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Introduction (click on pictures for larger image)

“I remember them when they all had long hair and twenty eight inch waists” proclaimed one original fan after a storming night at “Perry’s” in Norton last April.  But though there is a great deal of nostalgia with original fans remembering old times it’s much more than that; The Chevrons are far better players than they ever were in the seventies and once the count in starts it’s for real these days with an intensity that comes with experience but also the feeling of getting a second chance at some of the best times of your life.  Added to that there are a couple of other generations, infected by karaoke and backing tracks, who have grown up deprived of real ‘live’ music.  New challenges too!  So what brought the band together and why did they suddenly reform five years ago?  Come back with me now to 1973.......................

A Not Too Serious History of The Chevrons

In the year that brought us the OPEC oil crisis and the three day week,  a group of young people, already in their infancy as players in other bands finally came together to form a band that has subsequently spanned four and a half decades.  “Loose Grind” were a band with a great deal in common with what was to become punk rock.  That is to say they couldn’t really play and had a knack of offending people.  Martin Elwood (drums), Jeff Sawdon (guitar) and Tony Iceton (vocals) were soon joined by Denis Burrows on bass and played their debut gig at the Lealholme Youth Club on Yarm Road, Stockton in late 1973.  Run by the local parish Catholic priest the venue was more accustomed to top twenty hits on a Dansette record player than a live band who were into The Who, James Gang, Jeff Beck, Cream and Grand Funk Railroad.  Still, all went OK until a couple of self-penned songs were announced.  The Mauler, a song about a serial rapist, and a slightly graphic 12 bar blues called W**k Me Baby rather changed the mood.  The priest’s visage changed from a benevolent smile to something between wind and rage as he hoped, as only a man of faith can, that he wasn’t hearing what he thought he was hearing.  He was.  ‘Grind’ never played there again for some reason.  After being run out of town by skinheads during a show at Carlton Village Hall soon after, the band pondered their future and, as the sound of Airwear on Transit panels began to subside, so did any hopes of this line up making it. 

Chevrons Mark One

The band needed a front man who could sing and relate to an audience and Steve Ayre was head hunted from Thornaby to great celebration while both Tony Iceton and Martin Elwood moved on to other things.  This left the drum seat unoccupied but not for long and Linda Rigby joined to make a line up of real potential.  With a superb voice and good drumming skills the band were suddenly saleable in the extreme with a more musical sound and a great image.  The name “Loose Grind” seemed less suitable with a female in the band and so The Chevrons were born.  Signing for the Sunderland based Maureen Douglas Agency, gigs came thick and fast and the band gained vital experience.  Several managers wanted to get their hands on The Chevrons, or at least Linda, and so it was that her head was turned by promises of fame and she left to join five Maltese guys.  They went on to become “Linda’s Latin Lovers” and did quite well on New Faces. Enter Chris “Fiddo” Firby (this is beginning to sound like Spinal Tap I know) a drummer of considerable talent and no sense.  This was the band’s FREE period as Fiddo’s Simon Kirke style suited the stuff well and the clubs in Sunderland took The Chevrons to their hearts, prepared to sit through any amount of middle of the road dross for the promise of The Hunter at the end which always tore the roof off.  It was an ill fated line up which led to constant problems off stage and one evening on arrival at the Firby home to collect him for a show at  Doxford Park Social Club, the band were told the drummer had “gone to Whitby with a girl”.  This was the final straw, but what about the gig....

The Kidnapping Of Mel Davis

Melvyn Davis was a drummer well known to the band through his current outfit “Young Company” and it had come up in conversation that he might be willing to join as the Fiddo situation worsened.  Now that it had come to a head the band decided to act quickly.  Mel had taken a job as resident drummer at Grangetown Social Club in Middlesbrough.  The 1966 yellow and blue Ford Transit belched black smoke as it sped toward the club at 5.45 pm on that fateful Saturday with the intention of taking him, kit and all, to Sunderland that night.  Luckily he was a willing participant in the plan and the gig went off well.   

The German Job

During a gig at Belle Vue Social Club in Hartlepool in 1976 the band noticed a large gentleman of African descent stood at the back with a look of approval about him.  At the interval he announced himself as "Ivan" and said he had a proposition for us.  Through tightly squeezed buttocks the boys sat down to hear it....

The Chevrons, along with new roadie Joe Hutchinson, were to tour Holland and Germany for him and his German based ex RAF partner Pete Holdcoft.  They would play mainly British and US military bases with some other local gigs in clubs around our accomodation in Gutersloh.  The tour took the band through Eindhoven and Venlo in Holland through the Ruhr Valley area, up to Fallingbostel and some US Army shows down south.  The band were to be paid DM 500 per show (a staggering amount in 1976) and digs were free.  There were no formal contracts but nobody really cared.

After an overnight crossing from Hull to Zeebruge the red six wheel transit, for the band had moved up in the world, set off, on the wrong side of the road for its great adventure.  The shows were generally great and the band fell in love several times with various girls called Heike, Elke and Hidegard Speckard, Angela and Fiona (don't ask) and played one of the all time great Chevs shows at The Mittlepunkt club in Gutersloh itself.  Outstanding experiences included Denis almost being shot by police and singing "We Won The War" from under a dining table in one venue to sitting through The Beatles "Help" movie in German ("Hi-Hi Hilfe"!).  Added to that a visit to the "kill it yourself" fish shop and a diet totally consiting of frikadelle and pommes frittes and a great time was had by all.  

Further tours of UK and Europe followed with new roadie Geoff "Wiz" Walker and in 1977, on the day Elvis died, stunning Linzi Hunter, then only 16, joined. She spent a brief period at stage front before going on to win "Stars In Their Eyes" as Kate Buush and working with Bill Wyman.  A final line up change in 1978 saw  Andrew Davis, (brother of Mel) on guitar and Geoff Buckley on vocals and this line up, with Mel, Jeff and Andrew joining Carl Green & The Scene, brought the Chevrons to a close – temporarily.  

The Reunion
The approaching 50th Birthday of Denis Burrows brought a visit to guitarist Jeff Sawdon. 

“Let’s get the band together, one night only, for my party” was the suggestion.  So, in the best tradition of films like The Dirty Dozen, the two set off to track down the others – were they alive?  Could they still do the business if they were?  Why am I asking you?? 

Mel  was no problem, they just phoned him, but Steve Ayre hadn’t been seen for some time.  He could have become a mercenary, a drug addict in some Latin quarter of LA, a pimp or a criminal mastermind of a gun running network to Namibia.  Actually he was sat at home in Thornaby Village when Borrows and Sawdon called to put the proposition to him.   After about an hour of persuasion he jumped at the chance and when they rehearsed the following week the boys were very much ‘Back in Town’.  

The night was such a blast that they decided to carry on, as and when they could around other commitments.  Gradually taking things more seriously, they experimented with click tracks on one or two songs but nobody really liked it and it went against the grain, the band never fond of club groups with backing vocals, strings, keys and brass all on track.  “Let’s just do it live, like the old days” they pledged.And they did, but found it limiting after a while, until mate Tim Gentle, owner of online music shop Tim Gentle Music,  joined on guitar, vocals and keyboards to make up the current line up.  

Between 2011 and 2013 three events occured that threatened the band's future.  First singer Steve Ayre had a heart attack and required stent surgery (leading to his new nickname in the band 'El Stente'.  Then drummer Mel Davis quit due to pressures of work and Little Stevie and the Business, his long time blues band.  Finally in September 2013 guitarist Jeff Sawdon had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery.   Still playing the odd gig, this did slow the band down a little!  Shows have been sporadic but with a new drummer Phil McFarlane and all the band in good health again we look forward to a busier 2015 – check the gig list and go and see for yourself. 

The Chevrons 2015 - Forty Years on!
Reunion Show, Norton Cricket Club, 2005
Chevrons Mk 1 with Linda Rigby 1973
Denis hits the deck, Gateshead 1975
Thornaby "Nash" 1976
The Station Billingham 2009