Revised October 2023
Peter Green (Peter Lee Stirling) guitar, vocal, piano
Dave Mountney drums (left 1963)
Peter McGinty bass guitar
Bobby Coral (John Ship) lead vocal (joined 1961)
Don McGinty drums (joined 1963)
Tommy Bruce lead vocal
Originally called "The Beachcombers", this West Midlands group were probably the first from the area to relocate to the capital city where they were signed to a recording contract and had success in the national charts. While promoted as a London band, this particular line-up of The Bruisers were from Birmingham.
The group photo above shows from left to right; Don McGinty, Johnny Ship, Peter Lee Stirling, Pete McGinty, and in front, London vocalist Tommy Bruce. Their guitarist and vocalist (Peter Green) became a prolific songwriter who went on to enjoy international success during the 1970s.
Peter Charles Green was born in Birmingham on 31 of July, 1942 and grew up on Camden Street near Ladywood. He became interested in popular music from an early age, which inspired him to learn the piano and then take up playing guitar as a teenager during the mid 1950s when American rock 'n' roll was becoming popular in the UK.
Peter Green formed a duo with school friend Dezi Vyse and together they played local church halls and youth clubs. Peter and Dezi must have sounded good as in 1961 they were recommended to the entertainment secretary at the Shard End British Legion. The duo played their rendition of The Shadows 'Apache' while backed by the house drummer Fred Allport. Fred had the additional attraction of a row of human skulls attached to the front of his kit upon which he drummed an appropriate rhythm during the performance!
This early success led to Peter and Dezi forming a proper band complete with electric guitars. A local lad named Dave Mountney claimed to have his own drum kit which turned out to be just a snare and a bent cymbal.
Dezi Vyse recalled; "Pete Green and myself started off in the late fifties as a duo but soon realised that a fuller sound was needed so the first to be recruited was Dave Mountney on drums. After some searching we managed to find a bass player named Roy Braizier but he did not last very long so a replacement was found in the form of Peter McGinty."
Now consisting of Peter Green, Dezi Vyse, Dave Mountney, and Peter McGinty, the line-up was named "The Beachcombers" and they began to play wherever they could find a gig and this included talent shows. Another young guitarist named John Taylor would sometimes perform with them. John later became a member of The Fleetwoods.
Dezi Vyse said; "We did every contest going, anything to gain experience. We were in awe of The Modernairs and The Grasshoppers but we believed in ourselves. We were also aware that we were probably the only local band daring to perform some of our own material as Peter Green was showing great promise as a songwriter."
The talent show appearances eventually paid off when The Beachcombers were spotted by Mary "Ma" Regan who was impressed and gave them the prestigious job of resident band at her "Handsworth Plaza" ballroom. Joe and Mary Regan were instrumental in promoting West Midlands bands on their "Regan Circuit" of venues - the "Plazas" at Handsworth and Old Hill, along with "The Ritz" ballroom in King's Heath and "The Brum Cavern".
The Beachcombers were soon earning a pretty good income from their bookings by which they paid for matching stage outfits and better equipment. Peter Green bought a much-coveted pink Fender Stratocaster guitar from Yardley's Music shop in Birmingham that cost him about 150 pounds - a small fortune in those days!
Malcolm Drew who fronted a Birmingham group called The Sherwoods recalled; "I was a big fan of Peter Green when he used to perform at The Handsworth Plaza and I would be up there most Saturdays waiting for the revolving stage to come round to replace the dance band with a pop act. I particularly liked his renditions of Buddy Holly's songs and that spurred me on to feature them in our repertoire in The Sherwoods."
It was Mary Regan's idea to host a talent contest for aspiring vocalists at Handsworth Plaza. John Ship from Winson Green won the contest due to his Bobby Darin like performance that proved very popular with the audience. Dezi Vyse remembered; "Mrs Regan got up on stage and unbeknown to us, she announced that Bobby would be the new singer with the Beachcombers! This was a bit of a shock to us but as she was paying the wages we took it on the chin. Gradually, after a lot of rehearsing, we fitted him into the band."
Fortunately, the group decided John was a good asset to their line-up and so had an expensive tailored blue stage suit made for him to wear while also giving him the new name of "Bobby Coral". Along with doing their own shows at The Plaza, The Beachcombers as house band were also required to back many well-known visiting performers, most of whom were very impressed by the young group. "We were rubbing shoulders with the stars" said Dezi Vyse.
One of these stars was London based rock 'n' roll vocalist Tommy Bruce. The former Covent Garden porter had experienced recording success on Columbia Records in 1960 with his big hit single titled 'Aint Misbehavin' that got to Number 3 in the national charts. Tommy's distinctive gravelly vocal style on this record was similar to that of American recording star "The Big Bopper" who died in the same 1959 plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. Tommy was also prone to singing in a thick "cockney" accent that no doubt was an influence for a number of later "British Invasion" band vocalists.
By early 1963, the Beachcombers founding member Dezi Vyse had left the group owing to their increasing number of committments and workload. Peter Green recalled; "We'd backed Tommy Bruce a few times and he'd became a mate of ours. At the Plaza one night, Tommy turned up with songwriter Barry Mason. Barry asked if we'd fancy moving to London to be with Tommy permanently as his backing group (the original "Bruisers" were session musicians who backed him on recordings). He also said he could get us a record deal into the bargain."
The band agreed and within a few weeks had moved into a flat in upscale Bayswater near Hyde Park which they shared with "Jess Conrad", "Troy Dante", and "Leapy Lee". Now backing Tommy Bruce, The Beachcombers were re-named "The Bruisers". As such, they were packed into a Ford Thames van and went out on the road to play engagements across the country.
The Beachcombers move to London left a vacancy for the house band at Mary Regan's Handsworth Plaza. This was soon filled by the talented Walsall-based group The Redcaps who proved worthy of the position in gaining a large following of their own and went on to be signed by Decca Records before the end of 1963.
Peter Green loved what London had to offer but it was all too much for drummer Dave Mountney who was not fond of travelling and soon went back to Birmingham. He was replaced by Don McGinty who was the brother of bass guitarist Peter McGinty and played his first show with The Bruisers in Sheffield. During the long drive there and back in cold winter weather, Don was dismayed to discover their van had no working heater!
Among the many notable and typical engagements for Tommy Bruce and The Bruisers was when they performed at Liverpool's "New Brighton Tower" ballroom in August of 1963. They played third on the bill to "Brian Poole and The Tremeloes" and "The Rolling Stones" respectively.
When The Bruisers were not touring with Tommy Bruce, they were kept busy by Barry Mason who used them to make demo recordings for promoting new songs to established artistes. Record producer Norrie Paramor of Columbia Records showed an interest in The Bruisers but also saw Peter Green as a possible solo artist and came up with a professional name for him - "Lee Stirling".
Incidentally, another Birmingham band called "The Rockin' Jaymen" were signed by Norrie Paramor to Columbia Records in June of 1963. To avoid confusion with a Decca recording group called "Peter Jay and The Jaywalkers", permission was obtained from Peter Green to use the old Beachcombers name and so The Rockin' Jaymen became "Pat Wayne and The Beachcombers".
In the event, it was EMI producer Ron Richards who signed The Bruisers to a recording contract. He had them record a composition titled 'Blue Girl' composed by professional songwriter Les Vandyke (also known as Johnny Worth) who had written hits for Adam Faith and Eden Kane. This 45 was released on the Parlophone Records label in July of 1963.
This first Bruisers single sold well and spent a total of seven weeks in the record charts to peak at Number 31. The B-side was a song titled 'Don't Cry' that was composed by Barry Mason along with Peter Green - his first published composition.
The Bruisers promoted their record on the ITV television pop music show Thank Your Lucky Stars on August 24 that was produced in Aston, Birmingham. The program featured Black Country teenage personality Janice Nicholls who came up with the memorable catch-phrase "Oi'll give it foive" when presenting the spin-a-disc part of the show. Tommy Bruce and The Bruisers also played at Birmingham Town Hall in 1963. Brian Nicholls who was guitarist in The Fleetwoods met the band after their show.
Brian Nicholls; "Me and the Fleetwoods guitarist John Taylor were invited back stage after the show as John knew Peter Green. We were both invited back to Peter's house after the gig 'for a few drinks' and Mick Walker of The Redcaps joined us later. We chatted and laughed all night and departed at daybreak for home. The Bruisers had a great single out called Blue Girl whose flip side was Don't Cry. They were really the top in Brum."
A follow-up to 'Blue Girl' was recorded by The Bruisers and it was a song by hit songwriter Mich Murray titled 'I Could If I Wanted To'. The single's B-side 'Right From The Start' was co-written by Peter McGinty and Peter Green (Lee Stirling). This single was promoted as by "Lee Stirling with The Bruisers". Despite airplay, the single did not chart although the band performed it on the pop music TV show "Ready Steady Go".
By this time of course, The Beatles and other Liverpool area bands were dominating the record charts. One of these groups called "The Merseybeats" had a hit record called 'It's Love That Really Counts' that got to Number 24 in the charts. They went on to record a Peter Lee Stirling composition titled 'I Think Of You' that made it to Number 5 early in 1964 and stayed in the charts for a total of 17 weeks. It became The Merseybeats most successful and best known record.
Having supported The Merseybeats in November 1963 at Cleethorpes Pier ballroom, drummer Don McGinty recalled; "We'd included Pete Green's song 'I Think Of You' in our set. Tony Crane, the leader of The Merseybeats demanded to know where we'd got that song from as they'd just recorded it!"
Peter Lee Stirling said; "As soon as I'd cut that demo (for 'I Think Of You') I knew that I'd acquired the knack of writing a popular song. So that was my New Year's resolution - to write good pop songs."
Peter went on to write another hit song for The Merseybeats that was titled 'Don't Turn Around'. This record issued by the group in April of 1964 went into the Top 20 and made it to Number 13 in the British national chart.
Peter Lee Stirling was also to write a song with Phil Peters titled 'I Belong' that was given to hit vocalist Kathy Kirby for the UK's 1965 entry into the famous "Eurovision Song Contest". The song came in second place with the Kathy Kirby recording issued on Decca Records going to Number 36 in the UK charts.
These records of course boosted Peter Lee Stirling's reputation considerably as a successful in-demand songwriter. The first Bruisers single to be promoted under the full-name of "Peter Lee Stirling" was a song titled 'Sad, Lonely And Blue' that was issued on Parlophone in July of 1964.
Tommy Bruce meanwhile, went on to make other records with The Bruisers although none of them had an impact on the record charts. Tommy was a regular performer on the "Stars and Garters" ITV television show from 1963 to 1965. He later worked a steady career in cabaret and remained popular on 1960s themed nostalgia shows, retaining a loyal following of fans. After many decades in show business, Tommy Bruce passed away from prostate cancer on July 10, 2006 at age 70.
The Bruisers also made a few more records with Peter Lee Stirling before disbanding in 1966. Bobby Coral went on to join the popular harmony recording group "The Ivy League" as an on-stage replacement for their vocalist and songwriter John Carter (John Shakespeare) who also came from Birmingham.
When vocalist/guitarist Glen Dale of the hit group The Fortunes left the band to go solo in July 1966, his place was taken temporarily by Peter Lee Stirling who recalled; "I'd known their manager Reg Calvert for years as he used to book us when we were the original Beachcombers. The Fortunes were mates from the early days back in Birmingham. I remember doing a few dates down on the south coast and then a couple of shows in Ireland and Scotland with them."
By 1966, Peter Lee Stirling was recording singles in his own right and providing his own instrumental backing on guitar and keyboards along with contributions from session musicians and orchestral arrangements. These well-produced singles were released on the Decca Records label and displayed a distinct departure in music style from those recorded with The Bruisers.
Despite the commercial appeal of these half dozen radio-friendly 45's recorded by Peter Lee Stirling between 1966 and 1970, none of them charted. Some have been re-issued over the years on various 1960s compilations specializing in rare pop and psychedelic re-issues. Nonetheless, they are well worth checking out for those who enjoy discovering lesser known 1960s records.
Peter Lee Stirling also became the co-owner of a London recording studio with record producer Bernard Mattimore where he worked as a session musician and music director. He was involved as vocalist with at least two studio bands that had top musicians in their line-up. These were "Hungry Wolf" that played jazz-rock, and "Rumpelstiltskin" who were a mix of rock and blues. Both of these bands recorded albums.
Film soundtrack work was another area of music that Peter Lee Stirling got involved in. These included the British films "Groupie Girl" and "Goodbye Gemini" issued in 1970 that were both low-budget. The first film that starred Esme Johns featured sex scenes with nudity, while the second one was a horror movie starring Judy Geeson. Although they may since have gained a cult-following and especially regarding the sound tracks, neither won any awards for acting at the time!
Following the failure of his solo singles to make an impact on the charts, Peter Lee Stirling signed to the "Penny Farthing Records" label in 1971 that was started by Kinks and Troggs producer Larry Page. Peter also decided on another name change and so he became "Daniel Boone" after the popular American folk hero whose 1960s television series borrowed heavily from "Davy Crockett".
Although Peter was also contracted as a songwriter, his first record release on the label was a sad ballad composed not by him but hit-makers Peter Callander and Geoff Stevens (who had written 'Tell Me When' for Brumbeat group The Applejacks). This record titled 'Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast' was issued in August 1971 under the name Daniel Boone and it climbed to Number 17 in the UK charts. The song went on to be covered by many other vocalists and was a big hit in the USA when re-recorded by Wayne Newton.
An attempt to duplicate this success resulted in Daniel Boone teaming up with another songsmith named Rod McQueen. Together they composed a song titled 'Mamma' that unfortunately failed the make a chart impact as the follow-up Daniel Boone single. Their next record however would change things considerably for both of them.
One morning, Peter and Rod went to see Larry Page with a new song they had just written. Crowding into a small office space that had a piano, Peter hammered out the song and sang with Peter in front of Larry and Terry Noon who was managing director at Penny Farthing Records. Following this performance Larry Page said; "That's a hit. I'm going to record that next week". Terry Noon said; "Yeah, I think it's a smash!"
The song was 'Beautiful Sunday' and it gave Daniel Boone his first international hit record. Released in March 1972, the single reached Number 21 in the British chart but in America it went to Number 15. The record also went high in the charts of many other countries including those in the Far East and especially Germany where Daniel Boone gained a large number of fans.
Many re-recordings of 'Beautiful Sunday' have been made by other singers in different countries and languages while it continues to receive much airplay to this day on "oldies" stations around the world. Daniel Boone continued to write songs and make records for himself and with others during the following decades with varying degrees of success. His later work included the Chelsea FC anthem 'Blue Is The Colour', and songs with 60s producer Larry Page for the 1992 Troggs and R.E.M. collaboration "Athens Andover" album.
Bruisers drummer Don McGinty went back to Birmingham in 1966 where he played in a band called Beckett with former Redcaps vocalist Dave Walker who were regular performers at The Rum Runner. He continued in various bands for decades before retiring to Stratford Upon Avon where he passed away in 2019. Brian Nicholls said; "The last time I saw Don McGinty was at Mick Walker's funeral wake a few years ago. I suggested to Don we meet up at his place in Stratford but, sadly it didn't happen. Don was one of Brum's drumming elite".
Peter Green (aka Peter Lee Stirling/Daniel Boone) passed away on January 27, 2023 age 80 at his home in Paignton, Devon UK.
Copyright © John R Woodhouse
Sources: 'The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles' 5th edition 1985; 'Brum Rocked!' and 'Brum Rocked On!' books by Laurie Hornsby 2003; wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Boone_(singer); 45CAT - Vinyl Database www.45cat.com; plus special thanks also to Dezi Vyse and Brian Nicholls for assistance in writing this bio.
(highest UK chart position in brackets)
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