soon able to blag our way in and always stood 'nerdlike' right in front of the band so Jeff could see what "Mo" (Maurice Jones) was playing on lead and I could drool over the subtleties and completely effortless relaxed style of Tony Finnister's playing".
It was during his time with the Andicaps that Jeff Lynne first started to write songs. One of his early efforts was an instrumental number written for the band entitled 'Andicapped' but even at this early stage, Jeff showed an interest in classical compositions. The Andicaps performed a version of Tchaikovsky's famous 'Swan Lake' as an up-tempo arrangement apparently entitled 'Saturday Night At The Duck Pond' - probably the same as The Cougars record that reached the charts in 1963. However, the Andicaps' performances featured mostly songs that were hit records played on the radio at the time.
By now, 'The Shadows' had been replaced by 'The Beatles' as Jeff Lynne's favourite band so many of their songs were incorporated into the Andicaps' shows. A lead singer was now considered an essential part of the band which lead to John Kerton being enlisted as vocalist. The Andicaps started to play many more gigs around Birmingham which included weekly bookings at the Regal Cinema in Handsworth where they played sets in between the Saturday matinee shows.
As with many amateur bands who formed at a young age, there was some pressure after leaving school to find "real" jobs. Dave Walsh left the Andicaps in 1964. According to Dave; "Jeff and I were always falling out (nothing new there!) and I was propositioned to join The Boulevards who were rightly regarded as the best band on the Shard End/Kinghurst estate". Dave later helped to form the Brum band Second City Sound who had a hit record in 1966 with the classically-styled 'Tchaikovsky One'.
Jeff Lynne soon brought in Kevin "Kex" Gorin on drums and Dave Merrick as bass guitarist to replace Rob Reader who was also leaving. Dave Watson's brother Willie joined the Andicaps for a short time as harmonica player which gave the band a more blues-based sound.
Despite winning second place at a local competition for "Band of The Year", Jeff Lynne had musical ambitions that lay beyond what The Andicaps provided and longed to turn "pro" with an established band. It was to this aim that Jeff left the Andicaps at the end of 1964 and joined a well known local group called 'The Chads' as replacement for their departing lead guitarist Mick Adkins (see The Chads).
The Andicaps voted to carry on, so after enlisting Jake Commander to replace Jeff Lynne on lead guitar, they got a proper manager and started undertaking many more bookings. The band went over to Germany in May of 1966 with their van having a large Union Jack painted on it. John Kerton recalls; "In Germany we watched England win the World Cup before we went on stage. Lucky for us we did not get beaten up!". The Andicaps also visited Lapland in 1966 becoming only the second British group to perform there.
As well as headlining, the Andicaps also opened up for and supported many famous bands and performers who were big at the time. Despite the large amount of bookings undertaken by the band, lead vocalist John Kerton left the group in 1967. By this time, the pop music scene was undergoing some radical changes. Bass guitarist Dave Merrick left the Andicaps and was replaced by Malcolm Garner. Jake Commander also went and was replaced by Mike Heard from the John Bull Breed. Within a year, the remaining Andicaps also decided it was time to explore new musical avenues and the group disbanded.
Dave Watson left music to become a successful commercial artist and advertising director. Kex Gorin went on to play drums in the well-known Brum band Magnum whose first album was produced by his former Andicaps bandmate Jake Commander. Jake would also work for the Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) in the 1970s under supervision of former Andicaps guitarist Jeff Lynne. Malcolm Garner joined the 'Jasper Stubbs Gloryland Band' and later joined The Exception. Sadly, Kex Gorin died from cancer at the end of 2007.
Original Andicaps drummer Dave Walsh after his time with the Second City Sound, went to live in the USA where he now works as an airline pilot. John Kerton fronted the successful U.K. function band 'Red Sun' who were the resident band at the Birmingham Locarno for eight years. He then went on to become band-leader on the luxury ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II. These days, John is Director of his own company JLP Events in the U.K. (see www.JLPevents.co.uk).
Jeff Lynne, after his time with The Chads, joined Birmingham's legendary Nightriders who became the psychedelically-styled Idle Race in 1967. From there, he went on to join Roy Wood in The Move. By 1972, The Move had evolved into the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and fronted by Jeff Lynne, they became one of the most successful British bands of the 1970s. Jeff's many musical accomplishments are beyond the scope of this website so for more info, please visit Rob Caiger's official 'Face The Music' website at www.ftmusic.com
Thanks to John Kerton, Dave Walsh, and Jake Commander for assistance in preparing the Andicaps biography.
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Copyright © John R Woodhouse