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Info from bass player Bill Mathieson with additions from Jimmy McLachlan.
The Ralph Danks Playboys at Paisley town hall
l-r Davie McHarg; Ralph Danks; John O'Hara; Kookie; Bill Mathieson; Eric.
The origins of the Playboys, the shifting line-ups and band name changes
Bill recalls - I
started playing with the Ralph Danks Playboys from
Glasgow in 1958. We used to pack out the Cooper Institute in
Cathcart every Saturday night. In 1961 we went to The Top Ten
Club in Hamburg in place of the Bobby Patrick Big Six who
had cancelled to back Brenda Lee on her British tour. Back in Glasgow
after 6 weeks in Germany Ralph left us and returned to
Germany to join Rikkie
Barnes in a resident house band at the Top Ten Club. We then
reformed and changed the name to just 'The Playboys'.
The Playboys - Germany 1962.
l-r, Big John Mc Call,
vocals; Bill Mathieson, bass; John O'Hara vocals/sax; Davy McHarg, drums;
Sandy McFarlane and Les Connel guitars.
never did get to play in Scotland again but we had a very
career in German between 1962 and 1966. However, in 1963 Big
John, Sandy and Les were injured an a car crash and returned
the band had to reform again. A series of personnel came and went
- showman/singer Davy Jones, guitarist Dicky Scott, Babs
Murphy a Diana Ross style singer from Glasgow and Baby Bubbles
a tiny black singer from London. But eventually, Jimmy
Glasgow, came in on on guitars along with Dennis Overton on
sax. John O'Hara took over the lead vocals and centre stage and
the band name changed to: 'The Playboys with John O'Hara' then
'John O'Hara and his Playboys' then 'John O'Hara and his New Playboys.'
l-r Davy Jones, unknown guitar player, Baby Bubbles, John O'Hara
Babs Murphy with the Playboys
and his New Playboys - Germany 1965
1964 - John O'Hara and his New Playboys
l-r Bill Mathieson; Billy
Simpson; John O'Hara; Davy McHarg, Jimmy McLachlan; Dennis Overton.
In Dec 1964, Jimmy McLachlan left and was replaced by Pete Campbell (a scouser) on lead
Dennis Overton had to go home for his mother's funeral so George 'Hoagy' Carmichaeljoined the band until he
wanted out to play "better music" and Dennis was asked back.
Simpson then left and Bobby Campbell joined us on Keyboard/guitar and vocals. Dennis
left in 1966 and the line up stayed more or less the same under the new
name of 'O'Haras Playboys'. Pete Green from London played sax
until1969 when Billy Simpson again
rejoined in place of Bobby Campbell who left for family reasons and
Wiggins joined for a short time.
l-r. Bill Mathieson; John O'Hara; Billy
Simpson; Davy McHarg; Hoagy Carmichael; Pete Campbell.
The move to England
band relocated to England in 1966
where they had a flat in both London and Sheffield and would stay in
the one nearest to where they were playing. There was even greater
success in England playing along side The Who, Tom
Jones, Englebert, Little
Richard, The Platters and Joe Cocker and backed Mary Wells on a
30 English tour. Bill remembers, 'We were also regulars in all the in
clubs in London such as
The Speakeasy, the Ram Jam Club, the Q Club, the Bag O Nails,
the Scotch Of St James, Sybellas & Klooks Kleek.
Klooks Kleek was an exclusive club that only took the
bands and if you played there you were IN. When we first returned to
did a month's residency in the London Playboy Club and and some
of the winning England team came in to celebrate. Bobby Moore got
up on stage and sang Paul Anka's Diana with us. Some of the German team
were there too but went off to Soho when they found out there were no
strippers in the Playboy! We also did tours - Beirit in Dec 68/ Jan 69, St. Tropez in May
69, Freeport Bahamas in July /August 69 and a 14 day tour of Germany in Oct
l-r Dennis Overton; Bobby Campbell; Bill Mathieson; Pete Campbell; John O'Hara; Davy McHarg.
Bill Mathieson; 'When we first started in the Cooper Institute, we did
mostly Top 20 songs such as Speedy Gonzales etc. As 'The Playboys' we played anything
from Pop to Rock to Soul to RnB and even songs from musicals. It wasn't until we went to Hamburg for the first time
that we heard other bands doing American stuff and we started to
do the same. By the way, we arrived on a Sunday and just missed the early Beatles
who had left the Star Club the night before to go back home to promote Love Me
Do - though we met up with them later on.
In England we were probably classed as
a cover band
doing songs from the charts plus Four
Tops, Temptations, Stevie
Wonder, Tom Jones and even Englebert, not copying
but changing arrangements a lot to suit our style. Bobby
Campbell, who shared
vocals, and John wrote a few songs that we did on stage and with
who also sang we had strong vocal harmonies. The band could
change the music to suit the clubs we did,
from soul for the London Q Club to a mixture for cabaret
clubs, discos, universities, etc - all types of genres
with lots of Motown. Strangely, one of our most requested songs
at the Q Club (a largely black club in London) was a
version of Maria from West Side Story.
Up to late 1969, although John was the nominal leader
everyone had an equal say in what we did. John,Bobby and Billy S. could
chose what songs they wanted to sing but if most of the band didn't like it, it
never got sung.'
O'Hara's Playboys - 1969
l-r: Bill Mathieson; Johnny Wiggins; Davy McHarg; Peter
Green; John O'Hara; Billy Simpson
Playboys on the telly
Bill: 'We did German TV such as Nord Deutsch Fernsehen (North German TV)
. Then in 1968/69 we did 8 TV
shows on ITV, STV, TELEFIS EIREAN, BBC1 & BBC2
including the Golden
Shot and Colour Me Pop.
For the latter we were filmed live
in Sheffield for the 1st
half of the programme and recorded the 2nd half in the BBC studios.
We were the first band to have the whole show to ourselves.
Watch the TV clips on You Tube: Woolly Bully; I'm Down; We gotta get out of this place.
Above: From the first TV appearance on Nord Deutsch Fernsehen
(Northern German TV).
John O'Hara on stage
Bill M : 'The success of the band really started with John taking
over lead vocals and Jimmy McLachlan and Billy Simpson joining on rhythm
and lead guitar plus their added vocals was a bonus, giving us a fuller
sound. After establishing
himself as lead singer John became a real showman and a great
act. He was known to climb and swing from stage curtains, roll
about on his back etc. He could really work and excite an audience as
the photos below show. From rockers to ballads his vocal range was extraordinary.'
The Playboys on record
We released 11
singles and 2 LPs and were also on the radio nearly
every day on the Jimmy Young, Tony Blackburn, Simon Dee, Dave Lee Travis &
Emperor Roscoe shows. Unfortunately though, we never got into the
1964 - Louie Louie/Stampfklatoffeln - Decca D19552
1964 - Das War Gestern/Ein Zwei Drei - Decca D?????
1964 - Doo Wah Diddy Diddy/Mr Moonlight - Decca D19554
1966 - Start all over/I've been wondering - Fontana TF763
1967 - Spicks and Specks/One fine lady - Fontana TF793
1967 - Ballad of the soon departed/Tell me why - Fontana TF 872
1967 - Island in the sun/Harry - Fontana TF893
1968 - In the shelter of your heart/Goodnight Mr Moonlight - Fontana TF924
1968 - I started a joke/Show me - Fontana TF974
1968 - Voices/Blue dog - Fontana TF?????
1969 - More than just a woman/No no no no - Fontana TF1043
1964 LP - Playboys Party No1 - Decca BLK16295P
Last night/Medley: Mashed potatoes; Es gibt kein bier auf Hawai;Mashed potatoes/Das Humbta-Tatera
Skinny Minnie/Watermelon man/La Bamba/Twist and shout/What'd I say/Jumping with symphony Sid.
1968 LP - Get Ready - Fontana TLF461
Funky Broadway/Respect/It's a wonder/Soul and inspiration/Harry/You don't know like I know/
Island in the sun/Show me/It's a man's man's man's world/I was made to love her/Get ready/Sweet soul music/Satisfaction
Advert for Playboys German LP & singles - with the band on stage
Front cover of the 2nd LP.
l-r Billy Simpson; Davy
McHarg; Bobby Campbell; Bill Mathieson; John O,Hara with
Peter Green kneeling.
The croupier was a model hired by
Fontana for the shoot.
Another band name variation
The Playboys first LP
'The album was recorded live by Decca which, as we were
told at the time, was the first time German Decca had recorded a pop group
The album cover was a special fold out one which drew the
wrath of one Catterina Valente, one of Decca's foremost artistes of the time.'
Then what happened
I left at the end of 1969 and returned to
my trade as an engineer. Les
Connel kept on playing and went back to Germany with Big
John McCall. Big John died in early 2011 aged 70.
McHarg played in another couple of bands, one that became The
Glitter Band just after he left to work in Sheffield clubs. Jimmy
McLachlan went on playing till 2009. Billy
Simpson lives in the Carlisle area working as a truck driver and
still plays guitar a
bit I think. Sandy McFarlane passed away some years back I
Campbell has a successfull taxi business in London. George
"Hoagy" Carmichael did his pit orchestra thing in various theatres in
Campbell played in a couple of Sheffield bands before going solo then
retiring friom music in the mid
Wiggins ran a club in Spain and married the female drummer of The
Green became a successful businessmanwith shops in Sheffield and
London. John went solo after the band broke up 1970/71,
working successfully in pubs and clubs until he retired 2010.
Cheers, Bill Mathieson.