Just three days after the death of legendary blues guitarist Peter Green shook the music industry and music lovers worldwide, generations of northeast music fans were devastated to learn of the passing of one of their own guitar heroes, Charlie Harcourt. Charlie died in hospital on 28th July 2020 following a long period of ill-health.

With a music career spanning over five decades, Charlie Harcourt built up a sparkling reputation as a guitarist both in the local area and beyond. His musical journey from the Juncos Partners in the sixties through to Lindisfarne this millennium took him all over the world, including a spell living in the United States.

Although I didn’t know Charlie personally I saw him perform many times in the sixties and early seventies before I left the northeast. Looking through my old diaries I’m able to come up with a date that I first saw him weaving his magic on guitar. It was on 20th March 1965 at the Blue Note Club in Sunderland as part of the original Junco Partners line-up. By that time the Juncos had become well established at Newcastle’s Club a’Gogo with a growing reputation in other areas of the northeast. The band sounded and looked great as a unit but it was the musicianship and charisma of each individual member, including Charlie Harcourt, which made the Juncos by far the best band around at that time. I can genuinely say that I still have vivid recollections of the Junco Partners’ performance that night at the Blue Note. The last time I saw Charlie perform was at the launch of the North East Beat exhibition at the Discovery Museum in 2009.

The Junco partners with Charlie Harcourt far right

Charlie Harcourt learned to play the guitar at an early age. In 1964 the 17-year old Charlie was asked to join a newly formed Junco Partners whose core members were Dave Sproat (bass), John Woods (drums) and Ronnie Barker (vocals). The band had come to the attention of The Animal’s manager Mike Jeffery and was rehearsing at the Club a’Gogo. Replacing the original guitarist, Charlie became a member of the band along with John Anderson (vocals) and Pete Wallis (keyboard). After a few months of rehearsals the Juncos began playing at the Club a’Gogo. They proved to be a great success with the Gogo crowd and eventually became the resident band there.

The Junco Partners was tipped to follow The Animals as the next northeast band to achieve fame and fortune. But the elusive big break never came. The band saw various changes over the years. In 1970 the Juncos was down to a four-piece consisting of original members Charlie, Dave Sproat and John Wood with Bob Sargeant on keys. At that point Charlie decided to leave the band. He was a tough act to follow. In spite of advertising for a new guitarist the remaining members of the band weren’t able to find a replacement and continued for a while as a three piece before finally calling it a day.

In the meantime Charlie had joined a band formed by ex-Nice bassist Lee Jackson called Jackson Heights. This was a fairly short lived venture with the original band falling apart after one album.

Since the heady days of the Club a’Gogo in the mid-sixties, club owner and Animals’ manager Mike Jeffery had done well for himself. He had become the co-manager of Jimi Hendrix, the highest grossing rock guitarist of the sixties. Jeffery also had a stable of artists that he managed. Two of his acts were a duo from Chatanooga called Jimmy & Vella and a Californian based band called Cat Mother & The All Night News Boys. The two acts frequently toured together. Charlie Harcourt was asked by Mike Jeffery to join Jimmy & Vella as a backing guitarist. This led to him becoming a member of Cat Mother, recording on one of their albums. Charlie lived in California for a few years and toured with both acts all over the States and Europe.

On his return to the UK, Charlie became a member of a reformed Lindisfarne, the original Lindisfarne having fractured in 1973. During this stint with Lindisfarne he formed a song-writing partnership with Ray Jackson. When Lindisfarne (mark 2) split in 1975, Charlie continued his association with Ray Jackson forming the band Harcourt’s Heroes.

Around 1976/77 some members of the original Junco Partners got together once more and started performing again in the northeast. The Juncos regained their original popularity and became resident band at the Cooperage on Newcastle’s Quayside playing to packed audiences. The Junco’s second coming was to last for 40 years until the band finally called it a day in 2017. Charlie Harcourt performed with the Juncos throughout this period as well as gigging with Lindisfarne until 2015 and performing at some of their legendary Christmas shows at the City Hall.

Over the decades Charlie Harcourt performed with numerous top musicians and artists. His guitar playing has been enjoyed by several generations of music lovers. Both fellow musicians and fans alike respected Charlie’s skills. His contribution to the northeast music scene will always be remembered and will live on through the recordings he made with the many bands he played with.

Charlie (far left) with Lindisfarne in 2015

RIP Charlie.

  1. Joan UTTERSON

    August 2, 2020 •

    Enjoyable read brought back lots of memories from Newcastle days.
    R.I.P. C.H.

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  2. Douglas Tate

    August 2, 2020 •

    The first time I spoke to Charlie Harcourt was in The Young Set. I was hoping to bond with my older blues guitar hero by suggesting we had similar musical taste. I told him I thought The Impressions were really good. “Too supper club” he replied but in a tone of empathy so as not to offend a fawning sycophant.
    Years later when we were both older and he was with Lindisfarne (in Rhode Island I think?) and listening to a lot of Al Green and I was listening to mostly Gamble & Huff he told me I had the musical taste of a teenage African American girl. May you rest in peace Charlie Harcourt.

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  3. David

    August 2, 2020 •

    A very interesting article!

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  4. Bazza

    August 2, 2020 •

    RIP. Charlie. Without doubt. A Hero.

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  5. Neil Perry

    August 2, 2020 •

    Whilst being a great guitarist he had a fantastic voice. Many years of great memories in the Juncos.

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  6. Wally Nash

    August 3, 2020 •

    Another one gone Roger. But some of us continue on. I still keep in contact with Tom Henderson from Marimba, A’Go Go fame and even Grey’s club!

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  7. Bill Rowntree

    August 3, 2020 •

    An unbelievable talent; RIP Charlie

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  8. colin reay

    August 3, 2020 •

    I first saw Charlie as a member of Pacamax a collection of gerordie musicians that included Ray Jackson, Rod Clements and Ray Laidlaw of Lindisfarne along with Billy Mitchell who would eventually join Lindisfarne and Jed Grimes - they played a gig at the New Crown in South Shields to a packed crowd - what a great nights entertainment - the next time was when he became a member of Lindisfarne - great performer and a nice man.

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  9. Alan Juliussen

    August 3, 2020 •

    A Lovely guy with a unique style
    RIP my friend

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  10. Martin

    August 3, 2020 •

    Seen charlie play on several occasions last time was at norham castle Northumberland what a player

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  11. gary stafford

    August 3, 2020 •

    Great bloke and guitar teacher RIP

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  12. Michal Brown

    August 3, 2020 •

    Great friend gave me his copy of It’s all over now by the Valentino’s for my 15th birthday.
    Still have it. Loved the time I spent with him
    Tears in my eyes

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  13. KEN BARKER

    August 4, 2020 •

    Charlie was a great guitarist and a lovely man. We had many great times together in the Juncos. RIP Charlie.

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  14. Jim Jordan

    August 5, 2020 •

    Met up with Charlie & Jacka again when Lindisfarne played at Backstage at the Green, Kinross in 2015, it was great to see them again after some 40 years , and we all agreed we'd never changed ( if only)! It's a sign of friends when we can chat on as if time hasn;t happened. Charlie was both a great guitarist and vocalist and another great loss to the North East. RIP my friend.

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