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24 September 2014

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When rock and roll reached Mid Devon...
The Chekkers
Tiverton group The Chekkers - Devon's answer to The Shadows - pictured in the early 60s
Can you remember when rock and roll first hit these shores back in the 1950s? And did you know that Mid Devon spawned loads of bands during the 50s and 60s? Well, here's a book which will bring memories flooding back for many people.
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Barry Sowden

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Oh No! It's Local Rock and Roll...But I Like It
By Barry Sowden
Publishers: Halsgrove
Price: £12.95

And they say nostalgia ain't what it used to be...well, this book gives the lie to that old saying.

Author Barry Sowden, a Tiverton fireman, was at the forefront of the rock and roll revolution in... Mid Devon.

The Staccatos
The Staccatos
This part of the county was hugely prolific when it came to local groups in the 1950s, 60s, and then into the 70s.

This was an era when, if fans wanted to take in some music, they had to go out and get it. And people did.

So who did they go and see? In Mid Devon, they had a big choice - and they all had great names: The Chekkers, The Bluebirds, The Tuxedos, The Cyclones, the Starfires being some of the bands of the day.

Barry himself founded The Avengers and Nashville Skyline.

During this time, venues in places such as Tiverton, Cullompton, Bampton, and Hatherleigh started to ditch tea dances, and switch to rock and roll gigs.

Montage of the groups
A montage of some of the groups
All these decades later, Barry has decided to revisit those heady days, and catch up with some of the members of those bands.

He explained: "This book has been written firstly as a tribute to the boys and girls who, after hours of practice, have entertained not only themselves, but also the people of Tiverton and the Mid Devon area.

"Secondly, it is hoped it will bring back fond memories of times spent dancing and listening to the music supplied by the district's own pop stars."

There's a chapter each on 18 groups, and 170 great photos.

So who says Devon didn't have a role to play in the rock and roll revolution and the swinging sixties?

Barry Sowden
Barry Sowden
As Barry says: "While the Beatles emerged from Liverpool's Cavern, so the Stringbeats played to excited audiences in Withypool.

"As the Rolling Stones headlined in Monterey, so the Avengers sold out in Morchard Bishop.

"This is the story of the bands that made it big - in Mid Devon."

The book is published by Tiverton-based Halsgrove.

Pictures used with permission of the publishers
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