Music Notes: Goodbye to those Golden Years

A group of mature gentlemen were sitting around a table at the Evening News offices back in 1996 - in front of them were a collection of tatty black and white photographs and faded newspaper cuttings.

As they looked at them the stories and memories of crazy days when they were the masters of the Norfolk beat came flooding back.

Back in the late 1950s and into the 60s they were young men with Elvis quiffs, drainpipe trousers and winklepicker shoes who were the local heroes at dance halls, pubs and clubs across Norwich, Norfolk and the rest of East Anglia.

Inspired by the likes of Lonnie Donegan, Bill Haley and Elvis they were often playing American hits before they were released in this country - because they got the records off from GI's on the air bases.

Although they were just as good, if not better, then many of big name artists and groups, they came from an unfashionable part of the country.

They were often offered European tours but if they were married with children, with a job, it was too risky to give it all up and take to the road.

For one reason or another they drifted apart and their music became a distant memory. Until the Golden Years came along.

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It was former Continental Harvey Platt - brother of the late, great Howard Platt, who came up with the Golden Years label to describe the sights and sounds of 60s life in Norwich and Norfolk.

And then Derek Moore, ex member of The Toffs, announced he was trying to track down members of the band - now scattered all over the world.

Sitting around that table were the likes of Garry Freeman, (The Contours), Mervyn Hurn (The Starbeats), Stewy McIntosh, (The Cadillacs) Terry Wickham, (The Zodiacs) along with Micky Woodcock (Regency), Tony Dee (Memphis Index), and Malcolm Hooper (The Jet Blacks).

I asked them if they would consider playing again. Never - came the reply. But remember musicians rarely retire, just fade away and then come back.

Within a fortnight guitars, keyboards and drum kits were dusted down, other members had been tracked down, and they were up and running - sounding better than ever.

Terry Wickham stepped forward to organise the first 'one-off' reunion charity gig at The Talk and the Golden Years turned into an annual two-day music festival at the UEA featuring the best bands of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

Since then we have reunited a couple of dozen original bands and raised more than �125,000 for Norfolk charities and good causes but we have also lost the likes of Malcolm Hooper, Micky Woodcock and Tony Dee,

n The last ever Golden Years will be held at the UEA on April 14. There will be a special tribute to the late, great John Lofty and also playing will be Garry Freeman & The New Contours, Mervyn & The Starbeats and Mister Buss. Tickets �10 and money raised goes to the civic charity Big C.

n More details from organiser Terry Wickham on Norwich 01603 864460.