Johnny and the Copycats
Note: Ali Ewen [far left] was dismissed from Johnny and the Copy Cats after missing several rehearsals and the band became a foursome. Johnny Stewart eventually left the group after his marriage in 1969 though continued on for a time. Ziggy Slater joined My Dear Watson as keyboardist when they toured Scotland promoting their singles. The band eventually reverted to The Copycats with Johnny Stewart as lead singer. They used two studio musicians on keyboards during recordings [most famously Elton John before he left for Los Angeles].
“New rig-out for Johnny and the Copy Cats – a picture tells how the band had changed their clothes and were now rigged our in ‘American’ dress of spats and top hats. It was said that members of the band had been taking music lessons. The band is to leave on an English tour with the change of name a possibility.” 3 Sep 64 http://www.buckieheritage.org/dates/1964.pdf
Johnny and the Copycats, on request of their record label, were told to change their name and from list of choices, and along with their manager, AA Bonici, they settled on “My Dear Watson”. “In 1966, they supported the Mindbenders, the Moody Blues, and Cliff Bennet & the Rebel Rousers. At the Top Ten club, Hamburg, the Easybeats offered to record them in London. A deal was fixed, and the song Elusive Face, written by John, was released, followed by Stop, Stop, There I’ll Be, with their new name, My Dear Watson on the EMI Parlophone label.” The name change was short lived as they still thought of as “the Cats” from Buckie around Scotland when retiring My Dear Watson in ’72. http://www.delgin.co.uk/cats/history.html
Though their recording career was limited, they have shared the bill with a long list of popular bands through the 1960s-70s which includes The Beatles, Alan Price [with the Animals], The Hollies, Kinks, Troggs, Moody Blues, Status Quo, Searchers, Marmalade, and so forth. They also recorded with The Easybeats and Elton John who Bill Cameron considered a nice guy with great talent. He was easy to work with and considerate as most of the big name bands were. Of course, there were exceptions like one of the Herman’s Hermits whose ego was a bit much, and the Small Faces not showing up for a couple of Scottish gigs. Bill said that it caused a riot when they didn’t make one of the gigs with the Copycats. When asked a British band he admired besides big name bands, Bill said that Johnny Kidd and The Pirates was an inspiration….
BUCKIE BEAT BOYS BEST 1963
‘Popular young Buckie beat group “Johnny and the Copycats” gave a splendid performance in Perth City Hall last Friday night to win the Scottish final of the All British Beat Band Championships. Winners of the recent area finals at Elgin, the Buckie group gained their latest success in the contest against keen competition throughout Scotland. The runners-up were mark Dayton and The Hounds, a very popular Dundee group. Formed a year ago, the group consists of 17year-old Iain Lyon (lead guitar): 15 year old Ali Ewen (rhythm guitar): 17 year –old Bill Cameron (bass guitar), and 16 year-old Rob Lawson (drummer), all of Buckie, whilst the vocalist, “Johnny” is 17 year-old Johnny Stewart, Portnockie, who’s elder brother Mr Alex. G. Stewart, 40 Bryson Crescent, Buckie is the group’s manager. A bus load of supporters, many of them teenagers, travelled south to Perth last Friday to cheer the group to victory. The group will now go forward to the finals of the All British Beat Band championship which takes place in London on December 1. Footnote – The Copycats took their name from the name inscribed on a piece of electrical equipment they use in putting over their instrumental numbers.
PROUD OF JOHNNY AND THE BOYS
Sir, – How often have we heard people say the youngsters of today have nothing better to do than get themselves into trouble – just a bunch of vandals – all they can do is smash up things. Such terms are generally used in describing our teenage generation. In Perth last Friday night, five young local lads proved to all and sundry that there is still a strong desire among our teenagers to succeed and make a name for themselves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4iI37J6oucFor Johnny and the Copycats, in winning the Scottish finals of the £2,000 Beat Band Contest in the City Hall, Perth, have accomplished no mean feat.Hard work, concentration, loyalty to each other and sheer determination to succeed are the characteristics and sure foundation upon which their success has been built.
As when they won their heat in Elgin, so at Perth, the dancing ceased as the crowd gathered round to acclaim this versatile group.Most worthy of special mention were the group’s rendering of such numbers as “Gotta Have a Gimmick Today” and “Do You Love Me”, Johnny in his cloak and tile hat with black bag in hand gave an admirable impression of that ghoulish character “Jack the Ripper”. The instrumentalists’ rendering of the Can-Can “62” was exceptional and with Johnny singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, this group put even the great Gerry and the Pacemakers in the shade.Overall a most entertaining and satisfactory programme by five young lads of whom Buckie should be very proud. As one local teenager remarked “Just fancy, Buckie leading Scotland in the Teen Beat competition”.Well done Johnny and the boys for completing your first year with such success.’ http://www.copycats62.co.uk/page20.html
‘Buckie (Gaelic: Bucaidh) is a burgh town on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland in Moray. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckie
“New named band requires two vocalists – Nov 8, 1962 The Cimmarons now known as Johnny and the Copycats require two girl vocalists. Applicants are asked to contact J. Stewart, Jun 8 Hall Street, Portknockie.”
“Jan 24, 1963 Johnny and the Copycats are to be playing in the Fishermen’s Hall on Saturday. Mar 21 Johnny and the Copycats – A photograph of the local pop group is shown on the front page . The players are – Ali Ewen, Bill Cameron, Johnny Stewart, Robert Lawson and Ian Lyon. The group is sponsored by Buckie Round table and is to play in Aberdeen at the Beach Ballroom on Sunday.” From http://www.buckieheritage.org/ [see “old snippets”]
The Cimmarons, who were performing instrumentals were inspired by groups like Cliff Richard and The Strangers and felt that vocals would add to their act. When John Stewart came on board and started composing songs for the teenage beat band, they became Johnny and The Copy Cats. Ali Ewen was excluded from the band for not showing up for gigs [summer ’64] and Bill, Johnny, Robert, and Ian have played together every since. Though their first big opportunity to share a bill with The Beatles was cancelled [2Jan63 Keith, Scotland] they did the gig as Albert Bonici had arranged. The Copycats went on to perform numerous engagements under management of Bonici besides their German agent, Rudi Pfeiffer “he was an honest guy who managed us in the Frankfurt area” . Rudi becoming their agent when doing gigs in Germany was arranged through Jack Fallon, Albert Bonici’s connection at Cana Variety.
Thanks to Albert’s connection with Jack Fallon of Cana Variety, The Copycats started playing abroad on British and American military bases in 1965 which was a way of subsidizing their living in London on £15 a night in between month long gigs.
It was difficult for the band to get by on £15 per night when staying in London and long engagements at British and American Army bases in Germany helped “subsidize” their time working in London [1967-72]. ” At the Top Ten club, Hamburg, the Easybeats offered to record them in London. A deal was fixed, and the song Elusive Face, written by John, was released, followed by Stop, Stop, There I’ll Be, with their new name, My Dear Watson on the EMI Parlophone label.” http://www.delgin.co.uk/cats/history.html
According to Copycats guitarist, Bill Cameron, Albert Bonici helped them pick a name from a list issued by EMI Parlophone. The guys were not keen on changing their name [recently releasing a CD as “The Copycats”]. However, the record company didn’t like “copycats” and insisted that they change the name before recording and distributing their music. Unfortunately for My Dear Watson, their recording career with EMI didn’t get off the ground though they had already been successful in Germany with Angela and Start Thinking About Me in ’66 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTSIFfAZp_g
“Although necessarily a lesser consideration than The Easybeats’ own recording career, Staeb was intended to provide the duo with an opportunity to produce other acts, and the next tangible result appeared in October with the release of the second single by Scottish outfit My Dear Watson (Parlophone R 5737). Neither “Stop Stop I’ll Be There” nor “Make This Day Last” was a Vanda and Young composition, but the pair produced both sides, using the expertise they had developed over the past year. Unfortunately, the single got lost in the end of year rush and it flopped miserably. It would be two years before My Dear Watson recorded again, by which time Staeb Productions would already be history.” http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/the-easybeats-album-by-album-thread-pt2.337836/page-3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTwxa035Q8A Easybeats : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iW2_Ec3uEU
During their sessions at Dick James’s studio DJM, they were introduced to Reg Dwight, a personable musician who played piano, organ, and electric piano for the group besides harmonizing on “White Line Road”, the “B side” recording for “Have You Seen Your Saviour”. Here’s an excerpt from ‘Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John’
“When Reg was not writing or recording his own compositions, or working on the budget albums, he would fill his time working as a session musician for DJM. One of the most memorable in August 1969 was for Scottish band, My Dear Watson. That was when the band’s manager, Albert Bonici, arranged a last ditch attempt for some kind of success by organizing a recording session at DJM for the following year. Although John Stewart, the lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for the band had recently left for domestic reasons, he was still actively involved with writing material for recording and performing. For the session at DJM, he had composed twelve songs from which, it was hoped, a potential hit single would emerge. If so, then an album would be released.”
“The band and engineers worked in the studio for ten days until 4 February 1970, creating the single and a ill-fated unreleased album. At the time, Reg had recorded and released the ‘Lady Samantha’ single under the name of Elton John, and was picking up a fair amount of airplay on Radio 1 [BBC]. “We thought it was good”, says bass player Bill Cameron. “We had played the Cavern Club in Liverpool in January 1966, and just before we played, Bluesology had done their set.” ‘Basically’, continues Cameron, ‘My Dear Watson was a guitar, bass and drum outfit, and during the first week of recording, someone at DJM asked whether we would like to use a keyboard player. We were not told who the keyboard player was, so I asked “Is he any good?” and was told We believe he is pretty good, yes.” And he was. We felt our songs needed some colour added, so we agreed to use the unknown piano player to see how it worked out’ we were kind of band to try anything once. So in came this small guy, who had short hair and was clean shaven, who was introduced to us as Elton. The guitarist was already in the studio doing some overdubs, and that’s when Elton asked me, what chords was he playing?”
Once Cameron and Elton had planted themselves on the sofa at the back of the control room, Elton took out his notebook to note down all the chords that were being used in the song. Soon after that, Cameron remembers, “We set up the microphones and a grand piano, and played Elton the backing tracks that had been recorded earlier. He listened intestly, and then told us to give him five minutes to go over it, and five minutes after that he was telling the band that he was ready to do the take. We switched on the mics and started the backing tracks and Elton started playing the piano to our backing tracks. The sound that came from the piano was stunning, we all looked at each other and said, “God, this boy is good!”
‘For the next three days we recorded with Elton in the same way for each song. We put down the backing tracks, he noted the chords in his notebook, disappeared for five minutes and then he played over the backing tracks. He played grand piano, organ, and electric piano. When he finished, he would come in to see how it was going, he would mess about on the piano and do some jamming sessions with us. And, on one occasion, Bernie Taupin came in and sat on the sofa just to hear and see what we were doing.”
After the sessions, the band went back to Scotland where John Stewart had written a song that was a strong candidate for the successful single that they were desperately looking for. The title was ‘Have You Seen Your Saviour?’, and the eventual B side was ‘White Line road’. They went back down to DJM to record the song, and Elton was, once again on hand to play the piano exactly as before.
“The following month, on 12 March 1970, My Dear Watson went into Trident Studios [where the Rolling Stones recorded] to record the vocals for the single and the B side. ‘Elton came with us, and we all agreed tht we would do a vocal harmony for the B side which included Elton. His vocals were overwhelming, it made us realise how bad we were singing. He sang with such power. He was about 6’ away from the microphones and we were about 6″ away and his voice still dominated.”
When the single was finally released on DJM, it didn’t get any airplay so, quite naturally, nothing happened to make it work as even a minor success and the album was shelved, and the tapes returned to the vaults, where they still remain to this day. [Note: The finished album was apparently lost though Bill Cameron has the rough copy.] Although the single was played once on the radio, and the band played it live on Radio 1 on 13 June 1970 in Glasgow, it was not enough to get anyone excited, least of all the band.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8uqHZNH1sw
Here’s a photo shoot from old photos of the Johnny and The Copy Cats along the North Sea on the coast on north-east Scotland. These were unused in the promotional material their manager, AA Bonici developed to promote the band.https://scotbeat.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/copycats-pack-two-red-shoes/ Copycats meet The Beatles http://www.northern-scot.co.uk/Entertainment/Keith-recalls-its-brush-with-the-Fab-Four-9768.htm https://www.facebook.com/JohnnyandtheCopycats/wall http://www.copycats62.co.uk/page6.html