One of the first rock groups to have a female drummer, The Honeycombs were formed in London in 1963 as The Sheratons by hairdressers Martin Murray and Ann Lantree.
They started their career at the Mild May Tavern in one of London’s busiest thoroughfares, playing three nights a week and packing in the customers every time they appeared.
The group took their new name from a combination of Lantree’s nickname (due to her hair colour) and one of the tools of their hairdressing trade.
Under the guidance of legendary producer Joe Meek, their first record Have I The Right? reached the #1 spot in August 1964.
The song also made #1 in Australia, South Africa and Japan as well as peaking at #4 in the US.
Once publicity photographs of the band had been circulated to the media it was obvious that Ann Lantree was the group’s main attraction, and when TV cameras zoomed home on the line-up, Ann at her drum kit was inevitably singled out for the close-ups.
Unfortunately, they were unable to promote their follow-up records due to a lengthy tour of Australia which kept them out of the public eye at a vital point in their career. With Peter Pye replacing Martin Murray, the second single, Is It Because stalled at #38.
Eyes, which followed it, bombed totally. To the outsider, The Honeycombs had fallen into the dreaded one-hit-wonder syndrome, and before long would be stacked on the rejection pile.
But their luck did change during 1965 when, following I Can’t Stop, which was released in America only to reach the Top 50, The Kinks‘ Ray Davies gave them Something Better Beginning which struggled into the British Top 40.
Reassured of their selling power, Ann Lantree and Denis D’ell issued their duet That’s The Way in September 1965, It soared to #12, but had no follow-up.
The Honeycombs could do nothing else but keep their name alive through touring, as they knew their recording days were now numbered. In February 1966, Who Is Sylvia? bombed and the band continued to wander along the cabaret trail until that too petered out. Within two years The Honeycombs had disbanded.
Apart from their singles, the group issued two albums – All Systems Go and Here Are The Honeycombs, released only in America.
During the 1970s, Denis D’ell made an abortive attempt at a solo career, and 17 years after Who Is Sylvia? was released, a compilation, Meek and Honey, was available.
Honey Lantree died on 23 December 2018 aged 75.
Ann ‘Honey’ Lantree