Formed in the late ’70s (originally performing as Stan’s Blues Band at the Thomas A Becket pub on the Old Kent Road) London R&B quartet Nine Below Zero took its name from a Sonny Boy Williamson song.
The band was led by guitarist/vocalist Dennis Greaves and harmonica player Mark Feltham, and also featured bassist Peter Clark and drummer Kenny Bradley who had both attended Walworth Comprehensive School with Greaves.
Beginning as mostly a cover band, Nine Below Zero recorded an EP, Packed Fair and Square, in 1979, which got them a deal with A&M.
Taking their cue from The Yardbirds, their official debut was a 1980 live album called Live at the Marquee, which consisted mostly of covers and was recorded at the club where the band had a residency at the time.
Mickey “Stix” Burkey had replaced Bradley by 1981’s album, Don’t Point Your Finger, which marked the group’s first concentration on original material, mostly by Greaves.
Bassist Brian Bethell replaced Peter Clark prior to Third Degree (1982), their most commercially and artistically successful album. But despite regularly sold-out English and European tours and unprecedented TV coverage (which famously included an appearance playing Eleven Plus Eleven in Rick, Vyvyan, Neil and Mike’s living room in the first episode of the now legendary comedy series The Young Ones), the band broke up soon afterwards.
Feltham kept busy with session work while Greaves formed The Truth, who Warner Bros flogged as a missing link between The Jam and The Style Council. They scored two Top 20 singles with Top Of The Pops appearances but more importantly, over the next decade Dennis Greaves honed his writing skills, particularly when he went to live and work in the US.
In 1989, another live Nine Below Zero album, Live at the Venue, was released, and – since The Truth had dissolved – Greaves and Feltham decided to put together a new version of Nine Below Zero, this one featuring bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Brendan O’Neil.
Mickey ‘Stix’ Burkey