The Phantoms

Walsall, Staffordshire. 15th June 1946

Neville John Holder

In June 1946 his arrival was announced in the Walsall Observer. Neville, the only child of Jack & Leah, grew up in Walsall. He can remember playing in the back yard of the house he was born in, 31½ Newhall Street. He used to give puppet shows to other kids and sing Al Jolson, among others, into a broom handle pretending he was on stage. One time, a night shift neighbour gave him a soaking coz he was keeping him awake.

His first public appearance on stage was at Walsall Labour Club in 1953. He sang Frankie Laine's - I Believe to a packed house, using a microphone with stage lighting. He was seven years old and yes, he was terrified.

Growing up around Walsall, he attended Blue Coat School which was connected to St. Matthews C of E Church and had a proportion of children from 'well off' families attending. Noddy got his first glimpse of how the other half lived when visiting some of these friends homes. Holder went there for a one year and I believe that's where John Robbins christened him Noddy? In 1954 Newhall Street was up for demolition and they moved to 6 Gurney Road on the newly-built Beechdale Estate. A change of school was also required and Noddy found himself at Elmore Primary & Junior School in Elmore Green Road, Bloxwich


Notice the Prefects badge

At eleven, he joined the brand new TP Riley Comprehensive with Phil Burnell who, although almost a year younger, became a good friend. Burnell lived on Sneyd Hall Road on the Dudley Fields Estate, a ten minute walk from Holder. They were both learning to play the guitar and liked similar music. Living close by meant they could hang out a lot playing guitar together.

Noddy learnt to play on an old Spanish acoustic that his Dad bought for him. He learnt to play Cathy's Clown by ear and used Bert Weedon's 'Play It In A Day' to learn the chords. Realising he was serious, his Mum arranged for some tuition with Freddy Degville, a jazz guitarist of some standing in the Midlands. With Degville beside him, Holder purchased an F-hole guitar for £20. It had much better feel and action, enabling him to learn quickly until Holder mastered the art of singing and playing at the same time. It was at this point that Holder and Burnell decided to put a band together. It's now 1962.


I'm told the Community Centre (white) hasn't changed much?
The first recruit was Mick Aulton who was in Holder's class at school. He lived in Dartford Road, behind Burnell's house and he had a drum kit, almost. It consisted of a bass drum, snare and cymbal so I guess it was....
Boom...Crack...Boom...Crack...Splash!
... but it was a start, they had a beat now they needed some groove. After a brief spell with Kenny Holland on bass guitar, the groove arrived in the shape of Pete Bickley recruited from Burnell's class year. Last but by no means least, John Cooper a.k.a. Tubby joined as a second singer. The Phantoms had arrived.



With five of them sharing a single amp and not a decent instrument among them its safe to say they weren't about to set the world alight quite yet.

The group rehearsed twice a week at Sneyd Hall Road Community Centre, with the members in attendance which helps them get used to playing in front of an audience. They play Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, Little Richard, The Shadows and The Everley Brothers numbers.

They made a bit of a name for themselves and started 'playing' at local youth clubs, i.e. Mossley Youth Club on Sneyd Lane, and the dance nights at clubs and schools. They had also started taking requests.

Walsall Observer: Friday 17th May 1963

It didn't take long for the word to spread and they began to get real 'paid' work in the local pubs and Working Men's Clubs. They ploughed their earnings into equipment upgrades and anything that would improve the band.



They pretended to be a professional band now because these venues expected a high standard. The ruse worked because they managed to get on the much desired professional circuit.
"We played weddings, youth clubs and pubs, doing cover versions of pop hits of the day. I still see the friends I was in a band with at school.... We still get together a couple of times a year, when I come down to Walsall.... They get their guitars out and it’s like we’re back at school again – we still sing the same songs."
Noddy Holder: Birmingham Mail, 7th April 2013


Sometime around May/June 1963, they got a regular Sunday lunchtime session at the Three Men In A Boat public house in Walsall. By September 'The Boat' had them billed as The Rockin' Phantoms. 


 20th September 1963

PHANTOMS GOING GREAT GUNS
"One of the best equipped local groups these days are the Phantoms, whom I met the other day when making enquiries about the entertainment plans at the Ashmore Inn, Wednesfield.
The Phantoms are due for an extended contract booking at the Ashmore soon, appearing on Saturday evenings. But it is their equipment that distinguishes them from a lot of other groups.
They have £500 worth of it, ranging through all the standard group equipment to some special, and rather secret features, the ideas of Mr. Raymond Kimpton, of Pleck, Walsall.
The Phantoms comprise Noddy Holder (17), lead; Phillip Burnell (18), rhythm; Peter Bickley (bass); Mike Alton (17), drums, and John E. Blue. John Cooper (17), vocalist. Their sound is terrific, and showmanship well above the average standard. 
The group started about 12 months ago, when the members brought their guitars to school. All pupils of the T. P. Riley Comprehensive School, Bloxwich, they decided to form their own combo, and have been going great guns ever since."
September 1963 and Holder already has his secret weapon. Their sound is terrific and their showmanship  well above average but it's their equipment that distinguishes them from the rest. Ray Kimpton of Pleck, where are you now, we would like to know what special features you invented for The Phantoms?

On the day JFK was assasinated, The Phantoms were playing at The Beacon Youth Centre in New Invention, Willenhall. Christmas Eve was spent in the North Walsall Working Man's Club, Holder was  only 17 years old, Phil 'Bern' Burnell was younger still?


Express & Star:
Saturday 4th January 1964 for Sunday 5th January 1964 gig


Around this point they decided a name change was in order. They were still using both derivatives of the Phantoms name but they were now playing a lot of US style R'n'B music.






All additional media and background info supplied by Chris Selby who was born and bred in Sneyd Hall Road and lived yards away from the community centre but for some reason neglected to record every move made by the Phantoms.

The Phantoms Known Gigs

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1962
Mon 10th September -  Saint Chad’s Youth Club, Bloxwich
Sat 15th September - All Saints Church Hall, Bloxwich
Sun 16th September -  Lea Hall Club, Bloxwich
Fri 19th October - Methodist YC,Leamore,Bloxwich
Fri 2nd November -  T. P. Riley School, Bloxwich
1963
Sun 27th January - All Saints Church,Bloxwich
Sun 10th February -  Liberal Club, Birchills
Thurs 14th February -  Bloxwich Baths (with Wilf Hayward & His Music)
Sun 3rd March - All Saints Church Hall, Bloxwich
Sat 9th March - Rising Brook School Cannock
Thurs 14th March -  Hazelslade Youth Club, Cannock
Sat 23rd March - North Walsall Working Men’s Club, Walsall
Sun 24th March -  Bloxwich Lock & Stamp Social Club, Bell Lane ,Bloxwich
Wed 27th March -  W. R. Wheway School. Walsall
Thurs 28th March -  T. P. Riley School, Bloxwich
Sun 31st March - Birchills Liberal Club,Walsall
Sat 13th April -  North Walsall Working Men’s Club, Walsall
Sat 20th April -  North Walsall Working Men’s Club, Walsall
Wed 24th April - Forum Ballroom.Pensnett
Fri 10th May - Beehdale Hall,Bloxwich
Fri 7th June - Methodist Youth Club, Bloxwich
Sat 8th June -  Hay Mills Memorial Hall, Birmingham
Sun 9th June -  Coach & Horses. Wednesbury
Sun 9th June -  Digbeth Mutual Club Walsall
Fri 14th June -  Beacon Youth Club New Invention
Tues 18th June -  Croft Street Working Men’s Club, Walsall
Sun 30th June -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
Sun 7th July -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
Sun 14th July -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
Mon 15th July -  T. P. Riley School, Bloxwich
Tue 30th July - 1963 The Cock Inn, Bilston
Fri 2nd August - The Cock Inn. Bilston
Fri 9th August -  The Cock Inn. Bilston
Tues 13th August -  The Cock Inn. Bilston
Sun 8th September -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
Sat 21st September - Castle Hall, West Castle Street, Bridgnorth, Shropshire
Mon 23rd September - Primrose Ballroom. Walsall Wood
Mon 23rd September - Trafalgar Inn, Hednesford
Sat 28th September -  Civic Hall. Brierley Hill (with Nicky James & The Senators)
Sun 29th September -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 6th October -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich  (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 13th October -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 20th October -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 27th October -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 3rd November -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Mon 4th November - Ashmore Inn. Wednesfield
Sun 10th November - Three Men In A Boat,Bloxwich
Sun 17th November - Three Men In A Boat,Bloxwich
Mon 18th November - Ashmore Inn,Wednesfield
Fri 22nd November -  Beacon Youth Club New Invention
Sun 24th November - Three Men In A Boat,Bloxwich
Sun 1st December - Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
Sat 7th December - Three Men In A Boat,Bloxwich
Sun 8th December - Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich
Sun 22nd December - Three Men In A Boat,Bloxwich
Tues 24th December -  North Walsall Working Men’s Club, Walsall
Sun 29th December - Three Men In A Boat,Bloxwich
1964
Sun 5th January - Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Fri 10th January -  T. P. Riley School, Bloxwich
Sun 12th January -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwic (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 19th January -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich(as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 26th January -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich(as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 2nd February -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich(as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Mon 3rd February -  The Ashmore Inn, Wednesfield(as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sun 9th February -  Three Men In A Boat, Bloxwich(as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Fri 21st February -  Beacon Youth Club New Invention
Fri 28th February - Baths,Bloxwich (with The R+B Four & The Wilde Cats)
Sat 1st March - Christchurch Y C,Blakenhall
Fri 6th  March -  Baths,Bloxwich  (with The Jaguars)
Fri 20th March - T. P. Riley School, Bloxwich
Sun 22nd March -  The Primrose Ballroom. Walsall Wood (with Lee Stevens & The Satellites)
Mon 23rd March -  Bushbury Arms. Wolverhampton (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Mon 20th April - Gorsty Lea Hall. Burntwood (as The Rockin' Phantoms)
Sat 9th May -  Darlaston Town Hall (with Mark Anthony & The Senators)
Fri 15th May -St Johns Mission,Bloxwich
Fri 15th May - Stage & Sportsman Club,Wolverhampton (with Les Group Italianos)
Mon 18th May - Civic Hall,Wolverhampton ( with The Emotions)
Sat 23rd May -Town Hall . Walsall (with The Master Sound)

From Roots To Boots © 2008-2017
This material may not be reproduced without permission. 

Sources
Holder, Noddy "Who's Crazee Now?"
Ebury Press, 1999 ISBN: 0-09-187503-X (Pages 1-34)
Charlesworth, Chris. "Slade: Feel The Noize!" Omnibus Press, 1984. ISBN 0-7119-0538-X (Page 13-14)
Walsall Observer. "Pathfinders Hold Spring Dance"Friday, 17th May 1963 (Newspaper; p. ? )
Wolverhampton Chronicle. "Phantoms Going Great Guns" Friday 20th September 1963 (Page 7)
Wolverhampton Express & Star. Saturday, 4th January 1964

2 comments:

  1. Pat James (was Aldridge)8 April 2015 at 19:34

    Noddy was the boy prefect, I was the girl prefect (just in front of Noddy on the picture)
    Pat Aldridge

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Pat, thanks for the comment. Are you the girl with arms crossed or the wide neckline? :-)

    ReplyDelete