The Rockin’ Berries hailed from Birmingham, England, and had some success during the Merseybeat days. Formed in 1961, the band began as a 50s-style Rock& Roll band called The Bobcats which included two saxophones in the line-up. The saxes were dropped and the group changed their name after returning from a stint playing at The Star Club in Hamburg (Germany) in 1963.
Their recording career started with a couple of singles for Decca in 1963 which sadly flopped. They then signed with the Pye subsidiary, Piccadilly, and recorded a cover of The Shirelles‘ I Didn’t Mean to Hurt You. When Disc reviewed the single as “slow-moving with an almost irritating high-voiced treatment” they weren’t exactly killing the boys with kindness.
And while Pye had only recently nabbed the group from Decca, they couldn’t think of anything better to say about them than that they were one of The Barron Knights‘ favourite groups . . .
Pye then rush-released He’s In Town. The reason was that they were scared of losing out to The Tokens‘ US original, which was due to emerge at any minute in the UK. The artful dodge worked, helped by the fact that the falsetto-dominated track was one of the classiest British singles of the era.
Another cover of an American record – this time The Reflections‘ Poor Man’s Son – was their follow-up release. At around the same time, The Rockin’ Berries’ debut album, They’re in Town, was also released.
Their second album, Life Is Just a Bowl of Berries, contained a number of novelty and comedy tracks which served to confuse their audience.
They did continue to record pop singles, including Goffin-King’s You’re My Girl (another cover of a Tokens’ hit) which provided a lowly placed hit in 1965. Their last hit was The Water Is Over My Head in 1966.
Sadly there was no further real chart success for the band, and by 1968 falsetto-voiced Geoff Turton had left the group to try his hand at a solo career.
Using the name ‘Jefferson’, he secured a Top 30 place in the American Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970 with Baby Take Me in Your Arms.
Yorkshire born singer/impressionist Terry Webster joined The Rockin’ Berries in 1970 to replace Lea who also left to start a solo career . . . as an impressionist. Lea later joined comedy group The Black Abbotts, as the replacement for Russ Abbott.
Turton eventually rejoined The Rockin’ Berries who – as with so many of the great British 60s beat groups – were ultimately destined to earn their living playing the regional Working Men’s Clubs of Britain. By this time their act was more akin to The Barron Knights in both style and content.
The Berries continue to perform in cabaret as a musical comedy act, although drummer Terry Bond later moved into management. He was replaced by Keith Smart, previously from Roy Wood’s chart-topping 1970s group Wizzard.