Named after a seaside amusement arcade at Southend in Essex, and fronted by Paul Shuttleworth (who could out-spiv Arthur Daley on a charabanc trip), The Kursaal Flyers brought all the fun of the fair to Pub Rock.
With a banjo-playing bass player and a pedal-steel guitarist, they wore their country rock hearts on their brightly coloured sleeves, but they hit the stage like comic book heroes.
Their songs (mostly written by drummer Will Birch and guitarist Graeme Douglas) tapped into a rich seam of postcard humour which set them apart from their contemporaries.
In the summer of 1974, the Kursaals started to try to shift over into the London pub scene. With the help of Essex neighbours, Dr Feelgood, they scored a couple of Sunday lunchtime gigs at the Kensington.
At the first of these, they were spotted by Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers‘ drummer Pete Thomas, who brought along to the next gig manager Jake Riviera, who in turn brought along his agent Paul Conroy who, impressed with what he saw, began to get the band more work on the London pub circuit before taking over their management in November of 1974.
Although by now travelling up to London to gig most nights of the week, most of the Kursaals were still holding down day jobs. After the decision had been made to turn fully professional in January of 1975, Dave Hatfield left the band and Richie Bull moved to bass.
And then – with a sizeable buzz hovering about the Kursaals – came a deal with Jonathan King‘s UK label (as successors to 10cc). They were soon a big draw nationally and the subject of a Mark Kidel-directed BBC2 fly-on-the-wall TV documentary (So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?).
But nothing on either of their two UK albums (Chocs Away and The Great Artiste) matched the sparkle of their live performances. Both albums were poorly produced and made quickly on tight budgets.
It was only after moving to CBS to record the sadly neglected but brilliant Golden Mile with head Womble Mike Batt that they got the production (and the hit) they deserved when Little Does She Know reached #14 in November 1976.
Little Does She Know was one of the most overblown pop songs ever recorded – an all-stops-out, everything but the kitchen sink production number which slowly builds into a joyous and hilarious cacophony featuring not only a complete orchestra (replete with kettle drums) but cannon fire, chimes, and a mock Tabernacle Choir as well.
Douglas left soon after to join Eddie & The Hot Rods (for whom he wrote the classic Do Anything You Wanna Do) and after several lineup changes the band folded late in 1977, leaving Birch to form Power pop pioneers The Records, before undertaking a successful career as a record producer and rock writer.
Lead guitar, vocals
Bass, rhythm guitar, banjo
Pedal-steel guitar, vocals