Back to the Mick Ronson Biography
Continue to Hype and Ronno
Like many other cities, Hull was bursting with groups in the early Sixties. Bands formed, dissolved, and changed members continually as each group struggled to make itself a name. Most of these groups faded to obscurity, but a few went on to become local legends who played support to top national acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Yardbirds. The Mick Ronson story touches on a number of these local Hull bands, including The Aces, The Mariners, The King Bees, The Crestas, and The Rats.
Our story begins in Hull in 1959, when The Aces formed as a local skiffle outfit with Tony Gosling (lead guitar), Henry Temple (rhythm guitar), Johnny Patterson (bass), Brian Sleight (drums), and Rob Coggle (washboard). The group drifted toward rock n' roll music and soon picked up Johnny Hawk as lead vocalist.
[Johnny Hawk] I came to Hull in 1959, to audition for the lead singer's role in an established group called The Aces. This group became Johnny Hawk and The Aces, and was a top northern group, playing in some top venues all over the country.
At one point, a local semi-pro guitarist named Rick Kemp switched to bass and joined up with Johnny Hawk and The Aces. Rick Kemp was a regular on the local music scene, and would later turn up in Steeleye Span (and, incidentally, go on to marry Maddy Prior.)
[Rick Kemp] That was when people suddenly started getting very good on the guitar, bending strings and sustaining notes, which was quite hard for me. I'd always wanted to be a drummer, but I couldn't manage it. I'd always wanted to play the guitar and I couldn't do that very well, either. I was closer to the drums playing bass, so I took the job. Besides, it was more money!
Johnny Hawk and The Aces worked steadily for the next couple years, until Johnny Hawk decided to take a break.
[Johnny Hawk] I felt I needed a fresh challenge, so I left The Aces and was replaced by Eric Lee. During my time out, I gave a lot of encouragement and advice to some of the upcoming new young groups.
After Eric Lee took over for Johnny Hawk, Eric Lee and The Aces remained one of the top groups on the Hull scene. They became The Four Aces for a period of time, but reverted back to The Aces in 1963 when they signed a record deal with the Parlophone label. Eric Lee and The Aces issued two singles - a third was recorded, but was never released. The lineup around this time was Eric Lee, Brian Gatie, Adrian Gatie, and Johnny Patterson.
Meanwhile, in East Hull, another top local group was starting to take shape. The Crestas had formed in the early Sixties when singer Peter Morris, lead guitarist Bill Dalley, rhythm guitarist Mike Harris, bass player Pete Cannon, and drummer Mike Kitching came together. Bassist Pete Cannon was soon replaced by Tim Myers, who picks up the story here:
[Tim Myers] Unfortunately, the bass player was very unreliable and as Bill Dalley and I worked at the same aircraft factory I was asked to join the group. I had been playing in small skiffle bands in our local youth clubs as a rhythm guitarist, so this was a new challenge. I owned a Hofner bass for a short while, but decided a Fender was the one if I was serious about playing bass. The early music we played was Cliff Richard, The Shadows, and other contemporary stuff.
Peter Morris, the singer, was next to be removed from the group. He was good, but on occasion did more drinking than singing. Mike Harris decided to pack it in as well. The singer was replaced by an older, more experienced guy called Norman Beharrel.
[Tim Myers] At this point we started a very varied programme and did dance halls, theatres, and cabarets. By early 1964, Norman was tired out and could not keep up with us younger guys - we played every night, sometimes for weeks on end.
Rhythm guitarist Henry Temple, a former member of The Aces now playing with The Crestas, recruited Johnny Hawk to fill in for the departing Norman Beharrel.
[Johnny Hawk] In early 1964, I was approached by Henry Temple, a former guitarist with The Aces. He wanted me to help The Crestas with a week's engagement at The Continental Theatre Club, a top Hull nightspot, as their singer had left them. The line-up for The Crestas at that time was Henry Temple, Mike Kitching, Tim Myers, and Bill Dalley.
Johnny Hawk stayed with Crestas, and at one point the group contemplated a name change. They appealed to fans with a notice in the Teen Scene section of the Hull Times, asking for suggestion for a new name. The following week, Teen Scene duly reported the progress:
'The name troubles of Hull beat group Johnny Hawk and the Crestas may be over. This week, following an appeal by the group for a name in last week's Teen Scene, suggestions for a name change have been coming in steadily. Ideas have been numerous and original. Suggestions include names like The Gamblers and The Cards - probably arising out of the fact that two members of the group were once with The Aces. Among the others are such titles as Johnny Hawk and the Vampires, The Layabouts, The Night Hawks, and the Solent Blues. The big job facing the group now is sorting them out and deciding on the most suitable.'
At this point we'll leave the Crestas, and turn our attention to a young guitar player on the Hull group scene, Michael Ronson. Mick Ronson's first band was apparently The Insects, where he played alongside John Tomlinson and Bob Welton. The group didn't land many gigs, and so bass player John Tomlinson left to work in a Holiday Camp.
By August of 1963, Mick could be found in a group called The Mariners alongside singer Ricky Allan, rhythm guitarist John Griffiths, bass player Ron 'Jock' Ryan and drummer Graham Tyson. Ricky Allan's son still remembers the band's suits, his father's in powder blue lurex and the rest of the band in navy blue. Rick Kemp remembers Mick playing with The Mariners on 22 November 1963, supporting The Keith Herd Band at Elloughton Village Hall just outside Hull. Rick Kemp remembers the date clearly, because it was the evening that President Kennedy was assassinated.
Mick continued with the Mariners into 1964, with a constantly evolving lineup. At some point singer Ricky Allan departed, leaving a lineup of Ronson, Griffiths, Ryan, and Malcolm Dixon on drums. Drummer Dave Bradfield of The Batmen, bass player Robin Taylor of The Gazelles and rhythm guitarist Dave Morrison also spent time with the group.
[Dave Bradfield] The Batmen, when I went to France with them, was Brian Hairsine on bass, a kid called Ray Elrington on lead guitar and vocals, and a kid called Ray Marshall on rhythm guitar. We toured the American army camps for a while.
I think Mick was a founding member of The Mariners, and I think Johnny Griffiths had been in them, but I'm not sure about that. When I played with The Mariners, there were only three of us. There was Mick on lead guitar, me on drums, and this Scottish guy who we called Jock on bass. I don't know Dave Morrison.
One of the highlights for the Mariners was appearing on the same bill as the Rolling Stones at Bridlington Spa, which according to Rolling Stones biographies would most likely have been at the start of May 1964.
Although still playing with The Mariners, Mick also auditioned for John Tomlinson's band The Buccaneers in 1964. He immediately caught the eye of Sandra Goodare, who was supposed to be dating the singer. As Mick began gigging with the band, the pair began dating.
[Johnny Hawk] The Buccaneers were only a very small time outfit, with very little work or direction. I'm afraid I don't know of Mick's involvement with this band, if any at all.
Another group that Mick Ronson joined in 1964 was The King Bees. His time with the group was likely short, if he actually joined the group at all. Most local musicians - even some later members of the King Bees - weren't even sure whether Mick had been in the group. But a notice in Teen Scene section of the Hull Times confirms that Ronson joined the King Bees, or at least intended to, sometime in 1964.
Part of the confusion over Mick's involvement with The King Bees may arise from the fact that Mick occasionally played with The King Bees in later years. Johnny Hawk remembers that Mick sat in with the group a few times while he was in The Crestas, a sentiment that is also echoed by later King Bees bassist Brian Hairsine. Tim Myers, The Crestas bassist, also concurs.
[Tim Myers] The King Bees were a support band to us [The Crestas] at a place called Beverley Regal, which is on the East Coast. It was a dance place. The Yorkies [featuring Geoff Appleby and Clive Taylor] also shared the same bill. Mick maybe played with them a couple of times, you know, stood in - but he never actually joined them.
Originally, the King Bees had a singer called Alan Coldbeck. We had Johnny Hawk and Eric Lee, and they both were very, very good singers. The singer of the King Bees then wanted to join us as well! We said, 'Look, we can't have three singers, you know.' Unfortunately, not long after that, Alan Coldbeck got killed in a car crash.
For the record, the other members of the King Bees at the time Mick was reported to have joined them were Alan Coldbeck on vocals, Ralph Taylor on guitar, John Thundercliffe on bass, and Trevor Marrett on drums. In any case, Mick wouldn't last very long with The King Bees, because ...
... he would soon cross paths with Johnny Hawk and The Crestas.
[Johnny Hawk] I stayed with The Crestas for a couple of months, playing some minor bookings, but could see that the band had no real direction under their present management. One night while we were working at the Halfway House pub, Eric Lee came in for a drink and asked what I was doing with The Crestas. I found that Eric was now out of work, and he suggested that we formed our own outfit. We asked the members of The Crestas if they were interested in joining our new venture. Bill Dalley didn't want to travel out of town, but the other lads were keen to improve and reach a better standard.
I let it be known that The Crestas were looking for a lead guitarist, and that Johnny Hawk and Eric Lee would be fronting this revamped group. In the middle part of 1964, I was talking to a friend called Johnny Griffiths, who was bass guitarist and leader of The Mariners. The Mariners were a small time band, with not a lot of work or experience. He told me he had a guitarist that I might be interested in, as he was finding it difficult to find work and thought this young man deserved better.
I went along to see this young guitarist at work, and after the show I was introduced to Mick Ronson. I asked Mick what his ambitions were, and I could see the enthusiasm he had. I asked if he would like to join Eric and myself in The Crestas, and from the reaction I got you would have thought I had offered him a million pounds! He said he had dreamed of working with me, after seeing the success I had gained over the years. I told him it would be hard work initially, as we wanted to change the type of music The Crestas had been used to. I went out of courtesy to see Mick's mother and father, and told them that I would take Mick under my wing and look after him. They thanked me for taking the time to visit them, and said they were happy for Mick to join us.
Mick eagerly threw in with The Crestas, joining Johnny Hawk, Eric Lee, Henry Temple, Tim Myers, and Mike Kitching to round out the six-piece band. Other members of the group were a bit skeptical, as bass player Tim Myers explained.
[Tim Myers] To be fair, when we met Mick we were very skeptical about his experience. A couple of the older guys, Johnny Hawk and Eric Lee, said 'Oh, we've seen a young lead guitarist, he's pretty good.' We looked at him and said, 'Well, he's a bit green, we don't know if this kid's going to hack it.'
We decided to invite him to join us, which he did willingly - knowing that we had two of the best singers in town in the line-up. His sheer enthusiasm and work rate soon transformed a young green performer into to someone who obviously was going on to better things.
Whilst the rest of us would have a drink and maybe get in the odd fight, never Mick. He was so dedicated and he worked so bloody hard. You know, and he practiced and he practiced and he practiced. His hero was Jeff Beck in the early days. And that's all he wanted to be, was Jeff Beck.
I was an apprentice engineer at an aircraft company, and of course I had a pound or two. I had a nice motorcar, and I had a nice girlfriend. I remember going to Mick's house, and his mum said 'Look at Tim. He's got a nice car, he's got a nice girlfriend, and what have you got? Nothing! All you do is play that bloody guitar.' It was quite funny, that 'Why don't you be a success like Tim' sort of thing.
Mick settled quickly into The Crestas, and Johnny Hawk takes up the story:
[Johnny Hawk] Then the hard work began! By day Mick was working for the Council Parks Department, and at night if not working he was rehearsing. We were getting plenty of local work, but needed to put ourselves to the test in other areas. I got in touch with some of the contacts I had from the past, and got promise of some work in and around, Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.
Our test came with the offer to support a band called The Reverend Black and The Rocking Vicars at Dewsbury Town Hall. This was a very popular band, and they dressed up in outfits to match their name. When the big day came, Mick and Tim were bundles of nerves, with Mick chain smoking his favorite Park Drive cigarettes. All the way to Dewsbury, Mick kept asking, 'How do you think we will do? Will there be many there?'
After arriving, we set about unloading the van and setting the gear up on stage. After checking that it was all working correctly, we ran through a couple of numbers to check the levels. This attracted two girls who were passing the open side doors. They asked who we were, and commented 'I hope you're not one of those groups that are all stage suits and dress the same. It's about time we had a real rock group, like The Rolling Stones.' We decided on our script over a half of lager in the pub next door. I suggested the best way was to give them a good mixture in the first forty-five minute spot, and The Stones, The Beatles, The Hollies, Chuck Berry, and John Lee Hooker was the plan.
Back at the Town Hall I introduced the lads to Derek Arnold, the promoter of the show. Mick pointed out that there weren't many people inside, and Derek told him this was usual as people didn't start coming in until around nine o'clock when the main band were due to come on. Mick said 'One day we will be the main band', and he really meant it, too. I thought 'Great! He believes what we are doing is right.' About sixty people - mainly females - were in the place by the time we were introduced on stage, and it looked empty for such a large place.
After the first number, which I believe was a Rolling Stones cover, the audience seemed stunned into silence. No applause - they just stood staring at us. Mick said 'What's wrong?' I answered. 'Keep going, be professional, straight into the next number.' About half the audience seemed to disappear for a while and the lads looked concerned, but I had a gut feeling something was going to happen for the good. By the time we had finished our first spot, the place was about two-thirds full. Back in the dressing room, Derek Arnold was impressed and said that we had put together a good show. Mick asked, 'What about the crowd disappearing?' Derek said that he had asked for an explanation, and was told they had gone to tell their friends they were missing out on a great new band in town!
This gave the lads the lift they needed. We had time for another half of lager and then back to see The Reverend Black and The Rocking Vicars. While they were a visually a good-looking band, the music was a bit flat and dated. The place was now full up and jumping. Back in the dressing room we decided to hit them with all our best stuff, and again be professional as we had rehearsed. The stage had been blacked out this time when we went to do our second spot of thirty-five minutes. The DJ gave us a real big build up in his introduction, making the lads feel good. The lights went up and the audience had crowded around the front of the stage, and were screaming and cheering throughout the whole spot - which unfortunately soon passed. After the final number, the crowd were shouting 'Keep The Crestas on, we want more!' I looked at Mick coming off stage. He didn't want it to finish! I put my hand on his shoulder and said, 'This is just the beginning, there will be more of this and better to come.' Micas so happy he had tears in his eyes.
After their successful debut outside Hull, the revamped Crestas continued to work hard, and gained a solid local reputation.
[Johnny Hawk] Work from Derek Arnold started to take up our Saturday nights, with gigs around the Leeds and Bradford areas. Within six months we were one of his top attractions, and Mick was the top attraction for the girls. The local work became more regular - Monday nights at the Half Way House, Thursdays at the Ferryboat Hotel, and Friday at the Regal Ballroom Beverley, all of which were good venues.
We were then approached to start Sunday nights at the Duke of Cumberland at Ferriby. They had never held group nights before, but must have realized the earning potential as the function room held over two hundred people seated, and the following we now had made it worth a try. The first night we arrived around six-thirty to get the gear in early, and about fifty people were already queuing for opening time at seven. By seven-thirty the place was packed. Mick and I were having a beer, when suddenly he said he wanted to thank me for taking him on board and giving him his chance. He said he was getting more enjoyment from his music than ever before. In my opinion Mick Ronson was not only a talented musician, but also a very humble young man.
[Benny Marshall] I used to go and watch The Crestas when I started in bands, because their lead singer was one my heroes. Mick had a nice Gibson 335 at the time and they would play Hollies material and old rock standards. I was already in a group who'd done some recording and TV work, and this interested Mick who seemed really keen to get on. We used to joke with him that we'd put him on the transfer list and get him in our band and he went along with that. The Crestas were a good group, and I used to see them regularly.
Johnny Hawk and Benny Marshall both vividly recall a 1965 episode that nearly ended Mick's career.
[Benny Marshall] One gig Mick played at had a DC electric main, and he put his hand on his guitar strings and got hold of the microphone stand. It gave him a nasty shock and threw him clean off the stage. Ronson somersaulted and landed across a table before Eric Lee, the singer, kicked the guitar away from his body. It had stuck to Mick though, and burned him quite badly.
[Johnny Hawk] I was given a severe fright one Sunday night whilst working The Duke of Cumberland. Mick was singing part harmony to the Beatle song 'Baby It's You', when his guitar strings touched the microphone stand. It gave Mick an almighty electric shock, which flung him off the stage into the audience. I unplugged his guitar and amplifier and shouted for someone to ring for an ambulance. I then got him into the recovery position and prayed for his well being. Mick was taken to hospital, while the rest of us carried on, albeit subdued, and finished the show. There were a lot of tears and emotion as people left to go home that night! I called at the hospital on my way home, and was told that he was comfortable and that he was a very lucky young man.
Monday was spent checking all the equipment for safety, and I rang the lads and told them we would still do the Half Way House that night. I arrived at around seven-thirty with the gear, and who was waiting there but Mick Ronson! Upon seeing me, he came over and put his arms around me and said 'Thanks, you saved my life!' I told him 'Don't be so daft' - and what was he doing here, when he should be at home resting? It was good to see him though, and a relief.
Later that night, we were playing a song called 'Walking the Dog', when I suddenly noticed that Mick was singing too. So I stepped back from the microphone, and let Mick complete the song himself. During the interval I told him what I had done, and said that in future he could do a few numbers himself. He did, and discovered that he could, in fact, sing!
Despite The Crestas' success in the Hull area, Johnny Hawk decided to leave the group in mid-1965.
[Johnny Hawk] In June 1965, I called a meeting of the lads to tell them that I was leaving the band to take up a good job offer back in my hometown. Being married, I had to secure the future for my wife and myself. This came as a shock to all the lads, but Mick was visibly upset with tears in his eyes. He said, 'What's going to happen now?' and begged me to stay on. I took Mick to one side, and told him that while this was the end for me, it was only the beginning for him. I believed that he would go on to bigger and better things, and this proved to be true as you know.
I did my last show with The Crestas in July 1965, and what a night it was! It is a memory I will cherish forever. I did keep a watch on the progression of Mick's career, and did for quite a while keep in telephone contact with him, offering advice as he sought it. When he finally made it with David Bowie, creating Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, I knew then that Mick Ronson had arrived in the world of music that he deserved. I was proud of him and my involvement with him. God bless him!
With the departure of Johnny Hawk, The Crestas continued as a four-piece with Eric Lee taking over all of the vocals.
[Tim Myers] Johnny Hawk then decided to leave, I believe he had got a job in a small town called Goole about 30 miles away from Hull and this he decided was a long way to travel. Henry, the rhythm guitarist, went either just before or just after John. Both Eric and John played rhythm, so that left a line up in of myself, Eric Lee, Mick Ronson, and Mike Kitching.
Drummer Mike Kitching would be the next band member to leave, and was replaced by Mick's old Mariner's bandmate, Dave Bradfield.
[Tim Myers] Mike Kitching left next to due to pressure of work. We were lucky to replace Mike with another good drummer, Dave Bradfield, and continued as a good band.
Dave Bradfield] I was in a band called The Statesmen with Ricky Kemp, who later played with Steeleye Span and married Maddy Prior. Johnny Griffiths played bass, and a guy called Harry Shortland was singing.
At the time, The Crestas was the band to get into. I got a phone call saying that he [Mike Kitching] was going into his father's butcher business, and didn't want to play anymore. 'Would I join them?' I was in The Statesmen at the time, I think, and I just said 'Right, that's it, I'm gone. Now I'm gone in a proper band!'
But The Crestas were beginning to run out of steam. Vocalist Eric Lee also called it quits, and was replaced by Malcolm 'Mally' Hunt.
[Dave Bradfield] Eric Lee left; he went back to fish filleting in Scarborough because his wife didn't like him singing in bands. There was trouble after that, and the band broke up. He was at the end, Mally. He came in for a while, and I think Mick played with Mally. But I remember playing in another band with Mally, so I can't quite be sure!
With The Crestas falling apart, Mick decided to leave Hull, turn pro, and try his luck in London.
[Dave Bradfield] I'd already been professional; I'd already done it when I was sixteen. But this was Mick's big dream, and so Mick went down to London.
In London, Mick took a part time job in a garage and soon joined a group called The Voice. The group was from Scotland, having formed as The Royal Crests before moving to London and changing their name to Karl Stuart and the Profile and signing with Mercury. The Profile released three singles fro Mercury, before changing their name to The Voice.
Mick was replacing Miller Anderson as lead guitarist in The Voice, and the two played alternating sets for a few gigs during the transition. The Voice had released one single in 1965 while Miller Anderson was still in the band. 'Train To Disaster' b/w 'Truth' (1965 Mercury MF905) is an expensive slice of psychedelia, fetching prices in excess of 100 pounds in collector circles. (Miller Anderson, coincidentally, had also been playing in bands with Ian Hunter around this time.)
Mick played a few dates with The Voice, and when their drummer left Mick called in his old Mariners and Crestas bandmate Dave Bradfield to fill in. Bradfield's successful audition was held in Brighton, where the group was playing support to The Yardbirds that very evening. Yardbirds historian Doug Hinman points to a scheduled appearance at Brighton Top Rank on 18 March 1966 as the likely date for the Dave Bradfield audition.
[Dave Bradfield] Mick got in touch with this band, and I went down to join them. I had an interview, did my drumming, and was accepted. They were playing with The Yardbirds down in Brighton when I joined. Jeff Beck, who was in the Yardbirds, was Mick's idol.
The Voice was backed by a religious organization called The Process, which was founded by Robert De Grimston Moore and Mary Ann McClean. In 1964, the pair started a therapy group called Compulsions Analysis, which soon blossomed into a religious cult called The Process Church of the Final Judgement, or 'The Process' for short. By 1965, The Process had moved to a mansion in Mayfair at Balfour Place.
[Dave Bradfield] There was a singer, a keyboard player, a bass player, Mick, and myself. The other members were all members of the religious cult. They had a big mansion in the middle of London, and the couple that led it were called Bob and Mary Ann.
Mick's dream of turning professional in London was quickly dashed, however, when he and Dave Bradfield returned from a weekend in Hull.
[Dave Bradfield] We were playing down there for a while, professionally, and one day we came back from a holiday in Hull and our gear was on our bed in our flat down Cavendish Road in London. There was a note saying 'We've bought an island, and we've gone off to The Bahamas with Bob and Mary Ann.' And that was that. What happened to them, I have no idea!
The date of the group's departure for the Bahamas has been fixed as 23 June 1966 in biographies of The Process. After the band left for the tropics, Mick stayed in London looking for more work while Dave Bradfield returned to Hull. Mick soon teamed up with a band called The Wanted, playing Motown material, but the group broke up almost immediately. This left Mick Ronson in debt, and with no choice but to return to Hull.
[Tim Myers] It didn't last very long. It was a matter of a couple of months, maybe three months, and they shot back up here like a scalded rat! When they came back, I said 'How was it?' and they said it was more like a religious sect. Dave Bradford took up as drummer with The Crestas again, but with Eric and Mick gone I realized that I had six good years with people who had matured and shone as performers and that they could not be replaced. I left The Crestas, and the group then folded.
I myself continued until about 1970. Eric Lee's still alive and singing. He lives at Scarborough up the East Coast. He actually did go professional, and released a couple of records. But he did no good at all - it was a shame, because he was a fantastic singer. He could sing anything. Mally Hunt stayed on the circuit mainly as a solo singer, but never went pro. Our drummer, Mike Kitching, moved up to Scotland.
[Dave Bradfield] I joined Gary Landis and The Set. It was Hull based band. Three of the members were from Hull, and the singer was from Bristol. Brian Hairsine was the bass player, and a kid called Dave Webster was on lead guitar. Brian was in The Batmen when I went to France as a 16-year-old. Our old manager Pete Bocking, who managed the Crestas, got us this singer up from Bristol. He came and actually lived at my house for a while.
The Crestas weren't the only prominent Hull to break up in 1966. The Rats were another top group on the Hull Scene, who had started out as Rocky Stone and the Stereotones, before changing the group name first to Peter King and the Majestics and then finally to The Rats. By late 1964, the group consisted of Benny Marshall (vocals), Frank Ince (guitar), Brian Buttle (bass), and Jim Simpson (drums). Their manager, Martin Yale, was a skilled manager who landed the group several TV appearances, and record deals in the UK and USA. The group released two singles: 'Spoonful' b/w 'I've Got My Eyes On You Baby' (US Laurie/UK Columbia) recorded at Regent Sound, and 'Got To See My Baby Everyday' b/w 'New Orleans' (USA Rust/UK Columbia) recorded at Olympic. Two other singles ('Parchment Farm' and 'Sack of Woe') are often credited to the Rats from Hull, but were actually released by a rival group from Lancashire.
But by 1966, The Rats were at a crossroads. Guitarist Frank Ince and bassist Brian Buttle chose to stay in school, and keyboardist Robin Lecore had also decided that there wasn't much of a future with the band. Despite these setbacks, singer Benny Marshall and drummer Jim Simpson decided to continue the Rats name, and recruited Mick Ronson and bassist Geoff Appleby to round out the group.
A native of Hull, Geoff Appleby joined his first band in 1963 at the age of fourteen, playing bass in The UFOs along with guitarists Paul Spencer and Steve Smith, and drummer Glen Petty. By 1964 the UFOs had transformed into The Yorkies, with a lineup of Geoff Appleby on bass, Steve Smith on guitar, Peter Spencer (Paul Spencer's brother) on rhythm guitar, and Clive 'Spud' Taylor behind the drum kit. The Yorkies lasted for a couple years, also breaking up in 1966.
In April 1967, the revamped Rats landed a month's booking in Paris after an audition in London. Ronson cheerfully gave up his paint factory job, but drummer Jim Simpson declined to make the trip. Another local drummer, former Gonx / Hullaballoos / ABC drummer John Cambridge, also turned the band down. Eventually, they left for Paris with drummer Clive 'Spud' Taylor, who had played with Geoff Appleby in the Yorkies. Surviving a van breakdown, the band played out their engagement at the Golfe Drouot in Paris, and also had gigs in Rouens and Dieppes. When they arrived back in London a month later, however, they were completely broke.
The Rats finished out 1967 playing the local Hull circuit, honing their act. Mick Ronson in particular gained a reputation as the best musician in the area. John Cambridge eventually did join the Rats, replacing 'Spud' Taylor in October 1967.
In 1967, Keith Herd - leader of the local Keith Herd Band - opened a new recording studio in Hull called Fairview. John Cambridge had already recorded there with ABC, and in the winter of 1967 The Rats entered Fairview and recorded 'The Rise and Fall of Bernie Gripplestone'. The song was inspired by John Lennon's character Bernard Gripweed in the film How I Won The War.
Early in 1968, the Rats went to London in search of work. They lasted a week, without finding any openings. On the return trip, a chance stop in Grantham led to a gig in support of the Jeff Beck Group in March. The Yardbirds, and Beck in particular, had been a great influence on Ronson.
The Rats changed their name to Treacle in late 1968, after teaming up with a local manager called Don Lill. Geoff Appleby married in November and he left the group for a spell, to be replaced by Keith 'Ched' Cheeseman. Thus constituted, Treacle entered Fairview Studios for a recording session in early 1969. They taped 'Stop and Get A Hold Of Myself', 'Morning Dew', and 'Mick's Boogie', a re-titled version of Jeff Beck's 'Jeff's Boogie'.
Another of the top groups in Yorkshire around this time were The Mandrakes, featuring a young Robert Palmer (then known as Alan Palmer) on vocals. There are at least three different reports that while Mick Ronson was a member of the Rats, he and Robert explored the possibility of forming a band together. Geoff Appleby recalls that he and Mick met up with Robert Palmer and nearly formed a band with the provisional name 'Little Women'. Another report comes from Nearly Famous: The Sounds of the Cities, a excellent book about the Hull music scene written by Ray Moody. In his book , Moody reports that Mick Ronson and drummer John Cambridge held secret rehearsals with The Mandrakes, with an eye toward forming a group to be called 'Teeth'. And lastly, Ched Cheesman claims that he, Mick, and Woody Woodmansey also rehearsed and considered forming a band with Robert Palmer.
John Cambridge eventually left The Rats, to be replaced by Mick 'Woody' Woodmansey. Cambridge had left to join his former Hullabaloos bandmate Mick Wayne in a band called Junior's Eyes. Junior's Eyes would later become David Bowie's backing band, and for the recording of 'Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed' Cambridge invited Rats vocalist Benny Marshall down to London to record the harmonica solo.
Later in 1969, Mick Ronson was invited to appear on Michael Chapman's Fully Qualified Survivor LP, meeting producer Gus Dudgeon in the process. Also appearing on the album was bassist Rick Kemp.
[Mick Ronson, to Rock Scene] When I first came to London, I couldn't get enough musical work to support myself. One day I was mowing a lawn, when Rick [Kemp] came along. He was on his way to play on Mike Chapman's Fully Qualified Survivor album. Anyway, he took me with him and it was on that session that Tony Visconti first heard me.
After recording the Michael Chapman LP, Mick returned to Hull and The Rats. In November 1969, Geoff Appleby returned to the fold and replaced Cheeseman. The band recorded for a final time at Fairview, taping 'Telephone Blues' and 'Early In Spring'.
Back to the Mick Ronson Biography
Continue to Hype and Ronno