Eddie Le Pard and The Leopards were among the local bands featured at the Two Red Shoes, Elgin. According to drummer, Jim Skinner [who replaced Sonny Johnston in ’64], there was only a demo made of the Leopards by Albert Bonici [Norco Records]. It will appear here at a later date if found among the Bonici Archives. Also, I am currently gathering personal info about Eddie Le Pard for a future update.
Pictured above: Eddie [in the middle] was born in the late 1940’s and died in Aberdeen, Scotland though grew up in Elgin. Band members [L to R] include Frazer Armstrong on keyboards & amp; harmonies, Alan Rodgers on bass guitar & amp; harmonies, Eddie lead vocals, Chic Ralph on lead guitar, and Sonny Johnston on drums.p>
LINE-UP – EDDIE LEPARD , singer and rhythm/lead guitarist.
ALAN(RAE) ROGERS, singer and bass guitarist.
FRASER(SPITZ) ARMSTRONG, Vox Continental organist.
JIM(JIMMY) SKINNER, DRUMMER [from Inverurie, Scotland]
Road manager and driver SONNY ROGERS(Alan,s brother).
Eddie’s obituary [2004 Evening News Aberdeen, Scotland/Raymond Shewan]
The band had success in Germany though no record deals were in the works. I am told that there was a demo recorded by Albert Bonici [Norco Records] but haven’t come across it. In Beatscene May 1964 edition, The Leopards are mentioned as they were planning their trip down south:
Albert Bonici through his London connection, Jack Fallon, secured work for Scottish musicians on British and American military bases in Germany. They would sometimes do month long engagements on the bases besides various engagements throughout the country.
“Leopards and Echo sounds (me taking photo) – we met them a number of times in Germany and became friends” Jim Skinner [Leopard’s drummer]
Friend with Eddie LePard circa 1964 outside the former angling shop on South Street, Elgin, Scotland three doors down from Vic Flett’s “Sound and Vision” specializing in guitars, drum kits, cds, etc.]
“I was recruited by the group at very beginning of 1964 from the Inverurie group THE Z GUITARS. CHICK RALPH and SONNY JOHNSON had already left the Leopards.
I never did meet SONNY but sometime around 2004 ,I saw who I thought was CHICK RALPH handing out Co-op leaflets outside that supermarket not 25 yards from The Two Red Shoes Ballroom. It was in fact him and he said that we were the last two Leopards left standing as all the others had already died . I was shocked but he couldn’t tell me anything about it. I was a travelling sales rep at that time and only passing through Elgin. Oddly, I had met EDDIE a couple of years earlier, again passing through, and again at the bus stop outside The Two Red Shoes. What a coincidence !!! He told me he was more or less the resident performer at the Silver Sands in Lossiemouth. I never met either of them again after those two occasions. I was led to believe Alan had become a musician in London .
In answer to one of your questions , we did normally wear the maroon leopard suits but after a while a while in Germany we discarded the jackets because of overheating and sweat problems when we were playing regularly up to 8 x hours per night with only a short break of about 10 x minutes each hour which we usually spent signing autographs on our handout promo photos. We were not nice to be near but that never seemed to stop anyone.
The Leopards signature tune was Summertime Blues by the great EDDIE COCHRAN . We almost always began with that one . Our own EDDIE looked AND sang ‘JUST LIKE EDDIE’ as the much later pop song had it ! Alan(RAE) as he insisted he be called at that time ( I didn’t) sang the R and B numbers. He loved Boom,boom,boom, boom(He Shot Me Right Down) by John Lee Hooker, I believe ?
Before leaving for Germany, we went as a group to watch ERIC BURDEN and The Animals at the opening of the new Elgin Town Hall in the summer of 1964 the very week HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN went from No 5 ? To No 1 in the Hit Parade. Alan Price was still their organist then. We introduced ourselves and spoke with Eric. burden at the side of the stage when they finished playing. He was down to earth and asked us about our music. We told him we were going to Germany soon and gave us encouragement. We adopted that No 1 for our repertoire and made a pretty good job of it even if I do say so myself ! Our organist , on the same instrument as Alan Price, was excellent at it ! On the subject of our organist Fraser, most requested from him was GREEN ONIONS by Booker T and the MGs. That was a piece of cake for him and very soon got sick of having to play it . Incidentally, as you will know, his sister ALYSON ARMSTRONG, a lovely young woman and marvellous singer sang regularly with THE ALEX SUTHERLAND BAND. Their father was a well accomplished church organist I was told . A very talented family. My own father and older brother played in many north east dance bands in the fifties , sixties and in my brother’s case the seventies.
During my time with the Leopards we supported some of the top Pop Groups from south of border at various venues across the north and north -east of Scotland. One of the first for me soon after my arrival was SHANE FENTON and THE FENTONES at the TWO RED SHOES. That was thrilling for me as I wasn’t used to being in such illustrious company. I discovered that they, mostly , were pretty down to earth ordinary guys as the rest of the bands I later met proved also to be . Shane later reached even greater heights as ALVIN STARDUST. UNIT 4 PLUS 2 at the same place with their No 1 hit, CONCRETE AND CLAY . HONEY AND THE HONEYCOMBS with HAVE I THE RIGHT(TO HOLD YOU) again, same venue. Honey actually used part of my drum kit that show – the stool she sat on !!! Nice ! I never washed it again after that!! THE APPLEJACKS at Mintlaw Station with their hit TELL ME WHEN . They were the ones with the female bass guitarist. She never borrowed anything of mine !
The most memorable for me was when we supported BRIAN POOLE and THE TREMELOES at the town hall in Inverurie , my home town, where I was born and grew up . Many people there knew me and that was a bit special. What made it Extra Special was their drummer tried very hard to buy my recently bought large ZILDJIAN cymbal, which I had quickly grown to love as it sounded so crisp , clear and just made me feel good. He said it sounded great from the dancefloor and he produced his cheque book . I didn’t want to sell it but he handed me the book and told me to write my own price on the cheque. I was very surprised and so was he when I declined. It had taken me months to save for it . It cost £69 then and at today’s equivalent it would be about £500, maybe more. I cheekily told him “Anyway it’s not the cymbal – it’s the way I play it.” They had packed and left by the time we finished playing and he had mistakenly taken my cheap Car Coat with him, leaving me his more expensive one on the dressing room hook ! He never contacted me for its return so I carried on wearing it. One last highlight was when we played Dunoon backing THE UNDERTAKERS. They were dressed like Zombies and their leader made his big entrance from an already onstage coffin ! That was new !!!
A couple of times we appeared along with JOHNNY AND THE COPYCATS who were the QUIETEST group I had ever heard. They were asked to play louder on a few occasions , once at the BEACH BALLROOM in Aberdeen, I was told . Once at home base Two Red Shoes, when they were having a break and we were on, we played DAVE BRUBECK’s TAKE FIVE . I think they were a little impressed as not many groups attempted it. They were nice guys. The Assembly Rooms in Elgin was where I took a photo of them from the side of the Very high, Very narrow stage there. It almost defied gravity – just hanging above everyone ! I liked their music very much – when I was close enough to hear it.
On Mr. ALBERT BONICI , he was obviously of great importance on the Northern music scene and thousands of people living and sadly, now deceased have been and still are grateful to him for bringing the Very top groups to the north to see in the flesh. I know I am in that very extensive group ! I remember he would often come down from his office to the boothes in the Park Cafe and pass time with whichever group members were there. He sometimes produced a chess set to play anyone who dared challenge him . I played him a couple of times but but he wiped the floor with me . It was particularly embarrassing for me as he once caught me in Fools’ ‘Mate (seven moves in total). I still recall it with shame !
At the very end of Aug 1964 we all embarked on Sonny’s trusty Ford Thames van with our gear packed somehow in the van and on a roof rack went our suitcases covered by a waterproof tarpaulin. Fading comments written in lipstick from female fans, mostly for Eddie , scrawled all over it . That van only lasted us about a month as Sonny accidentally drove it off a road and down a big embankment into a field overturning before it stopped on it’s roof, badly damaging it. None of the band or our instruments were in it at the time thankfully, and Sonny was just badly shaken. I lost almost all of the poster souvenirs etc. I had been collecting since we arrived. The German management provided us with a larger Volkswagen van which allowed us more space to relax while travelling up to 150 miles between dates. Remember , we only played the same venue twice in a row on three occasions during our time there. For reasons I don’t recall they also supplied a driver for us named Lutz . He stayed with us for a month then he was replaced by another called Manfred. He came to be a good friend and at tour’s end drove us home to Scotland and stayed a few weeks in Elgin before returning to Germany. I still miss him but we lost touch. Mixing with only British young lads the little English he had was ripe. Every third word he uttered was a swear word. Very embarrassing when he met my parents . He couldn’t stop himself but we all greatly liked and trusted him.
In our third and final month abroad Eddie’s fiancee sent us a copy of THE KINKS’ ‘ YOU REALLY GOT ME ‘ 45 disc which was a smash hit at that time. Somehow , we immediately learnt it and played it a lot. We surprised the other groups as none had heard it. It’s hard to believe nowadays but the music scene over there was months behind our own .
After returning home , we carried on playing the usual places. The other three leopards still refused to go back because of their fiancées , even though we had been offered a recording session there. If memory serves, I think it was Polydor. New bands had been forming in our absence and dance dates became fewer. We weren’t making a living as full timers so we went part time and I returned to finish my apprenticeship with British Rail at Inverurie. I was Very fortunate to be allowed to finish as I at first had been refused leave of absence but I went anyway thinking it was an opportunity not to be missed. If the group had only gone back, who knows what may have resulted. Ah Well !! C’est la vie !!!.
Over the course of our time in West Germany, we played many places large and small ,towns and cities ,the names of which have long since faded from my memory. Following are some I do remember, but not in any kind of order or importance . KASSEL, HANNOVER , CUXHAVEN, BREMERHAVEN, EMDEN , ESSEN, CELLE, DORTMUND , BRAUNSWEIG, KORPACH, BIELEFELD, MINDEN, MOENCHEN GLADBACH, HILTRUP MUNSTER . Apologies for those not mentioned !
Some of the music we played I’ve already mentioned but, others included the following :- Delilah, T. Jones, You can’t do that, Please please me and Ticket to ride, Beatles of course, Just one look, Hollies, Slow down, Do wah diddy , Manfred Mann, Satisfaction, Not fade away, the Rolling Stones, and many others.
To finish, one small anecdote ! We once played a hotel dancehall in Cuminestown, Aberdeenshire . On arrival we were told by the organisers on NO account to play The Mashed Potato as they had newly refurbished the dancefloor at considerable cost ! However, all through the evening many patrons requested it and we dutifully avoided the song, Until near the end when we relented ! We started and all present formed long lines, linking arms and danced in unison row after row . NOW we understood the reason for the restraint requested. As they danced (Tiller Girl style) the floor rippled and creaked loudly and I distinctly saw them rise and fall quite alarmingly. It was a worrying few minutes but somehow the floor survived . Afterwards we were soundly rebuked and, guess what ? We were never asked back!!
There are a few more memories left in the tank but not for delicate ears and best left unrevealed !
Jim Skinner.(last known survivor of EDDIE LEPARD and THE LEOPARDS).
TO THEM – Thanks for the memories , boys.”
notes for SCOTBEAT regarding Eddie Le Pard and The Leopards – Jim Skinner [Copyright 2016]
Chic Ralph [Obituary above] was known for his talent playing a steel guitarist with Mosaic [seen below performing at the Two Red Shoes Ballroom] He later recorded with Spey Valley Trio [1975 Grampian Records Ltd, Wick Scotland]. The first was “Whispering Hope” followed by Sing Me Back Home – The group featuring Mike Spence vocals with Frank Coutts [rhythm guitar] , Chick Ralph [steel guitar], Brian Henderson [lead guitar], and John Hunter [drums]