From the stockbroker town of Weybridge in Surrey came The Nashville Teens, brainchildren of Arthur Sharp and Ramon Phillips, lead singers of two rival groups of the parish who amalgamated in 1962.
Of the two, Phillips was the more commanding, taking most of the weightier vocals leaving comic-relief to the easy-going Sharp. In 1966 Ray declined Ginger Baker’s invitation to sing with Cream.
With his long-jawed, hunched stance, he came close to a 1960s Johnny Rotten, minus that punk gentleman’s ‘revolutionary’ pretensions and loutish affectation.
Frustrated by the scarcity of local venues tolerating anything wilder than trad jazz, the possibility of a season in Hamburg sorted out the men from the boys. The band that climbed from the van outside the Star Club in May 1963 showed a radical personnel reshuffle.
In place of Dunsford and Groom respectively were guitarist John Allen of Woking and drummer Peter Lace, who was soon succeeded by Londoner Barry Jenkins. Another addition was a third vocalist, Terry Crow, who decided to stay in Germany when their residency ended.
A palpable Reeperbahn hit, The Teens had acquired class by their return to Surrey. With a diverting non-specific style, among their repertory selection was a torrid rocking-up of Bing Crosby’s How Deep Is The Ocean? with Dylan-esque harmonica. They regaled the mods with this on their maiden Ready Steady, Go! TV slot.
Through the offices of manager Don Arden, The Teens gained a reputation as a reliable back-up group for visiting olde tyme rockers from the States. As late as 1969, supporting Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry, they unfairly got the bird from ancient Teds baying for the reassuring original articles.
Memories of a similar stint with Berry five years earlier were evoked, for it was then that they first made the acquaintance of Aldershot-born vocalist with The Minutemen, Mickie Most.
Most sold himself to Arden and The Teens as a big shot record producer and recorded Tobacco Road with the band. Discovered by Sharp while serving behind a record shop counter, the song was composed by John D Loudermilk from North Carolina whose relationship with The Nashville Teens was to become much the same as Bob Dylan‘s with Manfred Mann.
The Teens revamped another Loudermilk opus, Google Eye, a folksy tale of an unfortunate trout first narrated by Big Pete Deutscher. Even aided by a promo film it made far less international impact than its predecessor though its British Top 10 entry was respectable enough.
US visa restrictions confined their American tour with The Zombies to New York state, quashing an eagerly anticipated trip to Nashville. Their third single, Find My Way Back Home, was recorded in the Big Apple during their visit.
The next two to leave the band were Shannon and the irreplaceable Hawken, who had been asked to form Renaissance with ex-Yardbirds Keith Relf and Jim McCarty.
In 1972, Art Sharp quit for a post as assistant to Don Arden, with whom The Teens remained on cordial terms even when he no longer represented them.