Updated February 2015Bob Burnett guitar (left in 1966)
This well known Birmingham band was active throughout the 1960s and had a much-changing line-up featuring a list of members that reads almost like a who's who of Brum Beat.
The Uglys evolved from a late 1950s outfit called 'The Dominettes' whose early members included Roy Bates, Bob Burlison, Mick Burrows, Jimmy Holden, John Hustwayte (whose brother was in Pat Wayne's group The Deltas) and vocalist Colin Smith.
A new vocalist, Steve Gibbons who was a plumbers' apprentice from Harbourne, had joined the Dominettes by 1960 to replace Colin Smith who had left to join Jimmy Powell's backing group. Colin Smith later changed his name to 'Carl Barron' and became front-man of The Cheetahs. An Elvis Presley fan, Steve Gibbons' first performance with The Dominettes was at The California Pub near Weoley Castle.
Regular venues for The Dominettes in the early 1960s was the Grotto Club on Bromsgove Street and The Cecilia Coffee Bar in Edgbaston with the group by this time including many R&B numbers into their set and this style of music suited Steve Gibbons' gritty vocals perfectly. Although the Dominettes had a rougher image than most groups at that time and were sometimes hired to back strippers at some of the more seedy establishments, they attracted quite a following. Another regular venue for the Dominettes was the Firebird Jazz Club on Carrs Lane in central Birmingham and the group posted advertisements which read "Anything considered", but by 1963 the group was re-named 'The Uglys'.
Eventually, the Uglys were able to secure a recording contract with the Pye Records company and the first release from the group in 1965 was an original song entitled 'Wake Up My Mind', composed by Burnet/Holden/Gibbons. The single was advanced for its time and featured some socially conscious lyrics - very unlike the kind of material produced by most other pop groups of the period. Surprisingly, the record did not sell well in Britain but was a big hit in the Australian charts (see The Uglys article on Brum Beat Features).
John Gordon left The Uglys in 1965 and was replaced by Jimmy O'Neil from a local band called 'The Yamps' (he had also spent some time with The Walker Brothers). A second Uglys single issued that year was another great original song titled 'It's Alright'. This one featured prominent use of a harpsichord as played by Jimmy O'Neil who was becoming a major attraction on-stage to a growing following of female fans. The record fell short of the British charts - possibly due to a record company strike - even though the group made an appearance on the popular television program 'Ready Steady Go!' to promote it.
Other Uglys singles were issued between 1965 and 1967 including a great version of 'End Of The Season', a song composed by Ray Davies of the Kinks. This represented a departure from the Ugly's previous records as they had all been group compositions up to that point. Interestingly, Jim Holden and Roger Hill composed a song called 'Can't See For Looking' recorded by Birmingham's youngest pop group The Bobcats and released as their debut single in 1967. The Bobcats even got to perform the song on the popular children's TV show 'Blue Peter'.
During this period, there were many changes in the Uglys line-up including the departure of Bob Burnett and John Hustwayte. Replacement bass guitarist Dave Pegg stayed for a year before leaving to join The Ian Campbell Folk Group. He was replaced by Dave Morgan from a local band called 'Blaises' and had also previously played in Danny King's Mayfair Set.
Dave Pegg was later in a local group called The Exception and from there, he joined Fairport Convention. Dave Morgan also worked with Carl Wayne of The Move to compose the song Something which ended up as the B-side of the Move's chart-topping Blackberry Way single. Jimmy O'Neil left the Uglys in 1968 to join U.K. chart act 'The Mindbenders' and founding member Jim Holden also departed later that year.
Former Brumbeats guitarist Roger Hill joined the Uglys and stayed for almost a year before leaving to join previously-departed Dave Pegg in forming a new band called The Exception. Roger Hill was replaced by Will Hammond (from The Yamps) who stayed in the Ugly's line-up until the end.
Jim Holden was replaced by drummer Keith Smart from Danny King's Mayfair Set. Keith was previously involved with a group called The Lemon Tree and later joined Roy Wood's Wizzard (see The Move). Another member to join the Uglys who had strong Move connections was keyboard player Richard Tandy who also played on the Move’s Blackberry Way and eventually joined the Electric Light Orchestra.
By the end of 1968, Steve Gibbons was the only remaining original member of The Uglys. This final line-up also included Will Hammond, Dave Morgan, Keith Smart, and Richard Tandy. They recorded a Dave Morgan composition titled I've Seen The Light for a proposed single that was unfortunately never released officially. A demo copy recently sold for £1,200 !
Steve Gibbons teamed up with guitarist Trevor Burton from The Move in 1969 and by April of that year they had formed a new group called Balls along with singer/guitarist Denny Laine (formerly of the Moody Blues), and Uglys drummer Keith Smart.
The 'Balls' line-up was relatively short lived and after recording a solo album, Steve Gibbons joined a late line-up of the Idle Race which evolved into 'The Steve Gibbons Band' by the early 1970s. This group had a hit record with the Chuck Berry song Tulane in 1976 as well as undertaking extensive touring in the USA. Steve Gibbons continues to be very active musically around Birmingham to this day.
Thanks to Will Hammond for assistance in writing this bio.
To see a review of The Complete Uglys 'The Quiet Explosion' CD collection, check out the Brum Beat Reviews page.
Copyright © John R Woodhouse
The Uglys 1960s Record Releases